Back to My Roots
Many years ago, just out of college and with one year of teaching experience, I landed my dream job in New York City as an editorial assistant for the children's paperback division of a large publishing company. One of my first jobs was to write cover copy, which is a summary of the plot that goes on the back cover of a paperback. I was thrilled to work on children's books, and over the next few years, at three different companies, I took on many tasks and assignments.
Eventually, I became a senior editor. I enjoyed everything about being an editor: working with authors, coming up with new ideas, reading manuscripts, and editing a book from start to finish.
Early in my publishing career, I decided that I wanted to write children's books myself. I began working on Bummer Summer, which became my first published work. Over the next few years, I finished two more books, writing before I went to work and on the weekends. Finally I decided to leave my editorial job and become a freelance writer. Working alone at home was very different from being in an office with my colleagues, but I knew it was the right choice for me. Long-time readers may know that it was at this time that Scholastic's editorial director asked me to write a four-book series about a group of girls who baby-sat, and The Baby-sitters Club was born!
Many years and many books later, I was delighted when Doll People co-author Laura Godwin asked me if I would be interested in editing a collection of dog stories. Because Laura loves classic dog stories, she thought children would enjoy reading a contemporary collection from a diverse group of authors. I happily said yes. After so many years of writing, I thought it would be fun to work once again with other authors and their stories. An added bonus, of course, is that I love dogs!
My first task was to invite authors to contribute to the collection. Laura and I ended up with a wonderfully diverse and talented group: fellow Scholastic authors Pam Munoz Ryan, Mark Teague and Jon J Muth, along with authors Wendy Orr, Thacher Hurd, Valerie Hobbs, Margarita Engle, and Matt de la Pena. It was fun to work with all of these people; I've known Pam, Mark, and Jon for years, and it was great to get to know some of the others whose work I was familiar with but whom I had never met. The only instruction to the authors was to write a story about a dog. We didn't give them any other direction; we wanted to see what the authors would come up with on their own.
My dog, Sadie, got involved with the project and wrote a forward for the book, in which she says, "Between the covers of this book, you'll read about a boy who turns into a dog, a dog who brings a family together, a dog who lived a long time ago and was a companion to a very great artist in Paris, and about funny dogs, adventurous dogs, brave dogs, smart dogs, and dogs who perform rescues." I couldn't have said it better myself!
I was also writing a story for the collection, and after some thought, I recalled a day when Sadie wandered off and went missing for several hours. It was a scary time, although it ended well and she never ran off again. I decided to tell a similar story through the eyes of twelve-year-old Delilah, who is left in charge of her dog Picasso for the first time in her life.
In the end, I tried not to do too much editing of the other authors' manuscripts. I made suggestions, but felt it was important that the authors tell their own stories in their own voices. I think this is what makes the collection, Because of Shoe (the title of Pam Munoz Ryan's story), such an adventure for the reader!
As for me, taking a break from my writing to return to my editorial roots was a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's a challenge I look forward to taking on again.