In March, I was lucky enough to meet my editor, Charlotte Wenger, IRL at the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat and I quickly realized that she is even more fabulous than email and phone conversations can convey. I am so grateful for her amazing editorial eye and for helping shape HER FEARLESS RUN and NOTHING WEE ABOUT ME into the stories they are today. I’m so pleased she agreed to this interview so that you all can get to know Charlotte and what she’s looking for in picture books for Page Street Kids.
1. What is your favorite part about being an editor?
This is hard to narrow down, but I’d say I have two favorite parts:
1) Building relationships and working with wonderful authors and author-illustrators—I love the collaborative nature of my work and the infectious excitement of sharing the different stages of the process with people as their stories become books. And I always enjoy meeting writers and illustrators at conferences and other events.
2) Being a part of sharing new stories with children—The kids in my life (cousins, kids I’ve nannied, my friends’ kids) are all a big inspiration/motivation for my work. I love getting to help make books that I can’t wait to get into children’s hands and share stories I love with kids I love (and see them fall in love with them too).
2. What is your least favorite part?
Having to turn down a manuscript, especially after I’ve met the writer and/or established somewhat of a relationship with her/him. I’ve been equated to a “dream crusher” because of the fact that part of my job is giving rejections. But I prefer to think of myself as a dream fulfiller because I do get to make writers’ dreams come true when I tell them that we want to turn their story into a book. The boost I get from sending those happy emails far outweighs the bummer of sending rejection emails.
3. How important is the query letter for you? Do you read the entire letter? Has a query ever prevented you from reading the actual manuscript?
The query letter is helpful, but the writing of the story is more important to me. The query makes a first impression and gives me a glimpse into the type of person the writer is. I do always read the entire letter and the entire manuscript. I don’t think it would be fair to the people who took the time to submit their work if I didn’t give them a fair shot.
4. How quickly do you know if a manuscript is right for your list?
Usually pretty quickly. There are elements I’m considering throughout as I read each manuscript, but I’m looking to connect with the voice and the concept right away.
5. What are some reasons why you may pass on a story? Is there anything in particular that you see lacking in a lot of writing?
There are a lot of reasons…both objective and subjective. (To get a sense of what I’m subjectively interested, you can check out my Manuscript Wish List: http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/charlotte-wenger/.) Some of the most common elements that are missing are a distinct story idea (Show me something I haven’t read before and/or show it to me in a new, unexpected way!); a strong narrative voice; and an ending with a successful impact.
6. What makes a submission stand out for you? What kinds of stories or story elements really work for you?
This goes hand-in-hand with what I often see missing because it’s that much more exciting when I see these things done well. Stories that work for me have a strong narrative voice that I can connect to and that keeps my attention; are character-driven; leave room for illustrations to help tell the story; and have an ending with a clever twist or an emotional impact.
7. Your first list is getting ready to publish this Fall. Can you tell us a little bit about what made each title a keeper for you?
Our publisher Kristen Nobles acquired the titles for our debut Fall list, and I quickly fell in love with them too. I had the pleasure of editing them and have favorite aspects of each of them:
Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth (by Josh Crute, illustrated by John Taesoo Kim)—Oliver is such an endearing character, and the ending is wonderfully clever. Oh, and keep an eye out for hilarious forest animals in the illustrations.
Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song (written and illustrated by Amanda Moeckel)—This story of how rules and busy schedules can hinder creativity is very relatable, and Amanda’s art is absolutely stunning.
Contrary Creatures: Unique Animal Opposites (written and illustrated by James Weinberg)—My favorite contrasts in this book are the unexpected ones that aren’t found in other opposites books. Plus, James’s art style is so eye-catching and distinct.
Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Gratitude (by Annie Cronin Romano, illustrated by Ioana Hobai)—This is such a cozy book, with lilting text, warm illustrations, and a cloth spine perfect for bedtime cuddles. I love its encouragement of attention to detail and appreciating the little things.