For Writers

Interview with Jed Doherty of the Reading With Your Kids podcast!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

How are you all? We are in for a treat today!

If you’re involved in kidlit, then you need to know Jed Doherty, the man behind the great, Reading with Your Kids, podcast, which has featured quite a few of your Mixed-Up FIles team! If you’re not listening, you should be. Jed is a gracious supporter of books and reading and has invited many authors on his podcast.

JR: Hi Jed, and thanks for joining us!

JD: Hey Jonathan, Thanks for having me, and thanks for the kind words about my Reading With Your Kids Podcast. Doing the podcast is a lot of fun. I get to meet some great authors like yourself, and I have made lots of new friends.

 

JR: Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

JD: My most important role is being a dad and a husband. My beautiful wife and I have two amazing kids, who are now wonderful adults. We have also hosted a number of international students in our home, and they have become part of our family.

JR: That’s fantastic. I know that for many years now, you’ve traveled the country, going to different schools and performing magic and speaking out against bullying. How did you get into that?

JD: That was kind of an accident. When I was in high school and college my goal was to become a social worker. After college I worked for many years as a social worker, mostly working with kids who had been arrested, most of them arrested for hurting people very badly. It was my job to help them learn how to deal with their anger and sadness in a better way, without hurting themselves or others, to help them learn how to make better choices. It was a hard job. I really loved doing it. But after doing it for almost ten years I needed to make a change.

I decided to leave social work. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I did know that I still wanted to work with kids and to help them learn how to make good choices. But how? So I said a prayer and asked God for guidance. After I said that prayer I sat at my table and opened the newspaper. The very first story I saw told me that Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was in Boston and that they were having auditions for clowns that day. I looked up to the sky and said to God “You’re kidding me right?’

I went to the audition and had a wonderful time. I was in the center ring of the circus, in the Boston Garden, the same building that I had been in hundreds of times to watch the Bruins and Celtics play, and I was making people laugh. And that filled my heart with joy. I knew right then and there that I was meant to make people laugh.

I didn’t run away with the circus that day. I had this idea that I could create shows that I could present in schools that talked to kids about things like bullying, saying no to drugs and saying yes to exercise and reading. Some people said I was crazy, that there was no way I could make this dream come true. But I believed I could do it.

I started studying things like mime and dance and magic. Just a few months after that audition I started doing shows in the Boston Public Schools. It made me so happy to be able to make kids laugh and smile while also inspiring them to make good choices.

It took a while to learn how to make a living as a performer. But with a lot of support from my beautiful wife I was able to make my dream come true.

JR: That’s really an amazing story. From there, what made you get interested in kidlit?

JD: I love to read. Books are magical things that can take you to distant countries, or help you travel back in time, or inspire you to create a whole new future.

And I especially loved reading with my kids. We loved all of the Dr Seuss books, I think my son’s favorite book was Captain Underpants, and my daughter loved Tomi dePaola’s Clown of God.

I realized that one of the reasons our family is so close is that we spent so much time reading together, talking about the stories. Those conversations made it easier to talk about other things in life.

I wanted to create a podcast for parents, to introduce them to great books they can read with their kids no matter how old their kids are.

JR: I agree. Reading with your kids is important, regardless of age. How did you transition into the RWYK podcast?

JD: Just like I did when I started to perform I knew I didn’t know how to be a podcaster. So I started reading books on podcasting, talking to other podcasters, learning as much as I could. And of course, the most important thing about trying to make any dream come true is to actually try. To take a chance.

 

JR: You’ve been very generous about getting authors from all sorts of genres on your program, including me, for which I’m grateful. Tell us about the podcast itself. What is your mission with it?

JD: The mission is to inspire parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others to spend more time reading with kids, and talking with kids about the stories. I truly believe reading with our kids is the beginning of a life long conversation. I hope that when families read together they will want to start to cook together, and go hiking together and do all sorts of things together.

 

JR: How long did it take for it to start to be noticed?

JD: Creating this podcast has been a lot of fun. One of the things I am so happy about is that the authors who have been on the show are very supportive of the show and each other. They have helped promote. That helped lots of authors learn about the show very quickly, so within a couple of months folks in the kidlit community started to notice the show.

Our audience really started to grow after five or six months.

 

JR: Recently, you’ve had on two major celebrities, Levar Burton, for which I was gushing, and Candace Cameron Bure, for which my daughter was. You did a great job with those interviews. How did that come about, and how did that feel when you knew it was going to happen?

JD: I loved speaking with both of those guests. Candace Cameron Bure was so much fun. Her book company actually reached out to me and asked if she could be a guest on the show. It took me about a half of a second to say yes.

LeVar Burton was also a lot of fun. I have been a fan of his work forever. I remember watching him play Kunta Kinte in the television series Roots when I was in high school. And I was a huge fan of Star Trek The Next Generation. And when I became a dad one of the show my kids and I watched was Reading Rainbow.

The inspiration to have him on the show came from my son. He called me one day and said “you should ask LeVar Burton to be on your show.” I thought that is a crazy idea, but since I have always been a fan of crazy ideas I gave it a show. I did a little research on line, found a contact on his LeVar Burton Kids website and sent a request. A couple of days later a member of his team wrote back and said that LeVar would be happy to be on the show.

JR: If authors would like to appear on your podcast, how can they go about doing it?

JD: Easy, they can visit our web site, Readingwithyourkids.com, click on the contact link and let us know about their book.

 

JR: Anything special lined up for 2019?

JD: It is going to be tough to top 2018. We did have great guests like LeVar and Candace, and we had our amazingly Spooky MiddleGrade Christmas Special that you were a part of. I am still amazed that you and your Spooky Middle Grade friends were able to create a spooky and fun original story for that show, and the swerve you threw in at the end was fabulous.

In 2019 we are going to strive to have an episode devoted to STEM fields each week. And we are going to grow from four episodes each week to five. And in just a few weeks we will be in Los Angeles to attend the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards, our show has been nominated for the Best Kids and Family Podcast Award.

JR: Incredible news. That Spooky story we did was also so much fun for all of us. How can people follow you on social media?

We have a Facebook page, and folks can connect with my personal Facebook page. On Twitter you can find me @jedliemagic and on Instagram we are @magicjedlie.

 

JR: Jed, I’d like to thank you so much for joining us today, and wish you much continued success with the RWYK podcast!

 

Well, until next time my Mixed-Up friemds . . .

Jonathan

Finding Needles in the Haystack

Information.

It’s everywhere.

It’s all-encompassing.

We are knee deep and rising in the Information Age.

We are surrounded by it every minute of every day of our modern life.

We are writers and readers and teachers and librarians and we are all well aware of this information wave. I can’t count on all my fingers and all my toes the numbers of times just in the past month I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of information while doing book research. You know what I mean, right?

Case in point. A certain, not-to-be-named kidlit author researches the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library website looking for a reaction quote from Ike in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik and several hours later, discovers he’s “accidentally” read through the entire Eisenhower archived collection on Sputnik I.

As important as the information is, though, it’s as critical we are able to store and access that information. The difference between success and failure of an assignment or a project often lies in the ability to find the exact clear and concise data we are searching for without losing time chasing interesting, yet irrelevant information.

The library of humanity grows exponentially each passing day. We are swamped with data and overwhelmed by information. How each of us learns to store and retrieve information has become an important part of daily life. Digital data storage, for example, has evolved as fast and as far as anything else in the technology sector.

From the punch cards of mid-20th-century computers to today’s cutting-edge cloud storage options available to practically everyone, we have seen massive improvements in the past 50-years. We rely on thumb drives and smartphones as much or more than we mature folks used to rely on our 5-1/4” floppy disks.

Hannes Grobe/AWI [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The future of data storage looks incredible. There was a paper published in 2012 about using DNA to store digital information. Digital information which can be coded, carried, copied, and preserved in the genome of a microbe. We could possibly one day stream 2001: A Space Oddessey for the family get-together after retrieving the stored digital copy from the bread mold strain we keep in our pantry. An entire encyclopedia of knowledge stored in the philodendron on the window sill of your office? Maybe, just maybe.

Storing information is one thing. Retrieving it is another vital piece of the information pie. We need to be able to find the data we are looking for fast and accurately. Google, the Queen Mother of Internet Search Engines, uses crawling and indexing to find information—even those funny cat videos. And to make myself sound completely ludicrous, how about the magic of Boolean Search

Personally, I still have a soft spot in my digital heart for the old school search engine found in a library card catalog. There’s still something magical about sliding out the wood drawer of the cabinet, finding the book or topic you want, and scribbling the call number with a stubby pencil onto a piece of lime green recycled scrap paper. Then the moments of investigative anticipation while walking the stacks until you find the physical book on the shelf right where it belonged.

Information nerd heaven.

Enokson from Alberta, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Okay, folks. In case you were beginning to wonder why I’m rambling on about information storage and retrieval, here’s the meat and potatoes of this post. Today, I have the honor of introducing a new feature for the From the Mixed-Up Files STEM Tuesday posts. When the other STEM Tuesday members said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be so helpful to teachers, librarians, readers, etc. if they could quickly search a topic for past STEM Tuesday posts?”, I said, “NO! It’s more fun to make everyone search blindly and wander around the entire blog archive for days and days! (Insert evil laugh)”

Needless to say, the STEM Tuesday team told me to shut up and go write an introductory post for the new feature. Ladies and gentlemen, here is the new feature:

A searchable database of STEM Tuesday content!

Thanks to programming and webmaster brilliance, we now have our own portal to assist teachers, readers, writers, and librarians sort through the STEM Tuesday library of past book lists, classroom activities, writing craft & resources, and author interviews. We hope this search tool makes it quicker and easier to find that one helpful piece of information.

So, without further delay, the STEM Tuesday Search Tool is live! Visit the STEMtuesday.com page and select a topic from the drop-down screen. Searching for MG STEM book info has never been easier.

(BREAKING NEWS! Next month, we’ll announce a contest to celebrate the STEM Tuesday Search Tool. We’re calling it The STEM Tuesday Search Party contest. Details are being finalized for the contest so I can’t tell you any specifics yet, except we already have a fabulous cache of prizes to offer. Stay tuned for the STEM Tuesday Search Party announcement on February 21, 2019!)

And remember, back up those files! Information is the currency of the digital age. Take care of your data!

No data storage system is perfect; even if it’s Tom Brady’s DNA we’re talking about.

 

 

 

Interview with S&S editor Sarah Jane Abbott

I’m so excited to be doing my first post for the From The Mixed Up Files website. When I was coming up with my topic, I was thinking about what readers might like to know, and it got me thinking about all the blog posts I devoured before I signed with my agent and sold my first book. I read everything I could find on the publishing industry, living vicariously through the authors, yes, but also trying to seek out any snippets of information that could help me be a better writer and move my career forward.

Reading, writing, repeat was the formula that ultimately got me a book deal, but one of the things I really loved — and still love — is reading authors interview their agents and/or editors. Having that insight to the process and relationship helped me understand a lot before I got the chance to step into those shoes myself.

Sarah Jane Abbott, editor at Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Sarah Jane Abbott, editor at Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

So, for my first From The Mixed Up Files post, I thought I’d do just that — interview my editor, the lovely Sarah Jane Abbott with Simon & Schuster imprints Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books. I didn’t want to focus on the work we did together on my book, so I asked her about herself, her job, and aspects of her work that seem a bit of a mystery to us writers. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I do…

Samantha: Sarah Jane, thank you so much for letting me interview you for this blog post! What made you want to be a children’s book editor and how did you get started?

Sarah Jane: I found my way to children’s books through a bit of random serendipity. I studied creative writing in college and knew I wanted to go into publishing, but thought I wanted to edit adult literary fiction.  So I started applying for editorial assistant positions only in that category.  After many months of no success, I had an informational interview with HR at S&S, who wisely advised me to cast my net wider. So I started applying for any open entry level publishing job I could find and ended up in children’s book publicity. At that point, I hadn’t read a picture book since I was a small child, but rediscovering the incredible artistry and literary talent in them made me want to work on them. So when a new position opened up with Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, two imprints whose picture books I so admired, I jumped at the chance.

Samantha: Can you tell us about the work you do for the Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane imprints at Simon & Schuster?

Sarah Jane: I assist both imprints with administrative tasks, like routing contracts, processing invoices, and preparing sales materials.  For Beach Lane, since they work remotely from California, I also get to be the in-house representative for the imprint and assist with tasks that have to be done in person like color correcting, which is the process of matching the digital scans of artwork to the colors in the original art.  Since Paula Wiseman Books is based in New York, I am more involved in their acquisitions process, reading and evaluating manuscripts and giving editorial suggestions. And of course, I edit my own list of books under the Paula Wiseman Books imprint.

Samantha: Do you have any favorite parts of your job?

Littler Woman by Laua SchaeferSarah Jane: I love writing, so I enjoy writing up sales materials as well as flap copy for our books. I also really enjoy the collaborative parts of my job, like talking through edits and ideas with authors or meeting with the art director to talk through our notes on a new round of sketches. It’s so satisfying to help an author work out the perfect solution for a narrative problem or to help an artist find just the right way to illustrate a tricky moment in a picture book.

Samantha: Any parts you would avoid if you could?

Sarah Jane: Like most everyone’s job, there are tedious administrative tasks on my plate that I wish could be done by little elves at my desk while I’m home at night. I also never enjoy rejecting manuscripts—having received lots of rejections for my own writing, I know the disappointment of it, even if it is an encouraging rejection. I empathize!

Samantha: Tell us about some of the books you’ve worked on as an editor.

Sarah Jane: I’m so lucky to work with the wonderful authors and illustrators on my list. My recent middle grade novels include Littler Women by Laura Schaefer, a sweet modern day re-telling of the beloved classic, with a craft or recipe at the end of every chapter.  I also had the pleasure of working on a book the interviewer knows quite well, The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark. [Quick interruption from Samantha: Eep! 🙂 ] It’s a gripping blend of mystery, survival story, and the supernatural that explores themes like courage, self-esteem, family, and toxic masculinity. In the picture book realm, I am currently editing The Sea Knows by Alice McGinty and Alan Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, a lyrical exploration of the wonders of the ocean and marine life, as well as a forthcoming picture book biography of a groundbreaking female athlete.

Samantha: Those sound wonderful. When you’re reading a manuscript for acquisition, what do you look for?

THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST by Samantha M ClarkSarah Jane: I always look for a story that grabs me immediately, that I don’t want to put down and find myself thinking about even when I’m not reading it. I love when a story is imaginative and unique, when it surprises me. Editors read so many stories that are slight variations of the same theme or idea, so something truly fresh is a pleasure. In middle grade, I look for a strong voice that feels singular and specific to the character, one that’s quirky and endearing. In picture books, I want heart—a story that is going to leave its mark on the reader and give them something to think about. A story can be completely hilarious, but if there isn’t a layer underneath that, it may be a one-time read. If a picture book is moving enough to make me tear up at my desk, that is a good thing!

Samantha: What happens in the acquisition process at these imprints?

Sarah Jane: Like a lot of publishers, our acquisitions process has several steps. First, of course, I read all of my submissions. Then I send the manuscripts that stand out to me on to my colleagues and we discuss them at a weekly editors’ staff meeting. Manuscripts that make it through that meeting as well go on to the last layer of acquisitions approval, before I am given the go-ahead to make an offer.

Samantha: If you couldn’t be an editor, what would you want to be?

Sarah Jane: As I’ve said, I love writing, so I would probably be pursuing a career as a freelance writer or journalist. I started college majoring in international relations, looking to work at a non-profit or NGO in the area of third world development with the hopes of making the world a better place. If I hadn’t taken a creative writing elective on a whim and decided to change my major because of it, I would probably be working in that field today. I’m grateful that on my current path, I still get to make the world a better place—through books!

Samantha: Yes! Books can change the world. Thank you, Sarah Jane.

And dear readers, I’ll add one more thing about my early publishing research: One of the best ways to get to know an agent or editor is through the books they worked on. So, while I don’t mean for this to be a plug — I really don’t! — if you think the Paula Wiseman Imprint could be a good place for you, read the books Sarah Jane mentioned here. They’re now on my to-read list. 🙂 And you can follow Sarah Jane at one of the best names on the Twitterverse: @sarahjaneyre.