Nancy Paulsen is President and Publisher of her own imprint, Nancy Paulsen Books, at the Penguin Young Readers Group. Her list launched in Fall 2011 and some of her first books included "Strega Nona’s Gift" by Tomie dePaola, "You Are a Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses" by Taeeun Yoo, "Love, Mouserella," by David Ezra Stein,
"Looking at Lincoln" by Maira Kalman,
"Beneath a Meth Moon" by Jacqueline Woodson,
and "Prairie Evers" by Ellen Airgood
Before helming her own imprint she was the Publisher and President of G. P. Putnam's Sons Children's Books and Puffin Books.
Nancy will be speaking the Saturday morning of the conference, January 28, 2012, as part of "Children's Books: Today and Tomorrow: Four Expert Impressions."
You can join me in following Nancy on twitter at @nancyrosep, and I hope you enjoy our interview:
Lee: Hi Nancy, thanks so much for taking the time. President and Publisher of your own imprint sounds like a dream job. In determining what books you acquire, are you concerned with balancing the number of picture books versus novels, or is your list driven by what you fall in love with?
Nancy: Hi Lee - Yes, this is a dream job. I am so happy to be focusing on finding, editing and publishing books I love, rather than managing a staff of editors. My list is small and selective. I publish 15 books a year and aim for it to be half picture books and half fiction. Right now I have more picture books signed up so I am looking for fiction. But I do sign up what I love so if I see a marvelous picture book, I will go for it!
Lee: Justin Chanda said at the 2010 SCBWI Summer conference to a huge reaction, ‘If you all go home and write to the trends, then the vampires win.” How do trends influence you as a publisher?
Nancy: I am fortunate that I work for a company with a lot of imprints and plenty of them are on-point with trends (and hopefully leading some of them!) I am looking for the kind of books that I hope will backlist. I want picture books that are eye-opening and beautiful; novels with memorable characters who have hope in their lives.
Lee: Vampires, we hear, are on the wane… Trends or no trends, would you publish an amazing vampire book right now? (And no, I don't have one for you, I'm just asking.)
Nancy: I never say never… but man, it would have to be SO original and good…
Lee: Is there something you are looking for?
Nancy: I would love to find some wonderful middle-grade novels. I love writing that is lyrical and powerful (ala Jacqueline Woodson). Writers whose stories are full of heart. I would love to see more culturally diverse stories; and I am a fan of good historical fiction.
Lee: The authors and illustrators you’re working with (among them Tomie dePaola, David Ezra Stein, and Jacqueline Woodson) have quite a range of tones and voices. Do you have a working definition of voice you can share with us?
Nancy: All of the writers I publish work hard at their craft. They all have unique voices and are willing to go through as many drafts as needed to bring their work to the best place. All of them are amazing storytellers – and their stories are not written to order. They come from some miraculous place inside them, so they feel authentic. The emotions are palpable; the dialogue is natural. You get pulled into their stories immediately. If only there was a formula for this! But I think the best thing a new writer can do is read a lot to see what distinguishes great writing; and stay curious and open to the wonder of daily life.
Lee: I love that, "curious and open to the wonder of daily life." Great advice. What do you read for fun? Or can you still read for fun?
Nancy: I have a stack of books I hope to read over the holidays including two adult books -- "The Grief of Others" by Leah Hager Cohen and "Blue Monday" by Nicci French (which is set in London and I am a big Anglophile!) I always love to read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" over the holidays.
Lee: For attendees, the SCBWI Winter conference is full of amazing networking, crucial information from experts, craft, business, inspiration, community, and opportunities to move our careers forward. What’s exciting for you about coming to the conference?
Nancy: I particularly love looking at the portfolios of new artists. Last year I saw You Byen’s work and I have her signed up for her first picture book – DREAM FRIENDS, which will come out Spring 2013. Our art director, Cecilia Yung, also mentored Eliza Wheeler, and we now have her signed up for her first picture book.
Lee: Exciting! It's great to hear those SCBWI success stories. Words of wisdom for attendees?
Nancy: Listen to the advice of the editors. Keep moving forward. If you are not getting a positive response on one story, write another. And read, read, read.
Lee: Can you share with us the best advice you ever received regarding your career in children's publishing?
Nancy: I think it is to remember that there will always be a need for great stories. No matter how they are delivered, people will want to read books that make them think and make them feel. So I think my job as an editor is to stay focused on that. There are great writers out there and there are avid readers and we want to connect the two.
Thank you so much, Nancy. I can't wait for your Saturday presentation!
You can still register to see Nancy yourself and experience the entire Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, January 27-29, 2012.
Hope to see you there.