Friday, October 31, 2014

Associate Publisher and Editor Stephanie Lurie: The Exclusive Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Stephanie Lurie is the associate publisher of Disney-Hyperion, an imprint that publishes approximately eighty titles a year, for preschoolers through young adults. Stephanie manages a team of eighteen people and also edits picture books and novels. Recently she has had the privilege of collaborating with such authors as Bob Shea, Jonathan Stroud, Eoin Colfer, and Rick Riordan. She is the mother of two young men, both of whom are writers, and has been married to her beau from college for thirty-three years.

Associate Publisher Stephanie Lurie

Here's our interview:

Lee: You'll be part of the Saturday morning Keynote Editors' panel, "Children's Books 2015: Report from the Front Lines" along with Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster), Laura Godwin (Henry Holt) and Beverly Horowitz (Delacorte). What are you most curious to hear from your peers?

Stephanie: I'm curious to know whether my peers are seeing the same subject matter trends in submissions, to hear about their lead titles, and to learn how they are dealing with marketplace challenges.

Lee:  I think that's one of the most remarkable things about these conferences - whether you are on faculty or attending, and for us writers and illustrators, whether you have hundreds of books out or are' pre-published,' there's always more to learn and inspiration to find. Last year I noticed Jane Yolen doing the writing exercises along with the rest of us during another faculty member's teaching of the intensive on plot, and I asked her about it. Jane explained, "the minute we as artists stop growing, we're dead."

When you come to a conference, what do you find yourself looking for...are you looking to find new talent?

Stephanie: It's always fantastic to discover a new author and/or illustrator talent, of course. I also appreciate the chance to network with colleagues. Just being with people devoted to children's books is inspiring and energizing.

Lee: It is! As a publisher, you oversee about 80 titles a year, that range from preschooler stories to YA novels. Do you have a vision that readers start as Disney-Hyperion picture book audiences and then grow to be Disney-Hyperion middle grade readers and then progress to reading your YA titles?

Stephanie: I don't think imprints play much of a role in customers' book selections. It's all about the author and illustrator talent. We aim to find and nurture the best writers and artists and to offer a varied array of books, to attract all kinds of readers.

Lee: I'm curious on how that PB through YA scale plays out when it comes to the authors' and illustrators' perspective. What's your view on (and maybe advice for) authors and illustrators who want to create in more than one age-category?

Stephanie: There are a few authors who can write both picture books and novels with equal aplomb--from our list, Sara Pennypacker comes to mind. But that kind of versatility is rare. More often, authors stretch in a more limited way, e.g. from picture books to early readers, or from middle grade to young adult. My advice for beginning writers would be to hone one voice at first rather than dabble in many different categories/genres.

Lee: I remember being so excited when John Rocco's BLACKOUT came out and it included a two-guy couple walking down the street. What's your view of the role illustrators and writers (and editors and publishers) can play in portraying diversity in picture books?

Stephanie: We were recently asked to list all of our diverse books, and the vast majority of them fit the bill, simply because they include some non-white characters. They weren't written or published to make a point; they just reflect modern life.

Lee: What would be your best advice to share with conference attendees?

Stephanie: This is going to sound flip, but it is sincere: I encourage writers of middle grade and young adult fiction to check out the most popular channels on YouTube. Kids are now spending a lot of their media consumption time there, and we need to know what we're competing against.

Lee: (laughing) Hurray - I can move watching youtube videos from the 'procrastination' column to 'research' now! I'm feeling more productive already!

Okay, speed round!

Karaoke song?

Stephanie: Halo

Lee: Ice Cream Flavor?

Stephanie: Almond Joy

Lee: Childhood book you loved and still have a copy of?

Stephanie: Harriet the Spy

Thanks so much, Stephanie!

And if you want to hear and learn from Stephanie, too, we hope you join us at the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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