Liz Waniewski began her publishing career with Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Books, in 2001. She recently became an Associate Editor and is working on a number of picture books as well as developing some longer fiction and non-fiction projects. Liz attended her first SCBWI Conference in April 2004 in New Jersey and thoroughly enjoyed meeting with authors to talk about their writing and the business of publishing.
What you all need to know most is that Liz was the first editor EVER to request a manuscript from me, to send me a revision letter, and to think that my work was worth publishing. So we all love Liz.
How would you describe Dial's publishing focus these days?
Dial has been focused on expanding the amount of novels we publish, especially in middle grade. We are also looking to publish more chapter books for the 2nd and 3rd grade along the lines of Snowed in with Grandmother Silk.
How do you feel the children's book market as a whole is doing?
Well, we know that the picture book market is very flat right now, and novels seem to be in the spotlight- there is a lot of great fiction currently being published.
What kinds of books do you love working on?
I love working on books that are well written, funny, and have strong emotional content and universal appeal. Since I am still relatively new to the editing world, I have not yet been lucky enough to work on a novel, but I canít wait until I do. Picture books are wonderful because you donít work only with text, but also with the talented illustrators.
Which of Dial's upcoming books are you most excited about?
There are so many, how do I choose?! For picture books, Brad Sneed has does an absolutely beautiful re-telling of Thumbelina. Freedom on the Menu, about the Greensboro sit-ins, is told compellingly from a young girlís point of view. The Surprise Visitor is by our new star illustrator Juli Kangas, who has created an adorable, cozy book reminiscent of Are You My Mother?
As for novels, Richard Peckís newest is called The Teacherís Funeral and the title says it all- this book is a hilariously great read. One of my favorite middle schoolers is back and this time she must deal with life without her best friend at summer camp in Agnes Parker Ö Happy Camper?
What would you like to see more of in submissions? What would you like to see less of?
I would like to see more chapter books and middle grade novels that deal with every day kid experiences and emotions.
Iíd like to see fewer picture book submissions that deal with the first day of school, the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus. And definitely fewer in which the moral lesson hits you bluntly over the head!
What is your biggest pet peeve about submissions?
When authors do not proofread their submissions- and this includes the cover letter! If you have put in the effort to write a story, make sure you have someone else read it before you send it! Careless editing mistakes make me think that you are not really serious about your writing and are just sending me something you whipped off in 5 minutes.
Concerning the slush: what helps a manuscript rise above the general slush and stand out?
A unique idea or premise that I havenít read before and great writing right at the beginning help a manuscript stand out. I want to be grabbed in the first paragraph so I canít stop reading!
What is your favorite book (in each genre would be helpful) published in the last few years?
Picture Book: The Lady and the Lion by Jacqueline Ogburn and Laurel Long
Middle Grade novel: Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception by Wendelin Van Draanen
YA Novel: Feed by M.T. Anderson
It was very difficult to narrow this down, and I feel that I have five more in each category that are my favorites.
What advice would you offer an aspiring picture book author? An aspiring novelist?
Write what you care about, work on making it as perfect as you want it to be, work on it until you are happy with it, and only then send it in. You have to love it and be proud of it and that will shine though to the editor reading it. Remember that this is a very subjective business and what is not right for one editor may be just right for another.