Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From a reader to a critiquer...

In high school and college, I discovered literary criticism—otherwise known as English papers. And that kind of writing made sense to me. I learned the analytical vocabulary and dissected great works of literature. But I kept a wall between my lit crit brain and my reading-for-pleasure brain, unwilling to dissect the stories I had loved all my life.

When I became an editor, that wall came crashing down, and stories turned into things to be analyzed—this time for marketability and saleability. I ran programs that ran budgets and told me whether an adorable poem about a bulldozer set to a popular preschool rhyme would earn me enough money to offset the cost of producing it. Authors and illustrators and their creations turned into commodities, and I had to tell myself over and over that the end user—kids—were the most important part of this vast corporate equation. Here are some of the books I was fortunate enough to work on:

When I worked in bookstores, shelving, cashiering, dusting…and recommending, I discovered that that was what I loved. I finally had a chance to influence others—widen their world through books I had read and liked or disliked, show them older books that were less popular but not any less wonderful, and learn from the customers about new books to devour. I watched kids line up eagerly for the next installment in the Redwall series, reluctant readers come to life with Matt Christopher’s sports books, and become frustrated along with teachers angry about the lack of diversity in so many aspects of children’s publishing.

There has almost never been a part of my life where books have not existed in one form or another. And now, with the publication of THE SPOOKY WHEELS ON THE BUS, I’m surrounded once again by books, fellow writers and illustrators, librarians, and literary bliss. 

Next time: Madge's book pick of the week!

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