Like our workshop, these faculty interviews focus on youth novels. To read all years’ faculty interviews, see our Directory.
Note: Egmont USA closed in 2015; Lerner Publishing Group acquired the list’s remaining assets.
Regina Griffin is an editor with heart—one who speaks a writer’s language, both in terms of craft and inspiration. We are delighted to welcome Regina to our event, especially since she rarely attends workshops these days. Regina accepted our invitation because the approach at our seminar seems “fresher, more original, and more in depth” than what’s often available to writers.
Regina Griffin is the Executive Editor of Egmont USA, where she acquires a wide range of middle grade and YA novels, including historical, fantasy, paranormal, humorous, and contemporary novels. She started her career working for famed children’s book agent, Marilyn E. Marlow, who represented such authors as S.E. Hinton, Paul Zindel, Robert Cormier, Paula Danziger, and Patricia Reilly Giff.
Regina was formerly Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Holiday House, and Executive Editor at Scholastic. At Scholastic, she built up the movie tie-in program and oversaw the Apple and Point paperback imprints. Regina has edited such authors as Todd Strasser and Walter Dean Myers (e.g. Myers’ Newbery Honor book Somewhere in the Darkness, and his Caldecott Honor book Harlem).
Though Egmont is relatively new in the USA, it’s a multi-national publisher established some 100 years ago. In the words of Elizabeth Law (Egmont USA’s former VP-Publisher), Egmont turns “writers into authors and children into lifelong readers.”For Regina, launching new writers “continues to entices me, even this long into my career.” Join us at this year’s event and see how we may propel your publishing career!
I. GENERAL TOPICS
Why did you become an editor; what do you enjoy most about the work? What’s your personal (and publisher’s) philosophy or mission?
I’d always dreamt that I could become a book editor; to be able to help an author get as close as possible to the story she wanted to tell, to push a novel where it needed to be, those were the goals I wanted to achieve.
Perhaps it’s the remarkable diversity of voices that thrills me the most? But finding and launching new writers is also something that continues to entices me, even this long into my career.
Egmont actually has a mission statement that speaks to me: “We bring stories to life.”
How many MG/YA novels do you publish per year; what percentage are debut authors?
A typical list might be seven YAs and three or four Middle Grade novels. Because we are a relatively new company, we [typically have] quite a high percentage of new authors. We are also working on balancing the breakdown of the list, with more younger titles.
Which novel genres are you soliciting, or not?
We need more realistic fiction in both MG and YA, would love more multicultural titles, since we don’t have quite enough, and are short on fiction with heart at both age levels, so we are desperately seeking books that have an emotional impact. Also, and surprisingly, we are low on books that appeal to girls; many of our novels are focused on boys and we need to balance that.
What’s the outlook on YA novel trends—or is YA evolving past trends?
Everyone, including the major book store chain, tells us that realistic YA is the coming trend. I prefer to publish books I love, of whatever genre.
Name two or three representative MG/YA novels you’ve bought in the past few years.
MG: Guinea Dog 2 by Patrick Jennings is a young middle grade sequel about a boy and his pet guinea pig who behaves like a dog; its prequel won the William Allen White Award and Scandiuzzi Award. What I Came To Tell You by Tommy Hays is a first children’s book by a wonderful writer of books for adults about how a community and art can help heal a grief-stricken family. Vordak the Incomprehensible: Time Travel Trouble because it makes me laugh out loud.
YA: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a high concept story about a girl who has supernatural powers, but, riskily for her, only every other day. That won the RT Award for Best Paranormal YA. Guitar Notes by Mary Amato about how the power of music changes the lives of two dissimilar teenagers. Carmen a retelling by Walter Dean Myers of the opera, but set in Spanish Harlem.
What aspects appealed to you from the query and/or manuscript’s first lines?
Tommy Hays was the only author listed above that I had not worked with before, and I shall credit the distinctive Southern voice, filled with loss and compassion, for grabbing me from the first word.
Queries, Craft, Critiques
Many publishers are closed to unsolicited submissions. Do you consider unsolicited queries; i.e., those without a referral (not a workshop attendee, etc.)? What are your usual response times—to queries and to requested manuscripts?
Egmont also is closed to unsolicited submissions. We won’t look at works without a referral of some sort, simply because our staff is so small. If I attend a conference, then the gates are open for six months thereafter. I would say it would take us two months to get back to writers, and sadly sometimes longer.
Are query letters peripheral for you, or are they an important reflection on the author and manuscript? What makes a query irresistible to you—or not?
Query letters are important to me only in that they reveal whether a writer takes a professional approach, has knowledge of the field, and can write at all. I am not someone who makes a decision of any kind based on a query letter. But if it is excellent, I shall probably read that manuscript before another.
How many pages do you usually read in a manuscript before deciding to continue reading, request a full, or reject the manuscript?
I tend to read the whole thing. That is not something I brag about, because it is foolish and a waste of time, but I find that often a new author will spend a great deal of the beginning setting up something, and only begins the actual story around page 30. However, this year I have decided to read 30 pages and then make some sort of decision, so that I can be faster to respond.