Friday, July 20, 2012

Andrea Davis Pinkney: How I Got Into Publishing

Guest post by the Vice President, Executive Editor at Scholastic. She has been named one of the "25 Most Influential Black Women in Business" by the Network Journal and is one of the "25 Most Influential People in our Children's Lives" cited by Children's Health Magazine.

Andrea Davis Pinkney
I fell into bookmaking completely by accident. After graduating from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, where I majored in journalism, I pursued my one big career dream, which was to work at a high-profile magazine. Fortunately, that dream came true ― and it led me to children’s publishing!

Soon after my last day of college, I went straight to midtown Manhattan, and got a job in the editorial offices of Mechanix Illustrated magazine. It didn’t matter to me that the magazine was all-things-automotive. In my mind, I’d “made it”. I was working in publishing and living in New York. There was an unexpected bonus to the job. I met my husband, children’s book illustrator Brian Pinkney, who worked in the art department of Field & Stream magazine, across the hall. 
Learning to generate new ideas constantly, and looking for ways to pitch and position these ideas [...] would help me become a book editor.
In addition to meeting Brian, two important things happened around this time.

While I was at Mechanix Illustrated, I was also writing for several major women’s magazines and the New York Times. One of the gifts of being a magazine editor and writer is learning to generate new ideas constantly, and looking for ways to pitch and position these ideas, in the hope that a magazine wants to publish your articles. I didn’t know it then, but this practice would help me become a book editor.

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Unexpected Mirror

About a year an half ago I had an experience that refocused my understanding of diversity in children’s books. It happened quite by accident.

One day, on the free book shelf at S&S, I spotted a treasure--The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. It was a Newbery Medal Winner. It was published by my imprint, Atheneum. And it was by Elaine Konigsburg, the amazing author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. How could it be that I’d never read it? So I took the book home and the next afternoon I found myself completely absorbed in the novel.

When I started reading The View from Saturday, I didn’t think that I was going to be grappling with issues of diversity or my relationship with diversity in books. I was simply enjoying a sunny afternoon spent on my couch enjoying a great book. It was perfect.

I’d often heard books described as “Mirrors or Windows”--the idea that books can either show you a reflection of your own experience or give you a view into a culture different from your own. Mitali Perkins had spoken quite eloquently about this at the 2010 BEA Children’s Breakfast. But what I hadn’t really ever thought about was that I’d never read a “mirror” book. For me, at least.