I attended an amazing talk last night with Rebecca Stead (Newberry winner for When You Reach Me, her second novel) and her editor, Wendy Lamb at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park. What a wonderful experience! My husband and I brought our 10-year-old daughter along, and it was a magical night for all of us. We listened to the two women discuss Rebecca’s writing process, and learned that:
—First Light, Rebecca’s first book, was a completely different editorial experience than When You Reach Me. First Light required a significant amount of editing, whereas When You Reach Me never needed any line editing.
–The author said she doesn’t have a particular writing routine; she wishes she had better time management with her writing. She tends to “wait too long” to write, and is working on that (that gave ME hope…I’m the same way).
–Her original title was “You Are Here”. However, after the cover was designed, an associate editor realized the title was already used…so the title became When You Reach Me. If you look at the cover, you’ll see how the design was created specifically around the original title.
–Rebecca doesn’t participate in any book groups herself because, in her opinion, her experience with a book is deeply personal, and she’s not particularly interested in knowing others’ experiences.
–When she was struggling with how to tie up loose ends in When You Reach Me, she had brunch with her father, who listened to her describe the story. He asked her valuable questions, not as an editor or even a reader, but just as a father, problem-solving with his daughter. He helped her see a perspective she hadn’t considered, and that moment helped clarify all her unanswered questions.
–Her response to my daughter’s question, “How did it feel when you heard you won the Newberry?” was, “I was speechless. It’s still sinking in. There really aren’t any words to describe how stunned I was.”
–Wendy Lamb commented on how a smart 10-year-old is the truest test of a middle-grade chapter book’s success (and that in the editorial process, there are often too many adults in the way!). She emphasized how children’s minds are much more pliant toward new ideas (such as time travel), less cynical and far more hopeful than adults that a story’s loose ends will be wrapped up.
There were so many other great comments made. However, I spent as much time listening to the women talk as I did watching my daughter watching a real live Newberry winner speak humbly and eloquently about her passion.
We signed up to become members of the Seminary Co-op and now own 3 shares, earning us a 10% discount for life on books from 57th Street Books, The Newberry Library Bookstore, and University Avenue Store. We can’t wait to go back to 57th Street Books, and to explore The Newberry Library Bookstore in particular!