Editor Katherine Jacobs Answers Your Writing Questions

7526163ec544a115faeb352335de435cI know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, oh, I hope she picks my question. And now you’re thinking, wait a sec. I didn’t send any questions for editor Katherine Jacobs.

But I sent a couple questions about books, and publishing, and writing. I was lucky enough to pick Katherine from the hat of professionals who’ll be presenting at the upcoming SCBWI-Southern Breeze hosted Springmingle conference here in Atlanta (February 22-24th). So you’ll get answers to your questions. Or at least the five questions I asked.

1. What are a couple of your favorite reads from childhood? And do they influence what you look for in a manuscript today?

One of the most influential books of my childhood was The Giver. It was the first science fiction or dystopian story I had ever read and it made a big impression. I think that it taught me the power and art of an ambiguous ending. I still prefer when complicated novels leave something open ended or up for interpretation rather than tying it all up in a neat bow.

I also really loved prairie stories when I was a kid: Little House on the Prairie, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the American Girl, Kirsten. I believe these stories taught me that you can take ordinary slices of life and make them extraordinary through the telling.

2. What is the ONE aspect of a manuscript that will grab you immediately and make you say, “Yes. This is the story I want to edit.”

The number one thing I’m looking for when I’m reading manuscripts is an emotional connection to the work. I expect stories to make me feel something whether it’s joy or sorrow, horror or delight. Usually, I think that’s achieved through a character I love or relate to or recognize.

3. What, if any, trends do you see in children’s publishing? Do you like what you see, or NOT like what you see coming along?

I’m very enthusiastic about the future of children’s publishing. I think it’s a growing genre that every year attracts more respect from the literary establishment and attention from the general market. One trend that I like in particular is the emphasis on the interaction between text and illustration, whether that’s in picture books, middle-grade fiction, nonfiction, or the growing graphic novel category.

4. I know all those writers attending Springmingle 2013 will want to know the answer to this question (BEFORE we send our manuscripts!): What’s your biggest pet peeve in a manuscript?

I don’t like manuscripts that talk down to the child reader. I think that kids are a diverse and smart bunch, and I like submissions that respect them and realize they are capable of great emotional and psychological maturity.

5. And finally, can you give us a little peek at what you’ll be speaking on at Springmingle? Inquiring writers want to know!

I’ll be speaking about myself, Roaring Brook Press, the in-house acquisition process, and I’m hoping to have a new talk about character ready for the Springmingle conference.

So there you have it. The answers to all your burning writing questions. Didn’t I tell you I knew what you were thinking?


77a9521da74d2374a25df2e5733c39e4It’s not too late to sign up for this wonderful conference! You’ll see Katherine Jacobs and all these other wonderful authors, illustrators and an agent, too, who are visiting blogs to answer even more questions:

Jan. 21: Will Terry, illustrator, at Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog

Jan. 22: Beck McDowell, author, at Bonnie Herold’s “Tenacious Teller of Tales”

Jan. 23: Nikki Grimes, author, at Gail Handler’s “Write From the Soul”

Jan. 24: Jill Corcoran, agent, at Donny Seagraves’ blog

Jan. 25: Chad Beckerman, creative director, at Laura Golden’s blog

Jan. 28: Katherine Jacobs, editor, at Cathy C. Hall’s blog

Jan. 29: Mark Braught, illustrator, at Vicky Alvear Shecter’s “History with a Twist”

Jan. 30: Carmen Agra Deedy, author, at Ramey Channell’s “The Moonlight Ridge Series”


Oh! I almost forgot. You’ll see me at Springmingle 2013, too. So please join us for a weekend of fun and writing. You and I both know you want to come.


24 thoughts on “Editor Katherine Jacobs Answers Your Writing Questions

  1. Great questions and answers.


    I have to admit, though–the ending was my least favorite thing about THE GIVER. I like to have closure. I need to know the character are dead or living happily. To not know if they are dead or alive does not give me satisfaction.

    But many people disagreed with me. Which is another thing about the children’s publishing world that is great. There are all kinds of books for all kinds of readers. Yeah!

    • I know what you mean about THE GIVER, Sally. I like my happily-ever-afters–or at least closure. Open-ended stories/novels make me so anxious. I still sweat thinking about “The Lady or the Tiger?” Remember that old chestnut? 🙂

  2. The Southern Breeze group appreciates the time you took to answer the questions. It always helps to know what an editor likes.

  3. Good interview Cathy! I’ll review the emotional content of my manuscript before I send it to her (after SM, of course!)
    Looking forward to seeing all of the great faculty, and you too, the end of February. Save me a spot in that lobby banquette where we can share a glass of wine and shmooze. Actually, we will each have our own glass of wine, but you understood that, right?

  4. Fantastic interview, Cathy! Regarding THE GIVER, I loved the ending, but my mother hated it. I find it fascinating that readers still debate the ending years later. That, in my humble opinion, makes Lois Lowry brilliant.

    Thanks for introducing us to Katherine. She seems to be a wonderful person and editor. See you both in Atlanta!

    • Yes, it’s quite a testament to her writing, Laura. There’s a timelessness about that story, anyway, and I think the ending adds to that classic quality. Makes perfect sense that THE GIVER would win a Newbery.

      Looking forward to seeing you!

  5. Katherine, thanks so much for this interview. I look forward to meeting you at Springmingle. And thanks Cathy, for this post.

  6. Pingback: Jacobs, Katherine | Writing for Children and Teens

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