Thursday, January 14, 2010

Editor Interrogation: Stacey Barney (Putnam Juvenile)

Hey guys! Today, I have a super special treat for you! Stacey Barney from Putnam is here with me! And I was able to do a really fun interview with her about publishing and all that!

What inspired you to make YA literature your career focus?
I was a high school English teacher for five years before entering the publishing industry. As a teacher, I found there was a dearth of outside reading material that truly spoke to my students and that they considered worth their time. A lot of the books seemed to speak down to my students and more intent on teaching a lesson instead of just telling a good, juicy story. I got into publishing because I was interested in giving young readers books they could really sink their teeth into—books they would remember and appreciate.

What kind of reader were you as a teenager?
I was a voracious reader. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read both teen and adult books. My favorite series was the Sweet Valley High books. I would have followed Elizabeth and Jessica to the ends of the earth if I could. lol I also read a lot of Danielle Steele and the Babysitters Club was in high rotation as well. But I equally enjoyed the classics: To Kill a Mockingbird was a dear favorite of mine (and still is). Flowers for Algernon, The Member of the Wedding and Brown Girl, Brownstones were also books I remember having quite the emotional response to.

How was your road to becoming the editor for Putnam?
I began in book publishing as an Intern at Lee & Low Books, a multi-cultural children’s book publisher. From there I went on to work on the Adult side of publishing at Farrar, Straus & Giroux (FSG). I then transitioned to HarperCollins, still working on Adult books, but also serving as a liaison between an Adult division and the children’s division. That led me back to my love of children’s books. From there I took at job at Kensington Publishers where in addition to working on Adult books, I also launched a Young Adult line for them, including such titles as Drama High by L. Divine for which I was the original acquiring Editor. I made the complete transition to Children’s books by taking a job as Editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers. I’ve been working at Putnam with new authors for over three years, and I’m ecstatic to be there and to have the pleasure and honor of working with such talents as Rosalind Wiseman, Joëlle Anthony and Heidi R. Kling.

Did you take courses in college that led you to becoming an editor?
I was a Double Major in College: English and African American Studies. Aside from wanting to write, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted my career path to be. Gratefully, I fell into teaching and while pursuing an MFA in Fiction at Emerson College I discovered book publishing. The best things that have happened to me in my career have all occurred by chance, but my love of literature and the pursuit of literary knowledge prepared me to take on these opportunities when they did come my way.

What are some challenges you face in your job?
Challenges vary from day-to-day. Meeting strict deadlines when working on multiple projects is a challenge. Working within a shrinking market is also a challenge. Favorite independent bookstores suddenly don’t exist. Teacher and librarian budgets that have been the backbone of Children’s publishing are dwindling. Finding new and creative ways to reach teen readers is also a challenge. But these challenges are also mitigated when we do get books into the hands of young readers and something very special happens for them between the covers of story so many worked so hard to get to them.

What are some of the benefits of being an editor?
One huge benefit of being an editor is getting to help a writer shape their narrative and voice—to help them tell a story that will resonate and live on long after their actual publication date. As an editor, I’m really in on the ground floor of a career and/or a book that has the potential to really matter to someone in the way only a book can and that’s pretty exciting and special.

What are some Putnam titles that we should be excitedly awaiting?
Some Putnam titles to be on the look out for aside from Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials (January), Restoring Harmony (May) and Sea (June) are Janette Rallison’s latest My Double Life coming in May and Polly Shulman’s The Grimm Legacy coming in July.

What usually makes you 'pick' a book for publication? Do you have any set criteria?
I don’t have any set criteria aside from what is standard—a well-written manuscript with fully realized characters and a compelling plot—but the books I choose to publish all have voice, which unfortunately, isn’t something I can quantify. It’s very much an “I know it when I see it” sort of thing. I read hundreds of manuscripts a year, and buy very few—less than 5—but those I do buy have a voice that has stuck with me long after I have read the very last page.

There you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed this interview! Stacey's a really fun editor to work with!

Yours till the awesome people,
my signature


MissA January 14, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

What a great interview! It was very interesting and I liked getting a glimpse of what editors look for and the road to getting a job in the publishing business. I would like to be an editor or do some kind of work in the publishing industry (I just can't write very well, so my options may be limited. lol).

Thank you, Ms. Barney for bringing us the wonderful Drama High series, I love them :) Also, I'm eager to read Sea.

Thank you to both of you for such an informative excellent interview!

MissA January 14, 2010 at 10:36 AM  

PS reggie I forgot to mention, I gave you an award

YA Book Queen January 14, 2010 at 11:09 AM  

Thanks for posting this interview! I always love hearing about authors, but hearing about the people behind the author is just as cool!

I never would of thought someone could go from being a teacher to working in the publishing business! It's interesting to see how people's paths change,

Frankie Diane Mallis January 14, 2010 at 12:26 PM  

Cool interview! I met Stacey two years ago at writers conference and she is really cool and nice in person:-) Thanks for posting!

Heidi R. Kling January 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM  

What a terrific interview!
Stacey is unbelievably awesome and I'm honored to work with her!

brizmus January 14, 2010 at 7:38 PM  

Very cool interview! Stacey sounds awesome! She makes being an editor sound so noble!

Stephanie January 15, 2010 at 2:15 AM  

Stacey is great to work with. Thanks for the excellent interview!

Donna Gambale January 15, 2010 at 2:31 AM  

I had the good fortune of meeting Stacey at this year's One on One Conference at Rutgers. She was in my "Five on Five" circle, and her input was so helpful! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview!

Joelle January 16, 2010 at 6:50 AM  

I can't even begin to say what a fantastic editor Stacey is to work with! So insightful. Thanks for the interview, it's a great one.

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