Guest Post: Please, sir, I want some more YA

Hello! We’re so happy to have Sarah Essak here at Tundra. She’s been working behind the scenes in editorial with us. You’ll find her reading manuscripts, writing reports, and lending a helping hand with a smile. We wouldn’t have had such a smooth sales conference this week without her. Some of her out-of-the-ordinary tasks included making newspaper hats and filling tubs with cotton candy for our reps to enjoy. We thought you’d like to hear from her today!
TundraYASarah Essak: About a month ago, I ran into a fellow intern in the shared kitchen. I told her I needed to take a brief break because the manuscript I was reading was getting too intense. She looked at me strangely and said “but you work at Tundra.” It took me a moment to work out what she meant. Oh. Right. YA books aren’t meant to affect you the same way as high literature. My friend is by no means the first person to think that. I myself have been guilty of judging readers based on what is in their hands. But after working at Tundra for three months, I’ve read multiple manuscripts that will stay with me for a long time to come. And these are manuscripts. I can’t wait to see what the editors here will do for the books that left me heartbroken, laughing out loud, and drooling for more in their roughest form.

In literary circles and in the eyes of the general public, there is this pervasive thought that YA books are not worth the time and attention of mature readers. In fact, YA as a genre is often scoffed at, and those who advocate for it open themselves up to mockery. Have we forgotten about coming-of-age novels such as Great Expectations, The Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Oliver Twist? And what is YA if not stories about coming of age? There are stories to be told, for what time in our lives is more earth-shatteringly complex than when we are teenagers, learning who we are and what the world is like?

Perhaps we are in a time where YA novels have hit a trend that some find “fluffy,” but much of adult literature is in the same situation. That is not to say it is bad, but it is to say that there is a wide variety of work out there. So, I’d like to piggyback on a well-known proverb and say, don’t judge a book by its genre. In the words of the almighty Atwood: “There is good and mediocre writing within every genre.” Pick up a YA book; you might just be surprised by what you find.

Guest Post: Searching for Extraordinary Manuscripts

Hello! We’re so happy to have Esme Shapiro here with us at Tundra. You might have already seen some of her illustrations pop up on instagram. She’s not only a talented illustrator, but with her keen sense of art, she’s been helping us search for illustrators for newly acquired manuscripts and giving us valuable input on cover comps. So we hope you enjoy her insights on children’s book publishing and we hope that she’ll write (or draw) many more guest posts!

Esme Shapiro Tundra illustration

Hello there! I am Esme Shapiro, Tundra’s summer 2013 intern.

I have been working here for about a month now, and there is never a dull moment! It has been a very eye opening experience to be a part of this wonderful, creative publishing team. The Tundra team really seems more like a family that all share the same goal: the desire to create amazing stories for children and young adults that expose children to quality illustrators that can stimulate their imaginations. As an aspiring children’s book illustrator, it’s very exciting to see the long and thorough process a book has to go through to finally arrive on the shelves of book stores and libraries. One of my favorite things to do to help out is to read the manuscripts coming in. There are so many great ones, written by so many authors from all over the place, it’s truly inspiring!

So with all these amazing manuscripts coming in, how does one sniff out the extra special ones? As an intern, it took me a while to figure out how to tell a wonderful manuscript from an extraordinary manuscript. There really are so many amazing stories written by talented authors out there, so sometimes it was hard to pick the extra special ones out. I didn’t have the essential critical eye quite just yet. Eventually, after talking with the members of the Tundra Team and listening closely during editorial meetings, I have discovered that an extraordinary manuscript should be a unique experience all on it own. I have put together a list of the sensations you go through when you are reading that extraordinary manuscript.

First, the extraordinary manuscript should reel you in; they don’t call it a hook for nothing. Within the first few pages, you should be so involved that you have the desire to bury your face in the papers- you want to jump right in. Your belly should delightfully rumble with curiosity and your toes should tingle with anticipation.

Then, you should expect a few surprises. You should leave your chair to travel into the world that the author is describing. You should start imagining what that world would taste, look, feel, and smell like. You should begin to really connect to the characters. At this point, the rumble in your tummy should move from your belly to your smile, and a big grin should appear (with perhaps a few giggles or tears).

By the end, the rumble in your tummy and the tingle in your toes should turn into little tiny blue birds that fill you up from your head to your toes. The extraordinary manuscript should tie up all the loose ends like a brilliant seamstress. There should be a lesson you have learned and absorbed all throughout your being. When you are done reading it, you should want to put down the pages and touch them as if it were made out of the most precious of fabric. Flowers should blossom behind your eyes when you recall the book, and the words should echo in your head long after your done reading.

So that is what it feels like to read an extraordinary manuscript – and that’s not even including watching the illustrations bring the story to life!  That’s a whole other story. What a magical experience.

In my month here, I have learned that Tundra Book’s has a special ability to sniff out the extra special books. They give these stories a chance to breathe life into library and book store shelves everywhere.  I’m so honored to have been given the chance to see the inner workings of a company the produces such quality books for children and young adults.