Thinking about book recommendations for writers on Monday got me thinking about mentors - the wonderful writers who have chosen to be mentors to generations of children's book writers – and they are, it seems, disproportionately female.
So here’s a completely biased, totally non-exhaustive list, a thank-you to a few wonderful women:
I think of Mary Mapes Dodge as the prototype of these wonderful mentors. She began working as an editor in 1861 and saw her most famous and beloved book, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, published in 1865. A few years later she became the editor of a new, national magazine specifically for children, St. Nicholas. Her vision of stories for children and her encouragement of writers and illustrators, including Louisa May Alcott, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Frank Baum made an incalculable contribution to the newborn industry.
Barbara Seuling For many of us, Barbara Seuling’s How to Write a Children’s Book and Get it Published was our introduction to the possibilities of writing for children. Barbara has written numerous books but she started on the editorial side of the desk and brought those insights to her instruction for aspiring children’s writers.
Jane Yolen joined Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver in the earliest days of the Society of Children’s Book Writers (now “and Illustrators”). For more than four decades, the organization has mentored and instructed hundreds of writers, blazing trails through the mysterious world of children’s publishing. Steve and Lin are the Founders of SCBWI but Jane is its godmother – the successful working writer who opened her storehouse to generations of followers despite the inevitable flood of inquiries (when she took JaneYolen@aol.com as her email address an awful lot of us thought it was an imposter).
Verla Kay’s story rings familiar to many children’s writers, beginning with the assortment of jobs that she juggled while mothering a houseful of small children and the correspondence course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her freelance careers began with magazine sales and broke into book publishing when a manuscript was discovered in the slush pile. Numerous children’s books, including several award-winners, now come up when you search for Verla’s name, but many, many writers will tell you Verla’s legacy is the community she built through the Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Chat Board, which has logged over 200,000 messages since the fall of 2003.
I’d love to learn about your mentors, whether they helped you in print or in person.