On Publishing, Thoughts

Children’s books are magical—and so are the creators

One of my favorite niches in the publishing world is children’s literature. I’ve collected children’s books since I was a child. My mother—a pre-kindergarten teacher—read to me each night and I volunteered in her classroom frequently growing up. The two of us still go into bookshops and look at children’s books. I start reading them aloud, then she tells me “No, No. You’re not reading it right!” And she reads the rest of the book aloud to me as if she’s putting on a play.

WNY Book Expo 2018_Group Shot
The authors gathered at the end of the 2018 WNY Children’s Book Expo for a group photo!

So when I spent the day surrounded by children’s book authors and illustrators from around the country at the Western New York Book Expo, I was thrilled. The Expo, hosted by local children’s bookstore Monkey See, Monkey Do, saw 37 authors in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center to sign books, do readings, and meet the kids (and adults—many teachers, librarians, and book lovers come childless!) of Buffalo and WNY.

 

WNY Book Expo 2018_Buffalo From A to Z table
The Kristin Madej-Warham, Brigette Atlas-Callahan and Bill Jankowski, authors and illustrator, of Buffalo From A to Z, Come Take A Tour With Me! (Along with Bob Uffalo, of course! And Brigette’s daughter too!) 

I was there representing Buffalo Heritage Press and our children’s book imprint Criss Cross Applesauce. Five of our authors and illustrators came to represent their books. Though I managed a book series before joining Buffalo Heritage Press, most of my interaction with others in the industry—and the authors of the book series—was digital. And though I’ve represented Buffalo Heritage Press at a number of direct sales events and meetings, this was one of the first times I was representing the publishing house in a room full of authors and book people. (The first was likely Indie Author Day at the Buffalo Public Library in October of this year.) But this was with children’s books.

WNY Book Expo 2018_Betty Leader and Patrick Hammer
Author and illustrator Elizabeth Leader with meteorologist Patrick Hammer who read her book “Buffalo Snow.”

Each author had something wonderful to offer—but I’m a little biased and I have to say I’m particularly proud of our authors. Not only did the authors of Buffalo From A to Z, Come Take a Tour With Me have a great read-aloud session, but our Buffalo Snow author and Max Meets the Mayor illustrator was interviewed by WIVB Channel 4 News about her books after WGRZ Channel 2’s meteorologist Patrick Hammer read her book aloud. (He’s a meteorologist…of course he loved Buffalo Snow!)
But I’m particularly proud of one author who wasn’t actually even at the event. When I said we had five author/illustrators, we really had four—and an author’s sister who came to represent her! Heather Lynn Harris couldn’t make it to the Book Expo because she was a little busy accepting a Moonbeam Award.
Moonbeam Awards are children’s book awards that recognize exemplary work by independent artists and illustrators. Harris won for her book Five Hungry Mice, which is a retelling of a 19th-century poem by F.A.B. Dunning with gorgeous illustrations by Harris.

Heather at the Moonbeams
Heather Lynn Harris (right) won silver in the preschool books category for the 2018 Moonbeam Awards. She’s pictured here with the bronze winners, The Spill written by Jacqueline Leigh (center) and illustrated by Erika Wilson (left).

While I’m proud of her as someone working closely with her books, publishing and marketing her work, I’m proud of her for another reason as well.

Heather and her cutout
We couldn’t let Heather’s sister Heidi sit alone at the Book Expo! So this life-size cutout of Heather came to the WNY Book Expo while Heather in Traverse City, Michigan, accepting her Moonbeam Award!

I met Harris not through Buffalo Heritage Press, but through St. Bonaventure University where she is a professor and the director of the integrated marketing communications master’s program. She had a poster for Clover and the Shooting Star on her office door, and I recognized it as a book Marti Gorman at Buffalo Heritage Press had shown me while I was still doing freelance work for the house. I stopped. It clicked. The book said “Heather Lynn Harris.” Professor Heather Harris. Ah! Same Person! There is no author photo of Harris in Clover and the Shooting Star, so I don’t feel too terrible for it taking that long for me to make the connection.
Now I’m honored to work with Harris in a whole different way. She went from my research advisor in my master’s program to a dear friend and one of my favorite people to work with. I could not be happier for her success.
You can tell when you talk to her that she loves what she does. She loves storytelling. And she loves making art. And she loves telling stories with her art.
When you get to celebrate with your friend and author that they won a prestigious, well-deserved book award, it’s fantastic. But quite soon after, you think “What’s next? Let’s do something even better! More fun! More this! More that!” And so you get back to work, because your work is never done in independent publishing, but that’s why you’ve got to love every minute of it.

-hrg

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