What is the best thing about editing children’s nonfiction? A lot of answers come to mind. Like lot of editors, I’m an information collector, and children’s books are filled with information. Often, while working on a project, I find out many details and stories I never knew. As a fan of folklore, I thought I knew a lot about fairies and elves. But Shannon Knudson’s book was packed with unfamiliar tales. And I knew the basic facts about autism. But while editing Ana María Rodríguez’s book, I learned about the history of diagnosis, therapy, and how families cope with Autism Spectrum Disorder. On the third hand, I didn’t even know what astrobiology was when Fred Bortz’s manuscript landed on my desk. But I learned. Now I’m quite proud to know the basics of how scientists investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
What else do I enjoy about the editing process? I love photographs, so I enjoy doing photo wishlists, looking through photo sorts, seeing the first layouts with the photos in place, and writing captions. I even like the more mundane editorial tasks—checking foreign spellings, looking capitalization rules up in the Chicago Manual of Style, doing indexes. All the things that sound positively painful to non-editors.
But the thing I like the best—the thing that comes to mind most often while working—is imagining how kids will use the book. I love imagining young readers being intrigued or excited about the topic of a book. We received a letter from a reader in England who had just finished Frankenstein. His favorite part, he wrote, was how Mary Shelley came up with the idea for her novel. That made my day. Not only did he choose a really interesting aspect of the story—but he was excited enough about it to write to us. Knowing that kids find reading an enjoyable experience and that they see the value in books—that’s definitely the most rewarding aspect of the job.