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“How an Idea Becomes a Children’s Book” panel recap

L-R: moderator Alaina Leary with panelists Mackenzi Lee, Miriam Newman, Sarah Taylor, Jill Saginario, Jamie Tan, and Shoshana Flax. Photo: Stephanie Pando

Most people who love books are aware of at least some of the jobs that go into creating them. Authors, certainly. Editors, probably. But how much do people know about production editors, designers, or publicists?

There are lots of things you can do in the publishing industry. Our goal this Saturday at the CBC Teen Outreach Panel, “How an Idea Becomes a Book,” was to spread the word about that to teens and anyone else who was interested. Moderated by Alaina Leary, a social media manager for We Need Diverse Books, the panel included author/Trident bookseller Mackenzi Lee, Candlewick editor Miriam Newman, Charlesbridge design assistant Sarah Taylor, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt production editor Jill Saginario, Candlewick publicist Jamie Tan, and me as the resident reviewer. At some points in the discussion, we went down the line, talking through a book’s journey from an author’s mind to a reviewer’s TBR pile, with some looping back to bookseller Mackenzi. At others, the conversation was more free-flowing; questions about influential books in our lives could be answered in any order. (I cited the All of a Kind Family books, but there are many, many more possible answers where that came from.)

The panel was held in the BPL main library’s Teen Central, just feet away from the Boston Pride Parade — and its spirit of celebrating all identities was on our minds. Asked what we’d like to see more of in the publishing industry, pretty much everyone touched on the ongoing diversity discussion, with a focus on the need for #ownvoices in positions throughout the process, as well as on nuanced portrayals. All kinds of people can and should be part of all kinds of stories.

What can teens do now or in the next few years if they’re interested in a book-related career? Several of us suggested bookselling. Most of the panel had either worked in or grown up around bookstores, and learned from those experiences about the industry and about its audience. We also suggested getting involved in book discussions on social media; I sang the praises of blogging. And, of course, of reading — although you don’t need to read every hot new title, it’s helpful to have an awareness of books more recent than the ones you loved as a child.

When the discussion came around to internships, former Horn Book intern Jamie gave a shout-out to ours, recalling that when she spoke up in a Fanfare meeting as an intern, the staff really listened to her opinions. She also advised prospective Horn Book interns to “have opinions about food,” because “that’s all they talk about.” (She’s not wrong.)

The takeaway: there are many types of jobs in this industry for many types of skills; many ways to be a professional book nerd. Join us. We have cookies. (Just ask Jamie.)

For more book-related events in the Boston area, see our events calendar.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.



  1. You guys were awesome and the panel was so insightful land so fun! Hope to see more events like this in the future! 🙂

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