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My editor Lillian

LNG at right, with fellow great ladies Trev Jones and Madeleine L’Engle

My first professional writing about children’s books was for School Library Journal, beginning my reign of terror with a letter to the editor about–my critics will love this–what I saw as excessive feminist ideology used in the SLJ review to bring down a book I had found awfully good, Sue Ellen Bridgers’ Notes for Another Life. (Writers: when your publisher tells you not to respond to a bad SLJ review, listen to them, because it generally means you’re just going to get hammered twice.) That letter led to some book reviewing, which led to SLJ’s longtime EIC Lillian N. Gerhardt calling me in Illinois to see if I would take over their monthly young adult column, “In the YA Corner,” which I went on to write through the early eighties.

Like Zena, Lillian was a product of the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School, but she left the leafy quadrangles of Hyde Park for a career in library journalism, first causing trouble at Kirkus, then taking SLJ from supplement status in Library Journal to becoming its own roaring, independent self. Lillian taught me about deadlines, about newsiness, and about the ALA political drama she enjoyed so avidly. (I’ve never been much of the fan of the last, but Lil also taught me how to drink Manhattans, so her lessons were imparted painlessly.) I can’t drink Manhattans anymore (and how I miss saying “dry, and lose the fruit”) but I’ll always be grateful to Lillian for the great grounding in journalism she gave me. Thanks, Lil!

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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Comments

  1. It was a terrible title (we thought so even then) but it was a great column. You were the first regular columnist I edited, and I really loved the give-and-take of that. I loved trying to get into the sound of your voice in print, and still make it work (and not be my voice in print, which came later, and at another magazine).

  2. Julie Cummins says:

    I, too, owe thanks to Lil who encouraged me to step in as EIC (short-lived as it was). Those piercing blue eyes, soft voice, and firm convictions about the importance of standards in the children’s book field. She applied those beliefs in her perceptive editorials and many presentations that she gave. Her word was THE word. The crop of current publishers and librarians should pay heed as her words still ring true today. Thanks from me, as well.

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