This week's Featured Sweetheart is Kate Klimo, Vice President, Publisher, Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group!
I (Emma Virjan) had the opportunity to ask her to respond to all the chatter circulating about that the picture book is dead. Here's what she had to say:
TXS&S: Ever since the article "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children", New York Times, October 2010, was published, much has been said about the picture book's demise. What is your take on the state of the picture book?
KK: That article was a whole lot of whooey. I can’t tell you how many people who are not in the business shook their heads in pity at we folks in publishing who were losing an entire format. There is no doubt that there is a Harry Potter effect, causing children to jump to older and more complex books earlier than they used to in the old days. But we at Random have seen plenty of evidence, in the way of sales data, that there is always room on the shelves for a new and wonderful picture book—both picture books with very brief text and picture books with more complex text geared to older readers (Dr. Seuss and Candace Fleming’s picture book bios coming most immediately to mind.)
TXS&S: The e book/E-reader situation. Some say it is a threat, while others think it's just another way for authors/illustrators to tell their story. Can you talk a bit about the role of the ebook in kid lit?
KK: Ebooks are the best news in the world for authors because, yes, electronic readers are a new and easily accessible way for readers to buy books now, when you think of it, or after you’ve read a great review, before the impulse slips away or gets forgotten in the frantic grind of daily life. E-books are, in many ways, the best thing to happen to books since the invention of the mass market paperback. It could be argued that, with the decline in recent years of the mass market paperback, ebooks may very easily replace this category as the preferred “disposable” reading format. Devices like the Kindle, with its wifi connection, make spontaneous purchase so easy. Since I got my Kindle, I buy easily three times as many books as I did when I had to find time to drop by the bookstore to browse. And it’s all so much more easier on the trees. Already, young adults and middle graders are getting the hang of using these electronic devices. And it’s just a question of time before devices more baby-friendly will deliver interactive picture books to the youngest book consumers. But there will always be— and obviously this is just one person’s opinion—a desire to own a physical book, especially if it’s beautifully printed and bound. The quality of the printed book has declined markedly in the last twenty years, owing to the need to keep prices down and bottom lines black—and it is my hope that we will be entering a new era of bookmaking. The size of the runs may not be very robust but the quality will be there.
TXS&S: You are a published author, most recently of the Dragon Keepers series - The Dragon in the Sock Drawer, The Dragon in the Driveway, The Dragon in the Library. What was your source of inspiration for the series?
KK: My sons came home from one of our vacation with a geode and wanted to crack it open to see the crystals inside. They tried various methods, including chisels and hammers and throwing the geode out the attic window onto the street below. They tried everything and, finally, gave up and tossed the geode into one of their sock drawers. Every time I went to put socks away over the years, I’d run in to that geode. Gradually, over time, I started calling it the dragon egg. When the boys went off to school, I finally finally got around to writing the story inspired by that geode which, incidentally, I still have, appropriately, as a paper weight on my desk at home.
TXS&S: What advice might you have for aspiring authors and illustrators?
KK: Take courses at colleges and college extensions, join a local writers’ group or, if there isn’t one, start one. Keep up with what’s being done by reading PW, School Library Journal, Horn Book. Browse the bookstores. Ply your trade even if you can’t find a market for it because practice makes you better and, therefore, ultimately more marketable.
TXS&S: Lastly, we call ourselves the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels. Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?
KK: I am both. But if I have to choose, I think I am basically a Sweetheart.
TXS&S: Thank you, Kate! We're thrilled to have you!
Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.