Meet the faculty of the 2019 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We’ve asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.
Sarah Jane Abbott, Associate Editor, Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
Sarah Jane Abbott is an associate editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster. She started her career at S&S as a publicity assistant before joining Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books as editorial assistant in 2014. She is also on the editorial board of Simon & Schuster’s OfftheShelf.com. She has had the pleasure of working on books such as THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST by Samantha M. Clark and BLUE & BERTIE by Kristyna Litten. She loves quirky, character driven picture books with a lot of heart; non-fiction picture books, especially about little-known, strong women; and unique, literary middle grade novels.
Sarah Jane Abbott
What attracted you to children’s books?
One of the things I love most about children’s books is the opportunity to work with both writers and illustrators. I’ve always loved visual arts and the opportunity to think about storytelling not only through words but also through pictures is one that I relish and is something I wouldn’t be doing in most other areas of publishing. It’s fun to come at a story from both directions: what are the best possible words to tell this story? And what picture will best enhance and extend them? How can they work together to make the story come alive?
What’s the best part of your job?
I love writing, so I enjoy writing up sales materials as well as flap copy for our books. I also really enjoy the collaborative parts of my job, like talking through edits and ideas with authors or meeting with the art director to talk through our notes on a new round of sketches. It’s so satisfying to help an author work out the perfect solution for a narrative problem or to help an artist find just the right way to illustrate a tricky moment in a picture book.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Honestly, time management. People may think editors spend most of their time reading submissions or sitting quietly with a manuscript and a red pencil, but a day like that is rare. Usually I’m juggling things like processing contracts, writing materials for our sales team, managing author and agent queries, color correcting picture book proofs, and trying to keep my email inbox under control. Finding the time to actually edit is the challenge!
What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?
When I was first applying for jobs in publishing, I was only looking for positions that fit a very specific set of criteria (adult literary fiction editorial!). A very kind HR person with whom I had an informational interview told me to cast my net wider and be open to different paths and possibilities. That’s what ultimately led me to children’s books and I try to keep that advice in mind as an editor too. I’m always looking for fresh, different ideas and things that surprise me.
Come see Sarah Jane Abbott at the 2019 Austin SCBWI conference, May 18-19, 2019