Navigating the Children’s Book Council (with Harry Potter in tow)

Taking the exciting leap into a storied publishing industry institution

Sales Assistant Matthew Dinda gives us an inside peek at the great work he and other ABRAMS staffers do for the Children’s Book Council and the Council’s Early Career Committee. Jason Wells, executive director of children’s marketing and publicity, and Susan Van Metre, publisher for Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books and Abrams Appleseed, are also involved.

On July 12, 60 different twenty-somethings from a myriad of publishing houses came together in honor of ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ This was the Children’s Book Council’s (CBC) Early Career Committee’s (ECC) Harry Potter Trivia Night (what a mouthful!). The night began with butterbeer, flobberworms, and excited chatter as the attendees met the members of their randomly-assigned teams and hoped that their reverence and knowledge of J.K. Rowling’s much-loved novels would carry them through to a win! After taking pictures with a to-scale Hogwarts Express and marveling at our own makeshift flying keys, everyone began to sit in their team’s assigned places and focus their attentions on the impending challenge. When the every-man-for-himself ‘Rowena Ravenclaw Challenge’ had commenced and swiftly ended the teams got to choose their names for the main event. Once the clever moikers had been created (everything from ‘That’s So Ravenclaw’ to ‘The Department of Obliterated Knowledge’) everyone settled in for the 7-round Harry Potter trivia extravaganza. An hour later and after much tense deliberation, contesting of points, and clever PG-rated taunting, team ‘Hallows Be Thy Name’ was announced as the winner and the night winded down.

Harry Potter trivia night is just one of many events that the Early Career Committee organizes to foster a sense of community and camaraderie in those beginning their careers in publishing. We have “Publishing Luminaries” panel discussions, happy hours, an even bigger literary trivia event that’ll be coming this winter, and many other networking events. All the events are designed for those who attend to meet people in the same career place as themselves and to build a sense of community, not rivalry, among the various houses and departments. We also circulate an e-newsletter that recently featured our own Jason Wells taking the Boldface Questionnaire! Our board consists of workers from many different houses and spanning many different departments, and I recommend that everyone take a look at what the CBC and ECC has to offer! Our very own Jason Wells is on the committee for the CBC’s annual Children’s Choice Book Awards, I am on the ECC’s board, and Susan Van Metre is on the board of the CBC, and has her own relationship to the CBC and its influence and legacy:

As an assistant in children’s publishing in the early 90s, I listened to the names of the pioneers in the field with reverence: May Massee (Viking), Ursula Nordstrom (Harper), Margaret K. McElderry (Harcourt, Brace and Athenaeum), Louise Seaman Bechtel (Macmillan), and Alice Dalgliesch (Scribner).  I was fascinated by the stories of these women, who ran the newly-minted children’s divisions of major publishing houses throughout much of the 20th century.  They oversaw the publication of what we now consider the classics–Charlotte’s Web, Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, and many more—an outpouring of a golden age in children’s books when children’s particular world view was truly embraced by books for perhaps the first time. An anecdote that particularly charmed me about these ladies was that they had a tradition of meeting for lunch once a month to share their experiences, successes, and failures. They were women in a man’s business, doing great but often underappreciated work. So though they were competitors, they were also comrades.  I think of the CBC as an outgrowth of this children’s publishing tradition of camaraderie, and welcome the opportunity to get together with the board a few times a year to learn about the challenges we all face: digital, shrinking retail space, and all the other hurdles of our time. Plus, there’s always a delicious breakfast.

If interested in getting involved in the CBC/ECC or subscribing to their respective newsletters please e-mail Nicole Deming at

on Friday, July 29th, 2011
in Children's Books
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