Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 19, 2016

Free Fall Friday: Interview with Julia Maguire Part 2


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Julia Maguire is an Editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. Prior to that, she worked at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

She currently edits picture books and middle grade and YA novels. She also, is working with illustrators and picture book writers during a 5 week online course at the Children’s Book Academy, starting next month.

She received her degree in communications from the University of Massachusetts and her Masters in Publishing from NYU. She started her publishing career interning at Bloomsbury Children’s Books in 2006 and has worked on picture books ever since.

Writer’s and Illustrators, you can register for a Free Picture Book Webinar with Julie taking place on Wednesday August 24th 2016 at 5.30PM PDT / 8.30PM Eastern

Here is Part Two of Julia’s Interview:

Do you accept unsolicited submissions at Knopf?

No, but I will look at submissions from attendees of conferences and classes that I attend.

Do you like rhyming picture books or would you prefer prose?

I do like rhyming but only when it is done perfectly, which is difficult to do. Sometimes it can read like the author is just trying to work backwards to get the rhyme scheme to work rather than have it come organically. I say if it is not absolutely necessary to the story, consider dropping it. 

Do you publish picture books over 600 words?

Yes, I have a few non-fiction biographies that are longer than that, but most of my other books are around 500-600 words. But don’t worry about the word count as you’re writing. If you feel like the story needs more text, commit to it. As the editorial process goes along, there could be some trimming but there is no hard and fast rule.

Do you lean more towards certain types of picture book? Funny? Quirky? Family stories? Anamorphic characters? Fairy tale retellings? Folklore? Fantasy, Non-fiction?

I like stories that walk the line between sweet and silly. Stories that lend themselves to re reads and feel universal. If the voice is there, I’m less concerned about the genre.

How often do you publish a picture book where the author is also the illustrator?

I do have several books that are author/illustrator but I don’t have a quota I need to fill. It just depends on the submissions I get.

Can you share any common mistakes you see made with picture books today?

I think that new authors and illustrators can get bogged down in making things too similar to books that are already successful. It’s important to make your own path while still being knowledgeable about the current marketplace.

Have you ever worked to publish a wordless picture book?

When I was assisting another editor, I helped with a book she was working on, but I haven’t published any myself. But I am a fan of them and would love to find the right illustrator to work on one with.

What genres do you prefer with a middle grade novel?

I prefer realistic stories, but I do have more allowance for fantasy or magic in middle grade. I like stories that finds kids outside of their elements, struggling with friendships and their parents and the tragedies and ecstasies of growing up.

Are you open to YA books having some sexual content?

Yes, but don’t include sexual content if it isn’t organic to the story and the characters. Just because it’s YA doesn’t mean it needs to be racy or graphic. Write the story the way you want to write. 

What genres do you favor?

As with middle grade, I prefer realistic stories. I’m not as connected to fantasy in YA. But in all novels, I look for voice first and foremost. If the writing is there, I am open to so much more.

Are you willing to work and help shape a novel submitted to get it ready for publication?

Yes, if there is something in the manuscript that I love—a great voice, terrific characters, strong plot—then I am willing to work on fixing any issues that I see, as long as the author is also open to those revisions.

How important do you feel the first line, first paragraph, first page, first chapter is for a writer in order to obtain a contract offer? Any tips along that end?

It is all important. I usually take a quick glance at a new submission right away and if the first few lines don’t grab me, I move it a little further down my to-read pile. Avoid being overly expositional in your opening so the reader wants to keep reading to put the pieces together themselves. Have some faith in your reader that they won’t give up if they don’t get all the answers from the start.

Will you stop reading if you run across typos in a submitted novel?

No, unless they are absolutely egregious. I would recommend reading your manuscript thoroughly before submitting. If you miss one or two, it’s understandable, but more than that can seem careless.

Any writing or submitting pet peeves?

Please try to spell the editor’s name and company correctly. It’s also not helpful when authors say there book is the next “insert hugely popular and bestselling book here.” Let your book speak for itself!


In the subject line, please write “August First Page Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: August 19th (12:00pm EST).

RESULTS: August 26th.

Please only submit one first page a month. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great opportunity. One question: do you want a query in the meal or a pitch before we add the ms? TY


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