Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 20, 2018

Page Street Kids – Editor Kristen Nobles Interview

Kristen Nobles is the founding Publisher of Page Street Kids, the new children’s division ​of Page Street Publishing in Salem, MA. She is focusing on collaborating with new talent and publishing art-led narrative picture books, picture book biographies, visually driven concept books, and selectively, distinct board books. Kristen loves strong characters, stories with heart, a unique style or retro look made new again, and looks for a surprising spin on traditional themes in children’s books.

MY INTERVIEW WITH KRISTEN NOBLES:

1. Kristen, how did you connect with Will Kiester, the founding publisher of Page Street Publishing?

Publishing is a pretty small world and Will and I have worked at similar companies and have known the same people. One day he called for a design reference on one of my interns, and I began to follow what he was building with Page Street. When I left Candlewick, I networked with several people, Will included, and over lunch we chatted about sailing, skiing, traveling, New England, our careers and interests within publishing, business philosophies, and starting a publishing company. That first conversation grew into Page Street Kids.

2. Is this another story of you stalking down an opportunity like you did to get the art director position at Candlewick Press?

HA! I certainly keep my eye on companies I admire and stay open to opportunities that seem like the right fit for me.

3. How did you come up with the idea of visiting authors and Illustrators at their studios?

Candlewick Press, and the Walker Book Group globally, has a history of focusing on creator relationships and I think, because they are outside of the New York publishing world, they enjoy visits from authors and illustrators near and far. There were stories of illustrious artists invited to Walker in London to sit in the offices and create artwork. During my time at Candlewick, it was a pleasure to cultivate close relationships, preferably working face to face whenever possible. I delighted in seeing artwork come to life in the space it was created such as Yuyi Morales’ vibrant Ladder to the Moon in the San Francisco area, one long scroll for Ed Young’s Bird and Diz in upstate NY, and Matt Tavares’ historical baseball portraits for Henry Aaron’s Dream or Growing Up Pedro by the ocean in Maine. At Page Street Kids, being surrounded by a vibrant artist community is inspiring and I am collaborating on projects with local-to-me illustrators Ioana Hobai, James Weinberg, and Rebecca Walsh, as well as a handful of yet-to-be signed newly graduated art students, during our work from home Wednesdays.

4. Kristen, do you also work with the covers of your YA books?

Page Street Publishing has a strong design department with several designers who blow my hair back with their YA covers. I give opinions in weekly design meetings and sometimes suggest illustrators or production effects, but I am usually applauding the creative director and her team.

5. Kristen, Any tips on how an illustrator can get you to ask to see more?

As an art director, I was focused on memorable imagery—pieces that were successful due to content but also unusual perspective or atmosphere, emotional connection and palette choice. As a publisher focused on art led books, I still look for memorable imagery but have a new task to ask about the narrative story within the imagery. For example, Amanda Moeckel presented me with a postcard at an SCBWI conference of a child in pajamas sulking back to bed clearly having been giving marching orders by a pointed finger attached to a strong adult arm bleeding off one side. The child’s body language evoked a specific emotion and I wanted to know what had happened / was going to happen. With minimal development, Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song emerged from that postcard, and is publishing this September 2018.

Additionally, I continue to look for illustration work that I haven’t seen before; artwork that is distinct and authentic to the creator. James Weinberg’s Contrary Creatures, publishing in October, is a great example of this. As a poster screen printer, muralist, and designer, James created a digital style that mimics his screen-printing style and plays with dot patterns to beautifully render motion and depth.

6. Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

As a picture book publisher, I am looking for similar content in writing as I am illustration: distinct and authentic voices, and strong story with emotion. I respond to storytelling with heart—something that makes me tear up or giggle uncontrollably—and characters with relatable emotional journeys. Storytelling with strong character with a believable emotional journey and a satisfying ending gets me every time.

7. Are there any themes or subjects you like to receive?

Narratively, I am looking for funny right now since I think we are underrepresented in humor, though we are off to a good start with Josh Crute’s Oliver: The Second Largest Living Thing on Earth, illustrated by John Taesoo Kim, publishing in September. Silly characters with exceptional voice and a good yarn to tell are welcome! Picture book biographies are having a great moment and if I enjoy learning a new nugget of information, hopefully kids will too. However, projects we acquire have to uniquely stand out and be about a person who really affected meaningful change in our world by a creator who has a personal connection, an authentic voice, or a reason to be writing passionately about her subject. We’ve been exploring a different kind of picture book biography —those that tell the story of an iconic photograph or object similar to one I worked on years ago: Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick Press, 2008). Our upcoming HECTOR: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright as well as The Pea Pickers Camp by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Sarah Dvojack, about the family in Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” are interesting spins on telling a visual story. I’d love more projects like these!

8. Does an author who illustrates their own book have a better chance of getting published at Page street Kids?

It completely depends on the artwork—we still have to respond to both the art style and the written story and I’d encourage authors who lean towards writing rather than illustrating be open to other pairings. It is more likely that we will publish illustrators who are writing their own stories since my background and focus is on this kind of collaboration. However, I would also say that author-illustrators in development with us on their own stories have more of an opportunity to be put on another author’s manuscript. For example, we were discussing several of Ioana Hobai’s own manuscripts when we acquired Before You Sleep by Annie Cronin Romano. Ioana’s warm and emotional characters seemed like the perfect fit for an endearing bedtime book. Once she completed the sweet and cozy artwork for Before You Sleep, to be published in October, we moved on to finishing development on her author-illustrated debut, The Slippers, publishing in June 2019.

9. Does Page Street kids pay picture book authors and illustrators an advance?

We pay all picture book authors and illustrators advances against a 5% royalty in consideration of the work they put into creating the book and a shared success once the book is published. Our contract advances are largely unchanged from project to project, with very slight variance since we work with many debuts. We strive for fairness and transparency in this arena.

10. How many picture books do you think you will publish next year?

We are on track to publish 20 picture books in 2019, 36 in 2020, and will continue to strive for growth to 50 books 2021, with an eye to always keeping quality high.

11. Does everyone at Page Street Kids need to agree on a book that you would like to publish?

Nope! The acquiring editor (or designer since they may bring projects in too) needs to sell me, and if not me then Will, on why they are passionate about it and we have to agree on the quality of the storytelling craft—be it the writing or the illustrating.

12. Do you plan to continue to working with debut authors?

Yes! I enjoy the development stage of picture book making, perhaps more than the finessing end stages, and find excitement in collaborating with new talent. The three things we are focusing on to set Page Street Kids apart are: art-led books, debuts, and high-quality production—though not to the exclusion of great stories with writing that resonates with us.

13. You’ve done a good job with the quality of the artwork for you picture books. How do you find illustrators to use?

Thank you! I find illustrators absolutely everywhere—and hesitate to give out the secret nooks and crannies they can be found in. That said, I am very visual so I just look around and ask myself, “Would this artwork translate to a picture book?” If not a traditional children’s book illustrator, we do put in a bit more work to communicate the elements necessary for success in this realm.

14. Does Page Street Publishing have any plans to add middle grade books to their catalogue?

I would love to expand our offerings to middle grade some day, especially illustrated middle grade, but let us get the first picture books on shelves!

15. Are you interested in writer’s conference invitations?

Yes, I am always inspired by speaking to writers, illustrators, or book people in general, and happy to present a unique perspective on creating picture books.

16. Do you think you will add non-fiction picture books to your list in the future?

Yes, though I lean towards literary non-fiction, or narratives based on fact with bonus information on the end page such as Oliver and Contrary Creatures: Unique Animal Opposites publishing on our Fall 2018 list. Also, our first picture book biography, Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon by Kim Chaffee, illustrated by Ellen Rooney, is publishing in April 2019 and we have others in development. More activity-based non-fiction like This Is Rocket Science by Emma Vanstone or Awesome Lego Creations with Bricks You Already Have by Sarah Dees are published by our non-fiction group at Page Street Publishing, along with the cookbooks and lifestyle books.

Kristen, Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly answer all my questions. I am sure it will help many of the writers and illustrators who follow and visit.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Informative interview; thanks!

    Like


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