Picture Books With Grace Maccarone

by  Elizabeth Upton

Grace Maccarone, editor at Holiday House, spoke to a rapt group of writers at the Huntington L.I. Library as part of the Metro-NYC SCBWI “On the Road Series” on Saturday, May 7th.  Maccarone has always specialized in editing picture books, and before joining Holiday House she honed her skills for many years as an editor at Scholastic Press.

Maccarone immediately engaged her audience by reading one of her favorite picture books, “The Story Ferdinand”, by Monroe Leaf. She noted that the language of the picture book must be beautiful, with elements such repetition, alliteration and rhythm. In addition, the writer must also think about opportunities for illustration.

Maccarone loves helping authors and illustrators to polish their work and she highlighted the collaborative nature of picture book creation. It is important for the writer to willing to “let go” and allow the editor, art director, illustrator and the publisher to use their knowledge to help create the book.  She went so far as to say, “A book is a village and luck!” When asked about “word counts” she replied that she is concerned by what engages a child, whatever the story length. She advised writers to read “highly acclaimed books” for a sense of pace—and count their words.

Holiday House publishes sixteen books a year for the Trade market– with sales largely gained from libraries and schools. Guidelines for submitting your manuscript (one at a time, please) can be found on their website. Asked what Holiday House is looking for, Maccarone said that she and her colleagues at Holiday House are looking for “the very very good.”

Elizabeth Upton is the author of Maxi the Little Taxi, released by Scholastic Press this spring. Her poetry is included in three collections by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

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