Saturday, January 19, 2013

7 Questions For: Editor Erin Clarke

Erin Clarke is an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House, where she has been for fourteen years. Erin works on a wide range of projects from picture books to young adult fiction. She is the editor of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the #1 New York Times bestseller Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, the Tia Lola Stories by Julia Alvarez, When Life Gives You OJ by Erica S. Perl, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane, Lena’s Sleep Sheep by Anita Lobel, Pirates vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Davis Barneda, and the Dog Loves books by Louise Yates.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter and loves to read, read, read, and occasionally run.

And now Erin Clarke faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
My favorite books change on a daily basis, but today I’ll pick:

Adult Books:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Anything by Thomas Hardy
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Children’s Books:
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?
The Third Man
The Thin Man movies
Good Will Hunting (I’m a Boston girl at heart)

I don’t watch much television, but I do love Downton Abbey.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal writer?
My ideal writer is someone who is hardworking and not afraid to take chances while writing. I don’t want to work with authors who write the same book over and over again, even if I happen to love that book.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?
I would love to see more queries for smart, literary, stand-alone middle grade titles to come across my desk. 

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an editor? What is your least favorite thing? 
I love working with talented people who are passionate about children’s books. These people include writers, agents, other editors, designers, publicists, sales reps, copy editors, managing editors, production people, booksellers, librarians, and teachers. So many of them work incredibly hard everyday—both behind the scenes and on the front lines—to get books into the hands of young readers.
My least favorite thing is seeing a book I adore not receive the attention or readers it deserves. Many good books rise to the top, get glowing reviews, hit bestseller lists, and, most importantly, find readers, but many do not and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
Read, read, read.
Don’t be afraid to take chances and write outside of your comfort zone.
“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.” –Maxwell Perkins

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Again, this changes on a daily basis, but today I’d choose Calvin Trillin. I love his food writing for the New Yorker (if we could meet for some Singapore street food that would be all the better) and adore his memoir about his wife, About Alice.


  1. Wonderful interview! Loved the advice, especially about taking chances and not writing the same book over and over. I haven't thought of Bread and Jam for Frances in years, but I adored that book~ thanks for the reminder!

  2. Wonderful interview. Love Erin's advice. I like the idea that she is looking for smart, standalone middle grade book titles :)

  3. Yes to taking chances -- thank you for sharing!


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