I met Kathy Landwehr at the Ventura/Santa Barbara Mission picturebook retreat this year. Kathy was gracious and generous with her critiques of first pages. I am always pleased to interview an editor. I give you Kathy Landwehr.
When and why did you become an editor for children’s books?
I started working at Peachtree in 1990, but in publicity and marketing. I moved over to editorial and production in 1995 in a managerial role and starting acquiring titles in 2001. And that’s when I felt I’d really found my home, even though I loved my time at Peachtree before that as well.
Why? I love the challenges of children’s books. Someone once said that simple isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true of children’s books. Every single word has to count; I like to say that there’s nowhere to hide the mistakes! I love the relationship between the text and the artwork, and the process of figuring out which will convey what sort of information and how. And I love the final product—there’s nothing more wonderful than holding a finished book in my hands and knowing that I played a role in its birth.
What is the most valuable advice you can give to a newly published writer?
Write. Write more. Read. Read more. Talk to other folks. Talk more. It’s so important to keep the balance between the essential solitary time spent writing, and the equally essential time spent figuring out what’s going on out in the world. Each part informs the other.
What is one of your favorite children’s books that you'd like to recommend?
Can I cheat and pick a series? I absolutely adore Harry Horse’s Little Rabbit picture books (www.littlerabbit.net <http://www.littlerabbit.net/> ). The artwork is so marvelous and Harry catches the voice and mindset of a toddler just perfectly.
I have a preschooler myself and have probably read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus approximately ten million times. I never get sick of it and neither does my son. Mo Willems is another person who’s got that voice just right.
What are you working on now?
A marvelous fall 2009 picture book called Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt!, written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Adam Gustavson. They’re a terrific team—Leslie’s text is hilarious and informative, two of my favorite qualities, and Adam’s artwork… well, let’s just say that Adam sees the world differently from anyone else, and I’m really glad of that. I love his cockeyed view of the world. This title is just about to go to the printer and I can’t wait to see the finished book.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
My husband makes something we call Daniel Cake. He found the recipe when I was in the hospital delivering our son Daniel. Tom got so bored waiting for the baby to come that he read every single page of the newspaper—even the food section, where he found this terrific recipe. The original name of the recipe was something like “World’s Best Chocolate Cake,” but it will always be Daniel Cake to us.