Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Kendra Levin is an assistant editor at Viking Children’s Books (an imprint of Penguin Putnam USA), where she has been for two years. Prior to that, she interned at Scholastic Trade Paperbacks and worked for their Book Club Department. Kendra is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced off-Broadway. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the 2007 SCBWI Ventura/Santa Barbara Writer’s Day in Thousand Oaks, CA.

What is the most common mistake you’ve seen in manuscripts from the slush pile?
A really common mistake many slush pile writers make is trying to capitalize on trends in the hope that editors will be attracted to whatever is “hot”. But I always tell people that even if I signed up your book tomorrow, penguins or pirates or any other trend will be long gone by the time the book comes out. The best books are timeless, and nine times out of ten, whatever is lurking around in your own imagination is more interesting and original than a Harry Potter or Eragon imitation.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just getting into the field or writing for children?
My number one piece of advice to beginning writers is do your homework. That could apply to anything from finding out whether there might be a market for the kind of book you want to write to making sure there isn’t already something just like it to figuring out which publisher or editor would be a good fit for your manuscript. You can save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches by doing the research that will serve you and your manuscript.

What’s your favorite children’s joke?
This joke used to crack me up so much when I was a kid that I told it to anyone who would listen:

A cop stops a lady driving down the freeway with six penguins in the car. The cop says, “Lady, what are you doing? Take these penguins to the zoo!”

The next day, the cop stops the same lady on the freeway. She’s still got six penguins in her car, but now they’re all wearing sunglasses. The cop says, “Lady, I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo!”

And the lady replies, “I did, and we had so much fun, today I’m taking them to the beach!”

(hee-hee-hee! Thanks, Kendra)


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