RUTA RIMAS has been at HarperCollins since 2007, and with Balzer + Bray since the imprint’s inception. She has done the following: taught math to Brooklyn teenagers; valet-parked cars in Chicago; waited tables with marinara sauce on her forehead (for a whole shift! And no one told her….); worked at a Hallmark store, doing nothing but answering questions about collectible figures; travelled to Lithuania; and fallen out of a tree in Central Park. She lives in Brooklyn, with her ever-patient boyfriend, and a pride of cats.
How do you define your role as a children’s book editor at Balzer & Bray?
I am an acquiring editor, looking for picture books, middle-grade, and YA. While my bosses have edited fantastic chapter book series, I tend to shy away from that age range. Can’t really tell you why, other than those books are just not up my alley—which is a tad bizarre, as the 1980s Ruta enjoyed reading chapter books, very much so. Go figure.
My role is to be the champion of my authors/illustrators, through every step of the process. From our Balzer + Bray team meetings, to the oft scary Acquisitions meetings with sales, to Cover Strategy meetings, and our seasonal launch meetings, I advocate, advocate, advocate. And then, I advocate some more.
I also assist Donna Bray–editorially and administratively. What this means to you: If you have sent a manuscript to Donna, I’ve seen it!
We know that all editors are looking for well-written stories, but could you summarize your specific taste in books and which kinds of stories usually catch your attention (or possibly send you fleeing down the hallway ;-)?
My taste in books…Well, it has to be something that moves me—in a humorous way, in a touching way, in a thought-provoking way…
I’m not a known crier (with the exception of watching a high-profile couple dancing to AT LAST on January 20th) but if I read a book and it moves me to tears, it’s a winner!
Perhaps a list of “Books-that-have-moved-me” will help to define my specific taste:
HARRY AND HORSIE by Katie Van Camp; picture by Lincoln Agnew
A Balzer + Bray launch book (Fall 2009). The art, oh the art! Just amazing. So new, so fresh, so great!
MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli
Love the voice. Love the story. From a master of the middle grade novel.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by Jeff Kinney
Groundbreaking. So clever.
THE PAIN MERCHANTS by Janice Hardy
A Balzer + Bray launch book (Fall 2009). Incredibly new, fantastic idea: the main character can heal people, take the pain,and then shift the pain to another. Zowie!
THE AFTER by Amy Huntley
Another Balzer + Bray debut (Fall 2009). This one made me cry. Like a baby. Plus, I loooooved that the author used a non-linear structure. That is fresh.
THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING by MT Anderson
No words, really, can describe this masterpiece. It is flawless.
I’d like to point out that three out of the six books on the Balzer + Bray launch list are debut authors. That’s right: HALF! How exciting! And, I am so sorry, but you will have to wait until September to get your hands on the titles…unless you are fortunate enough to score an ARC!
I will send an almost 100% guaranteed NO to the following:
Rhyming picture books
Overly cute picture books
Picture books that condescend to children
Didactic books, all ages
Preachy books, all ages
Books with inconsistent narrative, all ages (a sign, to me, of amateurish writing)
Books with wizards, all ages
Books with vampires, werewolves, zombies, all ages (would be willing to bend this rule for picture books, but it has to be great!)
What is your favorite children’s joke?
Not kidding…I love this one:
Q: Why does Santa Claus have a garden?
A: So he can ho, ho, ho!
And, for those with sustainable reading skills, who can appreciate the following when told orally, and, well, can deal with the fact that this is not *quite* for children, this one is a close second favorite. Bear with me…
A piece of string walks into a bar. He sits down and says, “Bartender. Gimmee a beer.”
The bartender looks at him and says, “I’m not serving a piece of string! Get outta here!”
So the piece of string leaves.
He spots a guy on the street and says, “Psst. Hey buddy! I need you to tie me in a knot!” The guy looks around, and, though confused, ties the piece of string into a knot.
Another guy walks by and the piece of string whispers, “Psst. Hey buddy! I need you to fray my ends a bit.” The guy looks around, shrugs his shoulders, and frays the string’s ends.
So the piece of string walks back into the bar, sits down and says,” Bartender! Gimmee a beer!”
The bartender looks at him and says, “Hey. Aren’t you the SAME piece of string I just told to leave?”
The piece of string looks the bartender straight in the eyes and shakes his head. “No, man. I’m a frayed knot (afraid knot).”