I have some news. You probably didn’t see it coming. I didn’t either, exactly. But I perhaps should have, because, as my author Kathryn Fitzmaurice taught me with her oh-so-wonderful middle grade novels, The Year the Swallows Came Early and Destiny, Rewritten, if we stay open and “expect the unexpected,” it allows us to embrace chance encounters that can lead us to, “something wonderful and different that [we] might not have thought of”—in short, toward thrilling new versions of ourselves.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of change, but I am slowly learning that with the right attitude and the right decisions, transitions can feel a bit like this: one of Sarah Jane Wright’s perfect illustrations for A Christmas Goodnight—full of a gloriously expectant hopefulness on the horizon.
And horizons make for such vivid imagery, in art and in writing. They just stir something so evocative up in us as readers, you know? Like one of my favorite passages from S. J. Kincaid’s stellar Vortex, the sequel to Insignia, where, “Everything Tom had ever feared seemed to shrink for this instant as the universe expanded for him. He wished every single person on the planet could have this chance, just once, to see the horizon from above rather than from below. Maybe they’d all see that the universe didn’t end…but rather that this incredible, infinite stretch of possibilities existed beyond them.”
And speaking of horizons and possibilities—when I asked a long-time friend what he thought about the new possibility that had appeared on my horizon, he listened patiently to my lengthy pro/con list and then said simply, “It depends. How willing are you to take a risk?” And right there and then, I pretty much knew what my choice would be, because Divergent and Tris and the remarkable Veronica Roth taught me that sometimes we simply have to “be brave” and jump, even if that means changing everything. Especially if that means changing everything.
Bryan Bliss professes something similar, in what I hope will be one of your favorite new YA books of next summer, his superb 2014 debut, Meet Me Here—that sometimes you have to do the thing that scares you the most, and then embrace the transformation that follows, “In that moment, when your heart is ready to break out of your chest and you can barely breathe, that’s when you get a chance to live.”
“Strange but true,” (that’s the favorite observation/declaration of the protagonist of Molly B. Burnham’s hilarious and heart-warming illustrated middle grade debut (due out in 2015), Teddy Mars: Almost a World Record Breaker), you’re probably sensing a common theme to this blog post.
So what’s the big change? It’s that I’m leaving HarperCollins, after an incredible seven and a half years. I’m taking a side-step into a slightly different realm and heading over to Storybird, a visual storytelling platform, where I’ll be their Head of Editorial, focusing on creative strategy and product/program development. It’s a chance to use many of the skill sets that I’ve cultivated over the past decade in publishing, while also learning to think in exciting new ways about how technology, stories, and culture can intersect. And I’ll be working with an amazing and innovative team, which makes leaving my great HarperCollins colleagues a little less painful.
In Hilary T. Smith’s utterly gorgeous Wild Awake, the main character concludes that, “The universe, I realize, is full of little torches. Sometimes, for some reason, it’s your turn to carry one out of the fire—because the world needs it.” In a way, I hope that’s what I’ll be doing as I make this transition: carrying a torch from the world of publishing that I’ve known and loved into a new venture that’s full of excitement and possibility. Along the way, I’ll hopefully be uncovering new paths for story-makers and story-lovers and stories to connect and find each other. Because I am convinced that stories are one of the things we need most, as human beings in this world.
As Bobbie Pyron wrote in her pitch-perfect, southern-tinged “new classic,” A Dog’s Way Home, “Most folks got a north star in their life—something that gives their life extra meaning.” I think for a lot of us who share this corner of the internet, one of our north stars is stories—because of the way they allow us to express ourselves and understand others, because of the way they connect people, because of the way they help us learn to live.
To all of you who have entrusted your words and art and stories to me, at conferences and via literary agents and even just through the simple tales we tell each other every day via Facebook and Twitter . . . thank you. To those of you (teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, book bloggers, publishing industry pals, friends in the media, and fellow book-lovers of all sorts) who have worked to connect my authors/illustrators and their books to Real! Live! Readers!—I am intensely, endlessly grateful. And most of all, to the many authors and illustrators that I’ve worked with while at Harper, most especially those mentioned above—thank you for all you have taught me, and the ways you’ve inspired me as we’ve worked together. I will always consider myself lucky to have been one of the earliest fans of your books, and to have had the incredible privilege of watching your stories transform and take shape and then courageously go out into the world to find their readers.
And to everyone reading this: I hope you’ll all keep an eye on things over at Storybird. It’s going to be a thrill, and a lot of fun, and I’d love for you to come and be a part of it.