The social group. It conjures up a certain kind of mental image, does it not? When I hear that term I always think of smoky backrooms where young suited, be-spectacled intelligensia sip cognac and discuss Proust while burlesque girls do a dance on a bedraggled stage at the end of the room. In truth, I’ve actually joined some social groups while here in town. Some, in this case, meaning one. You may have seen the librarian social group Desk Set featured in the New York Times Style section a year or so ago. They’re fun, but not very children’s literary oriented, so I don’t meet with them as often as I might.
If a person were so inclined they could probably seek out a group to meet with every day of the week. I do not seek things out. Rather, I wait for them to blithley come to me. So when literary agent Jessica Regel asked if I might be interested in meeting with her group I was intrigued. "Once a month we gather a mix of ten agents and editors to discuss industry topics over drinks. We also invite one guest expert. Our topic this month is ‘Blogging’– what makes a successful blog, how can authors/editors/agents work with blogs and bloggers, what are some ‘don’ts’ when dealing with blogs, and so forth." Well shoot. I can talk about that.
So we met at a wine bar named (I kid you not) Wined Up. Over a plate of cheese (mmmm… cheese) was Stephen Barbara with the Donald Maas Agency, Jessica Regel with Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Nicole Kenealy with Aaron Priest Agency, Martha Mihalick (editor) at Greenwillow, and Laura Schechter (editor) at Razorbill. Now Stephen didn’t want to say that they were all young, but sometimes you just have to face facts. This group is a bunch of youngsters (my age) which I was entirely comfortable with. The evening was relaxed, and people actually did ask me questions on a variety of different topics. I spouted off on everything from the importance of author’s have website of their own (Candlewick you REALLY need to make a website for Laura Amy Schlitz!) to the blogs we ourselves read (7-Imp, bookshelves of doom, and Read Roger were all mentioned).
In my time in New York I haven’t been able to figure out if the comraderie between editors and agents at different publishing houses is new or an NYC tradition of sorts. The backbiting and politics of the adult literary world seems, for the most part, not to be reflected in its juvenile equivalent. It is not uncommon for editors and people in sales to leap from publisher to publisher. In some ways, it’s kind of expected (particularly when you get a whiff of what they make at some of those places). And at my own Kidlit Drink Nights I’ve seen agents who are friends with their clients who are friends with people in marketing who are friends with other agents. Playing the devil’s advocate, one might wonder if all this friendliness could lead to an "in" crowd of special friends. Cases where editors prefer to be pitched by their agent friends who are in the know. From my perspective (my perspective = a librarian who has no monetary connection to any of this) I don’t think so. You have to give credit to the people in this industry. They have an eye (usually) for what is good and what is bad. If anything, this cross-pollination of genres and occupations may lead to more creative products. Or is that a justification? It’s an interesting time to be operating in the field and I’ll have more thoughts as I meet more people, I suppose.
In any case, many thanks to Smarties in Publishing for the invite. Hopefully I convinced them all to attend the February 8th Kidlit Drink Night too.