Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Carus Publishing Company, part 2

Sometimes chance encounters can make life interesting. My aunt and uncle met President of Carus Publishing Company Jason Patenaude through a mutual friend. Through this chance meeting, I was invited to contact Mr. Patenaude. At first I was nervous – do I write or call?
What should I say? Could I avoid sounding like a babbling idiot?


I endeavored to do what any aspiring writer would do…consult the boards (specifically the “blue board” at VerlaKay.com, and the folks on the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Yahoo Group). Both groups were happy to provide helpful opinions and suggestions, though the results were a dead heat between the “write” camp and the “call” camp.

In the end, I did both. I wrote first to introduce myself and provide a memory cue, and then I called to follow up. I wasn’t sure what to expect – after all he didn’t know me from any other writer (or writer’s relative) he might meet any day of the week. After several minutes on the phone, Mr. Patenaude invited me to visit the home of Carus Publishing in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He also indicated that there might be an opportunity to meet some of the editorial staff. After silently composing my inner “squee,” I graciously accepted the invitation.

For those that are not familiar with it, Carus Publishing Company (www.cobblestonepub.com) publishes 14 magazines for children ranging in target age from birth through high school. The Peterborough office publishes six non-fiction titles for 4th grade and up including Cobblestone (American history), Calliope (world history), Dig (archeology around the world), Odyssey (science), Faces (people, places and culture), and Appleseeds (general social studies for grades 3 and up). The Chicago office produces the “bug” line including LadyBug, Cricket, Spider, and Cicada, among others.

Jason Patenaude is a thoroughly approachable and likeable man. He was warm and friendly, and gave me realistic and helpful insight into the publishing industry from the children’s magazine perspective. He bought me coffee at a coffee shop across from his office and we spent a nice hour talking about the trials and tribulations of writing for children (and writing in general). He was encouraging and treated me like a professional writer.

After our meeting, Mr. Patenaude had arranged for me to meet with Lou Waryncia, the Editorial Director of the Peterborough office. Mr. Waryncia spent an additional hour with me talking about the magazines under his auspices, as well as the children’s magazine and book markets in general. He gave me samples of his magazines, and the handout from his recent presentation at a writer’s workshop. I can’t tell you how incredible it was to spend such a considerable amount of time with these two impressive industry insiders.

After my meetings with these two generous and insightful men, I admit that I’m as motivated as ever to continue writing. I know that the market for picture books is tough to break into. I will continue to aspire to that lofty goal. However, in the meantime, I’m going to query Cobblestone with a proposal or two for upcoming issues. Their themes and deadlines are easily located on their website for all to review. It would be an honor for my work to be associated with professionals such as Mr. Patenaude and Mr. Waryncia.

I hope to run into the staff from Cobblestone again at the April SCBWI conference in Nashua, NH. Who knows what chance encounters might happen there?
My advice for anyone who might find herself in a situation where a friend or relative says “I’ve got a publishing contact for you” – don’t merely think about writing or calling, just DO IT!

1 comment:

Thalia said...

This is kind of an odd question for you, but I'm too curious not to ask. How old was this Jason Patenaude guy? Because I went to high school (in New England) with a kid by that name, who was a writer and who I later heard was out in Chicago (where one of Carus Publishing's offices is). I can't seem to find any more info on the guy online and am dying of curiosity now (especially since I had a terrible crush on him, back in the day.) And also, it would just be too weird if it were him, since I'm an illustrator who draws mythological and faery tale type stuff...

So, was he like 38? :)