Fiammetta Giorgi is an editor at Mondadori Children’s Books in Italy. She was interviewed by Anita Loughrey in December 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).
What made you decide to go into children’s book publishing?
FG: In 1996, I began translating fiction from German and English into Italian (translating, among others, a few titles by Christine Nöstlinger and The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares) and it was thus, almost by chance, that I discovered my passion for children’s literature.
In your opinion, what makes a good editor?
FG: You must of course study, know your market, and understand what children usually like; but more than anything, you must have the ability to fall completely in love with a book.
When you’re reading a manuscript for the first time, how long does it take you (approx. how many pages? chapters?) to figure out whether it’s something you want to pursue?
FG: I’d say 50-70 pages.
What kinds of things “turn you off” a manuscript right away?
FG: When I feel a book is artificial, when it is written on purpose to teach you something or to achieve a certain goal, when it is boring and not lively, when the characters feel false…
What is your favorite thing about being a children’s book editor?
FG: Children’s books (and the people working in the field) are often funnier, more spontaneous and creative than adult books (and those creating books for adults).
What are some of your favorite books and why?
FG: Just to name a few, Spinelli‘s Stargirl for the warm and spontaneous realism of the main character; Selznick‘s The Invention of Hugo Cabret for the innovative and extremely expressive way of mixing text and wonderful illustrations; Brennan’s Faerie Wars and Colfer’s Artemis Fowl for their humor.
Is there a character you met in a book when you were a child that changed your life?
FG: I could not say that she “changed my life,” but Pippi Longstocking was for sure a fascinating model when I was a child.
What book(s) are you proudest of having worked on? Why?
FG: There are many books that can make you feel proud, because you give children the chance to discover something precious: I’m proud to have in my catalog Hawkings’ George’s Secret Key to the Universe, for its optimism and the way in which it expresses amazing and complex concepts with immediate images. I’m proud to have La composición by Antonio Skarmeta, dealing with the difficult theme of civil war and dictatorship; but I’m also proud to have masterpieces such as Sabuda’s pop ups. I also love working with Italian authors because you feel involved in the creation of the book.
Have you worked with both fiction and non-fiction? If so, how do the processes compare? What do you like most (and/or least) about each?
FG: Yes, I work with both. I like non-fiction because usually you can work a lot with the authors and suggest new ways of organizing and developing projects, but I prefer fiction because it is more emotional.
What does the ideal cover letter say?
FG: It is difficult to find a standard because I prefer “surprising” cover letters that can express what is new in each book.
Is there any area on your list you’d like to “grow” at this time? Do you look at art samples?
FG: I’d like to work more with Italian authors. As for the art samples, I’m working a lot with our art director and we like looking for new artists.
How involved in the marketing of the book are you? What is the average marketing budget for a picture book at your house? A YA novel? Etc.
FG: I work a lot with our marketing department because we are trying to present each important book with a different approach. We work together to enhance the content and spirit of each book. Picture books in Italy represent a tiny part of the market, so we usually do not have a specific budget for a single book. For a YA novel, we can invest much more.
Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.
The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.
To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org
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