New Cynsations Reporter Elisabeth Norton

By Stephani Martinell Eaton

We are thrilled that Elisabeth Norton is joining the Cynsations team covering the European market. The above photo shows The Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland. Hiking is one of the ways Elisabeth refills her creative well.

Welcome to Cynsations! Could you tell us about your vision for covering books related to the European market here at the blog? Why did you decide to take on this role in the conversation of books?

Helping to set up the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2018.

I find the global aspects of creating books for young readers fascinating. From understanding more about how foreign rights sales work to the nuances of translating work for other markets, I love exploring the international dimensions of children’s publishing.

I’ve assisted at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair a couple of times and being there—seeing just how many the exhibitors there are—makes you realize just how big the world of publishing for young readers is.

I’m thrilled to have the chance to share my enthusiasm for the international aspects of children’s publishing with Cynsations readers.

You’re also a writer. Can you tell us a bit about your path to writing for young readers?

I’ve wanted to write books for young readers for so long that I can’t remember not wanting to do it!

I always have multiple stories in various stages of development and revision. I’ll work on one, get comments from my critique group, revise, and then work on something else for a while. Then when I come back to that first story, I can see it with fresher eyes. One of the most important elements in my writing life is my critique group—they make everything I write better and always challenge me to do my best work.

I serve as the Regional Advisor for the Swiss chapter of SCBWI, and I am always encouraging the members of our region to get involved in critique groups because we learn so much about craft from critiquing the work of other writers (or illustrators).

Regardless of where the others are on their own creative journey in terms of skills or ability, we can learn from critiquing the work of other creators. Whether it’s figuring how someone wrote an amazing scene, or why a plot isn’t working or a character feels flat, we bring those insights and our honed critical faculties back to our own work.

The members of Elisabeth’s critique group live in four different countries, so it was a treat for them to be together in real life for a writing retreat in Prague, Czech Republic in 2019. (Back row, left to right, Melanie Rook-Welfing, Ellen Yeomans, Elisabeth, Katie Hayoz. Front, Paula J. Freedman).

As an avid reader, what two children’s-YA books are closest to your heart, those you’d lovingly place in the hands of kids in your family and community? What makes them so special?

I love Jacqueline Woodson’s picture book, The Day You Begin (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). She makes the experience of feeling different specific to the characters, yet universally relatable.

It’s a book that can help young readers learn to look for the commonalities between them and their peers, while celebrating the differences.

For older readers, Wonder, by RJ Palacio (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). For those who have lived through the experience of being targeted and bullied because of a physical difference over which they have no control, they can see themselves and their own experiences on the pages and feel like they are not alone.

For those who have not lived that experience, they can come to understand the power of words, actions, and inaction, to be hurtful and harmful, and also to be helpful and kind.

Cynsational Notes

Originally from the U.S., Elisabeth Norton now lives with her family in Switzerland, where she writes picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

You can find out more about her writing and involvement in the world of books for young readers on her website.

When not reading or writing, Elisabeth can usually be found knitting, hiking in the mountains or walking along the river in the forest near her home.

Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction. She is represented by Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary Agency.