Rx for Writers


"Is the Future of Children’s Books Brighter Today Than It Was a Year Ago?” with Harold Underdown

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Mel is Mel Boring, moderator of this chat with Harold Underdown and web editor of the ICL site.

Harold is Harold Underdown, who began his career in children’s books as an editor for Macmillan Children’s Books.  Moving to Orchard Books, Harold became a full editor there.  After a time of editorial freelancing, Harold worked at Charlesbridge Press, where he became Editor-in-Chief.  Following that, he became Editorial Director of iPictureBooks, publishing children’s picture books on the Internet.  Since then Harold Underdown has been a freelance children’s editor, a frequent conference speaker, and a much respected “editor-at-large” to children’s writers.

Green shows the user names of the people who are asking questions of Harold.


Mel: Since Harold Underdown's first appearance in our ICL Chat Room on May 1, 2003, I have had the privilege of meeting him at the Kindling Words children's writers' conference this past winter. Harold was a well received presenter at the conference, giving us bright insights into the children's writers' market as it has been in the past, is now in the present, and what its future might be like. Harold and his wife are parents of a young daughter, for whom Harold shares equally in parenting. We will also talk to him this evening about children, and how they affect the work of a children's editor, and what your own children can mean to you as a children's writer. Harold, THANK YOU so much for this return visit with us this evening-Greetings to you!

Harold: Thanks. Mel, and hello, everyone!

Mel: You were here one year ago, Harold. In that year, what major changes have there been in the market for children's writing? If no major changes, have there been any minor changes worth noting?

Harold: I don't remember what trends we talked about last time--maybe someone has a record and can remind us? (editor’s note: the record of that interview can be found at http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/tr01/underdown2.shtml)--but the changes that have the biggest impact on our world develop over years, if not decades. One is the consolidation of children's publishers that happened throughout the 80's and 90's, so that there are now five or six large companies (most of which are divisions of even larger companies) that really dominate the business. Over the past year, there hasn't been MORE consolidation, which must be good news of a kind, because the consolidation does have an impact on children's writing--the larger the company, the more likely it is to have closed doors to beginners, for example. Another long-term trend is demographics, which currently favor writers of novels and older nonfiction. There are relatively more older children in the US population now than five or ten years ago, and so what expansion publishers are doing is in the area of books for those older children. There are still plenty of picture books being published, of course, so don't switch from picture books if they are your strength as a writer!

The economy does seem to be picking up, and that's good news for us all, but it may not mean a big improvement in sales of children's books, since federal and state budgets are strained and spending on libraries suffers as a result. The No Child Left Behind Act, also known as the No Child Left Untested Act, does provide new funding for schools, but that won't help trade book publishers, because money must be spent on research-based materials, which will mean controlled vocabulary books and the like, not real books. And here's an oddity--the Book Industry Study Group just released figures on the number of new children's book titles, which increased from 11,208 in 2002 to 16,283 in 2003. I'm not sure what to make of that. People in children's publishing usually assume that there are 4,000 to 5,000 new titles per year, but we may be counting titles only from recognized publishers. The BISG numbers may include self-publishing, which seems to be booming (though the authors who self-publish aren't the ones who benefit, because I've seen figures that show the average self-published title sells only a few hundred copies. But the companies that specialize in doing the printing and other services FOR the self-publishers profited!) Does that answer your question, Mel? I hope these are the kinds of things you meant.

Mel: YES, excellent information, Harold! Does the consolidation of publishers mean that FEWER books and fewer GENRES and fewer SUBJECTS are being published?

Harold: Mmm. Good question. I would say that although there have been cutbacks among publishers that focus on the library market, especially the nonfiction series publishers, that that has NOT happened. Fortunately there are still plenty of small publishers, and more come along all the time.

Mel: Here are special greetings from friends for you:

cup: Welcome, Harold. This is Hope Marston from Watertown.

Harold: Hi Hope. Nice to "see" you.

remus: Hello, Harold, thanks for coming here tonight.

Mel: Could you brief us on the editor positions you've held, and at which houses?

Harold: I started my career in publishing at Macmillan Children's Books, which vanished when Simon & Schuster bought Macmillan. But I had moved on to Orchard Books, where I was a full editor for the first time. Then I freelanced for a while before Charlesbridge Press, where I worked for three years, ending up as Editor-in-Chief. To get back to NY, I accepted a position as editorial director of ipicturebooks, but the company ran out of money, and that landed me back in freelancing.

Mel: You were editing, though not permanently, for McGraw-Hill last time you were here, if I remember right. What are you doing currently as children's editor?

Harold: I'm still freelancing. McGraw-Hill is a part of that, and the part that provides my family with health insurance. But I'm also working on some project editing, manuscript critiques, and the like, and when I can, I work on The Purple Crayon.

Mel: Health insurance is no small consideration these days! Judging from those BISG numbers you gave us, the business of publishing children's books seems to be in good shape right now. Do you personally feel it is really as bettered right now as those numbers seem to suggest?

Harold: No. As I said, I would bet that some of those titles are self-published titles, and if you look at overall sales, they are only just starting to pick up again after several years of up and down. It will take a few years of solid growth before you see any real expansion among the big publishers.

Mel: What are the reasons why self-published titles SEEM to be entering the statistics? Are self-published books now of better quality? Or are they selling in large enough numbers to attract more attention?

Harold: I'm just guessing. These are only statistics, so quality probably has nothing to do with it. BISG isn't counting books that get reviews in The Horn Book, but probably all the books reported as available via wholesalers, or something. Many self-published titles just aren't very good, though one doesn't get that impression from the media, where you hear only about the big successes. But those are one or two a year out of thousands of self-pubbed books.

Mel: Those BISG numbers ARE very interesting and SURPRISING--encouraging, too!

remus: At present we see that fantasy and fiction seem to be a trend in middle grade fiction (propably due to Harry Potter). How long do you think a trend like this lasts and what do you think will be the next trend to come our way?

Harold: I wouldn't really call this a trend anymore, because publishers are simply incorporating more fantasy into their programs, and I expect they will for some time to come. If it does come to an end as a "trend" it will be when a number of publishers overpay for what they think are hot fantasy projects and then pull back. And there is a real possibility of that happening. I subscribe to an e-newsletter that reports on big deals and there are monthly reports of fantasy series, either originating here in the US or abroad, being bought for what are described as six-figure advances. As for the next trend, who knows? No one predicted Harry Potter. Don't look for trends. Do your best writing and stay away from bandwagons!

Mel: Harold, does a publisher's decision to incorporate more fantasy come because they somehow see that that's what children want? Or are they following the trend of what kinds of books HAVE BEEN selling?

Harold: Both, I think. Some editors really love fantasy (I know I do) and are jumping at the opportunity to publish stuff we love. Others might not, but their companies see a market, so they are doing their best to find good stuff.

molly22: Hello, Mr. Harold Underdown. Thank you for coming tonight! It sure is nice to sit across the desk from you. The book and magazine market seems to be screaming for more humor and history-related material from children's writers. What are the qualities you look for in a story or article that fulfills these areas of need?

Harold: OK, I'm going to pull out an editorial chestnut and say "I know it when I see it" which I know is a bit of a copout, so here is a stab at describing what grabs me. First, "voice," by which I mean a distinctive and enjoyable style. If it's fiction, strong characters, people I would be interested to meet, brought to life through their actions. If it's nonfiction, clarity and drama. I don't like reading encyclopedia entries. And in the end, telling a story well. Catch me up so I forget where I am, and you've got me.

Mel: Two closely related questions at once, Harold:

cup: Harold, Are we more likely to need an agent now?

carolann: Does everyone need an agent?

Harold: Ah. Perennial questions. I added a chapter on agents to the new edition of my Idiot's Guide to address this, and I've also got a sort of primer on agents on my website (check for it on the Articles page for a link: http://www.underdown.org/articles.htm), but here's a short answer: Yes and no. By which I mean yes, having an agent can help with the bigger publishers, if you can't find any other way in (and there still ARE other ways), and no, you really still don't NEED an agent to get started. And it's hard to find an agent, or at least, to find a good one! So I would say that more people find a publisher and then an agent than the other way around.

Mel: I HIGHLY recommend Harold Underdown's web site, http://www.underdown.org, for you to visit again and again. You'll need to in order to intake ALL the richness on that site! Here is a slight modification of that agent question, with an important other facet, I think:

remus: I was wondering what you suggest if an author has never been published. Is it better to approach a publisher directly or should the author head for agents right away?

Harold: I think I addressed that. As I said, more people find a publisher and then an agent than find an agent and then a publisher.

Mel: Is it better for the benefits an author might receive by going it on their own first?

Harold: Mel, not sure what you mean. Could you rephrase that?

Mel: Are there things that can be LEARNED by submitting on your own BEFORE you get an agent?

Harold: Absolutely. Starting with persistence! Writers might have more to say about this than I do, but I would think you would get more of a sense of the market by submitting on your own first.

Mel: I wonder, does anyone keep statistics as to how many children's agents there are NOW, as compared with ten years ago or twenty years ago?

Harold: Probably not. But there are more. There's more money in the business now, so there are more agents. And I don't mean that as a swipe at agents. But since they live on a percentage of an author's income, if their authors aren't making much money, they don't either.

Mel: So probably a good guess is that we're heading toward a market in which agents are a more INTEGRAL part than ever before?

Harold: Not necessarily. More so than THIRTY years ago, maybe, but not much more compared to five years ago.

cynthia21: If you do want an agent, how do you find one?

Harold: Gee, don't ask me, I've never had to find one. J But seriously, start with a good reference like the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Talk to other writers. Go to conferences. Visit the web site of the Association of Author's Representatives, which is found at: http://www.aar-online.org, and use their list of questions you need to ask a prospective agent. But the most important thing you can do is to get published. Once you do, the agents will be coming to YOU!

Mel: They could also go down the list of bona fide agents in the Literary Market Place tome and inquire of each one too.

remus: Harold, I was wondering about your editing services at The Purple Crayon. I just had my novel edited by a very-well known author with 50 years of experience in the children's field and 60 books written. When I got the edit back I was very disappointed because all I got was a two page letter raving about how great the book is and that she hasn't had such an enjoyable read in years. But I didn't get any constructive criticism about what I have to change. Within the manuscript I didn't find many changes either. Would you please explain how you edit a children's novel and what I can expect when I use your service?

Harold: I really appreciate the question, but I really don't want want to take up time in this talk promoting my services. Anyone who wants to know about my editing services should feel free to contact me via the site, http://www.underdown.org.

Mel: Good idea, Harold. You can find out how to contact Harold Underdown at this URL: http://www.underdown.org/contact.htm.

carolann: What do you know about the Christian children's book market?

Harold: Very little, sorry. It is a large market, but it is quite distinct from the general children's trade market, which I work in, and I've never had the opportunity to learn about it.

cynthia21: What advice do you have for a beginner to tap into the market today?

Harold: First of all, be prepared to spend several years serving an apprenticeship of sorts, during which you will work at your writing, read lots of children's books, go to conferences, put together a shelf of books that will help (you can find a lot of suggestions in the Resources Guide from my book, which is on-line at http://www.underdown.org/ciglinks.htm, and always keep your mind open to learning more. It's hard to break in, and if you're going to have any chance of succeeding you have to keep at it. And maybe be a little lucky. But then, if you keep at it, you can make your luck.

Mel: I've read your COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN'S BOOKS with more than interest, in its second edition now. Could you tell us how that book came about, and what your basic intent was in publishing it?

Harold: I had no intention of writing a book. I was working at Charlesbridge when someone from the Idiot's contacted me through The Purple Crayon, and talked me into writing it. Which makes me a complete idiot, because I had no idea what I was getting into, and so I was well qualified.J They did give me a lot of flexibility about content, so long as I worked through their style guidelines, so I tried to make it be a comprehensive introduction to children's books, to children's publishing, and to the people who make books happen. It is not a writing how-to--though there is a bit about writing in it--or a market guide, though it does provide guidance in researching the market. It's a general reference for everything from getting started to dealing with books going Out Of Print.

Mel: There is a tremendous amount of very succinctly presented information in that book. How were you ever able to gather it all, let alone write it into such understandable wording?

Harold: Thanks, Mel! You're very generous. But actually, a lot of the credit for the structure goes to the Idiot's approach. They had me write a detailed outline first, and I just tried to cover everything that I had learned about the business in a logical order. Then I wrote about it. I did have to research some areas, and interview some people, and authors and illustrators I knew helped a lot with anecdotes, but it's mostly based on my experiences.

artist: Your Idiot’s Guide sounds like a book I could use. Thanks!

teagirl: If an editor rejects a novel but asks you to send your other one when it's finished, do you send the whole book, the first three chapters, or a reminder query?

Harold: Ask the editor, if that's not clear, but from what you say here, it sounds like you should send the whole thing.

carolann: Is there a market for a children's book dealing with cancer?

Harold: Sure. Though the question is, what market is it? There are publishers who do picture books about difficult issues, called topic books, for example. Just about any subject can be written about in a children's book, if it's approached in the right way.

molly22: What is your feeling on animals as speaking characters, Harold? Furthermore, a story in first person versus third person?

Harold: if you read my article on “Getting Out of the Slush Pile,” at http://www.underdown.org/slush.htm, you will know that I advise against talking animals. Yes, there are plenty of books with talking animals, and children like them, but so many beginners write BAD books with talking animals that most manuscript readers assume that if it's got talking animals, it's bad. And you get a rejection letter. if you MUST do talking animals, find a new way to approach them, and make sure that new approach is obvious in the very first paragraph! As to first versus third person, first person is generally seen as more difficult to pull off successfully, but there are plenty of books published in first person. Just be sure you have a good reason for writing in first person. If you are writing a story based on personal experiences, for example, you might more successfully distance yourself from them, and be able to write about them well, if you stick to the third person, even though you might think it makes sense to write from a first-person perspective. In the end, it depends. Try both approaches. See what works best.

Mel: EXCELLENT answers, Harold--THANKS!

Harold: You're welcome. And I'll take this opportunity to direct you to an information page about it on my site, at http://www.underdown.org/cig.htm.

Mel: I'd say this even if Harold weren't here, that his web site is absolutely CONTENT-driven, with no self-promotion--an EXCELLENT site with SUBSTANTIVE information about ALL aspects of children's writing!

Harold: Speaking of children and famiily I might need to take a short break to kiss our daughter good night. I'll warn you all if I do.

Mel: That'll be fine Harold, and later we want to talk about your family involvement!

artist: If not yet published, what writing samples should we send?

Harold: In what context? A publisher wants to see a manuscript. Are you asking about getting writing work?

Mel: I believe artist is asking about submitting a manuscript, or a query letter, perhaps.

Harold: Then you need to find out what a publisher's guidelines are. Do they want a query, or a complete manuscript? Most don't want additional writing samples.

remus: I am a professionally trained illustrator (Art Center College of Design/Pasadena/ CA) and I have written a children's novel which I am submitting now. Is it advisable to include a cover illustration for the novel as a tearsheet? Or should I refrain from submitting any artwork but simple mention that I could illustrate the cover?

Harold: I would concentrate on selling the novel and worry about the jacket when the manuscript has been sold.

teagirl: What would you say are your favorite examples of "perfect books" in each genre, picture book, middle-grade novel, and YA?

Harold: Not a fair question!J I have a lot of favorites. And I'm doubtful that there is such a thing as a perfect book. One new favorite picture book is Little Rabbit and the Sea, by Gavin Bishop (which involves talking animals!). And I've loved Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles since I was nine. As for YA, well, I'd actually have to mention a novel I edited, Ash, by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, because I didn't read YAs when I was a kid and haven't read many since. You didn't mention nonfiction, so I'm going to. Minn of the Mississippi by Holling Clancy Holling.

molly22: Thank you for your wonderful answers! I'm sorry to have not had more time to research your site but I plan to. Have you ever seen a fiction story written for children that covers a LONG period of time with one character under unusual circumstances? Would this even be looked at by an editor or sent on its merry way?

Harold: Hard to tell from such a general description. I would say that in general, you don't have to limit the action of a novel to, say, one school year. But if you want to follow a child's life for a long period of time, you need to have good reasons for doing so, and you need to be a very good storyteller to keep a reader involved as the main character grows and changes.

guessit: Are there any particular topics that are in demand now for children's books? What are some of them?

Harold: No.

carolann: Is rhyme impossible to sell? Everyone steers me away!

Harold: It's not impossible, but as with talking animals, many beginners fall into it, and do it badly. So don't do it unless you can do it exceptionally well. And whatever you do, do not compare yourself to Dr. Seuss in your cover letter!

roh: Don't editors want to publish the soft, fuzzy books anymore?

Harold: That's a kind of loaded question. Define soft and fuzzy, or better yet, give some examples.

Mel: I'd give the examples of The Velveteen Rabbit, Harold, and Goodnight Moon, and maybe even Make Way for Ducklings

Harold: I'd say that there are tons of books like that being published--in fact, books that are even softer and fuzzier. Look at that whole mini-genre of books that was kicked into being by Guess How Much I Love You? (A book which I personally believe is more for parents than for children.)

Mel: SUPER response, Harold--thanks!

marjieogolley: Just a comment: I'm a huge fan of Underdown's book!

teagirl: Does having several magazine stories under your belt make much of a difference to a book editor? Does it look bad if you don't have any yet or just one or two?

Harold: Publishing in magazines does show that you can work with an editor, and that your writing has reached a certain level of skill. But the two markets are quite different, so I would say that, though it's good to mention magazine sales, it's not a big problem, or even a medium problem, if you don't have any under your belt.

Mel: Harold, you mentioned the book, Little Rabbit and the Sea , earlier. Did that become a favorite of yours as you read it to your daughter, Simone, I'm wondering?

Harold: Simone and I found it in the library, actually quite recently. It's a very succinct, poetic story about the imagination, and wonderfully illustrated.

Mel: On the "family side" of children's writing and editing, Harold, is it possible to publish for children without having children yourself, as Beatrix Potter did?

Harold: Absolutely. This is a question that often comes up at writer's conferences. Some people seem to think that being a parent is a necessary qualification for writing for children or editing for children, for that matter. But that's not the case. One needs to be a former child.

artist: Ah, yes.  Good that we were all once children!

Harold: Editors like Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret McElderry never had children, either. Having said that, I must acknowledge that having Simone has had an impact on me as an editor. I'm a much worse editor than I used to be, because I'm constantly sleep-deprived! Just kidding.

Mel: LOVE that!

Harold: I have had the opportunity to really dive into picture books for the very young and read and read and read and see Simone's reactions. But I'd have to say that it hasn't changed the kinds of books I most like. Fortunately, Simone, my wife, and I have pretty similar tastes in books.

Mel: Do you think that having our own children gives deeper insights into HOW to write for children and WHAT to write for them?

Harold: Having one's own children can actually have a negative effect, in that you can write (or edit) from the point of view of being a parent, and lose sight of what it is to be a child.

Mel: WISE words!

Harold: Time for a short break to tell my daughter goodnight.

Mel: OK. This gives me time for a "commercial." J. There’s a question I've been asked a couple of times tonight that affects many people. If you are in the chat room using JAVA or JAVA LITE or HTML, your question-asking won't be as "fluent." You will only be able to type a certain number of the words of your question. So, in order to ask a LONGER question, send it to me in small pieces, and I will put them back together on the screen above. It'll work for us, and I’ve done it several times this evening already!

Harold: I'm back. She's almost asleep.

Mel: Welcome back! You mentioned you AND Simone found Little Rabbit and the Sea in the library, and I forgot to ask, how old is she now?

Harold: She is two and a half. Actually we were just browsing a shelf of picture books, and I pulled it out.

Mel: I'd be interested to know if YOU were read to in the same way as you read to Simone when you were a child, and how you feel reading to them benefits our children.

Harold: I was. Reading to a child is very important. Children who are read to become better readers--there's been reseach to show that.

Mel: Tell us, in your daily schedule of both editing for children and raising your daughter, are you able to find any long periods of working, along with parenting--a problem many of us have?

Harold: It's a constant juggling act. There is never enough time in the day for everything. My to-do list is very long!

Mel: I should have asked, do you work at home, or away from your home, or both?

Harold: My McGraw-Hill work is at their offices, which makes it easier for me, though not for my wife.

Harold: Then other work has to be fit in once Simone is in bed. Or on weekends.

Mel: Is there a special way that you and your wife share the childcare for your daughter, time-wise and responsibility-wise that would be of help to us other parents?

Harold: I try to take over once I get home, through bath time, and when we can, Saturday is Daddy Day, but we haven't found a perfect solution.

Mel: Have you found in the few years since your daughter was born, that ideas for children's books pop up in your mind as a result of parenting?

Harold: No. But they didn't before either. I love editing, which to me is both creative work and people work, and I have no desire to be a children's book writer.

Mel: Do you have any book projects going now, the second edition of your IDIOT'S GUIDE having just been published?

Harold: Nope. I suspect we will do a third edition of that in a few years, but that probably won't be as comprehensive a revision as this one was. What writing energy I have goes into my web site.

pshell: Is self-publishing with a marketing deal a good way to go?

Harold: I don't know what you mean by a marketing deal, but in general, one should think long and hard about self-publishing. Given the 16,000 titles of children’s books being published, how will yours be noticed? Self-publishing is not an easy way to get published. In a lot of ways, it is harder than finding a publisher.

remus: Can you explain why many books, when they are published abroad, have different illustrations in them. I noticed that Lemony Snicket has a different illustration in the English, French, German and Japanese version. Does the publisher only sell the right to the text and not to the illustration and design?

Harold: Generally speaking, yes, only the rights to the text are sold. It's often the case that the publisher didn't sell them, either. They were sold by the author's agent, who of course would have no right to sell the illustrations.

guessit: I've read that offering suggestions for illustrations is not a good idea. However, what should you do when you've written the story with the pictures in mind? Especially when the story is geared for very young children where the pictures play a very strong part?

Harold: Maybe you just shouldn't write this kind of story! If you research books like this, you will see that many are written and illustrated by the same person. Publishers don't expect to find such texts from writers. And here's a different aspect. You are a beginner and want to be noticed for your WRITING. Don't send out submissions that are built around anything other than your writing. That's what you want to be noticed for. Then when you are published, pull this illustration-dependent story out of your drawer, and just hand it to your editor. People ask this question all the time, and I'm sorry to be discouraging, but you need to look at the way things are done in the industry.

Mel: A VERY helpful editor's viewpoint!

anna louise: Thanks for your helpful answers. I'm learning a lot!

bish: Hi! First time here.  I’m looking forward to reading your Idiot’s Guide!

zenith: Who is publishing children's fiction with underlying math?

Harold: If you mean picture book fiction, quite a few publishers are. Charlesbridge does, HarperCollins does, and there are other publishers who do the occasional title. I have worked on math texbooks during my stint at McGraw-Hill and we always include lists of trade books that incorporate math in our teacher's edition, and even put together a classroom library of inexpensive editions of such books licensed from the original publishers. Do some research on Amazon.

roh: Are stories of watermelons taboo in any multicultural market?

Mel: What I'm thinking roh is getting at is the association of, for instance, watermelons with African Americans--and of course that IS a no-no!

Harold: Depends on what and how and why, doesn't it? If you sent me a story about grinning African Americans eating watermelon I wouldn’t consider it.

molly22: Is it any easier to get recognized by a new book publisher versus those who have been around for a while? Does a book publisher start out liberally to get their publishing off the ground or does it still lie in the hands of the editor? I guess in a roundabout way, what's in it for the publishers TO and NOT TO publish any book?

Harold: There are two ways of looking at this. On the one hand, a new publisher DOES have more open slots that need to be filled than an established publisher. They may be more willing to take risks. But on the other hand, they may be more cautious, because they can't afford to throw money away. No publisher, unless they want to go out of business, will sign up a book they expect to lose money (except in unusual circumstances, such as pleasing someone who has another book they really want).

Harold: One last question?

Mel: Yes, one last question, and it’s for you, Harold. Again, you've filled two hours with many helpful answers and information for us children's writers. Having chatted with you, we can feel both confident in submitting manuscripts for the children's market, and also mindful of the trends taking place in it. Thank you so much for all you've shared with us tonight, and the transcript of this evening's chat, archived at our site, will provide us with continued inspiration. And we'd like very much for you to come back someday to talk with us further. Would you return in the future, Harold?

Harold: Sure, if we can work it around Simone's bedtime better!

Mel: At this same time two weeks from now, Thursday, June 17, Cheryl Zach will be our Chat Guest. Cheryl has published 33 books, and has four more scheduled for publication. Benny and the No-Good Teacher (Simon & Schuster, 1992) was a nominee for the South Carolina Children's Book Award, and The Class Trip (Simon & Schuster, 1988) was an International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Children's Choice book. Cheryl Zach is the first young adult writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame for winning three of their Rita awards, the most recent for Runaway (Berkeley, 1996). Her young adult historical novel, Hearts Divided (Bantam, 1996), won the 1996 Virginia Romance Writers' Holt Medallion. The Mummy's Footsteps (Avon Camelot, 1997) is the first book in a new middle-grade mystery series, Mind Over Matter. Another of her young adult historical novels is Carrie's Gold (Avon American Dreams, 1997). So there will be MUCH to chat with Cheryl Zach two weeks.

Mel: MANY THANKS again to you, Harold Underdown, for coming to our chat room tonight, and sharing with us in the manner that has made you such a respected editor of children's books. And SPECIAL thanks for being willing to work under the handicap of the HTML format, which we all know is NOT easy! We wish you continued and increasing success. And we give our warm wishes to your family as well. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of children to us children's writers, Harold!

Harold: Thanks, everyone!

pshell: Harold, Thank you for your time and all your helpful answers!

Mel: Goodnight Moon, and goodnight children’s writers!

Harold: And Mel, thanks to you!







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