Your Best Book Guest Speaker: Joy Peskin

YOUR BEST BOOK is just around the corner, and we'd like to introduce you to our awesome staff and this year's guest speakers!

Joy Peskin, Editorial Director, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers 

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Before joining Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers as editorial director in February, 2012, Joy was the associate publisher of Viking Children’s Books and an editor at Scholastic. She has edited books for children of all ages about topics ranging from body image to Batman. Her favorite type of books, both to read and to edit, are contemporary, literary, realistic stories about real (or realistic) people facing real challenges. Authors with whom she has worked include Laurie Halse Anderson, Madeleine George, Amy Efaw, and Emily Jenkins. Joy has also taught writing to aspiring authors, homeless youth, and incarcerated women.


Q: What’s your favorite part about being an editor?

JP: I have a lot of favorite parts. They include (in no particular order): (1) Getting to spend my days with smart, energetic, kind colleagues who love books as much as I do. (2) Working with authors and artists to help them tell their stories in the very best ways possible. (3) Having the opportunity to play a role in creating books that will help a child or teenager learn something new, get through a tough experience, or escape into another world.

Q: Why did you decide to get in YA/MG instead of another age group?

JP: I was drawn to children’s books because I enjoy spending time with, and learning about the issues which impact, children and teens. Also, for better or for worse, I still feel very much connected to my teenage self. It’s easy for me to slip back to that period in my life, and I’m always interested in what’s going on with teens socially and emotionally. I love publishing books for teens because I think a book you read as a teenager can have tremendous impact. Teens are still so malleable in terms of their beliefs. A young person can go into a book thinking he or she feels a certain way about something, and then by the end of that book, his or her opinion can be entirely different.   

Q: What would you love to see from the YA or MG market that isn’t out there yet?

JP: I was just talking about this with an author friend last night. I’d love to see more books featuring characters of color that are not necessarily about racial issues. Or books featuring characters of color that are not set in the inner-city. We need to do a better job of presenting characters in books that mirror the diversity of the real world, both so children and teens of color can see themselves reflected in today’s literature, and so white kids can be exposed to characters of all different ethnicities and races.

Q: What was your favorite book growing up?

JP: When I was little, my favorite book was THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, written  by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. When I was in middle school, I loved Judy Blume’s STARRING SALLY J. FREEDMAN AS HERSELF. When I was a teenager, YA lit didn’t really exist yet, so I got into women’s fiction written by authors like Danielle Steele and Cynthia Freeman. A highlight of my teen years was when I received a personal response from Cynthia Freeman, to whom I had written a letter.

Q: What is one thing you feel is absolutely crucial to keep in mind when writing for a YA and/or MG audience?

JP: I think it’s crucial to end a book for the MG or YA audience on a note that is both realistic and hopeful. The characters don’t have to be entirely okay, but they do have to be on the road to okay.