Straight from the Editor: Penny & Jelly!

For the grand finale of our week-long celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s sublime Penny & Jelly, we’ve got a special treat: an interview with Maria’s editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cynthia Platt. While we are all woof-ing it up for this delightful picture book, Cynthia was the editor who first saw and fell it love with it way back when, and here she shares her wisdom regarding the process of acquiring Maria’s AMAZING book and of guiding it through through preparation until it arrived, this week, to the world. Without further ado, say hello to Cynthia Platt!

What about PENNY & JELLY hooked you–and how did you know you wanted to publish this book?

I’m always saying that I want young, funny, character-driven picture books–and there in my inbox was just that. Also, from the start, I loved the DIY and crafting aspects of the story. And Penny and Jelly’s relationship is so wonderful. I could keep going….

What process did you and Maria follow after the offer had been made and accepted? Anything particularly interesting happen along the way?

After the initial email introductions, we got to work editing with lot of back and forth, sifting through the small details–of which there are always so many of when it comes to picture books. We were also lucky in that Maria lived in Massachusetts at the time so we got to sit down and spend an afternoon together talking about the book and getting acquainted.

What inspires you most about a picture book?

I’ve always been a die-hard reader, and I can easily trace the books that have both meant the most to me and inspired me to love reading even more. Those special books, for me, go back to the picture books I loved as a girl. So, as an editor, it’s a real gift to be able to assist in the creation of a picture book. Part of me always hopes that each picture book that makes its way into the world might be that special one for a young reader.

If you had to use three adjectives to describe PENNY & JELLY, they would be:

Warm, funny, and smart–then again, I’d describe Maria that way, too!

What qualities do you admire most in a writer?

Not to sound like a politician, but that’s a really interesting question to answer–because I think I’d answer differently as an editor and as a reader. As a reader, you just are looking for someone who writes a good book–someone whose worlds and characters you find engaging. As an editor, though, the writer isn’t some distant figure. It’s someone with whom you not only work closely, but with whom you work with on something near and dear to their hearts. So, you hope to work with writers who not only inspire you creatively, but also with whom you can relate on some level.

As a book is launched, what do you most hope will happen for it?

That someone picks it up and reads it. That lots and lots of someones do. And not only that they read it, but that they love it and find something in it that speaks to them.

Do you have a favorite book or a favorite quote or both? 🙂

Without a moment’s hesitation: Middlemarch. I love many books, but this one has become my bedrock.

What surprised you about publishing when you first got into this work?

As a sometimes overly-passionate reader who grew up pre-internet, it wasn’t always been easy to find people who shared that level of enthusiasm. Then I went into publishing and found this rich world of book people. It was a “these are my people” kind of experience.

What part of PENNY & JELLY do you love most (if you HAD to pick just one moment in the beautiful book)?

Well, if I HAVE to pick one, I love the moment when Penny begins to despair that she really doesn’t have anything she’s truly good at, and that she and Jelly solve the problem together–and that what she’s best at is being Jelly’s friend. Every time I get to the end of the book when they’ve been declared “Best Friends,” I smile. And believe me, I’ve read the book a lot of times at this point!

Thanks for sharing your ideas, wisdom, and all your love for Penny & Jelly with us! And readers, remember that by leaving a comment below, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of the book and also some serious swag from Maria. To order your copy of the book today, visit Happy Reading!!!


Filed under Celebrations, Editing and Revising, Writing and Life

27 responses to “Straight from the Editor: Penny & Jelly!

  1. What a great discovery–to learn that you’re good at being a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. barbara kupetz

    Can’t wait to read it! Enjoyed hearing about the editor’s perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mariagianferrari

      Even though I’ve met Cynthia, and have known her for awhile now, it’s nice to hear some of these new details. Thanks for commenting, Barbara!


  3. rubineleanor

    Maria’s editor, Cynthia Platt, added perspective on the winning qualities of this appealing book. Congratulations to all involved

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s wonderful that you are held in such high esteem by this editor, Maria! I read somewhere that only one in 5,0000 PB manuscripts are accepted for publication. That makes Cynthia Platt’s praise extra special. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mariagianferrari

      Wow–I was not familiar with that stat, Carole! I feel even more fortunate now! I am so lucky and happy to be working with an editor as lovely, smart, kind and super organized as Cynthia is!


  5. Oops! Forget that extra 0 from my eager fingers. It’s five thousand!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mariagianferrari

    And thanks to you, Luke for such a great interview :)!! Now people can see just how special Cynthia is! I love working with her so much.


  7. tamaraellissmith

    These interviews are truly my favorite! I love hearing about editor processes and passions! So cool to get to know Cynthia Platt a little bit!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Janet Fox

    Terrific interview, Luke. I especially like your question about “what you admire most in an author” – and her answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful interview. Congratulations again on such a fantastic debut, Maria!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a delightful book and interview! This sounds like one my third graders will love.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lisa

    So fun to have all the players involved in this book weigh in on it! Thanks for the interview. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mariagianferrari

    And a hearty thanks to my fellow Emus for a fun launch week for Penny & Jelly!!


  13. Iris

    It’s so interesting and inspiring to read about a book from the editor’s point of view.
    Congratulations to both of you!


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