Thursdays with Emma Walton Hamilton — Interview Excerpt, part EIGHT
March 20, 2013
We have come to the last excerpt of my interview with Emma Walton Hamilton for the Children’s Book Hub. I have appreciated the opportunity to share it with you, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.
You may not know that Emma independently published her book Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, a book I recommend highly. She and Christian McLean of Stony Brook Southampton, who has indie-published his picture book Duckhampton, talked very knowledgeably about independent publishing in a panel discussion at last summer’s Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Conference. Her independent publishing company, Beech Tree Books, is one of our topics today.
For full biographical information on Emma, as well as information on all the services she provides writers of children’s books, please check her website, http://www.emmawaltonhamilton.com
And now, for the final part of our interview:
BETH: One of our members asked about Beech Tree Books. When you were with Harper Collins, the Julie Andrews Collection was able to publish other people’s books as well as your own. I know that isn’t an option any more with Little Brown. But you have set up Beech Tree Books in order to publish. Here’s another shout out, people; if you are not familiar with Emma’s book Raising Bookworms, Getting Your Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, it is a fantastic resource for getting kids excited about reading from the time they are babies until they are grown. Get that book! But our Hub member is wondering if you have any ambitions for expanding Beech Tree.
EMMA: Yes I do. There is nothing I would love more – I loved finding and publishing other children’s books and children’s book authors under the Julie Andrews Collection imprint. That was such a joy, birthing other people’s books. I miss it enormously. Of course the difference is, when we were doing it at Harper Collins it was done on Harper Collins’ dime. My life is a little bit different than it was then, in terms of my other professional responsibilities. So it becomes a question of time and resources.
I would love one day to be able to expand Beech Tree Books to be a publishing arm. When and whether I will have the time or resources to do so is a question that remains to be seen. And then there is another question that I have to ask myself as well. I care very deeply about being fair to all of my editing clients. So for instance, many times an editing client will ask me to make a recommendation or referral to an agent, and I don’t feel that in good conscience I can do that for one and not for all, and I don’t want to be in a position of saying I think this book is worth recommending and this one isn’t. I just don’t want to be in that situation. So I make my editorial business 100% editorial. And I wonder about the challenges, the expectations, if I had my own publishing company, if I suddenly was publishing, that would come up for my editing clients. That’s a question I have to grapple with before I take the plunge. Having said that, I do love helping other people get published, so you never know.
BETH: For now you are doing it through your editing, and who knows what the future holds. Kind of a summing up, looking over your varied career – and I feel I should say careers in the plural, because you have done and still do so many things – what have been the highlights and surprises for you? And what are your visions for yourself in the future?
EMMA: I would say…gosh…there have been so many highlights. Any time that something started out as the seed of an idea and actually grew into fruition has been something I’ve been thrilled about and proud of. Building and launching a theater that is still around 20 years later is a huge source of pride and happiness for me. Same is true of the books. I sit in my office and look around the shelves at all the books we’ve written and published, and I am so pleased and proud of all of that. Obviously the feedback and the community now of the Hub members and people like yourself and my editing clients, that makes me so happy – it makes me feel so good to be able to help others make an impact or a difference in their lives and in their pursuit of working in this business.
The surprises? I think I’m surprised by how synergistic everything is. I do wear a lot of hats, you are right; and I’ve had a lot of careers. And when you’re young you have a hard time imagining how they all relate, and sometimes even if you go to college, as happened to me, people kind of expect you to pick and choose. Actually it was something opposite for me at Brown; they wanted me to diversify. But very often in college programs people are encouraged to specialize and not go out of their comfort zones.
BETH: I wanted to do it all, so I can really identify. I hated having to pick a major.
EMMA: Exactly. So I think the great surprise, the happy discovery, is that everything is synergistic. Having had a life running a theater and now what I do at the university and how I edit and write and work with people, everything has informed everything else. It’s been a very happy surprise.
The other one, of course, has been this partnership with my mother, for which I am deeply grateful. I couldn’t have imagined as a kid or a teenager – she has a prominent career and profile of her own, and to imagine that she and I could meet creatively on the same level and we could enjoy that collaboration and that it would enhance our mother/daughter relationship and it would increase our respect for one another as women, all of that has been a wonderful surprise. It’s extremely gratifying.
I realize how very fortunate I am, because I know that working with a family member isn’t always easy. But somehow in my life it seems to be the default. I work with my husband, my mother, my father. But with my mom, I have to say, there is a kind of shorthand; there is a kind of finishing of each other’s sentences and mutual respect and leaning into one another’s strengths that make it very gratifying – and smoother than I would have thought. I’m very grateful.
BETH: And it works. From the outside looking in and reading what you come up with, it works.
EMMA: Thank you. We’re still learning as we go. It’s interesting, I can really see the trajectory; I can see our learning curves through our books. I can see what we’ve learned as writers.
BETH: I’m sure your mom would say the same. What are your visions for yourself in the future as an author, as an editor, a mentor, teacher, all those things. Do you have one special passion or do you love it all?
EMMA: I do love it all. I wish I had more than 24 hours in a day; I do, I really do. But I love everything I’m doing and I wouldn’t give up any of it. For the future I would love to continue what I’m doing and do more of it. I suppose if there were one thing that I’m not doing much of now that I would like to see more of in the future it would be to write more of my own books. Not that I don’t adore the collaboration with my mom; I do. But writing Raising Bookworms was very satisfying for me and fun and I’d like to do more of that. As a matter of fact I am, this year, going to be working on – as part of my MFA program – a book about writing children’s books. That’s already happening this year. A sort of Just Write for Kids book, if you will.
BETH: That’s certainly something for us to look forward to.
EMMA: I would say if there was one thing it would be that, that I would be able to write more of my own stuff. Not necessarily children’s books – although I would love to do that, too, but more resource books as well.
EMMA: More teaching; exactly.
BETH: That passion comes all through what you’ve said tonight. My mother is cheering, “Yes, we are all teachers!” from whatever dimension she is in now.
EMMA: That’s so nice! And if I segue back into what are your dreams for the future, I would love also to make The Children’s Book Hub more of a resource for publication for its members. Whether that means trying to find some sort of venue for submissions through the Hub to agents, or whether it means supporting authors in their submission process or their query process or even their self publishing process I’m not sure yet. I just know it’s in my mind.
BETH: Those are great possibilities.
EMMA: The craft itself is key, and a lot of what we do and discuss and focus on is the craft part of the work. Unless you have great quality materials you can’t hope to get published. But the publication aspect of it is equally important, so my dream for the future is to look for more ways to support our authors and our members in that process.
BETH: That’s great. I think with dreams for the future that’s a good place to say farewell. I want to thank you again so much, Emma, for this wonderful conversation. I’m sure all our members have enjoyed it incredibly.
EMMA: Thanks so much for putting on the hat of host and interviewing me this evening. It was great fun to be on the other side of the conversation. It took the pressure off me today.
BETH: I have enjoyed it enormously myself.
EMMA: Best wishes to everyone for a very, very happy new year and I look forward to hearing from everyone in the forum and on the Facebook page. Thank you again, Beth, for taking the helm.
BETH: And if I may say, as you always do to us, to your success!
EMMA: To your success as well.
I have enjoyed this interview series so much. I’m grateful to Emma for doing the original interview with me, and for allowing me to serialize it here on my blog. I urge you to check out the offerings linked below, and to come back in April when I’ll be running a brief series in which other people talk about their experiences with Emma’s teaching and editing expertise.
Just Write for Kids – 8 week online/home study course in writing picture books
Children’s Book Hub – subscription-based online “salon” with forum for writers and illustrators of children’s books, a plethora of resources, and monthly expert interviews and question and answer webinars
Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group – for writers, illustrators and editors of children’s books (published and emerging), free (but you have to request to become a member)
Emma’s Editing Services – manuscript evaluations, line edits, query critiques, one-on-one consultations, etc.