In this blog series, we will introduce you to our many and varied publishers!! Each month we will feature a new team member so you can learn more about the goals and ideals of the people behind the books. Meet Karen Lotz, President & Publisher of Candlewick Press!!
How would you describe Candlewick’s publishing as a whole? What are your/their goals?
Our goal is simple and encapsulated by our traditional tagline, which everybody in the company knows: Looking for the best? Look for the Bear!
It’s good to set one’s standards high!
Of course, being sure we’ve achieved this, as with any ideal, is always elusive. But nonetheless, trying hard to do so pulls us forward, telling us not to rest on past laurels and encouraging us to make the right publishing choices, for the right reasons, time and again.
What are Candlewick’s strengths as a publisher?
I believe our strength is really the depth of our bench. Our editors and designers are not confined to one or even a few genres, unless they personally really want to be, and thus everyone really can follow their passions. As a result, the whole team is very strong in the sense that each person develops a ‘voice’ through supported trial and error quite quickly. And people stay – it’s a very longstanding and cohesive team. We only publish what we love – it almost never happens that an editor is told ‘no’ when they want to acquire a book, which I think is pretty unusual. What we do instead is question ourselves. At acquisition, to get sign off, editors must answer a series of questions that I put together a long time ago, really as an internal check and sometimes working with the art department, depending on the kind of book. After that, they’re likely to be even more passionate and clear about the title – or not. In the famed tradition of Ursula Nordstrom, as our inimitable editorial director Liz Bicknell often notes, if they can resist it, they do. If they can’t, very likely it is going to be a good book, through and through!
How long have you worked for CWP? / How did you get into publishing?
I have been President and Publisher of Candlewick since 1999, so twenty years – lucky me! : ) I also have been Managing Director of the global Walker Group for 9 years now. And I still edit a title or two per season – which makes me very lucky indeed.
What is your role on the CWP team?
As the publisher, it’s my privilege to work across the list to support the whole creative team. I love covers meetings and collaborating with design and production on really intricate projects. With editors, I love supporting them when they want to do something out of the box – helping them come up with new formats or ways to reinvent commonly done genres.
What are your favorite CWP books?
As Anita Jeram taught us in her lovely picture book, they’re ‘All My Favorites‘!! In any given moment, I may be in love with one or another, but over the long term, I can remember something about each of them that is very special. The backlist is full of gems; I’m particularly fond of many of the classic Walker picture books from the UK, such as Owl Babies. It will not surprise you to hear that we have a very hard time putting anything out of print, to which our friends in the PRH warehouse can attest. On my very first day of work, a young editor put the manuscript of Because of Winn-Dixie in my hands and asked me to read it right away. That was Kara LaReau (now an award-winning author on our list herself). She had already acquired it, and so what a gift it was for me to come to a place with such taste and opportunity. It has been a pleasure and joy to work with Kate DiCamillo for two decades from that exciting first manuscript onward, partnering as her publisher now with her current editor, Andrea Tompa, and her long-time art director Chris Paul, and also as the editor of some of her picture books and series along the way.
What is one of your favorite books to have worked on?
Recently a real treat was Leading the Way: Women in Power, written by Virginia State Senator Janet Howell and her daughter-in-law Theresa Howell. This came out last fall and is a beautiful, gifty hardcover that is a must-have present for any girl or woman – or boy or man! – that is jam-packed with inspiring stories about women throughout American history who made a real difference, beginning long before we even had the right to vote and going right up to today. It’s really exciting to still have this book as a frontlist title for us in such an important election year and the 100th anniversary of suffrage, and with Janet as co-author. She is the longest-serving woman in the Virginia legislature’s history – and you know they may be voting to ratify the ERA as the very last state of the original 38 needed, perhaps as soon as this very week.
What’s a new book you’re really excited about and why?
I am really, really excited about Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s debut YA, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, which is coming up in May and is an amazing fantasy / adventure / mermaid / pirate story / queer romance. It has really pacy action with phenomenal and unexpected characters, which is so enjoyable, and is beautifully written with elegant, folkloric interludes to boot. (That’s a pirate’s boot, by the way!)
What’s your favorite kind of gift store to shop in? / What’s your favorite indie specialty retailer?
I am completely addicted to any gift store that is merchandised to feel like someone’s personal, curated collection. Really I love any beautifully designed shop! But my very favorite in the world is a little store at the top of the steps off Main Street in Concord, MA, called Nesting. Walk in there, and you enter a world that’s a cross in feeling between Fairyland, the hippest New York coffee shop you’ve ever been to, a milliners’ or upholsterer off Marlyebone High Street in London, and the browsing section of a high-end wilderness spa. It’s divine.
What is your personal favorite genre and/or book(s)?
I love nonfiction – politics and biography and environmental studies. And I also love fiction that’s primarily by and/or about women, or humorous fiction — with the occasional thriller thrown in.
What are you currently reading?
I’m always reading a bunch of things simultaneously, with a special political binge right now for the election year; so, Toni Morrison’s essays, The Pentagon’s Brain, by Annie Jacobsen; American Radicals by Holly Jackson; the Samantha Power autobiography; Growth by Vaclav Smil; some good old Ray Bradbury and The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin with my son; and the Mr. Terupt trilogy with my daughter.
Thank you for sharing Karen!!