Spotlights tell you more about the people involved in Megaphone: writers, editors and agents.
Kate Agar (@kateagar) is one of the editors who is generously donating her time to help select the applicants for Megaphone and to deliver final feedback on the manuscripts. She is commissioning editor for Hachette (Little Brown Young Readers) . The ‘commissioning’ bit means that she gets to seek out new authors, and advise the publishing house on who to publish – a very important role. In addition to traditional work, she works on licensed projects such as Mattel’s Ever After High and with non-traditional authors such as Frank Lampard, and develops ideas generated in-house into stories and novels.
Kate mentioned in her bio for Megaphone that she was building up the Young Adult (YA) list for Little, Brown Young Readers. I asked her what she was looking for and what she thought the future of YA held.
Kate Agar: “We’ve seen some big sweeping trends in YA in the past, but I think we’re heading towards a landscape where we’ll be able to make really great stories work, regardless of genre. Saying that, I keep hearing talk of YA sci-fi having a renaissance (and I recently had a coffee with an agent where we plotted to bring back vampires . . . but don’t tell anyone . . . ). For our list, we want a spread of authors covering different areas so that we have plenty of space to promote each of them. I’m not seeing a great number of male protagonists in my submissions pile, and I’d love to acquire something with a hint of supernatural or magical realism. But what I want more than anything are authentic voices. We can work on the plotting or the world details, but if I don’t immediately fall in love with the voice it’s very unusual for me to be won over by a manuscript!”
Kate is, like all the writers and editors involved, a very busy person – so I wanted to know why she took the time to get involved with Megaphone!
Kate Agar: “As soon as I heard about Leila’s plans, I was incredibly keen to be involved. It’s such a brilliant way for editors to see a new range of voices that we don’t always have access to, and hopefully will start to help to make publishing as an industry feel more accessible. I think the whole process of book creation can feel a bit opaque from the outside, and the more we can open it up the better.”
Finally, the question that I asked everyone: what do you think is needed, to improve diversity and equality in the children’s book world? What project, initiative or change of approach would really make a difference?
Kate Agar: “Can I say Megaphone?! I think we’re in a bit of a vicious cycle because historically most characters in children’s books have been white and able-bodied, so children who identify in that way are the most likely to want to become writers and editors. Long-term, making sure we have a wide cast of characters within the books we publish will help to solve that, encouraging readers early on and bringing new voices and experiences to both the submission pile and the pool of commissioning editors. But other initiatives are also really important in the shorter term: Megaphone, of course, but also charities such as Creative Access (which places interns from BAME backgrounds into creative industries) and Arts Emergency (which pairs young people with mentors in the arts, and supports people of all backgrounds to think about a degree in the arts).”
Many thanks to Kate for her support!