In August 2014, I had the treat of meeting Sylvan Creekmore. We met in a lovely coffee shop near her office, and talked books. I knew immediately that I liked her. Hence I’m excited to have Sylvan on our Red Sofa Chats. Enjoy!
A native New Yorker, Sylvan Creekmore is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the Columbia Publishing Course. She edits across a range of genres for St. Martin’s Press, including upmarket fiction, YA, thrillers, mysteries, and both serious and popular nonfiction. She is looking for smart, fresh voices, a compelling story with a page-turning plot, and characters that you miss when you put the book down—and she has a serious soft spot for anything dark, creepy, or unsettling. She has most recently acquired a nerdy YA retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, and a humor book positing what might transpire if your most beloved dead authors walked into a Starbucks.
1. Why did you choose to become an editor? – The full story actually goes back to when I was 13. I met my best friend at camp that summer, and when camp was over, we kept in touch via three-hour landline phone calls. She was a writer, and she was working on a very long story/novel at the time, and she would write bits on it during math class every day and then call me every night to read it to me, and we would discuss. I’d say “Next they should do this,” or “What if this happened instead?” She actually took some of my suggestions. Little did I know at the time that I was performing the role of editor—but I did know I was hooked. After that it was just ten more years of doggedly and obsessively pursuing that goal until I landed my first publishing job.
2. Are there any projects you wish you could have edited? – I think this is an interesting and loaded question, because I could name for you the books that I’ve loved beyond words and that have shaped who I’ve become, but the truth is that if I’d been the one to edit those books, they wouldn’t be the same books I’d loved so dearly. So instead I’ll list of a few books that, if they’d come across my desk just as they are, I would have begged and bargained for the chance to publish them: everything by Tamora Pierce; The Golden Compass by Philip Pulman; The Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon; Geek Love by Katherine Dunn; The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater; The Scorpio Races also by Maggie Stiefvater (I cannot tell you how much I sobbed); Tana French; Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.
3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading, for fun)? – For the book club I’m in with my coworkers, we’re reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; and I’m reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and a wonderful, touching memoir that my mom gave me called The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow (she bought it for me purely because the picture of the owl on the cover was so cute).
4. How do you utilize Twitter? How do you believe it has changed the way we go about publishing books? – I’m actually incredibly bad at Twitter. When I first signed up I read it obsessively, because I was afraid I’d miss something important; but anything that updates that quickly stresses me out, so I had to take a step back. Mostly I’ve used it to reach out to authors/writers/celebrities/personalities for whom I can’t find an email online, and that has work out quite a few times!
5. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) publishing will be in 5 years? – MORE BOOK STORES. And more fully-stocked libraries. Every child deserves to get lost in/wander willfully into the restricted section, as I did. It’s the only way you learn.
Thanks so much Sylvan! 🙂 For our readers, do you have anything you’d like to ask Sylvan?
Thanks, Sylvan, for the interview. You acquire/edit serious and popular nonfiction. Can you elaborate what topics in Nonfiction for YA are you looking for? Is Nonfiction of History of Feminism and Women’s Rights for Teenagers something that you will consider?