Lincoln Book Festival 2010: Janetta Otter Berry

Gill Hutchinson reports on a talk on Diversity and Inclusion given by Janetta Otter-Barry (pictured left) of Frances Lincoln at the Lincoln Book Festival on May 15th 2010.

An audience which ranged from young teens to grandparents gained a much clearer perception of the complex processes which result in the publication of such modern favourites as Amazing Grace.

It was fascinating for those of us who have read such books aloud and watched young children absorb their sensitive messages, to hear about what goes into their production; the careful pairing of writers with appropriate illustrators, and the conferences during which Janetta needs to “sell” the ideas she likes to her colleagues.

One thing came over very clearly, and that was the depth of Janetta’s involvement in the entire process. She clearly rates all of her writers and illustrators very highly and gave us insights into the range and scope of the fiction and non-fiction books celebrating cultural diversity which are the “niche” of her own list at Frances Lincoln Books.

In a lively question and answer session, Janetta explained to her audience how publishers seek out new talent – writers and illustrators – and exactly what she and her colleagues look for in work submitted to them (not to mention a few hints to aspiring writers about how not to approach someone you are trying to impress).

“At the end of the day,” she told us, “its how you have written it.” Janetta pictured with a copy of ‘Takeshita Demons’ by Cristy Burne, winner of the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award – this annual award is open to unpublished children’s writers.

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