Rotem Moscovich is brilliant. I know this for a fact, because as an editor at Disney*Hyperion she read a manuscript of mine and immediately saw its immense value and signed it up for publication. Also because she wrote her undergraduate thesis on Harry Potter, though only 5 books had been published at the time (and received the award for Best Thesis in the Comparative Literature Department that year! I mean, she’s supposed to flaunt being smart, right?).
Professionally, Rotem works primarily on picture books and middle grade novels. Privately, she loves to bake. She loves bookbinding. And she loves office supplies. (That last one may earn her the Nerdy Chick of the Week Award!)
Rotem admits that she was incredibly uncoordinated as a child (and still is very klutzy, according to her), but she did Jazz Dance for 8 years and by the end of it, in her own words, “I wasn’t terrible! Entering a dance studio now does induce a sense of panic, though…”
Rotem, we appreciate you joining us today, and as a thank you gesture, we won’t make you dance for us at all! Let’s start with your life as a PROFESSIONAL CHILDREN’S BOOK EDITOR. What are your favorite things to read?
Ohhh so many things, when I’m not reading submissions. I recently read Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea with my book club and it was everything a middle grade novel should be, with incredibly drawn characters, an integral setting, and a narrator that you know will take you through this smart, nuanced story about what’s important in life and in the education of a person. But I also love to dip into trashy magazines, YA novels with social criticism (especially feminist ones), and I’m always checking out the latest picture books at the many wonderful indie bookstores in Brooklyn.
Here at NerdyChicksRule.com, we love independent bookstores, too! So, you do a lot of reading even outside your job…How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
From picture books through YA, I think many books today try to invert the roles traditionally given to girls. I mean, think of Hermione! The thing is, it’s more complicated than one aspect or another (also, there’s book smart and there’s socially smart, and both are worthy and important), and girls need parents, teachers, and friends who can help them come to their own understanding of the girl characters presented to them. They might like one aspect of the portrayal, but have an issue with another. Being able to see media with a critical eye (as well as an appreciative one) is the key.
What do you look for in a story when you are acquiring books for girls?
I look for a girl with agency, and a girl with courage (even if that’s something that she must acquire over the course of the story). Or if the main character is not a girl (not all books for girls have girls as their main character!), then I’d look for the female characters to be multifaceted. And of course, inspiring writing.
Oh, so I need to learn to write well? OK. I can work on that. 🙂
Let’s shift gears a bit and get away from all that work stuff…I was pretty nerdy in middle school and high school (I won’t make you tell us whether you were, too). But those years can be tough for anyone. If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Stay the course! You’ll know who your true friends are.
That’s really great advice. It isn’t easy to do, but worth it in the end. Another gear shift: As our newest Nerdy Chick, what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?
Well, gosh, this is going to sound extremely nerdy, but it’s my master’s degree in Children’s Literature from the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. It was an intense, incredibly rewarding two years where much time was spent engaging in discussions with other wonderful nerdy chicks. I worked my butt off.
Wow! Even more brilliant than I initially gave you credit for! But no more work – what’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?
Is sewing still considered nerdy, or has that passed over into hip? Well, either way, I like to sew and make stuff—the satisfaction of creating a thing when said thing did not exist before . . . I can’t get enough. Also, I love being read to. Why should small children get all the fun?
I agree! I think we should be read to as adults – and get nap time. Nap time would lead to fewer wars, I think. This has been such a great interview. I just have one more question, and it’s very important: if you could rewrite the ending of a favorite fairy tale, which one would you change, and why?
Yikes, this is a tough one! I guess Snow White—though really it’s the whole premise of “the fairest one of all” being the most important thing, not just the ending (though it is rather creepy that the prince wants Snow White in her glass coffin so badly. What for?!).
Thank you again, Rotem, for joining us here on NerdyChicksRule.com — you are truly a Nerdy Chick of Note!
I love your observation that many books invert the traditional role of the girl, but often fail to cast her as a multifaceted persona. It is so much more interesting to watch characters polish and revise their interpretations of strengths and self!
Just popping back to add a note re: the creepiness of Snow White in her glass coffin. On a recent visit to the deCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA I was inspired to write an ekphrastic poem based on an installation called “King”. I invite you to read it here: http://bildebok.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/king/
Thanks for the great interview Rotem! I love what you said about girl characters.
Cathy, I did pop over to your blog. What an appropriate post to link to from here!