Spring 2013 David Pecker Lecture by Arthur A. Levine

Inspiration from Arthur A. Levine

By Professor Manuela Soares

 

Children’s Book editor and publisher Arthur Levine shared insights about his life and career at the 2nd David Pecker Lecture on April 10th at the Midtown Executive Club.

 

With charm, enthusiasm, and wit Arthur revealed his professional journey  — from looking for his first job in publishing to being offered his own imprint at Scholastic years later.

 

Arthur wanted this lecture to be less formal and so he chose to talk about his successes and failures. It seemed like a strange topic, he said, but it was important to look closely at the decisions that led to those successes and failures.  It was important to be able to say,  “Yes, I made mistakes and I’m still here.  You’ll all make mistakes …. Some big, some small – and you’ll be OK, too.” 

 

Being committed to what he wanted to do was very important, especially in those early years. Having graduated from college and taken a publishing course, Arthur was told that he would never find a job in children’s publishing. Despite that, he persevered, which led to this advice to students: “Hold out for the job making books you really care about.”

 

Arthur offered many inspiring life lessons, from those early days of job hunting to learning from some of the legendary editors in children’s book publishing. Having been mentored in his own career and having sought out mentorship  – he has always hired and mentored young talent. 

 

In talking about mentoring, Arthur stressed that students must be active in their own careers – making connections to people, finding a mentor.  Taking chances helped him in his own career.  Too much caution, he said, is short-sighted.  And he gave examples of books that he didn’t pursue, didn’t fight hard enough for – that went on to become very successful.  Overcoming opposition to your decisions is important, he said. But also knowing when to fight was important, too.

Editors have the power to say no to a project, but acquiring it involves getting support from your colleagues in marketing and sales. There is no such thing as real power, only influence. Deciding when and how to use it were key elements.

 

Arthur made a point of saying that in today’s world, editorial must listen to the business side, but not at the expense of editorial clarity and vision. It’s not business versus editorial, but business and editorial together.

 

Harry Potter was an important acquisition in Arthur’s career, but it’s important to  remember that his career is full of  a great many award-winning and notable acquisitions and projects: Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Rafe Martin and David Shannon’s The Rough-Face Girl, Jerry Spinelli’s Crash, Barbara Bottner’s Bootsie Barker Bites, Gary Soto’s Chato’s Kitchen, Tomie dePaola’s Tomie dePaola’s Book of Poems, and two Caldecott winners, Peggy Rathmann’s Officer Buckle and Gloria, and Emily McCully’s Mirette on the High Wire, along with many other awards and honors.  Arthur is also a writer himself  —  the author of seven picture books: All the Lights in the Night, Bono and Nonno, The Boardwalk Princess, Monday Is One Day, Pearl Moscowitz’s Last Stand, Sheep Dreams and The Boy Who Drew Cats.

 

Arthur revealed his passion for his work, but made a point of the importance of leading a life rich with family, friends and other interests – being captain of his tennis team, belonging to a synagogue. This richness in his life has a positive effect on his work and keeps him from getting burned out or too self-reverential.

 

Arthur’s talk was funny, informative, insightful, and at times, poignant, but I have to admit, I missed him singing, as he did in the first lecture.

 

It was a wonderful talk from a talented, generous, and insightful industry professional. Our gain is Refrigeration Weekly’s loss.

 

Mr. David Pecker developed the David Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor Lectures to foster publishing education and the Pace University MS in Publishing program.

Visiting Distinguished David Pecker Professor: Arthur A. Levine

Arthur A. Levine, Scholastic Vice-President, Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, and editor of the Harry Potter series, is the Visiting Distinguished David Pecker Professor  the 2012/2013 academic year for Pace’s MS in Publishing program.  On Wednesday, November 28th, he spoke at the Mid-town Executive Club to a full house of interested students, faculty and publishing professionals.  In his lecture entitled, “Publishing for Love” he shared some of his thoughts and stories about working in the dynamic world of children’s book publishing. 

 

In the blog post below, Tqwana Brown, a first semester student in the MS in Publishing program and a frequent blogger for this website, shares her insights on what was truly an inspirational evening.

 


Visiting Distinguished David Pecker Professor Lecture:
Arthur A. Levine
By: Tqwana Brown

 

If you were in attendance at the David Pecker Distinguished Professor lecture last Wednesday, then you had the privilege of hearing from Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine. And if you don’t know who that is, just pick up a copy of Harry Potter and look at the spine. Needless to say, there was probably a fair amount of hero-worship present in the Midtown Executive club that night – myself included.  In short, he is just simply great.

 

In a lecture titled “Publishing for Love”, Mr. Levine made us laugh, surprised us with his lovely singing voice, and most of all reaffirmed why many of us decided to enter the field of publishing.

 

While so many people are calling books a dying medium and predicting proverbial doom and gloom for the industry, Mr. Levine stood before a room of industry aspirants and gave us hope for the future, with his boyish optimism and his obvious passion for the traditional narrative. His view of the future isn’t quite so dire. While he recognizes the coming changes, he sees it as transitional rather than terminal; that we must “embrace the future, while staunchly defending the literary values of our past.” He sees opportunity where others see failure – the chance for online indie booksellers, eBooks never being out of print, with no shelf space limitations; more success for midlist books and smaller publishers and imprints.

 

Love and passion for good books, and his believe that “staying focused on my passions as a reader” are what he feels led to success. Many of us can agree that so far, it’s worked well for this self-described “emotional connection junkie”, from his acquisition of Red Wall by Brain Jacques and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to introducing J.K. Rowling to the U.S. audience.  He also acknowledged he’s a risk-taker, and as such has had failures, and life did not get easier for him after Potter.

 

Mr. Levine is a content-focused man. For him, “stories become art through love, and art becomes business through love.” He still looks for stories with strong emotional narratives and great writing, how a book makes him feel. In his view, the enhanced narrative is not necessarily the improved narrative. As proof, he gave us the analogy of Adele performing at the Grammy’s. Just her voice, no dancing, light shows, nothing to distract from the narrative. For him, the task of authors remains the same. They must “make a narrative connection with readers, though qualities that are not specific to the 21st century or any century; qualities like emotional honesty, specific observation, and tension that is built and resolved at the ideal pace. “

 

And his advice to us is simple – to hear the story first; to stay focused on reading what we love, because “what we love is what other readers will love too. “

 

The night ended almost too soon, with Mr. Levine taking a few questions for the audience, and again telling us to find what excites us, find where our love and passion is. “If you’re a reader”, he says, “You already know what other people want to read.” Trusting my instincts, knowing what I love, and judging manuscripts on how powerful my response is what I and the rest of the room took away from Mr. Levine’s speech. I think I can speak for all of us at Pace when I say that we are eagerly awaiting his spring lecture.

 

For those of you who would like to learn a bit more about Mr. Levine, here are a few links to video interviews with him:

1. Editor as Writer: A Conversation with Arthur A. Levine http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/new-interview-arthur-a-levine-new-york-city-jan-27/

2. Arthur Levine Launches the Second Scholastic Question

http://video.the-leaky-cauldron.org/video/676

3. Meet Arthur A. Levine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxe1uUBb_JA

Welcome to the Fall 2012 Semester!

Dear MS in Publishing Graduate Students, Faculty, Advisory Board Members, and Alumni:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Fall 2012 semester and to extend my best wishes for a successful academic year.

This semester we are proudly offering  new courses on Publishing Comics and Graphic Novels and Supply Chain Management, taught respectively by Paul Levitz, former President of DC Comics, and Thomas Dimascio, Director of Supply Chain Management at DC Comics. In addition, PUB 621, E-books: Technology, Workflow, and Business Models, is being offered online and is very popular, with over 20 students enrolled.

If you have any questions concerning your course schedules, contact Ms. Barbara Egidi, MS in Publishing Program Manager, at begidi@pace.edu.

Please note that on Monday, September 10, 2012, from 5:00 – 6:00 PM, we will hold a New Student Orientation for our students at the Pace Midtown site in the Multi-Media Lab.  All students are welcome, but I strongly encourage newly enrolled students to attend the session. Prof. Denning, Prof. Soares, Ms. Egidi and I look forward to seeing you there.

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce that Arthur A. Levine (http://www.arthuralevinebooks.com/) will serve as the Visiting Distinguished David Pecker Professor this year. In November, Mr. Levine, the Publisher and Editor of the Harry Potter series who was responsible for bringing J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter to the U.S.A., will present his first lecture (details will be posted at a later date). Mr. Levine, who has done so much for literacy and publishing, deserves this honor, and we at Pace are excited that he will be working with our faculty and students this year.

Please feel free to come in and see me and the staff if you have any questions. I look forward to working with you all this semester as our program prepares you for and educates you about the dynamic changes that are transforming the industry today.

Again, my best wishes to all for a very successful 2012-13 academic year.

Sherman Raskin

Professor of English/Publishing
Director MS in Publishing Program
Director Pace University Press
Pace University
551 Fifth Ave,. Room 805E
New York, NY 10176
212-346-1417