Five Questions with Kathleen Merz
The rules of our Five Questions interview series are simple: we send each of our guests a long list of questions. Some are serious; some are . . . not so serious. They choose their favorites and respond.
Our guest today is Kathleen Merz, managing editor of EBYR.
1. Why were you originally drawn to work for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers?
I first heard about EBYR when one of my professors at Calvin College shared Garmann’s Summer with my children’s literature class. She mentioned that EBYR was publishing a lot of interesting books—books with a unique visual sensibility, books that weren’t afraid to tackle hard themes and tough questions without giving neat, convenient answers. That intrigued me, though I don’t think I realized at the time just how unique EBYR is within the children’s book industry. I also knew that I was interested in working for a smaller independent publisher that was more willing to take risks on projects they felt deserved to be published.
2. What EBYR books (published during your tenure as managing editor) are you proudest of?
So many! But my top three would have to be The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, Brother Hugo and the Bear, and The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have. The Right Word was a fascinating project to work on—I learned so much. And I got to work with the brilliant team of author Jen Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet. For Brother Hugo, I worked with wonderful author Katy Beebe on her first picture book. This book definitely appealed to my love of all things medieval, and has so much to charm readers—history, humor, bookmaking, monks, friendship, and a delightful furry antagonist. I loved working on The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have because of the fantastic illustrations, the singular voice, and the seamless way it blends both deep sadness and resilient hopefulness. I take something new away every time I read it.
3. What EBYR books are you personally most excited about this season?
More often than not, when I show A Well-Mannered Young Wolf to new people, they end up reading it aloud, laughing, and then finding someone else to share the book with. It’s just such a fun story. I also love the novel we have coming out this fall—A Dog Like Sam. It’s written by Edward van de Vendel, who is excellent at creating nuanced, believable characters. I’m also excited for The Blue Hour, which is coming out in February; the artwork is stunning.
4. What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Eerdmans?
There’s not much that can really top the moment we found out that The Right Word had won a Caldecott honor. But every time one of the books I’ve worked on arrives in the warehouse, it’s a little bit of a rush. Having the chance to hold in your hands a book that you were involved in creating—that never really gets old. I still remember getting a copy of the first book I ever really worked on—Ruth Sanderson’s Saints: Lives and Illuminations. I think it took it home that night so I could show everyone I knew that I’d helped make a real book.
5. How do you spend your time when you’re not reading and editing Eerdmans books?
I spend as much time outside as I can—hiking, camping, biking. I started kayaking this summer, and I’ve been having fun using that to explore more of Michigan’s natural beauty. And, of course, I spend plenty of time reading non-Eerdmans books.
* * *
Learn more about the editing process and get great tips for getting published in Kathleen’s “From the Editor’s Desk” series on Eerdlings.