Top Picks This Week

Planning for Spontaneity: Southern Italy


Pilar Guzmán once wrote, in her editor’s letter for Condé Nast Traveler, “Sometimes a truly memorable trip is the one when the unexpected happens, when you get lost in a good way. But spontaneity takes planning, gathering, and the collective wisdom of travelers you trust.”

This felt so spot-on for me—planning for spontaneity; it’s how I like to approach traveling. In fact, I referenced this a few years back in an effort to solicit your collective wisdom before our trip to Italy, and was overwhelmed with the generous advice! Now, we’ve booked ticket to Rome once more, only with the goal of visiting new-to-us parts of the country, and I’m hoping I might ask for your suggestions once again.

Here’s what we know so far…

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Travel Pants and Springtime Joggers

Happy first day of spring! As the temperatures rise, it’s rare that I’ll wear shorts. I’d much prefer to throw on a pair of casual pants—the sort modeled on joggers or track trousers, only in a lighter fabric.

A black pair of track trousers from Madewell has been my go-to for many years now: they’re cool enough to wear all day, keep bare legs from sticking to carseats (or to each other), and lend coverage for sightseeing at churches and temples. Aron knows them as my “travel pants” because they tend to come on every trip. The shop seems to carry some iteration of them every year—this year they come with a cuff instead of a split at the ankle. Still, I’m always on the lookout for similarly comfortable alternatives come springtime. I know a good find will get plenty of use.

Here are some options I’ve found so far… 

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So You Want to Write Children’s Books?

During my time as a book editor—and for a while thereafter—the most common question I’d get was “How do I write/publish a children’s book?” The only problem? I wasn’t a children’s book editor. 

But my friend Alli is! Alli Brydon, a children’s book editor and writer based in the New York area—and a friend from the time we both worked at the same publishing house there—has generously agreed to be a guest contributor here from time to time, expanding our childrens’-book libraries, and today I’ve asked her to share her expertise with anyone who might be an aspiring writer. 

With nearly 15 years of experience developing, editing, and selling children’s books with US publishing houses—on both the editor and agent side of the desk—she has spent a large part of her career nurturing writers and illustrators to reach their potential. Here she describes the job of an editor and what you need to do to get that manuscript out in the world… 

What exactly do you do?
I am an independent children’s book editor who helps authors and illustrators learn, grow, and polish their manuscripts. I also consult authors on building their careers and navigating the publishing industry. “Independent” means that I currently work unattached to a publishing house, which gives me great flexibility and freedom to work with a wonderful variety of clients and projects. My favorite thing is to guide children’s book authors to be their best and to help them shine!

How did you get started? 
In the summer of 2004, I was in between my first and second years of graduate school where I was studying and writing towards my MFA in poetry. I somehow had the thought that my focus on poetry would dovetail nicely with the spare and necessary language of children’s books. Through fate, as well as pounding the pavement, I landed a sweet internship with one of the children’s imprints at Penguin, and have never looked back! When I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in children’s books, and shortly after commencement I interviewed for what would be my first editorial job in children’s publishing.

What should I do before deciding to write a children’s book?
Read them! Please, please, please read them. Go one step further: study them. If you want to write a picture book, count the pages and notice how many words there are. Understand how a story arcs, how a character becomes believable, and what a conflict (and satisfying resolution) is. Learn the craft of it. Become serious about it. Writing books for kids is fun, but it’s not easy. Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and meet other folks who are passionate about writing and illustrating kidlit. And if you’re social media savvy, follow your favorite authors and illustrators on Twitter and Instagram—where so many share tons of advice with the public.

What makes a children’s book stand out? 
An outstanding children’s book is one that has heart. One that’s connected to the universality of human experience. One that serves both the child and the parent, and respects both. Oh, and if you’ve got a talking schoolhouse, naked president, or a ton of great animal sounds—it can’t hurt!

What do I need to have in hand before reaching out to a publishing house or an agent?

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