Q & A with Andrea Pinkney of Scholastic, editor of Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory

The relationship between an author and his or her editor is not necessarily foremost in a reader’s mind when enjoying a book, but there’s no doubt that it’s important. I was struck when reading Allen Say‘s latest book Drawing from Memory (Scholastic, 2011) by a comment he made in his moving Author’s Note: “When my editor, Andrea Pinkney, and I first talked about the book, she asked me if it was possible to include some of my master’s work in it. The thought had never occurred to me; I didn’t think any of Sensei’s work could be found today.” So began the quest to seek out some of Noro Shinpei’s work – and Say did eventually bring together some wonderful examples in Drawing from Memory, including himself as a cartoon character, which must resonate as a dream come true for many of todays’ young readers. Say himself would probably agree that the book is all the richer for exploring Noro Shinpei’s work in more depth: indeed, his description of the quest shows clearly what those channels in his graphic narrative meant to him. So we are delighted to welcome Andrea Pinkney to the PaperTigers Blog to answer a few questions about Drawing from Memory, as well as her current projects as Vice President and Executive Editor with Scholastic Trade.

Andrea is also an acclaimed author of children’s books herself, including Coretta King Honor Picture Books Let It Shine! Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (Gulliver Books, Harcourt), and Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, illustrated by her husband Brian Pinkney (Hyperion Books for Children) – as well as novels such as, most recently, Bird in a Box (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2011). You can read an in-depth interview with Andrea about her own writing at The Brown Bookshelf here, and more about her career as an editor here.

I believe Drawing from Memory is Allen Say’s first book published by Scholastic.  How and why did Scholastic acquire the book?

We’re so proud and happy to welcome Allen Say to Scholastic! Drawing from Memory marks an important and exciting change of direction for Allen. He is known by many for his work as a brilliant picture book creator, and Caldecott medallist. But in this book, Allen extends his talent to create a stunning work that is part memoir, part graphic novel, part narrative history. With Scholastic’s tremendous reach into schools, to teachers, and to young readers through our vibrant distribution channels ― including Scholastic Book Clubs and Book Fairs ― along with our Trade publishing program, we felt strongly that Drawing from Memory was the perfect vehicle for giving Allen Say a new publishing home.

What was your involvement in the editorial process?  Were there any particularly special moments for you?

I believe an editor’s role is to hold the flashlight while an author and illustrator digs for gold. In the case of Drawing from Memory, Allen delved into his own internal creative fountain to reveal a story that is intensely personal to him ― his journey to becoming the artist that he is today. My job was simply to guide that process, and to work with Allen to illuminate the most relevant aspects of his narrative. As for special moments, Allen is an incredible storyteller. So each and every time we spoke about the particulars of his incredible life and how these would be included in the book, Allen imparted some new detail about his childhood that always brought me to tears of wonder.

What is your favourite part of the book?

This is like asking which of your children is your favorite! I’m hard pressed to find one part of Drawing from Memory that I like more than another. I will say, though, that the moment when Allen knocks on the door of Noro Shinpei, Japan’s premier cartoonist, and the man who becomes Allen’s spiritual father, always fills me with a feeling of awe ― that this eager kid is about to enter a world that will change the course of his life forever.

How do you think Drawing from Memory fits in with Allen’s previous books, in particular the semi-autobiographical The Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice

In Drawing from Memory Allen takes his creative talents to greater heights by pushing the boundaries of bookmaking with a work that is an impressive amalgam of art styles, text, and perspectives.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

There are always exciting things brewing in our shop! Next fall we’ll publish a novel by Sonia Manzano, the Emmy Award-winning actress who has played the role of Maria on Sesame Street for more than 40 years. Also, multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner, Sharon G. Flake, is at work on a new novel. And the very busy and creative Allen Say has his paintbrush whipping up new books for Scholastic.

3 Responses to “Q & A with Andrea Pinkney of Scholastic, editor of Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory”

  1. PragmaticMom Says:

    Wow, two great authors. I’ve enjoyed Andrea Pinkney’s Bird in a Box book and Allan Say is one of my favorite author/illustrators! Wonderful post!

  2. Marjorie Says:

    Mine too. I need to go and find a copy of Bird in a Box; I’ve heard so many great things about it.

  3. Russ Says:

    I will have to look for this book. Thanks for posting!