Julia Richardson and Ellen Hopkins
Julia Richardson didn’t plan to become a book editor. While she earned her master’s degree in political science from New York University, she dreamed of working for the United Nations or an international aid organization. After her 1990 graduation, she “fell into” a marketing job at Macmillan Children’s Publishing and then worked her way up the editorial ladder. Richardson is now an executive editor for Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division in New York. A lifelong book lover, Richardson finds herself drawn to the same kinds of stories she enjoyed as a teenager.
“I read Go Ask Alice and Judy Blume, and I started reading adult fiction before high school,” the strawberry-blonde-haired and green-eyed Richardson says. Now, she helps create young-adult novels with themes such as the myth of physical perfection, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.
Working on books for kids “keeps you young,” says Richardson. “Teenagers constantly struggle to form their identities without sacrificing their morals and values. My work brings that issue into focus; I think about how to find a balance between art and commerce.”
Richardson feels honored to make decisions about literature to present to kids, and she takes the responsibility seriously.
“Teenagers are impressionable,” she says. “I want to give them access to worlds they’re curious about but that they won’t necessarily experience first hand. I want to show them the reality without glamorizing and without being didactic.”
Richardson always looks for new authors. Usually manuscripts come to her through agents, but occasionally she meets promising writers at conferences. Richardson met Ellen Hopkins—director for the upcoming “The End Game: Publication and Beyond” writers’ conference and workshop in Carson City that Richardson is speaking at—at the 2002 Great Basin Book Festival, where she critiqued manuscripts. Of the manuscripts Richardson read, she was most impressed by Hopkins’ work.
Hopkins, who lives in Washoe Valley, has published over 20 non-fiction books for children. A blond woman with amber eyes, Hopkins works as a freelance writer and an artist-in-residence for Nevada schools. In addition, she runs her own company, Juniper Creek Publishing.
Hopkins and her husband, Mike, adopted their grandson, Orion, now 7 years old. The boy’s birthmother, one of Hopkins’ three grown children, couldn’t care for him due to her struggle with methamphetamine addiction. As Hopkins tried to help her daughter, she coped with her own anguish by writing. In a series of poems, she explored her daughter’s experience from the first-person point of view.
“It made me look at my relationship with her and question how I might have played a part in her choices,” Hopkins says. “It was a way of dealing with the pain and letting it go rather than bottling it up inside.”
Hopkins eventually compiled her poems into a verse novel, Crank, which Richardson accepted for publication at Simon and Schuster. The book will make its debut in October, 2004. The fictional protagonist, Kristina Georgia Snow, is a gifted high school student with a promising future. When the girl experiments with drugs, she starts down a path of searching for the next high. One risk leads to another, and Snow finds herself in near life-threatening situations.
“I hope readers understand that if they’re doing crank, they’re not able to say no as easily to other things," Hopkins says. "My book shows the reality of crank without preaching. The protagonist doesn’t recover from her addiction because it’s not about getting hooked and then getting well. It’s about not starting in the first place."