I don’t remember whether I mentioned him by name, but during the picture book panel discussion at last weekend’s SCBWI conference, I sang the praises of former Farrar, Straus & Giroux editor Robbie Mayes.
It was Robbie who, in responding to an early draft of The Day-Glo Brothers six years ago this month, gently advised me, “If you were to develop this project further, what I’d like to see is a shorter text…”
People, it was more than 6,000 words long.
Can you imagine the restraint that went into providing the advice quoted above rather than scrawling “cut, cut, cut, cut, CUT!”? Or the generosity that led him to send anything besides a canned, “doesn’t meet our needs at this time” reply to this sad, deluded writer who didn’t realize he had enough text for six longish picture books?
I did develop the project further, obviously, and chopped the text of The Day-Glo Brothers by about 2/3, down to something resembling its current form. It still wasn’t what Robbie was looking for, but the time and encouragement and specificity he provided made a huge difference for me, my manuscript, and my career.
As you can imagine, I’ve often thought fondly of Robbie, and since he left the business three years ago I’ve occasionally done a quick search for news about what he’s been up to. I never found anything — until yesterday.
Children’s author Sam Riddleburger (The Qwikpick Adventure Society) has done the great service of getting Robbie to reflect on his time as an editor, recently posting the first and second installments of a still-in-progress, three-part Q&A.
You should read the whole thing, of course, but I thought I’d give you a taste of what you’ll find:
Robbie on long editorial silences: “Trust me that when you don’t hear anything for a whileâ€”this is of course after first getting some encouragementâ€”chances are pretty good you are not forgotten.”
Robbie on gimmicky cover letters: “I felt a well-written, personality-ingrained letter helped me to form an early picture of what kind of writer I had on my hands. Sometimes the letter even trumped the manuscript in terms of whether I thought it a potentially worthwhile investment to offer encouragement and (hopefully) useful criticism.”
Thanks, Sam. And thanks again, Robbie.
Chris, THANKS for posting this tidbit. I found it by Googling Robbie myself, as he was my first editor at FSG and I often wonder what he’s up to. :)
Just wrote Robbie a letter and then googled his name to see if he was still doing anything special online–glad to see this and the links.
Robbie’s sharp mind and eye kept me on point. My respect for him inspired my best work. In truth, I haven’t found anyone that can replace him. Robbie,
we love you, Gina and Steve
Gina and Steve, I’ve done my best to get word to Robbie about your kind comments. He so clearly made a great impression on many of us during his time in publishing.