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The Editor-Writer Mentorship: promoting voices from the margins

Our 2023 Editor Mentors!

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Abrams Books
2023 Picture Book Mentor
Erum Khan grew up bouncing between Pakistan and Kuwait until eventually finding her way to California. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and South Asia studies, she dove headfirst into the world of book publishing and never looked back. Working as an editor by day and author by night, she hopes to build a world in which all kids can see themselves in the books they read. When she’s not busy reading, she enjoys trying out new recipes, discovering new hikes, and spending time with family.

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Random House Studio
2023 Picture Book Mentor
Lee Wade is the VP & Publisher of Random House Studio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The imprint is a fairly new imprint –founded in 2020—that is focused primarily on picture books, but also publishes books for older readers.  Lee has edited many acclaimed books for children including the New York Times bestselling Duck & Goose and Rocket series by Tad Hills, Caldecott Medal–winning A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka, Areli is a Dreamer by Areli Morales and Luisa Uribe, and the very recent Remember by Joy Harjo and Michaela Goade.


Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2023 Picture Book Mentor
For the nearly 30 years I’ve been in the business, I’ve had a special interest in artistically distinctive picture books. I’m drawn to substantive stories with strong voice, re-readability, and emotional resonance; my dual background in art and creative writing makes me particularly fond of working with author-artists. As Editorial Director for LBYR trade picture book list, I can consult with agents on matching proposals with editors. I’m also seeking high-caliber middle-grade novels, especially literary or historical fiction and genre-bending narratives. Science, environmental, and socio-political themes tend to resonate with me, as does absurdist humor! 

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G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
2023 Children’s Chapter Book Mentor
Simone Roberts-Payne (she/her) works as an Assistant Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. Prior to working at Penguin, she worked with Jacqueline Woodson, where she did historical research and proofreading for various writing projects. Simone is looking to build a list that includes commercial young adult fiction and literary picture books. She is drawn to dynamic and diverse fiction, with complicated familial or romantic relationships, a hint of mystery, a touch heartbreaking, and all things adorable.

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Ink & Willow (WaterBrook)
2023 Middle Grade Mentor
Leslie Calhoun is an Associate Editor with Ink & Willow, WaterBrook’s creative line of gift products, Leslie’s primary focus is on inspirational, activity, self-help, and mindfulness books. She acquires, edits, and contributes to a wide range of titles, from coloring books and card games to planners and devotionals. The authors on her roster include Jennie Allen, Tama Fortner, Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, Anthony Russo, Jackie Brewster, and Mark Batterson. Before joining the editorial team, Leslie served on both the marketing and publicity teams for WaterBrook and Multnomah, working with numerous award-winning and bestselling authors, including Andrew Peterson, Nancy Naigle, Dave Connis, Carlos Whittaker, Robin Jones Gunn, and Mitali Perkins. In addition to her work with Ink & Willow, she also has an advisory role on the children’s editorial team, because of her passion for middle-grade and children’s literature. A native of Washington state, she now lives in Colorado.

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Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2023 Young Adult Fiction/Nonfiction Mentor

Since joining LBYR in 2019, I’ve acquired fiction and nonfiction across categories. My primary goal is for kids to find themselves and their stories in the books I publish, and that they feel seen, valued, and centered. 

In middle grade, I’m drawn to voice-driven stories with unforgettable characters, strong friendships, interesting family dynamics, a touch of magical realism, and anything that will make me laugh. Some of the books I’ve edited include Simon B. Rhymin’ by America’s Favorite Rapping Teacher from Chicago, Dwayne Reed; Hope Springs by Jaime Berry; and Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza by Laekan Zea Kemp. In nonfiction, I have a particular interest in pop-culture tie-ins and platform-driven stories such as Brains On! presents...It’s Alive from the creators of the award-winning science podcast for kids, Brains On! 

In picture books, I’d love to see character-driven stories with a touch of humor and quirk. But I’m also a sucker for charming tales that feel like instant classics. Some of the books I’ve edited include Schneider Family Book Award Honor Winner In the Blue by Erin Hourigan; Hair Twins by Raakhee Mirchandani, illustrated by Holly Hatam; and Spicy Spicy Hot! by Lenny Wen. In YA, I’m looking for stories and storytellers from marginalized backgrounds, high-concept bingeable contemporaries, and always a strong and distinctive narrative voice. I’m particularly proud to be the editor of the Pura Belpré Honor Winner Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp.

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Penguin Publishing Group
2023 Young Adult Fiction/Nonfiction Mentor

Want Chyi is an editorial assistant with Philomel and Viking. She previously worked as a children’s book buyer and seller at the independent bookstore Folio Books and joined Penguin Random House in 2019 where she co-chaired the inaugural summit on editorial diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Random House Publishing Group. She holds a MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University and has an essay in the women-of-color anthology All the Women in My Family Sing. She loves reading, writing, talking YA/coming-of-age stories, and watching ice hockey.

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Wednesday Books + St. Martin's Press
2023 Romance Mentor

Eileen Rothschild is the Executive Editor at St. Martin’s Press and VP, Associate Publisher at Wednesday Books, started her publishing career over fifteen years ago working on Math and Chemistry books. Since then she has held roles in sales and marketing with the ultimate goal of finding an audience for fantastic voices. She has since found her passion in editorial. Eileen is always on the lookout for dynamic and diverse voices.

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Random House
2023 Adult Fiction Mentor
Caitlin McKenna is the editorial director of fiction at Random House, where she acquires and edits a wide range of fiction and narrative nonfiction. She lives in New Haven, CT with her family. To learn more about Caitlin visit her website here:

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