In the beginning, there was market research…

We’re thinking hard about starting a new series at Nomad Press. We’re pondering, we’re testing the water, we’re gathering evidence of future success or failure. We’re nervous. We’re hesitant. Until we’re not, and then we’re boisterous and foolhardy. Of course we can launch a new series in the space of six months! Of course everyone will love it! Of course it will makes lots of money! Of course it will get kids to read more!

But who knows? Publishing a book is jumping off a roof, but starting a new series is jumping off a cliff into the stormy ocean below. Where the sharks are swimming. In -18 degree weather. It’s scary and not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

And it’s weird to try and guess what a series of books should look like before they even exist. It’s like inviting ten strangers to dinner and trying to plan a menu that will please everyone without knowing who’s a vegetarian, who’s gluten free, and who hates Brussels sprouts (these people who hate Brussels sprouts, they sound like a myth, but they do exist; I gave birth to some of them). It’s very, very hard. Add to that already high level of difficulty a team of seven people, each of whom has strong, very different opinions. Piece of cake… right?

But that’s also part of why we do it. Hard stuff is fun.

And I have high hopes that the finished product, the first book in the series, will be a gorgeous book that kids will flock to. It will be one of those books that kids will turn the last page of and look up and ask, “Is there more?”

Part of why I have this job is because I loved to read as a kid and those books that left me physically craving more (A Wrinkle in Time, Night Swimmers, The Children of Green Knowe) taught me lessons I didn’t know I needed that have resonated beyond fifth grade into the rest of my life. Lessons that include how powerful a story can be, the reasons we have relationships, and the often untapped potential of dead things.

And it feels amazing to be a part of the mechanism that might, if we’re lucky, create a new book that teaches these lessons to some kid that’s out there now, probably playing a video game and snacking on pretzels.

So, like I said, piece of cake.

Wish us luck.

Granny! Except, maybe not.

I adore Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, and Sarah’s mother, Barb, who keeps me company on the frigid playground while we wait for the school buses to arrive. And I can’t wait to be an old woman with long, grey, wild hair and strong opinions. I’ve never used any kind of age-hiding beauty treatment – mainly because I don’t know how. But all of this is to say, I think old women rock.

So it worries me that I rejected an illustrator’s rendition of an archeologist because…she was too old. She looked like a grandmother. And without thinking too much about it, I fired off an email requesting someone different. Someone younger. Someone that would appeal to the 12- to 15-year-olds that we’re hoping will read this book.

Four days later, I’m still worried.

It’s too late. The illustrator is off and running, pages and pages of comic book style drawings are coming my way via dropbox. And they’re fantastic. They’re funny, and engaging, and the characters are multicultural and cute. And the archeologist, the adult, isn’t too adult. She’s youngish with red hair. Not a grandmotherly wisp around her.

I am one of those people who feel righteously appalled when I hear about an older woman who’s been fired, asked to step down, called out for her age, made fun of, dismissed, excused, or belittled. I love older women. I think they’re smarter than me and have better ideas. I even think they’re cool. And I look forward to being one, if I’m lucky. So why did I reject the grandmotherly archeologist? Me, who has been taught very specific lessons about fairness by my three young sons (because kids are the experts in fair)?

Should I let it go?

Like I said, it’s too late for this particular Granny. She’s gone, her brief life as a sketch over. The redhead who took her place is vibrant and fun and readers will want to follow her all over the world.

But I think it’s important to keep the grannies in mind. To remember that not only do we have an obligation to learn from our elders, but also to teach the younger generations of their enduring importance. Maybe the next book will have a granny.