Katherine Jacobs ’02 came back to her alma mater for Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing to share about her experiences at a major publisher in New York City. Jacobs is a senior editor at Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, where she edits a wide variety of books for children and young adults.
A reader from a young age, and a lover of children’s literature throughout her life, Jacobs got her first taste of children’s publishing working at Pooh’s Corner in Grand Rapids while attending Calvin. After spending time in the Peace Corps and teaching English as a second language in Romania, Jacob’s received her master’s from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. There one of her professors, upon hearing that she was a Calvin grad, said, “Oh, you’ll be fine in graduate school. Calvin students know how to write.”
Jacobs has edited picture books and novels on subjects ranging from harried matrimony to the history of Motown. She edited the young adult novel Sekret by Lindsay Smith, about a girl in communist Russia forced to work as a psychic spy for the KGB, as well as books like I See Kitty by Yasmine Surovec, about a toddler finding the perfect cat. A few other titles she’s proud of are Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas and When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrator Theodore Taylor.
While at the festival, Jacobs gave a talk titled “The Body Electric: Creating Characters That Spark With Life.” She led participants through examples of characters in children’s and young adult literature that aren’t one-dimensional, but rather have clear motivations, rich inner lives and problems that drive the plot. She shared some practical advice for making that kind of character light up one’s own writing, and she spoke about the career path that led her into editing. “I’m always impressed by the high level of conversation at the festival,” she said afterwards, “and I thought people asked really good questions at my sessions.”