Consider the books that lived in the classrooms of your youth. Didn’t it seem like those stories materialized as if by magic, complete with illustrations, a title and a sturdy hardcover? There wasn’t a lot of discussion about how a book arrived in the world, or the arduous creative process behind every collection of words on a page — not just the ones lucky enough to snag an ISBN.
Dave Eggers is working to disrupt this dynamic (although he wouldn’t use the word “disrupt” in such a context). In 2017, the author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” “The Circle” and “Zeitoun” — among many others — was working on a middle grade book, “The Lifters,” when he started talking with his editor Taylor Norman and fellow author Mac Barnett about how to involve kids in the creation of books written for them.
“We had the idea to try to collapse the space between young readers and publishers and authors and give them a peek behind the curtain and let them see manuscripts in progress,” Eggers said in a phone interview. “We started cooking up this idea of showing students or classes written manuscripts and saying, ‘What do you think?’ To show them the process as it went along.”
And so the Young Editors Project was born. It works like this: The program matches an author with a classroom of students who are roughly the target audience for a particular work. The writer might pose specific questions — for instance, Eggers said, “I’d like to know if you think there’s enough foxes in this book” — and the kids provide feedback.
“Most writers that participate get all these very sweet, exclamation-filled notes from classes and students all over the world,” Eggers said. “Every so often they might say something that is very astute and might provoke a rethinking of a page or a sentence.”
Or, as Lemony Snicket put it in his endorsement on the project’s website, “At long last, writers can get free advice from strangers without approaching them in the street.”
The YEP proposes several ways for authors to thank budding reviewers for their input, including acknowledgment by name in the final product (another word Eggers wouldn’t use in relation to literature).
Lo and behold, in his new book, “The Eyes and the Impossible,” which debuted at No. 2 on the middle grade hardcover list, Eggers thanks a slew of early readers hailing from the United States, England, Australia and Canada.
Presumably, this crew learned a valuable lesson while evaluating Eggers’s drafts: Pros need help too. “We’re always telling students that every author goes through 10 or 12 drafts,” Eggers said. “It’s always a process, no matter how many books you’ve written. A lot of writers think if their first draft isn’t perfect, then they’re not a good writer.”
In fact, with enough gumption, they might see their own name on the spine of a book someday.
The post Dave Eggers Wants Readers to See How the Sausage Is Made appeared first on New York Times.