Cats in Space! The Life of a Children’s Book Editor
Russ Busse, Associate Editor
Being a children’s book editor is a great job. Beyond the sense of pride I get from potentially tricking reluctant readers into developing lifelong reading habits, creating books for all kinds of kids can be objectively fun. During the pre-production life of most of the titles I work on, I’m constantly provided with moments to step back and appreciate something inspirational or absurd (or awesomely both). It turns out that kids’ books are full of built-in ways to avoid getting slogged down by the more stressful parts of having a job. Rough commute? Look at some new art. Long meeting? Think about how a dinosaur with a huge head and tiny arms would make for a great picture book character. Coffee machine broken? Use the other one because otherwise you might die, then talk to another editor about superheroes or anthropomorphized food or space.
Which brings us to CatStronauts, a graphic novel series about cats in space that is exactly what it sounds like. During one very serious Business Call with the amazingly talented and funny author/illustrator Drew Brockington, part of my job for the day was discussing whether or not he needed to actually do the math to see how long it would take a hypothetical cat, using modern cat technology, to get to Mars. (We opted to do it, but ultimately had to fudge the numbers a bit in the name of storytelling.) We discussed art and story, asking serious questions like “If the CatStronauts, CosmoCats and astronauts from M.E.O.W. are from different cat countries, should there be a noticeable difference in their appearances?” (Nope, keeping in series style, the fur markings should be maximized for adorable utility and ultimately mean nothing.) “Should the female catstronaut look more feminine, and if so, how do we responsibly show that if she’s always in a space suit and has a face like a cat?” (The other female cats wear makeup, but Pom Pom has consciously opted for a natural look.) These are heavy philosophical questions, and I think important ones to ask as a kids’ book editor in order to help make good books. Really, this was a remarkably productive phone call.
But also, at the end of the day, I got to spend an hour talking about cats in space. They’re cute and funny, and people are going to love them.
In short, my job is ridiculous and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.