Lauren Magaziner ’12 returned to the Hill on Nov. 7 to give an informal talk about her newly published children’s book and share advice with current students on how to make it in the publishing world. A lifelong writer, Magaziner knew even before she began at Hamilton that she wanted to be an author. She realized her desire to specialize in children’s fiction when she found herself always gravitating back to the genre, reading children’s books in her free time at Hamilton, where she studied creative writing and philosophy. “There is something about that voice that has always fascinated me,” she told listeners.
During college, Magaziner was fortunate to work several internships which she says benefited her as a writer and directly led to her success. Her first was in publicity and marketing for children’s author Debbie Dadey (known for her chapter book series The Bailey School Kids). She learned in this job that many authors must do their own marketing, as the writers who don’t really need publicity—such as J.K. Rowling—are usually the ones to get the most.
The following summer, Magaziner interned at HarperCollins Children’s Books Publishers, where she first got an inside look at what goes on in the publishing industry. “I didn’t realize that the acquisitions process is so intense,” she reflected, noting the amount of comparative titles authors must provide editors in order to be considered.
Her most rewarding internship, however, was at the New York-based literary agency, Writer’s House, where she read authors’ manuscripts and wrote editorial letters “very similar to what [she] was doing in creative writing classes.” While working there, she submitted her manuscript to a junior agent who passed it on to a senior agent, who soon offered her representation. She admits it was “a very unconventional way to get an agent,” but is glad it worked out the way it did. With her agent’s help, she submitted her work to seven publishers and received an offer from Penguin Group, LLC before the end of her senior fall semester. From Writer’s House, she got a job at Scholastic Corp., where she worked for two years, until just a week and a half ago. She is now writing full-time.
Magaziner wrote her premiere middle grade book The Only Thing Worse than Witches, published this August, during her junior year study abroad semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, completing it in just one month. Inspired by the city’s haunted history and at-times spooky atmosphere, Magaziner’s middle-grade book tells the story of 11-year-old Rupert Campbell, who, oppressed by his evil teacher, Mrs. Frabbleknacker, eagerly applies to become a witch’s apprentice and experience real magic. “It’s very silly,” Magaziner admitted. “I wanted it to be funny, not dark.”
Describing the story as “Roald Dahl meets Eva Ibbotson,” Magaziner read a sample from the start of the novel, while passing around the room an advanced, uncorrected proof copy of the book, printed about 10 weeks before the official hardcover version, for reviewers. She also shared one of the book’s first editorial letters which she said shrunk from 10 pages to eight to five, before comprising just copyedits. “When you’re a new author,” she said, “you really can’t dig your heels in against a publisher.”
Magaziner expressed that she “would not be where [she is] without the Hamilton creative writing curriculum.” Getting feedback from classmates and professors taught her what aspects of her writing resonated well with readers and which areas she needed to focus on. She recommended that students take creative writing classes even if they don’t wish to become writers. For those who do want to write or work in publishing, she recommended sites like bookjobs.com, publishersmarketplace.com, and Hamilton’s own Career Center for summer internship opportunities. “Apply to a bunch…you never know.”
When asked if she plans to extend beyond children’s literature, Magaziner said she would like to explore different age groups and see what takes off. “I think it’s really smart to try to diversify the kinds of things you write…put more eggs in more baskets.” Her second middle grade book is due out in winter 2016.