Tamra Tuller was born and raised as a beach bum on the Jersey shore. It was on those beaches where she lazed about reading book after book, developing her love of literature which would eventually lead her to a career in publishing (with a few detours along the way).
After working for several years in education as an English as a Second Language instructor at Rutgers University’s Program in American Language Studies, Tamra first got her publishing feet wet in the Scholastic Book Clubs, and then moved on to Scholastic’s trade division at Blue Sky Press. She is currently an editor with Philomel Books, an imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group. She is interested primarily in modern, literary middle grade and young adult fiction as well as story-based picture books.
Tamra currently lives in Brooklyn with her gigantic cat named Spartacus.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): What prompted you to become a children’s book editor?
Tamra Tuller (TT): I actually fell into children’s book editing almost by accident. I had previously been working in education and knew I wanted to transition into publishing, but I wasn’t entirely sure what area of publishing I was interested in. So I started applying to every entry level publishing job I could find. The one I landed happened to be with the Scholastic Book Clubs. Until that point, I knew nothing about children’s publishing. But I fell in love with it immediately. From the Book Clubs I transitioned into the trade division. It was really happenstance, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
TWM: What is your favorite part of being an editor? Your least favorite part?
TT: My favorite part of being an editor is working with authors to make their manuscripts the best they can be. It’s the creative (and often logical) process of figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better. It’s the collaboration and brainstorming with such great talent to create works of fiction that will hopefully inspire young readers.
My least favorite part is probably dealing with contracts or finances.
TWM: What do you look for in a manuscript?
TT: It’s difficult to say what I look for in a manuscript, as I usually just know it when I read it. But if I had to make a short list, I would say at the top of the list would be a sense of heart. I like to feel something when I read, some emotion, whether it be humor or sadness. To me, the best manuscripts make me laugh and cry on the same page.
TWM: What do you wish writers would do more of?
TT: I wish writers would take more risks, be less afraid, and stay away from stories that have already been told over and over. I wish they would write more honestly and less self-consciously.
TWM: What are your favorite children’s books and why?
TT: Well, I know this is not terribly original, but The Book Thief for its raw emotion and utter originality. That is a book I will never forget. I almost wish I had never read it just so I could read it again and experience it as if it were the first time. Also, my entire life one of my favorites has been Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. There is something so beautiful and touching yet incredibly sad about that book. I always remember the mood created by that story and how I felt reading it as a child. Reading that book now instantly transports me back to childhood. And I was always, for some reason, incredibly drawn to that little red pebble. I wanted to just rip it from the page and hold it.
TWM: If you could be a character out of children’s literature, who would you be and why?
TT: Oh wow. This is tough. I think I might want to be Enola Holmes, from the Enola Holmes series. She’s the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, and she is smart, sassy, independent, and constantly outwits her brother at every turn.
TWM: Is there anything writers of Jewish children’s books need to do or need to do differently?
TT: I don’t believe so. Regardless of your genre, you should look to tell great stories that will inspire.
TWM: How can writers submit to you?
TT: They can submit full picture book manuscripts or the first ten pages of a novel to:
345 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014
TWM: What do you like most about Philomel?
TT: We are a really small imprint and we all work really closely together. We’re like a little family–we collaborate and support one another.