Dena has been with Behrman House for more than five years, during which time she has edited a wide variety of projects for Jewish schools and families, ranging from a family cookbook, Get Cooking!, to the Building Jewish Identity curriculum for 3rd-5th graders, to Frogs in the Bed, a Passover seder activity book coming in January 2014, and much more. She wrote a set of early childhood magazines called Jewish and Me: Holidays and a family haggadah called Simply Seder. Before Behrman House, Dena worked in children’s trade and mass market publishing for more than 15 years, including at Puffin Books, where she managed a beginning reader book program; Golden Books and Scholastic, where she learned the fast-paced world of media-related publishing; and Parachute Publishing, a small packager. She spends a lot of time reading children’s books for “professional development,” but she loves them too much to call it work.
Follow Dena @dneusner.
The Whole Megillah Interview
The Whole Megillah (TWM): We hear Behrman House is expanding its trade publishing. Can you tell us more about that?
Dena Neusner (DN): With pleasure. Our mission is to help children build their Jewish identity and celebrate their Jewish lives. Trade books that inspire, educate, and entertain children with Jewish themes are an important part of that mission. We’ve been publishing good stories for years, from the folksy Wise Men of Helm, to the storybook collections Capturing the Moon and It’s Too Crowded in Here, to our recent picture books This is the Challah and Too Many Latkes, which are also available in the App Store as animated ebooks.
We plan to continue publishing high quality children’s trade books to engage Jewish families and to support the new Common Core educational standards which encourage greater classroom use of trade books.
TWM: Will that change anything in terms of Behrman House’s traditional lines of publishing?
DN: We are firmly committed to our traditional educational publishing. Our primary focus continues to be our textbooks, our teacher resources, and the digital materials that enhance, expand, and take our educational publishing in exciting new directions. We will continue to develop books and software for the school community even as we increase our trade presence.
TWM: What can we look forward to?
DN: We plan to acquire more trade children’s books going forward, and I welcome submissions by writers, illustrators, and agents. I am currently acquiring some very exciting titles to be published in 2015.
TWM: Does this change anything for you as an editor? Are there new challenges you’ll be facing?
DN: Yes, sometimes I’d like to clone myself! Finding the time to work on all my projects is definitely a challenge. But I’m extremely excited by the idea of acquiring and editing more children’s trade books. As an editor, I grew up in children’s trade book publishing before I joined Behrman House, and I’ll always love children’s books, even as my own children begin to outgrow them.
TWM: Are you looking for freelancers?
DN: Yes, we’re always interested in getting to know talented freelancers, including writers, illustrators, and designers.
TWM: Do you have any submission needs? Please describe. How can a writer submit to you?
DN: I’m interested in fiction and nonfiction picture books, as well as young graphic novels, chapter books, and activity or craft books. I’m looking for compelling stories with memorable characters, as well as nonfiction books that speak directly to kids with a strong concept or hook. Books must have Jewish content and themes baked in, and should have a message or learning opportunity that will inspire or educate children even as they entertain. Please visit our website for our submission guidelines.