Shana Corey on The Secret Subway, Pigs' Bladders, and of Course, Cadbury Creme Eggs

Continuing on with my interviews with women I admire, I bring you Shana Corey. I first heard her name when, in her role as Random House editor, she acquired my good friend Kim Marcus’s incredible debut novel, Exposed. And then I had the good fortune to present with her (and Marc Tyler Nobleman and Meghan McCarthy) at a New Jersey school librarians’ conference. Mostly, though, I admire her beautiful children on facebook. Believe me, days can be lost admiring them.

You may have been hearing her name lately because her book, The Secret Subway, is fantastic and getting all kinds of attention. Monica Edinger did a great Huffington Post piece on The Secret Subway. For lots of info about that amazing project you should really go read that. In the immortal words of substitute teachers trying to silence a noisy class, I’ll wait….

Welcome back. Please note that I have been unable to figure out how to size images on this blog and are a reflection upon my doofusness.

Now settle in and get to know Shana:

Tell us about your book launch and presenting at the Transit Museum this month!
Hi! This has been a fun month! The illustrator of The Secret Subway, Chris Sickles and I had been in touch while we were making The Secret Subway, but this was the first time we met in person. He creates each spread as a three-dimensional scene, sculpting the characters and building the sets--and then he lights them and photographs them. I was completely blown away to hear about his process and to see some of the behind-the-scenes pictures and puppets up close. I feel very, very lucky to have worked with him on this book and think he's pretty amazing. 

We had a launch party at my local indie, Bookcourt (there was cake which I strongly believe is the backbone of any event-book or otherwise) and then we had the fun of presenting at the NY Transit Museum--which is where I first got the idea for this book when I used to visit with my subway-obsessed children. Since then, I've been spending a lot of time visiting schools and talking with kids about the history of New York City and in particular of the subway. For some reason, these presentations usually involve a lot of discussion of the history of garbage. Also horse poop. You should come to one.

You’ve written a lot of great nonfiction books and so many of them are about strong women. Did you set out with that intent or did it evolve in some other way?
Thank you. It evolved naturally out of my interests. I tell kids (because it's true) that growing up I loved reading about Olden Day girls. Little House, All of a Kind Family, Betsy-Tacy. That evolved into me taking women's history courses in college and realizing that there's real history contained in those books--not a complete history by any means, but they are a look at the domestic and cultural history of specific demographics of women and girls in American history (also I learned that pigs' bladders make excellent balloons, and the price of broken soda crackers and what the inside of a milk truck looked like and other fascinating things). Anyway, as a young editorial assistant in New York (many moons ago), one of the most thrilling parts of my job was occasionally coming up with ideas that I'd pitch to authors for topics I thought would be good in some of our lines. However, some of the topics weren't right for what I was working on, and some of them were too close to my heart to ask someone else to write. And one of those, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! became my first book.

Who are some of your favorite female fictional characters/why?
You ask hard questions! I'm not sure I can narrow this down. Betsy Ray (though she's not really fictional because she's so Maud Hart Lovelace) because she's a reader and a writer and a storyteller and a dreamer and just fun to be with. As a kid, I also loved Sara Crew for the same reasons, though am not sure she has quite the same hold on me now that Betsy Ray still does (I almost named my daughter Betsy). I love Ramona and Junie B. Jones because they make me laugh. I love Hermione because she's smart. I love LaVaughn in True Believer (one of my all time favorite books) because she's so heart-on-her-sleeve full of hope she breaks my heart. I love all three of the sisters in One Crazy Summer and its sequels because there is so much truth and honesty in every word the say they alternately make me laugh and break my heart on almost every page.

What’s next?
Well, I have the great pleasure of working with many wonderful authors as an editor, so that's the main thing I'm doing right now (Can I brag on them? So many stories I love-check out Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics! And Hilo! And The League of Beastly Dreadfuls! And The Enchanted Files! And look for Welcome to Wonderland, coming out this fall which I'm so excited about!). But I do have three books of my own out this spring-The Secret Subway, which just came out and is the little-know true story of changemaker Alfred Ely Beach and the first subway build in NYC--a pneumatic subway that was built in secret!  And then an early reader on Malala and one coming out in May on Hillary Clinton. I am in awe of people who make a difference in the world and think all three of the people in these books have made huge differences in our world in different ways. I am very excited about them!

And how do you find time to do any writing at all when really all you should be doing is staring at your three beautiful children?
Sometimes I send my husband out with the children so I can stay home in my pajamas eating Cadbury Crème eggs and working. Not that I'm doing anything like that right now of course. 

Thank you so much, Shana. I can't wait to see what you do next.