Monday 19 December 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Senior Commissioning Editor, Mara Bergman, Walker Books

Mara has been an editor at Walker Books since 1983 and claims to be part of the furniture but she's far too lively and creative to be that wooden. As well as being a brilliant editor, she is a widely published poet and an award winning picture book writer. Her latest 'Oliver' book is, 'Oliver and the Noisy Baby'. ' Her next book is 'Snip Snap, Look Who's Back!' and is out in February 2012. Phew!

But before she starts, Mara has several confessions to make...

I can't sing and I've always wished I could, especially as... my secret ambition is to be a back-up singer - or a stand-up comic.

I once rode 100 miles on my bicycle in one day and couldn't sit down for a week

I also taught my budgie to say, "Hello, baby"

My favourite food is aubergine

I also love chocolate, especially Hershey's Hugs

I know all the words to the songs of Mary Poppins

I once taught my turtle to climb stairs

Aren’t we editors a demanding and picky lot! But as you’ve asked, I will share with you the top three things I’m wishing for in a manuscript when it lands on my desk:
1. The script will be easy on the eye, probably set in Times New Roman, 12 point, with spaces of 1 ½ lines; it will not have the title, author’s name or agent’s address on every page and it will be paginated.
Hershey's Hug

2. The story itself will be riveting and I will not have read anything like it before. I won’t be able to turn the pages quickly enough; the characters will be so engaging that I will wish I knew them in real life.

  3. The script will be literary yet have huge commercial potential – I will wish I had written it myself!
I'm guessing Mara had a real turtle but I may be wrong

Wishing you a very happy holiday – and happy writing! 

Mara's favourite childhood read!


  1. Number two is the best thing about a good story - so much so that you feel the absence of those characters like a bereavement. As a reader, as well as a writer, I'm grateful editors and agents ARE picky. Happy Christmas :o)

  2. Practically perfect in every way! The cycling story is very intimidating though ...thanks for sharing, Mara!

  3. Another great post guys! And thanks, Mara, for sharing this - I'm with Kathy. We need more novel characters like that.

  4. Brilliant post! Very glad, despite the slushpile experiences, that editors and agents are picky - gives us writers, as readers, far greater reading pleasure!

  5. Happy Christmas, Mara and thanks for an excellent list!

  6. Important question re: Hershey's Hugs - is that a bigger version of a Hershe's Kiss?

  7. Indeed, the literary/commercial mix sounds great. And Hershey's hugs are yummy (half white and half dark chocolate).

  8. Another really positive post. As Nicky has said it is good to know that editors/agents are still being so picky. It is also really good to know that you are still looking for literary stories. It lifts the spirits.

    And yes, I have to confess I know all the words to the songs in Mary Poppins too...

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  10. Yes Yes Yes to characters you wished you knew in real life.
    Cannot agree about Hershey's chocolate; Cadbury's twirls in my opinion is the only chocolate worth the calories.
    You taught your turtle to climb stairs?!

  11. Engaging characters - they are the reason I re-read my favourite books, it's like visiting old friends.

    I once had a slightly demented budgie so I'm very impressed!



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