AWKWARD BRITISH PERSON WARNING: I plan to be achingly sincere for a bit. Please look away if such things offend.
If you aren’t in publishing, you might not instantly recognise the name Marion Lloyd – but if you’ve ever loved children’s books, she’s been in your life. Philip Pullman, Eva Ibbotson, Michael Morpurgo. American classics – Judy Blume, Paula Danziger: yep. I made a passing reference to a beloved Rumer Godden book in a meeting once: ‘oh, I published her.’ If there was a pony book or a football story of the 70s or 80s you adored, Marion probably had a hand in it. Paperback editor of the Chalet School. Remember Armada Lions? Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew? Them too.
And now: Blood Red Road, A Greyhound of a Girl, Ways to Live Forever, One Dog and his Boy. Look at any major award shortlist from the last couple of years and you’ll see Marion Lloyd Books, her imprint at Scholastic since 2005.
Only now you won’t, because she’s retiring.
It’s utterly shocking and mean of her, and frankly, I’m not having it.
Marion’s the person who’ll look you in the eye and, in a single sentence, home in on the fundamental problem with your book – in a way that doesn’t tell you how to fix it, but leaves you certain of what must be fixed.
Marion’s the one who’ll remind you, as you are sobbing over the undeniable awfulness of your manuscript, that Sharon Creech once cried at her kitchen table over Walk Two Moons, and look how that turned out.
Marion’s the one who’ll spend four and half hours with you thinking up titles until we get to The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones, because she wants it to be right just as much as you do.
I need her. We all do. There was a great (if rather gloomy) article about what editors really do in Futurebook last week, but it missed out the part I’m most familiar with: the bit with the writer in it. And it’s not only ‘editorial’, from early feedback to line edits – though I’m always grateful for that. It’s the reassurance that comes from an editor who has the absolute conviction that your book is great and you are great enough to write it. For someone to have faith in you as a writer (even if what you’ve just shown her is a bit rubbish, even if it’s horrible) is an extraordinary gift. Marion is unswervingly honest, while always being incredibly kind. She’s bloody amazing.
And much as I sort of want to punch her for daring to retire, I can’t help but be massively pleased that she’s going off to lovely fun things. If anyone deserves to, it’s her. She filled my life with wonderful books before I ever knew her name, and she made my dreams come true when she signed me up.
Also her retirement party was lovely and made me cry.
Marion’s leaving gift from Scholastic, engraved with lines from some of the books she’s edited. One of them is from Bluebell Jones (that’s when I cried) – but the jug’s inscription is from Sally Nicholls’ glorious Ways To Live Forever.
Some things are perfect from start to finish.
Have a wonderful retirement, Marion, with all my love.
Kate Wilson’s fab write-up of Marion’s Patrick Hardy Lecture is here, and well worth a read.