Peggy Porter (1992)

After graduating from AUP in 1992, I moved to London and married a man I met in Paris (to whom I am still married) and got my break in publishing through a job as an Americanization editor for Usborne Books, a British children’s book publisher. I will always remember my first day, sitting in my tiny cubicle, in total wonder that I was getting paid to read.

After living in London for about seven years, we decided to try life in the US. I went to work as an editor for the Child Welfare League of America in Washington DC, a nonprofit that published both professional and children’s books. After a year, I was promoted to Publisher and ran the entire book publishing operation.

After four interesting years in DC, we decided to move to Terre Haute, Indiana, so that my son could grow up around extended family and we could try life at a slower pace. During a farewell lunch with a bestselling author, Audrey Penn, she offered to let me publish a pirate novel she had written if I set up my own company. We had developed a personal relationship, as so many editors and authors do, and she knew I loved her book, which was important to her. How could I say no to Audrey Penn? It was a very fun book to do – we had a launch party on Ocracoke Island, NC, where Blackbeard lived and died. There are still a lot of pirate descendents living there, and they all came to the party. But there was no looting.

Tanglewood Press is seven years old now. Publishing is a complex, very competitive, and challenging industry, particularly for a small indie publisher, and made more so by the emergence of ebooks and the slow demise of bookstores. Really, I’ve just hit my stride the last two or three years. I have made many mistakes, published several not-very-good books, and I’ve published several very good books with bad covers, which pretty much doomed them. But I think I have figured out  quite a lot, and my books are getting some notice.

The influence of AUP is definitely present in my books. I use a lot of writers and artists from other countries: Germany, Spain, France, Israel, Canada, and Columbia. I like to publish books with international themes. When I’m asked which book is my favorite, it’s a difficult question to answer. But if I am pressed, I would have to say The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères, the story of a mouse café in Paris, was the most fun. Not only is the author-illustrator, Marie Letourneau, one of my favorites, but I also got to pull in another AUP alum and good friend, Danielle Reed, for help, along with her husband, Jean-Philippe, and Jean-Philippe’s twelve sisters who live in a small village in western France. Well, I suspect that they ARE the village, there being so many of them, but I’m not sure on that point. They gave me approval to include some hot pepper sauce in the book-related cheese soup recipe (which I developed myself, as Marie was in the midst of a personal crisis, another development that editors are quite used to). The book got some acclaim, and the main character and her soup were featured in an episode of the “Ace of Cakes” show on the Food Network. Fun.

I love The Kissing Hand, a bestseller, because it has touched the lives of so many children and parents. But the most fulfilling book I have edited and published was a Holocaust memoir, Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz. I just sold the rights to Random House in Germany, where it will be released in spring 2012. It also resulted in a trip with the author to Hollywood, where I met with a screenwriter and an agent, and ended up sitting on Ed Asner’s lap during a memorable three-hour lunch, but that is another blog post altogether.

I have one son, Gabriel, who is graduating from high school this year and planning on doing a bit of traveling. I have slowly gotten used to life in the Midwest, though I’m not sure how long we will be here once Gabe leaves home. Life is easy here. We’ll see.

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