Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Exclusive with… Erika Turner


Erika Turner is a children’s book editor at Versify, the new imprint helmed by Kwame Alexander at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She loves unexpected concepts, surly middle grade protagonists, and queer YA fantasy. In her spare time, she looks up real estate listings for fun, obsesses over home décor, and wanders the city petting other people’s dogs.


What was your path to editing?

I had a very roundabout path overall, from assisting NYT bestselling authors to writing think pieces to editing research reports. Eventually, I reached out to the editor of one of my favorite novels, SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman. He was kind enough to talk to me about the life of a book editor, and introduce me to some of his colleagues at Random House. At the same time, I discovered this mentorship program called Representation Matters, started by two other Random House editors. Through these sources, I was able to meet, network with, and be mentored by some incredible individuals, who all gave me advice and resources to go down this path.


What are essential components in a manuscript that make you fight to acquire it? 

I like an unexpected worldview – something that bucks against the norm. A character tasked with killing a dragon only to grapple with the moral implications of murder. A vegan protagonist whose parents weren’t hippies. A reluctant hero who might have been a villain. A romantic relationship with implicit consent and firm boundaries. There are a lot of basic tropes buried in otherwise beautifully written and well-thought-out plots, so when you get a character or scenario that has that little element of surprise or difference, I relish in it.

If you’ve got a strong voice and a tight plot to boot, I’m probably sold.


When you acquire a manuscript, what is your editorial process? 

The process is pretty straightforward. The aim is three rounds of editing, starting with an editorial letter that addresses any developmental concerns having to do with plot, character, pacing, etc., with some light line-editing. By the third round, I’ll mostly be focusing on line editing. I like to be collaborative, so if the author is ever stuck on a scene and wants to jump on a call to talk through a concept or have me read a drafted scene for thoughts on direction before they finalize, I’m happy to do that.


What’s on your manuscript wish list?

I would love a cozy middle grade mystery or science fiction, or a really intricate historical YA with science fiction or fantasy elements. Or a YA romantic comedy of errors. I also am excited to read any genre that has good #ownvoices, LGBTQ+ rep.


If you have a manuscript that you think is a match for Erika’s list, You can email her during the month of June at