Namrata Tripathi is VP & Publisher of Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers dedicated to centering stories from the margins. Kokila publishes picture books, middle grade, YA, and graphic novels. The Kokila list will debut in summer 2019. Previously, Namrata held editorial positions at HarperCollins, Disney-Hyperion, and Simon and Schuster. She is the editor the picture books Islandborn by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa and The Book of Mistakesby Corinna Luyken; the middle grade novels The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, and Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley; and the YA novels Where Things Come Back, Noggin, and Highly Illogical Behavior, by John Corey Whaley.
How did your new imprint, Kokila, come to be?
It came from a place of both optimism and frustration at the conversations that are happening in our industry, how much more we could be doing, and understanding that I could do more to open the doors wider on the stories we share with kids.
As with all founding publishers, I thought about the best work I could do and then I created a space for it. The idea is that at Kokila diversity is reflected not just on the list, but in the creators, and also in the staff –the editors and art director–who touch each project.
I hope Kokila provides authors and illustrators who are excited to be uniquely supported and challenged a place to do the best work of their careers. I hope it will allow me to do the same.
I shared this vision with the president of Penguin Young Readers early last fall and she fully supported it, and so Kokila was born.
What does your launch list consist of? Can you tell us about the books?
We have an exciting range of titles from picture books to middle grade fiction to graphic novels to YA on the Kokila list, from established creators and brand-new voices. A bit of each is reflected on our launch list. I will be unveiling our inaugural list in June at the Penguin Summer 2019 list launch. By the time I see everyone at conference in August I’ll be happy to share much more detail with you!
When you receive a submission, what elements do you look for that make you say YES, I have to make an offer for this manuscript?
If a manuscript has a unique voice, I’ll follow it almost anywhere. And when a writer is able to convey an assuredness and passion in their writing such that I feel like “this is where I want to live” then I know it’s a project for me. It’s that feeling you get when you talk to someone so committed to their discipline that you think, perhaps I’m supposed to make this my life’s work too? I want to feel that lost in a story.
Also, when a writer takes a narrative we think we know and is able to completely shift the point of view in how we approach it and when a writer is clearly sharing truth on the page, that’s when I know I must make an offer.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I always love stories about micro-cultures (for example the Japanese diaspora in Latin America), or sub-cultures (hip hop in Mongolia) where groups that have traditionally been on the margins are centered. I’ve been asking for a strong MG or YA novel featuring a Sikh-American boy for years—especially if it is also funny. Stories that celebrate the joy of communities that have simply been excluded from the dominant narrative. Stories that make me see the world in a new way. Stories rendered deeply intimate in their specificity.