Editors Unplugged: Get to Know Our Panellists for Making the Grade with Middle Grade

Interviews conducted by Jessica de Bruyn.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand.

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Kaela Cadieux, Claire Caldwell, and Mary Ann Blair. Meet them via Zoom at this month’s program meeting on May 26.

What children’s book had the greatest impact on you as a child? Do you ever reread it? 

Kaela: As a preteen I reread Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson multiple times. There was something about the confidence the author seemed to have in the reader—the subject matter was difficult, but the writing came from a place of trust, not condescension. I try to carry that feeling forward by making sure that Annick’s books meet readers where they are. I haven’t returned to Speak in a long time, but I imagine that if I did, my reading experience might change in response to the ways conversations around trauma and “issue-driven” books have evolved in the intervening years.

Claire: I have returned to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series several times since I first read it in middle school. The richly imagined worlds are irresistible, but these books hold up, for me, because of their emotional core.

Mary Ann: When I was a kid, I particularly loved Shark Lady about Eugenie Clark. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was younger simply because of her adventures. I don’t know what happened to my childhood copy, but a friend gave me another copy for my 30th birthday. Another favourite was Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I’ve since read most of the stories to my son (as well as Shark Lady).

What is your favourite thing about working in KidLit?

Kaela: I’m moved every time a reader says they liked a book or, especially, that they saw themselves on the page. There’s a beautiful unity in KidLit—I think we’re all here to help create more of those moments.

Claire: Books were so important and special to me when I was a kid. No matter what book I’m working on, I always hope it will reach that one kid who needs it most. I also like the variety of projects I get to work on. Whether I’m developing a middle-grade non-fiction proposal, line editing a YA novel, or doing a substantive edit on a picture book, the genre challenges me (in a good way) every day.

Mary Ann: I love how the authors take the big ideas of the world and break them down for younger readers. And the stories always make me wonder, “How would I have handled that when I was a kid?”

What editing feat or special skill are you proud of but does not appear on your résumé? 

Kaela: I’m worried that if I type this out, I’ll jinx it, but I try to bring my A game when it comes to rooting out straight versus curly punctuation marks.

Claire: I’m (almost) always willing to throw on a costume or participate in other assorted silliness if it will help promote a book.

Mary Ann: When I first finished university and was looking for a full-time job (after finishing a cooperative degree where I’d had six work terms, the last one in publishing), I phoned up several publishers and said, “I’m going to be in town next week. I’d like to meet with you and talk about why you should hire me.” I got a few meetings out of it and an eventual job offer.

What’s still on your bucket list?

Kaela: As a managing editor, I spend most of my attention on scheduling, logistics, and the flurry of tasks required to get from finished draft to finished book. I love the organizational components of my job, but I’m also trying to spend more time on developing ideas in the hopes of acquiring some projects of my own.

Claire: I’d love to write my own middle-grade novel!

Mary Ann: It’s nothing to do with books at all. I would love to go in a shark cage and see the animals up close (refer back to Question 1!). I’ve just never been able to convince anyone to go with me.

More about our speakers:

Portrait photo of Kaela CadieuxKaela Cadieux is the managing editor at Annick Press, where she oversees titles from acquisition to publication and schedules the press’s full publishing program. Kaela has held editorial positions also at Penguin Random House Canada and at House of Anansi Press.

Portrait photo of Claire CaldwellClaire Caldwell is a children’s book editor at Annick Press, where she focuses on acquisition and development. Before joining Annick in 2017, Claire spent five years editing romance and action-adventure novels at Harlequin. Also, she is the author of two poetry collections, Gold Rush (Invisible Publishing, 2020) and Invasive Species (Wolsak and Wynn, 2014).

Portrait photo of Mary Ann BlairMary Ann Blair has been an editor since graduating from the University of Waterloo with an English degree. While she was working as a managing editor at Penguin Random House Canada, YA titles were high on her list of favourite books. Mary Ann edited her first middle-grade novel, Boy from Berlin, while at Iguana Books and hasn’t looked back. It doesn’t hurt that she has her own personal middle-grade reader at home for inspiration. She currently works for multiple Canadian and international publishers, as well as with any self-published authors who come her way.


Jessica de Bruyn is a freelance substantive editor, currently specializing in working with new authors. She is an eternal student, having studied theatre, music, and writing for film and television, and is currently completing certificates in publishing and creative writing. Jessica is also the co-host of the podcast Pub Hub, which is a behind-the-scenes look into the world of publishing.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

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