Between 2013 and 2017 (all the way up to issue 50), Síne Quinn and Juliette Saumande edited Inis. This is the last in our series of memories from Inis editors. You can read about the early years of Inis, the middle years, and Inis as Gaeilge.
Here’s to another retrospective when Inis turns 100!
ISSUES 42–44 (2014–2015) SÍNE QUINN
They say life begins at 40 – for Inis magazine, a new life began at 42! I was fortunate to be the reviews editor when Inis had emerged from a brand-spanking-new makeover – an exciting time! Fintan Wall worked his magic and the magazine was transformed with a new look, a more accessible layout and a cover you could frame and mount on your wall. I was also fortunate to work alongside Siobhán McNamara, who was the new Irish-language editor. Entering the office to see all the new books was thrilling and overwhelming. During that time, we were delighted to see positive changes in the industry despite economic restrictions – most notably, an increase in picturebooks by Irish publishers, including Irish-language publishers. This golden age of illustration is still on the rise and the work that is emerging from both new and established illustrators is an absolute visual delight. As well as the joy of seeing the latest picturebooks coming into the office, it was fascinating to see the increase in talented new Irish writers across a range of age groups and genres. Selecting books to feature in the review pages was always a challenge, especially the worry of not including an exceptional title or a book that had real merit. Being cognisant of the hope of both increasing the readership and encouraging the joy of reading in general, I was happy to hear feedback from readers, in particular from those in schools with low readership numbers, where either English was not their first language or there wasn’t a history of reading at home. I was aware that Inis might be one of the only sources for young readers to discover new books.
Interestingly, I received the same advice from a number of sources: one way to encourage reluctant readers was if they were able to recognise one title featured in the review pages – a book they might have read or one they knew and could identify, either a popular book that would draw them in or even something attached to a current movie. Once they saw one book they recognised, they’d read that review and from there move to the other books featured in the review section. This advice seemed to work and other books featured on the review pages were soon requested and added to their school library. Sometimes all it takes is one book to make a reader! Another aspect of working as a reviews editor that was rewarding was finding new reviewers, especially children’s book enthusiasts excited to see their words in print. The range of contributors with different backgrounds and experience is a real boon to the magazine. Thanks to my predecessor and successor, Juliette Saumande, for guiding me through the role of reviews editor. Patience, good humour and immense enthusiasm don’t always go hand in hand, but Juliette has these attributes and more!
Síne Quinn is an editor and writing coordinator for the Bookmarks Programme at TCD with a masters in Children’s Literature.
ISSUES 39–41/ISSUES 45–50 (2013–2014/2015–2017) JULIETTE SAUMANDE
I was long ago diagnosed with an official children’s books obsession. It is a serious condition that many of you will be familiar with. Being appointed reviews editor of Inis magazine (twice) has not helped.
Because, you see, being reviews editor for such a publication means that you don’t even need to invent excuses to read, seek out and horde children’s books: it’s part of the job. You don’t need reasons to have long, rambling conversations about the trends in children’s publishing with editors, the history of the field with academics, the latest title by [insert name of kidlit idol] with a reviewer, the latest title by [insert name of kidlit bane]. You don’t even need reasons to go to Bologna in Italy for the International Children’s Book Fair to do more of the same in a variety of languages. It’s all part of the job!
The job, reduced to figures, is also this: Inis publishes around 120 reviews in print per year (not counting the 250 reviews in the Reading Guide) and around 250 online. That is more than one a day, every day, for a year. There are about a hundred reviewers who are regular contributors, from illustrators to writers, editors to librarians, teachers to booksellers and general booklovers based all around the island of Ireland, in Britain and further afield.
The last four years have been a brilliant learning experience. There’s nothing like a constant barrage of new books to help sharpen one’s knowledge, selection process and bookish tastes. But, of course, it’s not so much about my own preferences (although they inevitably play a part), but about those of young readers and, not least, those of reviewers. The matchmaking – matching a title and a contributor – is one of the most fun aspects of being reviews editor, as is the deep satisfaction when a reviewer shares my own view on a book or begins an email with ‘Thank you so much for sending this …’ Of course, the matchmaking can also fail miserably and it’s always fascinating to discover what went ‘wrong’. (And start a new rambling conversation.)
It’s been interesting, too, to have such a comprehensive view of the Irish and UK offerings in the field over the years and discern new trends. For instance, we have witnessed the ‘reinvention’ of non-fiction with very high production values and exciting titles, topics and approaches making for very welcome additions to the Inis submission pile. We have also received (and gladly reviewed) more books in translation thanks to the tireless efforts of several dedicated publishers. Books for beginner readers and chapter books have also been rejuvenated with great success, and it’s always a joy to send a title for review that may very well set many young children on their journey to the land of reading.
And among all of this, Irish writers and illustrators have really shone through, spearheading or embracing the trends with great gusto, be it with hard-hitting YA novels, refreshing local non-fiction or stories for the younger end of the spectrum.
So, to you all, readers, creators, publishers, reviewers, book promoters and fellow editors: a big well done and an even bigger thank you!
Juliette Saumande is a French writer of children’s books based in Ireland. She is the Patron of Reading of Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál Dublin 8 and the current reviews editor of Inis magazine.