Coffee and Conversation with Leila Sales: From Dreaming to Doing

Welcome, Friday! Weather forecasters are calling for a taste of spring this weekend. I hope you’ll get out and enjoy it, but not before you take time to learn about another amazing faculty member from our From Dreaming to Doing conference. I’m so excited to welcome Leila Sales to the Cyber Café!

leila-sales-headshot-april-2013-2Leila is Associate Publishing Manager at Viking Children’s Books, where she edits books for children and teens. Some of her recent projects include Tricky Vic by Greg Pizzoli, an unusual biography named one of The New York Times best illustrated children’s books of 2015, and The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade, by Max Brallier, a NY Times bestseller. Additionally, Leila is herself the author of YA and middle-grade novels. Follow her @LeilaSalesBooks.

Leila will be doing three presentations: “Ask an Editor” (Saturday breakout) – Come prepared with any and all questions about the book publishing process! Whatever insider info you want to know, she’ll tell you. (And what she doesn’t know, she’ll make up!). “Agents, Editors, and Art Directors” Saturday Panel. “The Logic of Storytelling” (Sunday intensive) – How do you build a story that keeps readers engaged from start to finish? How do you create a character whose goals are so compelling that readers will follow her anywhere she goes? How do you give readers a conclusion that makes the journey worth it? In this workshop, we’ll consider these questions and more by breaking down the storytelling process. We will focus on novels, with additional benefit to picture book and nonfiction writers.

Now that Leila is settled into the comfy Cyber Chair, let’s get started!

What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? And now, as an adult?

As a child: The Fragile Flag, by Jane Langton, and A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. As a teenager: Among Friends, by Caroline B. Cooney, and anything at all by Dave Barry. Now? Too hard to pick!

You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

Really fancy dark chocolate.

Is there any other truly worthy chocolate? You’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open? 

Lauren Oliver’s Replica. I love her work, and I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet.41tz0s1izcl-_sx324_bo1204203200_

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now? 

I’d be a YA author—so, basically, I am living the dream!

For one day, time travel is a reality and you can visit any famous deceased author or artist you want.  Who do you pick?

Courtesy of

Oscar Wilde. He probably wouldn’t be very impressed by me, but I could sit quietly and drink some tea and just let him talk.

What’s your favorite motivational quote?

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”—Brenda Ueland

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Sleeping. (I am usually working.)

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers or illustrators in only four words, what would it be?

There’s always another book.

Time for the lightning round! What’s your favorite…

Music to listen to while working? In the summertime, Cults and Tennis. In the wintertime, the Clientele and Camera Obscura.

Book title? This Is Where I Leave You. I’ve never read it, but I say it every time I leave anywhere.

Pair of shoes? I hate shoes.

Guilty pleasure? Maybe “Mmm-bop,” by Hanson? But to be honest, I don’t feel very guilty about that.

Line from a movie? “Well, Sinead O’Rebellion! Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.” (Empire Records.)

Thanks for dropping by, Leila!

The conference will be here before you know it.  If you missed any of the previous interviews, check out these lovely ladies!



About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
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