Some favorite responses:
Arthur A. Levine, v-p and editorial director
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
There was the time at a writers' conference that a woman waited for me outside the room where pitch sessions had been arranged for those who had signed up in advance. So I'd just finished hearing pitches for two straight hours and this person comes up to me and says, "May I ask you a question?" And I say, "Sure." So she launches into what is not a question, but an involved tale of something that is not really a book, but a game and a video and a DVD all rolled into one. I stop her and say, "Well, honestly it doesn't sound like I'm the right editor for this project, since I'm really a literary guy at heart. I publish books." And she says, "Well then, who should I send this to?" And I say, "Well, who are the children's book publishers you most admire? Who have you seen that has been producing the kind of book plus multimedia package you’re describing?" And she says, "Oh, I don't read! At least, I certainly don't read children's books!"
Simon Boughton, publisher
Roaring Brook Press
Anyone who's had Lyme disease knows that it's like a bad, protracted flu - aches, fever, fatigue; really nasty. A few years back my wife was ill with Lyme and we needed to find a babysitter in a hurry. We briefly employed a woman who went by the name of "Cha-Cha." Her babysitting technique consisted of parking the kids in front of the television; then she'd park herself at the end of my wife's bed and pitch children’s book ideas.
Another time, one of our sales reps was out running near the Golden Gate Bridge when he passed a dejected-looking man on a parapet. Thinking something might be wrong he turned around and went to talk over to talk to him. It turned out this man's wife had left him and he was in some distress, but he eventually got down off the bridge and a conversation started. When it got to the point of "so, what do you do?" and the rep explained that he worked for a children's publisher.... Well, you can guess the rest. (When the rep in question later told this story to an audience of editors, all simultaneously and without hesitation responded, "You should have pushed him!")
Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher
Bantam Delacorte Dell Books for Young Readers
My mother was close with her brother. He’d been seriously ill and finally died. Everyone from our family, of course, was at the funeral. We went from the service to the cemetery, and when it was over and people were starting to head back to their cars, I was walking with my mother when a woman she knew came up. "I'm so sorry, I knew you were very close," she said. Then she asked, "Is that your daughter, the one in publishing?” When my mother said yes, it was, she said, "I thought I'd see her here with you. That's why I have with me the manuscript I have always wanted to give to her." She took it out of her purse and handed it to me. I was totally taken aback. As she smiled at me I said, "Excuse me, I was just taking my mother to the car." She held out an envelope. I said, "I don't really think I can take it. I might lose it." "No, you won't," she said. "You can fit it into your handbag." At which point my mother said, "Just take it!" After she left I told my mother, "I usually empathize with aspiring writers, but for this one, even if it's Proust, I’m going to reject it!"
Read more here.