Over brunch in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Skurnick asked Holmes if she could write a column on "the books we all read."
"We'd all reached this age where we all went around quoting Lois Duncan," says Skurnick. "Half the facts I knew were from [Judy Blume's] 'Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.' "
Skurnick originally thought her column, "Fine Lines," would be primarily humorous, but soon realized that books such as Katherine Patterson's "Jacob I Have Loved" or Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins" could be analyzed like any other work of literary fiction.
"You could write real essays about [the books]," she says. "They all had logic and themes. They are really complete books."
Women in their 30s and 40s were eager to discuss the books they had read decades before. Hundreds would comment on Skurnick's columns, posting covers of old books and sharing tips on how to find copies on eBay.
In 2009, two years after "Fine Lines" launched, HarperCollins published Skurnick's first nonfiction book, "Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading," which features contributions from Baltimore novelist Laura Lippmann, "Princess Diaries" author Meg Cabot and others.
Not long after, the husband-and-wife team behind Ig Publishing, a small press that has brought out many reprints, learned about Skurnick's work and approached her about creating an imprint to bring back young-adult novels that had gone out of print.
"A lot of these books are classics," says Robert Lasner, Ig's editor in chief. "They deserve to be part of a canon of their own."
Skurnick was eager to reissue the books and knew just where to begin.
"I had this extraordinary library of books in my head already classified by themes and classes and schools," she says. "I started calling up authors from the phone book. They are about the same age as my parents, so I figured they'd be in the phone book."
The authors were familiar with Skurnick from her column and book, and they were eager to see their novels back in print.
Skurnick soon signed on 61 titles, including several books by the same authors, such Sidney Taylor and Ellen Conford. She also arranged to publish some books for the first time, such as a collection of stories that Duncan had written during her teen and young-adult years.
Some of the authors had died, and Skurnick negotiated with their descendants or estates to get publishing rights.
Author Lila Perl died suddenly last month at the age of 92, soon after Skurnick reissued her classic novel, "Me and Fat Glenda." Perl also granted Skurnick the right to publish a novel she completed shortly before her death.
Skurnick plans to publish a book a month over the next five years, and hopes to continue to print more. She has "300 or 400 books on my radiator stacked to read" to consider reprinting in the future, she says.
Fans of the books can purchase them individually or get the entire series through a subscription service. The books are available in some bookstores, although Lasner says the reactions of booksellers have been mixed.
"Some didn't understand the books and some would be like, 'This is the greatest idea ever,' " Lasner says
The covers, which are designed by Eric Gordon, should add to their shelf appeal. Gordon uses retro fonts and vintage photographs, including some from the authors' personal collections and the Skurnick family. The cover of "Debutante Hill" shows a teenage Duncan pouting in a blue convertible. Berthe Amoss' "Secret Lives" depicts the author as a young girl on the deck of a ship bound for Honduras.
Skurnick hopes the reissued books will reintroduce women to the stories on which they structured their lives' narratives while introducing the stories to a new generation.
The books "were actually the bedrock for us learning a lot of things about politics and class and family in a powerful and complex way," she says.
Starting the imprint also inspired a transformation for Skurnick herself. She decided to become a single mother at the age of 40. She gave birth to her son about two months ago.
"I had been thinking about having a baby, but it was partly the joy of doing Lizzie Skurnick Books that encouraged me to want to have a baby," she said.
Since she did much of the work on the imprint while pregnant, she feels like her son is the co-creator of the series.
"I really feel like I do associate it with us, with me and my son," she said. "I feel like Javier and I did this together."