Monday, August 22, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Andrea Somberg

A literary agent for over fifteen years, Andrea Somberg represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including projects for adult, young adult and middle grade audiences. 

Previously an agent at the Donald Maass Agency and Vigliano Associates, she joined Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in the spring of 2005. Her clients' books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, as well as nominated for The Governor General's Award, the Lambda Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Andrea also teaches courses for MediaBistro and Writers Digest. You can learn more about her at and

And now Andrea Somberg faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Such a hard question! But, if forced to choose, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, Jenny Offill's The Department of Speculation and R.J. Palacio's Wonder        

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

This is almost as difficult as my favorite books! I would say Anne of Green Gables (the BBC version), Arrested Development and Bloodlines (honestly, this last one probably isn't an all-time favorite but I'm in the middle of watching and am somewhat obsessed...). 

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Someone who is passionate about their writing but also understands that this is a business. 

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I would really love to find a middle grade novel, either funny or serious, that features a character we haven't seen before and that helps us see the world in a new light. 

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

I love working with people who are as passionate about  books as I am. Editors, agents, authors--we are all connected by this common bond, and that's something that I find to be truly amazing.

My least favorite thing is the rejection that is an implicit part of every aspect of this industry. 

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Try not to let rejections get you down. Persistence is important--if one agent isn't the best fit, try someone else. It can sometimes take awhile to find the best advocate for your book but, once you do, the journey will have been worth it. 

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

David Foster Wallace.  I recently finished Infinite Jest and...what?!  But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't answer my questions anyway...  

Monday, August 15, 2016

GUEST POST: "Showing Children Our World (Good and Bad) Through Books " by Donna Galanti

As a mother, nothing comes close to my primitive urge to protect my child. So, I thought it ironic to visit a playground in North Carolina with a warning sign of alligators nearby.

This sign hit me with the realization that while we can provide our children with the resources to defend themselves and make good choices, ultimately we have to let them go out there to frolic amongst the good guys and the gators. This includes opening their eyes through media and books to not-so-nice things that go on in the world.

Especially books. They can open up our child’s eyes to events in history, just and unjust. Books have opened up many dialogues with my son about slavery, civil rights, oppressive religions, women earning the right to vote, the Holocaust, bullying, and terrorism.

When my son was six we got a wonderful book called The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (since made into a movie). In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This book paved the way for us to talk in depth about the twin towers and terrorism. My son said at the time he hoped that bad man would be caught and the towers would be rebuilt.

One out of two so far. I was able to report to my son not long after that the bad man had been caught and killed. My son wanted to know how he was found and killed, what happened to his children, his wives, and if his being caught meant this kind of thing would never happen again. I wish. But, I hope in having these discussions (as I hope parents are having everywhere) that we are changing the world for the better – one discussion at a time.

As my son got older, middle grade books opened up discussion for us. Here are some of them:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: about being a disfigured kid in a “normal” world.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: what it could be like to have a voice but not be able to communicate.

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs: the difficult decision of choosing where you belong.

Rules by Cynthia Lord: on autism and asking “what is normal?”

Holes by Louis Sachar: about friendship and believing in yourself.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen: being separated from your family and having to survive in a strange place.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen: on endangered animals and ecology.

Duck by Richard S. Ziegler: about standing up for yourself when the one person who protects you is gone.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: fearing middle school and then finding out how cool it really is.

Books. They open us up to new worlds and help us as parents relate the good and bad of the world to our children. They reveal the beauty and the darkness that co-exist in our world - and within us. They inspire feelings of sadness, joy, compassion, or outrage.

Books. They open up conversations with my son about life and death and right and wrong. I watch him as he struggles with these issues and tries to figure out his place in the world.

And while I empower my son with information and send him out there to navigate the battle field of life with as much armor as possible, I hope the good guys outnumber the gators. I hope he witnesses more glory than gore. And even if the gators in disguise try and get him, I hope it's “just a flesh wound!”

Are there books you've read with your children that have opened up discussions about the 
world around them? 

Enter this giveaway to win a Lost Realm map poster, a lightning orb light-up ball, paperback of book 1 in the series, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD, and $25 Barnes &Noble gift card:

Donna Galanti is the author of the The Element Trilogy (Imajin Books) and the Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse that has lots of nooks and crannies, but sadly no ghosts. You can find her books, resources for writers, and upcoming events at and Catch her post here on Middle Grade Ninja about 10 Steps to Writing Scary for Kids.

About Joshua and the Arrow Realm out 8/30: 

Joshua never thought he’d return to the world of Nostos so soon. But, when King Apollo needs his help in the Arrow Realm, Joshua’s will and powers are tested in order to save him. With his loyalties divided between our world and theirs, Joshua wonders whether he alone can restore magic to the twelve powerless Olympian heirs, or whether he is being tricked into making the one mistake that might cost them all.
“Fast-paced and endlessly inventive, Joshua and the Arrow Realm is a high-stakes romp through a wild world where descendants of the Greek gods walk beside you, beasts abound, and not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.” ~ Michael Northrop, New York Times bestselling author of the TombQuest series

Joshua and the Arrow Realm book trailer:

Monday, August 8, 2016

GUEST POST: "The Horrors of Writing Middle Grade Horror or Why Books Aimed at Children Can’t Be Awash in Blood" by David Neilsen

Hello. My name is David and I write Middle Grade Horror. My first successful foray into this realm, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, will be available on August 9, 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin/Random House. As you can imagine, I’m a little excited. But I’m not here to shamelessly promote my novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (available for pre-order on right now!  Get the audio book, read by me!), but rather to describe to everyone reading this post--yes, both of you--the horrors of writing Middle Grade Horror.

I didn’t always write Middle Grade Horror (which I’m just going to keep on capitalizing, so you can stop your whining right now). In the months and years before I began writing Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, I wrote adult horror. Short stories, mostly, but also screenplays. I spent many years honing my skill for describing ridiculously-disturbing things in as few words as possible. I was introduced to the insanity of H.P. Lovecraft and tripped over myself in an attempt to write something suitably ‘Lovecraftian.’ I have written stories of gore and violence and evil and corruption and once of man-eating unicorns. I have explored dark, foreboding passageways, ancient tombs, eerie graveyards in the dead of night, and the surface of a giant eyeball.

So when it came time to write Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, I felt I was more than up to the challenge. After all, I was a veteran of adult horror; Middle Grade Horror was just adult horror with the main characters a few years younger, right?


There is a scene in Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom in which a child breaks his leg. It took me many, many drafts to find a way of writing that scene without including the phrases ‘sickening shard of bone ripping through the skin’, ‘font of blood gushing like a geyser’, or ‘disfigured lump from the very depths of Hell.’

That’s when I realized this was going to be harder than I thought.

It seems that two concepts that really don’t go together well are ‘Middle Grade’ and ‘Horror’. It makes sense when you think about it. What comes to your mind when you think of horror? A vampire biting someone’s throat--and not in a good, sparkly way? A werewolf clawing someone to pieces on the moors? An abomination from beyond time and space whose mere existence is enough to doom mankind to an epoch of madness?

And what comes to your mind when you think of Middle Grade? School lockers? Algebra? Zits?

You begin to see the issues we’re facing here, don’t you?

The trick to Middle Grade Horror books is to be frightening without being scary. It’s a fine line. My son is ten, the perfect age for my books. He is currently obsessed with Five Nights At Freddy’s. But it took him a long time to actually play the game himself. First, he wanted his big sister to play it. And his mother. He wanted to witness their fear without experiencing it himself. Only after laughing at his big sister a couple of time was he able to give the game a shot. By that time he knew what he was doing, and what he was getting into. He knew where the scares were, and what they looked like. So he was able to handle Golden Chika or whoever leaping out at him when he opened the door.

That’s my audience.

Oh sure, there are plenty of middle-grade-aged readers (not to be confused with middle-aged readers or readers of the Middle Ages) who have no problem toying with the dark side of literature and pop culture. My daughter saw her first R-rated horror movie when she was 11 (it was directed by her uncle, so we’re not totally-degenerate parents--only partially-degenerate). She has been gobbling up Middle Grade Horror since she was six or seven, Young Adult Horror by nine, and Stephen King’s The Shining at 12.

She’s not the audience. No, my audience, the audience of Middle Grade Horror is between the ages of 8 and 12 and they still harbor the slightest belief that there may, in fact, be monsters living under their beds. Not that there aren’t, mind you, but the older kids are armed with much heavier and thicker books and can take out a seven-tentacled-horror at fifteen paces without even bothering to stop and Tweet about it.

So to write Middle Grade Horror, to truly write the genre, you need to give the little whippersnappers a chance to become comfortable with their terror. You need to treat them like the they are the proverbial frog in a blender and ease them into it, one step at a time. An example of this might be:

1.    A kid the Main Character barely knows walks into the house, screams, never comes out.
2.    A kid the Main Character is friends with walks into the house, screams “It’s a horrible monster!”, never comes out.
3.    The Main Character’s older brother walks into the house, screams “It’s a horrible monster and it’s eating people!”, never comes out.
4.    The Main Character walks into the house, sees a horrible monster eating people, screams.

Call it the Horror Progression Theory. Or call it the Monster Eating People theory, if you like. Whatever. The point is, if you start at Step Four and spring a person-chomping monster on your reader without warning, you get nightmares and bad reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Ease into it, and you’re a master of suspense with a multi-book deal. Right?


Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is a dark tale wrapped in a pretty, shiny, colorful paper bag about a demented and strange old man who moves into a neighborhood, builds a playground, and gleefully and miraculously heals everyone as the injuries pile up. Children get hurt (which is generally a huge no-no in Middle Grade books but something which I managed to get away with surprisingly easily). A quiet, happy neighborhood is turned upside down. Parents march menacingly down the street armed with turkey basters. True darkness is revealed. There’s even a rather large homage to all things Lovecraftian.

I may not have been able to include my precious spigot of gore spouting from a dying child’s veins, but there’s enough ‘ick’ in there to satiate the true aficionado. I even got to keep one very, very creepy and disturbing element that I was absolutely positive they’d make me remove. When I was allowed to keep it, I danced a little jig.

We hope you’re enjoying the blog tour for David Neilsen’s Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom! In case you missed yesterday’s post, head over to The Book Monsters to check it out. The tour continues tomorrow on Project Middle GradeMayhem.

David Neilsen is an actor/storyteller and author of the Middle Grade Horror novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. Learn all you could ever hope to learn about David and his work by visiting his website at He is not a ninja.

“Such deliciously creepy fun! I fell in love with Dr. Fell! So will urchins and whippersnappers everywhere.” —Chris Grabenstein, author of the New York Times bestsellers Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and The Island of Dr. Libris
When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell.
Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.

Monday, August 1, 2016

GUEST POST: "Hybrid Me" by C. Lee McKenzie

I never thought I’d self-publish a book. Why should I? I’d sold two novels to publishers, I’d found a small press to publish two more. I’d learned the ropes about querying, signing contracts, meeting deadlines and marketing the way the publisher wanted. But here I am officially a hybrid author.

Maybe I should go back and explain that I write in two fiction categories, young adult and middle grade. My four young adult books are what I’ve sold. The two, and soon to be three, middle grade stories are what I’ve published on my own.

I did query a lot before I took the Indie route, but while I had many requests for fulls of my teen books, I received almost no interest in my younger reader books. In fact, when I signed with an agent, she was very clear that she didn’t handle middle grade, but had no problem if I found another agent to take on my other category.

Not another agent quest, please!

I’ve searched the agent data bases, and so far I haven’t found one who seems open to taking only middle grade stories when an author also writes young adult and is already represented in that category. It seems that young adult sells and middle grade might, but not as well. At least, that’s what I’m hearing.

And based on my sales, I believe it’s true. I sell more YA than MG, even though my MGs are well-reviewed, including a great Kirkus write up.

I did, however, continue to seek out a second agent until recently, then I decided to stop. I’ve been writing for a few years now, and I’m at a point in my life when I want to do other things as well. I like to travel, so I try to make a major trip each year. I like to hike, practice yoga, garden and cook. And I like to spend time being a little lazy. I don’t want to spend any more of my time writing queries. It’s just that simple.

Besides, I’ve found that I rather enjoy being in charge of some of my work one-hundred percent. From concept to cover, it’s all my responsibility. While it can be exhausting, it can also be very satisfying. And as long as I can produce professional books, I feel okay about my decision to go hybrid.

A native Californian, C. Lee McKenzie, has always loved to write. But she's also been a university lecturer and administrator, and for five years, she wrote and published a newsletter for university professors. She's published articles on linguistics and intercultural communication, as well as on general magazine topics. Her fiction and nonfiction for young readers has been published in the award-winning e-zine, Stories for Children, and Crow Toes Quarterly has published her ghostly tales. Sliding on the Edge was her first young adult novel, which was followed by this second one, The Princess of Las Pulgas. When she isn't writing, Lee hikes in the mountains in Los Gatos, California.

Monday, July 25, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Emily Mitchell

Emily Mitchell lives in Massachusetts because of Anastasia Krupnik: after reading the eponymous classic dozens of times as a child, she got it in her head that going to college in Massachusetts was something she should do, so she did. 

Emily began her career at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, handling submissions, subsidiary rights, and coffee. She then spent eleven years at Charlesbridge Publishing as senior editor, contracts manager, and director of corporate strategy. 

At Wernick and Pratt, Emily represents authors and illustrators from picture books to YA, including Caron Levis, author of IDA, ALWAYS (Atheneum); Ryan O’Rourke, illustrator of MOUSELING’S WORDS (coming from Clarion); and Frank Dormer, author/illustrator of THE SWORD IN THE STOVE (Atheneum). At Charlesbridge her books included A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks (a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book); Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin (a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalist and winner of the Sydney Taylor Jewish Book Award); the Aggie and Ben series of early readers by Lori Ries, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer; and Flying the Dragon, a debut middle-grade novel by Natalie Dias Lorenzi. 

Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard, a master’s in secondary English education from Syracuse, and an MBA from Babson. She lives outside Boston.
And now Emily Mitchell faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?


Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?


BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (the Ron Moore/reimagined series)
Baseball (particularly my Red Sox and Cubbies)

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

I like working with people who are patient, flexible, and positive: all are qualities necessary for survival in this business. If we happen to share a common interest (Musical theatre! Baseball! Shakespeare!), even better – but I love learning about new things from my clients as well.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I work in all children’s genres, so I’m looking for everything from picture books to YA. I’m drawn to humor and friendship stories; less so high-fantasy or heavy action/adventure. I’m especially looking for voices and visions that are different from my own: 85% of the publishing industry looks like me (white, female, cisgender/straight, upper-middle-class), and the onus is on us to broaden our reach and amplify the voices of writers from other backgrounds who are already doing great work.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is the flexibility: the chance to work with all different kinds of people on all different kinds of projects, from the comfort of my own home office, with a team of terrific, knowledgeable colleagues backing me up.

My least favorite thing is rejection.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Figure out how to take feedback and make it useful for you. This business is FILLED with rejection. Nobody likes it, including me (see above) – but the sooner you’re able to take criticism and evaluate it professionally (i.e., use what resonates, set aside the rest, and be thoughtful about what you share online), the better off you’ll be.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Right now it would be Lin-Manuel Miranda. #hamiltrash

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GUEST POST: "The Art of the Middle School Presentation" by Laura Martin

You wrote a middle grade novel. Good for you!

You found an agent (lucky dog) and got published (yippee!)

Now you have this bright shiny book in your hands…and it needs to sell. Insert an ominous cricket soundtrack here…

Problem: your target audience isn’t old enough to drive themselves to the bookstore yet. And even if they do manage to catch a ride there, they probably don’t have any of their own money to spend on your precious book.

Everything I’ve read describes the middle grade market as a “slow burn” and that books need to get popular by “word of mouth.”  These phrases suck, to be quite honest, because other than your mother and a few select friends who love you enough to read your middle grade novel, NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT YOUR BOOK.


Enter the school visit.

I taught seventh grade language arts for six years and during that time I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly when it came to presentations. Middle school kids are a breed of their own. They can be intimidating, rowdy, and down right mean if you let them, but they can also be the best possible audience for a writer.

Luckily for you I’m here to share some of my tricks of the trade, and most importantly what NOT to do when you make your school visits to a middle school.

1. Talking to middle school kids is NOT like talking to adults. Adults will sit silently and politely even if they find you incredibly dull. Middle school kids…not so much. Some of them have the attention span of Dori from Finding Nemo. Bless them. For that reason, plan on doing something other than standing behind a podium and talking. Move around the room. Use your hands, expression, inflection, and impersonations if you can pull them off. Basically, make your high school speech teacher proud. If you can bring some visuals into your presentation-do it. I have a book about dinosaurs so I bring in a tote bag full of dinosaurs to my presentation that I can use to keep the kids focused. I do NOT, under any circumstances, pass them around. This would lead to chaos and bedlam and someone getting wacked over the head with a plastic T-Rex. I also show up with a power point with high interest pictures and key points, and a few minute long video clips on the dinosaurs featured in the book. 

2. The majority of your audience might hate reading, and they probably hate writing too. It’s a shame, but it’s true.  Your job is to make what you are talking about resonate with them anyway. If you are talking about the publishing process, make sure you apply that process to other goals or dreams the kids might have. Throw in some pop culture references. Be funny. If they like you, they are more likely to want to buy your book. 

3. They have the middle school equivalent of “Mob Mentality”. Odds are that they are in a larger group in order to hear your presentation. They have friends around that they normally wouldn’t, and this offers more protection and anonymity than they’re used to. It’s like the perfect storm for chaos. Your job is to not let that happen. There was nothing worse as a teacher than having a presenter who cowered and looked terrified every time the kids started murmuring or talking during a presentation. An effective presenter keeps them focused. Even if you need to give one or two of them the stink eye and remind them to “stay with you.”

4. They think odd things are funny. I made a reference in one of my talks to “hitting brick walls” in my path to publishing. Now I wasn’t talking about literally hitting a brick wall. But from the way the kids lost it, I might as well have. I’ll never forget as a teacher I mentioned to my students that my little brother used to “get away with murder” when we were kids, and you should have seen their jaws drop. I quickly had to explain that my brother had not, in fact, killed anyone. When you prepare your presentation, try to think through it like a middle school kid.  If you can use one of these to get a laugh, do it. But no matter what, always make yourself the butt of the joke. There is nothing more mortifying to the middle school mentality than looking dumb in front of their friends. 

5. Bring something nice for the teacher or librarian that organized your visit. They went through A LOT of hassle to get you there-notifying parents, getting approval from the powers-that-be, reminding students to order your book, reserving auditorium space, shuffling schedules, reminding the students AGAIN to order your book because middle school kids struggle to remember things etc. etc. ALL of that is a huge headache. Reward them somehow. It doesn’t have to be big- a five-dollar Starbucks or Barnes and Noble gift card is perfect. But DON’T bring homemade baked goods. Teachers, especially middle school teachers, have developed a healthy wariness of the homemade baked good. I had a student one year who repeatedly used the excuse that “his cat peed on it” to explain his missing homework. He brought me a gigantic box of beautiful homemade fudge as a Christmas treat. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it…

6. Fake it till you make it.  Are you nervous? Hide it. Are you sweaty? Wear light colors and keep your arms down. Do crowds make you jittery? Get over it. Whatever you do, act like you do this ALL THE TIME. Middle school kids can smell fear a mile away. The very first group of students I ever taught didn’t know it was my first year of teaching until the very last day of school. Pretend like you are calm, cool, and collected…and they will believe you. 

Perfect the school visit, and you won’t have to worry about that elusive middle grade marketing mess. You’ll have made an impression on readers who will be loyal to you and your books for years to come.

Laura Martin believes in chasing her dreams and she brought that philosophy to her classroom for six years as a seventh grade English teacher.  Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is Laura’s first novel—and a dream come true. When she isn’t writing stories about dinosaurs and underground civilizations, she can be found in the Indianapolis area with her dashing husband, Josh, her adorable kids, daughter London and son Lincoln, and two opinionated bulldogs.

Jurassic World meets Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in this epic new middle grade series full of heart-pounding action and breathtaking chills!

One hundred and fifty years ago, the first dinosaurs were cloned. Soon after, they replaced humans at the top of the food chain. The only way to survive was to move into underground compounds. . . 

Five years ago, Sky Mundy’s father vanished from North Compound without a trace. Now she has just stumbled on a clue that not only suggests his disappearance is just the tip of an even larger mystery, but also points directly to the surface. To find her dad—and possibly even save the world—Sky and her best friend, Shawn, must break out of their underground home and venture topside to a land reclaimed by nature and ruled by dinosaurs.

Perfect for fans of Brandon Mull, Lisa McMann, and Rick Riordan, this exhilarating debut novel follows two courageous friends who must survive in a lost world that’s as dangerous as they’ve always feared but also unlike anything they could ever have imagined.

Monday, July 11, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Jaida Temperly

Prior to joining New Leaf Literary, Jaida grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, studied classical ballet, and briefly attended medical school. She loves art history, traveling, logic puzzles, horticulture, and numerous other topics that come in handy for Trivia Night and crossword puzzles.

For all fiction (both Adult and Children's) she has an affinity for magical realism, historical fiction, and literary/upmarket fiction, as well as stories with a strong mystery, art history, and/or anthropological, undertones (The Westing Game, A Discovery of Witches, The DaVinci Code, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, etc.). She also has a particular love for all things Middle Grade, especially those that are a bit quirky, strange, and fantastical (a la The Mysterious Benedict Society, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, etc.).

You can find Jaida's Pinterest #mswl here or follow her on Twitter!
And now Jaida Temperly faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?


Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?



Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?


Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

- For Children’s, I would love to find a MG title, similar to THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY or ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY -- i.e., whimsical, smart, friendship stories!

- For Adult, I would love to find a title similar to THE DINNER – i.e., a beautiful, literary title with dark undertones and a smart plot.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

- I love how every day feels like A Grand Opportunity – an opportunity to read an amazing manuscript, to sign a new client, to make a new connection. It’s always different, and that makes it exciting!

- One of the toughest parts is when you take on amazing project that you’re super passionate about -- and it doesn’t sell or perform in the way you had hoped. It’s disappointing but I’m a firm believer of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

“Never, ever, ever give up.” (Thank you Mr. Winston Churchill)

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Agatha Christie. Her writing and plotting are GENIUS. (Although, perhaps I should be worried that she’d poison my tea…?) 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Thao Le

THAO LE is a literary agent at the Dijkstra Agency. Thao is currently looking for: Adult Sci-fi/Fantasy, Young Adult, Middle Grade, and is selectively open to Romance, and Picture Books by authors who are also illustrators. She loves beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook and stories with memorable characters who can make you feel the whole gamut of emotions. She is actively building her list and is always on the lookout for more diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status).

Some of her notable sales include: NYT Bestseller Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen (St. Martin's), author/illustrator Jessie Sima's debut picture book Not Quite Narwhal (S&S), Elle Katherine White's fantasy Heartstone (Harper Voyager), and Sandhya Menon's contemporary YA When Dimple Met Rishi (Simon Pulse).

You can follow her on twitter via @ThaoLe8.

And now Thao Le faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

This is a toughie. I have so many favorites and they could change on any given day. Also because I could possibly list ALL of Diana Wynne Jones’ books as a favorite. After long and hard consideration I’m going with: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (surprise, surprise), The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (good revenge stories are my kryptonite), and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (I cried the first time I read this book in high school because it was the first time we read about Asian people. Representation matters!).

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Another top three? You’re killing me with these. I watch way too much TV and movies. My life is basically “read, watch, eat” honestly.

For TV, the first one is easy: Sailor Moon. Bear with me for a moment while I talk about how Sailor Moon is super duper awesome:

A) Strong female heroine who is imperfect (clumsy, bad at school, not classically beautiful), but spunky and full of heart.

B) Female friendships galore, this whole show was basically about strong female friendships.

C) Great LGBTQ representation! I mean I know the older US dubbed version tried to change Neptune and Uranus into “cousins” to censor it, but they were totally lesbian and it was awesome. And there was even trans representation in the later series. The Sailor Starlights were male (a boy band!) in their human forms and transformed into females as the Sailor Starlights, complete with snazzy bikini-esque costumes. One of them was even Sailor Moon’s love interest! 

Conclusion: Sailor Moon is spectacular and amazing.

Ok, Sailor Moon ramble over… my other favorite TV shows would include the 2004 rebooted Battlestar Galactica (so say we all), and the 2009 Emma BBC miniseries (Emma is my absolute favorite Austen heroine and I totally swooned over Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley).

For movies, I’m going with childhood favorites that I’ve re-watched over and over: Mulan, Spirited Away, and The Princess Bride.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

I like working with passionate, creative, and ambitious writers who are also grounded and are willing to work hard. Publishing can be difficult sometimes, but we have to be a team. I plan to stand behind them 100%, but they also have to be flexible and have realistic expectations. I need to know that they can weather the good as well as the bad. Authors who are open to suggestions and critique, but also willing to stick to their vision. And most of all, authors who are kind and enthusiastic. That part is usually easy because I think the writing community is one of the nicest and most supportive I’ve ever been a part of.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

Right now I’d like to see some more romance, particularly fantasy romance or historical romance that is trope-y but also with a twist. I’d also like to see more middle grade, especially if there’s a strong family or grandparent theme. I lived in a multi-generational household growing up, so I would love to see that more often in children’s books.

I often use #mswl (it stands for manuscript wishlist) to tweet what I’m currently looking for and I have a post up on the mswl website that you can check out: That said, I love being surprised by fresh and unique stories that I never would’ve imagined falling in love with.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is working with my authors on revisions. I love seeing how the authors take my suggestions or comments and run with it. They impress every time. I also love the submission process because I basically get to fangirl to my editor friends about how utterly fantastic a manuscript is and why they should offer on it ASAP.

My least favorite is probably dealing with anything tax related. The IRS is never fun. It’s like going to the dentist. It’s a total myth that agents just sit around reading manuscripts all day. There are many less glamorous duties that the agent handles so the author can focus on what they do best: writing.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Learn about the publishing industry. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be taken advantage of by scammers. They are out there. Especially since anyone can just label themselves an agent and put up a website. Make sure you do your research and find reputable people to submit to. And also, make sure the people you submit to are people you can see yourself working with for the long haul. Ideally your agent will be with you for your entire career.

If you are considering self-publishing, think about why you want to do it. Again, research about what it takes to successfully self-publish. It requires a lot of work (and investment) on your end: cover design, copyediting, PR, marketing, etc… Make sure you have a game plan before tackling. And also know what you really want. Self-publishing is not a “short-cut” to traditional publishing.

Make friends. The writing community and the reading community are some of the best people I know. They will be your support system, your source of inspiration, your peers. Get to know them. Lift each other. Writing can be solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. You’ll appreciate having friends who understand the process to complain to and to celebrate with.

Keep writing. Really hone your craft. In the end, there’s a lot that writers cannot control. The thing you can control is your writing. Always aim to get better. Good books will find the right readers.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Diana Wynne Jones, hands down, no competition. Her books, first read throughout the ages of eight through twelve, carved my childhood love for reading. Everything else that I read was always held to her standard. Her books were always so smart and clever. They felt like puzzles and I would stay up all night reading to unravel them. I sobbed when I found out she died. I still remember that day. I was on the way to a relative’s house for family dinner and my younger brother showed me the news on his phone and I just broke down and sobbed in the car. I always dreamt of meeting her and was crushed by the news, so if I ever had the miraculous chance to have lunch with any writer in the world, it would absolutely be Diana Wynne Jones.