Saturday, March 5, 2011

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Joan Slattery

Since 1998, Pippin Properties, Inc. has been an integrated publishing and entertainment representation agency. Located in New York City, it is a diverse agency dedicated to maximizing the creative and commercial potential of all its properties. Pippin represents the works of these writers and artists to a wide range of publishing, animation, motion picture, television, and licensing companies. Because Pippin both develops and represents its projects, it is a unique, full-service company that prides itself on attention to detail. Small and discerning in choosing its clientele, Pippin is devoted to maintaining a standard of excellence in content unmatched in the industry.

Joan Slattery joined Pippin Properties, Inc., as a literary agent in November 2010. Prior to that, she spent nearly twenty years editing fiction and picture books for Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House). As an editor, she had the pleasure of working with Philip Pullman, Jerry Spinelli, Jane Smiley, Cynthia Voigt, Adele Griffin, Shelley Pearsall, Jen Bryant, Laura McNeal, and Tom McNeal, among many others. She also holds great admiration for librarians (and their sway over the children’s book industry) and received her own Masters in Library Science while working as an editor. Joan lives with her husband and twin five-year-olds in a suburb of New York City.

She's particularly interested in middle grade and young adult fiction, which harkens back to one of her most voracious and memorable years of reading: sixth grade.

As always, for information about Joan Slattery and other literary agents, check out my friend Casey McCormick's amazing blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Joan Slattery faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Well, normally my brain freezes at these sorts of questions (worrying about all that’s left out) but here goes: Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Essays of E.B. White, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. The author I remember most vividly from childhood is Katherine Paterson. I just cried and cried.

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

Movies (all tied up with how and when I saw them): Gosford Park, You Can Count on Me, and Rushmore

TV: Six Feet Under, The Wire, Prime Suspect, and Modern Family (oops, that’s four). I’ve also been known to watch a reality show or two. For example, why can’t I seem to resist The Bachelor?

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

Communicative, creative, a mix of ambitious and grounded. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, and also some perspective that there are no true publishing “emergencies.”

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

I’d love to see a “puzzle” novel (middle grade or YA), a story with a slowly unfolding secret. I like unreliable narrators, too, and that creeping realization that we can’t quite trust them.

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

Favorite thing: no two clients—or books—are alike, and to have a hand in the bookmaking (and then bookselling) process is really pretty exciting. I’m sure this is what keeps a lot of people in the publishing business for years and years. It’s sort of addictive to see what comes next.

Least favorite: the feeling that you just can’t read fast enough, that you’re sure to miss a gem or two in the crush of queries and submissions and recommendations. But, on the bright side, more will come.

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)

Okay, two bits:

To borrow from E.B. White: “You ask, ‘Who cares?’ Everybody cares. You say, ‘It's been written before.’ Everything has been written before.” So: don’t talk yourself out of trying. And then don’t forget to keep trying—new queries, new agents, new editors. It just takes one match.

I guess this is obvious (but I forget sometimes myself): make time to read—outside of your own work, outside of your class or critique group, outside of your genre. Remind yourself of what the world’s best writers have been up to, of the bar they’ve set.

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

Julia Child. She’d do the cooking, and the talking, naturally. (I loved her friendly, rambling voice in My Life in France, and I have some questions!)


  1. I love this series! Thanks for continuing to do it--it makes agents, in particular, seem more "real" (hope you know what I mean!).

    I gotta say, if I ever get to do your seven questions as a pubbed author, I'm going to choose an author/chef too. And lunch will be in a vineyard in France. (Dreams...)

  2. Great interview. I loved When You Reach Me and Six Feet Under too. And I really enjoyed Joan Slattery's live chat on WriteOnCon a few months ago. She sounds like an awesome agent.

  3. This is an awesome interview! I like that you set it up with 7 questions--makes for an easy read ;) And Joan Slattery is beyond awesome-tastic! She was great at the WriteOnCon chat a while back. One of the things I love about her is that she is open to all subgenres of YA and MG. BTW--Six Feet Under is one of the best shows ever created ;) Thanks for sharing this interview with us.

  4. Great interview! I'm so glad Casey sent me over...

  5. What a terrific interview! I found your blog through Literary Rambles, and I'll be back!


Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.