Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post: Why Literary Agent Joanna Volpe Loves Middle Grade

THIS WEEK IN NINJA-ING: Tuesday's Book of the Week is Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb, Wednesday we're discussing Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Thursday author Ally Malinenko will face the 7 Questions. Saturday, as ever, we'll be joined by a surprise literary agent

Today, we are incredibly fortunate to have our first guest post ever from our old friend Joanna Volpe:

Why Joanna Volpe Loves MG

I am re-opening to new submissions again soon, after an 18-month hiatus.  During that time I did sign a few new things that I found via conferences, referrals and contests. (Yes, I did sign something because of a critique win! And sold it, too.) I'm both excited and nervous to re-open.  It feels like I've been out of the game for so long.  Will query reading and reviewing be like riding a bike?  Will I get 10000000 queries?  Or will no one query me at all?  Well, pretty soon I'll have the answers to those questions and more, I'm sure. 

So I reached out to an old acquaintance of mine, the Middle Grade Ninja himself.  What I'm looking for has changed a bit since 2011, and I knew that Robert was the person to help me to get the word out.  He graciously agreed to let me write this post for his blog (thank you, Robert!).  You see, I'm not re-opening to much in the juvenile market.  I'm hoping to build my adult list up a bit more.  But in terms of what I am looking for most in Children's books, it is more middle grade. 

To me, the most important genre/market for the book business is middle grade. Because it is the last chance where, as adults, we can really influence young minds en masse and turn them into life-long readers. This doesn't mean that we always succeed, but it's an opportunity. (This also doesn't mean that it's the ONLY time one can become a reader.  I'm speaking in generalizations here.) During this time, kids are at a point when they're deciding what they do and don't like, but they're still accepting the suggestions of their elders.  After the MG years, teens pick and choose what to buy on their own (for the most part), and WOAH do they NOT listen to the suggestions of their elders.  So because MG is the last stop of Big Opportunity, I feel it's the most important market. But I also love monsters and boogers and kickball and adventure and first crushes.  So I'm probably just biased and a middle-grader forever at heart.

Because I love middle grade so much, when I re-open to submissions on April 1, I am specifically looking for a lot of it.  I already have some wonderful things on my list (see full list below), but there is room for more.  And like I said, it's an important genre/market to me.

When I think about middle grade that keeps me up late into the night reading, it's usually something with high stakes, either emotionally or plot-wise (or both).  I'm not afraid to get scary or real with young readers.  I know that kids can handle it, and not only that--they're often intrigued by it!  So horror, yes please.  Dark stories? Send them my way!  Awkward and quirky, check and check. Real and difficult and honest and raw--I want to see it.  The friendship storyline in When You Reach Me made me ache with familiar pain.  And Wonder is both heart-warming and heart-aching at the same time.  Coraline scares the bejeebies out of me (button eyes!). And Zombie Tag is a fun-but-honest look at how grief affects kids.  

I also love humor, too. So do kids. They can laugh loudly, without feeling self-conscious.  I try to remind myself that's OK to still do that as an adult. I absolutely adore the Wimpy Kid series and Origami Yoda.  The Great Hamster Massacre cracked me up, and I'm reading Better Nate Than Ever right now and loving it. And I can't wait to get my hands on an ARC of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish!

And finally... adventure!  Well, for that the sky is the limit--fantasy, historical, sci-fi, action thriller. This might be my favorite MG genre of all because it makes me feel like I can do anything.  

So please. Send me all the middle grade you've got! I am dying to read some good MG. Boogers and monsters and all. 

Joanna Volpe is the president of New Leaf Literary and Media, Inc. She is a sucker for sushi, chihuahuas, pizza, good whiskey, Zelda, movie popcorn, and anything green. But not all at once. And she appreciates a good prank. She represents a variety of middle grade literature already, including the Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers), the Bot Wars series by J.V. Kade (Dial Books for Young Readers), The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless by Allan Woodrow (HarperCollins), Sway by Amber McRee Turner (Disney*Hyperion), Chained by Lynne Kelly (Margaret Ferguson Books), The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas (Farrar Strauss and Giroux Young Readers), the works of Kirk Scroggs (Little Brown Books for Young Readers) and upcoming: The Lost Planet series by Rachel Searles (Feiwel and Friends), The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School series by Fowler DeWitt (Atheneum), The Pet War by Allan Woodrow (Scholastic), Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner (Disney*Hyperion) and The Last Summer of the Swift Boys by Kody Keplinger (Scholastic). 

WARNING: New Leaf Literary has engaged in some poor practices that have negatively impacted a number of authors. I and other authors I know have had very negative experiences with this agency. Query at your own risk.


  1. How exciting. Do you have an interest in middle grade mysteries? If so I will submit on April 1st :-)

  2. Thanks for all the info! It's wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for MG!

  3. So excited Joanna is opening to queries and is looking for middle grade. That's what I'll be querying soon and I was hoping she'd open to submissions. I'll be sure we update her agent spotlight at Literary Rambles too with the middle grade stories she's looking for.

  4. Yeah Ever Afters series, I love that book and now there is going to be more too. Also love your thoughts on middle grade readers, I agree that if they are captured with reading know hey tend to hang onto it later. I know it's why I love reading middle grade now.

  5. This is fantastic news, Robert! Thanks so much.

  6. This is wonderful news, Robert. I am thrilled to see so much excitement for Middle Grade fiction. I will definitely put Joanna on top of my lists for agents to query for my MG book.


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