Monday, June 13, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Caryn Wiseman

Caryn has been an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 2003, and she has sold over 325 books. She handles children's books only: young adult and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, chapter books, and picture books (fiction and non-fiction). She represents NYT bestselling authors, award-winning authors, debut authors, and authors at every stage in between. No matter the genre, Caryn is looking for books with emotional depth and a strong voice; excellent writing in a tightly-plotted story; and characters that stick with her long after she has closed the book. In YA, she gravitates toward books that make her think and toward books that make her cry; in middle-grade and chapter books, laughter tends to be the common thread; in picture books, it's lyrical story-telling and heart. She loves books that are intellectually challenging and that take risks, but in a very logical way. 

Caryn is drawn to contemporary YA and middle-grade with a strong voice, multi-faceted characters, complex relationships, beautiful writing and a well-developed hook. Great world-building is essential, whether it's a real time and place that becomes almost a character in a book, or a light fantasy element in a unique story that's grounded in reality. Zombies, horror, and high fantasy will, most likely, never appeal. She would love to see a YA thriller with the pacing and twists of The Americans, and a YA Pitch Perfect, Downton Abbey, or Big Bang Theory

Caryn is particularly interested in books for children and teens that explore themes of diversity and social justice. She would be thrilled to see more books that deeply explore another culture, as well as books in which the ethnicity of the character is not the issue. She adores a swoon-worthy romance with an intelligent heroine who isn't simply swept off her feet by a hunky hero. A sweet, funny or poignant middle-grade novel, with a hook that makes it stand out from the crowd, would hold great appeal, and she's partial to lyrical, non-institutional picture book biographies and character-driven, not too sweet picture book fiction. The common denominator in Caryn's list, no matter the category, is "smart with heart." She is always open to terrific children's work that doesn't fit these categories as long as it makes her laugh, makes her cry, and keeps her awake at night, either reading the manuscript or thinking about it. She does not represent adult projects. Please do not query her regarding adult work. 

Caryn represents Tom Angleberger, author of the NY Times, USA Today, PW and national indie bestselling ORIGAMI YODA series (Amulet/Abrams), Cece Bell, author-illustrator of the Newbery Honor Award, Eisner Award and NYT bestselling graphic novel memoir EL DEAFO, Nate Evans, co-author of the NYT bestseller THE JELLYBEANS AND THE BIG DANCE and its sequels (Abrams), and Tamara Ireland Stone, author of the NYT bestseller EVERY LAST WORD. 

And now Caryn Wiseman faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster, FEED by MT Anderson, and THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (in addition to my own clients' books, of course).  Those are my favorite kids'/YA books, anyway.  

I would have to include TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and Leon Uris' EXODUS, as those are books that I go back to and re-read, time and time again, ever since childhood.  More recent adult titles that I love include Colum McCann's LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, M.L. Stedman's  THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS and Ann Patchett's STATE OF WONDER

Okay, that was a lot more than three.

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

I adore THE AMERICANSSMASH was one of my favorites but, sadly, it's gone (I love musical theater!), so now I love NASHVILLE.  My kids and I watched all of the WEST WING re-runs, and I was amazed (once again) at the quality of the writing, the snappy dialgoue, and the relevance of this show years later.   I also love MODERN FAMILY and THE BIG BANG THEORY for making me laugh out loud. More than three again.  Oops! 

Movies are tougher to choose favorites - there are too many.  Many of my favorites are probably from the 1940's!

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

My ideal client is an incredibly talented writer who always strives to be even better; who isn't afraid to get his or her hands dirty and revise in a big way.  Someone who cares deeply about craft, but also understands the business of marketing his or her books.

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

A YA thriller with the intrigue and heart-stopping twists and turns of THE AMERICANS.  A middle-grade with heart that makes me laugh hysterically and sob uncontrollably.  Jewish/Muslim or Israeli/Palestinian themes with hope.  Diverse themes in any genre/category.  YA SF/F with the grand scale of an opera or family saga that doesn't feel like SF/F.

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

Favorite things:  

Falling in love with a new character or voice for the first time
Telling a debut author that I have an offer(s) for their manuscript
Walking into a bookstore and seeing a book that I helped get there (still!)

Least favorite thing:

When amazing books aren't discovered, despite heroic efforts of both the publisher and the author.  

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)

Read all the books you can in the genre and category in which you aspire to write.   

Support your fellow authors.

Develop patience and a thick skin.

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

Louisa May Alcott, because she was kind of a bad@$$.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for another great agent interview. Keep them coming.

    I didn't know Ms. Wisemen was interested in SF/F. And learning that's it, with a grand scale of an opera is at the top of her list, puts her at the top of mine when I finish my space opera with diversity.


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