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 and 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.