A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NESCBWI AQQ Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Linda Pratt

We have many so many wonderful agents attending this year's NESCBWI 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference. Next up on the Sneak Peek tour, Linda Pratt.

Recently, Linda Pratt and Marcia Wernick announced the establishment of the Wernick & Pratt Agency, a full-service agency dedicated to representing authors and illustrators of children's books.  

From their website, http://www.wernickpratt.com "Our philosophy is that we represent people rather than merely the books they create, so our approach to representation is to create strategies for our clients' long term careers."

Linda Pratt

1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
For me a healthy working relationship seems to come down to three things.  First and foremost is mutual trust.  If that isn’t there, I don’t see how a relationship can be successful. The second is that it always helps to like one another. Not necessarily “best friends” like, but it’s easier to weather the inevitable bumps along the way if you start out liking one another. Lastly, there’s flexibility. An agent should be flexible in meeting their clients needs since over the course of a career those are bound to change, and authors and illustrators are likely to be the most successful when they, too, are flexible in adjusting to the changing markets so that their agent has the tools to create additional opportunities for them when needed. 

2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really talented first time authors so I don’t think I can say that I’ve looked for something in submissions that I’ve never received. However, the things I do always hope to see in a submission are voice and a clear sense of what’s at stake for the main character:  

Voice – What is the author revealing to me about this character that is going to make me want to know them for the next 150 or so pages?  It’s like a first date; I don’t want to know everything there is to know by the goodnight kiss, but I do want to some well-chosen details that’ll have me agreeing to a second date so I can find out more.

Clear Stakes – I want to feel the characters sense of triumph or loss if things go one way or the other.  For that to happen there has to be a clear sense of what’s at play.  Kind of like a seesaw. The conflict is the weight in the middle that can shift to one side or the other depending on what influences ultimately win out. 
3. What is your agent style?
Although I tailor my style to each individual client, overall I take a long view in working with clients since I want to work with them for their careers.  So there are a series of things I need to know. What are their goals - both immediate and long term? What are their financial needs? What time do they have to devote to their creative lives with their other professional, family and or personal commitments? What’s realistic once we start putting all these pieces together?  Then it comes down to the nuts and bolts work. How do we try to get them where they want to go?  This tends to involve a lot editorial work, as well as, advising on what projects to pursue, possible networking opportunities, scheduling issues, and many other day to day decisions that fit into the long term career picture. It’s a work in progress that isn’t written stone since life and business are ever-changing. 
4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?
I think you’ll start to see picture books acquisitions being evaluated differently. With the increase in the e-book and apps markets, a picture book’s adaptability to the “enhanced/enriched” e-book and/or app format will likely play an ever more prominent role in discussions. I’m not sure that’s a particularly good or bad thing, but being able to sell well in these formats is likely going to be a key deciding factor in acquisition. As far as the next theme trend in children’s books, I don’t think I’m prescient enough to predict that. I remember when mysteries in middle grade were going to be all the rage 10 or so years ago. They never went away as far as I could tell, nor did they become quite the rage either.

On themes with endurance, however, books that master the classic themes: true love always wins out, star-crossed lovers, triumph over oppression, blood is thicker than water, etc. will always endure. The trick is to find a fresh way to present them. If you think about it, every book that’s begun a thematic trend in recent years incorporates predominant classic themes be it Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight and on. It’s the books that lose sight of that fact in their attempt to just mimic the thematic trend that’ll fade.   
5. What would you like to see more of and why?

I would like to see the inventiveness of subject matter and approach to storytelling that’s been going on in YA emerge more in the middle grade market. One of the great things we’ve seen happen in YA is how arbitrary that upper age limit on the genre is. Many adult women have discovered these books and have become devoted readers.  Harry Potter showed us that middle grade can have the same elasticity in readership, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more of that happening?  

But that’s my broad response and you probably really want to know what I’d specifically like to see. In terms of my personal tastes, the kinds of things that draw me are: stories about kids that are straddling a major transition in life ( a tween who doesn’t really want to release girlhood when her core friends suddenly cross the line to teens or a teen who isn’t going to college when everyone else around them is), magical realism, unique cultural perspectives, humorous voices, historical fiction on an event or era that hasn’t been overly covered already, memorable supporting characters, sibling stories that go deeper than the stereotypical love/hate relationship, and stories from a viewpoint not often seen in literature.  

6. What conferences will you attend this year?
In addition to NESCBWI, which I’m thrilled to be invited to, I will be attending the Kansas SCBWI Fall Conference and SCBWI Southern Breeze Fall Conference.   

7. Is there anything you would like to add?

I’ve tried to answer the questions about trends, tastes, and what attracts me in a submission in detail because I know it helps, and I hope that my answers have given a better sense of me. However, if you’re a writer who feels you want to share your work with me, but don’t see it as fitting in with my answers to the questions here, please don’t take these as an absolute definition of what might make me go weak at the knees. I would love to be surprised by a perfect manuscript that I have no idea I’ve been waiting to get! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NESCBWI AQQ Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Chris Richman

Do you still want to know more about the agents attending NESCBWI 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference? Here's a peek at Chris Richman, an agent with Upstart Crow Literary. Want to know something cool about the Upstart Crow Literary Agency? They are entirely green when it comes to their submission policy.
From their website: "My love of books started at an early age. In the second grade I fell in love with the gross and wonderful works of Roald Dahl. On career day in third grade I carried a book and called myself an author. In the fourth grade I was sent to the principal’s office when the teacher discovered me reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary in the back of the room."

This is his first year participating in the NESCBWI’s Agent Quick Query Event.
Chris Richman

1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
A good, open line of communication is really important to me. I like to know a client’s expectations, frustrations, goals, and more, to ensure we’re on the same page and I’m doing everything possible to help them succeed. I also really value transparency in my dealings with my clients; they always know where we are with a project, including how far we think it is from being ready to submit, which editors have it, and what sorts of responses we’re getting. I expect the transparency to be reciprocated, too, so that there’s always an honest line of dialogue going back and forth between us. Finally, I truly writers who approach the business of books as just that: a business. Sure, there are personal expectations, successes, and disappointments mixed in, but I value an author capable of rolling with the highs and lows without tipping too far one way or the other.

2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?
I can’t say there’s anything I’ve never received, since every project I’ve signed has had a special element that made me want to work with it. I will say, however, that I yearn for those projects that make me bolt up in my chair and shout, “Yes! This is the one!” right out of the gate, usually due to a complex mix of stellar writing, strong plotting, and original ideas. Sadly, that experience doesn’t happen as much as I would like. I do, however, enjoy the prospect that the next submission could be “the one.”

3. What is your agent style?

I consider myself an editorial agent, especially for debut writers. More and more manuscripts from debut writers need to be in pristine shape if they’re going to stand out to an editor. As I said above, I’m also completely transparent in my dealings. And, as much as I value professionalism, I tend to get to know my clients, and let them see aspects of my own silly personality from time to time.
4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?
I tend not to chase trends too much, especially in young adult. I would, however, like to hope the paranormal trend in YA is dying, but all signs suggest it will keep going strong until someone puts a stake directly into its heart. Dystopian, especially with romantic elements, is still doing pretty well, although I could see that slowing down somewhat in the near future, especially as most houses who want that sort of project now have it. I’d love to see more funny books for boys, like those by Rick Riordan and Jeff Kinney, stay popular.

As for what has endurance: good writing, of course, will always find a home, whether it’s middle grade or young adult, as will strong, believable characters. And with young adult, no matter what you’re writing--be it sci-fi, dystopian, stories with half human half animal hybrids, whatever—a compelling romance will always do a story good (even though romance is not something I typically seek out).
5. What would you like to see more of and why?
I honestly really like stories with a timeless feel, that could have been published thirty years ago, or thirty years from now, and still feel relevant. I don’t typically fall for stories tied so much to the present in terms of trends, fashion, music, etc. I’d love to see more fantastic middle grade with standout voices, though those are very difficult to do well. I’m still seeking stories with sports elements, though they have to be about more than simply sports for me to consider taking them on.
6. What conferences will you attend this year?
So far I’ve stopped in at the New York National SCBWI, I ventured out to San Diego’s SCBWI conference in February, and I’ll be of course attending the NESCBWI event in May. Unfortunately, I’ve had to turn down a fair number of conferences this year because it feels like everyone I know has chosen 2011 as the year to get married, though I may be able to squeeze in some more conferences toward the end of the year. We’ll see!  
7. Is there anything you would like to add?

I’m always hunting for the next great project, and I’m hoping I’ll find some in New England this May!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NESCBWI AQQ Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Jennifer Laughran

In case you didn't sign up for an Agent Quick Query, here's another opportunity to learn more about the agents attending this year's NESCBWI Celebrating Milestones Conference. Jennifer Laughran is an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. When she's not at writers conferences, she splits her time between San Francisco, NYC and the Hudson River Valley of NY.
This is Jennifer's third year participating in the NESCBWI’s Agent Quick Query Event. I am so happy to have her back with us again.

Jennifer Laughran

1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
Open communication! I really can't say that enough.

2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?
I am always looking for totally compelling, unputdownable, but beautifully written books, that make me laugh AND cry at the same time. Sometimes I get them - but I am always looking for more! :-)

3. What is your agent style?

I guess I am... Semi- editorial? I give notes to my authors to help them make their work extra-salable... But if it needed a ton of work, i probably wouldn't have taken it on to begin with.

4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?

I am not interested in trends. That said, and unsurprisingly I think, the things that are selling the most are the books that lie on the intersection of "beautifully written" and "high concept" -- I'd say the ease of selling is directly proportional to the difficulty the reader has setting the book down. Greater unputdownablity = faster sale. Makes sense, right?

5. What would you like to see more of and why?

I would like to see more of things that are upbeat. Also tearjerkers. Also super-romantic stories. Also thrilling. Also truly, genuinely scary. I am not so interested in grim, gloomy or quiet.

6. What conferences will you attend this year?
Not sure about Fall yet, but so far on the spring/summer agenda after NESCBWI:

* June 11, 2011: SCBWI Eastern NY conference, Poughkeepsie NY
* July 13, 2011: LeakyCon Lit Day, Orlando FL

7. Is there anything you would like to add?
Writers can check out my blog: http://literaticat.blogspot.com
or follow me on twitter: @literaticat

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NESCBWI AQQ Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette

Registration is now open for the New England SCBWI's 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference. This year we've added additional Agent Quick Query slots to give attendees even more opportunities for face-to-face conversations with agents.
The second agent in my NESCBWI 2011 Conference sneak-peek series is Ammi-Joan Paquette. She is an associate agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Her encouraging words are full of insight, kindness, and encouragement. She is also a writer. Because of this, she understands what it is like on both sides of the Author/Agent realtionship. 
This is her second year participating in the NESCBWI’s Agent Quick Query Event.
Ammi-Joan Paquette

1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
I think communication is one of the bedrocks of a strong agent-client relationship. When questions or issues arise, it’s important to be able to voice these openly—and likewise, to know that questions and concerns will be addressed promptly and efficiently. This type of communication and mutual respect of each other's time is extremely important in my book.

2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?
One of the most wonderful things for me is when I receive something I didn’t even know I was looking for, but that suits my tastes exactly. That said, I would absolutely love to find a terrific food novel!

3. What is your agent style?
I would say: supportive, passionate, encouraging, persistent. Does that cover it?

4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?

I think there will always be a market for excellent writing with depth and heart. Trends come and go, but a story that’s imbued with a piece of yourself, that story that only you can write—that’s what makes a stand-out project.  

5. What would you like to see more of and why?
I’d love to see more laugh-out-loud humor, more mysteries, more tightly-woven plots that keep me guessing. I love to be surprised and caught off-guard by a twist I didn’t see coming but that fits the story beautifully. Surprise me and I will follow you just about anywhere. 

6. What conferences will you attend this year?
I have a fairly slow travel schedule so far this year, so I’m certainly open to considering invitations.

 7. Is there anything you would like to add?
Many thanks to the NESCBWI organizers, and I’ll see you in May!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SCBWI New England's 2011 Conference ~ Registration Opens at 12:01 A.M. February, 15th!

New England SCBWI 2011 Conference ~ Don't miss this 25th Conference Anniversary Event

The New England chapter of SCBWI's 2011 Conference, Celebrating Milestones, begins open registration at 12:01 A.M on February 15th. Greg R. Fishbone and Kathryn Hulick Gargolinski, , the 2011 Conference Co-Directors are busy planning New England's 25th annual conference. From May 13 to 15th, we will be filling the Marriott Courtyard in Fitchburg, MA, with inspiring and informative content for authors and illustrators. Conference highlights will include:

* Keynote addresses from Jane Yolen, Tomie DePaola, Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser, and Harold Underdown

* 7 agents, 13 editors, and 2 art directors on our critique faculty

* More Agent Quick Query slots

* Marketing Consultations with Susan Raab Peer Critiques

* Special Interest Group meetings

* New England SCBWI History Panel

* Poster Showcase

* Two Illustrators Academies

* Conference podcast by Katie Davis of "Brain Burps About Books!"

* The usual assortment of amazing workshops

* A screening of "Library of the Early Mind" followed by a discussion panel

* A Silver Anniversary Ball and cabaret

* ...and more!

We recommend registering as early as possible on or after February 15th to ensure your choice of programming.

To register for the conference, visit the registration site at https://www.regonline.com/nescbwi11

Please note that both manuscript and portfolio critique registration is OFFLINE this year. Critique slots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and are not guaranteed.

Check the New England SCBWI website (http://www.nescbwi.org/conferences/spring/) for updates and drop any questions to our online FAQ at http://www.formspring.me/nescbwi

Twitter users can follow the New England SCBWI Twitter account, (@nescbwi), and use the #nescbwi11 hash-tag to discuss the conference.

Hope to see you in Fitchburg! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NESCBWI 2011 Agent Quick Query Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Stephen Fraser

With registration opening on February 15th for the NESCBWI 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference, I wanted to give everyone a chance to find out what the 2011 Agent Quick Query agents are thinking. 

First up, Stephen Fraser of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

Stephen Fraser

1.  What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
Clients need to know that the onus is one them to stay in touch. I will stay in touch with clients as I submit manuscripts and then as I get rejections or offers. I am good about responding right away. But an e-mail or call from a client as a reminder doesn’t hurt; and I don’t mind.  If a client hasn’t heard from me for months, that is really their fault. With more than 40 clients to handle, I can’t be in touch with all of them all the time. Except, of course, if I am selling all their books!

2.  What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?
I have been extremely fortunate.  The most wonderful manuscripts have found their way to me…and into publication. So, I can’t complain. We had a PEN award winner last year and a Newbery Honor winner this year. Yahoo!

3.  What is your agent style?
I am quick to respond, honest in feedback, friendly with editors - albeit persistent. One of my clients called me "a true gentleman of the business," which was extremely kind. But I like to think it's true. I do think civility is important. And I think Fun is an important part of this whole thing, too. It's a joyful thing to be involved with children's books.

4.  What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do you see as having endurance?
Y.A. has been having a comeback, thanks to certain vampires.  I think paranormal is probably here to stay, but I think vampires may be replaced by other creatures. I’m frankly am bored by the dystopian novel, because I think it’s too easy to get depressed about the world right now.  I’d rather see someone try something bolder like optimism or humor.  Middle grade certainly is not going anywhere, either historical or contemporary.  Chapter books are becoming more of a staple.  And I would [like] to believe that picture books, lyrical and imagistic and beautiful, will always have a place.

5.  What would you like to see more of and why?
I’d like to see more mysteries and ghost stories (really scary ghost stories). Love stories are always fun. Nonfiction that is one of a kind and fresh is always welcome. I adore poetry – though it can be hard to sell (I’ll try!) And funny books, truly funny books.  

6.  What conferences will you attend this year?
Right now I have three invitations, including Montana and Iowa SCBWI. I’ll probably accept a couple more.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Get Rady! Get Set! Register! NESCBI 2011 Agent Quick Query

With Registration for the NESCBWI 2011 Conference opening very soon, we'd like to remind everyone who plans to register for an Agent Quick Query, to please have your query letter ready to submit at time of registration.
Agent Quick Query Letter Guidelines:
  • One Page
  • Addressed to: Dear Agent:
  • Middle grade or young adult novels only
  • No picture books or nonfiction
  • You may not request an agent. The AQQ coordinator reads every query letter and will match you with an appropriate agent based on each agent's submission guidelines.
The six agents are:
  • Stephen Fraser - Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
  • Jennifer Laughran - Andrea Brown Literary Agency
  • Ammi-Joan Paquette - Erin Murphy Literary Agency
  • Linda Pratt - Wernick & Pratt Agency
  • Lauren MacLeod - The Strothman Agency
  • Chris Richman - Upstart Crow Literary
How it works:
  • When registering for NESCBWI, you can select Agent Quick Query for an additional $25.
  • Once you are registered and confirmed, you will receive an email request from the AQQ Coordinator for your one page Agent Quick Query letter for a middle grade or young adult novel, saved in a PDF format.
  • The AQQ Coordinator will send your query to the agent.
  • The agent will critique your letter and return it to you during your 10 minute AQQ critique at the conference.
This is the 3rd year of AQQ and it has been a very successful event.

Do you have more questions? Post by Comment and I'll answer.