Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Agent Spotlight: Victoria Skurnick

This week's Agent Spotlight features Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.
Status: Accepting submissions.
Victoria Skurnick About: "Victoria Skurnick came to Levine Greenberg after being at The Book-of-the Month Club for almost twenty years.  As Editor-in-Chief, she relished the opportunity to devour every kind of book, from the finest literary fiction to Yiddish for Dogs.  Anne Tyler, John LeCarre, Amy Tan, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Lee Child, Roddy Doyle, Alice Sebold, Tracy Kidder, Julia Child and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are just a few of the authors that make her deaf and blind to anyone around her when she's reading.
"Victoria's other addiction besides reading is music. She has sung in many choirs in New York City and spent a few ostensibly happy years singing rock in groups like Big and the Evolution. No, you haven't heard of it-if you had, she wouldn't be an agent. She also is the co-author (with Cynthia Katz) of seven novels written by 'Cynthia Victor.'
"Raised in New Rochelle, NY, Victoria went to the University of Wisconsin where she studied political science with an emphasis on constitutional law, a subject that still fascinates her. Neither adventurous nor peripatetic, she has remained within a 20-mile radius of home since her day of birth." (Link)
About the Agency:
"Founded 30 years ago – now a full-service agency with 11 agents in New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle –- we’re proud to be known throughout the publishing community for our:
"Collaboration: We are fully engaged as creative and business partners throughout the entire publishing process, from the development of concepts, proposals and manuscripts through publicity, marketing, sale of film and television rights, and more, across every category of fiction, non-fiction, and books for young readers. We represent careers, not just individual projects,
"Culture: We’re known for trust, transparency, and teamwork – and for being a great place to work. People stay here for a long time, fully committed to serving our clients and supporting their colleagues.
"Success: 30 New York Times bestsellers in the last two years alone, in every category on the list, with even more bestsellers on other lists. Our clients have won PEN, Edgar, Newbery, MacArthur, and the Nobel Prize in Economics, among other awards. Numerous projects we represent have been produced for film and television, with many others optioned for development." (Link)
What She's Looking For:
Genres of interest:  Literary fiction, historical fiction, women's literature, romance, comedy, humor, horror, mystery, narrative nonfiction, arts, cinema, photography, biography, memoir, cooking, food, wine, crafts, hobbies, DIY, health, diet, history, mind, body, spirit, parenting, family, politics, current affairs, pop culture, entertainment, relationships, family, religion, spirituality, inspiration, science, technology, self-help, sports, technical, how-to, true crime, YOUNG ADULT. (Link)
"She is looking for fiction—especially literary, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and politics. (Link)
"Thrillers, literary fiction, mysteries, narrative nonfiction, biography and memoir are among her favorites, but she has also sold books on everything from exercises for the soul to sumptuous recipes for the gastrointestinally challenged. She does not handle children's books, but will look at young adult." (Link Defunct)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Comics, graphic novels, science-fiction, fantasy, textbooks. (Link)
Editorial Agent?
Web Presence:
Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency website.
AgentQuery, QueryTracker
There is a list of agency clients on the website.  Ms. Skurnick's clients include: Senator Tom Daschle, Harry Dolan, Robert Rotenberg, Alice LaPlante, Sasha Abramsky, Karen Bergreen, Rachel Brady, Libby Cataldi,  Naomi Fein, June Breton Fisher, Daniel Friedman, Jennifer Hillier, Jess Lourey, Susan Elia MacNeal, Meline Nadeau, Debbie Mumford, Jude Polotan, Andrea Robinson,  Danny Schechter, among many others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.  
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query and attach no more than 50 pages.  You can also query via  the online form attaching no more than 50 pages. 
See the agency website for up-to-date submissions guidelines.
Response Times:
The agency only responds if interested, usually within three weeks but sometimes more than.  Ms. Skurnick tends to have rather fast response times with occasional instances of longer or no response. 
What's the Buzz?
Ms. Skurnick appears to be a good, well-respected agent.  She's a member of the AAR and has an established list of clients and sales.  A couple of the other agents at the Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency are more specialized in YA, but Ms. Skurnick is accepting and considering YA submissions.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Post:
On Landing an Agent at a Conference at the Book Doctors (01/2016)
Victoria Skurnick's Top Query No-No's at Jungle Red Writers (07/2014)
Agent Victoria Skurnick at The Write Path (10/2012)
7 Questions for Literary Agent Victoria Skurnick at Middle Grade Ninja (02/2011)
YouTube video featuring literary agents Victoria Skurnick and Michael Strong and Bantam Dell Assistant Editor Randall Klein (05/2009).
Please see the Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 5/31/2020.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? NA

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tip Tuesday #47

Hello everyone! I have another fabulous Tuesday Tip from Ammie Hart. You can read her previous tips here and here. She doesn't have a blog for us to stalk, but if she does start one or gets any great news I'll be sure to pass it along. Here she is!

Tuedsay Tip-Your Word Count is Your 401K

We all know writing is a long, long, LOOOOONG process. Especially when you are writing a novel of any considerable length. It's easy to feel overwhelmed writing thousands and thousands of words to get to the end of your WIP when you are only able to commit to writing a few paragraphs a day. For me, sometimes I don't get to write more than a page a day when my life is focused on raising two babies. I then feel terrible that I didn't get more done. Why didn't I get to 1000 words today? How will I ever get to 40,000 when I can't even get to 20k? I'm sure many of us have been here.

But here's a tip--when you are feeling discouraged about how long you have to get to the end of your WIP, don't look at your word count and be put off by how little you were able to accomplish in that one sitting. Think of your word count as your 401K. Sure, maybe there is only $10K in it now, definitely not enough to retire on, right? But you can bet I'm going to be pretty happy I kept putting in a few bucks every month over the course of my life when I'm in my seventies.

Well, writing a manuscript is the exact same thing. You want to get to retirement (ahem, a finished manuscript) right? Well, every time you deposit a few words, a paragraph, a scene, you are putting a little bit of money into that 401K and it will grow over time. So you were only able to type up 50 words today? Guess what? You are 50 words closer to your finish line. Maybe tomorrow you will write seven hundred fifty words, but for now, be proud of just those 50. Those 50 are better than nothing.

Hope this one helped you out! Happy writing!


I love this one, Ammie! Such a clever tip and a great way to think about adding to the WIP. Thank you!


So, I'm finally going to the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference! I can't beleive it's at the end of this week. Ack! I sooo don't feel ready.

I really wanted to go the last two years but my kids were too little and dependent. I feel better about going this year, but I'm already panicking about leaving them. I know they'll be perfectly fine with their papa, I've just never been away from them for more than a day.

But enough about my breaking heart. I do plan to have a good time and enjoy the adult interaction.

Who else is going? How do you stand leaving your family? Any bits of advice for me? If you're going, I hope to see you there!

Agent Spotlight: Katie Grimm

This week's Agent Spotlight features Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, Inc.
Status: As of October 2023, Katie is closed to queries. Please check the agency website to find out when she reopens to queries.
About: "Katie joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007. She represents vivid literary fiction (be it voicey, historical, speculative, or mysterious), up-market women’s fiction, cohesive short story collections, and graphic novels. In young adult, she loves compelling and heartbreaking contemporary novels and speculative high-concepts rooted in science and history. In middle grade, she enjoys novels with a heartfelt, timeless quality, and stories that explore the magic of our world or those imagined. For non-fiction, she is looking for memoirs and narratives that explore greater social issues, dark and weird times in human history, the personal impact of science, and any off-beat topic explored through an academic lens. Across all genres, she’s looking for books with a heartbeat, and she’ll always be interested in previously under- or misrepresented experiences and stories that contribute to a larger cultural conversation. She is also a member of SCBWI." (From the agency website)
About the Agency:
"Don Congdon Associates, Inc., founded in 1983 by Don Congdon and Michael Congdon, is a literary agency representing a distinguished and diverse list of authors and estates, ranging from current bestsellers and emerging talent to backlist classics. The agency’s seven agents provide individualized service to each client, and are committed to developing and representing all aspects of an author’s domestic and international literary career in a rapidly changing industry. In addition to its New York Times and international bestsellers, Don Congdon Associates’ clients have been the recipients of an array of prestigious awards including the Pulitzer Prize, the George Polk Award, the National Book Award, the James Thurber Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, the Pritzker Lifetime Achievement Award, the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, Macavity, Grand Master of Science Fiction and Horror awards, the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Award, the O. Henry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. (From the agency website)
Web Presence:
Don Congdon Associates website 
Publisher Marketplace.
AgentQuery, QueryTracker.
What She's Looking For:
From AgentQuery:
Literary fiction, women's fiction, historical fiction, young adult, middle grade, multi-cultural, short stories, quirky, juvenile nonfiction, and more
From her Manuscript Wish List:
"Favorite sub-genres:  Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Speculative Fiction
"Most generally, I focus on adult literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult fiction. Across all genres and ages, I’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of the human condition as well as previously under- or misrepresented experiences and voices.
"In children's fiction, I love the idea of finding a new middle grade classic that I wished I had as a child to guide me through complicated feelings or take me to faraway lands. I'm also looking for contemporary and speculative young adult novels that use genre tropes and form to create an emotional space to work through issues in a new way. In MG and YA, I'm open to every genre--from magical realism to horror to high fantasy to sci-fi--as long as the focus is on the characters’ personal growth and relationships, with an emphasis on creating wonder and building empathy.
"Topics that always get closer look: beauty and brutality of the natural world, ecological grief, friendship as romance, the many forms of desire, weird history, cults, abductions, the Reformation, the Plague, the sea, Space, twins, monsters, fairy tales, witches, reversal of fortune stories, lies we tell ourselves, and magic in our world or those imagined."
What She Isn't Looking For:
Adult high fantasy, straight science fiction, paranormal,  chick-lit, romance, western, political, how-wo or self-help (Link)
"In children’s fiction, I love the idea of finding a new middle grade classic that I wished I had as a child to guide me through complicated feelings or take me to faraway lands. I’m also looking for contemporary and speculative young adult novels that use genre tropes and form to create an emotional space to work through issues in a new way. In MG and YA, I’m open to every genre—from magical realism to horror to high fantasy to sci-fi—as long as the focus is on the characters’ personal growth and relationships, with an emphasis on creating wonder and building empathy." (Link)
Editorial Agent?
“I am an editorial agent, so I’ve been known to go several rounds of edits with a project if it warrants it. In this marketplace, editorial board meetings are especially competitive, so you have to arm editors with a manuscript that is polished. The bar is high, and we should strive to pass it, not just submit something that is ‘good enough.’” (Link--defunct)
See the agency website for a current list of clients.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.  
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Complete the online form or email your query with the word "Query" and the agent's full name in the subject line. Include the first chapter in the body of the e-mail. No attachments. Query only one agent at a time at the agency. (Link)
Response Times: 
Ms. Grimmd responds to all queries. 
What's the Buzz?
Don Congdon Associates is a highly respected agency and Ms. Grimm has the benefit of her colleagues' years of experience and guidance. She iis actively developing a children's list for the agency.  She's been extremely warm and helpful in my dealings with her.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Podcasts:
March Agent of the Month: Katie Grimm Part 1 and Part 2 at Writing and Illustrating (03/2020)
Query.Sign.Submit With Katie Grimm at I Write for Apples (04/2014)
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Katie Grimm at Middle Grade Ninja (11/2010)
Please see the agency submission page for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 2/10/2023.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/7/2020.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tip Tuesday #46

Happy Tuesday! I have a tip to share from Katharina (Cat) Gerlach. It's similar to a tip I featured in the past, but it's a good one and Cat approaches it from a different angle. Here she is!

As writers, we are always told not to use adverbs and that usually is sound advice. Now, I noticed that I keep missing the little monsters, especially if reading on screen. So, how do I make sure that I keep only those few adverbs that I really, really need? I color them. It's fairly easy. This is how you do it:

Open the manuscript and choose a color for highlighting (In MS Word the icon is on the far right and looks like a knife hovering over a line).

Open the "Search and Replace" dialog of your writing program and enter "ly" in the search and in the replace box. Then, with the cursor in the replace box, click on a button called "More" or "Expand" or something similar (it depends a bit on which program you use) which will give you additional options. Choose "Format" and "Highlight" and then click on "Replace All". Now, you won't miss the brightly colored -ly words any more when reading through your manuscript.

By the way, this can be used for any other annoying word or word combination you use.

This is such a useful tip. It definitely helps to tame down those "ly" and overused words. Does anyone use it for anything else? Thanks for sharing, Cat!

Agent Spotlight: Ken Wright

Mr. Wright is no longer a literary agent. He is now the Vice President and Publisher of Viking Children's Books. Profile removed.

Tip Tuesday #45

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so. I'm running low! Today's tip comes from the lovely Ammie Hart (who shared a tip a couple weeks ago). Enjoy!


So there you are, working on your manuscript, and you hit the good ol' road block in your writing. You know where the book needs to go, you see it in your head, you know how you want the scene to play out, yet, everytime you go to type it up, it's DEAD. Nothing. Nada. The words will just. not. come. Ugggggh... Don't you hate when that happens? Here's a tip to get your fingers moving across that keyboard and make those juicy scenes come ALIVE on that screen! Make a playlist for your book. That's right. Make a happy ol' playlist that will have some music to inspire the writing. Is your main character struggling with an issue they need to overcome? How about a little Matt Kearney or Patti Griffith? The folksy drama inspiring tunes can't do anything but help. Is your MC a scheming, horrible, plotting type that has a kickass attitude? How about a little Metallica to set the scene? Or Rage Against the Machine? Or Smashing Pumpkins? You get the idea.

I tend to make a manuscript playlist that I know will inspire the scenes and dialogue for those particular characters. Here are some of the tracks playing on my current upper MG about a boy who is learning to accept the fact that all the other families who he thought were normal are just like his--imperfect. Hope some of these songs help inspire some of your work! Happy writing!

"Razor" by the Foo Fighters
"There Goes the Fear" by the Doves
"Full Moon" by The Black Ghosts
"Remember Me as A Time of Day" by Explosions in The Sky (no lyrics, just great tunes)
"Blackbird" performed by Sarah McLachlan
"All I Want to Do" by Sugarland
"Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
"Whir" by Smashing Pumpkins

Ammie, I love this tip. And the beauty of it is that even writers who can't listen to music while they write can make a playlist to listen to when they're not writing. There's something really special and inspiring about finding the right song for a character or scene. I definitely recommend this!

Q&A with Tina Wexler of ICM

Hi everyone!  Thank you so much for your patience.  Here are Tina Wexler's most excellent answers to your questions.  I definitely think they were worth the wait.  Her answers are in bold


S. Kyle Davis asks:

Tina WexlerWhen you're submitting to agents, there's a fine line between staying committed to your work and living in denial about the marketability of the manuscript. I know that there is no fast and true answer for how long you should query. However, in general, how can an author know that the book is not going to find an agent, or, even if it did, would be unlikely to sell to an editor?

For good or ill, there is no real way to know whether or not your manuscript is going to find an agent, but it may prove helpful to ask yourself the following: Have you received any requests for partials or fulls? If not, take a good look at your query letter. Are you presenting the manuscript (and yourself) in the best light? How does your manuscript fit in with what’s being published today/what agents say they’re looking for? I’m not saying you should write to the trends (please, no!) but you should be mindful of the market, reading what’s being published in your genre. Are you targeting your search to appropriate agents? If you’ve sent out pages, what kind of feedback did you receive? To that end, how many people have read your work? If you’re your sole reader, why not join a writer’s group? No one can tell you if you’re manuscript will ever find a home, especially without having read it, but I would start by trying to determine whether it’s the query or the manuscript that’s preventing you from snagging the eye of an agent, and then act accordingly.

Sharon Roat asks:

Tina - What is your favorite part of being an agent? Least favorite? And what aspect of your work takes up the most of your time?

My favorite part of being an agent is helping my clients fulfill their dreams of being published and keeping that dream going for years and years. My least favorite? Delivering bad news.

Email takes up most of my time in the office. Out of the office, my time is spent reading manuscripts, which takes up the most time overall.

Natalie Aguirre asks:

I know you aren't looking for high fantasy manuscripts, but can you advise me of the word count range for an upper level middle grade high fantasy with twelve-year-old characters?

I think 35,000-65,000 words is a good range for upper middle grade, be it high fantasy or not.

Ammie asks:

Let's say an established agent requested a partial on one manuscript and you are about to finish 2 others and get them ready for submission.  Do agents like to see that potential clients are workhorses?  Or is it better to just focus on getting an agent for your ONE finished project?  I am always thinking, hey, I want to show this agent how multitalented and diverse I am, look at this great portfolio of work I am doing, but I also know some agents say just focus on one.  What does Ms. Wexler recommend?  What is the most "professional" way to go about this?

I like to focus on one project at a time. If that project strikes my fancy, I’ll talk with the writer about the other projects she has in the works. That said, you can always mention (briefly!) whatever else you’re working on in your initial query: “I’m currently at work on a paranormal YA featuring mummies and a dystopian middle grade set in Portugal.” If the agent is interested in reading them too, she’ll ask.

Shawna asks:

You have said in various interviews that you "tend to shy away from high fantasy". What would make a fantasy novel stand out to you? What kinds of genres within the umbrella term "fantasy" appeal to you?

I know everyone says it, but it’s all about voice. If the narrative voice pulls me in, I’ll follow it most anywhere. I also want characters I connect with—love ‘em or hate ‘em, I want to feel something toward them. Lastly, I want to enter a fully-realized world, with rules and boundaries. That goes for all fiction. The world needs to have limits; that’s what gives us conflict. Within fantasy, I like urban/contemporary, dystopian, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy hybrids…

Carolyn Flower asks:

When you have a writer on your hands you are thinking of representing, do you read his/her past tweets/blog posts/web content, etc.? If so, do you ever find that material actionable? As in, if it's good it tips you into offering representation, or if it's crazy/offensive/otherwise bad you decide against that writer?

I do like to see what I can learn about a client before I sign him or her, but if I’m so-so about a manuscript, I won’t sign that client, even if she writes a really stunning blog or a particularly witty tweet (though I’ll probably work with her on revisions, in the hope of falling in love with a later draft.)  I could see myself not signing a client because of particularly offensive online content, but I’m not exactly easy to offend.

Hilary asks:

My question or Ms. Wexler is about the market. Not as in trends (vampires are out, editors are looking for selkies, etc.) but the overall mood. Are editors hunting to buy or still very wary because of the economy? And I was also wondering about what seems to be a glut of new agents after all the layoffs in the industry and if that makes it harder for established agents and writers to get their work/clients noticed by editors?

The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Editors need to buy manuscripts or they don’t have jobs, so they most definitely are hunting to buy. At the same time, they are being more selective about what they buy. And while there are certainly more agents sending out manuscripts, established agents have long-standing relationships with editors and most have strong reputations for sending out quality material, and so the manuscripts they send don’t have to fight to get noticed. (This isn’t to say that signing with an untested agent means your work won’t get the attention it deserves; we all had to make our first book deal at some point.)

Rob Kent, middle grade ninja asks:

Were Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao of HERBERT’S WORMHOLE an established team of writer/illustrator when you agreed to represent them? If so, did this make the submission process more difficult? Would you consider an established team of writer/illustrator for future clients?

Yes, Peter and Ro were an established team right from the start, but that didn’t complicate the submission process. I’m certainly open to considering established writer/illustrator teams.

Suzie F. asks:

If someone is writing for a tween audience how should that person introduce her genre in a query? Would it be okay to label it as a contemporary Upper Middle Grade novel in a query? Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us.

I would go with upper middle grade. The age of the protagonist and the word count will also help signal to the agent that you’re writing for a tween audience.

Mari asks:

How do you feel contemporary YA fares in a market rich with paranormal and fantasy?

If the NYT Bestseller list is anything to go by, contemporary YA remains strong; it’s just not getting the kind of media coverage that paranormal and fantasy are getting right now.

Can you share some opening lines that have grabbed your attention?

You can assume that the first lines of all the books I represent have grabbed my attention, so I’ll pick a few from books I didn’t rep:

“I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Adam—as in the guy who named all the animals in the Garden of Eden—wasn’t a hermaphrodite.” –DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin

“We can hear someone screaming as soon as we get off the elevator.” –BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” –CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B.White

Happygrrl asks:

If you have read a full manuscript, but decide to pass on the project, under what circumstances would you reconsider it, or would you?

Generally, if I’m interested in seeing a rewrite of a manuscript, I’ll provide the writer with detailed feedback and an invitation to submit a revision should that feedback resonate. Barring that, if the writer emails me with details about how the work has been improved and if the overall project still appeals to me, I may ask to see pages again, but I just as well may not.

Lois D Brown asks:

Since you work at a full service agency, I thought you might have some insight to movie rights. How does a book manuscript turn into a movie? Is the author involved with the creation of the screenplay? What sort of royalties are possible? What makes a movie producer interested?

Manuscripts/books get pitched to studio execs, producers, talent, etc. If a party is interested, they will option the property, meaning they have a limited period of time during which they have the exclusive right to purchase film rights. During that initial option period, the party will try to set that property up (securing financing, commissioning a screenplay, etc.) If the initial option period expires, the party may extend the option (usually for an additional payment) or let it lapse. If they let it lapse, the film rights go back on the market. If the party opts to exercise the option, they pay what is called a “purchase price,” meaning they officially buy the film rights to the book and hopefully a movie goes on to be made.

It’s rare that the author of the book actually writes the screenplay for the movie. (Writing a screenplay is a very different skillset.)

Producers tend to want four-quadrant films (movies that will appeal to young and old, male and female), bestsellers, and/or sequels/remakes, but there are always those who are willing to take a chance on an unknown gem, a sleeper hit.

Suzanne Warr asks:

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Ms. Wexler.  You often refer to magic realism when listing what you accept, but I haven't seen you list urban fantasy.  How would you define magic realism, and does that definition exclude urban fantasy?  Are you interested in seeing urban fantasy?

I think of magic/magical realism as fiction wherein something happens that you just have to take on faith. The odds of it happening are slim, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. I classify Kurtis Scaletta’s books this way. In MUDVILLE, the protagonist lives in a town where it’s been raining for over two decades. Raining nonstop. Has that ever happened? Not that I know of. Could it? Well, sure. It could. On the fantasy scale, I put magical realism in the 2-3 range, urban fantasy in the 4-7 range, and high fantasy at 10, where we’re in another world entirely.

Katharina Gerlach asks:

If a project has been rejected by an agent (because the query was not even remotely good), is it ok to re-query after revising the query to perfection and doing another round of revision on the manuscript?

Hmm, this is a tough one. I respond to two things in a query: 1) how well is it written, and 2) if I’m interested in the story’s premise. Rewriting the query (and even revising the manuscript) isn’t necessarily going to make me more interested in the premise. Since there’s no way of knowing WHY an agent passed on your query, you have no way of knowing if they passed because it wasn’t “even remotely good” or because they just weren’t interested in, say, rhyming picture books about polka-dotted ducklings. Given the many, many agents out there, I’d say submit your shiny new query elsewhere, unless you’re truly convinced this agent is THE ONE. And then, well, what the heck? Resubmit it. What’s the worst that can happen? You get rejected twice. There are worse things in this world.

If the manuscript is aimed at the lower/higher end of a genre (like Lower Ya or Higher MG) do I need to mention that in my query, or is it enough when the agent notices that when reading the sample?

Because I get queries for everything from board books to adult fiction, I like it when writers specify the target demographic in their query. As I mentioned in my answer to Suzie, other markers in your query should also help tip off the agent as to what genre you’re aiming for.

Laura Pauling asks:

Is it acceptable to have a murder in a humorous tween mystery if the murder is off screen with no blood or gore?

Yes, I find that perfectly acceptable. Susan Runholt’s MYSTERY OF THE THIRD LUCRETIA has a murder in it, and we didn’t hear any complaints. And Donna Gephart’s AS IF BEING 12 ¾ ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT has an assassination plotline, and she still won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award from SCBWI.

Paula Kay asks:

If a query is well written and peaked your interest, would you turn it down if the word count was high?

The word count of the query or the ms? Kidding. I’m getting punchy as I near the end of these questions (though I am a bit wary of really long query letters.) In truth, a really high ms word count often gives me pause. To me, it signifies that the writer can’t self-edit, and while I’m certainly what you’d call an “editorial agent,” if the ms is unnecessarily long, I’ll need to weigh how much editorial work I can give it against how much I love the manuscript as a whole. That said, if I love the voice of the query and the premise of the story, I’ll ask to see pages. No harm in dipping a toe in, right? Of course, if it’s crazy long, like 600,000 words long, it’s a pass, but that’s often because the manuscripts with these super high word counts tend to have the worst queries. Go figure.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. Thank you to everyone for submitting their smart questions. I do hope you’ll be in touch, if your project sounds like a good fit for my list. Good luck!


Thank YOU, Tina, for being so generous with your time and knowledge.  Everyone, please thank Ms. Wexler for participating in our Q&A.  If you'd like more information on what she's looking for and how to submit, please see her Agent Spotlight profile.  Thank you!

Tip Tuesday #44

I hope everyone had a fabulous 4th. I sure did, but the extended weekend has me completely thrown off. Today (it's Tuesdays right?!), I have another great tip from Deren of The Laws of Making. Please give his blog a visit!

When you come to a question as you write, don't settle for the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, get in touch with your inner obnoxious child and ask yourself, "Why?" after you answer your question at least five times. I actually learned about this technique while tracing the root cause of failures in engineered systems. In that context, studies showed that asking why five times really did get to the original failure. The people that you write about are likely more complicated than an engineered system, so asking why five times won't get you to the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it's a great way to get beyond the superficialities to the deeper matters that will make your story come alive.

If you'd like to know a bit more, I recently posted a note about the five whys on my blog.

Deren, this is one of those simple but extremely helpful tips. Asking "why" again and again is one of the best ways to avoid going in a direction that is expected or cliche. Thanks for another great tip!

Agent Spotlight: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel

This week's Agent Spotlight features Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary.
Status: Closed to submissions. The agency website says she plans to open to middle grade fiction and nonfiction and illustrators only in May 2023.
"Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel is co-founder of Full Circle Literary, an entrepreneur, and mom with 25+ years of experience in trade book publishing. Prior to agenting, she worked in editorial, publicity and trade marketing with Penguin and Harcourt Children’s Books. She enjoys tapping her publicity and marketing background to champion writers and artists. Stefanie represents children’s books from toddler to tween, and select adult nonfiction. In adult nonfiction, her focus is on creativity and inspiration. Recent titles she represents: You Will Leave a Trail of Stars by Lisa Congdon (Chronicle) and The Tunisian Crochet Handbook by Toni Lipsey (Abrams).

Children’s books Stefanie represents have been awarded the Sibert Medal, Caldecott Honor, Schneider Family Book Award, Ezra Jack Keats Honor, Charlotte Zolotow Award, Christopher Award, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, New York Times Best Illustrated, Pura Belpré Awards and Honors, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor, and Agatha Award. Some of Stefanie’s clients include Monica Brown, author of Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book; Sibert Medal and Caldecott Honor recipient Juana Martinez-Neal known for Alma and How She Got Her Name; Rafael López illustrator of #1 NYT Bestsellers The Day You Begin and Just Ask!; and poet Carmen Tafolla, author of Charlotte Zolotow Award-winning What Can You Do with a Paleta? 

Award-winning middle grade authors include Celia C. Pérez, author of Tumble and The First Rule of Punk, a Pura Belpré Honor and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book; Diana López, author of Lucky Luna and forthcoming Los Monstruos; and Pura Belpré Honor author Adrianna Cuevas, author of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez. Stefanie also represents a celebrated list of illustrators including Juana Martinez-Neal, Lisa Congdon, Christine Almeda, Adriana M. Garcia, Estelí Meza, Vanessa Morales, Thaís Mesquita, Rafael López and Alexander Vidal. She is always thrilled to work with creatives that have a distinct style or expertise that can crossover to both children’s and adult markets.

A proud Tejana from San Antonio, Stefanie is based in southern California. She is a member of the Association of American Literary Agents and a board member of Latinx in Publishing.(From Agency website)
About the Agency:
“Full Circle Literary is a full-service literary agency, offering a full circle approach to literary representation. Our team has diverse experience in book publishing including editorial, marketing, publicity, legal and rights, which we use collectively to build careers book by book.
"We work with both award-winning veteran and debut writers and illustrators, and our team has a knack for finding and developing new and diverse talent. We work with writers and illustrators from development of concepts and proposals for submission to championing a book into the hands of readers. Our titles have received awards and honors from the American Library Association, National Book Critics’ Circle, Children’s Book Council, Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, National Council of Teachers of English, International Reading Association, and many more." (From Agency Website)
Web Presence:
Full Circle Lit website.
Full Circle Lit blog
Social Media: IG and twitter pls follow @fullcirclelit
What She's Looking For:
Stefanie is currently closed to submissions. She will reopen in May 2023 via QueryManager in the following categories only: middle grade fiction/nonfiction, illustrators.
"Full Circle has had some exciting middle grade debuts this year, and I warmly welcome middle grade manuscripts exploring themes of identity, family, community, and social justice. I’d love to find a middle grade with a touch of magic or a manuscript that explores the joys of life such as cooking or family traditions. I’ve also had the honor of working with exciting author-illustrator debuts by SCBWI members Juana Martinez-Neal and Susie Ghahremani, and I’d love to bring more women of color illustrators and author-illustrators to children’s books."
What She Isn't Looking For:
Romance, historical fiction, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, poetry, screenplays, cookbooks, or rhyming picture books. (Link)
Editorial Agent?
The agency supports its clients through all phases of the publishing process, including editorial support when needed.
There is list of select client titles on the agency website. Some of Ms. von Borstel's clients are listed in her bio above.
Query Methods:
E-mail: No.  
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
The agency only accepts submissions via QueryManager. (Link)
See the Full Circle Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Response Times:
The agency only responds if interested, usually within 8 weeks.
What's the Buzz?
Full Circle Literary is a well established and respected agency that prides itself on its full circle approach. They are big supporters of diversity in books and actively seek multicultural and diverse projects. Ms. von Borstel’s clients seem very happy with her representation. Her experience and sales recommend her.
Worth Your Time:
Publishers Weekly “Literary Agents Assess the Middle Grade Landscape” and Horn Book “A Conversation with Literary Agents on Diversity and Inclusion“. 
Around the Web:
Please see the Full Circle Literary website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 3/11/2023.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? Yes.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's literature. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.