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.

Public Critique: MOONY HILL

Good morning!  Today I have an excerpt from a 695-word story called MOONY HILL by Dana Gaar up for critique.  The excerpt gives a taste of the beginning and end, and she envisioned it as a picture book but says that may change.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

ETA:  At Dana's request, I've posted the full story.


By Dana Gaar


Walking to a party over Moony Hill 

Where trees are blushing and autumn’s revealed


In the hollow below, in the late night air

Tables covered with drinks and plenty of fare


A bonfire is roaring 

to lessen the chill 

But we’ve all 

heard the legend of Moony Hill


Spun by our fathers

in the full moon light

Tales of old man Moony

and his mean old wife


The rumor is wild and the tale it is tall

A time after summer, before the snow fall

They lived back in the woods

at the top of a rise

And fought night and day

for most of their lives.

Legend’s not clear

what happened to him

But she was found headless

where daylight is dim

The hill remained quiet

for a day and a year

When the harvest moon rose,

we thought we could hear. . .

Some say it’s a panther

at times we hear wail

Though seen many nights

by those who dare tell

Alone before dusk,

you may do what you will

Her head in her hands,

she haunts twilight till


But the stories are old 

and it’s been a long time

Things parents made up 

to get children to mind


Though it’s quite dark, it won’t be that bad

Let’s not be afraid, there’s fun to be had


A moonlit ride in a wagon of hay

A quiver and shiver at the coyote’s bay


Legs that dangled when the night owl screeched

Were quickly pulled up and tucked underneath


The wind would howl 

and the bushes would wiggle

Bringing squeals and shrieks 

that turned into giggles


The graveyard crept by

in a ‘lay in wait’ manner

While the hair on our necks 

belied our brave banter 


Roasting wienies on sticks

round the great open blaze

Dark phantoms behind 

danced in long fiery waves


Burnt to a crisp 

were a dozen marshmallows  

Glancing over our shoulders 

at strange moving shadows


Wearing sly little grins

we poked and we picked

Deliciously soaked

in the hour of the witch


At the end of the night when the haunting was done

We banded together as though we were one


Walking home from the party back over the hill

We laughed at the things that gave us a chill


But black is the color of autumn at night

Different shades of the same creep around in moonlight


Sounds are so different when light’s not around

They’re louder and closer and fearfully bound


Hearts jumped in our chests 

when we heard the low moan,

Was it animal, wind, or the trees that had groaned?


Impossible to tell if imagined or real

We all drew in close, hushing our squeal


Some looked to the left others looked to the right

Wishing for home with all of our might


The air was quite fluffy, like clouds on the ground

We could not see up, we could not see down


When you look hard enough 

the darkness takes form

Like clouds in the sky 

on a cool autumn morn


Is that moss hanging down in the trees just ahead 

Or giant black bats about to be fed?


We teased each other with a joke and a dare

Cringing with dread, but in love with the scare


Just about then 

as we rounded the curve

We heard a far wail 

and there went our nerve


Is that?  Oh my! You think it could it be? 

Go see! No way! Please go before me!


The legend of old no longer a lark

Lady Moony’s arrived so we must depart!


With the swoop of a bat, 

we missed not a beat

The only thing left 

was the dust from our feet!


Running and screaming does not require balance

Tripping, not falling, now that takes some talent!


Did you see? Yes, I saw! Though he shook his head no.

Was it her? Yes, I’m sure! I felt her so close!


We gasped and we panted and started to slow

With hands on our knees, a thought started to grow


Of all the night’s spooks and whimsical ghosts

We find, after all, we’d scared ourselves most!

Dana Gaar

Tip Tuesday #56

I love this tip from Deren at the The Laws of Making.  When you're done reading, tell us: How do you handle and deal with criticism?

It's difficult, of course, to be told that your child isn't the most perfect in the world. It's equally difficult to hear that your manuscript could be improved.

As with most difficult things, one tends to go through the five stages of grief with criticism:

Denial - That's not a problem.
Anger - They missed the point.
Bargaining - If I made this small change, would that fix it?
Depression - I can never give them what they want.
Acceptance - Maybe I can if I work at it.

Others have observed the same pattern. What I want to point out is that understanding is usually a part of acceptance. I had a hard time reaching the stage of acceptance with some of the criticism I recently received because I didn't understand. Oh, I understood the words and the concepts behind them, but I didn't understand how to make the suggested changes.

And then, on the third morning, I woke up, reread the letter, and I understood. It felt like a miracle.

Writing is the process of encoding thought with marks on a page. Reading is the process of decoding marks on a page into thoughts. There's plenty of room for error in both processes. Because of that, understanding the thoughts of another and how they apply to your own thoughts is hard work. Fortunately, it's the perfect sort of work for your subconsciousness.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
So, here's the punch line: the best way to understand criticism is to study it and then sleep on it, perhaps for several nights. I suggest three nights because, according to School House Rock, three is a magic number.

Deren Hansen

Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.

Winners + WriteOnCon Live Panel

Just drew the winners for my giveaway using Random.org.  Thank you, everyone, for entering, spreading the word, and donating to WriteOnCon (if you did).  You guys are the best!

The winner of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan is...

Joseph Miller!

The winner of EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin is...

Courtney Barr, The Southern Princess!

Congrats you two! I'm going to try to locate your e-mail addresses and will be in touch for your addresses.  If you don't hear from me, however, e-mail me at caseymccormickya (at) gmail (dot) com.

Then, one final reminder that we have a LIVE panel happening tonight at 9 PM EDT at the WriteOnCon site with literary agent Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary, literary agent Roseanne Wells of Marianne Strong Literary Agency, associate editor Jocelyn Davies of Razorbill Penguin, and associate editor Kari Sutherland of Harper Collins Children’s Books.  We'll be doing a transcript, but I hope you can all make it live!  For details, stop by the WriteOnCon site

See you then!

Guest Blogger Sarah: Write at Home

I love to read how writers become writers, why they write, their influences and journeys, and I just love this post by Sarah from The Crazy Baby Mama.  So, naturally, I've pulled her over to share it on Lit Rambles!  Please check out her blog (particularly if you're a mom!) and enjoy.

Write at Home

Before I was born, my mom spent two years in the Peace Corps. She volunteered in Robert Kennedy's campaign. She worked for the Western Center of Law and Poverty, and served as Chief of Staff for a California Congressman. She was an activist, and an intellectual, and in July of 1981, she became a mother. So, she decided to make a monumental job-change and exchange her high heels for sneakers.

My mom's work-shift started at daybreak -- long before I woke up to the moan of the foghorns, and the smell of coffee brewing in our teeny-tiny house in Venice, California. While my dad showered and shaved, I'd stumble to our dining room table, where she'd bring me a cup of mint tea, and a bowl of Quaker Oats Maple Brown Sugar oatmeal. While I ate, she'd sit next to the open window, sipping her coffee and smoking her third cigarette. The laundry was done, and folded neatly. Lunch -- usually a salami sandwich with extra mustard, a Capri Sun, a baggie of sliced carrots and cucumbers, a hard-boiled egg, and sometimes a brownie -- was already tucked away in my neon pink backpack. While we waited for whoever was driving carpool to BEEP BEEP BEEP the horn, my mom would quiz me on my multiplication tables and ask me who I was the most excited about seeing at school.

When I'd come home from school, the house was redolent with the fragrance of dinner. Sometimes, she'd make her famous spaghetti and meat sauce, other times, chicken kabobs, or salmon croquettes. When I had soccer practice, or art class, or Hebrew School, my mom drove, and we'd listen to classical music in the car while she'd fill me in on the latest murder mystery she was reading each night before bed. On evenings when my dad had late-meetings, she would prepare finger sandwiches, and we'd dine daintily like royalty. And sometimes, in the still of the night, when even our cat, Nebbie, was snoring gently, she'd wake me up, and we'd sit by candlelight on the front deck, drink chamomile tea, and eat squares of dark chocolate. We would whisper ghost stories while surrounded by the powerful stillness of midnight.

Still, when asked what she did for a living, my mom would never describe herself as a Stay At Home Mom. Instead, she would tell people that she "worked from home." You see, during the day while I was gone, she would take her coffee and her cigarettes out to the little shed behind our house, and write childrens’ books at a well-worn library table from the 1920‘s. Along with managing the house, cooking, cleaning, and just being home in case I got sick or hurt at school and needed her, this was how she financially contributed to the family. And more importantly, this was how she nourished her creativity and kept her sense of self happy and alive.

When I started to think about having a family -- even before I met Ethan --- I knew that I wanted to follow my mom's example and (if, financially feasible) "work from home." And so, Ethan and I have tried to make it happen: He waltzes off to work every day, and I stay home with Maysie. But still, you can only sing “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” so many times before going absolutely bat-shit crazy. Between power-struggles over bath time, scrubbing splattered sweet potato from the floor and walls and -- how did this happen?-- the ceiling, and spending more time with my iRabbit vibrator than I do with my husband, I wonder how my mom made it all look so effortless. As much as I love my family, some days I feel like I stumbled into somebody else’s life. A life of sneakers and sandwiches, of early mornings and sleepless nights. And it was in one of these moments after while listening to Maysie beat her toy xylophone to death for 15 minutes (and wishing – Oh God if only -- I had a screwdriver to jam in my ears), that I began to fully appreciate how important it must have been for my mom to have her creative identity. Certainly, I don’t know how I would survive without it, which is why I’m writing through to the other side of midnight. Again.

Agent Spotlight: Jonathan Clements

07/21/2011 – Profile Removed.

Given my past concerns about the agency and the recent closing of Tribe Lit, I’ve decided to remove Mr. Clements profile.

See the agency thread on Absolute Write for further details.


Public Critique: POSSESSED Query

Hey all! Here's the query I mentioned last week.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

Supernatural Thriller
By Sara Kjeldsen

Dear Agent So-and-So,

Fourteen-year-old Gabriel has killed more men than he can count. After fighting in the Napoleonic War for two years, he is now stuck at home with his parents. Gabriel's father has forbidden him to return to sea after losing his left hand in battle. To make matters worse, Gabriel is forced to go on a long trip to visit his aging aunt in the country. His boredom evaporates when he hears voices in a dark room filled with locked cabinets.

Gabriel's curiosity is cut short when a series of tragic events drive him into the woods with a madman in hot pursuit. The voices from the room follow him there. Just when he thinks that he is going mad, the truth unravels. Everything that he thought was real is a lie, including his identity. He is not a soldier. He is a cold blooded murderer.

The angry voices of those that he shot five years ago will not go away. Is there any way out of everlasting punishment for killing the innocent? Gabriel is certain that there isn`t one.

Possessed is a supernatural thriller that contains a final word count of 56,139 words. I have pasted the first ten pages at the bottom of this email.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. If you would like to see more of my manuscript, please let me know.

Sara Kjeldsen

Tip Tuesday #55

Tuesday already?  I'm still trying to figure out where last week went!  Anyway, I have a tip from a new contributor today, Morgan Kyser.  Thanks for sending a tip in, Morgan!  Everyone, please give her site a visit.  I've been enjoying her blog. 

One of the tricks of writing, at least for me, is finding out what you're good at and zeroing in on it. The most significant way of doing this is by figuring out what drives your stories: plot, setting or characters. Once you've picked one or two, focus on them. Of course, a book can have outstanding characters, plot, and setting, but that's quite uncommon. Usually a writer excels at one or two things and may struggle with the rest. Think of Harry Potter. The main characters are fairly simplistic, acting as mere vessels for the setting and plot, and that's fine! People still enjoy the story and love getting lost in that world, because Rowling focused on what she was best at.

So if you're great at setting and plot like Rowling, don't be afraid to world-build to your heart's content. And if you can't ever get your characters out of your head, by all means, let them take the lead. A good writer can make something work, even if one aspect is lacking. Do what you're good at. The rest will come, and if it doesn't, it can always be worked on with beta-readers or during your first re-reading. When writing out the first draft of a story, focusing on what you're good at can make it easier to keep going and finally get the full story out.

Great tip, Morgan!  I like the idea of focusing on what drives the story.  That seems to be a good indicator of where a given writer's strengths lie, the part that comes most naturally. 

Speak Loudly

Please read this post.  Please speak up.  PLEASE.  Even just to spread the word.  I cannot tell you how much I wish I would have had this book for my friends and I during junior high and high school.  I could try, but I don't want to go that dark and personal on a public blog.  I'm not as brave as the amazing C.J. Redwine (read her post) or others relating personal experiences.  Just don't let anyone, especially this guy, take the voice and power of SPEAK away from teens of today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now. 

From Laurie Halse Anderson:

I need your help.

Please share your experiences with SPEAK; your own response to the book, or the way you’ve seen it work in a school setting. Tahleen has already posted her thoughts on her blog. You can do the same. Please share links to your blog in Comments.

But then, please speak up to the people who can make a real difference in Republic, MO.
You can submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader.

You can write to the superintendent of the Republic School District, Dr. Vern Minor, or to the high school principal, Daren Harris.

You can comment directly to Scroggins’ opinion piece.

Then go to Lisa and Laura's blog to comment.  They're giving away a copy of SPEAK to a school or library for every 25 comments they receive there.

Thank you.


Hey all!  I have another query eager for your feedback.  Perhaps this will become a regular feature?  I have one scheduled for next week as well.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

YA Fantasy
By Tim Fletcher

My 60,000 word Young Adult Fantasy, THE EDGE OF OBLIVION, is the first in a series of adventures that follow Paul, a reformed juvenile delinquent, on a mission to save a secret magical town.

On the run from his probation officer, Paul and his disabled friend Billy accept a strange invitation to escape to a magical paradise. For years, outcast children have been invited to Splendor by a clairvoyant raven named Livingston. Here in this secret town, unwanted kids discover the magic that has always lain dormant inside them. For any kid who has ever wanted a second chance, Splendor is a perfect refuge, a place where the very thing that made them outsiders, now makes them strangely powerful.

But Paul’s presence ignites a raging battle. Once a simple garden slug, the Duke has tapped into the magic of Splendor to conjure a horrific new form. As he consumes his enemies, he acquires their magic. Each day his power grows. Now, as commander of the mutant army of Oblivion, he tears apart the city in a search for the singular source of all magic, the essence that keeps Splendor and her citizens alive.

Paul’s allies? There’s a brainy kid who can calculate anything, such as the split second that lightning bolt will strike, or the precise path of a falling leaf. There’s a little girl whose laugher is not only contagious, but for those without the anecdote, fatal. And there’s a bully whose words can kill – literally. Paul’s mentor is Livingston, a one-winged, half-blind raven who sees the future, yet dies a little when he tries to warn others. Everyone in Splendor has a unique magical talent – everyone but Paul. Livingston assures Paul that he was recruited to Splendor for a reason, and that he alone can lead the others to save the city. But how? Paul has no magic – or does he?

Paul must discover the awesome power - and the terrible curse - of his own hidden magic, before leading a band of misfit kids into battle against an army of wonderfully weird and grotesque monsters.

My background is in the entertainment industry. I have edited horror films and produced cartoons for Hanna-Barbara, the studio famous for Scooby-Doo and the Flintstones. Today I write advertising copy and design marketing campaigns for Microsoft. Each of the three of the novels I have planned in the series explores themes of self-discovery and hope for those who don't feel they belong. I think you'll find that the flawed characters and universal themes in the story reflect my background in persuading people to believe in something greater than themselves, which very often is the true version of who they are.

I’m happy to send you any number of pages,

Tim Fletcher

Agent Spotlight: Cari Foulk

07/21/2011 – Profile Removed.

Tribe Literary Agency has closed its doors.  Read the agency thread on AbsoluteWrite for details


Public Critique: Lori's Revised Query

Hello everyone!  Lori has revised her query based on your awesome comments but isn't too sure about the revision.  Please give it a look and offer any further advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

By Lori Johnson

When an elderly friend gives seventeen-year-old Taylor a beautiful charm bracelet, little does she know the gift is a curse. Taylor wears the keys to the gates of Hell.

Breandán, the new guy at school, is a magnet to everyone who meets him, and even Taylor falls for him instantly. She tosses aside her boyfriend, friends, and popularity for a chance to be with the ethereal stranger. Breandán tells Taylor he has dreamed of her for years. But when Breandán sees Taylor wearing the charm bracelet, he knows she is more than fate – she could be deadly. Breandán admits he’s a warrior angel who was sent, along with his family, to guard the Heir who wears the keys.

Breandán is not supposed to love Taylor, who is now the reluctant Heir. Because of his actions, he is banished back to his home land. Demons from the Realm of Darkness take advantage of Breandán’s absence to possess Taylor’s ex-boyfriend in order to lure Taylor into opening Hell’s doors. Somehow Taylor must find a way to save him without sacrificing the angel she loves, even if it means her own death.

I am querying you because you (personal touch here). My YA fantasy romance, Breathe, is complete at 90,000 words. Per your submission guidelines I have (followed directions here). Thank you for your time and consideration.


Tip Tuesday #54

I meant to post this earlier in the day, but it got away from me (the day that is).  My tip is to enter my giveaway and all the awesome giveaways at WriteOnCon, but I also have a fun, quick tip from Katharina (Cat) Gerlach.  Here it is!

I follow quite a lot of blogs and I love commenting. For a while I was very annoyed that word verification was necessary every time but then I figured out that the sometimes hilarious nonsense-words make great names for stuff in my Fantasy and SciFi novels. I named plants, animals and even characters with them, sometimes changing the word a bit to make it easier to pronounce. I have a volyp (an oceanic being with five tentacles), a pinti (1/2 a pint or 1/4 l), a porsork (a meat animal the size of a dog with green hair, four legs that makes noises like a pig), a character named Shetri and many other fun elements. 

Love this, Cat!  I've definitely seen and typed some great ones while out commenting on posts.  I should start writing them down.  I particularly love porsork from your list of names!

So Many Giveaways!

I trust you've been stalking the WriteOnCon blog this morning?  Why wouldn't you be?  There are some amazing giveaways happening courtesy of the awesome that is The Elevensies.  It's spectacular.  ARCS, pre-orders, critiques, swag!  Stuff that isn't coming out for months.  You can be among the first to get your hands on this stuff.  And a post goes up Every. Hour. during today and tomorrow.  Details HERE

But before you run off to see what the latest giveaway is, feel free to enter MY giveaway, which is for an ARC of EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin and a hardcover of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan.  There will be two winners, one book to each.



Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school, and the two girls become as close as sisters . . . until Mallory's magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.
Soon she'll discover the shocking truth about Ryland and Mallory: that these two are visitors from the faerie realm who have come to collect on an age-old debt. Generations ago, the faerie queen promised Pheobe's ancestor five extraordinary sons in exchange for the sacrifice of one ordinary female heir. But in hundreds of years there hasn't been a single ordinary girl in the family, and now the faeries are dying. Could Phoebe be the first ordinary one? Could she save the faeries, or is she special enough to save herself?


One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens--both named Will Grayson--are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan's collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

And it's not just me.  All the WriteOnCon Founders are holding extra contests on their blogs to spread the word and just give more.  Yes, more chances to win!  Make sure you check out the others:

To enter, please leave a comment on this post by Sunday, September 26 at midnight with a way for me to get in touch (if your contact info isn't easy to find).  Please include info/links if you take advantage of the extra-entry opportunities.  My particular contest is open to the U.S. and Canada only, but if you're international and want to enter on behalf of my local library, please do!
Extra entries for the following: 

  +2 for tweeting about this contest
+2 for posting or linking this contest on your blog/website/facebook
+10 for donating to the WriteOnCon website (over on the right side of the WriteOnCon site, down under the follow widget)

Okay, that last one.  I know!  WriteOnCon is something we designed to be totally and completely free for everyone, so we hate asking for money.  Like, at all.  But, unfortunately, the only way we can avoid another Error 403 disaster is to have way better web hosting, and sadly, that doesn’t come for free.

So, yes, we have to pay to keep WriteOnCon 2011 EPIC. But we want to make a few things clear:

-You DO NOT have to donate to enter (or win) any of these contests
-You DO NOT have to donate to participate in the live events
-You DO NOT have to donate to attend our next conference
-IF you decide to donate, we’re only recommending something small, like $5.00

So it’s completely up to you if you want to donate. If you can—THANK YOU, and we wanted to reward you with extra contest entries. If you can’t—no worries. Absolutely none!
Let me know if you have any questions and really, truly make sure you stop by the WriteOnCon site to see what's up to win.

WriteOnCon Live Events and an Epic Epic Giveaway

Yes, it's true!  WriteOnCon will officially be doing monthly live events.  The first one is Monday, September 27th at 9:00* pm EDT with Jessica Sinsheimer of The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, Roseanne Wells of The Marianne Strong Literary Agency, and others to be announced. 

But that's not all!  We're also doing a giant giveaway starting TOMORROW.  Check out the WriteOnCon blog for details. That's where the Epic Giveaway of Epic Epicness will happen and it's going to be AWESOME!  But make sure to stop by here tomorrow as well.  I'll be giving away a copy of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan and an ARC of EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin to two lucky winners.  My cohorts, Elana Johnson, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Jamie Harrington, Shannon Messenger, and Jen Stayroot will also be giving away books or critiques on their blogs.  Go follow and win!

*We all managed to post the time wrong.  The event will be at 9:00 p.m. EDT. 

Word Counts for Children's Books

WordsI received a request awhile ago to do a post on word counts for different age categories in children's lit.  Since opinions vary greatly, I did some research to verify the numbers in my head.  This is what I came away with.  Though, please note that most of the sources I found had slightly different numbers (and I think I'm missing a couple sub-categories).  Check out the links I've provided below and read the comments of this post.  I'm sure my readers will chime in with their knowledge and opinion!


Board Books: 0 - 100 words.

Early Picture Books: 0 - 500 words.

Picture Books: 50 - 1,000 words.  1k is pushing it.

Nonfiction Picture Books: 500 - 2,000 words.

Early Readers:  200 - 3,500 words, depending on age level. 

Chapter Books: 4,000 - 10,000 words.

Hi-Lo Books: 500 - 50,000 words, varies greatly depending on age level. A large number fall between 500 - 20k words.  Some 60-90k YA books get classified as Hi-Lo, but I don't think they were specifically written for the category.

Middle Grade: 25,000 - 45,000 words, usually around 35-40k.  Longer word counts allowed for fantasy, sci-fi, historical.  Up to 60-70k is probably safe (though there are even longer exceptions).

Young Adult: 45,000 - 70,000 words.  Longer word counts allowed for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, historical. 80-90k is safe (there are some as high as 120k, but I recommend staying below 100k, if possible).

Nonfiction MG/YA: 5,000 - 70,000 words, varies greatly (with some exceeding 100k) depending on the type of book and age level (I recommend researching similar titles to what you're writing/proposing to find appropriate range).  Memoirs seem to fall within the same range as novels for their age group. 


We all know there are exceptions, but I wouldn't count on being one.  I recommend staying within (or close to) the recommended word count for your age category/genre unless you've received a lot of feedback verifying it needs every word (or doesn't need more if you're low).  There are a lot of agents that will reject on atypical word count alone.

From my own experience as an intern, I tend to be more critical of YA manuscripts exceeding 80-90k and have to be blown away to want to read a full that length or longer.  While some need the length (and those tend to stand out) most simply need more revision and tightening.

Sources/Further Info:

Manuscript Length at Kidlit.com

How Long Does a Book Have to Be at Writing for Children and Teens.

Word Count For Novels and Children's Books at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog.

From Picture Books to YA - Information to Get You Started at QueryTracket.net.

Counting Chickens - A Few Words About Word Counts at Hope Vestergaard's site.

On Word Counts and Novel Length at The Swivet.

Word Counts at Stacy Whitman's Grimoire.

Hi/Lo Books: Writing for Reluctant Readers at Writing World (stated count of 400-1200 words).

Hi-Lo Books for Upper Elementary Grades at ALA (example titles ranging from 10-90k words).

Writing for Children - Age Categories Determine the Guidelines for Your Children’s Book at Suite 101.

For non-fiction MG/YA I looked at 2009 nonfiction mg/ya nominations for YALSA and the Cybils.

Tip!  Use Renaissance Learning to research word counts on existing titles.  I recommend looking at a large variety to avoid exceptions.

Agent Spotlight: Taylor Martindale Kean

This week's Agent Spotlight features Taylor Martindale Kean of Full Circle Literary.
Status: Open to submissions
About: "Taylor Martindale Kean is a literary agent with Full Circle Literary, representing primarily middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, and illustrators. She is a graduate of The College of William and Mary, where she studied English and Hispanic Studies.
Taylor is looking for young adult fiction and literary middle grade fiction, across all genres. She is interested in finding unique and unforgettable voices in contemporary, fantasy, historical and magical realism novels. She is looking for books that demand to be read. More than anything, Taylor is looking for diverse, character-driven stories that bring their worlds vividly to life, and voices that are honest, original and interesting. Clients include: Emery Lord, Tirzah Price,  David Bowles, Sylvie Lacroix, Anoosha Syed, Isabel Strychacz, Gloria Amescua, Olivia Sua and more. When not working, Taylor can be found traveling, cooking, spending time with loved ones, or (surprise!) lost in a good book.
" (From the 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 the agency website)
Web Presence:
Full Circle Literary
Full Circle Lit blog.
#MSWL on Twitter
What She's Looking For:
From the Agency Submissions Page
"Taylor is currently open to submissions in the following categories only: illustrators, author-illustrators. She is not able to respond to queries sent in categories that are not open."

See her bio above for other info on what she's looking for.

"TAYLOR’S WISH LIST  – currently open to illustration submissions only

Illustration that shows the artist’s unique voice and perspective

Magical Realism in Middle Grade and Young Adult

Young Adult fantasy with grounded and compelling world building, diverse casts, and that has smart and savvy heroes and heroines

All Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction with characters who are engaging, imperfect and diverse

A novel that deals with a family living in the aftermath of a serious crime (From the agency website)

What She Isn't Looking For:
Anything other than illustrators or author/illustrators
Editorial Agent?
There is list of select client titles on the agency website and in her bio.
Query Methods:
E-mail: No.
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify): 
All submissions should be through their QueryManagr form.
See the Full Circle Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Query tips:
There are a number of great tips from Ms. Martindale in this interview at GotYA.
Response Times:
The agency only responds if interested. If interested, expect a response within 8 weeks. Response times available on the web suggest Ms. Martindale generally responds to queries within that time frame, often sooner. Her response time on requested material is sometimes longer.
What's the Buzz?
Taylor Martindale 's clients seem very happy with her representation. 
Worth Your Time:
Interview with Agent Taylor Martindale Kean at SCBWI Washington ((01/2018)
A Cafe Chat With Taylor Martindale Kean at EasternPennPoint (04/2017)
Contest interview with Taylor Martindale at Operation Awesome (10/2011).
Interview with YA agent Taylor Martindale at GotYA (04/2010).
Blog Stuff:
Ms. Martindale will be posting on the Full Circle blog occasionally.
Please see the Full Circle Literary website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 3/24/2023.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 4/30/2023.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieaguirre7(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.

Public Critique: Erin's Query

Hello!  I have another query for public critique.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

YA Romantic Adventure
by Erin Apelu

Dear (Agent):

Nineteen-year-old Eden Anderson is beautiful, popular, and well endowed. Her adventurous personality and perfect figure makes her the envy of many girls from her small town in Idaho. But Eden is unexpectedly single, and always leery of attention from the opposite sex after enduring a life-time of unwanted eyeball body scans and inappropriate comments. After finding the “man of her dreams,” she is dumped and discarded like yesterday’s paper when she won’t take their relationship to the next step—physically.

When Eden’s parents send her to live with her cousin, Claire, for the summer on the North Shore of Hawaii, the last thing she wants is to think about the male species. But Claire puts “Operation Eden” into play from day one, and tries setting her up with beach-volleyball-surfers hoping her cousin will find someone like her own Adonis-like boyfriend. Eden has no intention of indulging her cousin’s desires and only wants to relax on the beach while preparing her brain to start college in the fall.

Everything changes when Eden meets Noa, the mysterious playboy back from college and the one boy who can never be hers. She’s determined to have him, but only in her fantasy—the safest place for her beaten-down heart. When the charming Noa takes a sudden interest in Eden, she’s right to doubt his intentions—his reputation for being a "player" is as deep and never-ending as his pocket change, and she’s not willing to take that train again. Not to mention his “supposed” lunatic ex-girlfriend is stalking her. She tries her best to keep their relationship in the ‘just friends’ category, but Noa's good looks, charming attitude, and constant attention proves this a difficult task. When Eden agrees to accompany him on a sailing trip to Maui, she finds herself jumping off cliffs (something she swore she would never do again), swimming with sharks, and braving a storm that threatens to sink their tiny sailboat. Eden falls hard for the charming playboy, but it might not matter when an unexpected accident will most surely take everything away, including her life.

Eden’s summer adventure in Hawaii starts as a journey of escape, but follows deeper paths of real love and self-discovery. Come join Eden as she spends an adventurous summer in Paradise discovering if taking the leap of love is worth the risk. Told in Eden’s distinctive voice, at turns sarcastic and sensitive, “Off the Edge” is a complete 96,000 word young adult novel.

I spent five years as a tour-guide in Hawaii gaining knowledge of the island, culture, and expectations of typical tourists. Based on my real-life adventures while attending Brigham Young University Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu, “Off the Edge” brings to life the everyday insecurities that young adults face with heartbreak, love, and lose.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know Eden (I dare you to not lover her!). I have included the first five pages below. The completed manuscript is available for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’m excited to jump in and promote “Off the Edge”.

Erin Apelu

[contact info redacted]

Tip Tuesday #53

I have another great tip from Deren Hansen today.  He blogs at The Laws of Making.  Please give him a visit when you're done here.  He's linked to one of his many great posts below. 

Here's a tip that sound's strange because writing is generally a solitary endeavor, but it helps me when I write:


No, this isn't about having a sunny disposition. It's about productivity. Not only does smiling make me feel better as I weave my words, it also seems as though the words come more easily. Perhaps it's because we associate smiles with confidence or contentment (both of which writers seem to have in short supply) and so our brains tend to follow suit when we change our faces.

Smiling is also about attracting readers: It's the writing equivalent of the fact that the phone company (way back when there was one phone company) trained its operators to smile when they spoke with customers because you really can hear the difference. We talk (often obsess) about Voice. Just like a spoken voice, I think a smile comes through as part of your written voice, particularly in terms of the enthusiasm with which you tell the story.

I won't promise that you'll write faster, but I think smiling will make both the process and the product better.

I have a longer discussion of this notion on my blog as part of a series of posts on how Dale Carnegie's principles apply to modern writers.

What an unusual but awesome tip, Deren.  I'm so glad you shared it!  I know I often emote my writing, especially if the scene is particularly funny or sad, but I'm not sure if that's normal.  I hope so!

Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

Nightshade City Title: Nightshade City

Author: Hilary Wagner

Reading Level:  Middle Grade

Publisher:  Holiday House

First Sentence:  The two black rats kept running. 

Summary: "Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of mutant rats of superior intellect. Following a bloody coup, the once peaceful democracy has become a dictatorship, ruled by decadent High Minister Kildeer and vicious Billycan, a demented former lab rat and now head of the Kill Army. Three young orphan rats–brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover–rebel against the Ministry, joining forces with Juniper, Billycan’s archenemy. Juniper and his maverick bank of followers, helped by a tribe of earthworms, plot to overthrow their oppressors and liberate the citizens to create a new city: Nightshade City. This impossible-to-put-down animal fantasy, set in a brilliantly imagined subterranean world, explores timeless themes of freedom, forgiveness, the bonds of family, and the power of love." (via Amazon)


Wow! I haven't read an adventure quite like this since junior high and trust me, that's not a bad thing!  Slightly reminiscent of Newbery winner Mrs. Frisby and the Secret of Nihm and the well-loved Red Wall series, NIGHTSHADE CITY delivers a rat-tastic tale of oppression, freedom, and love.  Following a well-crafted cast of subterranean characters, the reader becomes part of something larger than life, a revolution!  But with the malicious Commander Billycan and High Minister Killdeer in control, the path is not easy for the rats who would defy them.

If you find yourself hesitant to meet Nightshade's crawling characters, worry no more.  Rats and worms have never been so relatable and all their trials and triumphs, joys and sorrows will resonate with you and linger for days.  The writing is superb, imaginative, and affecting.  Wagner is brilliant at description and setting, giving just the right amount of detail when the reader needs it, and the world is well-built and believable.  So much so, I find myself wondering what's scampering beneath my feet as I type this.

In fact, Rick Riordan had THIS to say, and I couldn't agree more:

"Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade-City."

Congrats on a fabulous debut, Hilary!

Official web site: http://www.nightshadecity.com

Blog: http://hilarywagner.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hilarywagner1

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hilarywagner1


Agent Spotlight: Caitlin Blasdell

This week's Agent Spotlight features Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency.
Caitlin Blasdell About: "Caitlin Blasdell  has been a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates since 2002 with a list split evenly between adult and children’s books. Before becoming an agent, she was a senior editor at HarperCollins Publishers. A graduate of Williams College, she lives in Westchester with her husband and four sons. 
Status: Accepting submissions.
What She's Looking For:
Interests: "Specializing in: quality commercial fiction including science fiction & fantasy (adult, young adult, and middle grade), romance, historical, mysteries, thrillers, and women's fiction." (From the agency website)
Update 12/31/2022:
 Caitlin specializes in quality commercial fiction including science fiction & fantasy, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and women’s fiction.  She also handles a few select middle grade and YA authors.
What She Isn't Looking For:
Picture books, illustrators, screen plays, poetry collections. 
About the Agency:
"Our five agents are supported by a strong team that sells audio, foreign, licensing and television and film rights.

"We have offices in New York City and Los Angeles, and have subagents all over the world.

"We represent big commercial fiction and literary fiction. In nonfiction, we want to make the world a better place and are drawn to narratives that explore life’s complexities. We represent books for (almost) all ages. Some of them are award winners, several are New York Times bestsellers…and if they aren’t, many deserve to be.

It’s thrilling when we sign up a talented debut novelist, work with her for a few months and then place her with a passionate editor. It’s equally exciting to relaunch a much-published writer. We spend considerable time helping our nonfiction writers craft their proposals.

We’re talent hunters and then, once a sale is made, we become ferocious talent guardians.
" (From the agency website)
Editorial Agent?
Yes, she is a former editor and several of her clients have mentioned doing revisions with her before submission.
Web Presence:
Liza Dawson Associates website.
AgentQuery, QueryTracker.
There are lists of client titles on the website.  Ms. Blasdell's clients include:  Harry Connolly,  Jack Hart, Rachel Neumeier, Brian McClellan, Charles Stross, Rebecca Zanetti,Sage Blackwood, Zen Cho, Scott Hawkins, Joel Ross, and Alan Smale among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.  
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query ONLY.
See the Liza Dawson Associates website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.  
Response Times:
Fast!  Ms. Blasdell usually responds within a week on e-queries. Response times on requested material range from a week to a couple months.  There are occasional instances of longer or no response. 
What's the Buzz?
Ms. Blasdell seems to be a fabulous agent.  She works for a well-respected agency, has invaluable editorial experience, and is recommended by P&E standards.  Her clients come across as very loyal and happy with her representation.  While her list includes mainly adult titles, she has made several sales in the children's market and has a particular interest in sci-fi/fantasy.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Podcasts:
Podcast with Brian McClellan (01/2022)
Podcast with Writers Drinking Coffee (11/2019)
Around the Web:
Last Updated: 12/31/2022
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed by Agent: 2/4/2023
Please see the Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency website for contact and query information.
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.

How I Found My Agent by Sarah Page

Occasionally I get e-mails from writers who have found their agent through Agent Spotlight.  I received one of those e-mails a few weeks ago from Sarah Page and asked her if she wanted to share her story.  I'm so happy she did because I love what she's written.  You can find and follow Sarah at her new blog, Forty Gallons of Sap.

While the hunt for my agent didn’t involve slaying rabid jabberwockies or esurient krakens, it did require me to master an equally ferocious R&R routine. By “R&R” I don’t mean rest and relaxation—I’m talking about soul-crushing research and revision. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the rules that helped me find my splendiferous agent, Natalie M. Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

I. RESEARCH. Plunder the cyberspace treasuries.

Only a lackwit would condemn their manuscript to slush pile oblivion by sending off a query without carefully reading an agent/agency’s specific submission guidelines. I think it’s equally irresponsible not to ransack online resources for any additional scraps of information before querying. I felt like I hit the jackpot every time I discovered another agent blog, interview, conference transcript, or guest post. These highlight both personality and preference, and sometimes the particular peeves in an agent’s pet collection! Casey McCormick’s meticulously researched Agent Spotlight on Natalie M. Fischer included several links to interviews that ultimately led me to query her about my middle grade fantasy.

II. REVISE. Pick up the gauntlet.

In my opinion, rejections are not unlike a medieval challenge to a duel, a slap to the writer’s ego that demands an immediate response: revise or slink off. Sometimes the pursuit of revision leads to joining critique groups and attending writer’s conferences and workshops. Sometimes it leads to an entirely new book, and the first project must be set aside, or in my case, the first several. Good. Don’t be afraid of massive change because writing is never static, it’s an act of constant creative eclosion pushing us to improve our craft.

III. REVIVIFY. Never surrender the quill!

I’ve come to believe that writers are a peculiar breed of zombie, and we need to trust in our reanimation powers and just keep writing even if it means the words bleed from our finger tips. I didn’t seriously concentrate on my writing until I finished my bachelor’s degree, and it took me almost four years of revisions and rejections to reach this point in my career. But I never would’ve found my fabulous agent if I’d let the rejections slaughter me indefinitely and quit scribbling, researching, and allowing my stories and identity as a writer to evolve.

While each new rejection hits the writer’s “epic fail’ button and obliterates any leftover shards of ego, we can’t allow it to kill the story. The venerable poetess Emily Dickinson once said, “We play at paste / till qualified for pearl” (1-2). Never let failure, or the fear of it, keep you from seeking that same pearlescence in your own writing.

Work Cited:

Dickinson, Emily. “Poem 320.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1961: 151.