Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

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: Jennifer Jackson

This week's Agent Spotlight features Jennifer Jackson, Vice President of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.
Status: As of 5/12/20, Ms. Jackson is closed to queries except for referrals from clients and colleagues. Check the agency site for updates on her status. 
jennifer-jackson-altAbout: Jennifer Jackson is Vice President at the Donald Maass Literary Agency, which she joined in 1993. Once upon a time, she worked as a bookseller for Waldenbooks, and also did a stint at Forbidden Planet, the retail division of London’s Titan Books. She maintains a personal website at http://www.jenniferjackson.org/ and her blog is archived at http://arcaedia.wordpress.com/
Growing up reading science fiction and fantasy led naturally to a concentration in that genre, which she continues to champion. She initiated the expansion of the agency into the area of women’s fiction, and has also expanded her genre reach into the thriller and suspense categories. (Link)
About the Agency:
“The Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City is a literary agency for professional novelists.
“Donald Maass’s pioneering work and writing about the development of fiction careers has made DMLA a leading agency for fiction writers.
Agents Donald Maass, Jennifer Jackson, Katie Shea Boutillier, Cameron McClure, Michael Curry, Caitlin McDonald, Paul Stevens, and Jennie Goloboy together represent more than 150 novelists and sell more than 100 novels every year to leading publishers in the U.S. and 
overseas.” (Link)

Web Presence:
DMLA website.
Personal website.
Et in Arcaedia, ego (blog).
AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
She is interested in both new and established writers and is drawn to storytelling that bends or transcends its genre and explores diverse characters, cultures, and subcultures.
She is actively seeking:
  • science fiction and fantasy, all sorts — for either adult or YA readers
  • upmarket women’s fiction and thrillers that mine popular and controversial issues
  • novels in the tradition of regional fiction including and expanding beyond its Western roots and with a modern sensibility — either period or contemporary settings
  • dark psychological fiction with gothic/neogothic elements – either adult or YA, contemporary or historical, Southern or otherwise
  • character-driven contemporary YA that has something mindful at its core or that challenges traditional thinking (Link)
From Her Website:
“Jennifer is currently seeking new clients in all genres of fiction for the agency, which represents over one hundred authors of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, romance, YA, and other types of commercial novel-length fiction. She is interested in both new and established writers.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

“Jennifer does not represent non-fiction, memoirs, screenplays, poetry, children's chapter books, or children’s picture books.” (Link)

Editorial Agent?
Yes. “As an agent, she believes in a hands-on approach with a focus on career planning and editorial support.” (Link)

There is a list of DMLA clients on the website.
Her current roster includes, among others, New York Times best-selling fantasy writer Jim Butcher, Hugo Award winning science fiction author Elizabeth Bear, USA Today best-selling author Anne Bishop, New York Times best-seller Kim Harrison, evil genius Seth Dickinson, Nebula Award winner Martha Wells, Compton Crook Award winner Nicky Drayden, Nebula finalist Saladin Ahmed, Hugo finalist and dreadpunk author Cherie Priest, New York Times best-selling author Yoon Ha Lee, Icelandic novelist Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, and Shirley Jackson Award nominee and debut novelist Tamsyn Muir.

Query Methods: Currently closed to submissions except for referrals.

E-mail: Yes (Preferred)
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail:  E-query at query.jjackson@maassagency.com  Include a synopsis (1-2 pages) and the first five pages pasted into the body of the e-mail.  No attachments.
See Ms. Jackson’s website and the DMLA website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Response Times:
Ms. Jackson has stated response times of up to 3 weeks on queries.
Only queries sent directly to Ms. Jackson’s submission address are guaranteed a reply.

The agency policy is that queries must be addressed to a specific agent. Simultaneous submissions to more than one agent at the agency is not allowed. However, a query be sent to another agent if rejected by the initial agent.

What's the Buzz?
Jennifer Jackson is a highly respected agent with the equally respected Donald Maass Literary Agency. She mainly represents adult genre fiction but has expanded into the YA market.She takes on very few new authors per year.
Follow her on Twitter at @arcaedia and subscribe to her blog, Et in arcaedia, ego. to learn more.

Worth Your Time:
None that I could find still available online.

Around the Web:
Manuscript Wishlist

Please see the Donald Maass Literary Agency website or Ms. Jackson’s personal website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:
Last updated: 3/19/2024. 
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent?  4/22/2019

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

Nancy Stewart: Writing Picture Books is Hard Work!

Hello everyone! I have a guest post by author Nancy Stewart today. She's celebrating the release of her first picture book One Pelican at a Time: A Story of the Gulf Spill, which has spent sixteen weeks on the Amazon bestseller list for children's books. It addresses the oil spill that happened in the U.S. last April. There will be two more books in the series, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach and then she has another forthcoming title, Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage, which is "the biography of a young girl with a profound birth defect affecting one leg. When she meets a tailless dolphin that's been fitted with a prosthetic tail, Katrina's life changes radically. But how?"

They all sound great, don't they? Now, here's Nancy's guest post!

Somebody Had to Say it: Writing Picture Books is Hard Work!
By Nancy Stewart

Yep, I’ll admit it. Hard work. That’s what it is. You have to think as a child, put yourself in a child’s place and always be aware of the child within yourself. That’s the tricky bit.

And then, of course, once you’ve decided on a wonderful, fun and thought provoking plot, one thousands of kids will want to buy and keep forever, it’s time to put together that puzzle called a children’s book. It needs to be fewer than one thousand words and less really with the new generation of books for the younger kid. Keep it short, and keep it simple while making it a fine fully developed story from which children will learn and grow.

Not only that. Oh, no. Words count and not just in numbers. They must be lyrical, fluid, fun words for children to say. They need to be words kids love to repeat over and over and over. They need to be words children will want to remember, so they can be read to caregivers. It makes no difference, of course, whether the children can really read or not.

That brings you to the revision process. Oh, yes. Just when you’re beginning to feel fine about the manuscript, you happily and hopefully flaunt it at your critique group. “Picked apart” is the phrase that comes to mind. “Just a tiny change here” and a “this might be better there.” Who knew?

Next morning, armed with coffee, lots of it, you rip into the now imperfect manuscript. You try to make sense of all the tough direct critiques and the gentle ones that apologetically murmur, “just a modest suggestion.” Bit by bit, the story reshapes, funnily enough, stronger than before. Huh. Maybe they were right. Always knew you liked that group.

And then, finally, you have a manuscript that can stand up to being called a book. The time has come for it to fly on its own. And it does, right to an agent or publisher.

When you get the word that this agent or that publisher wants it, everything else but absolute joy is forgotten, at least until the next manuscript. But you’re stronger this time. This time you know what to expect, and you’re ready. Yeah, piece of cake.

About Nancy:

After having been both an elementary school teacher, a university professor of education and a consultant for New Options, Inc. in New York City, Nancy Stewart now writes children’s books full time. She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge.

Her travels take her extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. Nancy is US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education.

Nancy is the author of the Bella and Britt picture book series, One Pelican at a Time, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach. A biography, Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage, will be released in August, 2011. All are published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Winner of the HtRYN Scholarship

The Winner of Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" course, offered by Katharina Gerlach is...

Congratulations, Callie!!

Please contact Katharina Gerlach at winner_at_tapio-de.org (replace _at_ with @) to claim your prize. If Cat doesn't hear from you within a few days, I''ll select another winner.

Everyone else, I'm out of tips at the moment. Consider sending one in for the coming weeks. If I think up a good one today, I'll post. Happy Tuesday!


First, I’m going to announce the winner of THE HOT LIST by Hillary Homzie. The winner is:


And the winner of the ARC of POSSESSION by Elana Johnson is:


Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so that I can have your books mailed to you.

One of the things I love about the Internet and blogging is that you can meet amazing authors all over the world. Today I’m interviewing Karen Mahoney, who is from England. Her debut YA novel THE IRON WITCH came out February 8, 2011.

Here's a blurb of the story from Goodreads:

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

Hi Karen. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your book. How long did it take you to write it?

Hello! *waves* Very nice to be here. Okay, so writing THE IRON WITCH was interesting, because it actually started out as my project for an ‘unofficial’ NaNoWriMo. Instead of signing up and doing it all officially, and instead of aiming to write 50,000 words in a month, me and two of my writing friends decided to try 30,000 words in the month. We cheered each other on and, as things turned out… I ended up hitting 50K in 30 days, anyway. I’ve never written that much so quickly before, and I think it was because this book was just ready to come out. Of course, it wasn’t finished then – I continued writing into December and finished the first draft just before Christmas. I then spent months revising! But that first draft was fast. I’d been thinking about the story since the previous May, and I’d been doing research and making notes, so it’s not like it just came out of nowhere.

2. Wow! I’m amazed you wrote the first draft so quickly. And what a great idea to do a unofficial NaNoWriMo. Can you talk about the making of THE IRON WITCH that you discuss at the end of your book? I found it fascinating.

I was lucky to get the chance to write that article – sort of like an ‘afterword’ to the book. Flux had some space left over once they’d typeset the book, so I had a good few pages to play with. We were going to do an interview, but then I had the idea to write a piece about ‘The Making of The Iron Witch’ and sort of tell more about the folklore and research I did before writing the book. I am fascinated by the Handless Maiden tales, and those combined with my interest in alchemy combined to help me come up with Donna’s iron tattoos and the wider world that she’s a part of.

3. I loved the iron tattoos. It was such a unique magical talent. (And okay guys, if you can’t already tell, I really loved this book.) You live in London, but chose to create the world of Ironbridge in the United States. What made you decide to do that? Did you do any special research to create your world?

Honestly, I never even thought about setting THE IRON WITCH in the UK. That sounds strange, considering it’s my home (and has been my whole life), but I’ve always loved the US and it makes sense for me to write stories set there. I’m particularly fond of New England—specifically Boston—so I created my own city (more like a large town), Ironbridge, and set it in Massachusetts. It’s a mash-up of everything I love about Boston and London; Ironbridge Common is a badly disguised Boston Common! :) There’s a small town in England called Ironbridge—which is where I got the name from—and it has an actual iron bridge which is a real landmark. It’s a very historical place, and I liked the idea of creating my own, bigger version and transporting it across the Atlantic.

4. Your agent is Miriam Kriss at Irene Goodman Literary Agency. What made you decide to go with an agent in the United States rather than in Britain?

I think because, at the time I was querying agents (2008), there was still more interest in the US market for urban fantasy than in the UK. That has changed now—and surprisingly quickly!—but even just 3 years ago the US seemed like a better home for my work. I particularly wanted an agent who loves urban/contemporary fantasy (for both adults and young adults), and Miriam Kriss seemed like the perfect fit.

5. I’ve read lots of good reviews and buzz about THE IRON WITCH on blogs. How did you market your book in the United States? Did you find any challenges to doing that since you don’t live here?

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, it’s really no trouble at all. I’ve done online promo—interviews and guest blog posts, for example—but I have always been very active online. I started blogging at the beginning of 2007, so I think that helped build a bit of an audience before the book came out. I particularly love Twitter (I’m @kazmahoney), and really enjoy chatting with people there. Also, I’d already had two short stories published in popular anthologies (THE ETERNAL KISS and KISS ME DEADLY), and although they’re unrelated to THE IRON WITCH that probably gave me a bit more leverage.

6. I know THE IRON WITCH is part of a trilogy. Is there anything you’ve learned about writing a trilogy that you share with us aspiring authors? When is THE WOOD QUEEN coming out?

Well, writing a trilogy is obviously a first for me, too! ;) Not forgetting the fact that we initially sold only two books, and the third book sale came later after it became clear that THE IRON WITCH would do pretty well. Still, in my mind it was always going to be a trilogy, simply because I love them so much. I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is to make sure that the middle book doesn’t suffer from just being there to set-up everything to come in Book 3. THE STONE DEMON won’t be out until 2013, and I need to remember to focus all my attention on THE WOOD QUEEN and make sure this book is fully satisfying in itself—while also setting some things up for the finale. It’s a tricky balancing act, but if you keep it in mind that will probably help you.

Thanks Karen. I can’t wait to read THE WOOD QUEEN, which comes out in February 2012. You can visit Karen at her blog and her website.

I have a fabulous giveaway today. I’m giving away one copy of THE IRON WITCH. Sob, sob, because I really don’t want to give it up. But I will. And Karen generously offered to send the person a signed bookplate for my book and also give away a signed copy of her book. So you have TWO chances to win a signed copy of the book. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 30th. I’ll announce the winner on May 2nd. International entries are welcome.

I hope you’ll come back on May 2nd when I interview Janice Hardy about her books THE SHIFTER and BLUE FIRE

And don’t forget the WriteOnCon live query event with Jessica Sinsheimer at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency tonight at 8:00 pm EST/5:00 pm Pacific time. I’ll be there and hope you will be too.

Happy Easter!

Wishing you and yours a beautiful day.

Win a Scholarship to HtRYN

Hey everyone! Cat Gerlach is offering a scholarship to Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel course, which normally costs around $250. This is a really awesome opportunity! If you enter, please follow her blog and serial novel below. Here are the details!

This contest is held by Katharina Gerlach, who writes fantasy and historical novels for all ages, both in English and German.

Win a Scholarship to HtRYN

As every author knows, writing the first draft is only the beginning of the journey. The real work lies in revision. I (Katharina Gerlach, writer from Germany) found Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" (aka HtRYN) most helpful (see my rant on this blog since I'm not going to repeat it).

While there is no guarantee that you will be able to get your stories published (after all talent plays a major role too, and it can't be taught), your novels and short stories will at least become significantly better. The success of other graduates is encouraging. A course graduate just signed a three book deal with a British publisher, and others have won contests or published short stories. Some are slowly building a successful platform of faithful readers by selling quality e-books, and the latest novel I revised with Holly's methods attracted the interest of one of the major publishing houses in Germany (result still pending).

So, why do I offer a full scholarship for her course? The answer is simple. On my journey to publication, I've met so many helpful writers on this blog and on others that I want to give something back to the writing community. If you want to participate, leave a comment. I will choose a random winner in four days (April 26th) with the details on how to claim the price.

If you are interested in my progress, I'd be delighted if you followed my blog or my free, illustrated Fantasy novel "The Witches of Greenwitch" and spread the love.

Agent Spotlight: Anna Olswanger

This week's Agent Spotlight features Anna Olswanger of Olswanger Literary, LLC.
Status: Accepting submissions.
lda_staffphoto3-07-26-10About: “Anna Olswanger has been a literary agent since 2005. She started her career at Liza Dawson Associates in Manhattan, and in 2014 launched her own literary agency, Olswanger Literary LLC, where she represents a wide variety of genres, but is currently focused on illustrated books (picture books and graphic novels). She is a member of the AAR, Association of Authors' Representatives.
"Anna has sold to major publishers, including Bloomsbury, Chronicle, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
"Her clients' books have won the Newbery Honor, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature Honor, Flora Stieglitz Strauss Award for Nonfiction, Orbis Pictus Honor, PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Parents Choice Gold Award, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books, Sibert Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Honor, Sydney Taylor Silver Medal, Boston Globe Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, International Bologna/Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor, CCBC Choices, and been Junior Library Guild Selections and on The New York Times Bestseller list. You can view many of her clients' books on Pinterest.
"Anna enjoys discovering new authors and illustrators, and is looking for “voice,” the sound and rhythm of an author that is hers alone. She has a particular interest in picture books (author-illustrators only) and graphic novels.
"She works hard with authors to get their manuscripts into shape for submission. She finds that most manuscripts need work on plot, so if you're a potential author or illustrator client, be ready to go through many revisions before Anna agrees to send out your manuscript. Her job is to get the story to the point where an editor will make an offer. (And then be prepared to make more revisions for the editor.)
"Through her work as an agent of children's books, Anna has developed a special interest in animal advocacy. She is the agent for Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff's Jasper's Story: Saving Moonbears, the story of a moon bear held captive in a cage by bear farmers in rural China until rescued by Animals Asia, the organization that Jill founded, and Alan Rabinowitz's A Boy and a Jaguar, the story of a boy who fulfills his promise to speak for animals who cannot speak for themselves.
"Anna is also interested in finding unusual books with a Judaic or Israel theme. She is the agent for Ruchama Feuerman’s novel In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, about the friendship between a rabbi’s assistant and a devout Muslim janitor, and Santiago Cohen’s picture book The Yiddish Fish, about a fish who speaks Yiddish." (Link)
About the Agency:
"In 2014 she launched her own literary agency, Olswanger Literary LLC, where she represents a wide variety of genres, but is currently focused on illustrated books (picture books and graphic novels)." (Link)
Web Presence:
Olswanger Literary website,
Publisher's Marketplace page.
AgentQuery, QueryTracker.
What She's Looking For:
From the Agency Website:
Picture books (by author-illustrators ONLY) and nonfiction graphic novels (by author-illustrators ONLY)Also see her Manuscript Wish List to learn what she's looking for.
What She Isn't Looking For:
Anything other than the above.Editorial Agent?
Yes, see her bio above.
“If you're blogging, twittering, and posting on Facebook, when are you writing your novel or picture book? I'm not impressed by anything other than the quality of your manuscript.” (Link)
Dislikes (Don’ts):
"I don’t like it when authors or illustrators ask me to jump through hoops to see a submission (go to a website, go to a Dropbox account, look at a dozen JPEG attachments)." (Link)“A query or cover letter that starts with ‘Dear Agent.’ The next biggest no-no is telling me that your manuscript has been professionally edited. I'd like to work with authors who can edit their own manuscripts.” (Link)
There are lists of client titles on the website.
Ms. Olswanger’s clients include Jim Carroll, Cathy Fishman, Devorah Goldman, Luli Gray, Michael Hall, Marvin Hamlisch, Michelle Markel, Zack Miller, Margaret Peot, Barry Rothstein, Jennifer Sattler, among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Email text with sample art.See the Olswanger Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.  
Query Tips:
“Write a strong first sentence. ‘Strong’ can mean dramatic, stark, or surprising.”
“Pick your best manuscript and query about it. Don't mention the five other manuscripts you have ready to send. That will overwhelm the agent and make her or him wary of working with you.” (Link)
Response Times:
Ms. Olswanger only responds if she is interested in reading more.
Worth Your Time:
Author Agent Spotlight: Anna Olswanger at KidLit411 (04/2019).
November Agent of the Month: Anna Olswanger interview Part 1 and Part 2 at Writing and Illustrating (11/2018)
Interview with literary agent Anna Olswanger at Amy Newman (02/2014).
Anna Olswanger: An Insider’s Guide to Finding an Representation and Working with an Agent at artistsnetwork.com (11/2010).
Remain Optimistic: Interview with Agent Anna Olswanger at The Chinook Update (08/2010).
Please see the Liza Dawson Associates website and Ms. Olswanger’s website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 5/21/2020.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent?  5/22/2020.
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.


Today I’m interviewing Anita Laydon Miller. She decided to e-published her debut MG novel EARTHLING HERO. She’s calling it “an inexpensive ebook for kids.” The book came out in late March 2011.

Hi Anita. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book?
First of all, thank you so much for welcoming me here! It’s an honor to be allowed into your great space in blogland.

As for me…hmmm…I live with my four kids and husband in Colorado Springs. It is a fabulous place to live and all the outdoorsy stuff we do really leaves a mark on my writing. In addition to my mom/wife work, I’m the book columnist for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. My column prints every Sunday and reaches about 100,000 readers. I’m also working on my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.

My book is about an eleven-year-old boy, Mikey, who wakes one night to find a stranger standing next to his bed. The stranger, Axe, is Mikey’s alien clone. Together with Axe’s sister, the boys must save the world. It’s a fun adventure story. And it only costs $.99.

2. You chose to make Mikey and Axe clones of each other? But their personalities are unique. How did you develop them and their individual voices?

I did a lot of daydreaming about Mikey and Axe before I started writing them—mostly while I was shuttling kids around. By the time I actually put fingers to keyboard, the voices just flowed.

The thing about Mikey and Axe being clones also developed from daydreaming. I think a lot about how we all have multiple personalities, and when those personalities work together, they can really rock. Sometimes I’m cowardly and sometimes I’m brave. Those two sides of my personality help each other, and I thought it would be cool to develop characters who could do something similar for each other.

3. That’s an awesome tip for developing characters. Did you plot out the story and the unique gadgets like the Knocker-outer before you wrote the story or as you went?

I knew how the story would start and I knew how it would end. I knew that in the middle I wanted a chase scene inside a mall, a shootout inside NORAD (a military installation built into a mountain), a fight with Chinese assassins, and a final scene inside a cave near the Garden of the Gods.

For research, I visited Cheyenne Mountain (the military installation), went on a field trip to some awesome caves, and hiked all over the Garden of the Gods. I also shopped at a mall. But I couldn’t find any Chinese assassins.

I “invented” the Shut-up and Sit-still Spray before I started writing. Some of the other stuff (like the Knocker-outer) I added as I went along and revised. I made each version a little more sci-fi. I’m working on the second and third books in the series right now. One of the books will take the kids to an alien planet. That will be much more sci-fi.

4. Wow! That’s cool that you have the series planned out. You were represented by Sara Megibow. I would so love to be represented by her and I bet a lot of our readers would too. Yet you chose to part ways when you decided to e-publish your book. Was that decision hard and what made you decide to do this?

Sara Megibow is an awesome agent. She’s savvy, professional and fun. The agency is run intelligently. I think it will weather the storm in publishing well. But publishing is changing and I wanted to change with it.

Here’s the thing: Do I think I would’ve eventually been published traditionally? Yes.

I don’t think I’m the best writer who ever lived and I don’t have a huge head, but I read A LOT, and can look at my own work critically. I know I was headed toward publication. And it just didn’t look good to me. I’d have to wait years to see my book on shelves, and I’d have little control over how edits would be made on it…so I pictured myself making changes that were lateral changes, ones that didn’t truly improve the story, but just changed it. I also pictured myself worrying whether the publishing house that bought my book would even be around by the time my book was printed. And I didn’t want my ebooks to cost readers more than $2.99. Because to me, that seems like a fair price for ebooks.

Basically, there were about a hundred reasons why I did what I did. But the biggie was control: Financial and creative.

5. Once you made the decision to e-publish your book, it seems like it came out within a matter of weeks. What were some of the things you had to do to get it ready for publication and how did you do them so quickly?

I did a final revision of the book. (I still found several errors after it was up, but fixed those quickly). My husband investigated the formatting techniques and formatted the book. We researched how to sell books through Smashwords, Amazon, the Barnes & Noble Nook store and other locations.

We also made a cover—it’s a photo of the Siamese Twins rock formation at the Garden of the Gods. This is appropriate, since Mikey and Axe are basically twins. It’s also appropriate because a big EARTHLING HERO scene takes place near the formation.

I read buckets about epublishing. JA Konrath is the best resource. If you’re a writer considering publishing (traditionally or independently) you need to stop by Konrath’s blog before you sign anything. I also suggest that you purchase an independent ebook in your genre. Writers need to be aware that authors with good books are making the decision to epublish independently. My book doesn’t suck. Don’t fool yourself into think people who publish independently are sucky writers.

I had the book for sale within ten days of deciding to epublish. That’s with four kids and a part-time job. It’s doable.

6. I love how you decided on the cover for your book. It’s perfect for your story. You are now are in complete control of the marketing of your book. A lot of aspiring middle grade authors feel like it’s already harder to get middle grade books reviewed on blogs than YA books. And I’ve read that some book blog reviewers won’t review an e-published book. How are you planning to market your book and get it in the hands of middle graders?

My goal is to have three entertaining middle grade ebooks for sale before Christmas of this year. The more books I have for sale, the more the books will feed off each other. I really think of my marketing plan as a one year plan in which I give these three books a chance to find their audiences, so that my career as a middle grade author can grow.

My biggest push in marketing is being done by Kindle and Nook. If they can get their ereaders into the hands of middle graders (and believe me, their marketing team is working on that right now), you can bet those middle graders will be looking for good, inexpensive ebooks soooon.

In addition to silently cheering my Kindle and Nook teams, I’m going on this blog tour (thank you, Jonathon, for helping me). I’m also visiting large groups of kids and their parents…talking to them about reading and ereading (because, by the way, I love families to read together)…and I’m giving a reading/writing workshop to local kids this summer. I’ll also be getting EARTHLING HERO info to my GAZETTE readers soon, and I have other plans, too.

Real readers will review the book. And I’ll swallow whatever they write. I’ve already had a few people review it…people I’ve never heard of or communicated with in any way. That’s fun!

7. Are you working on any other projects?

I’m epublishing a MG mystery this summer. I love that book because my daughters love it so much. I think it’s a great book for girls, but I think boys could like it, too. I’m writing a sequel to EARTHLING HERO that I’m hoping will be done by Dec 15. And I’m writing a YA that will be done about this time next year.

8. How can we buy your book and how much does it cost? Do you need an e-reader to read it?

EARTHLING HERO is available through Smashwords, Amazon and the Barnes & Noble Nook store for $.99. It can be read on ereaders, iPhones, iPads, iTouches, etc. It can also be downloaded to PCs and Macs. If you want to download it to a computer, you can go through Smashwords and get it as a pdf. Or you can use a free Kindle app and buy it from Amazon and it downloads it to your computer automatically. The Barnes and Noble Nook app works the same way.

If you can come to this blog, you can read an ebook. If you have any questions about how to do this, email me. I want people to be able to read ebooks…not just mine. I think every writer should own an ereader, though…but that’s for another post.

Thank you, everyone! Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll pop in and out of here all day.

Thanks Anita. Good luck with your book. And she’s right. It’s super easy to download the book to your computer. I did because I don’t have an e-reader.

You can buy a copy of her book here. And you can find Anita at her website, her blog, and her middle grade blog.

I’m giving away one copy of EARTHLING HERO. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 30th. I’ll announce the winner on May 2nd. International entries are welcome.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaways for THE HOT LIST and an ARC of POSSESSION by midnight on April 23rd. I’ll announce the winners on April 25th. And be sure to stop by on April 25th when I’m interviewing Karen Mahoney and giving away a copy of THE IRON WITCH.

Tip Tuesday #85

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send one in, please do! E-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com. Today I have another fantastic tip from Lisa Nowak. Please visit her blog, The Tao of Webfoot, where she's been doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge through her characters. It's super fun!

Punctuation in dialog

One issue writers often have with dialog is how to punctuated it. Here are examples of proper punctuation.

If a bit of dialog ends with a tag (he said, ect.) then the dialog itself should end with a comma (where there would normally be a period) and the tag should begin with a lowercase letter.

Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” said Tommy.

If the dialog forms a question it’s end with a question mark, but the tag begins with a lowercase letter:

Example: “Are we going to the zoo?” asked Tommy.

If it’s an exclamation, use an exclamation point and begin the tag with a lowercase letter:

Example: “We’re going to the zoo!” said Tommy.

The exception to using a lower case letter for the tag is when you start the tag with the character’s name, which must be capitalized:

Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” Tommy said.

If a bit of dialog is not followed with a “said/asked” tag, but rather with an action tag, then the dialog should end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point, and the action should begin with a capital letter.

Example: “I’m going to the zoo.” The boy snatched up his coat.

When the dialog is broken by action, end the action with a period if it’s a full sentence. Begin the second sentence of dialog with a capital letter.

Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” said Tommy, snatching up his coat. “Do you want to come along?”

When the dialog is broken by action, end the action with a comma if the dialog and action together form a fragment. Begin the second part of the dialog with a lowercase letter.

Example: “Today,” said Tommy, “I am going to the zoo.”

When in doubt, pick up your favorite novel and take a look how the professionals did it. By studying various examples you will soon be able to see the patterns.

- Lisa Nowak


Today I’m going to talk about a super resource to help you with your query letters. Then I got a surprise in the mail a few weeks ago that I want to share too.

It all involves Elana Johnson, a wonderful friend and amazing writer I’ve gotten to know through her blog. First, about the query resource. Elana self–published a book about how to write a query letter called FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL. I bought it when I started working on my query letter. And it gave me the courage to tackle it. Because even though I’m an attorney and have written thousands of persuasive letters in my career, the query letter is a whole other beast that terrified me. Okay I’m still a little scared of it.

Here’s what’s so helpful about Elana’s book. She literally explains every sentence you need in your query letter from your introduction to the pitch to your bio to the end. And she explains it using real live query examples—her own and ones she helped people with. For example, she’s got the query for THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker. So many people tell us what a query should say. But explaining it by showing numerous examples works so much better for me. And at the end of the book she has the completed queries.

The book came with an awesome query critique by Elana. Well to be honest, I spent over 40 hours on my query, got three critiques from Elana, a few from my critique group, and then Casey helped me. So I did need A LOT of help. But I couldn’t have done it without this book.

Now Elana is generously offering the book for FREE. She's not including a query critique so if you ever see a contest where she’s giving one away, enter it. You can download your copy of her book here. And if you don’t follow her blog, you should go here to follow it. It’s awesome.

I planned to talk more about queries because there are lots of other useful resources but then I got a totally awesome package containing an ARC of POSSESSION from Elana’s publisher! It’s my first one since I started blogging. Here’s a blurb of the story from Goodreads:

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Doesn't it sound good? And the cover's gorgeous! I loved the book. Vi has a great distinctive voice and I wish I was as brave as her in breaking rules as a teenager. The plot is fast paced and Vi’s problems mount. Elana has created a rich world filled with its own unique technology. Without spoiling it by telling the ending, I will say that I would not have guessed it.

When I started reading this, my 14-year-old daughter was on spring break and needed a book to read. She knew nothing about the book, but likes dystopian stories. So I told her I would share it with her. The first day she was nice and let me read the book at night. But the second day, she did not share. When we were supposed to be watching TV as a family, she snuck read it. And then when she could go do what she wanted, instead of turning on the TV or computer like she usually does, she read. And read when she was supposed to be asleep until she finished it. So yes, it is an awesome book. And yes, I was controlled. But it was for a good cause.

I’m giving away my ARC of POSSESSION. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on April 25th. International entries are welcome. If you don’t win, be sure to come back on June 6th, when I celebrate Elana’s release of POSSESSION by interviewing her and HINT, HINT, there will be an awesome giveaway.

Stop by on Wednesday when I’ll be interviewing Anita Laydon Miller and giving away a copy of her e-book EARTHLING HERO. And on April 25th I’m interviewing Karen Mahoney and giving away a copy of THE IRON WITCH. I’m so excited!

Interview with Rane Anderson!

A couple months ago I checked in with Rane Anderson of The Lit Express and a lot was happening. Since we'd last spoke, Rane had received a publishing contract for a couple middle grade novels with a small publisher and was gearing up to publish a YA novel for FREE on her group blog. Well, of course I had to poke around in her brain about all this, so here she is for an interview! The first installment of Who is Saint Giovanni? debuted this week and it's fantastic. You can find the summary here and the first chapter here (and wait impatiently with me for Monday, a.k.a next-installment day) but before you run off, the interview!

Hi Rane! Can you start things off by telling us a little about yourself?

Hi Casey & Natalie! Thanks for having me here on Literary Rambles!

I’m pretty much your average reading and writing junkie. If I’m not doing one or the other, I’m thinking about doing it. The in-between times are filled with my other loves: traveling, hiking, camping, going to the movies, playing poker (hold ‘em style), and spending time with friends and family.

You have a couple middle-grade novels coming out with TCM Publishing in 2012. Congratulations! What are the books about and how did you come to publish with TCM?

I have done a substantial amount of freelance editing with TCM Publishing. The “TCM” stands for “Teacher Created Materials.” Until now, they have only published educational resources. Last July, I heard of their intent to start a fiction line, and I jumped at the opportunity by sending in writing samples.

The Philosopher is a gritty historical adventure featuring a boy who becomes Benjamin Franklin’s assistant.

On the Moon is a sci-fi adventure about a brother and sister traveling through different dimensions to rescue their scientist mother.

Both sound fantastic! You'll have to let us know when and where we can get our hands on them. Now, you also have a YA paranormal romance novel you’re publishing serially on your blog for free. Can you tell us a bit about Who is Saint Giovanni?

Who is Saint Giovanni ? is about a troubled girl, seventeen-year-old Emily Edwards, who awakens the morning after a near death experience to discover an X carved between her eyes. It’s painless, bloodless, and she has no clue how it got there. No one else seems to see it. As if that’s not bad enough, Emily’s senses are freakishly sharper, like she has been living, until then, a little deaf, a little blind, and without taste buds. Desperate for answers, Emily has to trust the one person in Italy she promised to avoid. Giovanni.

Very intriguing summary. I have questions already! Why did you decide to publish WiSG? on your blog?

My thoughts on getting published have changed over the last year. In the old days, I wouldn’t have considered giving away my novel for free. Time is money, right? And if it’s offered for free, how does that help my career? I want to be clear about this. I am very serious about my ambition to become a successful author. But I’ve learned that we writers shouldn’t cling to our work, thinking, “What will happen if this one doesn’t make it?” I’ve been there. I’ve thought that. But I take comfort in knowing, with 100% certainty, that I will always write another novel. And after that one, I’ll write another. There is no end to the journey. After I came to that conclusion, and after starting another project I’m super excited about, I decided to post Who is Saint Giovanni? on The Lit Express so others can enjoy it. What do I have to lose?

Great answer, Rane. I love your thoughts and attitude on this! Do you plan to publish WiSG? via Kindle Books or similar in the future?

I hadn’t planned to at first, but I’ve decided I will after posting it on my blog for a few months. Even after it’s for sale (for .99 cents), I’ll continue to post it for free on my blog. Of course, I wouldn’t mind making a little money, but I don’t expect to become the next Amanda Hocking. If it happens—wow—if it doesn’t, I’m on to the next order of business!

The cover for Who is Saint Giovanni? is gorgeous!! I know from the cover story on The Lit Express that it was designed by Ashley Stewart, but I’d love to hear how you came to work with her and what your plans are for other illustrations.

Back in February, I posted an ad on conceptart.org explaining my plans to publish WiSG? on my blog. I wasn’t even thinking about a book cover at the time! In my opinion, a big chunk of text on a website isn’t very appealing to look at. My plan is to begin each post with a black and white illustration depicting a scene from the posted chapter. There will be a new illustration every week! Over 30 people applied for the job, and Ashley was one of them. I fell in LOVE with the art on her website right away! (ashleystewart-art.com) She has a great career ahead of her!

Do you think you’ll be able to reach many teens with your serial novel given the publishing format? How can readers help spread the word?

Ask me this question in a month (lol). I really don’t know what to expect at this point. I have met several book bloggers (teens included) who are really excited to start reading! And the best way to spread the word starts with you, Casey! If you read WiSG? and like it, you will tell your friends. If they read it and like it, they’ll tell their other friends. People who become genuine fans of something will not hesitate to recommend it!

And it also starts with those reading this interview (whoever you are, I thank you in advance!). Also, it would really help if people left comments after each installment. : )

If the rest is anything like the preface and first chapter, you can bet I'll be spreading the word! Where can readers get the latest and greatest on you and your books?

The Lit Express blog and raneanderson.com

Thanks for the interview, guys! : )

Thank you, Rane, for taking the time to answer the call of my curiosity. I can't wait for the next installment of Who is Saint Giovanni? and wish you much success with all your novels in the coming months!

Readers, do you have any questions for Rane? If these tasty illustrations aren't enough to send you over to read the first chapter, perhaps the book trailer will?

Agent Spotlight: Andrea Cascardi

Profile removed. Ms. Cascardi is no longer a literary agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency. She is now the Managing Director and Publisher at Egmont USA. Do not query. 

See the announcement in PW here.


Today I’m interviewing Hillary Homzie. Her middle grade novel THE HOT LIST came out on March 8, 2011.

Here’s a description of THE HOT LIST from Amazon:

It all starts as a goof between Sophie Fanuchi and her BFF Maddie Chen--a "Hot List" the two girls create and anonymously post in the girls' locker room listing the cutest boys at Travis Middle School. Soon enough the list has taken on a life of its own. Maddie's thrilled to be caught up in all the excitement and finally hanging out with the "pops," Travis Middle School's self-proclaimed It Girls. Sophie, however, misses just having secrets between herself and Maddie. Even worse, Maddie's suddenly super tight with Brenna Tate, leader of the pops and the daughter of Sophie's father's new girlfriend. As Sophie and Maddie's friendship unravels, Sophie latches onto an impulsive bet with Brenna to get the universe right again--Sophie declares she'll prove the list is meaningless by making over their wacky classmate Squid so that he can land on the Hot List. But will any bet or list matter more than Sophie's friendships . . .?

Hi Hillary. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book?

By day, I immerse myself in the lives of middle school girls. But when school gets out, I’m reminded that I’m not 13 but actually the grown mother of three boys. Yes, three (ages 14, 11 and 6). No girls in my house. Recently, I think, I’ve been writing about girls to bring some balance to my xy-chromosome-dominated life. If you count my husband (and you have to count my husband), I live in a household with four boys, so I’m very out-numbered. The crazy thing is that when I was younger, I was really shy around guys. But let me tell you now that I know how the other side lives, thinks, and smells, I want to grab my younger self by the collar and go, c’mon you were afraid of them? Before I was an author I had lots of jobs, including working as the publicist for a ballet company, a radio reporter, teaching ESL and performing sketch comedy. All of those experiences have helped me to purge any residual shyness.

2. How did you develop Sophie as a character? Is she or her problems with her changing best friends based on your own experiences?

I have a very long-term best friend when I was growing up. She was and is still an absolutely amazing person—loyal, artistic, and we’d have the best conversations. I would have been content to live in an elementary school bubble of having her as my BFF and not have to deal with navigating lots of other close friendships. But she felt differently and needed to branch out. I think in writing this book, I was diving into those feelings. I still remember a conversation I had with my friend—“that we need to de-intensify our friendship.” She used words like that and all I knew is that it hurt. But and it’s a big but, the following year in eighth grade, I moved away for a year and was forced to really branch out. I came to understand my bff’s need to spread to a bigger group. And I discovered all of these wonderful girls that were right under my nose the whole time. I don’t want it to sound like I only had one friend. I didn’t, but previously I only allowed myself to get super-tell-all-my-secrets-close to one person. I feel like after writing this book, I love my bff more than ever.

3. It sounds like you’ve drawn a lot from your own experiences. The Hot List in the school bathroom causes Sophie a whole lot of troubles. How did you think of this unique way of spotlighting some of the issues middle school girls face?

Honestly, a sixth grader told me how her middle school had a Hot List in the bathroom so I went from there. It just intrigued me--this idea of a secret hot list on the back of a bathroom door that all of the kids know about and none of the adults. And it got me wondering, what if my main character was the one who started this list? And then I thought some more. What would make someone start at hot list? The idea that Sophie was not someone you’d think of starting a hot list intrigued me. I thought, what if she’s doing it to impress her BFF who’s slipping away? Who’s been hanging out with a crowd that seems more fun? And Sophie is determined to be extra fun in order to compete. Of course, without revealing the whole plot. Sophie’s little plan backfires and the hot list spins out of control. She grows to hate the list and even to prove how dumb it is, tries to get Squid Rodriguez, the goofiest kid in the school onto the list. What happens is very interesting. And unexpected.

4. You’ve also had three other books published—WHO LET THE DOG OUT, TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN NONE, and THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY. Can you tell us about your road to publication and any bumps along the way?

You know my first book happened pretty easily. I noticed that there was a new editor at Simon & Schuster. And I remember this piece of advice—try to send to new editors. This could be someone who’s come over from a different company or maybe an editor that has just been promoted. Anyway, I set over a manuscript and, boom, the editor calls me up within a week and then a week later, I got an offer. It was fairly magical. But I did hit a bit of a quiet time between my fourth book and fifth book. Quiet only in terms of publishing, not in terms of the noise level of my house. (I was having babies and they’re definitely not quiet—at least not my kids.) Anyway, I did get a couple of contracts on books that I was paid for but never came out. In both cases, it was because the company was swallowed up by a larger company. Ug. It was very frustrating. But I did learn something. These were projects that I probably didn’t love deeply but I was paid for and there was a part of me that wanted a publishing credit versus wanting to write the book. For my fifth book I just wrote what I wanted to write and I sold it to the first editor that I sent it to. Lesson learned: write what you want.

5. That’s awesome that you persevered and sold all your books without an agent. I read on your website that THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY was featured in the Justice stores. That seems like an awesome way to reach tweens. How did that happen? Do you have anything similar planned for THE HOT LIST?

Oh, I wish I could take credit for that placement. That was a program that was dreamt up by the amazing Julia DeVillers, author of lots of great books for kids and teens, and then instituted by the wonderful team at Aladdin/Mix Books. I felt really grateful that they choose my book as one of the initial featured books. It was definitely a great fit.

6. Are you working on any other projects?

Oh, yes. A new book for tween girls, dealing with one of those friendships that is forced by two annoying but well-meaning mothers, as well as a young adult novel.

Good luck with your book Hillary. You can visit Hillary at her website and her blog. You can find her on Twitter @HillaryHomzie. Also check out the book trailer for the Hot List here.

Nikki Katz, Hillary’s blog tour coordinator, is providing one copy of THE HOT LIST for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on April 25th. International entries are welcome.

And don’t forget that next Monday I’ll be sharing a really helpful resource to help you with your query letters that’s FREE and something else that is totally awesome. Hint. Hint. It involves Elana Johnson’s new book POSSESSION. I’ll be giving away a copy of her ARC! Trust me, you want to read it as soon as possible so be sure to enter.

Tip Tuesday #84

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send one in, please do! E-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Deren Hansen e-mailed me with a tip for the week and I don't think you'll be disappointed. It offers a fantastic resource. Please visit Deren's blog, The Laws of Making, after you're done reading here.

Using language well is one of the hallmarks of a writer.

One of the reasons it's critical for writers to read widely is because they must develop a sense of the differences--sometimes subtle--in how people have used our language in different times and places.

That's why you must run, not walk, and add http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/ to your bookmarks. The link will take you to the Corpus of Historical American English (CHAE). The site shows you how frequently a given word appeared in published works each decade for the last two hundred years.

For example, the word, 'airship,' comes out of nowhere with 30 instances in the 1860's, nothing in the 1870s, ramping to a huge spike (195) in the 1910s, falling down to only 4 instances in the 1950s, and then climbing back to a respectable 38 in the 1980s. Notice the linguistic shadow of the rise and fall of the technology?

Nothing can replace being well read, but the CHAE is a great way to spot-check potentially anachronistic word and phrases.

Deren Hansen blogs daily at The Laws of Making.


First I’m going to announce the winner of CLARITY by Kim Harrington. The winner is:


Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can mail you your book.

Today I’m so excited to interview Judith Engracia, a literary assistant at Liza Dawson Associates. She handles their audio rights and digital publishing and is building up her own client list.

Welcome Judith. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a literary assistant.

When I was still undecided in college, the advice I kept hearing was “do what you love.” Since books have always been my passion, I decided to try an internship with a literary agency and, sure enough, I’ve been in love with this job ever since.

2. That’s so cool you’re following a career that you love. I read in your bio that you interned at Random House, FinePrint Literary and Nancy Coffey Literary Management. How will these experiences help you as an agent?

Well my three internships with literary agencies were reading and writing-intensive, and everything I did as an intern (slush, requested manuscripts, client manuscripts, and editorial letters) are all part of a normal day for an assistant and agent. Meanwhile, my internship at Random House with the Special Sales department really showed me the business side of publishing. The special sales team had to be creative in thinking of new possible markets for their upcoming titles, which is also the mindset agents need to have. An agent’s job isn’t over after he or she pitches a book to an editor—we continue to think of other ways to sell our client’s work, whether it’s through merchandising or uploading a client’s backlist as e-books, if we control the rights.

3. What types of manuscripts are you interested in receiving? Are they any different in middle grade vs. YA?

I’d love to work with more urban fantasies and paranormal romances, as well as YA’s and middle grades with a spunky, sassy protagonist. And yes, the main difference I’ve noticed between a middle grade novel and a YA is that the themes in a middle grade tend to explore family and friendship issues with a crush somewhere in the periphery, whereas romance is often more prominent in a YA.

4. Are there any genres or story lines that you aren’t interested in representing?

I enjoy pretty much all types of fiction—YA, middle grade, urban fantasy, paranormals, thrillers, romance, and literary—which is more than enough to keep me busy right now. So I think I’ll most likely shy away from nonfiction projects at the moment.

5. What books are you really excited about now that you wished you represented?

Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only agent who wouldn’t mind representing any of the books on this week’s New York Times bestseller list!

6. Ha! And we’d all have loved to have written those books. I know some agents say that the market is saturated with books about vampires and werewolves. Are there any types of books that are harder to sell right now?

The market is pretty crowded with vampires and werewolves right now, and it looks like fairies, angels, and demons are becoming harder to sell, as well. But of course, if the manuscript is stellar, people will pay attention.

7. What do you want to see in a query letter? Do you have any pet peeves?

I think agents all basically look for the same format: a short pitch or hook, a one-paragraph summary, and a brief bio listing any awards or writing experience. And above all, we’re looking for tight writing in the query. Unnecessary words and wandering sentences are flags that the manuscript is probably written in the same manner, which means more rounds of revision and more work for the agent. As for pet peeves, mine would have to be nasty replies from authors after I (politely) passed on seeing their manuscript. Rude replies don’t happen often, but when they do, it can be quite jarring.

8. Yes, rudeness is so unprofessional. Do you have any other advice that we haven’t discussed?

My advice would be to keep in mind that this is an extremely subjective business so it’s important to never give up! A pass isn’t necessarily a judgment on your writing—we might recognize that the writing is solid, but the project just really isn’t for us. So don’t be discouraged. Keep querying, and above all, keep writing!

That’s such an important piece of advice and one we aspiring authors sometimes forget. Judith will stop by and may answer some of your questions in the comments so be sure to check back.

Thanks so much Judith for letting me interview you. Good luck! You can check the Liza Dawson Associates website in the next few weeks for Judith’s bio and her e-mail to send her your queries. You can also check out her blog here.

This week and next I’ll be blogging on Wednesdays as well as Mondays so I can spotlight two middle grade authors. On Wednesday I’ll be interviewing Hillary Homzie abut her new book THE HOT LIST and giving away a copy of it. Hope you'll join us.

I want to remind you of The Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.

And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:

Joanne Fritz
Shannon O’Donnell
Sherrie Petersen
Myrna Foster

I follow them every week because I love finding out about middle grade books and it’s important that we all help promote middle grade authors.

Next Monday I’ll be sharing a really helpful resource to help you with your query letters that’s FREE and something else that is totally awesome. Hint. Hint. It involves Elana Johnson’s new book POSSESSION. I’ll be giving away a copy of her ARC! Trust me, you want to read it as soon as possible so be sure to enter.

Tip Tuesday #83

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send one in, please do! E-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Laura Lascarso, whose debut YA comes out in 2012, sent in today's fun tip about slang. It's actually more like a guest post, so I think I'll leave it up through tomorrow. You should check out Laura's blog where she talks books, music, and all sorts of other fun stuff (even emo hair!). Here she is:

“Thank you for not using the word ‘bling’ in your story.”

A Discussion on Slang in YA

By Laura Lascarso

So said my critique partner to me when reviewing my last manuscript. Why? Because I *heart* slang and tend to sprinkle it throughout my stories, not just in dialogue but sometimes in narration as well. I find it hard to restrain myself from using words like “bling” because “jewelry” sounds so gosh darn bourgeois.

Disclaimer: I have no literary degrees to back up my claims. All subject matter is extremely subjective and open to interpretation.

So, what do we demand of our YA writers? We want dialogue to be authentic, snappy, true-to-life, but we want our stories to be timeless, classic, universal. The two goals seem to be at odds with each other. How can I write a timeless story without it feeling old fashion? What technology should I choose to include or exclude? How can I be authentic to the teen voice without trying too hard?

In attempt to address these concerns and/or foster a dialogue about it, I’d like to introduce a couple questions to ask yourself when dealing with the use of slang.

Will ‘bling’ last?

Slang is an ever-changing organism and the shelf-life of words is shortening all the time, so think about whether your words will even be recognizable in a couple years. Some words, like “cool” and “awesome” have stood the test of time. Others like “radical” and “cowabunga” are only appropriate for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In some cases, having the slang date your story might be beneficial. In historical fiction, you’ll want to include colloquialisms specific to that time period to lend authenticity. On the other side of the spectrum, dystopian, futuristic stories, such as Scott Westerfeld’s SO YESTERDAY and MT Anderson’s FEED, make up their own set of slang words that enhance the satirical voice. They are used repeatedly throughout the story to give readers definite context. It also serves to invite the reader to be part of the “in” crowd, by assuming the slang is universally accepted.

But as a general rule, for a realistic story set in modern times, less is more.

Who said it?

Are all your characters spitting rhymes or is it just one character who tends to wax the vernacular? Consider using slang as a tool for revealing character and a way to analyze your dialogue on a deeper level. Each character’s dialogue should be unique and specific to them. Also, try to avoid stereotypes (the farm boy who says aint, the inner-city kid who flosses the ice) unless, of course, you’re going to develop that character fully and give us snippets of their lives that makes them more (or less) than a stereotype.

Is there a better word?

You might find after a little thought, that there is a more accurate and universally known word that will be just as effective. A good experiment would be to hand off your manuscript to your mother or someone in the generation above you. Ask them to highlight words they don’t understand. Another exercise would be to give your manuscript to a teen beta reader and do the same. You might find that your slang is dating you, to your high school years and the slang that was popular then.

As an addendum to this point, think about your curse words as well. There are words that are hot buttons for librarians and teachers, the list is amorphous and ever changing, but it’s good to be aware that it exists. If you’re going to use profanity, do it with intent, and if not, consider toning it down so that your book will have a wider market appeal.

What about technology in YA books?

The kryptonite of all YA writers has to be the continual introduction of new technological gadgets. This brings on a whole host of concerns in and of itself, but for now, I’ll just say, a cell phone is a cell phone. If you want to call it a Smartphone or a BlackBerry or an iPhone, you run the risk of that technology being outdated before your book even hits the shelves. At the same time, technology can’t be avoided and if you try, then your book will be dated to the point of being unrealistic.

In conclusion…

The best advice I can give is to go back through your manuscript and highlight all your slang. When you do, you might find that you’ve used it more than you intended. You may also find that you used the wrong words (Some slang words that you think are one thing, are really something else). Treat slang like adverbs and try to reduce as much as possible, and the ones you keep, use with intent. Because sometimes bling is best.

I’d love to hear comments on this subject, any tips you’ve learned or mistakes you’ve made, because like the world of YA, it’s a continually changing rulebook.