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.

Tip Tuesday #115

Tip Tuesday offers tips on writing craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today's tip was sent in by Alexandra Loewen who doesn't blog but tweets @alexandraloewen. Alexandra's previous tips include #75 on character names and #106 on adding music to your writer's toolbox. Here's her newest!

I discovered a new form of inspiration that is simple, but particularly effective for me: I changed the theme on my iGoogle page to the setting of my current story. Now every time I open my laptop or return to my home page, I am hit with a visual of my story’s setting, which draws me right back in and inspires new thoughts and ideas for the story. Very importantly, it also keeps me focused on the work I should be doing, which comes in handy when I start to get distracted by email or something that looks interesting online. For those not using iGoogle, perhaps you could try this with your wallpaper.

This idea may also work with a subject instead of a setting, or any powerful visual that immediately reminds you of your story.

To change the theme on your iGoogle page, look for the small ‘change theme’ button in the bottom right corner of the theme box. Then enter your setting in the ‘search themes’ box and see what compelling images come up!

~Alexandra Loewen


Before I start my first regular blog post in a long, long time, I have a bunch of winners to announce from our 2000 follower giveaway, which had 175 entries. Thank you so much for entering and for spreading the word. You guys are so awesome.

Yea! I love giving away books. So here are the winners:

The winner of THE LIGHTENING THIEF is:


The winner of BREAK is:


The winner of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is:


The winner of ANGELFIRE is:


The winner of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE is:


And now to the three winners of the second part of the giveaway:




And the winner of MAY B is:


Congrats everyone. E-mail me your addresses so Casey and I can send you your books. STELLA and SSTOKES, I could not find your e-mail so please be sure to e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to choose new winners.

Do you set writing goals at the beginning of every year? To be honest, last year was the first year I set myself goals other than to just write. Not having specific goals worked great my first year writing when my daughter was six. Life seemed a bit slower and the excitement of starting to write propelled me forward. I wrote almost everyday and finished a poor first draft of my manuscript in a year.

But as the years have gone on, (Yikes, it’s been nine years) my life has felt more and more like this.

Yep. A stretched rubber band with work, family, and volunteer activities pulling me in a zillion directions that takes time away from writing. I’m sure I’m not alone.

So last year after reading lots of blog posts about setting goals, I decided to set some for myself. And I did write more. I finished another two edits on my manuscript where I cut about 10,000 words. While I hoped I would be querying by now, I realize after a beta read that it needs another quick revision first. And I do have more than one query (after about 40 pages of drafts) that I like completed. I started a new project, though did not get as far as I wanted. But I did more forward.

So I set goals again this year. They’re modest this year. Because I’m feeling that rubber band pulling again. Ever year I try to cut back on the things that take time away from writing. I did cut my volunteer activities this year. Promise.

But I’ve come to realize that at least for the next few years, as much as I try to cut back on these outside things, there is always a BUT THEN and a new time consuming thing that pops up. Now it’s my daughter’s swimming, helping her get through high school and preparing to apply for college.

And then this Fall a big unanticipated change occurred that has the rubber band pulling me in another HUGE direction. The prepaid legal services plan I work for wasn’t refunded and we’re in a 4 year wind down period. I’m not going into all the details because it’s not good to air those things in public.

But it does mean in the next two to three years I have to find a new job. I’m grateful I have so much time. But I haven’t looked for a job in about 25 years. So I didn’t have a clue how to do it. Luckily one of my awesome secretaries gave me some tips on how to search for a job online.

So these next few years I’ll be figuring out where to go next with my legal career which may include a career change, upping my computer skills in preparation, and networking more with possible employers. I already know it’ll take a lot of time.

Because of this all, my writing goals are more modest this year. A few weeks ago as I contemplated this post I was afraid I was going to have to admit that I’m not writing at all again. Because I do go through those times. With working full-time at a demanding job, blogging, and running my daughter around, it’s hard in the best of times to squeeze in writing time. But I’m happy to say I have been writing. Not everyday. But I am making progress on my new manuscript.

So I’m going to keep moving forward even if I feel like it’s at the pace of a turtle.

And I know these things stretching on me—my job and my family obligations—will pass. I will sort out the job situation. In about a year my daughter will be driving herself (Yikes!) and then a few years later going away to college (I’ll be sobbing then!). Someday I will have more time and can move faster in my writing goals.

For now, these writing goals are my lights that help keep me on track in my writing career. And the writing is one of my pleasures keeping me sane in this crazy time where the rubber band is pulling me in a zillion directions.

What about you? Do you set writing goals and do they help you stay on track? And how do you handle those insane times when there isn’t much time to write or, if you're a book review blogger, don't have time to read book and review them as much as you'd like?

Before you answer, here’s what’s coming up the few weeks. Next Monday, I’ll be celebrating my first year blogging with some reflections and a book giveaway I know you’ll love. The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Kristen Simmons and giving away an ARC of ARTICLE 5.

Hope to see you next Monday!

Write Dreams Auction for Donna's Dream House

Hello everyone,

Just a quick post to help spread the word about a fundraiser going on right now.

Donna's Dream House is a volunteer-run holiday home for terminally ill children and teens in Blackpool, UK. In December, weeks before they were to welcome a number of families for a dream Christmas, arsonists broke into the office and adjacent health center of the house, stole equipment, then lit the furniture on fire. The building was badly damaged and many important documents and mementos were lost. You can find more details here, and here.

Write Dreams is hosting a series of auctions through the next few days to raise money for the charity. Most of the auctions are for books and critiques. Some are UK only but many are US or international. This information is available at the bottom of each post.

Please check out the items still up for auction and consider participating.

Thank you!

Tip Tuesday #114

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on writing craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

This week's tip was sent in by Gaylene Wilson, a long time tip reader but first time submitter. You can find her at her blog, {Unwritten}, and please do visit. I really enjoyed checking out her recent posts as well as her Highlights of 2011. Here's Gaylene's tip!

Find a yahoo group.

Not necessarily a yahoo critique group, but a bunch of random people who talk about writing. It’s even better if it’s not in your genre.

I used to be a newspaper reporter before I had kids. I really enjoyed writing feature stories and humor columns. When I became a stay-at-home mom, I took up writing children’s lit. But I still love humor columns, so I joined a yahoo humor writer’s group. I’ve learned so much from a bunch of strangers.

Because of this group, I realized I needed to add more networking buttons to my blog, like digg and reddit. I learned about a bunch of prestigious contests I’d never heard of before, because they aren’t connected to the children’s lit infosphere. I gleamed an amazing idea to successfully publish an e-book, which I might try someday.

Finding a group is easy. Just google Yahoo writing group, or something more specific, like Yahoo horror writers group, and you can stalk a few lists until you find one you like.

~Gaylene Wilson


First, I want to say thanks to all of you who've entered our 2000 follower contest for all your kind words and for spreading the word about the contest. We already have almost 150 entries. And if you haven't entered, there's still time. Just enter here.

Next I'm going to announce the winner of LEGEND.

The winner is:


Congrats! E-mail me your address and I'll send you your book.

Today I’m exciting to interview some 7th graders from Jill at The O.W.L.’s English class and her daughter. See if you can guess which one is her daughter. If you don’t follow Jill's blog, I recommend you check it out. She reviews books that would interest her students so discusses both middle grade and YA books. I always enjoy her posts. And in March, she'll be spotlighting middle grade books.

Hi everyone. Thanks so much for joining me.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your school, and what you like to read.
Macie: My name is Macie. I like to draw and one of my favorite hobbies is reading. I am in middle school, 7th grade. My favorite kids of books are fantasty

Tyler R: My name is Tyler and I love to be outdoors. I have a dog named Charlie, a brother in college and a sister in the navy. I like to read action and somewhat futuristic novels.

Abbey: My name is Abbey. I am 12 years old to middle school. I enjoy reading fantasy, and historical fiction books.

Tyler M: My name’s Tyler and I like distopic novels along with historical fiction.

Maggie: I’m a 7th grader. I like to read almost anything.

2. Cool. We all like the same types of books. How do you find out about the books you read? What about new books coming out?

Macie: I have 3 different sources to look around: my school library, the public library and my language arts teacher’s small library. I will usually find out about new books through series or my language teacher will talk about one.

Tyler R: I find new books to read from friends, family and teachers. Or I just see a book and say it looks good. I don’t hear much about new books coming out, but when/if I do I get it from Mrs. F.

Abbey: I find out about books by my sister, my friend or by Mrs. F. I find out about new books by being in Mrs. F’s class.

Tyler M: Mostly just asking around about what’s good. Trailer Tuesday is usually newer books.

Maggie: My mom has a book review blog, so I hear about all the new books from her. I also find out about them all from her.

3. Trailer Tuesdays sounds awesome. And I bet you all get lots of good recommendations from Mrs. F. Does the fact that your teacher blogs influence the books you read and/or do you find out about new releases earlier than you would otherwise?

Macie: No it doesn’t and I could find out about early releases through other sources.

Tyler R: My teacher’s blog does not influence me, much.

Abbey: I would not know about half the books out there if it weren’t for her.

Tyler M: Not really influencing the new releases. But sometimes I’ll look for a book review. It helps me see if I should even read it or not.

Maggie: The fact my mom has a book review blog does influence what I read because I read a lot of the books she gets. But I also read a lot before she did that, so even if she didn’t have one I’d still read a lot. I wouldn’t know about some of the new books. Yes I find out about the new books earlier.

4. I know Mrs. F. will love your answers, especially Abbey's and Maggie's. What are you reading now? What books are you waiting to be released?

Macie: I am currently reading eight books: Inkheart, The Son of Neptune, Inheritance, Sabotage, Plague, The Medusa Plot (39 Clues), The Diamond of Darkhold and Memory Boy. I am waiting for the next book in the Heroes of Olympus series.

Tyler R: I am reading many books now that are very good. Hunger Games trilogy, The 39 Clues series, Alex Rider series and The Wednesday Wars.

Abbey: Right now I am reading “I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You”, and I am not wating for any books to be released.

Tyler M: I’m reading The Maze Runner trilogy. I’m not really waiting on any.

Maggie: I just read May B. I’m waiting for the next Red Pyramid book.

5. I loved Inkheart, Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, though I haven't read the last book of that trilogy yet. Do you buy most of your book or get them at the library? How often do go to a bookstore?
Macie: Most of the time I get them from a library. I will go to the bookstore now and then.

Tyler R: I do not buy books. I just rent them from the library 1-3 times a week.

Abbey: I get most of my books from my sister who owns them, but I also get them from Mrs. F’s library. I don’t go to the bookstores that often but when I do I spend hours there and usually get about 3 books.

Tyler M: I usually check them out of the school library or classroom library. I only buy books like biographies or nonfiction with facts that I can look back too. Novels are a one-read-type book.

Maggie: I get most of them from my mom but we do go to the bookstore and I get them there too. We don’t go to the library too often.

6. I'm a huge fan of the library too. And I bet Mrs. F's library has lots of good choices. Do you read any teen book blogs, author blogs, or author or publisher websites? Become a fan of an author on Facebook? Why?
Macie: I don’t read blogs, and I am only a fan of a few book series on Facebook.

Tyler R: Not really because I don’t have internet, but when I do have internet usage at other places I like to read.

Abbey: I do not follow any blogs or websites but on Tuesday in class we watch book trailers.

Tyler M: Not really. I’m not a “hardcore” reader/blogger. I guess I never take the time.

Maggie: No I don’t. I don’t need to because of my mom, but even then I don’t think I would. I’m not sure how to find them.

7. I really love that you watch book trailers. Has your teacher recommended any blogs or websites to your class or to you? Which ones?
Macie: Yes she has shared her blog.

Tyler R: She has many times but I can’t remember the sites.

Abbey: I can’t remember them.

Tyler M: None other than her website

Maggie: The 39 Clues one.

8. Are there things your favorite authors could do that would make you more likely to visit their website, their blog, or become a fan on Facebook?

Macie: Not really because I am not much of an author fan, just a book fan.

Tyler R: Create more adventurous books and personally meet and relate to me.

Abbey: Write more books.

Tyler M: Maybe create a 39 Clues scenario. Where you read a little, then check in on a site for extra stuff or something (I’ve never read that series tho)

Maggie: Maybe having writing tips because I like to write.

9. Great suggestions to make the websites more kid friendly. Have any authors visited your school? Who? Is there anything you’d recommend that an author do to make their presentation more interesting to you and other kids at your school?

Macie: Yes a few authors have visited but I don’t remember their names. I would recommend them to show some more of this or her books because if they do that more people could get interested in his or her books.

Tyler R: Yes and author has visited my school but I don’t remember who he was. Have an acting of their books and give out some books and accessories for free. Or have the students interact in some way.

Abbey: Yes the author that wrote Jerk California and he did not do much with the audience

Tyler M: We’ve had a few authors (I can’t remember names though). Maybe read parts of their books to us.

Maggie: Yes we’ve had several but I can’t remember them. I’ve gone to some author signings with my mom. The best are when they have us do stuff. The guy who wrote Origami Yoda did that. It was fun.

I like your ideas like acting out part of the book, giving away stuff, and the origami idea. That would make author visits more fun. Thanks Macie, Tyler R., Abbey, Tyler M., and Maggie for sharing all your great advice.

Today I'm giving away an ARC of Wildwood.
Here’s a blurb from Amazon that had a better description than Goodreads:

Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland. No one’s ever gone in – or at least returned to tell of it.
So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend, Curtis, deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval—a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater, as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.
Wildwood is a spellbinding tale full of wonder, danger, and magic that juxtaposes the thrill of a secret world and modern city life. Original and fresh yet steeped in classic fantasy, this is a novel could have only come from the imagination of Colin Meloy, celebrated for his inventive and fantastic storytelling as the lead singer of the Decemberists. Wildwood is truly a new classic for the twenty-first century.

I enjoyed the setting of Wildwood, a fascinating world in the woods on the outskirts of Portland. While much of the story is set in the woods, I liked that the story included a bit about Prue’s life in this world. And her search for her baby brother not only leads her to discover Wildwood but her connection to it.

I liked Prue right away because she loves books and is vegetarian like me. She’s torn with guilt when she lets her baby brother be captured by the crows and is determined to rescue him. I could so relate to those times as a kid when you do something wrong and have to fix it before your parents find out. She reluctantly lets Curtis, a geekish, somewhat immature school acquaintance interested in super heroes, tag along.

Almost immediately they are separated. Prue must journey through the woods to find some faction of Wildwood’s inhabitants to help her locate and rescue her brother. Curtis is quickly captured by the former leader’s wife who is trying to take over Wildwood. He’s less mature than Prue and it takes him awhile to figure out which side is right and to find his place in the battle for Wildwood.

One of the things I enjoyed most was watching Prue’s and Curtis’ separate journeys before they rejoin at the climax of the story and their character growth, especially Curtis’. And I was surprised—not in a bad way—by the choices they made at the end of the story. I won’t tell you what they were because I don’t want to give any spoilers.

I’m giving away my ARC 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 about our panel discussion by midnight on February 4th. I’ll announce the winner on February 6th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here and you'll also find a link to the other Middle Grade reviewers this week.

And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:

Here's what's coming up next. Next week I'll be doing a blog post. I did say I'd do more of them. The following week I'll be celebrating my first year blogging with a book giveaway of a book I know you'll want. Then on February 13th I'll be interviewing Kristen Simmons and giving away an ARC of ARTICLE 5.

Hope to see you next Monday!

Agent Spotlight: Sarah Burnes

This week's Agent Spotlight features Sarah Burnes of The Gernert Company.
Status: Open to submissions.
sb-final-photoAbout: “Sarah began her career on the editorial side of publishing, first at Houghton Mifflin, then in the Knopf Group, and last at Little, Brown. She became an agent in 2001, joining The Gernert Company in 2005. As an editor, she acquired and edited literary fiction and non-fiction, and as an agent, she has added children's fiction to her list. Sarah sits on the board of non-profit progressive publisher the New Press and her writing has appeared on The Paris Review's blog. She lives with her husband and three children in Brooklyn." (From the agency website)
About the Agency:
“The Gernert Company is a full-service literary agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our client list is as broad as the market: we represent fiction, both literary and commercial, for a wide range of readers; general nonfiction, including history, politics, journalism, science, technology, business, memoir, and more; practical nonfiction including health & wellness, lifestyle, cooking, and design; children's literature from early to young adult readers; graphic novels & comics. As of 2021, we also represent podcasters, both writers moving into the space and creators native to it. We sell domestic, foreign, and subsidiary rights for our clients, frequently partnering with co-agents in a wide range of international markets as well as in the film/TV industry.

The Gernert Company was founded in 1996 by David Gernert after he left his post as Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday to become an agent. The agency currently represents more than 400 authors." (From the agency website)
Web Presence:
The Gernert Company website.
What She's Looking For:
Fiction: Literary fiction, commercial fiction, middle grade, young adult.
Non-Fiction: Adventure / true story.
“She is always on the lookout for sharp, original voices.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Picture books, screenplays. (Info via e-mail)
Editorial Agent?
She requests revisions from her clients as needed.
See the agency website.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes.
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail a query letter and one chapter to info@thegernertco.com. Indicate the agent that you are querying in your query letter.
See the Gernert Company website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Response Times:
The agency only responds if interested, usually within four to six weeks.
Ms. Burnes’ response time on requested material ranges from a couple weeks to a couple months.
What's the Buzz?
First an editor for Houghton Miffin, then Knopf, and finally Little, Brown, Sarah Burnes became an agent in 2001, joining The Gernert Company in 2005.  She has an amazing client list, and her clients seem really happy with her representation.
There isn’t much information available regarding her particular tastes but a look at her clients (Gayle Foreman, Alyssa Sheinmel, Margaret Stohl, Pseudonymous Bosch, Adam Gidwitz, etc.) suggests an interest in contemporary and fantasy. 
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Posts:
Q&A With Sarah Enni (02/2019)
Q&A With Sarah Burnes at Kirkus (12/2015)
Agent Interview With Sarah Burnes Podcast at YallFest 2015 (12/2014
Around the Web:
Check out the agency “News” page for client news and happenings.
Please see The Gernert Company website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 1/16/2023.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 1/23/12.
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.

2000 Follower Awesome Giveaway

Hello everyone. Today Casey and I are so excited to celebrate our 2000 follower milestone. We want to thank you all so much for following us and spreading the word about our blog. As a new blogger, it has been so fun to get to know you all and to watch our blog grow by over 900 followers in the year I've been blogging. Some days just thinking about how much I'm enjoying blogging and how we're growing makes be so happy.

So Casey and I have planned a special giveaway to celebrate. And to say thanks to you all. There's two parts to the giveaway.

PART I. Here you get to pick your top choice of the books offered and tell us which one you'd like in the comments. We'll pick three lucky winners for this part of the giveaway. I must admit that I had fun picking the books at The Book Depository with Casey because I could pretend I was on a shopping spree. A book buying spree is my favorite.

So here are your choices for PART I:



PART 2. Casey and I picked 5 books from our shelves. Most are in new condition, though a couple show signs of love. There will be 5 winners. By commenting you'll automatically be entered in the contest for Part 2. You can mention the book you'd like in the comments and we'll do our best to match the books to the winners. Here's the choices:

So the choices are:

So we hope you like it. Again, there will be three winners in Part 1 and five winners in Part 2.
All you need to do is be a follower (just click the followbutton if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on January 28th. Tell us your choice for Part 1 and if you want, your choice from Part 2. I’ll announce the winner on January 30th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment.International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, orFacebook, please let us know in the comments and we’ll give you an extra entry.

And because this is a big milestone, we'd love if you'd mention our contest on your blog if you have one. If you're going to do this, just mention that you will in your comments and we'll give you an extra entry. It's on the honor system.

Here's what's coming up. Tomorrow Casey will be doing another great agent spotlight to help you in your search for agents.

Then on Monday, I'm interviewing a panel of 7th graders whose teacher is a follower for my ASK THE EXPERT series. I'll also be doing another book giveaway.

Hope to see you tomorrow and Monday!

Tip Tuesday #113

Hey everyone,

Thanks to the great response to my post last week, we'll definitely continue Tip Tuesday. Topics can be anything related to writing craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you've got a tip you'd like to share, please e-mail at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Our first tip of the new year was sent in by Kristin Lenz whose previous tips include #103 and #112. Kristin is a social worker and writer who contributes to the YA Fusion blog. This week she's interviewing Dandy Conway, district sales manager for Random House Children's Books. Go here to learn more about how she supports authors as a liaison between publisher and bookstore.

The New York Times recently featured an article about New Year's resolutions and willpower. The gist of the article was that most people start out with good intentions, but poor strategies, assuming that they'll somehow have the willpower to resist temptations. Yet studies have shown that willpower is depletable - you will very likely run out at some point, and you need to anticipate these limits. One of their recommendations was to enlist outside help and outsource self-control. Read the article for more suggestions, but here's a couple ideas to fuel your writing willpower year-round.

Choose a writing partner and agree on a weekly writing goal, such as 5 pages, or 5000 words, whatever works for you. At the end of every week, you will email your pages to that partner. She's not going to read it. She's simply going to confirm that you completed your goal, and give you a virtual pat on the back. Of course, you might want her to read and critique it, but the point is to just get it done and be held accountable by a friend who understands. Take it a step further and reward yourselves for completing these goals after a month, or 3 months - meet for coffee (or wine!) or a movie.

Another idea was suggested by Darcy Pattison. (If you've never attended one of Darcy's workshops, you need to check out her website now! She discovered 750 Words.com. Inspired by the idea of morning pages in The Artist's Way, 750 Words encourages you to write 3 pages every day. It's online, private, keeps track of your word count, and you earn points for completion. Check it out for yourself here.

Best of luck on your 2012 writing goals!
Kristin Lenz


 First I want to shout out about some exciting news for other Middle Grade Monday bloggers who are also followers.

Michael Gettel-Gilmartin has an AGENT! Isn't that awesome? Go congratulate him on his blog here.

I also want to mention that Jennifer Rumberger who just started blogging this Fall, is six followers short of reaching her 50 follower goal for January. She has a great blog and is a dedicated Middle Grade Monday blogger so I hope you'll go check out her blog and follow her here.

Today I’m excited to interview Caroline Starr Rose whose debut book MAY B. was released on January 10, 2012. Caroline had told me it was a fast read and she wasn’t kidding. I read it in two days and would have finished it in one if I hadn’t started it sooner that night. This was my second book in verse and I found it very easy, enjoyable read. I no longer have any reservations about trying another one. May was such a sympathetic character. And Caroline did an amazing job keeping the plot really moving along.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love

Hi Caroline. Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks for hosting me today!

1. From your biography it sounds like you’ve lived in some interesting places. Tell us a little about yourself, where you’ve lived, and how you became a writer.

I was born in Wisconsin and moved to Saudi Arabia when I was three (my dad was a civil engineer and helped to build an army base there). From Saudi we came back to the US, this time to New Mexico. I remember my mother telling me New Mexico was a desert, but after three years in Saudi, I found this hard to believe; everything in New Mexico seemed green in comparison. I really was an outsider when I entered first grade here in the US. I didn’t really know American culture or slang. My mom spent time quizzing me on American money. I saw a deer crossing sign and thought it was a picture of a goat!

When I was fifteen, I spent a year in Australia as an exchange student. It was a wonderful experience, and I am still very close to my host family. Now that I have children of my own, I am even more impressed by my parents’ trust in me at such an early age.

Though I’m no longer in the classroom, I taught middle school / upper elementary English and social studies for a number of years in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana.

2. You’ve lived in so many places. I’m sure that gives you a lot to draw on as a writer. I read that MAY B. did not start out as a novel in verse. What made you decide to change to this and why do you think your story lends itself to being written in verse?

My first few attempts at writing the story as prose felt distant and lifeless. It wasn’t until I returned to my research (and specifically a book called Read this Only to Yourself: The Private Writings of Midwestern Women, 1880-1910) that I saw the patterns these women’s writings had in common: terse language, stark circumstances, a matter-of-fact tone. It was if the heavens had opened for me, and I was able to climb inside May’s world, using the voices of the women I’d encountered through research.

A confession: I’d read only two verse novels before writing May B. -- Karen Hess’s Out of the Dust and Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat. This both terrified and liberated me. I stayed away from all verse novels while drafting, worried any sort of comparison would paralyze me. On the other hand, I wasn’t bound by patterns or rules. Several readers have said May B.’s pacing reads more like prose (swifter than the typical verse novel), which ultimately serves the story.

3. That’s awesome how you used the writing of your time period to decide to write MAY B. in verse. And I agree with your readers that the pacing is perfect. Your book is set in 1870s Kansas. What research did do you do to keep everything historically accurate? Why did you pick that era and Kansas?

I read. A lot. At first, all I knew was I wanted to write about the frontier but hadn’t honed in on Kansas specifically. My first attempt at writing had been historical fiction, and I learned from that disastrous manuscript that regardless of the history, the story had to belong to the character; I couldn’t beat historical facts into my readers’ heads. I went into May B. trusting that if I kept my protagonist’s perspective and understanding of her world, enough history would organically seep in.

A blizzard plays a key part in May’s story, so I needed her somewhere where weather extremes weren’t uncommon. I also was enamored with sod houses, which also limited in what part of the country May could live.

One special challenge was locating exactly where May’s sod house stood. There’s a reference in May B. to Tom Sawyer, so the book had to take place in 1876 or later. I wanted her in a part of western Kansas that wasn’t very developed and was semi-close to a railroad. It was also necessary to have wolves around. The first place I located May was outside of Dodge City, where she would have been smack dab in the middle of the Chisolm Cattle Trail -- not exactly the solitude I was looking for (I also wasn’t interested in telling the sort of rowdy cowboy story that Dodge City brings to mind). The story couldn’t take place much beyond 1880 because in order to have wolves, buffalo still needed to be prevalent; by 1880 these animals were widely wiped out. Gove County, Kansas became a good location: the railroad (and therefore surrounding communities) was still relatively new but old enough to have been there before 1880; the short-grass country of western Kansas supported sod houses; and wolves, while not spotted everyday, would have still roamed in packs at this time.

4. Wow! You put a lot of thought into the setting and the time period for your story. As a 12-year old left alone in the winter, May had to possess certain qualities to survive. How did her situation influence how you developed her as a character?

Great question! May is a strong, courageous girl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know this about herself. Because she has a learning disability, she has been told -- directly and indirectly -- that her abilities (and, ultimately, her worth) aren’t good enough. I really wanted May’s difficult circumstances to expose her strength, not just to the reader, but to May herself.

5. Her learning disability was one of her most endearing qualities. I loved how you brought this out. Tell us a little bit about how Michelle Humphrey became your agent and share some tips on the query process.

I found Michelle on the Guide to Literary Agent’s blog and really loved her upbeat attitude. I’m not sure I have wonderful query advice (no special formulas, or anything) other than to keep things concise and personalize, if at all possible.

6. I know after you found a publisher that your road to publication was not without bumps. Can you share your experiences and how you found was the best way to handle them?

May B. was supposed to release September 2011 with Random House Children’s Books imprint, Tricycle Press. Just weeks before my ARCs were to print, Tricycle closed. For roughly six weeks, my book was without a home. Fortunately, another Random House imprint, Schwartz and Wade, picked May up. I started the revision process again from scratch.

Really and truly, my book is better for the insight and careful work of my two editors. As hard as it was at the time, what happened to my book was a good thing.

Each month I have lunch with a group of local children’s authors. I’m by far the greenest in the group. It has been so good for me to hear their stories and keep my own experience in perspective.

7. I was so impressed with how upbeat you stayed during those six difficult weeks. I’m so glad it worked out for you. What are you doing to market your book? Are there any special tools you’re using because of the historical aspects of your story and/or the setting?

I’ve sent somewhere between 1200 and 1400 handwritten postcards to plains state museums, dyslexia schools, Kansas and New Mexico libraries, and Kansas and Albuquerque elementary and middle schools. I’m not sure how much impact these will have (most likely very little), but I’ve had increased hits on my website and at least half a dozen people contact me directly about the book. Maybe not a lot, but I’ll take it! Believe it or not, I’ve really enjoyed doing this.

I’ve also written a study guide (available at my website).

8. Those are great examples of how to tap into the unique aspects of your story to market it. Do you have any tips on marketing and networking with other authors for us aspiring middle grade authors?

I strongly recommend getting involved in some sort of community where writers are at the same stage you are. For me, it was the Class of 2k11 and the Elevensies initially. Now I’m a part of the Class of 2k12 and the Apocalypsies. Beyond the promotional aspects, I’d say the most important thing these groups have given me is support. I’ve made bonds with dozens of authors just starting their careers. We understand the unique process publication is and can voice questions, frustrations, and good news in a safe, closed environment. I’m not sure how others do it alone.

9. Yes, I definitely would not want to be out there all alone as a debut author. All the marketing and networking would feel too overwhelming. What are you working on now? 

A picture book about the Louisiana Wetlands, a contemporary mid-grade about a girls’ club, and another historical verse novel.

Thanks Caroline for sharing all your advice. I’m so excited to be a part of your debut. You can find Caroline at her blog and website

Thank you, Natalie!

Caroline and her publisher have generously offered to giveaway an ARC of MAY B. to one lucky winner. 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 January 28th. I’ll announce the winner on January 30th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. Wednesday we’re having our 2000 FOLLOWER GIVEAWAY. It’s going to be awesome! I really hope you’ll all come back for this.

Next Monday I’ll be interviewing a panel of 7th graders whose teacher had a fabulous blog and who follows here. I can’t wait to hear their answers. The following week I’ll be doing a regular blog post. I’m going to try to do a few more of those this year.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Check her blog here for a listing of all participants this week.Other regular Middle Grade Monday bloggers are:

Hope to see you on Wednesday! It'll be awesome!

New Group Blog - The Indelibles

If you're a fan of YA fiction, you've probably heard of the Tenners, the Elevensies, the Apocalypsies, and the Lucky 13s. Now marketing guru Shelli Johannes Wells has teamed up with twenty-four other indie and small press authors to bring you the Indelibles.

Who are the Indelibles?

“We are indie authors who write middle grade and young adult fiction. We are dedicated to leaving a permanent mark on the world with our stories and words. We are The Indelibles.”

Each week, they'll explore fun, fabulous, and fierce topics for today's teens, drawing on pop culture and themes from the books they write. Check them out HERE. They’ll also be having a writer/author chat on January 18th to answer questions about self and indie pubbing. See their blog for details.

Agent Spotlight: Lauren Ruth


Lauren Ruth is no longer a literary agent. She’s an assistant publisher for four digital-only imprints including Entangled Publishing, Covet, Brazen, Bliss and Scandalous). Do not query.

Tip Tuesday?

Hello everyone!

I hope 2012 is treating you well. Personally, I'm feeling a little gobsmacked by its quick arrival but nonetheless eager to see what will come. There was a real optimistic energy in the comments of my New Year's post. Many of you are looking to gain representation this year, or to see your book published, and I'm thrilled (continually) that we have this community that allows us to journey together. I'll be keeping my eye on each of you for those milestones.

What I'd really like to discuss, however, is Tip Tuesday. It's been some weeks since I received new tips (not unexpected given the holidays) and am curious as to whether you'd like to see it continue. I'm happy to feature tips as long as I receive them, but I fear the series might sputter out this year. If it does (and even if it doesn't), I might be interested in starting a new series of some sort. Any ideas or suggestions? I've pulled back on blogging quite a bit, but I definitely want to keep a presence here at least once or twice a week. So let me know your thoughts!

In the meantime, if you have a writing or research tip you'd like to send in, please do e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com. And if you missed Natalie's interview with Marie Lu from yesterday, click here. It's fantastic and Natalie is giving away her copy of LEGEND, a book we both really enjoyed and recommend.

Happy Tuesday!!


Happy New Year! I hope you all had a happy holiday season. I had a great time in Texas visiting with family and a few friends. I was pretty offline for a little over a week while we were there. My in-laws have no Internet so I only had my phone. It felt good to take a break and spend more time with my family. But it’s good to be back.

Here’s hoping everyone has lots of good news to share. We’ve got an awesome couple of months already planned for you.

I want mention a blogger friend, Candace at The Misadventures of Candyland, who is going through a really hard time right now. A number of bloggers are reaching out to help her. It's great how supportive our writing community is. If you want to offer moral or other support, go here.

So I have a lot of winners to announce. Yea! I love giving away books.

The winner of WILDEFIRE is:


The winner of UNTRACEABLE is:


The winner of WISHLESS is:


And finally the winner of RADIANCE is:


Congrats everyone! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books.

Today I am SO excited to start the New Year by interviewing Marie Lu about her debut book, LEGEND. I’ve heard such great things about LEGEND for a long time so I was super happy when Marie agreed to be interviewed. I loved everything about LEGEND—the writing, the main characters, June and Day, the dystopian world set in Los Angeles that Marie created. It was such a fantastic, never boring read. My only problem was that I had to share reading it with my daughter, so I couldn’t take it to read on my lunch hour. She really enjoyed it too.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Welcome Marie. Thanks for joining us. And congrats on having LEGEND named one of the top 100 books by Publishers Weekly.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, especially your early life in China, and how you became a writer.

Thank you so much for having me here, Natalie! Well, I’ve been writing since I was about five years old, which is around the same time I came over to the States from China. I think I started writing as a way to teach myself English, and quickly I learned that I enjoyed it as a hobby as well. I remember stapling together little short stories and booklets when I was a kid.

2. That’s an interesting way to get into writing, but I bet a good way to learn a language. I’ve read that you came up with the idea for LEGEND while watching Les Miserables. How cool! How did you take that idea and develop it into your own unique story?

The initial idea came very suddenly, and it was just a quick: Teenage versions of Valjean and Javert, playing a cat and mouse game with each other. I stewed around with this early idea for a couple of weeks before I stumbled across a map online that simulated what the world would look like if all our freshwater ice melted and the oceans rose 100 meters. That was such a compelling map that I thought it’d be fun to take my seed of an idea and set it in this world.

3. I think it’s a compelling coincidence how the idea for the story and the map happened so soon after each other. Sort of like the book was destined to be written. I loved June and Day and read that Day was an easier character for you to develop Tell us how you developed June and Day and why you chose to create them the way you did. Do you have any tips on creating the voices for two POV characters?

Yeah, Day has been in my head since I was a teenager, so I feel like he’s an old friend whose voice comes pretty naturally to me. I’d always wanted to write about a teen criminal—I just couldn’t find the perfect story for him to be in. It wasn’t until that day when I watched Les Mis on TV that I realized a great foil for him would be an equally clever young detective agent. So that became June. June was initially a boy, too, because I was modeling her and Day off of Javert and Valjean’s relationship in Les Mis. But my boyfriend said to me, “Why don’t you make the detective a girl?” And right away I knew that’d be a better fit, because now the story had a female character who really rounded out the whole cast well.

As far as tips, I’d say the first thing to do is try to find a unique personality trait for each protagonist that can help distinguish their voices. This is still something I’m working on, but I tried to give June a very unique personality (i.e. she’s analytical to a fault, in a Sherlock Holmes way) so that when her POV was talking, you could tell it was her for the most part. Day, meanwhile, is a street boy who uses slang and more casual language than June does.

4. That’s a great tip. And awesome how your boyfriend helped you decide to make the detective June. What research did you do in creating the futurist United States with the Republic and the Colonies and what influences from your own life did you draw on?

When I was five, I lived really close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That was 1989, the year the massacre happened, and I can still remember going out to the square with my aunt to see the crowds of student protesters as well as the tanks in the streets. I think that left a permanent impression on me, and definitely influenced how I created the Republic in Legend. I also drew from what I see as real-life examples of dystopia—ancient Sparta, the eugenics movement in the United States during the early 1900s, Nazi Germany, China’s Cultural Revolution, North Korea, etc. I wanted to create a dystopian society that felt like it could really exist. Finally, I also drew from our current state of American politics. The sort of extremism we’ve seen lately on both sides is something that inspired the civil war atmosphere of Legend’s United States.

5. Sad you had to experience Tiananmen Square but I’m sure it helped you, with your research, to develop your amazing world. And that’s interesting how you used the current situation here at home.

Your book has gotten such hype and until I read your journey to publication, I thought your journey was a dream one. Especially since Kristen Nelson is your agent. I’d so love to work with her or Sara Megibow. But you had bumps along the way to getting an agent and a book deal. Can you share your experiences with us?

I love Kristin so much! She’s amazing, as is Sara. But you’re right—I definitely had my share of setbacks…I started submitting my first novel back when I was fifteen, and I think I accumulated over a hundred rejections on my query when I realized I just had to write a better book. I ended up writing three more that went nowhere, although two of them got me agents. I went on submission twice before Legend, and both of those times we would get slow rejections from publishers over the course of years before my agent and I would finally agree to shelve the novel. It was certainly disheartening at times, but I think it made the sale of Legend that much more of a happy moment.

6. Wow! Hearing about your road to publication is even more inspiring because of those difficult times. It really tells the rest of us the importance of continuing to write and of querying. You were interviewed by Tavis Smiley on PBS on November 18th. (Guys, here’s the link.) Tell us how that came about and what it was like being on TV.

Oh my God, I was SO nervous! My Penguin publicist put it together. I still can’t remember a thing of what I said while I was up there. Afterward, when I watched the playback, I was like, “Did I say that?” It was a really cool experience. Getting my makeup done before the show was especially fun!

7. I’d be petrified, even with the makeup. I read that CBS Films is making a movie of LEGEND and it sounds like the process is moving right along. When did you sell the movie rights in relation to your book publication and tell us about the process so far.

CBS Films bought the rights for Legend back in early February of 2011, a few months after Legend’s book sale happened. Right now the director, Jonathan Levine, and producer, Wyck Godfrey, are working with the screenwriters on revisions of the screenplay. The process has been amazing! CBS Films is very forward-thinking and passionate about the project, so they’ve been fabulous about keeping me updated and included in all parts of the process.

8. That’s great how far along it is. And that you’re being updated because some authors don’t seem to be in the loop for much of the movie development. How have you been marketing your book? What advice would you give to us aspiring authors for when we hopefully become debut authors?

Penguin has been doing an unbelievable marketing job for Legend, and I’m so grateful that they’ve let me participate in a great deal of online promotion. Before the book sold, I’d created a little Facebook game for the story, and afterward I became fairly active on Facebook and Twitter to promote the book. Before I became a full-time writer, I was an artist for video games—so occasionally I’ll also draw pictures of how I envision scenes or characters from Legend.

For aspiring authors, I’d say it’s worth it to get familiar with social media as that has turned out to be a powerful promotion tool. Twitter has a fantastic writers’ and readers/bloggers’ community, and Facebook is a great way for people to find you and see what new things are happening with your book. Embracing technology is vital, I think. And it’s pretty fun, too. 

9. I read about your background in video games. That’s cool you put your expertise to use. And you’re making me want to get on Twitter. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a last round of line edits for Legend 2, and starting on Legend 3. I also have begun working on a new idea that’s been incubating in my head for several months. I’m very excited to dig into this one.

Yea for book 2 in your series. I can’t wait. Thanks so much Marie for all your advice.

Thank you so much again for having me! This has been a blast. Here are a couple of places I can be found:

Twitter: @Marie_Lu
Legend’s official Facebook page (run by Penguin) 
My personal site
My deviantArt 

I’m giving away my copy of LEGEND to one lucky winner. 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 January 21st. I’ll announce the winner on January 23rd. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. Next Monday I’m interviewing Caroline Starr Rose and giving away an ARC of May B.

Then the next Wednesday, January 18th, we’re having our 2000 FOLLOWER GIVEAWAY. Casey and I are planning it out. It’s going to be awesome! I really hope you’ll all come back for this.

The following week I’ll be interviewing a panel of 7th graders whose teacher had a fabulous blog and who follows here. I can’t wait to hear their answers.

Hope to see you next Monday!