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Luke Reynolds Interviews Ammi-Joan Paquette

Luke Reynolds, author of Keep Calm and Query On, did an inspiring guest post for me last month and now he’s back with an interview with his fabulous agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Muprhy Literary Agency. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have these two on the blog today. Enjoy!

AJPaquetteAmmi-Joan Paquette is an agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, as well as a prolific author of picture books (including THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS and the forthcoming HULLABALOO), middle grade novels (including NOWHERE GIRL and the forthcoming DAHLIA’S RULES FOR GHOSTING) and young adult novels (including the forthcoming PARADOX). She shares her warmth, wit, and wisdom below regarding her own journey and offers up a full course of courage and confidence for writers at all stages of their careers.

Your journey as both an author and agent is quite unique. Can you share a bit about the organic process that drew you to each vocation?

I began seriously writing for children when my own daughters were young, and it's a process that has grown along with them, so to speak. I think what drew me to agenting was the idea of combining my love of books with the thrill of literary matchmaking--finding just the right home for undiscovered gems about which I was passionate. Both of these occupations fit so well within my personality and interests, and every day I'm thrilled all over again that this is what I get to do for a living!

What books are on your bedside table right now? (Or living room table, or any various table that holds your currently-reading / to-read-soon books)?

I just finished (much-belatedly) the wonderful DAIRY QUEEN, by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch, and am now partway through--and loving--both THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater and THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND, by Catherynne M. Valente.

valente girl who circumnavigated fairylandWhat's a recent line from any book that squeezed your heart?

Just read this wonderful snippet last night, from THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND: "There must be blood, the girl thought. ... It will all be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it's the wonders I'm after, even if I have to bleed for them."

If I say the word "courage" you think of...

I think writing at its core is a supremely courageous activity. You're putting your heart on the page, every day, without promise of reward or acceptance. You know it's a long road, that there are no guarantees, and that all that's certain ahead is the promise of a more uncertain future. And yet you carry on, putting one word in front of another, in front of another - believing there is value in your passion, believing that this world you envision will one day be real. If there's a better description of courage, I can't think of it right now.

Why do you think writing and reading are such important endeavors?

Writing and reading feed imagination, which feeds hope, which is the stuff the world is made of. It's not living in a dream world; it's taking our dreams and giving them roots and bringing them to life. What could be more important than that?

NowhereGirl_thumbIn your poignant and powerful novel NOWHERE GIRL, told from the point of view of 13-year-old Luchi Ann, you write, "Emptiness, that's all I can see right now. Roads that lead to the mountains, mountains that scrape the sky. It's all strange and huge and wild. Of course, I have seen it all before, but that wasn't me; that was a girl with my same name, some creature of mud and bone who had never felt the lick of true freedom on her skin." As you wrote Luchi Ann's journey, what inspired you to stay with her from creation to publication--from an idea to a book that could feel the 'lick of true freedom' on its covers?

NOWHERE GIRL started as a question. After reading an article about a young boy who had grown up in a prison in Thailand, I wondered how this would shape a child, how would you go on from this, what type of person would you--could you--be in the face of such enormous life-shaping circumstances. As the story grew, so did Luchi's character, and the more I got to know her, the more hooked I was. Telling her story became an end in itself--diving in deeply enough to pull together the threads of her life and figure out what make her tick, where she came from and where she would go from there. I can only hope I've done her story justice.

What about the writing / representing / publishing process would make you want to put pretzel sticks in your ears?

That would be all those outside-of-your-control factors--the manuscript you love but can't quite place; the reviewer who just doesn't get it; the sales numbers that don't quite skew in the right direction. For every downside, though, this business definitely has a dozen or more upsides!

mermaidcoverLaugh an honest-to-goodness belly laugh?

I guess this would be sometimes the way you just NEVER KNOW. That can be taken all kinds of ways, and they all apply.

Sing at the top of your lungs on a busy thorough-fare?

My favorite part of the job is getting to make "the call" - matching the perfect author with the perfect publisher; and seeing that giddy enthusiasm I feel for a story reflected in the eyes of an editor, and then others in the publishing industry, and then with readers--and the whole world!

Take a vacation?

That would probably be whenever I look at my to-do list, or my Inbox, or my submissions-to-read pile...

If there were one little nugget of advice you'd give to a writer-in-the-wings, it would be:

Persevere! The road worth walking is often long and winding, but when you look back it's just not the destination you're going to remember, it's all the experiences you had on the way there.

Luke Reynolds Headshot_thumb[1]Luke Reynolds is the author of A Call to Creativity (Teachers College Press, 2012) and is co-editor of both Burned In (Teacher College Press, 2011, with Audrey Friedman) and Dedicated to the People of Darfur (Rutgers University Press, 2009, with his wife Jennnifer Reynolds). Luke is represeneted by the remarkably wise and kind Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. His writing has also appeared in The Believer, The Writer, The Sonora Review, The Hartford Courant, Arizona Daily Sun, Mutuality, Hunger Mountain, and Tucson Weekly. He has taught English in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and has also taught Composition at Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one son, Tyler. They love family dancing to the oldies in their current home in York, England.


Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

So happy to read an interview with Joan - she's wonderful! Thanks to Luke Reynolds for a fun and informative interview. Yays all around :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview Luke and Ammi-Joan. I loved Ammi-Joan's answer about courage. And great advice to persevere.

I was especially excited about this interview because I love The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson, one of Ammi-Joan's clients.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great interview. I like this phrase, "literary matchmaking". It gives me chills.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview - thank you to Luke and Ammi-Joan!

Love that quote about going after the wonders even if there's blood. Actually sent a little shiver down my spine! Excellent advice about persevering, also. So true!

Matthew MacNish said...

Wonderful interview. Nowhere Girl looks like just my kind of thing. Now if only I can find the time.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for sharing this interview - we learn about both of them. Luke's personality shines in the questions he asks - pretzel sticks in your ears - what a great image!

Casey McCormick said...

Thank you so much for the interview, Luke and Ammi-Joan! I so love the questions, and Ammi's answers about courage and perseverance.

cleemckenzie said...

These look like charming books. Really enjoyed reading your interview. Well done.

Laurie Thompson said...

What a fun and insightful interview from both Joan and Luke. Thank you!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Fun interview. I've seen the Nowhere Girl cover before. Love the Fairyland one. What fun.

Elana Johnson said...

I love Ammi-Joan. She's so down to earth.

Write Life said...

There is something terrifically special about Joan. Love the Nowhere Girl cover. Just beautiful!

Tara Dairman said...

Woohoo! Love Joan, love this interview. Terrific questions, Luke!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview with the world's #1 kidlit agent!!!!! (Um, I could be a bit biased.) Nice job, Ryan Gosling!