Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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


Happy Monday Everyone! I'm looking forward to the end of the week because I'm off work Friday and Monday. Can't wait.

First I have some winners to announce.

The winner of SKY JUMPERS is Donna Weaver!

The winner of PERSISTENCE OF VISION is Tyrean Martinson!

The winner of THE CULLING is AdriAnne!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can have your book sent to you. E-mail me your address by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have Jenny Lundquist back to celebrate the release of PLASTIC POLLY, which came out on March 19th. I became a huge fan of Jenny’s when her debut book SEEING CINDERELLA was released last year. It taught me that I could love a basically contemporary middle grade book with a touch of magical realism. I really still recommend that book. You can read that interview here.

I loved PLASTIC POLLY as much even though it was completely contemporary and took me to a foreign part of the middle school world—the most popular crowd. Trust me, I was miles from that. But I could really relate to Polly, who tries to find her true self while keeping her “position” in the popular clique and juggling her friendship with Kelsey and her feelings for their once best friend Alyssa. Jenny just did such a great job transporting us to that world. I read the book in a day.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Popularity has its pitfalls, and Polly is discovering them firsthand in this middle-grade M!X novel.Polly Pierce likes being the second-most popular girl at Winston Academy, right after her BFF, Kelsy. Popularity comes with special privileges, like a seat at the best table in the cafeteria and a coveted spot on the planning committee for the school’s big talent show competition, Groove It Up! And since all Polly has to do is agree with whatever Kelsy says, being popular is easy—even if kids do call her “Plastic Polly” behind her back.

But when a freak accident takes Kelsy out of the picture, Polly is suddenly in charge of the Groove It Up! committee. She’s not prepared for her new status—and neither is anyone else. Backstabbing friends, an intimidating crush, and diva demands from an injured Kelsy all threaten to derail Polly’s plans. Can she prove to everyone—and herself—that she has a personality of her own?

Hi Jenny. Thanks so much for coming back again.

1. Okay, from reading your biography and seeing your picture on your website, which relates to SEEING CINDERELLA, I don’t think you were in the popular crowd in middle school. What made you decide to write from Polly’s point of view and how did you make her so sympathetic?

What, you don't think my uber cool seventh grade pic qualified me for the popular crowd? :0) Just kidding—you're right; I was far from the popular crowd, so I couldn't draw on personal experience to tell this story.

I wanted to write a book from the POV of the snotty popular girl—you know, the one we all couldn't stand in middle school. I remember when I was in seventh and eighth grade hearing the phrase, "she's so fake," fairly often. But as an adult I found myself wondering what that even means? We're all authentically who we are—even the popular kids—and we tend to reveal or hide our true selves based upon how safe we feel. That's not "being fake," in my opinion. That's simply human nature.

I tried to make Polly sympathetic by showing her motivations; showing her home life; showing her missing Alyssa, her former best friend; and showing that, behind all the cute clothes and sparkly jewelry, she's just as insecure as any other middle schooler. Even more so, in some ways. And, since everyone thinks she's so "fake," I decided to lead off each chapter with a "True Confession" from Polly. One of my favorites is from Chapter 13: True Confession: Every day I stand in front of my closet door and ask myself, "What would a popular girl wear today?"

2. You did a fantastic job getting into Polly’s head without actually being popular. And definitely she’s sympathetic from the beginning. I think it’s because right away she’s agonizing about her lost friend. One of the things I liked about PLASTIC POLLY is that you nailed some of the politics in the clique, including the relationship between Melinda and Polly. I felt like I was there and it felt authentic. What did you draw on to create such a realistic world?

I'm a big believer in daydreaming. I spend a lot of time staring into space, and it probably looks like I'm not doing anything, but I swear I'm working! I like to play the scenes in my head and change the angles, almost like I have a "mental camera," so I can see what each character is doing, the expression on their face, their body language, ect. I write multiple drafts; so with each new draft I try to add in details to help the reader feel like they can fully imagine the scene. Or that's my goal, anyway.

3. What was one of the challenges you faced in writing this and what did you learn about the writing process from it?

It took me four tries to get a green light from my publisher for a second book. Meaning: I had submitted three different story ideas before PLASTIC POLLY, and they were all rejected. For the record, each time an idea was rejected I always agreed with my publisher's reasoning about why the idea wasn't going to work. But still, a rejection is a rejection, and at the time, it just seemed hard.

After the third idea was shot down, I found myself wondering if that was it for me. Maybe I was only ever supposed to write one book. Maybe Seeing Cinderella was a fluke, and I just wasn't a competent enough writer to land a second book contract. I had no story ideas in me, nothing in my writing journals to point me toward anything.

But ultimately I decided I wasn't going to let that be the end of my publishing journey. I sat down with a pen and my journal and started brainstorming: images, phrases, ideas that intrigued me, and, eventually, I came up with the idea for Plastic Polly. I have to admit, even in the brainstorming stage, I felt like this one was THE ONE. This idea had what the other three didn't, and it seemed like a perfect intersection between what Aladdin M!X wanted to publish and what I wanted to write.

I turned in my synopsis and three sample chapters, and waited. Since I'd just experienced those three rejections, I decided I wouldn't work on the project anymore until I received an answer. I regretted this afterward, when Aladdin green lighted the project (yay!)…and then asked if I could have a completed draft to them in ten weeks. "No problem," I told them. "I'm your girl." Then privately, I called my husband and totally freaked out.

But somehow I got through those ten weeks and was able to write a book I not only like, but absolutely love. If this process taught me anything it's this: I can do it. I am capable of finding a story idea out of seemingly nothing and hitting a deadline that just feels crazy hard. I can do it. And I don’t know that I would've believed that about myself without going through this process. And I am so grateful to my editor for pushing me to come up with just the right second book. I truly love Plastic Polly, and I hope others will, too.

4. OMG, ten weeks to write it and submit it! I’d be having a major heart attack even thinking of doing that. Voice is really important in middle grade books. What advice do you have on creating good middle school voices that sound natural?

I spend a lot of time journaling. I hand write all of my material before I type it on the computer. It's in those journals that I work toward finding my character's voices. First I try to identify each character's compelling need, something I learned in an online course from Holly Lisle (a writing instructor I'm pretty sure I heard about for the first time here on Literary Rambles), and go from there. For every book I've written, I have countless journals filled up. I guess you could say I'm kind of a journal junkie.

5. I don’t journal. Maybe I should do that. Identifying the compelling need of your characters is awesome advice. I want to switch to marketing. What types of marketing did you do for SEEING CINDERELLA that you found effective? What do you think are essential steps a debut middle grade author should take?

The smartest thing I did for marketing Seeing Cinderella was to join the Apocalypsies, a group of debut 2012 children's authors. It was like having an immediate team of cheerleaders at your side. If you are debuting in 2013 or 2014, I highly encourage you to join The Lucky 13's or One Four Kidlit. You'll receive so much marketing help, but also something equally important to a debut author: encouragement and connection to others who are going through the same thing you are at the same time.

6. Joining a group of debut authors seems like a great thing to do for getting advice and support. What’s your plan for marketing PLASTIC POLLY? Is it different from when you were a debut author? If so, why did you decide this?

I wouldn't say I'm doing anything drastically different this time around, but I am going to spend more time reaching out to librarians. I've had a couple emails from librarians lately who've really enjoyed reading Seeing Cinderella with their book clubs and I hope to continue that with Plastic Polly.

7. I really want to figure out how to connect with more librarians too. So I read that you recently announced more good news. You have a new two book fantasy series coming out. The first book, THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK, will be released in September. Tell us all about this. I’m so excited because fantasy is my favorite genre.

I am so excited for this book! I can't say a whole lot because Running Press is still working on the official cover copy, but it's about a princess who's been forced to wear a mask made of fine jewels; she's doesn't know why, and wonders if she's cursed, as some in her kingdom believe. Admittedly, that's not a great description, but that's all I can give you right now :0)

I first started taking notes on the story in 2008, before I finished a first draft of Seeing Cinderella. For me the story started with an image I couldn't get out of my head: A picture of a dirty, ragged teenage girl sitting on a wooden stool, looking on in horror as a door opened in front of her. I was intrigued by the image; and wondered what was behind the door. So I took my "mental camera" and swung my viewpoint around, until I could see what she was seeing. And what I saw surprised me just as much as it did my character. I'm being deliberately vague here, but there's actually a scene very much like this in the first third of the book, and it was my anchoring scene that helped me flesh out the rest of the story.

I can’t wait to read your new book. Thanks Jenny for sharing all your advice. You can find Jenny at:


Jenny and her publisher Aladdin have generously offered a signed ARC for a giveaway. To enter, 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 6th. I’ll announce the winner on April 8th.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. International entries are welcome.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the links to all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday bloggers here.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Thursday I’m interviewing Jessica Shirvington and giving away a copy of EMBLAZE, the third book in her paranormal series. I’m super excited because I learned what an amazing career she’s had as an author in a relatively short period of time while preparing for her interview. It’s really inspiring to hear her story.

Next Monday I'm interviewing Kimberley Griffiths Little and giving away an ARC of her new book, WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES comes. It's a contemporary mystery with a touch of magical realism that I really enjoyed.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Kit Grindstaff and giving away an ARC of THE FLAME AND THE MIST, a dynamite fantasy with a determined heroine, mystery, and secrets revealed that keeps you turning the pages.

And Wednesday that week I’m interviewing debut author Erin Bowman about her new dystopian TAKEN and giving away an ARC. It’s about a world where boys are heisted away on their 18th birthday and I could not put it down.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you on Thursday!


middle grade ninja said...

I'm a big believer in daydreaming too. That's when the best writing gets done:)

Old Kitty said...

Thank you Jenny for sharing your writerly journey for Plastic Polly! It's truly inspirational! I give up on first rejections let alone three, so yay for you!! Librarians are brilliant people so hope you get to liaise with them more! Yay!

take care

S.P. Bowers said...

Wow, four tries then 10 weeks? That's crazy, you're amazing for being able to hang in there and get it done. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Congrats, Jenny, on the publication of Plastic Polly. I enjoyed reading your interview.

Best wishes,

Jacqueline Seewald
STACY'S SONG, a YA novel from L&L Dreamspell

Beth said...

I loved this interview - but seriously, ten weeks?? Maybe I have to start writing a little harder! Would love to win the book.

Reader said...

This is probably my favorite interview/post read on your site so far! Very fun and informative. The journalling part really is interesting and I love how the author perservered.
I must go off to find Seeing Cinderella. Sounds like a good read!
Congrats to the author and would love the opportunity to win this book!


Laura S. said...

I'm looking forward to Jenny's new books! I got Seeing Cinderella for my niece and she loved it so I know she'll be excited about these new ones, too. Great interview and congrats to Jenny!

Jessica said...

Plastic Polly sounds like an interesting read and it covers a topic that will, unfortunately, be a part of our society for... well, I'll just go ahead and say forever. I'm also curious about Polly's friend and the freak accident...?!?

Linda Gray said...

What a great story--or stories, I should say. Plastic Polly AND Jenny's. Thanks for sharing!

Martina Boone said...

Ten weeks to write and submit? Holy WOW! I'm floored! congrats! That is awesome.

Thanks for sharing this interview Natalie, And what an amazing lineup you have coming up!



Rosi said...

Terrific interview. I can't wait to read this one. I loved Seeing Cinderella. I tweeted your link.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

This was a fun interview, Natalie and Jenny.

That's the sign of a good writer: to get inside the character's head even when she's not at all like you!

And like everyone else, I'm stunned and impressed that you were able to write and submit the book in ten weeks.

Kiki Hamilton said...

Congratulations to Jenny for her persistence and belief in herself! Always believe! Can't wait to read this one! Thanks Natalie.

Barbara Watson said...

Love hearing more of Jenny's process! The journaling sounds like a superb idea.

(As you know, Natalie, I already have this one, so don't enter me in the giveaway.)

Brenda said...

Wonderful interview, looking forward to reading the book too. I'm always intrigued by inspirations for a story, the girl sitting on the stool sounds like it is going to be really good.

Dorine White said...

Plastic Polly sounds like the perfect title, and totally a MG vibe. Her new book about the princess is intriguing. I'm already wondering why she wears the opal mask.

Lisa Gail Green said...

This sounds like a great book for MG girls! I might have to run this one by my own daughter.

Heather said...

Congrats to Jenny on her latest release! This really sounds like a great book. And reaching out to librarians is a fabulous idea! I think they'll love this novel.

Unknown said...

Polly sounds like an adorable character, and it's refreshing to find an mc be the popular girl as opposed to the bullied one or the cliche "outsider." I'm wishing Jenny much success! :-)

cleemckenzie said...

I've seen Plastic Polly a lot of places. Good for her! She sounds like a great character in a great book.

Mauricio Abril said...

Thanks, Natalie, for another great interview. The coolest takeaway, I think, is the idea of journaling to help channel a character's voice. I'll definitely take that under consideration in the future. Best of luck to Jenny on this next big project!

mshatch said...

This was a great interview :) Congrats to Jenny and I like the unique idea of having the popular girl be the mc, too. My niece would probably love this.

Nas said...

I loved reading this interview! Thanks for sharing, ladies!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like Plastic Polly has some great insights in the MG world - sounds like a terrific read!

Cherie Reich said...

Fantastic interview! And I think I would've been panicking a bit to have a novel done for a publisher in ten weeks (and I'm a NaNo-er).

jpetroroy said...

Sounds fun! I loved Seeing Cinderella

Jennifer R said...

Great interview! Loved hearing how Plastic Polly came to be. Thanks for the giveaway!

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I like that this pov is from that of a popular girl. I think that would be very interesting to read for. And insightful. :)

Candace said...

I have read some books from the popular girls POV. Torched is like that (but it's YA) and I LOVED that book! Generally there's some really great character growth and I love watching that happen. I hadn't heard of this one before but I'll be watching for it now!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Love the sound of Plastic Polly.

Michelle OHara Levin said...

So I don't normally read tons of Middle Grades work and yet I cannot WAIT to read Plastic Polly. What a fantastic premise! Thanks for the great interview.

Krysten Lindsay Hager said...

I do a lot of journaling as well to inspire characters. I love MG books, would love to win this.

Anonymous said...

I loved loved loved (lol!) Seeing Cinderella. Really looking forward to reading this one, too. Thanks for the chance to win my own copy...and...ten weeks?? ACK!

Mary Preston said...

Wonderful thank you.

I'd love to read PLASTIC POLLY with my daughter.

Gwen Gardner said...

I'll bet a lot of middle school girls are going to love this! It's so hard for them jockeying for position at school at that age. Congrats on Plastic Polly, Jenny.

Hi Natalie! I received Create Your Writer Platform in the mail the other day. Just wanted to say thank you so much! I've heard good things about it.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Plastic Polly - what a great title and concept. Great interview ladies!

Holly Letson said...

I'm really interested in reading this one, and have been since I first saw it awhile back.

GFC: Holly Letson
bookaholicholly at gmail dot com

Shared @ https://www.facebook.com/KinomiyaMichiru/posts/419086308187808

Jill the OWL said...

Great interview. this is one I'll share with my students. Great stuff for them to hear! Thanks for the giveaway too!

themgowl at gmail dot com

Follow on GFC

Kristin Lenz said...

Such a great interview with Jenny. I admire her persistence - I know quite a few authors whose publishers passed on their next 2-3 books. Also like this advice she shared from a an online writing class: try to identify each character's compelling need. Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Lundquist said...

Thanks for the lovely interview Natalie. And thank you everyone for the well wishes! If anyone wants signed book marks/postcards to share with the girls/students in their life, please feel free to email me at jenniferlundquist at gmail dot com

Lauri Meyers said...

10 weeks? Amazing. Deadlines really don't leave much time for staring at blank pages or deciding you really need to floss or determining today is the day to vacuum the house...or any of those other dreaded excuses!

Anonymous said...

That's amazing to get something ready so fast. It's also interesting about the four tries. We writers sure are determined. :)

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