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Agent Spotlight: Christa Heschke

This week's Agent Spotlight features Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.
Status: Open to submissions, actively building her client list.
Christa-HeschkeAbout:CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s.
Christa is taking on picture books very sparingly and is not taking on rhyming picture books. She’s interested in fiction and nonfiction picture books about environmentalism, especially the ocean, as well as diverse cultures and identities. She is more open in middle grade and young adult, prioritizing BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse, and disabled writers. She is interested in contemporary–whether issue-driven or lighter and rom-com–as well as various genres including horror, fantasy, mystery/thriller, and historical. She is considering adult fantasy very sparingly, and is not open to any other adult work. She is not interested in rhyming picture books or religious texts.
She leans toward more literary writing. Some specific topics that interest her in addition to the above are unique, atmospheric settings/world-building and underrepresented cultural influences, offbeat narrative structures, complex romances, stories featuring siblings or friendship dynamics, and stories featuring artists of any kind.
(From the agency website)
About the Agency:
“Established in 1928, McIntosh & Otis, Inc. is a full-service literary agency located in New York. M&O represents a broad range of adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, including many bestsellers, literary icons, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners. In addition to representing the subsidiary rights for its own clients, M&O also represents the sale of subsidiary rights for LSU Press. M&O is committed to working with writers to develop their careers. Our agents are able to provide detailed and substantive guidance to our clients throughout the publication process. ” (From the agency website)
Web Presence:
McIntosh & Otis website.
Twitter @ChristaHeschke.
Neverending Stories (blog).
Publisher's Marketplace.
Manuscript Wish List.   
What She's Looking For:
Picture books, middle grade, and young adult.
From her Blog (as of 5/2020): FYI: Check her blog regularly for up-to-date information on what she is looking for
"Young Adult: Graphic Novel: Think Nimona, Anya's Ghost etc. I'd love something creepy and dark, or something that gives me the feels. I'm not really looking for anything that feels overly comic-booky (i.e. super heroes, manga). Please send along a link to your portfolio when you query me with a graphic novel.
Contemporary (all types: dark, humorous, romance, issue-driven, coming-of-age/first love)
**Top of my wish list: light contemporary romance, humorous YA (think MTV's Awkward), mystery, thriller, horror (I love all things creepy!), YA contemporary sister story or platonic boy girl friendship story.
Something that tackles our society's fascination with celebrity and fame (think The Bling Ring)
Stories with musicians (from band geeks to kids in rock bands and orchestras)
Mystery/suspense (think Veronica Mars, The Lying Game or Gone Girl)
High-stakes thrillers (I Know What You Did Last Summer-Lois Duncan, Slide-Jill Hathaway, Mind Games--Kiersten White ).
Some fantasy/sci-fi (all types, but must stand out from what’s currently on shelves. No werewolves, vampires or shapeshifters please.) I love a unique world with amazing world-building.
Modern-day fairytale/folklore/myth re-tellings (especially those with a twist). Think Heather Dixon's Entwined.
Historical fiction with a compelling voice and hook. I would LOVE to see something like the TV series Reign on the CW (think Gossip Girl meets The Tudors) or Downton Abbey. I like historical set in England or if in the US I like the Roaring 20's-1950's especially. I think a murder mystery set in this time-frame would be cool. The only time period I'm not really drawn to is Revolutionary War America, but if it's good enough I'll consider any time period or location.
Horror (think eerie and creepy like Anna Dressed in Blood or The Fatal Frame video game series). Gothic horror is a big love of mine.
Anything set in a strange small town a la Bone Gap.
Anything with a vivid, unique setting (Morocco, Thailand, Alaska, Nepal, the jungle of the Amazon etc. etc.)
A road trip story or school trip abroad type story (can you see I love to travel?!)
FORBIDDEN ROMANCE! I love a good forbidden romance. It could be between two people of different faiths who have to date within their faith, teens who aren't allowed to date at all and fall in love, opposites falling in love, the bad boy and the good girl. etc. etc.
Light sci-fi ala Wayward Pines or space opera like Firefly/Serenity.
Time travel! I'ma big Outlander fan, but I'm looking for something out of the oridinary here. Not looking so much for someone going back in time to save the world or change history.
Secrets. Anything dealing with juicy, hard to keep secrets. It could be a secret society, a cult, a secret kept from friends/siblings/romantic interest or even from themselves.
Unreliable narrators ala We Were Liars. Twists and turns.
Anything with carnivals, circuses and freakshows especially if it has a dark or magical tint to it. The Night Circus is a favorite of mine.
Novels set in the romantic, steamy, beautiful south.
Novels dealing with weight/body issues.
Anything else with a good voice and strong story. I am certainly open to other genres! 

"Middle Grade:

Adventure, magical realism, fantasy, coming of age, contemporary, mystery, humor. I am very actively looking in this age-range. Something with a musical element ( a kid who is in band, sings, loves music). Stories about kids who are considered different or have a hard time fitting in.
Top of my wish list: A good, light contemporary coming of age, sister or friendship story, a fun MG mystery or humorous contemporary, creepy, ghost story.
I'd also love a beautifully written, emotional, literary story.
I'm very selective when it comes to books featuring animal protagonists, but am open to it, as long as the voice is strong. I always loved The Wind in the Willows. Though I do like a good story featuring realistic animals i.e. Ring of Endless Light. I LOVE dolphins, any kind of animal rescue story etc. 

"Picture Books:

Character-driven picture books or plot driven with a fun twist. I’d love to read about a character (animal or human) who resonates with me and makes me want to read more. I especially like cute and funny stories with read-aloud potential. A nice, subtle message/moral is also a plus. Favorites are: Corduroy, The Paperbag Princess, Tea Rex, Freddie & Gingersnap, anything by Eric Carle and Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great.
Non-fiction: I'd love to see compelling, kid-centric picture book bios. I've been enjoying all the music-themed ones like Jimi Hendrix, When Bob Met Woody and others on musical artists and composers. Remember, when it comes to picture book bios it has to be about someone who is fairly well known with a unique story. It's harder to sell one about someone who is lesser-know (even if their story is amazing) that isn't part of school curriculum. Also, think about why kids would want to read it. Is it about the person when they were a child?"

**For all age groups I'd LOVE to see some multi-cultural stories or novels that take place in unique settings (outside of NYC, LA, Chicago, the Pacific Northwest and other common places).
"For YA, she is especially interested in contemporary fiction, thriller/mystery, and horror. She is always on the lookout for a compelling voice combined with a strong, specific hook that will set a YA novel apart in its genre and the flooded market. She is open to all types of middle grade and especially enjoys adventure, mystery, and magical realism, whether in a voice that is more light and humorous or one with more of a timeless, literary feel.
"For both YA and MG, she is particularly interested in unique settings and cultural influences, interesting storytelling structure, complicated romances, diverse characters, sister or friendship-centric stories, and stories that feature artists of any kind.
"In picture books she is drawn to cute, funny stories (as opposed to sweet and quiet) with strong hooks that will grab both kids and their parents as well as the occasional nonfiction biography on a unique subject whose story has yet to be told."
What She Isn't Looking For:
Adult books other than fantasy, rhyming picture books, and religious texts (From the agency website)
Editorial Agent?
“I am very hands on with my clients and pride myself in getting back to everyone in a timely manner.” (Link-Defunct).
See the agency webste.
Query Methods:
E-mail: No.
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: Yes.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
Send a query letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters (or 25 pages) of your manuscript. No attachments.
For picture books, send the complete manuscript. Illustrators should send a query that includes a link to their portfolio.
See the McIntosh & Otis website and Ms. Heschke’s blog for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Query Tips:
“Anything longer than a page is too long and often won’t get read. You should have three to five paragraphs, an introduction, your pitch/info about the project, any pertinent info about yourself (other books you’ve written or have already been published, any other writing experience/credits) and a closing (thank you for your time, this is not an exclusive submission etc.) Also, include what you’ve enclosed with the letter (a synopsis, first pages, SASE etc.).” (Link-Defunct)
See also: Agent Tips-From Querying to Accepting an Offer at her blog, Neverending Stories.
Response Times:
Due to the volume of queries received, the agency only responds if interested, usually within 8-12 weeks. (From the agency website). 
What's the Buzz?
Christa Heschke joined McIntosh & Otis in June of 2009 following internships with Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic. Promoted to Literary Agent in February of 2013, Ms. Heschke is actively building her list and excited to find new talent. In addition to client representation, she handles various rights for the agency’s children’s list.
I recommend following her on Twitter @ChristaHeschke and subscribing to her blog for further insight, tips, and news.
Worth Your Time:
Interviews and Posts:
Agent Interview at Only Picture Books (06/2022)
Podcast at Middle Grade Ninja (11/2019)
Interview With Literary Agent Christa Heschke at Justin Colon Books (04/2019)
How to Work With an Agent at K.M. Robinson on YouTube (10/2018)
Christa Heschke at 12 x 12 (09/2018)
Free Fall Friday: Interview With Christa Heschke at Writing and Illustrating (01/2017)
Fall Philly Faculty Spotlight: Agent Christa Hescke at Eastern Penn Points (10/2016)
Interview with Agent Christa Hescke at The Writing Sisterhood (03/2014)
Interactive Interview With an Agent: Christa Heschke at Krista Van Dolzer (10/2013)
7 Questions for Literary Agent Christa Heschke at Middle Grade Ninja (06/2013)
Blog Post: Agent Tips-From Querying to Accepting an Offer (05/2013).
For upcoming event and conference dates, see the right-hand sidebar of Ms. Heschke’s Neverending Stories blog.
Please see the McIntosh & Otis website and Ms. Heschke’s blog for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last Updated: 3/28/2023.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/23/13.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(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.


Beth said...

Casey, I can't believe you're still doing these spotlights and passing along so much great information. Thank you!

Jocelyn Rish said...

What perfect timing on this spotlight! Christa requested my first 15 pages through WriteOnCon's Pitchfest, and as I've been waiting to hear back, I've been doing some cyber stalking to find out more about her. I hadn't stumbled on the various blog posts by her clients yet, so I can't wait to read them. Thanks for all the info!!

Angela said...

Great information. Thanks for all you do in keeping writers informed.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great spotlight. So glad Christa likes middle grade and high fantasy. And fingers crossed for Jocelyn.

Rachel said...

Such a great spotlight, with links and everything! Christa is an amazing agent and I love working with her. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The wants the book's synopsis portion of the query to be short then. And an introduction paragraph. That's how I pitched to my publisher, but after coming online, I kept reading that the right way was to dive straight into the three paragraph synopsis and then a short paragraph of information.
I guess it really comes down to the agent or publisher's preference, doesn't it?

Rachna Chhabria said...

Christa sounds like my kind of an agent. And she likes MG and Fantasy. Cool. She is on my list of agents to query now.

Heather said...

I have a great twist on steampunk that I think she might like. But alas, it's in the first draft stages.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Another great spotlight. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased to meet Christa.

I love these spotlights. Keep them coming.

Lydia Kang said...

Nice to meet Christa! Glad you are keeping up with these. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Sounds like a great agent. Here's to awesome industry peeps! *raising a wedge of cheese*

Gina Gao said...

This is a great spotlight! She sounds like a great agent.


Stina said...

Thanks for another great agent spotlight. :)

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

This is such great information to pass on!

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome. Thanks for all your hard work with these agent spotlights.

Cynthia said...

Great interview. Nice to see an agent who accepts NA! It just so happens that I'm working on a YA novel right now that addresses people's fascination with fame.

Martina Boone said...

I loved this interview, and I can tell you that Christa is absolutely LOVELY to deal with. Jump on the opportunity to submit to her!

Suzanne Warr said...

Great spotlight, and I can't second loudly enough what a dream Christa is to have for an agent! Plus, she has excellent taste. ;)


erica m. chapman said...

Great post! I just signed with Christa in December and I can say she is fantastic. She's editorial, has incredible insight, and is a great communicator. She's also fun to talk to. I'm so happy to have found her and it was all because of this post!

Thanks, Casey & Natalie ;o)