Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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
  • Alex Brown Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/9/2024
  • Leslie Zampetti Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/7/2024

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.


Hi Everyone! Hope you're having a great Monday. I had a three day weekend, which was nice.

First, I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of SERENDIPITY AND ME is Medeia Sharif!


And the winner of the Shower of Books Giveaway Hop is Courtney Renee who picked TAKEN!

Congrats to the winners! Please e-mail me your addresses by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Liesl Shurtliff here to share about RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN that released on April 9, 2013. I knew I wanted to interview Liesl when I saw the title of her book. I love fairy tale retellings and this was such a different character to write a story about. Liesl did a fantastic job giving a fresh twist on Rumpelstiltskin’s life and he’s so different from Mr. Gold in Once Upon a Time, one of my favorite TV shows. It was a fast paced story and Rump was such a sympathetic character who I really loved.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

This funny fractured fairytale goes behind the scenes of Rumpelstiltskin. "A most magical feat," writes Newbery Honor-winner Kirby Larson, "Liesl Shurtliff spins words into gold."

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.

Hi Liesl. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi Natalie. I grew up in Salt Lake City, but have lived in Chicago for about 9 years, and that’s about how long I’ve been seriously writing. I have a degree in Music Dance Theatre and had always wanted to perform, but after I had kids that just wasn’t as feasible anymore, so I turned to writing as a quieter creative outlet, thinking it would simply hold me over until my kids got a little older. But while I waited for them to grow, I fell head over heels in love with writing. I’m much happier as a writer then I ever was as a singer or dancer.

2. Awesome that you’re talented as a singer and dancer too. I’ve read that you came up with the idea for your book and wrote it before Once Upon a Time became a TV show. And that you like Mr. Gold and that show like me. How did you decide to do a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and on your twist on the story? 

The idea for one of my concepts in the story came to me first. I thought it would be interesting to create a world where a name determined your destiny. Immediately my mind gravitated toward the Rumpelstiltskin tale, as well as the many mysteries and holes surrounding Rumpelstiltskin’s character and name. Those were the seeds that got me started writing Rump.

3. Your take on him is so different than I’d expect. It’s one of the things I really liked about your story. Rump is such a fantastic, sympathetic character. He’s so nice and caring of others. That’s what gets him into trouble. Share some of how you developed him as a character and any challenges you faced.

Shortening Rumpelstiltskin’s name to Rump was the first thing that got me going with this main
character. In a world where a name is your destiny, having a name like Rump seemed particularly unfortunate, and yet funny! I imagined him as small and a bit awkward, different from other people and certainly teased for his name, but I also felt he had to be adorable to his reader. He has an easy wit and humor that he doesn’t recognize himself, but I believe that’s one of the reasons Rump is so likable. He’s tenderhearted.

One thing that was difficult was making sure Rump didn’t come off as too tragic. He has to go through a lot of heavy stuff, poor little guy, so sometimes I had to work to balance that heaviness with levity, keep the lightness even in the face of difficulty. It would have been easy to let him wallow.

4. You balanced that well. You did a really good job tying your theme of a person’s name into your story, not only in relation to Rump’s search for his name, but in your world building too. It permeates your whole world that really has no names beyond places like the Mountain. How did that happen and what are your tips on weaving in theme into our story?

As I said above, the name theme was actually one of my very first ideas, so it permeated the story and world from the very start, but I wasn’t thinking of it as “theme” so much as simply world-building. I had to refine it and bring it out more as I revised.

As for tips on weaving in theme, I would say do not worry about theme so much in a first draft. Theme is something that should show up organically based on the character’s motives and the events that occur throughout the story, as well as from a writer’s subconscious. After a first draft, you’ll probably notice little sprouts of themes here and there. When you do notice, definitely bring it out as much as possible, but don’t go into a story with the idea that you’re going to expound upon a theme and plant it like a giant tree right from the beginning. It won’t be as powerful as when you simply allow it to sprout and grow of its own accord. Trust that every good story has theme and let it come out on its own.

5. That’s great advice. Setting is the hardest for me to develop and if I let some of it go in my first draft, I might move the story along faster. Thanks for the tip. Are you a plotter or a punster? What are your tips on creating a good plot like you did here with nuggets of information that kept Rump searching for his name?

I’m a little bit of both. I do a lot of prewriting on character and world building and a little bit of plot, but I don’t do a detailed outline. It’s more of a general synopsis that tells me what the character wants and why, how they intend to get it, what stands in their way, and how they succeed (or fail.) But I run into all kinds of surprises while I’m drafting and I don’t always stick with the plan. I figure if I’m surprised while I’m writing, then my reader will be surprised while reading.

6. Sounds like you’ve got a good balance between the two. Your agent is Michelle Adelman. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I met Michelle through a good old-fashioned query. Hey, the really do work! I signed with her about a month after I started querying and then we worked together on my manuscript for another month, polishing and tightening the book for submission. We had an offer from Knopf about a month after submission. Both my agent and editor have been absolutely wonderful to work with. I really could not ask for better. They’re smart, talented, and intuitive, and I feel so lucky they picked me up!

7. Glad to hear the querying works, especially since sometime this year I plan to do it. You’re part of The Lucky 13’s. How has that group helped you in your year leading up to your book release? How do you recommend that middle grade authors who join such groups maximize the effectiveness of being in such a group when there are so many more YA debut authors in these groups?

The Lucky 13’s have been a great resource and support group. When I have questions about a certain process, I can count on the Luckies to have answers. When I’m down in the dumps about something or other, even if it has nothing to do with writing, I can count on the Luckies to have my back. Writers are such a kind and supportive group!

As a middle-grade author, it can feel like you’re a little sibling trying to hang out with the big kids. However, there are far fewer MG Luckies, I think something like 30 MGs vs. over 100 YAs. We’ve actually created our own little MG Luckies group and that’s been a great way to maximize the effectiveness for me. MG marketing really is a different ballgame than YA, so we share our own ideas with each other and do some cross-promotions that are more effective for the MG crowd.

8. That’s a great idea to link up with the other MG authors in your group. What’s been your favorite social media avenue to help you with your writer’s platform and why? What tips can you share on how the rest of us should use this type of social media?

Twitter. I think the bulk of the publishing industry as well as the writing and reading crowd use Twitter quite often and it’s a great way to connect to other authors, readers, teachers and librarians.
I’m probably the last person to ask about social media platform advice. I’m not very good at it! But admittedly, I’m not very good at it because I’ve only got so much time to work and I have to spend most of it writing. Social media can be a huge distraction and time-sucker, so I suppose my advice there is to use it sparingly and realize that you can only promote yourself that way so much. Don’t ignore other avenues, particularly the in-person promotional opportunities. I find those to be more effective in any case.

9. Yeah, I confess that social networking does suck too much of my time. What advice do you have to us aspiring authors?

Keep writing and keep learning, even after publication. Invest in you work, mostly with time and effort, but also with money for classes and conferences if you can. If you want to be a successful writer then you need to treat it like a job, even if you already have one. (Don’t we all?)

10. Yes, I do have a full-time job. But it’s true that you have to consider writing a job too. What are you working on now?

Another fairytale! I’m not quite ready to share which one, but it’s a companion to Rump and I’m very excited about it. More soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Liesl. You can find Liesl at www.lieslshurtliff.com

Liesl generously offered a signed copy of RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN 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 May 18th. I’ll announce the winner on May 20th.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. 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 Wednesday I’m excited to interview one of our followers Lisa Gail Green about her debut novel, DJINN: THE BINDING STONE, a YA paranormal story about a genie. I’m almost done with it and it’s fantastic. I fell in love with Leela, the trapped genie, and it's a real page turner. There will be a giveaway too.

Next Monday, I’m thrilled to have Kelley Armstrong here to discuss and give away an ARC of Loki’s Way that she co-wrote with Melissa Marr. It’s a fantastic upper middle grade fantasy story that fans of Percy Jackson will like. I really loved the mythology based on Norse gods and the characters. I can’t wait to read book 2 in the series. I met Kelley at a book signing in Ann Arbor a few years ago and she is the nicest person to her fans. I’m beyond thrilled to have her here.

Next Wednesday I’m going to do a post on how I set up author interviews and promote books the way I do. I had a request from a follower to share about this. And I’ll be doing a review and giveaway of REQUIEM by Lauren Oliver and another book by her.

The following Monday, I’m interviewing debut author Natalie Whipple and giving away a copy of TRANSPARENT, a YA futurist story.It’s about Fiona, invisible to the world and herself, in a futurist world, desperately trying to carve out a normal life and escape her dad. I really enjoyed reading about her story and that of her friends who have unique powers too.

Wednesday that week, I’m interviewing debut author Dorine White about her book, THE EMERALD RING. I really enjoyed learning about the powers of the emerald ring with Sara, a smart middle grader, and her friends. And I found the mythology based on Cleopatra to be unique.

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

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Bryann James Almeda said...

i really really love this book. I really hope I can read it now. WHAAAH! and by the way, You have a very nice interview! :)

Booklady said...

I'm currently reading this book and I love it. I plan to use it with my 4th and 5th grade book club in the fall. I loved hearing about how Liesl became a writer and some of the process she followed on this book. My students (and me as well) love stories based on fairy tales and I love that she chose Rumpelstiltskin. And yep, I kept comparing Rump, to Mr. Gold, too.

I shared the interview on Twitter and Facebook.

Beverly aka Booklady.

Old Kitty said...

Awwww such a lovely twist to the Rumplestilstkin story!! And Rump sounds utterly adorable! All the best Liesl and thanks for the interview! Take care

Creepy Query Girl said...

Great interview! Loved learning more about Liesl and 'RUMP'- what a great concept and that cover art is amazing!

Joni said...

Sounds like such a fun story- I'd love to win a copy. ^.^ Thanks for the interview- those are some good tips.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I love Once Upon a Time too! Mr. Gold is a great character. This Rumpelstilstkin sounds great too. Thanks for sharing the interview!

Faith E. Hough said...

Great interview! I love the connection of name and destiny--one of those awesome age-old themes that I don't think we see enough these days. Rumpelstiltskin has always been a favorite fairy tale of mine, and I can't wait to read your retelling!

kirk0200 said...

Such a great interview! Can't wait to read Rump's story!
Thank you Natalie and Lies!

Laura Pauling said...

I've been looking forward to this book since I first saw the cover reveal online. Love the cover. And, of course, the fractured fairy tale. Congrats on the release!

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Thanks Bj! Hope you get the chance to read Rump soon!

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Beverly, I hope the kids enjoy it! Tell them hello from me. :)

Llehn said...

Hooray for fairytales!


David P. King said...

Currently have Rump on my TBR list. Awesome interview, you guys. I look forward to starting that book! :)

Brenda said...

I love fairytales with a twist and Rump sounds like it will be just that. Wonderful interview can't wait for my copy at the library to come in.

Reader said...

Fantastic interview. I've been awaiting the release of this book for a long time and can't wait to read. Thanks for offering a giveaway. Owning a real copy would be wonderful.

Jill A.

Vivien said...

I love reading MG books. This has definitely been on my tbr list. Sounds adorable!!
GFC: Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Jessie Humphries said...

Holy schnikes! You have some stellar guests lined up, including today. I absolutely love this cover! I haven't seen such a magical MG cover in awhile. And Rump sounds so cute. I married a guy with the nickname Hump, so I instantly connected with this title. And before anyone thinks bad of me for marrying a guy named Hump, its the last name: Humphries. Yeah, I've considered changing it, but...whatever. Anyway, that was a really fun interview. SLC to Chicago. So cool. Those Utah peeps are very talented. I can't wait to read RUMP!

Emily R. King said...

I enjoy seeing more MG. There are far less of them in the Lucky 13's, so it's great to see Liesl here. Congrats on your book release! I've added it to Goodreads. Can't wait to read it!

Jessica Lawson said...

Wonderful interview! I'm really looking forward to reading RUMP :)

Linda Gray said...

RUMP sounds like a wonderful story. Love the idea of the name affecting destiny. And Liesl's journey is a great one, too--organic. Another great interview, Natalie.

middle grade ninja said...

Love this interview. Rump sounds like a great one and I've got to get on twitter more often:)

Martina Boone said...

I love how just finding a nickname can be a key to a character. Great interview as always, Natalie. This sounds like a great book and I'm so glad you shared it with us.

Lisa Gail Green said...

What a fun idea!! I love the story of Rumplestilskin. I'm sure I just massacred the spelling. But I'd love to hear it from his POV!

Barbara Watson said...

I've heard such fantastic things about this one but haven't read it yet! Thanks so much for the opportunity for my own copy!!

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Lisa, I've had to type RUMPELSTILTSKIN almost as much as I type my own name, and seriously I type it wrong 50% of the time. I call it a finger-twister.

Unknown said...

My daughter and I are looking forward to reading Rump...it looks to be a favorite!!! Congrats to you!

Carina Olsen said...

Omg, awesome interview :D And ahhh. I need this book. Truly. It sounds AMAZING! And I just adore middle grade books so much. <3 Sigh. I really want to win a signed copy :) Thank you so much for the givaway, and for making it international. <3 You are amazing.

Rosi said...

Thanks for such a terrific interview. I really want to read Rump. It sounds like such a fun book. Thanks also for running the giveaway.

Leigh Covington said...

Fabulous interview! The book sounds fabulous. I'm going to head over to amazon and make sure I have this for my home book shelf and also my school bookshelf! I love finding amazing stories like this. Thanks for sharing!

kathrynjankowski said...

Sounds intriguing. Thanks for the interview.

Anonymous said...

Fun interview. I especially liked her advice about theme.
Rump is on my most wanted list and I hope to be able to read it before the end of the year.


Kiera Paul said...

How fun! Congrats Liesl on your debut :)

I've added this to my blog!

LTM said...

Hilarious! And super-timely, too!

Here's wishing Liesl all the best!

*waves* to Natalie~ :o) <3

Jessa said...

This sounds amazing. I currently have a little bit of a soft spot for Rumplestiltskin, as my little brother is playing him in his school's play.

And all the books coming in the next few weeks sound incredible!!!

Theresa Milstein said...

I love the title, cover, and premise. I think names do hold a lot of power, so it's my kind of concept for a book.

cleemckenzie said...

Congratulations to those winners! And how could I not buy a book with the title, Rump? Perfect.

Stina said...

I love the concept for Rump and how the character's name came about. Fracture fairy tales are the best.

Robin said...

Great book and a great author. I can't wait to read her next book. This one is already a family favorite at my house.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I like the idea of a protagonist's name as Rump. How could I not love such a book!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to win a copy of this book to read and to share with the kids in my class!

Anonymous said...

RUMPELSTILTSKIN is one my favorite fairy tales. It's hard to spell though, as you can see I had to copy and paste the name from your post. :)

I'd love to read this.

I'm thrilled I won one of your giveaways.

Tracy Campbell said...

Hi Natalie,
I was waiting for this post.
Liesl your book sounds wonderful and I'd love to win a copy.
If I don't, it's a book I'll purchase.
Have a happy day!

Danielle H. said...

Great interview and chance to win a fabulous book! I enjoy reading stories told from other character's POV and hope to read this really soon! I will tell my 5th grader about this book. I will post on Facebook for my friends to check it out for their kids. Thank you!

Unknown said...

So funny to hear about this book today. I've been talking to my students a lot about folk tales and fairy tales as well as fractured fairy tales this year. I was suprised to find that so many of them are unfamiliar with fairy tales so I've been reading them Rumplestilskin this week and they have been just mesmerized. I'll definitely have to get this title for my library.

Bryann James Almeda said...

Yes! :) I really hope! I saw the trailer long before and I was immediately sucked in with the thought of reading and holding it in my hands. :D I hope this reaches Philippines :) Thanks!

Unknown said...

Sounds like a book my 11-year-old daughter would love (and me, too). In fact, I just put a hold request on it with my local library! :) Thanks for sharing a bit of your process with us.

Stephanie Garber said...

This story sounds so cute! I'd never thought about what a young Rumplestilskin would be like. I can't wait to read it!

nutschell said...

Congrats to the winners! This story sounds amazing and that cover is something to be hold. I'll have to check this book out.

Michelle OHara Levin said...

This story sounds fantastic... and reading it sound like ti will be a good way to learn about setting up great characters too!
Can't wait to read it!
Best, Michelle

jpetroroy said...

I love retellings! This sounds great. :)

MeganC said...

This story sounds awesome. I loved the author's advice on including theme in your story. I'm drafting right now, and I have really been worried that I'm not as focused as I should be. Her comments gave me hope :-). Congrats on a great book!

Ryan said...

MDT major? I bet that was a blast. I want to read your book!

Author A.O. Peart said...

Congratulations to all the winners.
This story sounds so cool! I love it. And the cover is amazing :-)

Ramona said...

I love the sound of Rump - as a primary teacher I loved sharing traditional fairytales and comparing then to modern spin offs. Now as a mother I know my daughter would love this book - love fracture tales!


Kristin Lenz said...

I'm seeing this post a couple days late, but this is the type of book my 11 year old loves! Thanks for the giveaway and congrats to Liesl on her debut and a smooth and speedy query/agent/publishing experience!

Shell said...

I was at a writing conference with Liesl several years ago and we were in the same class all week. I am so happy that her book is published and I'm excited to hear she's working on another. Yay! Congratulations and great interview. I can't wait to read Rump!

Beth said...

This book sounds wonderful! Fingers crossed ...

Carmen said...

I've heard so many awesome things about this book. I can't wait to read it!

DMS said...

Oh my goodness- I LOVE this cover! I think it is just stunning. The story sounds amazing and I can't wait to read it. It was such fun to read this interview. Thanks so much for the interview and the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a very interesting book!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I've been waiting for this book to come out forever!! Yay, thanks for the interview!