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! I’ve got lots going on today. First I’m participating in Sheri Larsen’s IT’S ALL ABOUT GRATITUDE BLOG HOP. If you don’t follow Sheri’s blog, you can find her fantastic blog HERE. Sheri shared a video on how to be truly happy and asked that blog hop participants share how it affected them.

The video talks about one of the keys to being truly happy in this stressful world is to be grateful. And I think that is so true. I have a lot of challenges in life—my only sister died from cancer, my husband almost died in a strange town the same year, he has a chronic, life threatening disease that limits significantly what he can do, and I face a job loss this year—are a few. But over the years, I’ve been struck with there are always things to be grateful for and ways to look at our situations in a positive fashion. Like my husband’s health amazingly is getting a bit better and he’s still alive. And I’m hoping a great, less stressful job will open up once I get laid off this year.

We’ll always have hard challenges at various times in life. But being grateful for all the blessings we have can really make the difference in how we handle them and staying happy in general.

Today I’m excited to have follower and friend Kelly Polark here to share about her new MG contemporary story ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK that releases in a few weeks. Kelly is also the author of three picture books, ROCKABET, HOLD THE MUSTARD, and BIG SISTER, BABY BROTHER. Kelly’s new story sounds like a fantastic contemporary story that I think many of you would really enjoy. I’m looking forward to reading it too.


Music class and recess totally rock, but being teased in school and ignored at home totally stinks. Stefani Lucas is a rockin’ sixth grader who loves music and dresses like a mini hipster in all black, but there's one thing cramping her style - her lame baby brother who manages to hog all the attention from her parents.
When classmates tease her about her clothes and even double dare her to (gasp!) wear another color, Stef decides a minor makeover may be in order. Can Stef change for others and still stay true to herself?

Hi Kelly. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Well, I’m a married mom of three. I used to teach third grade until I had my first child. I was a stay at home mom for 11 years and felt like I needed a creative outlet. I love books as a teacher, mom, and reader, so I decided to take some online writing classes. I also started attending local SCBWI meetings and went from there!

2. I bet being a teacher really helped you in your writing. Where did you get your idea for your story? And I know you love music. How did you combine that love with this story?

I love rock music, and I want people of all ages to become familiar with cool bands. So I came up with the idea of a middle grade with a rocker edge. Rock clothing is popular for kids. Music oriented TV shows are popular. I hope kids find this book a whole lot of fun, too.

3. So true that music plays a bit role in middle grade kids’ lives. Voice is so important in middle grade stories. Did Stefani’s voice come to you or did you have to work to get it right? Do you have any tips on nailing a middle grade voice?

Stefani’s voice did just come to me, but when I wrote this, my kids were watching Disney and
Nickelodeon with plenty of preteens on the shows. Being a teacher and a mom also help get an authentic voice as you are immersed in the language!

4. What was most challenging craft-wise in writing this story—setting, plot, character development, or voice—and what did you learn from working through your challenge?

I think plot might have been the hardest to work through. I had a few agents give me good advice on how to make the plot bigger and the story more fluid. I actually wrote this as a chapter book, and an agent suggested I change it into a middle grade. Her advice was spot on!

5. That’s awesome how agent advice helped you and that it resulted in your chapter book expanding to be a middle grade novel. Stefani sounds like a cool kid. And I’m sure kids will relate to her love of wearing one color. I remember when my own daughter would only wear blue. Share a bit about her as a character.

Stefani’s dad and cousin are in a local cover band so she is in on the rock ‘n’ roll scene a bit. Stef loves to wear black because of that rocker edge, but also because it’s easy to just wear one color. She likes school and feels a bit betrayed when some friends start badgering her about it.

6. She sounds really cool. Tell us about your path to publication and why you chose going that route.

I submitted this story to agents at first. Many agents requested fulls. One asked for revisions after the full, but the agent thing didn’t quite work out. I knew it was a good story, and I knew it was in a niche market that isn’t really represented, so I decided to publish with my new press to share the story.

7. Sorry getting an agent didn’t work out but it’s awesome how close you got. And glad you realized that your book needed to be published. You publish under your own press, Big Smile Press, LLC. Why did you decide to set up your own press versus publishing under your author name and what was the process like?

I guess you would call me a hybrid author as two of my picture books are through Meegenius. But this business is very subjective and publishers accept only so many books. With self publishing being so popular now (and profitable for some friends), I decided to go for it and put my publishing career in my own hands where I can be in more control. Having my own business is a lot of work, so I am still open to publishing some of my stories with traditional publishers and publishing others on my own. There’s only so much time in the day!

8. I know what you mean about only being able to squeeze so much into the day. I know you’ve gone back to work full-time and have a family. Share your tips on also being productive in your writing and publishing career.

I don’t stress myself about writing (unless there is a true deadline). I work all day in an early childhood classroom then I chauffeur my three kids to all their activities in the afternoon and evenings. I fit in writing and the business side of Big Smile Press when I can. Mostly after 9pm! Summers off help, too!

9. That’s a great attitude toward writing. I don’t stress about mine as much either. I just do what I can with working and the chauffeuring and volunteering duties that come with being a mom. What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on marketing ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK. Next, I want to work on another picture book that I am excited about. After that, I want to finish another middle grade novel that I started a few years ago but never finished. So many ideas, so little time.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kelly. You can find Kelly at:

Her blog: Kelly Polark http://www.kpolark.blogspot.com
Her celebrity book recommendation site: BOOK RECS OF THE ROCK AND FAMOUS http://www.bookrecsthatrock.blogspot.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyPolark
Twitter https://twitter.com/kellypolark

Kelly has generously offered a signed copy of ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK 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 through March 15th. I’ll announce the winner on March 17th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

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.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Friday I’ll be participating in the Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of new YA releases to choose from.

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Christina Farley and giving away a copy of GILDED, her fantastic YA contemporary fantasy set in Korea. You really felt like you were there and I really loved this page-turner.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Kristi Helvig and giving away an ARC of BURN OUT, her YA sci-fi story. It’s a great story set on Earth about Tora, who may be the only person on Earth, who really needs to leave and has to decide if she can trust the people who come knocking on her door.

Wednesday that week I’m interviewing Susan Quinn and giving away a copy of FAERY SWAP, her fantastic new MG fantasy I really enjoyed and THIRD DAUGHTER, her NA steampunk fantasy that sounds really good. Susan is a successful self-published author and she has lots of advice to share with us all.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Friday!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's right Kelly - today's kids need to be exposed to some good rock and roll!
And I think you'll do quite fine without an agent.

Denise Covey said...

I don't have time to read all about the book release so will return. It caught my eye. I'm sorry to hear your husband and yourself face such daily challenges. Keep strong.

Stephen Tremp said...

Good luck to you Kelly. I didn't know you had a book out, but I'm not surprised at the cover and title. Agent? You don't need no stinkin' agent.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Hmm. Maybe a Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist scaled down to MG (so none of that sex!) feel to it? Sounds like a promising premise that that age range would like. Good luck with your book, Kelly. Natalie, you are so busy on this blog you make my head spin.

Karen Lange said...

I don't have an agent and have managed just fine. I've heard all sorts of stories, pros and cons, and I say go with whatever works best for you.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Natalie. Thanks also for the intro to Kelly. It's great to meet her. Wishing her all the best! :)

I'll bow out of the giveaway since I won recently. Have a great week!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Yay Kelly! Sounds like a fun book :)

Christine Rains said...

Great interview! I think it's fantastic you did it without an agent. Love the title of the book too!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Good luck to you Kelly. Its great that you did it without an agent. I love the title of your book.

Crystal Collier said...

Ah, that cover is awesome!

I'm right there with you, Natalie. Living each day with gratitude is what brings happiness, and when I find myself on the edge of depressed, I know I'm not counting my blessings. We truly are so amazingly blessed. Today I'm feeling that gratitude for my amazing online friends.

Samantha Vérant said...

- I'm glad to hear your husband is doing better-- something to be grateful for! As for Kelly's book with the fantabulous cool cover, I can't wait to get my hands on it. Kelly knows her stuff-- especially when it comes to rock and rocker girls! So proud of you, Kelly!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow - Kelly has the most beautiful smile outside of Julia Roberts! I love the cover of her book and the whole idea that princesses can wear black, and come in all shapes and sizes.

Natalie - I'm sorry to hear about all the tragedies and stresses in your life. I'm crossing my fingers your husband remains as healthy as possible and you find a less stressful, well-paying job. <3

Unknown said...

Wow - Kelly's smile is as big and beautiful as Julia Roberts's! I love her cover and the idea princesses can wear black, and that every one is her own person. I'm wishing her huge success!

Natalie - I'm sorry to hear about the stresses and tragedies in your life. I'm crossing my fingers your husband remains as healthy as possible and that you find an unstressful well-paying new job. <3

Cynthia said...

Natalie, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your sister, your husband's disease, and the issue with your job. What I admire about you is that in spite of your struggles, you find the time to help others through this blog, and the thoughtful comments you leave on my blog tell me you are one cool lady.

Congratulations, Kelly, on your new book. I remember back in middle school, a few girls I knew were going through this phase where they wore only black to "rebel" against wearing color but enough girls began doing this that it no longer seemed like a "rebellion" but more like trend following, and that it were the few girls who continued to wear color that became the true rebels. Reading about Stephani brought all those memories back. I love music, and your book sounds really neat.

Kelly Polark said...

Natalie, so sorry about your life's challenges and your loss. I do believe that being grateful for your blessings and trying to have a positive attitude can help. Thank you so much for featuring me today!!! You all made me smile with your kind words about my book! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Fun cover. And good for you in recognizing when passing a more traditional route for publication was the best path for you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congrats on setting up your own press for your books. That's the smart way to do it.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Being gratefully really does make a difference by changing your whole outlook.

Congrats to Kelly! Good luck with your book and your new press.

Nicole said...

Great interview, Kelly! Love your attitude toward publishing and writing and...I think I was a wanna be rock 'n roll princess as a kid. ;)

Julie Musil said...

I love how Kelly took things into her own hands! Now young teens get to enjoy her story.

Natalie, I want to hug you after hearing what you've been through lately. The fact that you can still be grateful speaks volumes about the kind of person you. are.

Margo Berendsen said...

Gilded is on my TBR list so looking forward to that! Thanks for all you do on this blog... while you are taking time to talk about gratitude, just wanted to say I'm grateful for you and this blog!

Leslie S. Rose said...

Way to go, Kelly! I know quite a few 6th graders who would really connect with this book.

Hugs to you Natalie. Gratefulness always lightens the load.

pandas4vic said...

Thanks for sharing how you published your book...so awesome!!! I also love hearing your thoughts about agents.
Good luck...and may you have many more wonderful books ahead!

Michael G-G said...

We share similar philosophies on gratitude, Natalie. Thanks for being part of Sheri's blog hop this week.

Rosi said...

Very interesting interview. Thanks for sharing your journey. The book sounds great and I love the cover. Good luck with this one, Kelly. Natalie, hang in there and keep thinking good thoughts. I am sending good thoughts your way.

Danielle H. said...

You do have a full life with family and work! I think this makes you more creative in the time you have to write. I liked how you immersed yourself with real teens the age of your contemporary character to achieve natural-sounding language. I have shared this on Facebook. Hope to win a copy of your book! Thank you for the giveaway.

Luna said...

Your attitude of gratitude is truly inspiring, Natalie. I appreciate you sharing your story, which truly touched my heart. Thank you!

Congratulations, Kelly! I really enjoyed your interview today.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - I love your attitude of gratitude!!! And I am sending big virtual hugs, and lots of prayers your way - for healing for your hubs, for strength and comfort for you, for an awesome new job, and great family time.

And Kelly - Congratulations!!! I really enjoyed your interview, and your books sounds great! I love the title, concept, and the little bit you shared about your character. I would love to know more about how you handle your small press business. I started a business of my own with Wings of Light Publishing for my books . . . but other than having a business license and putting that on my books, I haven't figured it all out yet.

Candace said...

You make a good point Natalie, even when it seems like things are crap and there's a lot to deal with, there's always a positive side. Or positive things you can focus on, or remind yourself of. It makes me think of when I go to the doctor (like when I had a baby) and they ask your pain level. Well, I don't know! It hurts REALLY bad. I would say a 9, but compared to someone who got shot or something it's probably more like a 3! I'm always comparing it to something that is probably worse pain.

This book sounds ADORABLE! I think my daughter would probably like it a lot!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this interview. I also set up a press to independently publish my niche p.b. so I could definitely relate to much of what she said. Books sounds very cute. Glad your husband is doing better.

Tammy Theriault said...

wow so cool of you!!! i'll take what ever you give me...

Anonymous said...

I love music-themed books. Yay for Kelly.

Reading the gratitude posts has also made me reflect on what I'm grateful for.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful and inspiring interview! Love Kelly P., and am so happy for her successes!!! Congratulations!

Natasha said...

Great interview!
Sounds like a fun read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Kelly Polark said...

Thanks again to Natalie for sharing my upcoming book and interview and for all of you for reading the post and your support!! :) Love this writing community!