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 Wednesday! I have a few things to tell you before I get to our fantastic interview.

First, sorry there was no post on Monday but the author never got back  to me.

And sorry if you got a weird e-mail from me asking for money. One of my e-mail accounts got hacked. I fixed it. If you ever get hacked, be sure to check that a new e-mail hasn't been added to your account or that your e-mail is being forwarded somewhere else.

And so sorry that I'm not around as much. I'm in the midst of taking Rudy's name off my accounts and clearing out some of the stuff he accumulated that we don't need anymore. And swim mom duties are starting and I'm finishing up one last online Office 10 course. I'm guessing my layoff notice will come this September so I've got to get my resume together and get on LinkedIn too. So there is just a ton going on right now. But there is an end in site by the end of Fall on much of this. And if that's not enough, Blogger Dashboard has a bug where only one blog will load. They are supposed to be fixing it.

After today, I'm starting my summer blogging schedule. I'm leaving to visit Rudy's family so will be off until July 2nd and will be offline during my trip. I'm pretty committed to only blogging on Mondays except for my popular Blog Hop Book Giveaways. And it August, I'm taking off two weeks. I may do the same in October and November because it's heavy swim season. And I want to enjoy it with Anna Li. The best way to do that is not to get over committed.


Krysten Hager's book TRUE COLORS just released. Here's a blurb: TRUE COLORS is about Landry Albright, an 8th grader, who tries out for a modeling competition with her two best friends and gets "unfriended" when she moves on in the competition and they don't. Throw in a new boy, jealousy issues, and hair stylist insults—how’s a girl to deal? 
Here's some links:

Finally I have some winners to announce.

The winner of MY LAST KISS is Stephanie Garber!
The winner of KILLING RUBY ROSE is Nicole Zoltack!
The winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card is Alex Cavenaugh!
And the winner of the Sarah Davies' query critique is Tammy Therlault!

Congrats to all the winners!

Today I’m jumping up and down thrilled to have debut author and follower Jessica Lawson here to share about her new MG historical fiction story THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER that releases July  1, 2014. This was a really fun read for me and I totally loved Becky, the main character. She’s such a character and has a great voice.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man’s grave as protection for entering the Widow's house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way . . . if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

First of all, I have to say what an honor it is to be interviewed on this blog. I’ve been reading it for years, used it extensively during my agent search, and think you and Casey are two of the coolest ladies in the kidlit blogging community.

I live in Colorado with my husband and children (I have two young ones and two teenage stepchildren). I started writing when my first child was six months old, but I think the signs were there even during my childhood—I kept snarky journals during vacation, made up silly songs (something I still do all the time with my kids), and actually looked forward to essay-based tests. Becoming a stay-at-home mom finally gave me the time to pursue a hidden passion that I might have otherwise overlooked.

2. Thanks for the sweet words. And I’m most thrilled when I get to interview my blogger friends as debut authors. Where did you get your idea for this story and what drew you to writing historical fiction?

One day when I was doing household chores, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer caught my eye on our bookshelf. It occurred to me that I’d always related more to Tom and Huck than Becky Thatcher. I wondered what it would be like if Becky was a pirate-playing, mischief-making kind of girl, and how that might change the story dynamic.

The idea sat for well over a year while I worked on other manuscripts. During that time, my brother-in-law passed away. My sister was left a widow with two very young daughters to raise. It was a loss that felt like (and still feels like) one of the world’s supreme acts of unfairness. I’d known him since I was 16 years old. I spent several weeks living with my sister and nieces. The grieving that went on during that time, and the strength and courage of my sister left a mark on me. When I returned, I decided to write the book I’d been thinking about. I finally knew what my Becky Thatcher’s backstory was—why she moved to St. Petersburg, why she wore overalls, and why she loved adventure. It was because of a beloved brother who Becky admired above all others—a brother who had died a year before the start of the novel. I named that character Jon, after my own brother-in-law who had left us far too soon.

Why historical fiction? I’ve tried writing stories with contemporary characters and settings, but I’m just not suited to it at this point. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a little old-fashioned and nostalgic at heart, or maybe I’m just avoiding the incorporation of modern technology and vocabulary.

3. A sad way to have to come up with the backstory but that’s cool that you named your character after Jon. What’s the best way you found to do research to be sure you get the historical facts and way of life right when writing historical fiction like THE ACTUAL &TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER?

I have a coffee mug featuring the following Mark Twain quote: “Get your facts first, then you can distort
‘em as much as you please.” And that’s pretty much how I try to go about it. My advice would be to read historical fiction based in the time period of your manuscript and biographies of historical figures as necessary, and use Google. I tend to research first to get a basic grounding in time and place, then dive into writing, leaving any necessary detail work and filling in for later. Otherwise there’s a tendency to try to incorporate every single cool fact you learn into the manuscript, which tends to crowd things and distract from the story you’re trying to tell.

As a side note, it’s funny how sometimes your “fiction” turns out to match up with fact. An example of something that might seem small is that, for whatever reason, my Becky Thatcher calls mosquitoes “skitters.” I knew very well when I wrote the story that most people would say “skeeter” as a Southern nickname for the insect, but goshdarnit, in my head, Becky pronounced it “skitter.” I was kind of surprised that nobody ever corrected me on it (especially because I’ve heard the term “skitters” refer to something else entirely…let’s just say that you don’t want to be at an outhouse with a bad case of the skitters.). But after using the miracle of the internet, I found out that there are areas near my setting where a mosquito has been called a “skitter” as well. So I guess the moral of that tidbit is that if you research hard enough, you just might find out that your fictional character knows more than you do

4. Sounds like a fun way to do research. And that’s a good idea not to get overwhelmed trying to add the little historical details in the first draft. I just totally fell in love with Becky and her voice. She’s such a character that makes me smile every time I think of her. Share about her and how you got her voice so perfectly right.

You are so sweet to say that! She was one of those lucky characters who just showed up fully formed and had a lot to say. The accent and vernacular I gave her probably came, at least partially, from the time I spent as a child in a very small southeastern Missouri town, visiting with my grandparents. My version of Becky T. was also influenced by my love for Twain, Junie B. Jones, Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables), and Mattie Ross in the new version of the movie True Grit (such a great character!).

5. Now that you mention it, she does remind me a bit of Junie B. Jones. What was a challenge you faced craft-wise in writing this and what did you learn from the experience?

Initially, the manuscript was more episodic, in the vein of Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I’m lucky that my agent is very hands-on and that my editor has a wonderful sense of vision. We worked together to hone in on the external plot and cut away the extraneous material. That process helped me learn that addressing revision in layers and doing multiple passes is a good way for me to go about polishing. It can take more time than just making large cuts, but carving away at the story gradually was a great way for me to get to know my characters and their motivations more intimately.

6. I need to revise multiple times too. Your agent is Tina Wexler. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Tina Wexler is an amazing agent, one that I’m incredibly thankful to have. My road to publication is a journey that started in the summer of 2009. I wrote lots of manuscripts over three years before writing Becky T., the stories ranging from women’s fiction to middle grade. I wrote quickly, kept my expectations low, and didn’t get emotionally attached to the manuscripts, which helped when dealing with rejections. For the first 4-5 manuscripts, I sacrificed the revision process in the name of chasing new ideas. It was only when I acquired critique partners that I really started to see an increase in requests and personalized rejections. Tina picked Becky T. out of the slush pile in July of 2012 and offered representation that September. We went on submission the following year and sold the book in March of 2013.

7. Awesome how you wrote and queried the old-fashioned way and it worked. How are you planning to market this? Since it ties into the Tom Sawyer stories and Mark Twain, is this giving you some niche opportunities to help promote your book?

With middle grade books, particularly a story like this one, I think there’s more of a focus on school and library sales. I’ve sent postcards to schools and libraries in key “Twain towns” like Hannibal, MO (his hometown) and Hartford, CT (where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and other major works), and I’ll be looking for schools that incorporate Tom Sawyer into their curriculum to see if my book might be a nice supplement for their learning units. Simon & Schuster has put together a wonderful teaching guide, which will help me on that front. I also get to go to the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford in late July to chat with some people about the book and attend their annual ice cream social.

8. Great idea to target the libraries and schools to contact. What are you working on now?

I just turned in line edits for NOOKS & CRANNIES, a middle grade novel set in a manor house in England’s Lake District in 1906. It’s about a young girl named Tabitha Crum, a mysterious invitation, a reclusive Countess, a bunch of children, a blizzard, and a secret that changes the lives of everyone in the book. Publication is set for Summer 2015.

Your new book sounds so good! Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica.

Thank YOU, Natalie!

You can find Jessica at:


Jessica and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers have generously offered an ARC of THE ACTUAL &TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER 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 July 12th. I’ll announce the winner on July 14th. 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. This is for US and Canada residents.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog to find all the other blogs participating.

Here’s what’s coming up:

I’ll be off until Wednesday, July 2nd when I have a guest post by Tara Dairman and giveaway of her MG contemporary novel ALL FOUR STARS. I'll hopefully be stopping by your blogs later in the day that day as the morning is filled with picking up my puppy at the kennel she'll be boarding, grocery shopping, and Anna Li's driving test and hopefully getting her license.

The next Monday, I’m participating in the Just Couldn’t Put It Down Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices of books for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Livia Blackbourne and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF.

The Monday after that I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday, July 2nd!


Today I’m excited to be a part of Pam Torres’ blog tour for her new middle grade book IT’S NOT JUST A DOG that released in April. Details of the giveaway are after Pam’s guest post.

So here’s Pam.

Rockin’ Summer Reading: Ten Ways To Encourage Kids To Read

It’s beautiful outside. A slight breeze wafts through the trees giving just the right amount of relief from the warmth of the sunshine. Flowers are blooming in bright splashes of reds, pinks, purples and yellows. An occasional hummingbird takes a quick respite on the sugar feeder and birds are flittering throughout the branches above. A perfect day to open a book and relax…

Unfortunately, the idea of lazy summer days sometimes gets lost in the busyness of day camps, lessons, summer school, sports. So where do they squeeze in time to read, daydream and just enjoy being a kid? What do you say when you’re met with, “C’mon I want to play my X-box!” I love Jen Robinson’s article on her blog. She writes,”Summer reading should be a joy. Summer vacation should be a time to stretch out on a hammock or curl up in an armchair and dive deep into a fun, engrossing, fabulous read. Kids who spend time reading during the summer go back to school in the fall with their reading skills improved.” How can we encourage the children in our lives to read? Here is a list of ways to encourage reading:

1- Make or find a reading list. Before school lets out, ask your child’s teacher or librarian for a book list that is at your child’s reading level.

2- Take advantage of your local library’s reading program. They usually have incentives for kids to read and keep a list of what they’re reading. Make it a once-a-week visit.

3- Make sure there are always books and magazines around. Keeping all your books tucked away in a bookcase makes it less likely a child will pick up something to look at or read. Put some in different places, the bathroom, the family room, the kitchen. Make them readily available to spike their interest.

4- Write a personal letter about what you’re reading. If you’re long distance, or even if you’re not, you can write a personal letter encouraging the children in your life to keep a list of what they read. Reward them in some way.

5- Heading out on the road, bring books and audio books. If you always have books on hand, waiting time can be enjoyed by reading or listening to a book. Modeling this type of waiting can help them develop the same reading habits.

6- Inspire buddy reading. Reading can be a social thing. Why not buy two of the same book for your child and his best friend to read together?

7- Read a book out loud. I read to my children until they were well into junior high and even then they liked to hear me read. It’s important to model this behavior. Show them you make time to enjoy reading. Don’t let your reading rituals fall by the wayside because it’s summer. MAKE TIME FOR READING!

8- Subscribe to a magazine. Starting a subscription to a magazine is a great way to encourage reading. I have a great list on my blog here.

9- Make a reading log or tracker. This can be as simple as a piece of paper but if you’re the creative
type you could create something amazing. You can find several printable templates on Pinterest here and here.

10- Model reading for pleasure. All my grandchildren call me the reading grandma. They know that I not only write books but I’m interested in what they’re reading. I’m always reading and I talk about reading. They count on me to grow their personal libraries and I take that opportunity very seriously, with messages to them in every book. I’ve even told them if they finish a book I’ve given them and tell me about it, I’ll give them another.

What ideas do you have for encouraging reading this summer?

You can find Pam at:

You can find It’s NOT Just A Dog! at the online stores below:

Here’s a blurb of IT’S NOT JUST A DOG:

School's out for the summer and straight-talking Madison and her friend Cooper have big plans for the summer: working at the kennel, training service dogs and creating a dog-walking business—besides writing her dog-blog. Her stepdad has agreed to make Lilly, Madison's foster puppy, a permanent member of the Morgan family, and Madison wants to make the adoption special.

When an injured dog is abandoned, Madison's determined to discover the truth about the orphaned dog. To crack this crime she'll have to sneak around some shady characters. It'll be tricky since her dad isn't happy about her animal detective activities. Her promise not to get into trouble won't be easy. Madison convinces Cooper to strike out on their own, but Lilly is dognapped and Madison finds herself locked in a shed with no way out. She regrets her crime-fighting obsession and realizes her snooping has endangered everyone she cares about. Cooper rallies an unlikely group of rescuers to bust her out.
n the end Madison learns she can depend on her friends and her stepfather. And when it comes to people and dogs, relationships are never simple, and a dog is never—JUST a dog!

Fill out the Rafflecopter Form to enter Pam’s contest:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize Packages
Grand Prize- Set of illustrations signed by the illustrators, set of bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series, and a dream catcher. 
First Prize- 3 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, hard copies of both books in the series.
Second Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.
Third Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series. 
Swag Packages- One 5x7 signed illustration, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, an ebook in the format of your choice. 

More chances to win…

Facebook Page Contests- During the month of June the Project Madison Facebook Fan Page will be conducting contests and giveaways, so be sure to check there frequently for a chance to win some great prizes.

Attention Teachers and Parents:Anyone who emails (torres dot pam3 at gmail dot com) a JPG of a tween student holding my book, the student will receive a personalized letter from Madison and signed by Lilly dog.

In addition, they will also be entered into a special drawing for an entire classroom to receive copies of the book and a visit from the author. (Sorry, this is for Washington State Teachers only.) One entry per child, per picture. Be sure to include your school name, teachers name and contact information.

And here’s the rest of the Blog Tour:
19- Social Cafe Magazine
20- This Kid Reviews Books
Week Four 
23- That’s Another Story
24- Pretty Opinionated
25- The Reader’s Perch
26- That’s Another Story
27- Reads 4 Tweens
Week Five
30- Tales Between The Pages
July 1stBuried In Books

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I have an interview with Lindsay Cummings and a giveaway of THE MURDER COMPLEX, her YA futurist thriller that I really enjoyed.

Next Wednesday I’m interviewing debut author and follower Jessica Lawson and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction book THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER. This is a fun read and I loved Becky, the adventurous middle grader who has a great voice you can’t help loving.

Then I’ll be off until Wednesday, July 2nd when I have a guest post by Tara Dairman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary novel ALL FOUR STARS.

The Monday after that I’ll be participating in the Just Couldn’t Put It Down Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!