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 Everyone!

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Brent Taylor here. He’s been working as an intern at 
TriadaUS Literary Agency and has been promoted to a literary agent. He’s building his middle grade and young adult author list.

Hi Brent! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an agent.

I'm based out of Louisville, KY and I assist Uwe Stender and work on my own list. I came to TriadaUS after years of interning at The Bent Agency and freelance editing.

2. So you’re building your own list now and represent middle grade and young adult authors. What are you looking for as an agent? Any genres you are looking for and/or prefer?

I represent a wide range, from middle grade to adult, but I do want a really strong MG/YA list. During my career as an intern and an assistant I've worked with over 5 literary agents, so I've developed very eclectic sensibilities. For middle grade, I tend to go for beautiful writing, fresh voice, and a strong sense of place. I love fantasy, magical realism, and contemporary/realistic stories. Some of my favorite MG writers are Rebecca Stead, Jerry Spinelli, Brian Farrey, and Kathi Appelt.

For YA, I want books with slightly higher concepts but still retain a lot of meaning and really wonderful sentences. Some of my favorite YA writers are Nova Ren Suma, Nick Burd, Stephanie Perkins, and Libba Bray.

Something at the very top of my list, regardless of genre or category, is a sweeping, sentimental story with a hint of strangeness. I would love to find something at the intersections of stories like Her, The Time Traveler’s Wife, About Time, or Upside Down.

3. That's great you worked with so many agents and that it helped you develop your own tastes.  Are there any genres you don’t want to represent or don’t think you can sell right now?

YA scifi isn't really my forte, but I would definitely be open to it in middle grade. My interests in MG are much more vast, and I tend to be extra picky about YA. And, while I enjoy paranormal/supernatural stories, it’s almost impossible to sell these days.

4. I always feel sad when I hear popular genres are no longer selling because the fan base of those genres still likes that type of story, but it's good to know what's not selling.  I have a lot of followers who are self-published and/or published by smaller presses. And I’ve read that you’re supportive of self-published authors. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

I would be open to representing previously self-published or small press authors, so long as I’m able to get enthusiastic enough about the project they’re querying me with. My only advice is to be very sure about what you’re doing—I get so many queries for books that are self-published, and it’s frustrating to think that these writers are trying to get the best out of both worlds. Queries for self-published novels are an automatic rejection. The only exception is if the book sells exceptionally and the books need a print outlet, but that’s very rare and a majority of the writers that query self-published works own up to poor sales in the query letter.

I will also say that I’m less hesitant about authors who have self-published their books exclusively in e-book form, since POD books’ numbers show up on Bookscan.

5. That's great to know you're open to some self-published authors. Share a bit about what you’re looking for in your clients and whether you’re an editorial agent.

I’m most drawn to writers that are risk-takers and write without pulling any punches. I think those writers are the ones that most often write from the heart. As far as editorial work goes, it depends on the client and the book. There are manuscripts I’ve sent out as-is, and there are ones that took multiple rounds of revisions. Every project is different, and I’m usually able to gauge what the author-agent relationship will look like once we have that first phone call.

6. What are you looking for in a query letter and do you ask for manuscript pages too? Which do you focus on more—the query or the manuscript pages?

I love concise queries. All I need to know is who your protagonist is, what they want, what’s standing in their way, and what’s going to happen if they don’t get it. I ask for ten sample pages pasted below the query. I tend to skim the query for genre and category before jumping into the pages and if the pages impress me I take a closer look at the query.

7. It's good to know you'll get to the manuscript quickly, because sometimes the manuscript is really good but the query isn't no matter how much the writer works on it. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you? And what’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I hate really long query letters, and messages that don’t get straight to the point. My response time varies but I typically respond to queries within 24 hours. The exception is weekends, holidays, and vacations. My response time on full manuscripts isn’t quite that fast, but is usually within two to four weeks.
8. I’ve read that TriadaUS Literary Agency has quite a few contacts in Hollywood. How important is this to an author considering signing with an agent?

We work really hard to exploit all subsidiary rights, but I think we have a special strength in film/TV. A great portion of the manuscripts we represent and sell are simultaneously shopped around by some of the best producers and agents.

9. That's awesome how quickly you respond. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

There’s always been a natural evolution to the literary agent’s job, so of course it will always change. It’s just hard to pinpoint how, exactly, which is why I love this job so much: you’re never not on your toes.
10. Any other advice you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?

I think we’ve just about covered everything! These were such great questions, and I’m a big fan of the Literary Rambles blog. I hope everyone will continue finding and using resources such as this blog to help with the querying and publishing process.

So glad you like our blog. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Brent. You can find Brent at:

Brent generously offered a query critique 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 May 16th. I’ll announce the winner on May 18th. If you're not interested in a critique, that's okay and just let me know in the comments. 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. International entries are welcome.

Here's what's coming up:

On Saturday I'm participating in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great newly released YA choices or a $10 Amazon Gift Card for you to choose from.

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Krista Van Dolzer and a giveaway of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, her MG historical contemporary story.

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Donna Galanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTENING ROAD. Donna was an intern with an agent and has lots of great advice to share on querying.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jenny Martin and a giveaway of her YA science fiction TRACKED.

Hope to see you on Saturday!


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic weekend. I did a presentation on blogging for our SCBWI meet-up group on Saturday. It went really well. Of course, I mentioned Captain Alex's name and his blog quite a bit. It was my first presentation like that and I was really glad it was really well received.

I have a winner to announce.

The winner of DRAGON OF THE STARS is Jeremy Hawkins!

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

Today I’m jumping up and down with excitement that debut author Sabaa Tahir is here with us to share about her super fantastic YA fantasy AN EMBER IN THE ASHES that releases today. I LOVED this story and am going to be sobbing when I give away my ARC that Sabaa was so incredibly kind to send to me.
Laia and Elias are such sympathetic characters. Right away Sabaa shows us their intense internal struggles which drive what they do and want. I loved the diversity in the world building that felt like a Mideast desert setting and the characters. It’s so important in our world today to have more books like this. But the world Laia and Elias live in is so brutal that it’s hard to see how either of them will do anything but fail. I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I had to see what would happen next. I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel. And trust me you want to read this book.

Here’s a blurb of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES from Goodreads:

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Hi Sabaa! Thank you so much for joining us today. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you here.

Thank YOU. I’m so excited to be here!

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

I’ve always loved reading, particularly fantasy books. Writing was a natural extension of that love. I started writing down stories when I was in first grade and continued doing it all the way through school. When I was 11, I had this big binder with a whole fantasy story in it—maps, character backgrounds, everything. Later, I wrote mostly contemporary short stories—but never with a major aim to publish.
When I got into journalism after college, I left fiction behind for a little while. But then in 2007, I got the idea for EMBER and jumped right back in.

2. I love fantasy books and started writing them too. Where did you get the idea for AN EMBER IN THE ASHES? And how did your own childhood inspire the story?

I grew up in a small, sort of insular town in the Mojave Desert. Early on, I knew I didn’t really fit in. I always felt like an outcast—lonely, voiceless. My only solace was books. When I decided to write one, I knew that it would be about people who, like me as a kid, feel voiceless and powerless.
At the time I was working at the Washington Post and I read a story about Kashmiri women whose brothers, sons, fathers and husbands are taken by the military and never seen again. I asked myself what I would do if I were one of those women, and that was the springboard for EMBER.

3. That's awesome how you drew on your personal and work experiences to get the idea for this amazing story. I read that you did a lot of research for this book, including interviews. Share about who you interviewed and why you felt the interviews were important to your story.

One of my characters, Elias, is a warrior. I, however, am not. To characterize him (and other warriors in
the story) authentically, I interviewed modern day warriors: a West Point cadet, police officers, soldiers and an FBI agent. Interviewing these people helped me get into the headspace of a warrior. I used what I learned to inform Elias’s actions, dialogue, skills, thoughts, etc.

4. That's a great idea to interview the people that you did. You really are so talented in creating both Laia and Elias as tortured and incredibly sympathetic characters. What’s your character development process like and what advice do you have for the rest of us?

Aww, thank you! I write by iteration, and my characters revealed themselves over time. So while I had a general sense of who they were going in, I didn’t really start to understand them until I’d written an entire draft. Every draft help me understand them better, and hone in on the things that fit with their personalities, as opposed to the things that weren’t in character.

My advice on characterization is to keep an open mind. Your characters will often surprise you. But never subvert their personalities to that your stories will go in the direction YOU want. Let your characters’ natural actions guide you.

5. I read that revising was the most challenging part of writing AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. Funny because that’s the part I love the most. Share about your challenges and what you learned from them.

I actually love revising too—to me, revising IS writing. But after a few years, revising was discouraging, because I started to wonder if my editing instinct was leading me down the wrong path. I start wondering if I knew what I was doing.

While I revised, I learned a million things, but here are the two that stick out: First, always leave a few weeks between major drafts. I usually leave 4 to 6 weeks. Second: have other people who know your genre but who aren’t your family or close friends read your book. It’s good to get an outside opinion. That’s why CPs are so great.

6. That's such great advice. I must ask you about Elias’ mother, the Commandant. I totally hate her! How did you think up her character and all her cruelty? Was she hard to write about?

The Commandant, like so many villains, is a product of her history. I thought up her back-story first. She was difficult to write at times because I wanted to protect my characters from her cruelty. But that’s not what would actually happen in life, so I had to learn not to pull my punches.

7. Your book is getting incredible buzz. I think it’s one of the most anticipated debuts coming out in 2015. And you’ve already been interviewed by many bloggers and in other media. How are you handling all the attention and is it and what Penguin Random House is doing to market your book pretty much marketing it for you?

I’m very thankful that EMBER has gotten such a lovely response so far. I feel super fortunate, but I actually try not to think about it too much and focus on all the stuff I focused on before I sold the book—so: family, writing, eating chocolate and buying ugly socks. ;)

8. What are you working on now?

Another YA fantasy!

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

Ember site: www.anemberintheashesbook.com
Twitter: @sabaatahir
Instagram: @sabaatahir
Tumblr: http://sabaatahir.tumblr.com

Sabaa generously offered an ARC of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES 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 May 9th. I’ll announce the winner on May 11th. 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. This is for US and Canada.

Here's  what's coming up:
On Wednesday I have an interview with agent Brent Taylor and a query critique contest.  

On Saturday I'm participating in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great newly released YA choices or a $10 Amazon Gift Card for you to choose from.

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Krista Van Dolzer and a giveaway of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, her MG historical contemporary story.

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Donna Galanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTENING ROAD. Donna was an intern with an agent and has lots of great advice to share on querying.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jenny Martin and a giveaway of her YA science fiction TRACKED.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Agent Spotlight: Heather Flaherty

This week's Agent Spotlight features Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency.

Status: Open to submissions, actively building her list.

Heather_Flaherty About: “Heather Flaherty represents authors who write children's, middle grade, and young adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as select new adult fiction, and pop-culture or humorous non-fiction.
“I grew up in Massachusetts, between Boston and the Cape, and started working in New York City as a playwright during college. This pushed me towards English as a focus, and after a lot of country-hopping in my early twenties, I wound up finally beginning my publishing career in editorial, specifically at Random House in the UK. That's also where I became a YA and Children's Literary Scout, which finally landed me back in NYC, consulting with foreign publishers and Hollywood regarding what the next big book will be. Now as an Agent, I'm thrilled to turn my focus on growing authors for that same success.” (Link)

About the Agency:
“At The Bent Agency, we work with authors to map the publishing career of their dreams and work with them to make it a reality. We pay careful attention to every detail, from the terms of a first contract, editorial work and cover design, to the publisher's marketing and publicity plan, royalties and sales figures. We offer the kind of representation that can only be born of years of agent experience in the atmosphere of a smaller boutique firm where every client gets our combined and total focus.

“We pride ourselves on nurturing and discovering authors whom we can help propel to the top of their category. We have represented over 30 New York Times bestselling titles, with many more on USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and other regional lists.” (Read more)

Web Presence:
The Bent Agency website.

Bent on Books (agency blog).

Twitter @HeddaFlaherty.

Publisher’s Marketplate page.


What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Middle grade and young adult fiction and non-fiction, select new adult fiction, and pop-culture or humorous non-fiction. (Link)

From the Website (as of 4/2015):
“Currently I'm looking for YA fiction across-the-board, though my heart does sway towards issue-related YA with humor and heart - not depressing, or mopey. I also love love love hard, punchy, contemporary YA that’s got no hesitations when it comes to crazy. I'm also always up for seeing contemporary stories with Sci-Fi or Fantasy elements, as well as a clever respin of an old or classic tale. And then, lastly, really good horror and ghost stories… not gory-for-gory's sake or overly disgusting, but cringing, dark, bloody twisted, and even lovely. That said, the one thing I love above all else in a YA novel, regardless of sub-genre, is a strong and specific character voice. A real person, not another ‘everygirl.’

“As for the Middle-Grade I'm looking for, I want it stark, honest, and even dark; either contemporary or period, as long as it’s accessible. Coming-of-age stories, dealing-with-difficulty stories, witness stories (adult issues seen through the child’s p.o.v kinda thing), anything that makes you want to hold the narrator's hand… for your own comfort, as well as their’s. I am also ok with these stories having slight magical or fantasy elements as well – as long as they're subtle.

“In New Adult, I like to see story… not just romance and/or erotica. For me, it should pretty much be a great YA novel for an older audience.

“On the non-fiction side, I'm looking for strong teen memoirs about overcoming crushing situations.” (Link)
From the Agency Blog (02/2015):
“Dying for some dripping, twisted, ghost stories and horror — I really want to see something like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD done so sickly well they make a video game out of it – a la American McGee’s Alice Madness Returns.

“Issue-related MG/YA that’s stripped and real… not broody or self-indulgent. Can be straight or humorous. Along the lines of Nic Sheff’s SCHIZO, Corey Ann Haydu's LIFE BY COMMITTEE, and Meg Wolitzer’s BELZHAR.

“I want to see more extreme contemporary stories with hard punch and a twist. Hot-Pink, Punk-Rock, Fangirl, Totally Unreliable Narrator, Space-time Continuum, you-name-it-you-own-it YA.
“Contemporary YA with sci-fi elements – not high sci-fi, but as part of a contemporary story, like Kimberly Derting’s THE TAKING.

“For MG/YA fantasy, and historical or period fiction, I’m looking for worlds that feel real, not obviously fabricated — a place you’re immediately part of, without any use of brainpower to get you there. Like Vicky Alvear Shecter’s CURSES AND SMOKE, or Saaba Tahir’s EMBER IN THE ASHES. I also enjoy cleverly respun classic tales like Gregory Maguire’s CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER or WICKED.

“I love teen memoir about overcoming traumatizing situations, especially when they involve bullying. One of my must-reads is POSITIVE by Paige Rawl.

“But above all, GIVE ME VOICE! I crave authentic teen voices, a unique personality, no faceless ingenue the reader can “fit themselves into.” Let’s hear about a specific boy or girl that the reader can actually relate to instead (even if it’s in the smallest way).” (Link)

From an Interview (04/2015):
“I want YA contemporary with a weird, crazy, or twisted situation the characters are dealing with. Something that makes the reader go, ‘What?’ I also want to see some super-solid, twisted Horror, with a great protagonist voice. (Other than that: Contemporary YA and MG, Fantasy or light Sci-FI YA, Period MG and YA, and Teen Memoir).” (Link)

Editorial Agent?
“Yuppers, yup, yup, yup. It's such a competitive industry at this point - everyone and their mother is writing - so you have to get your client's manuscript (especially a debut) up to snuff in order to expect publisher interest.” (Link)

There is a list of clients on the Bent Agency website.

Ms. Flaherty’s clients include: Jessica Mason, Evelyn Okray, among others.

Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No. 

Submission Guidelines (always verify):
E-mail a query letter with the first ten pages pasted into the body of the e-mail. No attachments. Include the title of the book in the subject line. Do not simultaneous query other agents at the agency.
For complete, up-to-date submission guidelines see The Bent Agency website and Ms. Flaherty’s PM Page.

Query Tips:
Check out Ms. Flaherty’s interview with Adventures in YA Publishing.

Response Times:
The agency tries to respond to all queries within a month. If you do not receive a response within this time, resend your query and indicate you are resending. Stats on the web show a range of just hours to a couple months.

What's the Buzz? 
The Bent Agency is a well-established and highly respected agency with a fantastic roster of clients. Ms. Flaherty is actively building her list and eager to find new talent.

I recommend following her on Twitter @heddaflaherty.

Worth Your Time:
Agent Heather Flaherty of the Bent Agency Defines Voice and Shares Her Wish List at Adventures in YA Publishing (04/2015).

A Cafe Chat with Agent Heather Flaherty, by Lindsay Bandy at EasternPennPoints (04/2015).

A Conversation with Heather Flaherty at Bent on Books (03/2015).

Around the Web:
The Bent Agency at P&E ($).

The Bent Agency thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Quick link to Ms. Flaherty’s blog posts at Bent on Books.

Check out the agency’s regularly hosted #askTBA sessions on Twitter.

Success Story Interview with Evelyn Okray at QueryTracker (03/2015).

Please see The Bent Agency website for additional contact information.

Profile Details:
Last Updated:  4/23/15.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 4/23/15.


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/teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying. The information found herein is subject to change.


Happy Monday Everyone! I have good news to share. Literary Rambles made the Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers list. Casey and I are so excited and honored!

 Contest Alert

Brigantine Media is announcing a brand-new contest for writers -- with a twist. Entries to the Publish or Perish contest include both a manuscript and a marketing plan. Winners receive a publishing contract for the book and a $2,000 advance against royalties. The deadline to enter in August 15, 2015. Writers can enter the contest at  www.PublishOrPerishContest.com.

And I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of Samantha Lien's consultation is Suzanne Warr!

And the winner of ZEROBOXER is Stephanie Garber!

Congrats! E-mail me so I can have your book mailed to you and the consultation set up. If I don't hear from you by the end of Wednesday, I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I'm thrilled to have debut author Megan Morrison here with a fantastic guest post and a giveaway of her YA fairytale retelling, GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL. I loved fairytale retellings and Cheryl Klein is Megan's editor, so this is a must read for me.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Think you know Rapunzel's story? Think again, because the tower was only the beginning..." -- Jennifer Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of THE FALSE PRINCE

In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so---her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can't imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He's the first person Rapunzel's ever met who isn't completely charmed by her (well, the first person she's met at all, really), and he is infuriating-- especially when he hints that Witch isn't telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised ... and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.

So here's Megan! 

“Editors are looking for books they love. Writers are looking to find editors who can help their books be their best . . . And almost nothing is better on both sides than making that connection and finding that match.” – Cheryl B. Klein, SECOND SIGHT

My debut novel, GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, is coming out next week. That is an
amazing thing to be able to say, and I can say it in great part because of my awesome editor, Cheryl Klein.

It’s been eleven years since I first submitted GROUNDED for Cheryl’s consideration. She liked it, but not enough to want to publish it – yet. She gave me some very critical, very important feedback, and sent me off to try again.

Smash cut to 2012. After a lot more writing and many life changes, I finally revised GROUNDED to my satisfaction. Even so, before asking Cheryl to read it again, I stopped to take one more step.

In 2011, Cheryl self-published her own book, SECOND SIGHT: AN EDITOR’S TALKS ON WRITING, REVISING & PUBLISHING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. (She actually did a guest post about it right here on Literary Rambles!) I bought her book, read it, and tried some of the techniques therein to help prepare GROUNDED for submission. I did this for a few reasons:

1) It would be insane not to consider the editorial advice of the editor I wanted to work with. After all, if by using her strategies I could better my work, maybe she’d decide that my work was worth publishing.

2) By letting Cheryl’s book guide me, I could get an early sense of whether we were really a good author-editor fit.

3) I needed to get some distance from the draft in order to decide whether it was really ready, and I hoped that the exercises in SECOND SIGHT could help me be a little more objective.

In particular, I used the following exercises from SECOND SIGHT:

• I charted the plot
• I wrote the flap copy
• I cut most of the adverbs
• I read aloud dialogue that wasn’t quite working and tweaked until it did
• I made a playlist for inspiration (here it is on Spotify)

Finally, even though I already knew Cheryl, I carefully read her chapter on query letters and paid close attention to her pet peeves. I crafted a query, sent it, and ultimately my dream came true. Cheryl acquired the book!

Even after the book was officially a go, Cheryl and I continued to use techniques outlined in SECOND SIGHT to get the book from where it was (good) to where it needed to be (better, tighter, stronger). We kicked off the editorial process for GROUNDED with two great exercises:

1) Write a letter about the book

Cheryl asked me to write her a letter answering these questions:
- What did you want to do with the book? What did you want the book to do?
- What is the story (briefly)?
- What is the book about in a larger sense?
- What do I love about the book?
- What do I suspect needs some work?

This was an excellent strategy for many reasons. It allowed me to articulate my hopes and dreams and wishes, and it asked me to identify my darlings (so that later, when Cheryl inevitably asked me to kill some of them, she would be able to make a diplomatic approach). It also pushed me to admit what I already knew were the weaknesses of the story, so that Cheryl would know exactly where I most needed and wanted assistance. It opened important lines of communication between us.

2) Make a book map

Cheryl suggested that I make a chapter-by-chapter “map” of GROUNDED. This is essentially an outline of the book, just a few sentences per chapter, capturing the most important plot moves and emotional points in the story.

This was enormously useful to both of us. For me, writing out the key moments in each chapter helped me to see that some chapters were acting as filler, while others were repetitive (revealing similar information, striking similar emotional notes, etc.) For Cheryl, the book map provided a short, easy-to-swallow version of the whole book that allowed her to see the whole arc at once so that she could more immediately determine which beats in the story were missing, which were excess, and which needed to be rearranged.

In the end, it turned out that Cheryl and I were a very good fit for each other as author and editor. She is a note-giver; I am a note-taker. Her detailed, 18-page editorial letter and the frighteningly thorough line edit that came afterward were just right for me. As much work as it was, that level of attention and care made GROUNDED a better book.

In fact, just before sitting down to write this post, I got to hold a hardcover copy of GROUNDED in my hands for the first time. I opened it to a random place and started to read, and – here’s the amazing part – I was able to keep reading without flinching. Nothing made me cringe (and you writers out there know just how big a deal that is).

I am endlessly grateful to Cheryl for helping me to make my debut novel a book I’m truly proud of, and I strongly recommend SECOND SIGHT to anyone out there who is working on a children’s book and is ready to take that manuscript to the next level.

Megan Morrison is a mom, a middle-school teacher, and the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic). GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. Visit her at meganmorrison.net.

To order a copy of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.  

Megan is generously offering a signed copy of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL and a limited edition chainmail bookmark to one lucky winner.  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 May 2nd. I’ll announce the winner on May 4th. 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. This is an International giveaway.

Here's  what's coming up:
On Monday I have an interview with Sabaa Tahir and a giveaway of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, her YA fantasy that is one of the books getting lots of buzz. 

Next Wednesday I have an interview with agent Brent Taylor and a query critique contest.  

Next Saturday I'm participating in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great newly released YA choices or a $10 Amazon Gift Card for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Krista Van Dolzer and a giveaway of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, her MG historical contemporary story.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Donna Galanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTENING ROAD. Donna was an intern with an agent and has lots of great advice to share on querying.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jenny Martin and a giveaway of her YA science fiction TRACKED.

Hope to see you on Monday!