Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Hillary Fazzari Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/22/2024
  • Miriam Cortinovis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/6/2024
  • Jenniea Carter Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/8/2024
  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/24/2024

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 Monday Everyone! Hope you had as lovely weather as we did here in Ann Arbor this weekend.

I have a winner to announce.

The winner of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL is Emily Endrizzi!

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 thrilled to have debut author Krista Van Dolzer here to share about her MG historical fiction book, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING. It’s set in a really interesting time— in the wake of World War II—and I’m hoping to read it soon.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Hi Krista! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I like to say I’m a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by bedtime. That pretty much sums up my life, but it also explains how I got into writing (or back into writing, as the case may be). I was one of those kids who was always writing stories (and usually full-fledged novels), but I didn’t get serious about publishing for a national audience until after my first son was born. Once we got past those first few months, he slept like a champ, so I found myself at home with a lot of downtime on my hands. When a shiny new idea, my first in years, popped into my head, I decided to write it down, and six years and several manuscripts later, I (finally) sold a book.

2. That's awesome that you got inspired to write again when you had your son. Where did you get the idea for THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING?

This story started with one sentence: “Mama said it was plum foolishness to keep my cousin’s dog tags like that, with his blood still stuck between the ridges of his name.” It’s changed a little since then, but the sentiment remains. I wondered what kind of character would say that line--and what kind of story she would tell--and THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING was born.

(Yes, that’s a direct quote from the Author’s Note. I like to be consistent.)

3. That's so cool how your one sentence turned into a novel-length story. Your book is set in such an interesting (and embarrassing time in some ways) for our country. What research, if any, did you have to do to be certain you got the historical references right?

I read several books over the course of my writing and revising, including James D. Watson’s memoir on
the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA, THE DOUBLE HELIX; Richard Wheeler’s eyewitness account of the Battle of Iwo Jima, THE BLOODY BATTLE FOR SURIBACHI; and Karal Ann Marling’s AS SEEN ON TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s.

I also read numerous articles on Japanese life and culture in the early twentieth century so I could give Takuma’s character more believability. And last but not least, I’ve seen more episodes of I Love Lucy than I care to admit, so I drew on those memories for some of the smaller details in the book (like what a housewife in the 1950s might have worn).

4. I'll confess. I used to love I Love Lucy as a kid.  Your book tackles discrimination against the Japanese. Was it hard showing how people reacted to Takuma and do you have any advice to other writers tackling a sensitive topic like this, especially when writing it for a middle grade audience?

The hardest thing about tackling this particular topic was deciding which characters should use the racial slur that Japanese people were referred to and when they should use it. On the one hand, my husband’s grandparents informed me that everyone, even generally good people, used that racial slur back then, so it seemed inauthentic to ignore it. But on the other, I didn’t want young readers to think it was okay to use that slur or any slur to talk about another human being. In the end, we decided that Ella Mae and her strongest allies shouldn’t use it, but it still appears several times throughout the book.

My best piece of advice is to be honest but not sensational. Kid readers are going to see through attempts to water down the story, but that doesn’t mean we have to draw undue attention to those less positive elements.

5. That's good you were sensitive to the balancing act and got the right balance in yours.  It sounds like your story came pretty easily for you. Did you have any struggles in developing Ella Mae’s character or her voice?

The story did come pretty easily for me, in large measure because Ella Mae’s voice was always just there. I understood her from the very beginning. Does that mean that, deep down, I’m really a spunky twelve-year-old who grew up in the 1950s? Maybe.

6. Your agent is Kate Schafer Testerman. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING (formerly titled THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME) was the third of my manuscripts that Kate had requested. The first two were young adult, but when I made the switch to middle grade, everything just clicked. She offered on the manuscript after several months, and though I ended up with another offer from a dynamite agent, I ended up going with Kate because she'd already shown me that my stories intrigued her.

As for my road to publication, it was a long and winding one. Several of the agents who passed on the manuscript said they loved the writing but were concerned about the genre mashup, and we found that several editors felt the same way. But then Shauna Rossano got a hold of the manuscript, and after I worked with her on a non-contracted revision, she made an offer almost a year to the day after THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING first went on submission.

7. That's great that you'd already connected with Kate on two other manuscripts. You still have a blog and interview agents—sometimes with the authors they represent. Share a bit about your blog and how you try to help authors with your agent series.

I started blogging back in 2009, when blogging was the Thing to Do if you were an unagented writer trying to build some street cred, but I quickly realized that no one would read my blog if I didn’t write something worth reading. I knew I could never be as hilarious as Kiersten White, but I thought I could be helpful, so I decided to start interviewing agents, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As my blogging time has shrunk and my perspective has shifted, I’ve pulled back a bit on my agent-related content, but I love “Agent-Author Chat” too much to completely give it up. My latest chat featured agent Renee Nyen and author Laurie Litwin, who happened to connect during one of my last rounds of “An Agent’s Inbox.” Though that’s one of the series I’ve had to sacrifice, I plan to do another round of “The Writer’s Voice” this May with fellow coaches Liz Briggs, Brenda Drake, and Mónica Bustamante Wagner.

8. Yes, I think we're all readjusting our blogging schedule. It can be more challenging to market a middle grade book than a young adult one. Are you finding this to be true and how are you planning to help promote your book?

I’ve heard people say that young adult is an explosion while middle grade is a slow burn, and the more I’ve learned about the business, the more I’ve found that to be true. Luckily, I’ve also found that there are often other avenues for middle grade authors to reach readers. In addition to book signings, I’m also scheduling school visits and Skype sessions with local teachers and librarians. I’ve always liked chatting with people about books, so the thought of chatting with kids about my books is doubly exciting.

9. I like that description of middle grade. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a few projects up my sleeve at the moment, the most developed of which is a companion novel to DON’T VOTE FOR ME (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, August 2015), which comes out a few months after THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING. (This is what happens when your first book takes a year to sell—you have time to write another!) Suffice it to say it’s a murder mystery set at a math camp, and I hope everyone gets a chance to read it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Krista. You can find Krista at www.kristavandolzer.com, on Twitter, and on Goodreads.

Krista has generously offered a copy of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING 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 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 giveaway is International as long as you live where the Book Depository ships for free.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other middle grade bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On 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.

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

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by debut author Sharon Huss Roat and a giveaway of her YA contemporary, BETWEEN THE NOTES. 

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Holly Bodger and her agent, Lauren MacLeod, with a query critique giveaway and a giveaway of 5 to 1, Holly's futuristic, multicultural story.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

What an intriguing sounding book. Too bad it's not an audiobook. Not that I'm surprised, since it's MG.

Jessica Lawson said...

Love Krista (her blog has been such a gift to the kidlit blogging community!) and am so happy for her and this book! Thanks for the interview & giveaway~ looking forward to reading it!!

Greg Pattridge said...

Every journey to publication is unique and Krista's certainly follows that path. Sounds like she has written a unique story that should find an audience in the "slow burn" MG way ( liked that description, too) Best of luck with this one!

Ki-Wing Merlin said...

I'm looking forward to this book. Great interview, Krista and Natalie!

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview. I always like hearing from other writer mamas! I agree that being honest not sensational is the best way to present the story too. Congratulations, Krista!

Karen Lange said...

It's so nice to meet Krista. Loved hearing about how the book came about. Wishing her much success!

Thanks so much for the interview, Natalie. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a great week!

Angela Brown said...

I love these interviews, Natalie. I'm always picking up some new nugget of knowledge learning from what authors share. Thanks, Krista for elaborating on your experience.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I've been looking forward to this book ever since I first heard about it. Enjoyed learning more about Krista and her writing journey. Thank you both!

Rachna Chhabria said...

The Sound of Life and Everything sounds unusual. Good luck to Krista. Enjoyed reading about Krista's publishing journey. I wonder how she managed to work on a non-contracted revision. I would be scared to do that.

cleemckenzie said...

Wonderful to read your interview today, and to find out about your book. What a unique idea and an opportunity to visit the WWII era.

Carl Scott said...

What a wonderful sounding book. The synopsis had me interested right away. I'd be very pleased to win a copy. Thanks.
I follow your blog every day by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx
+1 - I also tweeted a link: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/595245394822438912
Thanks again, have a great week!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, gosh, this book blurb and the interview bring back the 50s for me! H-E-double toothpicks, Dragnet, I Love Lucy . . . and the story premise sounds so intriguing! I'd love a copy of this book.

Her next book - a murder mystery set at math camp - sounds pretty intriguing, too!

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats, Krista! The premise of your book sounds fascinating and unique.

Beth said...

Krista's book sounds powerful, and I'm definitely checking out her blog!

Stephen Tremp said...

Its great when you can have a single sentence or a concept or thought and then write an entire book about it. Good luck Krista with The Sound of Everything!

Stephen Tremp

Emily R. King said...

Fun to hear where you got your story idea, Krista! Congrats!

Emily R. King said...

Fun to hear where you got your story idea, Krista! Congrats!

Brenda said...

Very interesting premise with lots of diversity it sounds like. Also love that it incorporates shows like I Love Lucy and Dragnet, such fun. Congratulations on your upcoming release.

Jenni said...

I've been looking forward to reading this ever since I heard about it on Krista's blog. What a great interview, Natalie, and I loved how everything clicked for Krista when she went MG.
Huge congrats!

Bish Denham said...

Well now, this sounds like a very interesting mix of history and science fiction. I can identify with stories starting with a single sentence that just won't let go.

I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Rosi said...

Wonderful interview as usual. This sounds like an intriguing read, but please let someone else win. I'm buried right not.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Congratulations. Book sounds great!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's cool you are doing Skype visits with schools. The book sounds really unique, which is refreshing.

Carrie Butler said...

"My best piece of advice is to be honest but not sensational."

Great advice! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Ha, I love the line that inspired you to write the story.

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats on your novel, Krista! Your blog was one of the first ones I discovered several years ago. Thanks for all the time you've devoted to helping other writers.

Mary Preston said...

Such an interesting subject matter & I love the cover.


Rita said...

I love MG novels. People make mistakes and it is good that children read about it.

Liz Brooks said...

Wow, the submissions process must have taken a lot of patience--I'm so happy for Krista though. And her book looks very interesting. (Also, who can blame her for watching a ton of "I Love Lucy"?) Thanks for sharing. (I tweeted about the giveaway @adelethelaptop.)

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview! You researched thoroughly and I like that you used so many different sources. I can't wait to read your book. I tweeted:

Valentina B-v said...

Great interview, I’m looking forward to reading the book.
GFC: Valentina BV
Share: https://www.facebook.com/valentina.bv.77/posts/850005111743757?pnref=story
Thanks for the giveaway!
E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com

Kyla said...

I have been dying to read Krista's debut novel and perhaps this is my chance! Thanks for the giveaway. :)))

P.S. I shared the giveaway over at Twitter (https://twitter.com/klfontalva/status/595641448843878401). My email address is [alyannafontalva@gmail.com]

Mart Ramirez said...

What a cute little book! What a great reminder to not give up. Awesome interview! I enjoyed reading. Wishing you the very best. X

WA said...

I love the different ways inspiration for stories come about, and that fact that Krista had the wisdom to run with it.

Jemi Fraser said...

Watching Dragnet & I Love Lucy sounds like the best kind of research! Love it! The book sounds awesome too :)

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Congrats to Krista! I love how this book started with one sentence - very cool story. (And a really great sentence) Enjoy your week Krista!

jpetroroy said...

What a lovely interview. She is so talented.

Susan T. said...

This is such an fascinating time period that I don't know very much about. I'm really interested in learning more!
My tweet: https://twitter.com/suekitty13/status/596027394818867200
email: sueterendy (at) hotmail (dot) com

Michael G-G said...

Krista is a great person, and one of the top most kind and generous writers-helping-other-writers. Plus, she loves tennis!

Her novel sounds absolutely fantastic, and I can't wait to read it!

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/MGMafioso/status/596068477384794112

Jocelyn Rish said...

The novel sounds like such an interesting mash-up with the science fiction and historical aspects. Can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

Another great interview! I wonder if Krista has seen the recently released, Little Boy . . . based on her book, I think she'd really like it :-)

Kara Reynolds said...

Would love a copy! So excited for both of Krista's books coming out this year :0)

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

Thanks so much for the great giveaway! Really looking forward to reading this one :)

GFC: iLuvReadingTooMuch

Email: iliveforreading AT hotmail DOT com

Joy McCullough-Carranza said...

I'm so excited to read this book. Krista's website was an amazing resource when I was querying!!

Meredith said...

I love that Krista is making an attempt at the challenging world of middle grade books. It's important to get students reading as early as possible.

meredithfl at gmail dot com