Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • 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! Today I’m excited to have debut author Elly Swartz here to share about her MG contemporary FINDING PERFECT. Molly sounds like an awesome main character, and she certainly has many internal and external issues to grapple with.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

To Molly Nathans, perfect is:

• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

Hi Elly! Thanks so much for joining us.

1.Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I grew up in Yardley, a small town in Pennsylvania. At the time, there were many cornfields and cows. I lived in a red, brick house on Queens Drive with my mom, dad, two older brothers and dogs (first Missy and later Sam). My childhood was a happy one with many laughs, family dinners and crooked birthday cakes. 

Years later, in my home in Brookline, MA there are still many laughs, family dinners and crooked birthday cakes. However, now the faces around the table are my awesome husband and two wonderful sons who are tall, often bearded and in their 20’s. And the youngest member of the family, not at the dinner table, is Lucy the beagle. Over the years, our family has also included a pygmy hedgehog, gerbils, a hamster, fish and a few other dogs. 

I love writing for children, but I didn’t take a direct path to that career. I weaved and bobbed through many unique opportunities on my way to becoming a writer.  I studied psychology at Boston University and got my JD at Georgetown University School of Law.  I was a ride operator at Sesame Place, spent time working in a furniture store, was a messenger, law library assistant, legal author, litigator, legal research and writing professor and college essay adviser.

One summer I decided to seize the moment and do something I’d been longing to do for a while. I wanted to write a story. A real, beginning, middle and end kind of story. And, not long after I sat down to write, I got the first sign that, indeed, this was the right path for me.

I opened a piece of Bazooka Joe gum and wrapped around my sugary, pink delight was a fortune that read, “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.”  Now I’m a dedicated Bazooka gum fan and have read many fortunes, but never had I nor have I since received a fortune such as that.  I keep this fortune tacked on the bulletin board next to my desk in my office. A touch of unexpected inspiration!

2. I can't believe how many writers I've met (me included) who are lawyers who change professions and become writers and authors like you. Where did you get the idea for your story?

One day, I woke up with Molly in my head. I could see her so vividly and she refused to leave until I told her story. At the time, I knew a number of adults and children who I was very close with who had OCD. I was awed by the disconnect between how they saw themselves and the world saw them. I spent the next seven years researching OCD, writing Molly’s story, and working with OCD pediatric specialists to authenticate the manifestation, discovery and treatment of Molly’s symptoms. Molly has been with me for a long time. And, even now, years after I’ve written the last page, she remains tucked in a very special place in my heart.

3. Molly sounds like a fantastic character who has a lot to hard issues to deal with, made harder due to her OCD. And reviewers have really connected with her. Share a bit about her and what her character development was like.

As shared, Molly just showed up one day. And, there was no long walk, hard work day, sunny day on the beach that would erase her from my thoughts. So after some time researching OCD, I began to write Molly’s story. When I first started, Finding Perfect (then called Wish) was written in alternating 1st person POV chapters between Molly and Hannah. I got to know Molly through both her and Hannah’s eyes. The way Molly saw herself was very different from the way Hannah saw her. It was in this discrepancy that I found the heart of Molly.

I learned quickly that Molly had an unwavering love for family, and a strength she did not
know that she possessed. It was this hidden strength and vulnerability that I fell in love with. Her character was so clear, but incredibly challenging to write. It was difficult going to the dark places where Molly found herself. As the author (and a mom), I wanted to reach in, help her, give her a hug, and tell her she wasn’t alone. But, I knew I couldn’t. I knew she had to help herself. She had to realize that she had both the courage and the strength. And, in the end, she learned that she had both.

4. So interesting how you learned about Molly through Hannah's eyes but ultimately dropped that POV. This is in part an issue book. How did you balance this out in the story without sounding too preachy? What advice do you have for other writers writing a similar type of book?

            Let me start by saying thank you. I worked very hard not to sound didactic. In fact, while writing this story, I took two years off from trying to get published and worked solely on voice, character and the craft of writing. I needed to understand what it truly meant to convey sentiment in an organic and authentic manner.

My advice to others would be to dig deep into your character. Leave the mom/parent/teacher/caregiver hat at the door and write like you’re wrapped in the head of your twelve-year-old. Write like you’re sending a coded message. Write from your heart. And then practice, practice, practice!

5. You are so dedicated to getting the craft of writing and message right. What was a challenge you faced in working with your editor or agent on revisions to FINDING PEFECT and how did you overcome them?

            I actually loved the revision process. My agent and editor were incredibly communicative and supportive. My only challenge was simply that my initial editor, Angie Chen, left the publishing house to pursue other endeavors. And, while I missed her, and I still do, she’s amazing, I now work with Joy Peskin, another rockstar, super smart editor. So, I feel truly fortunate.

6.  Your agent is Tricia Lawrence. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

            My road to publication has been well-traveled. I sat down to write my first book in the summer of 2001. Finding Perfect was the 5th book I had written. Through the years I had received many no’s/nopes/almosts. No is never easy to hear, but it is what pushed me to work harder, get better, be better. And, along the No Trail I met an amazing community of incredibly supportive writers and educators.

Finding Perfect is the book I submitted to Trish. It was around Thanksgiving when I received an email from her saying she wanted to represent me. I am beyond grateful to be navigating the world of publishing with her by my side.

7. Your story is a good lesson to other writers to not give up. Your book is scheduled to be released during OCD Foundation’s OCD Awareness week. How are you tying into this and how are you using this issue in terms of your book marketing?

It is less about marketing and more about hoping to connect with the half a million US children who suffer from OCD. (www.iocdf.org). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be isolating. My hope is that Finding Perfect, along with other similar books, can help remove the stigma of mental illness, and enable kids to recognize they’re not alone. The pages in a book are sometimes where kids feel truly connected. And, when children feel seen, heard and understood, the obstacles to learning, engaging and connecting can begin to dissolve.
I truly hope that Finding Perfect allows kids like Molly to feel less isolated, and enables kids who are not like Molly to understand, empathize, and connect. After all, no one is just one thing!

8. Share something that has surprised you in the year leading up to your book release. What advice do you have for other authors looking to debut in the next 3 to 12 months?
            I would say just about everything has surprised me in the last year! But maybe most surprising has been the amazing community of educators and librarians who have reached out during this process. Truly, they are the most gracious, kind, dedicated group of people. Their love of their students and their love of reading is palpable and wonderfully contagious. They have been supportive and kind and welcoming to me, Molly, and Finding Perfect.

            My advice, get on social media, and Twitter, in particular. Meet the educators who are talking books. Introduce yourself, engage. Connect with other debut authors. Create a community. Find your people. And read. 

9. What are you working on now?
I am in the middle of a few new projects. I am revising a middle grade novel about an 11-year-old named Frankie. A story about family with a splash of mystery. I am super excited about this project, and while I can’t share more at this time, I can say, stay tuned. Good news coming!

I am also diving into the picture book world and kicking off another new middle grade.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Elly. You can find Elly at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

Also be sure to check out Finding Perfect’s
Curriculum Guide

and Audio Trailer

Links to purchase Finding Perfect:

Elly has generously offered a copy of FINDING PERFECT 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 October 29th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

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 years old or older to enter. This is an international giveaway.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday I'll be participating in the Spooktacular Book Giveaway Hop.

Next Monday Maya Rock, who provides editorial services, will be doing a guest post with a query critique giveaway.

The Monday after that I have debut author Jill Diamond and her agent Jennifer Rolfe here with a guest post and giveaway of Jill's MG mystery LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY.

 Hope to see you on Friday!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those long years of research and practice paid off. Congrats, Elly.

Creel Family said...

I can't stop hearing about this book, and I love it! So excited for it to come out and grateful for Elly and the support she gives to the writing community and in sharing about her journey and things she's learned.

Greg Pattridge said...

I already have this one on my TBR list. It is such an intriguing story line. I loved the interview, very motivating to keep improving your craft with practice and revision. Her line about being wrapped in the mind of a twelve year old really hit home. Thanks!

Bish Denham said...

I've met some OCD people and understand how difficult their lives can be. Molly's story is important and I'd love to read about her journey! I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Elly. "a fancy banquet with table cloths" Love this.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've heard about this book, and I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks, Elly, for sharing so much of your personal story with us.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Elly! What a fascinating sounding book. Love how long the character stayed with you and how thoroughly you researched things.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Bazooka Joe gum is by far the most original inspiration! Congratulations to Elly.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Congrats Elly. You gave some great answers in this interview. Children do gain knowledge about reading about kids different from themselves and being represented matters. Glad librarians and educators are also interested in your novel.

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview today! I always enjoy reading advice from authors who have successfully published. I shared on my tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/151937736687/elly-swartz-interview-and-finding-perfect

S.P. Bowers said...

"no trail" Love that! And the bazooka gum story. How crazy is that?

This sounds like an amazing book! And one that would maybe help people. Can't wait to read it.

Misha Gerrick said...

I love the sound of this story! All the best with it! :-)

Brenda said...

Finding Perfect sounds like a wonderful book, I've already added it to the TBR. Congratulations to Elly on its upcoming release. Have a lovely week Natalie!

Karen Lange said...

It's so nice to meet Elly and Molly. :) Sounds like a great book. Love seeing authors writing good books for this age group.

I'll pass on the giveaway this time. Have a lovely week! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds awesome! I love that a much wider variety of characters are showing up in books - and this one sounds great!!! Thanks for the tip :)

Jenni said...

Congrats to Ella! I wanted to read this as soon as I read the description of Molly--what a great character. I also enjoyed hearing about how Ella spent two years just working on craft. Sounds like it was time well spent.

Kristin Lenz said...

I love that Bazooka fortune! Your publication path was so similar to my own, I really connected with it. Happy your book is out in the world; it is needed!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congratulations, Elly! So glad you didn't give in to the No trail and persevered. I'd love to win this book. I tweeted! https://twitter.com/JoanneRFritz/status/788187329152294912

abnormalalien said...

This sounds like a fantastic story; I love seeing tales about real world problems. Thanks for sharing this interview. ;)

Tammy Theriault said...

So great to meet you, Elly! Who knew Bazooka would take you this far. Ha!

Rosi said...

Thanks for a terrific interview and for introducing me to Finding Perfect. This is a book I need to read. I love the concept. Thanks also for running a giveaway. I shouldn't, as my TBR list is so long, but I can't help but ask you to put my name in the hat.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Just goes to show that one should take heed of fortunes found in gum wrappers. Congrats, Elly!

Kirsti Call said...

This sounds like a fantastic book! I can't wait to read it!

Jean Reidy said...

What a fun, revealing and honest interview, Elly! I knew I gave up on Bazooka Joe too long ago. I can't wait to read FINDING PERFECT. Congratulations!

Lauri Meyers said...

Sounds like a fabulous MG. I particularly enjoyed Elly's honest description of the path to publication.

Unknown said...

Fantastic interview packed with good information and inspiration for a fellow MG writer. I can't wait to read this book! Would love to win the giveaway and I've tweeted about it https://twitter.com/ChessmoreMonica/status/788498531065536512

Nicola said...

Great interview and your writing journey an interesting one. Writing is certainly not for the faint hearted. Congratulations! Wishing you much success.

Crystal Collier said...

Sounds like a perfect story to me. ;) Wishing Molly epic success. What a journey!

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats, Elly! A perfect cover considering the story! Your persistence has paid off. :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congrats, Elly! I think Finding Perfect sounds really interesting, and I'm glad that educators have reached out to you.

Meredith said...

Sounds good. Perfect has always been very hard to find for me.

Anonymous said...

I have OCD, which wasn't diagnosed until I was nineteen, and I'm always super excited to see kidlit books with OCD rep!

Beth said...

Great interview, and the book sounds terrific. Congratulations to Elly!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Tweeted again! https://twitter.com/JoanneRFritz/status/791409088701816832

Rachna Chhabria said...

Loved reading Elly's interview. I would like to be entered in the giveaway.