CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

MASK OF SHADOWS through September 30th
Danielle Burby Query Critique through October 7th
MARKED BEAUTY through October 21st
GRAY WOLF ISLAND through October 21st
Spooktacular Giveaway Hop through October 31st

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Molly O'Neill Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/23/17
Quressa Robinson Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/30/17

FREEDOM TO READ GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy Friday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. Hope you're having a fantastic start to your summer. I'm happy to say that after a few hard years with a lot of heartache, personal challenges, and life changes, I'm already starting to have a fun and happy summer.

Thanks to all of you who gave me ideas for books you would like to see in my giveaways. I am trying to look for new books in romance, contemporary, and historical fiction as well as build up my middle grade books for these giveaways as well.

I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. So many good books. For any Megan Whalen Turner fans, I just finished THICK AS THIEVES, her newest book after years of wating. It was really good. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

Here are the YA choices:

 


 


 



 


 


 




 
And here are the middle grade choices:


 


 


 


If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through July 15th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. 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 or older to enter. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS and my IWSG post

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Hope to see you on Wednesday! Have a great holiday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop



AGENT PETER KNAPP and EMILY BAIN MURPHY GUEST POST W/ QUERY CRITIQUE and THE DISAPPEARANCES GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Emily Bain Murphy here with her agent Peter Knapp to share about Emily's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES. I'm attracted to the intriguing fantasy world and the mystery. It sounds like a real page turner.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

"Thick with mystery, buried secrets, and magic, nothing is safe in The Disappearances. Be careful, or you might lose yourself in this strange and wondrous world, where stars go missing, reflections don’t exist, and the question, how much would you sacrifice for love? is given entirely new meaning. I adored this book!" – Stephanie Garber, author of Caraval

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Now here's Emily and Peter!


Thank you so much, again, for thinking of me and The Disappearances for this post! Pete and I had a bit of an informal back-and-forth conversation about the book and our working relationship that I hope will be informative for querying writers! I remember absolutely *scouring* Literary Rambles from top to bottom when I was querying, so it feels very full-circle to be contributing this post, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity! Without further ado--a little peek into a conversation between Peter Knapp and me:

Peter: I can still remember when I first read the manuscript for THE DISAPPEARANCES—then
called Between Sand and Glass—after you had submitted it to me. It was a different book then: Aila’s chapters were in third person, the time period and setting were both different, the way the mystery unfolded was different. And yet, I knew then what I know now, which is that it has so much heart. You write with such a deep appreciation for the beauty of the world, and a respect for the way grief weaves its way into that beauty. I could try to tell you what my favorite thing about THE DISAPPEARANCES is, but I would end up just summarizing the entire book back to you. So, I’m curious to know: do you have a favorite moment or scene (without giving too much away!)?

Emily: Oh gosh, this is hard! Yes. I have a handful of favorite moments and lines sprinkled through the book that I hope will make readers feel happy and uplifted when they reach them. Without giving too much away—they involve riddles being solved that lead to romance or redemption. But my favorite moments are quickly becoming the ones other readers have told me they loved, or parts that made them cry. For instance, there’s a certain scene where Aila is remembering her mother that will always make me think of you, because it was a scene I added later in the process, and I distinctly remember the first time you read it and told me how it made you feel. We worked so closely on this book through editorial revisions and plot changes, and I absolutely love how our working relationship was forged during those months. What was your favorite thing about working on this book, and what, in your opinion, are some of the elements that make an agent and writer a good match for each other?

Peter: What wasn’t my favorite thing about working on this book? Seriously, it was such a pleasure to get to talk with you about The Disappearances as you were revising it because you are so intentional in all the choices you make. If I had to pick, though, my favorite thing about working with you on The Disappearances was discovering some of the themes that were emerging in the earlier draft and helping you really unearth them entirely. As you know, my editorial thoughts begin from a very theme-driven place, so watching the way you explored the ideas of grief and family history by showing how Aila discovers her mother Juliet in an entirely different light after Juliet’s death was just astonishing. As for what makes an agent and a writer a good match for each other: I think part of it is the agent must understand what the author is trying to achieve. It’s important that an agent not only understand what an author’s book is, but what it could be. And then the agent and the author must have a similar vision for how to bring out the book’s full potential. This is part of the challenge of being an author—you must always push your craft with every book. I’m curious to hear: is there any element of craft you learned while revising The Disappearances that you’ll be glad to have in your arsenal as you write your next novel?

Emily: I feel like I learned so many things working on The Disappearances. Most of all, I had no idea how much I still didn't know! Things like momentum and how events can't just happen one after the other but need to string together in a more interconnected way, so that the reader almost feels like they're being swept along by a wave. I learned so much about character agency and writing scenes where the action is happening on the page instead of off. For example, I remember we even moved the beginning of the story slightly back in time, so that instead of Aila being on a train, describing the prior scene to us, we could show it unfolding in real-time and sort of live it alongside her. As part of my earliest drafts, I remember studying Save the Cat and a screenwriting book by John Truby called The Anatomy of Story just to start understanding the most basic building blocks of telling a story. You recommended The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein, which I absolutely loved, and I will probably read it every time I'm sitting down to write a new book. I'm always on the lookout for more, and I know I already stole one of your favorites, but do you have any other go-to's that you would recommend for studying craft--whether it's a book, website, podcast, or conference?

Peter: One of my favorite resources is Mary Kole’s website and blog, kidlit.com, as well as her book
Writing Irresistible Kidlit. The blog has so many amazing posts about both the craft, the revision process, the business, and anything and everything related to middle grade and young adult fiction—it’s so excellent. I think of much of her advice as the tools in my editorial tool kit. I have started sending clients this great post Mary did about “Big Revision” [link: https://kidlit.com/2011/12/07/big-revision/] along with my edit letters to encourage them to take larger leaps of faith in the editorial process. Something that I really loved about working with you was the way you were so unafraid to make big changes in your revisions—you even changed the book from third person to first person! I’m curious: is there anything that (forgive this) “disappeared” from an earlier draft that you miss?

Emily: Bah! Our Disappearances humor. Hmm… You know, it’s funny, because I remember it being so hard to kill some of my darlings along the way (and I ended up killing a lot), and now I honestly don’t miss any of them very much. There was one fun, eccentric, quirky character I had to cut who I hope might be resurrected in an entirely different book somewhere down the road. But other than that, no—thankfully, I don’t, because I’m just so happy with the way the book turned out in the end, and I know you are, too—and after all the work we put into it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Peter and Emily!

You can find Emily and Peter at:

Emily:

Peter:

Emily has generously offered a copy of THE DISAPPEARANCES for a giveaway and Peter is offering a query critique 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 8th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either 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. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the critique giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Saturday, July 1st I'll be participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS and my IWSG post

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Hope to see you on Saturday!


AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH KELLY VAN SANT AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kelly Van Sant here. She is a literary agent at D4EO Literary Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks so much for having me!

About Kelly:
1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I’ve been working in the publishing industry for nearly a decade, which is hard to believe! My career began in earnest at Writers House in New York, where I was able to mentor under some of the best literary agents in the industry and gained significant experience in subrights and permissions. I spent much of my time working directly with authors to get manuscripts submission-ready. I cultivated an eye for compelling, emotionally resonant stories and was able to advise authors on both the big picture and small details that tighten and enrich the plot, making good books even better. From there I moved to Harold Ober Associates, where I worked under the Director of Foreign Rights and learned how to vet contracts and advocate for authors.

Just when exciting things were beginning to happen in my career, I left New York City for love and moved to Minnesota with my husband. I then took advantage of the vibrant Twin Cities literary community and switched to the publishing side of the fence.

At Llewellyn Worldwide I acted as a first set of eyes for the Acquisitions department. I evaluated both new author submissions and manuscripts turned in by established authors, made recommendations to the editorial team, and pitched projects at acquisitions meetings. I was quickly promoted to Contracts Manager across all three imprints, and drafted, negotiated, processed, and tracked all author contracts, and worked closely with our accounting department to generate all advance payments. I then moved to Quarto Publishing Group as their Contracts Administrator, where I oversaw drafting, negotiation, and record retention of all contracts including author contracts, vendor contracts, licensing agreements, and foreign publishing agreements.

In addition to blogging about contracts at the Pub(lishing) Crawl Blog and co-hosting their weekly podcast with S. Jae-Jones (JJ), I started teaching a course at the Loft Literary Center called Before You Sign: Dissecting Publishing Contracts. The purpose of the class is to empower writers to take control of their creative careers through education about publishing contracts. My overwhelmingly positive experiences teaching at the Loft helped me to realize that although I was grateful for the experiences I've had while at publishing houses in recent years, my true passion in the book industry has always been working on behalf of the author. I knew it was time to return to my roots and join a literary agency. When I spoke to Bob Diforio at the beginning of the year it was clear that we were a good fit, and I was thrilled to accept a position as an agent with D4EO.

About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Bob Diforio launched D4EO Literary Agency in 1989 after a long career at New American Library. Today D4EO is a full-service, five-agent literary agency representing authors of a very broad range of commercial fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, and adults. Books represented by the agency have topped the The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and agency authors have received awards that include the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and the Nero Award.

With over 1,500 published books under contract, the agency has launched the writing careers of more than two hundred authors. The agency is based in Connecticut with associate agents in San Francisco (Pam Howell), Destin, FL (Joyce Holland), New York City (Quressa Robinson) and Minneapolis (Kelly Van Sant).

What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I am seeking Middle Grade, Young Adult, and limited women's fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. I love character-driven stories with intricate plots, and am always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. I am especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives. I've expanded on my interests within each category below.

Middle Grade
I am seeking Upper MG only. Chapter books or early readers are not for me. My ideal middle grade needs to be whimsical, funny, and full of adventure. My tastes lean away from contemporary in this genre, and more toward fantasy, speculative, science-fiction, or magical realism. I like intricate world-building and MCs with gumption. Give me a quest, give me steadfast friendships, give me insightful, magical parallels with the real world, and make me laugh. No books with an educational thrust; I want to have fun!

Young Adult
I dearly love fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, and other magical elements in YA stories. Even better if mixed and matched with other genres. YA historical fantasy? Yes, please. Alternate universes, fictional worlds, your very own hometown with a secret or sinister twist. If the world-building is original and intricate, if you're either dismantling existing tropes or executing them exceptionally well, if your characters are complex and come alive on the page then what are you waiting for? Send me your query.

Let's talk about romance in YA. I prefer romance in my YA to be an undercurrent (even an urgent one) but not the main point. Something needs to be going on in universe and in your characters' lives beyond their love story. Instant love is not for me; I appreciate when characters grow together over the course of a book. Attraction can happen instantly, but intimacy takes time.

I am selective about YA contemporary. A strong voice is vital, and again, I love to see a complex web of relationships beyond just romantic (though romance can be included): especially friendships and family relationships. More often than not you need to break my heart or make me fall head over heels in love with your characters in order for me to be the right agent to rep a contemporary book. But my heart longs to love and be broken! These books above all else must absolutely be character-driven.

4. Is there anything you would be especially excited to see in the genres you are interested in?

I am excited about unique and compelling voices, morally complex characters, and consequences that prompt growth. I always want the characters to be changed by what’s happened to them over the course of a book.

What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I am not currently looking for picture books, early readers or chapter books, graphic novels, short stories, poetry, plays, or screenplays.

Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Transparency. I believe that I work for my clients, and they should have access to all of the information regarding the work I do on their behalf. I strive to maintain clear lines of communication so that my clients always know the status of their projects, and where they are in my workload. I always tell authors where I’m submitting their work and when, and will continue to lead with transparency as we move through the publication process.

I believe that books change lives. In my role as a gatekeeper, I am committed to giving access and opportunity to people of color and Native people, disabled and neurodiverse people, LGBTQIA+ , people from underrepresented cultures, religious minorities and other marginalized and oppressed groups. I want to hear from #ownvoices and marginalized writers. And I want to ensure that ALL of my writers are striving to Do No Harm. I want to represent books that are well-researched, that include positive portrayals of a diverse array of people, and that avoid harmful representation. This also applies to being a gatekeeper for the industry, not just a gatekeeper for authors. When I’m ready to hire interns, I’ll be making sure that my calls are open enough to allow remote work and flexible schedules, so that people whose circumstances deny them the ability to get a typical internship in New York have the opportunity to get the work experience that the industry demands.

Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I am definitely an editorial agent and believe strongly in sending out the most polished manuscript possible to editors. The market is competitive, and I think it’s vital these days to go out with your very best work.

When editing for a client I go through the manuscript and insert comments into the margins. I do some light line editing, but the bulk of my commentary is big picture stuff. I like to ask a lot of questions, point out inconsistencies, and highlight areas of the manuscript that either need to be fleshed out or cut down. While I’m doing this critical read-through and inserting comments for the author, I also keep a pad of paper on hand and jot down notes for myself. These notes become the bones of the editorial letter that I write. I usually break my edit letters into sections, focusing on big picture elements like plot, character development, and structure. In addition to pointing out the weaknesses of a manuscript, I also use edit letters to really gush about the things I love. Reading a manuscript through a second time, with a close, critical eye for edits reminds me why I fell in love with the book in the first place.

I like to give my authors a couple of days to absorb my notes before we discuss revisions. Even if the edits are light, it can still be overwhelming to receive an onslaught of feedback, and I think that giving authors a few days to read through both the letter and the notes in the manuscript and sit with everything helps bring defenses down and let the creative juices start flowing. I like to schedule a call for a few days out so we can talk through everything together and determine how to proceed.

Although I feel confident that the suggestions I make will lead to a better book, I always make sure my clients know that they retain creative control over their work. It’s not my book—it’s theirs. And if I make a suggestion that doesn’t ring true to them I always want them to be comfortable telling me so. We’ll work together to find another solution that feels right.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

I accept email submissions at a dedicated email address: kvs.submissions@gmail.com

Please include a traditional query letter and the first chapter of your novel in the body of the email. I do not open attachments. If you’re new to the query trenches I strongly suggest that you do your research. Writing a successful query letter is hard. It’s an entirely different skillset than that required for writing a novel. But it’s your one chance to make an impression, so don’t waste it.

9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

It’s frustrating when queries waste time talking about everything except the story. I’m less interested in the themes of your work and what readers will learn from it than I am about the story: who, what, where, when, how. In terms of first pages, I find that so many writers are starting their story in the wrong place. Getting this right is crucial if you want me to be interested enough to read more.

Response Time:
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I respond to all queries within 4 weeks and full manuscripts within 12 weeks.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11. 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?

Yes! In fact, the first client I signed previously self-published a YA series. But she queried me with new work, and that’s the number one thing I’d advise self-published or authors published by small presses to do: query with new work. Don’t try to land an agent with a previously published book. Additionally, think seriously about why you want to make the switch from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and why you want an agent. I always ask those questions when on calls with previously published authors I’m interested in representing, so be prepared to answer then.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

I’m sure the responsibilities of agents will evolve with the industry at large, although I’m not sure what that might look like. Ultimate an agent is the author’s advocate, and in that respect I always see a place for agents within the publishing industry. What we’re advocating for or what methods we use may change, but we are always going to be working on behalf of authors, to ensure that they make sound business decisions, achieve career stability, and retain the maximum amount of creative control possible over their work.

Clients:
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I’m getting ready to go out on submission with some amazing projects and I hope to be able to announce sales soon! In the meantime, you can find spotlights on each of my clients on my blog: penandparsley.com

Interviews and Guest Posts:
14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

Honestly, I think the best way for writers to get to know me is to listen to episodes of the PubCrawl Podcast. . JJ and I have been friends for many, many years, so our conversations are casual and probably give an accurate glimpse into my personality. Beyond just snippets of my personality, listeners of the podcast will find out a lot about the way I work as an agent, the types of things that I’m looking for in queries and manuscripts, and what I love about stories. It’s probably the next best thing to sitting down with me over coffee.

Links and Contact Info:
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Besides the D4EO website, I have a personal site called Pen and Parsley where I blog about all things agenting, including giving monthly query stats. I am also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl where I blog about the publishing industry alongside a group of talented authors and publishing professionals. And of course, I’m on twitter and instagram: @bookishchick

Additional Advice:
16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

Publishing is a long game, so settle in. Find your community, do your research, read widely, and have something to work on.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kelly.

Kelly is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through July 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know 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.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.




KAYLA OLSON GUEST POST and THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to have Kayla Olson here to tell about her amazing road to publication where she sold movie rights and world rights to her book before even signing her book deal. Her debut YA THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE sounds like a fast-paced dystopian story that will keep you up at night reading.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:


When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Now here's Kayla! Hope you enjoy her post as much as I have.

Hi, everyone! Happy to be here on Literary Rambles today—thank you for having me, Natalie! When Natalie and I were bouncing thoughts about this post, she mentioned she thought it would be interesting to hear about how my film rights were optioned (to Paramount, with Leonardo DiCaprio and his excellent team at Appian Way to produce) before the book was even announced, and about how a string of foreign rights deals followed soon after that.

Before I talk about all the shiny, tip-of-the-iceberg aspects of what’s transpired with The Sandcastle Empire, though, I wanted to touch a bit on the things under the surface that aren’t so easily seen: all the mornings of getting up before the sun, and the season of cramming a day’s worth of writing into 27-minute-long baby naptimes, and the hope-then-heartbreak that comes with finishing a project—and snagging agents with it—only to hear no and we love it, but not enough and a good bit of dead silence.

The Sandcastle Empire was born from all of those things. I started writing it the day after I sent my first query for the project that landed my most excellent agents (Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty of Root Literary), and continued writing it the entire year that other project was on submission. I wrote in dark-early mornings, I wrote until my favorite Starbucks needed to lock their doors at night, I found cracks of time where there were none. All of this, with that other project in the back of my mind: how much heart, and love, and effort I’d poured into it, only for it to end up in this guest post as one of the bumpier parts along my path. It became a season of learning to write because I love to write, and not just because someone else wanted it.

All of this time, I made a serious effort to focus on the only thing within my control: the manuscript itself. I knew I couldn’t make lightning strike, as far as if it landed in just the right editor’s hands at just the perfect time—so I focused on making something I loved.

The part of the story I don’t often talk about is that I was working on another project during that time, The Sandcastle Empire. I was polishing that manuscript when, out of the blue, Holly emailed me to say she’d heard from a film agent who’d recently left scouting to become an agent at United Talent Agency—and that this agent wanted to send my manuscript out to producers. Well, that settled the Which project should we prioritize? question pretty easily—Holly and Taylor had a submission list ready to go within a week, and then we were out.
too—something that would probably put me on panels with Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith if we ever ended up at festivals together, a project I still adore—and we very nearly prioritzed that one over

After my first experience with being on sub, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect—and I for sure did not want to get my hopes up. I was completely shocked when I heard, only a couple of weeks later, that Harper was interested; my official offers came soon after that. The very next day, I got another phone call from Holly and Taylor: I can remember, clearly, sitting on my bed and hearing Holly say, This isn’t about the book deal, before telling me the news that my film agent had heard from Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and that they wanted to be involved with the project. I also remember, clearly, walking around sort of stunned for the rest of that day.

One excruciatingly anxious month later, we got the offer from Paramount. Three even more excruciatingly anxious months later, I finally got to tell people about it. When the news broke through The Hollywood Reporter, it was the most surreal day of my life; going from sitting on such a huge secret to having the entire world know about it was very strange. The incredible foreign rights team Holly and Taylor work with scrambled to send the book all over the world in the wake of that THR article, to a good bit of success; fourteen translated editions are currently in the works.

Like I said before, I knew I couldn’t make lightning strike—all I could do was put all my heart and energy into writing something I loved, and pray that people connected with it at just the right time. I knew that it wasn’t a guarantee that anyone would ever connect. That was a hard truth to swallow, and I made as much peace with it as I could. It’s not an easy thing to hold your dream with an open hand, especially not after working toward it so diligently for so many years. I kept working, though, and eventually the timing fell into place like it did for all of these things. So much of what has happened comes down to having agents with killer instincts who’ve further connected me with others who’ve fiercely championed my work—Holly and Taylor connected me with my film agent, with my editor, with my foreign rights agent. From there, it was all mysterious timing, things lining up in just the right way.

If you’re in the query trenches, or experiencing an extended time on sub, my hope is that you’ll find this story incredibly encouraging. The tip of everyone’s iceberg is all flash and shine, especially when in a sunny spotlight, but beneath it all is a giant hunk of perseverance, patience, and determination. Write the book you love, the book you’re proud of. Write it for you. Then put it in hands you trust, and go get to work on the next one.

Kayla has generously offered an e-book of THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through July 1st. 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 or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, June 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Van Sant and a query critique giveaway--my last until the fall

Monday, June 26th I have a guest post with debut author Emily Bain Murphy and her agent Peter Knapp with a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES and a query critique giveaway by Peter--my last joint agent/author post until the fall

Saturday, July 1st I'll be participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


RECENTLY UPDATED AGENT SPOTLIGHTS

Happy Wednesday, Everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I am starting a much need update of some of the agent spotlights. I am going through them alphabetically with a goal of updating about 50 a year. We'll see how far I get. A big thanks to Eden Tapert for providing me with info to update these.

Anyway, I've updated my first ones. Some of them have been reviewed and corrected by the agents, which makes them even more up to date for you. Here are the updated agents:

  • Josh Adams
  • Tracey Adams
  • Jason Anthony
  • Steven Axelrod
  • Stephen Barbara
  • Stephen Barr
  • Jenny Bent
  • Caitlin Blasdell
  • Michael Bourret
You'll find links to the agent spotlights on the left sidebar of the blog. Hope you find the information helpful!

Be sure to enter my last few agent query critique giveaways in June. I will resume them in September and October when the blog picks up again after the inevitable summer slowdown.

Hope to see you on Monday!

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH BIBI LEWIS and QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Bibi Lewis here. She is an associate literary agent at The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky person will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi­ Bibi! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Bibi:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I’ve been at the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency for three years. I wear a lot of hats here, managing foreign, audio and performance rights as well as acquiring projects and authors. 

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

We are a dedicated full-service agency that represents many best-sellers and has a strong record of subsidiary sales. We represent all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, including SFF, Romance, Mysteries/Thrillers, Memoir and Children’s. We are a small, committed team who aim to work with authors throughout their careers. And most of all, we love the business and have a lot of enthusiasm to share!

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent projects from picture books all the way up to YA (and adult!). I read all genres and look for books that have a strong voice and characters that leap off the page.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I have a particular love for mysteries and puzzles, anything that readers can solve along with the protagonist. I am always interested in seeing books from diverse perspectives (authors and characters, especially if it is #ownvoices).  I would also love to see more non-fiction picture books!

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I am probably not the best person to submit SF, but our agency has two phenomenal agents who specialize in that!

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

I want to work with authors who love reading and books, who have stories to share and the talent and drive to put those books out into the world. I love stories that tackle contemporary issues as well as books that have fresh take’s on more classic themes.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I am definitely an editorial agent. The process changes based on the particular author and how they prefer to get feedback. Usually it is a round of “big picture” edits, followed by more specific scene to scene notes. I will never send out a project until both the author and I think is absolutely ready.  

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

Our guidelines can be found on our agency’s website. To query me, use the agent email account and address your query to me. Query letters should be short and sweet, giving me your pitch, a bit about yourself and why you are seeking representation.

It is always helpful to see where your book would fit on shelves by telling some comp titles, but keep in mind that these should be true comparisons to your work. Don’t comp it to ultra-bestsellers just because they sold a lot of books! It is also a great way to show that you are clued into the current books being published in your genre.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

I am definitely not a fan of queries that make it very clear they haven’t done their research. For one, you should definitely get the agents name right! Also, if you state “as it says on your website” make sure it *actually* says that. Other than that, just put out your best work. The query is all about introducing that particular project, so make sure the project shines.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

Our typical response time is between two to 6 weeks. After that, no response should be taken as a pass from us.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  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?

Yes I am definitely open to authors who have been self-published or published before. My biggest suggestion for these authors would be to query with a completely new project. Definitely list your credentials, but you should focus on what is new and why you think an agent would be best for this project and for you going forwards.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

The role of the agent is constantly evolving as the industry evolves. The main quality that stays the same is that an agent must be aware of the changes in Publishing and be willing and able to help the author maneuver throughout the changing landscape! We are part guide, part editor, part cheerleader, and always a champion for your work.

Links and Contact Info:

13. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Writers can follow the guidelines on our website, which is www.ethanellenberg.com !

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

This industry is tough and slow, be patient but persistent! If an agent passes on a project but says they would like to see further work, do send them the next project that you have (that is ready, don’t rush and send them something incomplete). Good luck and I hope to see some of your projects in my inbox!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Bibi.

­Bibi is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through June 24th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know 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.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.


LEAH HENDERSON INTERVIEW and ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST



Happy Wednesday Everyone! Before I get to my interview with debut author Leah Henderson, I've got my IWSG post for you.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

Today's Question: Did you ever say "I quit?" And if so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I have never quit writing since I started, but I have had to put my writing on hold for six months or longer many times during approximately 15 years that I have been writing. My demanding job as an attorney, being a caregiver to my husband, being an almost single mom to my daughter, volunteer activities, and this blog have taken all my time and then some many times over the year. There was no choice because I was functioning on 5-6 hours sleep a day and being productive most of the rest of the time.

Now that I am a full-time writer for my job, my creative writing is on hold again. I love writing and the writer's life. But I'm trying to support my daughter and me with this job, so I have to take on more work if I can get it versus writing for myself. Plus this blog is a huge time commitment. And I have to balance on my writing with spending enough time with people, and I have a boyfriend and new life. So writing for me is on hold for now. What about you? Have you had to put your writing on hold or quit?

Today I’m excited to have debut author Leah Henderson here to share about her MG contemporary ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, which is set in Senegal. It sounds like a fantastic story about a boy trying to keep his family together in a world that offers him hard choices. I was so excited about this book that I forgot that I had invited Leah to be on the blog and accidentally invited her on a second time.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined.

With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom in all their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own?


One Shadow on the Wall is about love and loss, family and friendship, and creating your own future—even if it’s hard to do.

Hi Leah! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

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

So I am probably what you would call a wandering, curious soul. I have always loved traveling and learning. And my family has always been big on exploring. I am happiest when I am getting lost then found somewhere in the world. I love meeting people and hearing their stories and figuring out that special something that makes them unique.

Tales of little-known places or the people who passed through them have always drawn me in and made me wonder and imagine. When I was younger, those were the stories that got me thinking about writing. I knew there were so many more layers to the people and places I was hearing about. I wanted to see their lives before and after their notable adventures. So I started creating my own possibilities for their stories. Then I quickly turned to envisioning my own protagonists on their own journeys. And that is how my love of writing began.

2. That's great how you have tapped into your love of traveling when creating stories. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I was traveling in Senegal, a place full of heart and vibrancy, and I saw a boy sitting on a beach wall.
It was only for a moment, but something about him drew me in, and I asked myself the question: what is his day like? The image of that boy stayed with me throughout the day. Later when I saw him again, I couldn’t help but write a short story (intended only for me) in answer to the question I’d asked myself earlier. I never imagined that string of words would turn into anything more.

3. So amazing how a split second of seeing this boy was the seed for your book. Learning about Senegal intrigues me, and reviews have said that you did a really good job portraying the culture. I know you visited Senegal and have read that travel plays a big part of your writing in general. Did you rely on your visit to Senegal to get the culture and setting right or also research the area?

I did everything I could possibly do to learn more about the culture. I read about it, watched local movies (for mannerisms and gestures) and observed and embraced everything I could while I was there and after. But the most important thing I did to heighten my understanding was to ask questions of people who knew this country best. I talked to professors, scholars, Senegalese friends, and foreigners who have made Senegal their home. I tried to absorb all I learned (notebooks full of notes) to create this fictional, but in many ways, true-to-life world.

4. Wow! You certainly were dedicated watching local movies. What advice do you have for other authors trying to writing about a different culture and country?

In my case, I had to first acknowledge that I knew very little. That my assumptions of a place I had only visited a handful of times and the people I interacted with there were not enough to tell an accurate story. I needed to read, watch, and do research. Whether you are fortunate enough to travel to the place you are writing about, or are reading books, watching films, or documentaries (by people of that culture & you have to do more research than you think you will ever need. Even then you may want to do more. But as I said, the most important thing after that is having people you can ask questions of and pass ideas by to make sure you are depicting that culture, its belief systems, and everyday interactions accurately. And if you are not willing or able to do these things then I think you truly need to ask yourself—should I be the one to try and tell this story?

5. The stakes are really high for Mor to keep his promise to his dad to protect his sisters or join the gang from the nearby village. Did the plot come to you from the start or did it develop as you wrote and revised your story?

Pieces of the plot came to me at the very beginning, but I didn’t know to what extent certain things would unfold until I had written a few drafts.

6. What was a challenge you faced in writing ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL and how did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge in writing this novel was believing that I could. I worried that I didn’t know enough. And even after a ton of research, I was still extremely apprehension. Far too many times I had witnessed authors writing about another culture doing harm, and I did not want to be responsible for more.

In terms of overcoming it, my father reminded me that this was an opportunity for kids like Mor to see themselves on the page, an opportunity that might not come around again so soon. Then he asked me a question: Was I really going to deny them this chance?

After that, my excuses were just that—excuses. I had to try. Remembering my own childhood frustrations of not seeing myself fully represented in stories, I was not going to be a barrier to this opportunity or any of its possibilities for them.

7. Awesome how your dad's encouragement kept you going. What was your road to publication like?

As I mentioned, this book came out of a short story (never meant to go beyond ten pages) but one of my grad school professors thought it could be the beginnings of a novel. She encouraged me to flush it out. Then another professor wanted to see ‘more of Mor’ as well. And when I finally graduated and thought I could put it aside for a while, someone else crossed my path and asked what was going to happen to Mor. At the time, I was still hesitant about the work (my father hadn’t imparted his words of wisdom yet 😊. I told her Mor would be resting for a long, long time. She thought that was a mistake.

With her advice and more encouragement, I finished a draft. Then I did a series of revisions until it was ready to send out. Of course I was still a bit reluctant to send it, but I did. And after a few rejections, I did decide to place it in a drawer for a while. I wasn’t completely discouraged though. One of the rejection letters I had received was very thoughtful, and, in a way, encouraged me to keep writing. So I did. I started a new manuscript. Then about nine months later, I crossed paths with the agent who had been so encouraging and they wanted to see Mor’s story again. From there things went pretty quickly. I signed with them. We did a few quick tweaks. Sent the manuscript out to a select list of editors (including one who had requested it) and I was fortunate to receive happy news shortly after. It took a lot of time and work to get to that point, but I needed to go through every second of it. I am so grateful to those who kept me writing this story. Without them it might not have ever come out of the drawer again.

8. So cool how your paths crossed with your agent. What was something that surprised you about working with your editor?

I know we all hope our editors will truly understand what we mean to do when we write drafts of our stories, and I was relieved and a little surprised at how well my editors understood what I wanted to convey even when I wasn’t quite there yet. They each asked the perfect questions to get me to the next layer of story.

9. What advice do you have for other debut authors in working with their editors?

Be open to receiving all the advice your editor has to share. That doesn’t mean you always have to agree, but it does mean you should think about it, and ask yourself if it will make your story stronger and if it keeps to the tone you are striving for. If so, welcome the advice, make it your own, and watch your story grow because of it.

10. How are you planning to market your book?

This is such a tough question. There are so many things that people recommend doing. It can be overwhelming, but you really have to figure out what is comfortable for you (and I’m still trying to figure that out). But one thing that has been invaluable for me is joining a debut author group. I have met some wonderful people taking similar journeys to mine. They also have similar apprehensions, worries, and questions. But more importantly, we get to celebrate each other’s successes, trade ideas, and figure this all out together.

11. I think figuring out the marketing aspect of writing is a struggle for many writers. What are you working on now?

At the moment I am working on two MG novels that are very different from ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL in many ways, but that are also similar in the themes of family, friendship, and finding your possibilities.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Leah.

Thank you so much for asking me (twice). I was flattered and have really enjoyed this!

Ha! Ha! You can find Leah at:

witter: @LeahsMark
Instagram: Leahs_Mark 

Leah has generously offered ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through June 24th. 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 or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, June 12th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Bibi Lewis and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 19th I have a guest post with debut author Kayla Olson and possibly her agent with a giveaway of her YA science fiction THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE

Wednesday, June 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Van Sant and a query critique giveaway--my last until the fall

Monday, June 26th I have a guest post with debut author Emily Bain Murphy and her agent Peter Knapp with a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES and a query critique giveaway by Peter--my last joint agent/author post until the fall

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS

Hope to see you on Monday!