Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Monday Everyone! So sorry that I didn't have a post last week, but the scheduled author did not contact me and I was in Florida. I'm happy to say that my mom is doing good and I helped her a lot.

FYI, if I don't get to your blog until tomorrow or Wednesday, it's because my boyfriend and I just decided on Friday to go see the eclipse. We're going to drive to see it and come right back. If I have time while we're driving, I'll stop by blogs.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Melissa Roske here to share about her debut contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN. It sounds like a fantastic story about a middle grader dealing with the issues kids at that age go through while also grappling with a mom who is OCD.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. It's enough to drive any middle schooler crazy! Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and Mom's decision to try out for "Clean Sweep,” a competitive-cleaning TV game show, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle. At least, without a little help from her friends.

Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for joining us!

Thanks, Natalie. So happy to be here!

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

I’ve always loved writing—and books—so after college I landed a job in publishing. My first job lasted five months (my boss sent me out to buy toilet paper!), but I quickly found a position at the now-defunct McCall’s magazine, before working as an editor at Scholastic. My husband and I then moved to London, where I was a freelance writer, and later, an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine. It wasn’t until I moved back to New York, after seven years of living abroad, that I thought about writing fiction. I’d written loads of articles for magazines and newspapers in the meantime, but I never thought I had the talent for fiction.

I’d been back in New York for about a year when I was offered a job as an online relationships adviser for TheSite.org, an advice and information website for teens. It was a great gig, because it combined the two things I enjoyed most: writing and helping people solve their problems. I liked the job so much, in fact, I decided to train as a life coach. I started my coaching business soon after.

It was while I was helping others attain their goals that I realized I was ignoring my goal: to write a novel. So I hired my own coach, the amazing Sara Lewis Murre, and started writing. With Sara’s help, I learned how to push away the self-doubt and set daily writing goals. By the end of 2011, I had written my first novel, a chick-lit comedy called Good Girls Don’t Go Commando. (No, it didn’t get published. Yes, it’s probably better that way.)

2. How awesome that writing has always been a part of your career. Where did you get the idea for KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN?

From a fortune cookie, believe it or not. It said, “A winsome smile is your sure protection.” I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time, but I liked the sentiment and decided to do some free-writing in my journal. Before I knew it, Kat Greene—a smart and sassy fifth grader—popped out.

3. How fun! I have a bunch of fortunes from fortune cookies taped on my fridge that predict wonderful things happening for me. Besides writing fiction, you were also a journalist and wrote as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine. Did these writing jobs help you when you decided to write stories for kids and if so, how?

This experience helped tremendously. As an advice columnist, it was my job to I read dozens of
letters from teens each month, and each letter brought me closer to understanding the teen psyche. Many of the letters followed a similar pattern: problems with boys, and acne, and periods, and friends; annoying siblings; overprotective parents; curfews. Other letters were absolutely heartbreaking, like the one from a 13-year-old girl whose mom had died of cancer. We ended up corresponding for more than a year until she stopped writing. At first, I didn’t know how to feel. Should I be relieved that this girl no longer needed me? Or worried that something had happened to her? Either way, it taught me that reaching out for advice is an act of courage; a leap of faith. I wanted to explore this further in my writing.

4. What made you decide to have Kat’s mom have OCD and what research did you do into people who suffer with this for your novel? What advice do you have for other writers who want to incorporate a disability either for the main character or one in a supporting role in their story?

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was done writing the novel that I realized that the mom in the story is actually based on my dad. He’s the opposite of Kat’s mom, though: He’s a hoarder who keeps everything. Another symptom of his OCD is “checking,” meaning he needs to ensure that the front door is locked before he goes to bed. He will go back to the door, over and over, checking and re-checking, dozens of times. He does the same with the gas jets on the stove, and with the dishwasher. I too have obsessive-compulsions tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.

In terms of research, I actually had to do quite a lot. I wanted to make sure that the portrayal Kat’s mom was fair and accurate. To that end, I read many books on the subject, including two excellent memoirs: David Adam’s The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, and Traci Foust’s Nowhere Near Normal. I also interviewed several psychologists and psychiatrists, and corresponded with people—including Traci Foust—who suffer from OCD. I talked to members of their families as well. Incorporating a psychological disorder or disability into a novel is easier if you’re familiar with it, obviously—but it’s nothing to shy away from. You just need to do your research.

5. Sounds like you did extensive homework. And that's interesting how this part of the story came later after your manuscript was written. From reading reviews, it sounds like you developed Kat into a great character who readers can relate to and love and nailed her tween voice. Share a bit about your process of developing her into the character she became.

Thanks for saying I “nailed it.” I know I sure tried! As far as developing Kat’s character goes, I don’t think it was a conscious process. I just dug into my treasure trove of middle-grade memories and extracted bits here and there. The voice came organically, probably because I’ve got the mindset of an 11-year-old. I’m also the size of one! All kidding aside, I’m not Kat—but there’s a lot of her in me, and vice-versa. This stands to reason, considering that most writers reflect themselves in their characters. It’s almost impossible not to.

6. I read that you extensively revised your story after it was unsuccessfully submitted because you believed in your story and did not want to give up. How did you tackle this and what advice do you have for other writers who may need to look at their story with fresh eyes to see a better approach to it?

This is an important issue, and I’m glad you brought it up. I was ready call it quits after my manuscript failed to find a home, and I did—for a couple of weeks. But not writing was worse than sitting around the house scarfing junk food all day, so I decided to try again. I won’t lie; it was hard to get going again. Not only was I feeling raw from the rejection, there was a strong chance I wouldn’t get a new agent. I mean, who wants to represent an author whose book got passed over in the submissions process? Regardless, I gave it another shot. Armed with Les Edgerton’s writing craft-book, Hooked (more on that later), I took a long, hard look at the manuscript and completely reworked it. I revamped the plot, added new characters, and changed the title. I also hired a professional editor for a full-scale manuscript evaluation. Then I started querying my new-and-improved manuscript all over again.

In terms of advice, I’m reluctant to tell another writer how to respond to rejection. It’s a highly personal process, and what slays one writer will barely ruffle the feathers of another. Still, I will say there’s tremendous strength in persistence. It makes you feel as if you’re more in control of the situation, and of yourself. That’s not to say persistence always pays off, but living with regret hits harder than the sting of rejection. At least, for me.

7.  I agree with you. Persistence and being willing to make radical changes to a story like you did are important if you really believe in your story and want it published. What was something—craft book, novel, etc.—that helped you grow as a writer and how did it help you?

Besides Blake Snyder’s invaluable Save the Cat (every writer should own a copy), I’d say Les Edgerton’s writing-craft book, Hooked, helped me more than any other. It’s really practical, especially in terms of story structure. Edgerton, a creative-writing instructor, novelist, and screenwriter, sums it up perfectly: “A story is a movement from stability to instability to a new stability.” I was so taken with this succinct and seemingly simple description that I sent Les a fan letter! He graciously wrote back, and congratulated me on KAT. After that, I’ve been following Les’s comings and goings on Facebook. I still get excited when he “likes” my comments. (How’s that for a real fan?)

8. I need to read both of these books. Your agent is Patricia Nelson. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I started querying KAT in 2012. I got an agent after an R and R, and went on submission in 2012. When the manuscript didn’t sell, my agent and I parted ways. Then, as above, using Les Edgerton’s Hooked for guidance and inspiration, I reworked the book from top to bottom and started the querying process all over again. I found a great agent, who then sold the book to Julie Bliven at Charlesbridge. I’ve since switched agents—I’m now represented by the awesome Patricia Nelson of MLLA—and I definitely hit the jackpot. Patricia is a brilliant editor, tireless cheerleader, and wise mentor. I am so lucky to have her in my corner.

9. Marketing can be a challenging role for many authors. What is your approach to marketing this book? Have any of your decision been influenced by watching other debut authors launch and market their books?

Marketing is a HUGE challenge, especially for writers who aren’t all that familiar with social media. Luckily, I was pretty active on Twitter and Facebook prior to writing KAT, so it didn’t feel as overwhelming as it might have. That said, it is stressful to put yourself out there, and it can feel as if you’re “pushing” your book to some extent. (Maybe that’s why I’m more comfortable in a cheerleading role, offering support to other authors.) One thing to watch out for, though, is underselling yourself. You don’t want to toot your own horn to the point of obnoxiousness (and it can be a fine line, believe me), but a little horn tooting is okay. Author Jess Keating gets this balance exactly right. She cheerleads and horn-toots in perfect combination.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m not sure if Patricia wants me to blab, but I can say that it’s another middle-grade novel, this time about a seventh grader whose family lands on a reality-TV show. Oh, and it’s set in New York. (Surprise, surprise!)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melissa.

Melissa Roske is a New York-based writer of middle-grade fiction. Her debut novel, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, will be published by Charlesbridge on August 22.  Find Melissa on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Melissa has generously offered a copy of KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through September 2nd. 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. The book giveaway is U.S.

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

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. But I have a busy schedule for you starting in September with a number of agent query opportunities too!

Wednesday September 6th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler with a query critique giveaway by Tina and giveaway of UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, a MG contemporary by Jessica and my IWSG post

Monday September 11th I have an interview with debut author Katherine Locke and a giveaway of her historical YA THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON

Monday September 18th I have an interview with debut author Lindsey Miller and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MASK OF SHADOWS

Monday September 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Burby and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, September 6th!


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you are having a fantastic summer. FYI if I do not get to your visit your blog today, I apologize. I'm leaving to visit my mom this morning in Florida because she needs some help. She doesn't have Internet so I am reading as many blogs as I can before I leave this morning and that will be it. Before I get to my interview today, I have my IWSG post.

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: Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

Today's Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

As a writer, a pet peeve is how established writers can sometimes freely break the rules that those of us who have not been published cannot break. For example, they can tell instead of show or use way more adverbs than are technically allowed. Yet, we have to be obsessed with not doing this.

As a reader, I really dislike when the pacing is too slow. If a book drags too much, I really lose interest. I used to be able to slog through to the good parts. But these last few years since my husband died and I've had a harder time getting into reading, I have to put down too slow books and move on.

What about you? What are your pet peeves?

Today I’m super excited to have debut author Katie Slivensky here to share about her MG THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY about a girl selected to train for a mission to Mars. It’s gotten rave reviews for being action-packed and also weaving in tons of cool science.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’ve been imagining adventures since I was a kid, and was determined to make my life as interesting as I could. I worked at a zoo growing up, went to school to become a paleontologist, and ultimately ended up drawn to informal museum education and now work at the Museum of Science in Boston (where I get to do cool stuff like make lightning and play with liquid nitrogen). In 2009, I decided to officially pursue becoming a published author as another avenue for getting kids excited about science and the natural world. I’ve always been a writer ever since I was really young, but it wasn’t until I was out of grad school that I had the time to focus on becoming published. From 2009-2015, I wrote nine different manuscripts. The one that finally landed me the book deal was my space adventure—THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

2. Awesome how your job inspired your writing. Where did you get the idea for THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

The first program I learned for the Museum of Science was their traveling, inflatable planetarium program (Starlab). Whenever I’d do a Starlab program, kids would always get particularly excited when I’d explain that it’d be their generation that goes to Mars. That got me wondering if I could write a story where kids didn’t have to wait until adulthood to train to be astronauts, which raised a pretty big question right off the bat—WHY would kids be training to be astronauts? Answering that became the crux of the entire novel!

3. That's cool that the idea for your story came from your interactions with kids at the Museum of Science. You have an amazing background in science, and it sounds like you have a lot of contact with kids through your presentations. How did you draw on what you’ve learned in creating your story?

My background in science gave me the research skills to tackle this book. Academically speaking, I’m a paleontologist. Even though I teach planetarium shows, I still had a great deal to learn about space before this novel could feel at all real! Understanding how science works, some of the basic language used in the fields, etc, helped me to pick through the mountains of information out there about space travel and find the nuggets I needed to make my story possible. And as far as the kids go—I knew right away I wanted this to be for middle-graders. That’s my favorite age group to teach. Since I’m around their voices a lot, that helped feed into my characters.

4. Your book has been described as an action-packed adventure that is a real page turner. What was your plotting process like? How did you keep the pace so fast with increasing stakes?

I love extensive plotting. My critique partners can attest to the fact that I create piles of outlines,
diagrams, and character arc sheets before I complete any novel. I don’t always stick to what’s on those outlines, but they do provide a great road map. I write with the idea in mind that things will get worse before they get worse. Then, they’ll get even worse. My goal is to make the reader wonder how my characters are going to get out of the mess long before the mess has even reached its full potential. My advice for creating fast-paced plots is to make sure your characters get to the end of the story not just against the odds, but against all odds.

5. That's great advice to make things worse and then even more challenging. I'll have to remember that tip. What was something—either a class, book, or something else—that helped you learn about the craft of writing and that you found useful in writing this story?

I think the best thing that helped me learn craft was (and is) being part of a critique group. Being forced to closely examine other people’s writing to discover what could be changed, what is missing, and what is working helped me to understand how a story works. My critique partners constantly inspire me and teach me how to take my writing to the next level.

6. Yes. I love being in a critique group too. How do you juggle your writing with the demands of your job?

To be honest, not well! Hah. I am perpetually exhausted, and live off of coffee. But I care so much about both careers that I am willing to push myself to manage the two as best as I can. I often get up before 5am to spend time working on writing before going to work, and I typically spend most of the hours of my weekend writing. My day-job is extremely energetically demanding, so I can’t usually muster up additional energy to write in the evenings. There’s been a lot of trial and error in discovering just how far I can push myself—I THINK my friends are finally starting to trust me when I say I know where my limits are. (We won’t talk about the Pneumonia Debacle of 2015, other than to say…listen to your body, people. Please.)

7. I can relate to living on coffee and when I was an attorney, I used to get up early in the morning to write too. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. She seems like such a fantastic agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

In 2013, I was connected to Joan through a critique partner, who knew another author Joan worked with. The author said my space adventure sounded like something her agent would like. I’d been querying novels for a couple years at that point, and was less than optimistic about my odds, to say the least, but I went ahead and queried Joan. Around the same time, I got my first ever offer of representation from a different agent, so I quickly let Joan (and all agents I’d queried) know. Joan immediately responded and wasted no time in reading through my manuscript and making an offer of her own. I actually ended up with three agent offers at once, which was a serious shock to my system after two years of rejection! Every agent has different talents to bring to the table, but I am completely and utterly grateful that I landed with Joan. She’s been the perfect match for my writing and working style, and has been such a tremendous champion of my manuscripts.

After that, it took over a year and a half and a few revisions/rounds of submissions before I got my offer from HarperCollins Children’s. This industry does not move quickly for most of us! But I think that’s often a good thing, because I’ve had time to adjust to each stage as I’ve gone through them. And it made it that much sweeter when I finally did get my chance at a book deal. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when Joan called to tell me that Harper wanted to sign me. I know I’m supposed to be an author, but there really are no words for that moment.

8. Your publication story shows the importance of persistence and patience in both getting an agent and book deal.I know that you are a member of The Swanky Seventeens, a debut MG and YA author group. How has this helped you navigate the marketing and other challenges of your book being released?

It’s been super helpful to have others to turn to with questions during this rollercoaster of a time. I highly recommend syncing up with some kind of debut group when you are a new author, because the support of others going through what you’re going through is invaluable. I don’t think there’s been any one big thing I could name that my debut group has helped me with, but I know there’s been countless small things. And those add up! Trust me, do they ever add up. I’m so grateful I’ve had other authors around to share in this part of the journey.

9. Yes, I'd want to join a debut group for sure too. What is a piece of advice that you have for aspiring writers?

Connect with other writers. Get yourself a critique group. It’ll help you improve as an author, and will be essential for your mental health and you go through the many ups and downs that this career track presents.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m in copyedits with my next middle grade novel, THE SEISMIC SEVEN (2018, HarperCollins Children’s). The tagline is: Seven kids. Ones supervolcano. One chance to save the world.

So be on the lookout for that one next year. ;) And thanks for having me at Literary Rambles!

Thanks for all your advice, Katie. You can find Katie at:
Twitter: @paleopaws 

Katie has generously offered an ARC of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY for a giveaway. 
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through August 19th. 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. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

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.

Monday August 14th I have a guest post by debut author Lana Popovich and giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy WICKED LIKE WILDFIRE

Monday August 21st I have an interview with debut author Melissa Roske and a giveaway of her MG contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Wednesday September 6th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler with a query critique giveaway by Tina and giveaway of UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, a MG contemporary by Jessica

Monday September 11th I have an interview with debut author Katherine Locke and a giveaway of her historical YA THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON

Hope to see you on Monday, August 14th!