Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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! Hope that you had a great Thanksgiving holiday.


Here's some helpful information that Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media Group e-mailed me about. #1 Literary Agency Trident Media Group's Leading Literary Agents Take Book Publishing Q&As in #TMGTalks on Twitter Mon. Dec. 11, 12-2 PM EDT. This is a great opportunity for you to get your questions answered!

Today I’m excited to have follower and author Stephanie Faris here to share about the fifth book in the Piper Morgan series, PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY. This sounds like a fun early middle grade series that I would have loved to read with my daughter when she was younger. I love the party theme of the story and the problems.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Piper tries to plan the perfect party in the fifth book of the charming Piper Morgan series.

Piper is excited to help her mom plan a big party for another girl her age. After all, who doesn’t love a good party? But when Piper and her mom arrive, they are in for an unpleasant surprise: A spoiled little girl, a huge mansion, and a list of impossible demands from the birthday girl that includes a real-life princess and grape jelly beans. How will they ever pull off the show-stopping party that Emmy is demanding? It seems like no matter what they suggest, Emmy is never happy. Can Piper help her mom pull off the best party ever? Or will the party turn into a big fat mess?

Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I was working for my state arts agency in my younger years when my job involved looking through some writing contest entries. I was inspired by what I was reading and decided to try my hand at literary fiction. Soon after, I realized commercial fiction was definitely more my thing, especially since that’s what I’ve always preferred to read.

2. That's a cool way to start writing. Where did you get the idea for the Piper Morgan series and your new book in the series?

I was inspired to write Piper Morgan after reading every single book in the Junie B. Jones series. I wanted someone spunky and fun, but I also wanted her to have different adventures in each book. The idea for Piper Morgan Plans a Party came from a brainstorming session with my amazing editor, Alyson Heller. Aladdin already had a party-planning book (the You’re Invited series). But this one focuses heavily on two children’s birthday parties. And delicious cake!

3. I love Junie B. Jones! Share about Piper and how she’s grown as a character throughout the series and in this new book.

Piper continues to learn and grow, but I think in this book we see her really starting to understand that she needs to be more responsible.

4. These books are shorter chapter books where you must tell the whole story in about 100 pages or less. That doesn’t sound easy to do. How do you plot out these stories and tell the whole the story with fewer words?

I actually do better writing shorter. Even my middle grade novels come in at around 40,000 words at best. When I wrote romance, I always veered toward the shorter books published by Harlequin. I don’t really even like to read long books. I think it’s just the way I’m wired!

5. I don't love really long books either. You’ve had five books in this series published since 2016. How are you planning out a series like this? And writing them so quickly? What advice do you have for other writers wanting to write a series like this?

With each chapter book being only 8,000 words or so, five a year only come to 40,000 words! So that’s five books in the same length you’d tell a middle grade, young adult, or short adult novel. You definitely need to sit down and make a list of all the books you plan to write in the future as part of your proposal. The publisher doesn’t just want to see the three chapters and synopsis for the first book with chapter books—they’re almost always buying a series.

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

I queried her with my series about tween ghost hunters. She requested the full—I’d been through the
ups and downs of an agent/editor being interested and it not panning out, so I tried not to get my hopes up. When I got the email that she wanted to represent me, it was one of those life-changing moments! But my road to publication goes all the way back to 1995, when I wrote my first novel and began collecting rejections. I wrote lighthearted romance and when chick lit came and went, lighthearted romance was instantly out, but I was so excited to see middle grade and YA was hot by then. I knew my voice was perfect for younger readers, and once I found that “sweet spot,” I got an agent soon after.

7. That's an awesome agent story. This series is not your first published books. You also have two upper middle grade books, 30 DAYS OF NO GOSSIP and 25 ROSES, which were published in 2014 and 2015. Do you have any advice for the rest of us on how to continue to write and sell our books like you’ve been able to do?

I think we’re all waiting for our next book to sell. I hear that from authors who have 20+ books on shelves. There are never any guarantees, but all you can control is the writing. My advice is always to just focus on writing the next book while getting your previous books out there to agents and editors and hoping for the best.

8. What have you learned about building a social media platform and marketing your books over the years? What advice do you have for the rest of us on what works and doesn’t work?

For children’s writers, it may be different than other genres. We’re often told we must do school visits. I’ve done more than a few school visits that only sold one book, so I now have a rule that it must sell 50 books for me to set my freelance writing clients aside for a day to do it. Right now, I’m experimenting with book fairs and, honestly, those seem to be the best. Unlike bookstores, where people are walking in to buy a Starbucks or browse the magazine section, the people who go to book fairs are there to meet authors and buy books. If you find the right book fairs, you can definitely get your books in the hands of readers. Other than that, I haven’t found much we can do that makes a significant dent in sales. Most of the time, you’re just networking and supporting other authors in the hopes that they’ll return the favor.

9. That's great advice! What are you working on now?

I’m working on a spooky middle grade that I’m trying to get to my agent ASAP. I’m on the last few chapters, which is my favorite part of the book besides the very beginning! I also have two (yes, TWO!) chapter book series ideas brewing—one fiction and one nonfiction. So, fingers crossed my agent likes those once I get the proposals all written up.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Stephanie. You can find Stephanie at http://www.stephaniefaris.com or http://stephie5741.blogspot.com.

Stephanie has generously offered PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY 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 December 9th. 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. This giveaway is U.S.

Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, December 6th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES and my IWSG post

Monday, December 11th I  have an interview with Natalie Rompella and a giveaway of her MG Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners

Tuesday, December 12th I'm participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway Hop

Thursday, December 21st I'm participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post for the year!

Hope to see you on Wednesday December 6th!


Happy Tuesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. This is my chance to say thank you to all of you wonderful followers. Because followers are what make blogging worthwhile. So thank you very much for stopping by anytime that you do.

I want to mention that on the first Wednesday and Mondays the rest of the month I feature a debut MG and YA author in an interview or guest post with a book giveaway. Some involve a guest post with their agent and a query critique giveaway too. If any of you are writers, I'm also doing more agent spotlight interviews with query critique giveaways. These query critiques are a great opportunity to get feedback from an agent on your query and personal communication the agent.

I hope you'll all stop by other times and take advantage of these other book and agent giveaways other than these giveaway hops. Things will be quieter until the beginning of 2018, but will really pick up then.

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. I've got a combination of MG and YA. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Sorry that there are so many book choices but there are SO many good books these last few months. And sorry that blogger would not align these correctly.















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 November 30th 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:

I'm off on Monday, November 20th for the holidays

Monday, November 27th I have an interview with author and follower Stephanie Faris and a giveaway of her MG chapter book PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY

Wednesday, December 6th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES and my IWSG post

Monday, December 11th I have an interview with author Natalie Rompella and a giveaway of her MG contemporary COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS

Tuesday, December 12th I'm participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway Hop

Thursday, December 21st I'm participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday, November 27th!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop:


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Heather Kaczynski here to share about her YA science fiction DARE MIGHTY THINGS. Cassandra sounds like a fantastic character—vulnerable but determined. And the plot has been described as twisty.

Before I get to Heather's interview, I just want to share a link to a blog article on how to write a query letter in 7 steps on Reedsy's site in case you find it helpful.

Here’s a blurb for DARK MIGHTY THINGS from Goodreads:

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Hi Heather! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been writing since second grade, but I never finished a story until after I’d graduated college.

2. Cassandra sounds like a smart, determined, and diverse character, being both Indian-American and genetically engineered. Share a bit about her character development and any challenges writing about a diverse character.

The biggest challenge in writing a diverse character is, of course, writing outside your experience and doing the character justice. No matter how much research you do, you won’t have the same lived-in experience as someone who has grown up inside the culture you’re writing. You won’t know the small, daily details of that person’s life. So, up front, you need to realize that you are not the expert here, and you need to examine the motives you have for writing the character that you are. Try to determine if you are writing the story of a culture that could be better told by someone from that culture.

For me, I wanted to write a near future that was realistic and diverse – NASA has recruited brilliant, talented contestants from all around the world, and I felt it would be disingenuous if the majority of those chosen were white. The book takes places mostly in an isolated environment outside of the character’s daily lives and families, so there isn’t much focus on their different cultures, but I did try to pay respect to Cassie’s background with help from Indian friends and sensitivity readers.

Aside from her cultural background, Cassie is a version of myself from my childhood – a little more arrogant, and a lot more brave. Having been an intensely shy, anxious child, it was a cathartic experience to write a character who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted without reservation.

3. Sounds like you had good reasons for making Cassie a diverse character.Your story also seems really plot driven with twists and tension that makes readers want to turn the page. What was your plot development process like? Do you have any tips on how to create a page turner?

My plot development process mostly revolved around actual astronaut training scenarios. I knew I
wanted that to be as realistic as possible within the framework of the story, so I researched what skills actual astronauts have to refine and put my characters through similar ordeals.

I think the key in creating a page turner is always holding something back and giving out little clues and reveals as the characters earn them. There’s a lot of big questions when Cassie begins her training: What is the goal of this mission? Where is this mission headed? Why are the competitors all under the age of 25? How did NASA get the funding for such a massive venture when they haven’t sent humans to space in years?

Those are the big questions that power Cassie’s – and hopefully the reader’s – curiosity. Have something your character is searching for and drop clues for readers to try to piece together the puzzle themselves. I think that’s the major reason we can’t stop turning pages, right? We think the answer might be just around the corner, if only we can find that next piece of the puzzle.

4. Those are great tips. What was the science fiction world building like for you? I read on your website that you work near NASA. Did you connect with anyone there as part of your research?

I do work near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and it was the focus of my research. I applied for a #NASASocial event while I was in the early stages of writing and editing DMT – it’s an awesome event where NASA chooses regular people with active social media accounts to come and see what they’re doing, and tell the world about it. I got to go on some awesome behind-the-scenes tours to different buildings at NASA and it really inspired me.

I was also able to interview astronaut Randy Bresnik, who is currently in orbit as commander of the International Space Station, about what it’s like to go into space.

5. Your agent is Kristin Nelson, one many of us who love to have represent us. Share about how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I love Kristin! She’s definitely worthy of being called a dream agent. She was so high up on my list, I actually almost never queried her at all. I was too intimidated, and thought I had zero shot.

So I spent a couple years querying off and on, taking breaks to revise, and then taking a major break to have my daughter. I didn’t touch a computer for the first few months after having a baby – it really rocked my world. I thought I would never get back into writing.

But one of the agents who had a full ms of mine before I’d had my baby actually got back with me after I’d nearly given up. That motivated me to send out one last query, what I thought was my long shot query, to Kristin.

The first agent later offered rep, so I nudged Kristin, who already had requested my partial. She asked for the full manuscript and actually read the whole thing in a week while traveling abroad. She emailed me that she had finished it on the plane and had to wait six hours to get back with me about how much she loved it, and wanted to speak on the phone as soon as possible. She said such amazing things in that email – I thought I was hallucinating!
I ended up accepting her offer of rep while sitting in my car, in my driveway, which was the only place I could guarantee we wouldn’t be interrupted by my crying 3-month-old.

She said she’d been waiting her whole life to rep a book like mine. And I’d been too afraid to query her. I’m glad of the years of edits I put into my book before Kristin saw it, but learn from me, friends – don’t let fear stop you from trying.

6. What an amazing story of getting your agent! What was a challenge or surprise you experienced in working with Kristin? What did you learn from the experience?

Kristin is an amazing editor, and really brought to light a lot of my writing crutches that I hadn’t been aware of before! She set the bar high, which was an awesome challenge to meet. I learned a lot about how to write better, faster, and edit myself. I’m really glad for it. She absolutely knows her stuff and I’m glad she’s in my corner!

I’d say a surprise I encountered in the publishing world is how slow everything can be for months – and then suddenly everything happens all at once. Be prepared to be patient! Don’t bother your agent every week asking for updates. Trust that they’ll let you know as soon as they do! I had to wait five months to sign my publishing contract and announce my book deal. It was kind of torture.

7. I saw that you’ve scheduled a few appearances in October and November to celebrate the release of your book. What else are you doing to market your book? Any advice for an author who will become a debut author after you on marketing a book?

Right now marketing is actually taking a bit of a back seat for me as I’m focused on finishing edits for book 2 – that has to be my priority. However, as soon as that’s turned in, I’m going to focus on scheduling more signing events and interviews, as well as looking into possible conventions and festivals for 2018.

My advice is start making local connections – schools, library, and media – early. A lot of places, especially busy libraries, are always looking for programs, but they also have a packed schedule and can plan months in advance. You don’t want to pin your hopes on having your launch party at your local library and then find out they’ve got their yearly fundraiser already scheduled for your date.

Making personal connections is the best! Reach out to librarians, get in touch with local booksellers, and let them know you exist and are willing to do events! Go out and find local cons and festivals that you can apply to; your publicist might do some of this, but also might not, so be a go-getter!

Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. Book launches are fun, but don’t stress too much about them. They won’t make or break you. Pre-order giveaways, swag mailers, street teams – they’re optional. If you have the time, the funds, and the willingness to go the extra mile, go for it. But don’t worry if you don’t. Focus on finding your readers online and in the real world. Booksellers and librarians are going to be your allies on the frontline.

8. That's great advice to personally connection with librarians and book sellers.You work at a library. How awesome! Has this helped you to connect with other librarians and share about your book? Do you have any tips for how authors should reach out to librarians and how to get their book on library shelves?

I definitely think it has helped. My library is a bit of an odd duck in that we’re a military library on an Army post with a limited patron base, and we’re not part of the public library system outside the gates. But it has helped that I’ve been there long enough to have connections and friends-of-friends within the library system, and that I have an understanding of how libraries function and what they’re looking for.

Please go to your nearest library and introduce yourself as a local author! The library might not have immediate resources to buy your book or promote you, but at least they know you’re there and putting a face to a name and a cover is always good. (I’m a bit of a hypocrite as I haven’t done this yet, but I tend to work the same hours as the local libraries so I have limited windows to get there before they close.) Also email or call other libraries in your state to see about lining up events after your book comes out. If nothing else, you’re making a connection. Libraries really like having authors nearby; it’s built-in local interest.

9. What are you working on now?

Well, I just moved into a new house, so I’m currently working on unpacking, lol. But writing-wise, my focus is on finishing up line edits for the sequel to DARE MIGHTY THINGS, which is called ONE GIANT LEAP and is coming out next fall!

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


Heather has generously offered a hardback of DARK MIGHTY THINGS 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 November 25th. 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. This giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Tuesday, November 14th I am participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

I'm off on Monday, November 20th for the holidays

Monday, November 27th I have an interview with author and follower Stephanie Faris and a giveaway of her MG chapter book PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY

Wednesday, December 7th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES and my IWSG post

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m super excited to have debut author Jodi Kendall here to share about her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY. I wish this had been published when my daughter was younger because she loves pigs and would have loved it. It sounds like a great, fresh take on Charlotte’s Web. This book has got great reviews. And Jodi has a really interesting life as a freelance writer too!


Before I get to my guest post, I have some followers news to share. FULL DARK, an anthology of
short stories to support our military, veterans, and first responders, recently release. A number of followers have stories in the anthology:
Lori Townsend
David Powers King
Carrie Butler
Nick Wilford
Elizabeth Seckman

Here's a blurb: What happens in the dark will come to light.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In this modern-day homage to Charlotte’s Web, a little pig in a big city leads to lots of trouble. Can eleven-year-old Josie Shilling save the day?

Josie Shilling’s family is too big, their cramped city house is too small, and she feels like no one’s ever on her side. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, her older brother, Tom, brings home a pink, squirmy bundle wrapped in an old football jersey—a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. Her name is Hamlet.

The minute Josie holds Hamlet, she feels an instant connection. But there’s no room for Hamlet in the crowded Shilling household. And whoever heard of keeping a pig in the city? So it’s up to Josie to find her a forever home.

This modern-day homage to Charlotte’s Web is a heartwarming tale of family, belonging, and growing bigger when you’ve always felt small—perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate and Cammie McGovern.

Hi Jodi! Thanks for joining us!

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

Thanks for having me on Literary Rambles! I was always writing stories during my childhood, and in high school, books and writing continued to be a big part of my life. In college I majored in English, went on to earn an MFA in Creative Writing at another university, and after graduation held various jobs – from teaching a community college to retail sales to social media marketing – while I built my writing portfolio on the side. I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and my clients included Nat Geo Wild, the National Geographic Channel, and numerous magazine and digital publications. All the while, I always hoped to become a children’s book author one day. I became actively involved with the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI) in 2007. Seven years later I signed with my literary agent, and The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 10/3/17) is my debut novel.

2. That's so awesome how you have been able to freelance and write for a living while following your dream of writing fiction. Where did you get the idea for THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY?

The book was inspired by a real-life experience of mine. When I was thirteen, my college-aged brother rescued a runt piglet from a nearby farm. He hid it in his dorm for two weeks and brought it home during a holiday break. The pig ended up living in our house for six months.

3. That is so cool! Josie sounds like an incredibly sympathetic character who goes through many of the middle grade challenges that kids that age can relate to. Share about her development as a character and any tips you have for creating such a memorable characters.

When I constructed the Shilling family, I based Josie’s character on my own personal experience growing up in a big family because I felt I could connect with her point of view. Even though we certainly have our differences, Josie is number four out of five kids, like me. I reflected a lot about the emotions I experienced at her age – eleven – and growing up in a chaotic household of seven, and how certain scenarios can make you feel invisible or misunderstood, and other times you’re so grateful to have a bunch of people nearby when you need someone. I worked hard to give Josie lots of layers to her character. She’s a worrier, a strong competitor in her sport, and has a good heart. She’s concerned about her recent growth spurt and how it’s affecting her gymnastics skills and making her stand out from her peers when she wants to fit in. And of course, Josie’s an animal-lover, and she has an instant connection with Hamlet the pig. As I wrote the book, I tried to create scenes and moments that reflected all of these aspects of Josie’s character so that she had a satisfying emotional journey throughout the book.

4. That's great that you were able to draw on and reflect on your own experiences. What was your plotting process like for this book and what did you learn about the plot of a story from the process?

I’m a pantser and generally only know a few things when I open up a blank document. After I’m into
the book a little bit and understand more about the characters and plot, I’ll sometimes sketch out drawings and notes to better understand where I’m going with the book, or specific scenes I want to add in later. In THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY, I had a vague idea with how it would all end because I knew what was going to happen to the pig. But the rest of the story came as a bit of a surprise during the writing process, such as the ornery neighbor, Mrs. Taglioni, and the importance of gymnastics to Josie’s character. First drafting is always a bit of a mystery to me, and much of this book’s plot was polished during the revision stages. I combed over and over the book. Scenes were moved around, characters were deleted and other ones added. It follows an Act I, Act II, Act III structure, as does Book 2. Also, I intentionally started the book on the day something different happens – Hamlet the pig shows up at the Shilling household on Thanksgiving  – which was a craft tidbit I heard Judy Blume speak about years ago at an SCBWI conference, and I wanted to give it a try in my writing.

5. That's a great tip from Judy Blume that I never heard of. In the reviews of your books, there are a lot of comparisons to Charlotte’s Web. Do you feel any pressure regarding your story since that one is so well-known and beloved?

Not really, but I do consider the comparison an honor, and I still pinch myself that the books share the same publisher. I love Charlotte’s Web and, in a way, my debut is a modern-day homage to it, but the stories are different. While Charlotte’s Web has a focus on Wilbur and his adventures in the barn with Charlotte and the farm animals and not the inner thoughts of Fern, THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY is a first-person narrative and very much Josie’s story of her complicated life in a big Midwestern city, and some of her pig adventures inspired by my real-life experiences too.

6. Okay, here’s a burning question because I’m a contract writer—nothing nearly as excited as your international travels for your work. Share about your job as a freelance writer and how this this helped you in writing stories. Also my burning question: How do you juggle your freelance writing deadlines with being productive in writing this manuscript, working with the publishing deadlines I’m sure you had, and now writing a second book?

Well, I was a freelance writer for maybe ten years before I signed with a literary agent. Writing on a variety of topics, in various formats, and having an editor and deadlines certainly helped me grow as a writer. As someone who is passionate about nature and animals, I enjoyed learning about important conservation issues from experts, and this interest spilled beyond my non-fiction pieces into my stories as well. My freelance work shifted a bit to social media marketing while I was juggling working on my debut novel. What was trickier for me was more the family/personal juggle, versus the writing juggle. My son was about two years old when I signed with my agent. Over the next three years, I landed a two-book deal with a major publisher, we moved several times, and I got pregnant and had a daughter. I was perpetually exhausted! Having two kids under the age of five while revising a debut novel and trying to tackle social media marketing for a major brand was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever been through. One day I just realized that I couldn’t do everything, even with the help I had. So I made a decision to not renew any client contracts and nowadays I evaluate freelance work on a case-by-case basis. When I wrote my second book earlier this year, I took a few writing retreats (I love the Highlights Foundation UnWorkshops and the Library Hotel in NYC for weekend escapes). Because I have a lot of things on my plate between family and work, I often time my writing sessions to maximize my productivity in short, 25-minute focused sessions. I use the GrooveOtter.com website, which follows the Pomodoro Method. I also wake up super early! If I’m on deadline, I’m usually at my desk by 4:30am with a strong cup of black coffee in hand. On social media I talk a lot about my life being less about balance and more like a DJ mixing board with a series of levers that rise and fall in various seasons.

7. You made me tired just reading it and remembering my own prior crazy life. Your agent is Alexander Slater at Trident Media Group. Share how he became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

Over seven years, I queried over 100 agents with 6 different manuscripts. With each book submission and as the rejection letters piled on, I got a little closer to the end goal – more full requests, then more revise & resubmits. I put in a lot of time growing as a writer (I still do). Literary Rambles was hands-down one of my favorite resources when I was in the querying trenches. I found the agent and author interviews so helpful in figuring out who might be a good fit for my manuscripts and career. Finally, in 2014 with one particular manuscript, I received four offers of literary representation. Alex was not the first or last agent to offer, but he was passionate about my writing and having me as a potential client. When I weighed the decision, I just knew in my gut that Alex was the right fit for not just that particular manuscript, but for what I hope to be a long career as a children’s book author. Signing with Alex and Trident Media Group was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my writing career. While one of my manuscripts on submission didn’t get picked up by a publisher, THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY sold in a few weeks, at auction, in a two-book deal. Not only does Alex champion beautiful books for the right publishing home, he’s intelligent, professional, knowledgeable, approachable, connected, kind, supportive, and honest, which are all important factors to me in a successful agent/client relationship.

8. I saw on your website that you’ve already been to ALA and BookExpo America. How did you get invited to these awesome events and what was your experience going to them? What tips do you have for other debut authors who would like to attend these events as a debut author to become more well-known and promote their books?

I attended BEA awhile back as a member of the press, but ALA was as a debut author. I teamed up with two other middle grade authors – Leah Henderson and Patricia Bailey – and we pitched a panel to ALA-Annual, which was selected for the PopTop stage. Leah, Patricia, and I are part of a group of debut authors called The Class of 2k17 (www.classof2k17.com).We presented on the importance of Location in middle grade novels and did a book signing afterwards (my publisher supplied all the ARC’s). I had an incredible experience connecting with librarians and other industry people at ALA. For any debuts interested in attending the big conferences, keep an eye on the deadlines (oftentimes they are FAR in advance of the actual event) and team up with other authors in your genre/network/debut year to create a proposal. And of course, loop in your publisher and agent.

9. That's a great idea to come up with a proposal with other debut authors. You also have a schedule of book signings in October and early November to celebrate the release of your book. How did you schedule that or did your publisher do that for you? What was the strategy for the places you’re going?

I scheduled almost all of them. My launch party was at my local NYC indie bookstore, Books of Wonder, and the other events currently on the calendar are connected to my history in some way, where I have spoken first-hand with the bookseller and have friends/family in the area who plan on attending and spreading the word, bringing their kids. I send out a bunch of postcards to local schools in advance of a signing and offer free Skype visits the week or two before a city visit to connect with young readers and promote the event. For several events, I’m part of a middle grade author panel, which I find really inspiring. I love having a dialogue with other creative people, and talking up my favorite books.

10. Besides what we’ve discussed, how are you marketing your book?

I offer several bonus materials on my website, including a Classroom Curriculum Guide that’s aligned with Common Core grades 3-7, which was created by a wonderful education guide expert (Marcie Colleen). I frequently Skype/visit schools, which I love doing! I donated many of my author copies of the book to Little Free Libraries and school libraries. I created a book trailer, which is on my YouTube channel and premiered on Mr. Schu’s website. I offer a monthly e-newsletter to subscribers and am intentional with my social media sharing, often posting behind-the-scenes content. I had custom book swag made that I hand out at book events. I connect with media and bloggers, and have a regular rotation of blog interviews, podcast chats, giveaways, and press articles publishing this year (the most recent contribution was my debut author interview in the Children’s Writer's and Illustrator’s Marker 2018 Edition, which just hit shelves). I created content for the Harper Stacks website (the school and library hub). I also read widely and often, and I try to be a positive, listening, and learning member of the children’s book community.

11. Wow! You're doing so much. That's great. What is your favorite social media platform for connecting with other authors and readers? Why?

Instagram. I love visual platforms in general, but I’ve found it’s a great way to connect with authors, bloggers, booksellers, libraries, and educators (not so much middle grade young readers themselves – that I do through Skype/school visits). I’m a huge fan of the Instagram Stories feature because you can showcase behind-the-scenes snippets into not just writing life, but life in general. I find myself most drawn to authentic accounts on Instagram and try to keep it real on mine too.

12. What are you working on now?

I just finished the sequel to THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY, which is in copyedits now. It will publish in Fall 2018. Right now I’m polishing up an unrelated middle grade Book 3 proposal, which will hopefully be ready to send to my agent soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jodi.

You can find Jodi at:
E-Newsletter Sign-Up: http://eepurl.com/cWnavj

Jodi has generously offered THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY 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 November 18th. 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
and Canada.

Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on Greg Pattridge's blog .

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, November 13th I have an interview with debut author Heather Kaczynski and a giveaway of her YA science fiction DARE MIGHTY THINGS

Tuesday, November 14th I am participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 27th I have an interview with author and follower Stephanie Faris and a giveaway of her MG chapter book PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY

Wednesday, December 7th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES

Hope to see you on Monday!