Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Carrie Pestritto here. She is a literary agent at Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi­ Carrie! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Carrie:

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

I fell into agenting accidentally.  I’d always loved books and always thought about a career in publishing, but had no idea that literary agents even existed.  When I was in college, a friend of mine, who had interned at Writers House previously, told me I should apply for their internship program when I told her I was trying to figure out what to do over the summer.  I got the internship and after I graduated, I got a job as an assistant there for a year before I joined Prospect Agency.  I am now with the Laura Dail Literary Agency and so happy to be a part of the team there!

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

The Laura Dail Literary Agency is full of passionate, smart, and innovative agents who strive to build successful, long-term careers for their authors.  They have a really amazing roster of bestselling and award-winning authors with exciting projects!  Their philosophy is one that I embrace and a fantastic thing about LDLA, besides the talented people who work there, is the great sense of support, community, and dedication.

Personally, I try to go above and beyond for my clients by having annual strategy sessions with them at the start of each year, where we set up an individual phone call to talk about our goals for the year ahead and how to best achieve them.  I also created a private Facebook group for my clients so that they can all talk together, commiserate, and encourage from their various places in the publishing process!

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 across the board in terms of age groups.  The genres I work with are:
PB: nonfiction, educational
MG: contemporary, nonfiction, historical, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery
YA: sci-fi/fantasy, contemporary, historical, nonfiction, mystery
Adult: romance, historical fiction, commercial fiction, memoir, biography, nonfiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, mystery, thriller
I am always looking for diverse stories, as a person of color.  I think it’s so important for readers to be able to see themselves in the characters they read about and am passionate about bringing forward diverse voices.  I also get hooked by really unique, immersive voices, tight plotting, and meticulous world building.

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

Snarky chick lit a la the Bachelorette movie; books that take place in bakeries, chocolate shops, etc.; ethnic YA fantasy; Victorian mysteries; a unique WWII story; an ownvoices Caribbean-set women’s fiction; nonfiction that tells me something I never knew about in history like GEORGE WASHINGTON’S SPIES; or a Mexico City version of CRAZY RICH ASIANS!  Check my #MSWL tweets for more!

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

I am not the best agent for adult epic sci-fi/fantasy, really literary books, crime fiction/police procedurals, fiction picture books, memoirs about illness, or poetry.

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 love authors who come to the table willing to work and willing to collaborate. I most enjoy working with clients who are commercial and who are open to trying something new and who are open to suggestion. If there is no give-and-take, it makes the relationship less dynamic.

I think of my agenting style as a paradoxical mix of laid-back and involved—I love communicating and working with my authors, but even though I make suggestions and give advice (about what I think might be most effective for the market, for a certain imprint, for an author brand, etc.), I’m always willing to be convinced to try things a different way if the author feels incredibly passionately about it.

I also feel strongly about working with diverse authors, since diversity in publishing is something that is very close to my heart, and am hoping that in 2018 I will be able to build my list to include more authors like this! As an aside, I suggest that all POC authors look at Penny Moore’s upcoming website Lit Agents of Color!

As for what kind of books I want to represent, I am looking for smart, evocative, interesting writing that leans commercial. I love relatable, diverse characters with great voices, unusual premises, exciting plots, and lots of tension. I want books that make me feel completely invested in the world and characters—great books are ones that make me miss my subway stop or that I simply can’t put down!

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?

To a certain extent, yes. When I first started out, I used to use Track Changes to give line edits and comments EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I read a version of a manuscript.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time anymore, but I also have discovered that I prefer to leave the specifics of how to accomplish something up to the author’s vision.  I love brainstorming and hashing edits out and I usually send my authors a detailed editorial letter each time I read and we chat about my thoughts, their thoughts, and what we’re going to do afterwards, but I leave the nitty-gritty up to them to execute how they see fit.

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?

Authors should query me by following these instructions:

  • Send a concise email query letter to: queries [at] ldlainc [dot] com
  • Along with your book's title, please include the name of the agent you are querying in the subject field. This helps guarantee that your submission ends up in the right person's queue. (Example subject line: QUERY: TITLE for AGENT)
  • Your query letter should include a short pitch, a short plot summary, and a short bio. Please also include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits, if applicable. If you are a debut author, do not worry.
  • After your query letter, paste the FIRST 5-10 PAGES of your novel into the body of the email. Your writing sample MUST be pasted into the email, as we do not open unrequested attachments of any kind. You may also include a synopsis, but it's not required.
9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

I love query letters with sharp, evocative writing that paints an interesting picture or characterization and leaves me wanting more.  I would say my pet peeve is writing that rambles or is overly wordy.  When I come across superfluous, lengthy prose, it makes my eyes skip ahead to latch on to the next good bit of writing.

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

Once I receive your query, if I am going to request pages, I usually do so by the 1-2 month mark. When I receive the pages, I put them in my To Read queue and respond with feedback in about 2-4 months.

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, many of my authors self-publish or have books with smaller presses.  If you have a lot of energy and time to devote to self- or indie-published projects, they can be very rewarding.  My authors who do the best in those arenas are ones who aggressively market and publicize themselves. 

If you are a self- or indie-published author looking for representation, your sales figures and the kind of reviews you’ve garnered will definitely affect an agent’s consideration.  If you’re a romance writer who has self-pubbed and you have very low sales, to an agent or editor it’s a signal that you haven’t garnered an audience and who is to say that we will be able to change that?

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?

At its core, the job of an agent is to be an advocate, protector, strategist, and sounding board.  No matter how the landscape of publishing changes, I don’t see that role changing.  I think that we will adapt and develop different skills or ways of approaching things, but those are means rather than the ends.

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

Bragging time!  I love all of my authors and you can see a full list of my clients on my blog, Literary Carrie, but some examples of the great people I represent are USA Today Bestseller Lauren Smith, NYT Bestseller Suzy K. Quinn, Peabody finalist Marlo Mack, 2015 ASJA Honorable Mention author Dean A. Haycock, and Erin Peabody, whose children’s series Behind the Legend earned a starred Booklist review!  

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.

Sure!  Here are some recent interviews I’ve done:
·         Scripts and Scribes
·         Manuscript Wish List
·         Agent for Dinner
·         Publishers Weekly
Also see Carrie's Guest Post with debut author E.M. Castellan at Literary Rambles (03/2020)

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

I will only respond to queries sent via the LDLA query email, so please be sure to send your pitches that way and do not email me directly!

Also, please follow me @literarycarrie to stay up-to-date on my #MSWL tweets and check out my blog, Literary Carrie, to enter my monthly query critiques, read my tips, and get a peek into what is going on in my life!

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

Decide what is important to you in terms of representation early on and stick to your guns.  Do you want an editorial agent, a diverse agent, one who communicates frequently, who has a record of only pursuing Big Five publishers or one who helps his/her authors find other great homes?  Oftentimes, I think that after the long slog of querying, authors can get so excited to get an offer from an agent that they don’t really stop to consider whether or not that agent is the perfect match for them. 
In a similar vein, I also think that sometimes when authors have multiple offers coming in, they feel compelled to pick the biggest, shiniest name rather than the one whose vision or philosophy aligns most closely with theirs. Sometimes a great fit for one author isn't a great fit for another, and even a great agent might end up being the wrong agent for you.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Carrie.

­Carrie 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 March 10th.  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.

Profile Details:
Last updated: 5/21/2020
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes
Reviewed By Agent?  N/A

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.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley here to share about Linda's MG historical fiction MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON. I'm super excited to read it because it's set in the mid-1950's in rural Mississipi.

And FYI, I did an agent spotlight interview with Elizabeth last month so be sure to check it out to see what she's looking for.

Here's a blurb of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON from Goodreads:

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Now here's Linda and Elizabeth!

How My Editor Became My Agent

Linda: When I was an un-agented writer admiring everyone else’s “success stories” from the sidelines, I always wondered why some authors switched agents. I spent six years trying to get just one agent to say yes to my manuscripts while some authors snagged the attention of two or three agents in the same timeframe. Though I was amazed at their success, I made a vow that if I ever got a yes, I would never switch agents. It was too much work to get the first one! Yet, here I am. I have switched agents even though my first agent was a good one. So why did I switch?

When I found out Elizabeth was leaving Houghton Mifflin, I was cool with it, at first. I thought, Okay, she’s going to another publisher. There’s a chance we’ll work together again. But when I found out she was becoming an agent, I was heartbroken! I thought, We’ll never work together again! I felt like a limb had been severed!

Elizabeth, what type of emotions did you have regarding the authors you worked with when you made the decision to switch from editor to agent?

Elizabeth: Looking back, I think that giving up my role as editor for talented writers like Linda was
one of the hardest parts of my decision process. Honestly, I felt nervous, wondering if I’d be able to capture the close connection that can develop between a writer and an editor. Also, it was a privilege to edit these books, and I didn’t want any of my authors to think that I took that privilege lightly. But, it was also time for me to make a change, so I had to brave my nerves and hope that I would have the opportunity to create new agent-author connections.

Linda: A few days passed, and I was still feeling down about not being able to work with Elizabeth as my editor. A thought crossed my mind: I could hire her as an editor on my next project if she’s open to it. The thought of her becoming my agent never crossed my mind those first few days. Never. Why? Because I already had a wonderful agent.

Elizabeth, did the thought cross your mind that any of the authors you worked with would become your clients?

Elizabeth: Not really! After being in the business for 15 years, I was hopeful that I would get referrals from writers that I had worked with in the past, but I didn’t contemplate representing any of my past authors. Most of them have terrific literary agents, already, so I wouldn’t have wanted to interfere with a good thing.

Linda: Then I had the craziest thought, I could ask Elizabeth to be my agent. I even ran the idea by one of my agent-siblings who thought that surely I had lost my mind. As I said, I already had a great agent, and her clients are a pretty close-knit group. So this was not an easy decision. But after a few more days of thought, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to continue working with Elizabeth—except, she would now be my agent rather than my editor. Still, I didn’t make the decision lightly. I Googled: “Authors whose editors became their agents.” I asked author friends who had switched agents why they had done so. I even talked to people who had switched jobs which had nothing to do with publishing what they thought of the idea. In the end, I finally emailed Elizabeth and asked her if she would consider representing me. And, for the second time in a two-year timeframe, I got a “yes” from an agent even though it was not through a traditional query.

Elizabeth, what were your thoughts when you received Linda’s nontraditional “query” in your inbox?

Elizabeth: From the moment that I first read Linda’s debut, Midnight Without a Moon, I felt connected to her work and to her voice. Her protagonist, Rose Lee Carter, feels so real to me, and I absolutely love being transported to Rose’s life in 1950s Mississippi. Talking to Linda and reading her work energizes me and reminds me why I love children’s literature and American literature. So, when she sent me that fateful email, I thought: wow! This is a really special opportunity. I felt honored.

Linda: You might be wondering why I felt so strongly about continuing to work with Elizabeth. Well, here’s why:

Elizabeth has edited two books that I’ve written: Midnight Without a Moon (she came up with that title, by the way) and A Sky Full of Stars. Elizabeth not only edits with a gentle hand—saying things like, “I don’t want to change too much and mess up the good thing you have going here,”—but she seems to have the ability to know exactly what I meant to write even when I didn’t write it. When I received my editorial letter for A Sky Full of Stars, all I could do was laugh. Every suggestion Elizabeth made was a plot thread that I had in mind originally, but I was too lazy to write into the story. It’s like she has the superpower of editorial x-ray vision and can see right through my laziness.

Elizabeth, why do you think it’s important that an editor (or an editorial agent) not put “too much” of his/her own ideas into an author’s work?

Elizabeth: I am in awe of talented writers, pure and simple, and I believe it’s my job to offer thoughts and suggestions that may inspire writers to take their work to the next level. I’m not afraid to dive deep into revisions with writers, but I always want to be sure that the author’s vision is respected.

Linda: In addition to being able to “see” exactly what I meant to write even though I didn’t write it,
Elizabeth also tends to love the characters that I’m always afraid she’ll ask me to cut from the story. In our second round of revisions for Midnight Without a Moon, Elizabeth felt like some of the family members needed to be cut in order to keep middle-grade readers from getting too confused. (Yes! Rose’s family was a bit larger in the original manuscript.) I was so happy when Elizabeth didn’t ask me to cut Rose’s aunt Ruthie, stating “Aunt Ruthie is the true tragedy in this family.” My thoughts: Yes! She totally gets this story!

When the rough-and-tumble character Shorty Cooper showed up in the sequel, A Sky Full of Stars, I absolutely loved him (He reminds me of some of my cousins!). But I was pretty sure Elizabeth would say he was too rough for middle grade and would ask me to cut him out of the story. I braced myself for this “suggestion.” Instead, Elizabeth loved Shorty as much as I did!

Elizabeth, what makes you fall in love with a character?

Elizabeth: Oh, that’s a hard question! I guess my short answer is that I end up falling for characters A
Sky Full of Stars—which you should!—you’ll recognize Shorty and think of someone in your life.
who are complicated—the ones who make choices that I can’t predict but that I can ultimately understand. In the cases of Shorty and Aunt Ruthie, I connected with them because they were both unique and universally relatable. If you read

Closing thoughts from Linda: As you can see, Elizabeth and I pretty much have the same vision for my stories. And the characters that I love to write—but am afraid no one will like—are the main characters that she loves to read. How could I not continue to work with her on future stories, especially if I’m going to continue to write stories about Rose Lee Carter and the pre-civil rights era Mississippi Delta? This, my friends, is why (and how) my editor became my agent.

Closing thoughts from Elizabeth: Thanks for this opportunity to talk writing, agenting, and Linda Williams Jackson!

Links for Linda:
Website: http://www.jacksonbooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaWJackson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004166352429
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindawilliamsjackson/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14987480.Linda_Williams_Jackson

Links for Elizabeth:
Website: http://www.sll.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elizbewley/

Linda has generously offered a hardback of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON 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 February 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 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day and the whole week. The play that I am producing and running Front of House for my boyfriend has it's first show on Thursday that week.

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Friday, March 2nd I'll be participating in the Lucky Is Reading Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, March 7th I have an interview with debut author Jen Petro-Roy and a giveaway of her MG contemporary P.S. I MISS YOU

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! 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: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Optional Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

That's an easy one for me. I write fantasy, and I love the magic and different worlds with fairies, elves, magical creatures, etc.. If I could go into a world like Harry Potter and live, I'd love it! So at least by writing about it, I can pretend that all this magic exists. And fantasy stories tend to be plot-based, which is something I like to focus on in my writing too.

What about you? What do you love about the genre that you write in?`

Now onto my debut author interview. Today I’m excited to have debut author Brenda Rufener here to share about her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE. I’m excited to read it because it deals with homelessness, something I feel passionate about like. This sounds like a strong story told in a realistic and sensitive manner that’s gotten good reviews.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From debut author Brenda Rufener comes a heart-wrenching and evocative story perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Girl in Pieces, and All the Bright Places.

Linden Rose has a big secret--she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea's life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.

Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea's story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she's worked so hard to keep.

Hi Brenda! Thanks for joining us.

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

So great to be here, and thank you for having me. I am a technical writer turned novelist, mother of two, and an advocate and volunteer for homeless youth. I’d been writing stories since I can remember, won a few creative writing awards as a teen, and majored in English in college. I attribute my publication journey to the experience I gained as a tech writer. It’s where I learned to manage tight deadlines, meet daily or weekly word count goals, and view writing as a career instead of a hobby.

2. I love that you started as a technical writer because I'm a contract writer. It gives me hope that I can make the leap. Where did you get the idea for WHERE I LIVE?

Linden’s character lived with me (in my mind) for a while. My family went through a stage of
housing insecurity during my early teen years and for a short time, we were essentially homeless–waiting for a rental to come up that we could afford. Money was tight and we stayed with relatives and slept on couches. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I remember friends wanting to come over and hang out, but I was always saying no, embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t have my own room, or home for that matter. In fact, I was sleeping on a relative’s couch, sharing the living room with the rest of my family. I didn’t have it as tough as some homeless teens, but in writing this book I was able to draw on personal experiences, pull from emotions and insecurities that I had as a teen living on the brink of homelessness.

3. Those must have been hard experiences to draw on. I know that you are a passionate advocate of homeless youth from your bio. Share a bit about this and how you drew on this when writing WHERE I LIVE.

The main character, Linden Rose, is partly inspired by a group of incredible women I spent time with in college as a volunteer for a literacy program. I worked with young women facing adverse circumstances, many of them homeless. These women were tenacious, unwilling to give up, even in the face of incredible adversity. Drawn to their persistence and positivity, I wished teen-me had known these women when I faced a similar situation. I may not have felt so alone in my experience. Where I Live is a tribute to those strong and resilient women.

4. Your book has been getting great reviews as a sensitive and realistic portrayal of Linden Rose, your main character. Share how she developed as a character. What advice do you have for others trying to write about a character that may be going through some sensitive problems, like homelessness, abuse, etc.

Much of my research on homelessness came from working with homeless teens. The personal experience I had with homelessness allowed me to draw on my own struggles and insecurities, but having worked with homeless young adults gave me a different perspective.

If you don’t have firsthand experience with a sensitive topic you are writing on, research is critical. Read nonfiction and fiction portrayals, volunteer, meet people who can help shape you as a writer by showing you their situations. Then seek readers who will help you avoid stereotypes, tired tropes, etc., and always offer to pay your sensitivity readers.

5. That sounds like such a fantastic experience to work with these teens. I don’t feature that many contemporary authors. What are keys to a good, riveting contemporary plot like yours?

For years I thought world building only applied to fantasy, but it’s just as important when writing contemporary. To me, the best novels draw the reader into the setting. Whether that’s building a fictional town and giving voice to the people who live there or creating an atmosphere that the reader gets lost in, world building is essential.

My books tend to be character-driven. I find knowing my characters, their motivations and desires, are critical to plot. Building a riveting, contemporary plot requires the writer to sit back at the scene level and ask if that character would really say or do what you’ve added to the page.

6. What was something that surprised you about working with your publisher? Why?

How it takes a village to publish a book. From your editorial team to sales and marketing, the number of hands involved in bringing a book to the shelf astounds me. When I was a kid, I thought books magically appeared on the shelves. Not exactly. I’m also amazed at the work that goes into creating the cover. The jacket changed a few times for Where I Live. We had remarkable graphic designers and amazing artists help create the perfect cover.

7. Looking back on the time from signing with your agent and your book release, what are essential marketing and building your social platform steps you did or wish you did during this time period?

Valuable advice I received early on in the publishing process was to find a social platform you enjoy. Some authors are amazing at Twitter while others share the most beautiful Instagram photos. Finding a place that feels good to you matters. Currently, I am bouncing back and forth between Twitter and Instagram and spending a bit more time on Instagram. It’s a happy place.

8. I've heard that advice too that you should focus on what you enjoy. What are you working on now?

I’m excited to share my next book, coming in 2019, Since We Last Spoke. You’ll meet Aggi and Max, two teens torn apart by unimaginable pain and guilt over the loss of their siblings. This is another book close to my heart that focuses on a love that’s desperately trying to survive, in spite of everything coming against it. I’ll be sharing more about this book in upcoming months.

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

Twitter:  @BrendaKRufener or https://twitter.com/BrendaKRufener
Intstagram: @BrendaRufener or https://www.instagram.com/brendarufener/
Facebook: @BrendaRufenerAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/BrendaRufenerAuthor/

Brenda has generously offered an ARC of WHERE I LIVE 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 February 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 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day and the whole week. The play that I am producing and running Front of House for my boyfriend has it's first show on Thursday that week.

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Monday Everyone! I'm excited to have agent Peter Knapp here from Park Literary & Media to answer some of your questions.  You can read his updated Agent Spotlight to learn more about what he's looking for in submissions.

1. What's the first thing that turns you off in a query letter?

Hopefully nothing! In truth, though, when a query fails to excite me, it is usually no one problem but instead an issue of the pitch failing to come together as a whole. It’s similar to how I evaluate manuscripts that I am considering: I’m not looking at any one area of craft (just world building or just pacing or just characterization, etc.) but instead how all of these work in concert with one another. The elements of your query need to coalesce in a similar way: are you giving us a character we can care about; are you defining the core premise of the story in a way that is compelling; are the stakes clear; is the tone of the query exciting and fitting for the premise and genre? I know, I know: agents are hard to please (it’s our nature—and certainly one of the reasons we are in the business of negotiating), but so are readers.

If I do have specific query turn-offs, they are: opening with rhetorical questions; too much space spent on talking about the themes of the story or the inspiration behind it; a lack of focus to the premise (aka, lots of plot threads are dropped into the query but it’s unclear what’s at the center of them all or how they braid together).

2. What does 'I just didn't love it enough' really mean? 

I’m not sure how helpful this is, but it really means just that.

Think of your own reading tastes. Do you remember that book that everyone was saying they LOVED and you can hear the caps in their voice? But then you bought your copy (they wouldn’t lend you theirs—it was too precious) and with great excitement jumped in, only to think: really…this? Or think about a novel that is so near and dear to your heart that you carried the paperback around like a talisman for weeks after finishing it. But when you asked your friend what they thought of it three whole weeks after telling them they HAD to read it so that they might understand you better, your friend answered, “I’m only on chapter three but I’m liking it so far,” and all you can think is, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” because it’s clear they will never finish it, it’s clear that they don’t get it—what’s worse still, that they don’t get you.

I’m sure hearing from an agent that this business is subjective can sometimes feel like they’re just finding a way to be kind while turning you down, and perhaps they are, but it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong: this business really is rooted in the opinions of individual readers. One agent’s “I didn’t love it enough” is the next agent’s, “This is my heart in book form.” I’ve passed on manuscripts that have gone on to sell in big deals and that are beloved by readers. I’ve been the only agent to offer on manuscripts that have gone on to sell in big deals and are likewise beloved by readers. Keep writing, keep querying, and don’t worry if one agent didn’t love it enough – they’re just not your reader, and that’s okay.

3. World building is a huge category. If an agent says, 'work on world building' What are they most likely talking about? 

World building is a huge category, and so they might be talking about any number of things within it. All I can say without reading a specific manuscript is that two of the big issues I frequently see with world building are too much world building that isn’t rooted in narrative, or world building without clear and consistent rules.

The first issue—too much world building that isn’t tied to story—has to do with info dumps and too much exposition, especially in the beginning of the book. Often, writers feel the need to tell too much about their world in the first chapters before it is relevant to the story and its characters, and so it begins to feel like our story is being interrupted by little encyclopedia entries. This is a problem for a few reasons: first, it can kill the pacing in the beginning of the book, before you’ve fully hooked your reader, and so you risk losing them; second, it makes it so that the reader is overwhelmed with information and receiving it in a way that doesn’t “stick”. In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gotschall talks about how people’s brains have evolved to learn through narrative: we remember facts when they’re part of story better than when we get them in isolation. So, if a reader tells you that they “don’t understand how that spell works in chapter 15,” you might be inclined to defend the manuscript by pointing to a long section in chapter three where it is explained in detail, but don’t be too quick to dismiss the reader as inattentive; the problem may be that you didn’t deliver the information in an exciting, narratively driven way such that your reader is more likely to retain the information.

The second problem—not having clear and consistent rules—is a big one with stories that have magic systems. Magic systems have to be airtight and the rules of magic should be established relatively early in your book. A problem I often see in fantasy is that a character will find themselves facing some dire problem, and lo and behold, suddenly the magic is able to do something new that allows them to escape their situation (often they just have to concentrate hard or access some deep emotional connection to their magic so that they can access new and previously unknown powers). This always feels a little like cheating because it isn’t grounded in the rules that were previously established for the world and so it feels like the magic system is being twisted to help the plot along rather than forcing the character to do something truly clever within the confines of the established rules. It’s just too easy, and it ruins the credibility of the world building.

4. Do you judge the project by the query alone, or do you also read the first couple of pages sent before coming to a conclusion?

Another person asked a similar question: “At what point do you stop reading and hit the reject letter?” I will answer both here: as soon as I decide the book is not for me. Sometimes, this happens with the query letter…the premise doesn’t intrigue me enough or the story doesn’t have a focus or it feels too close to something on my list or there’s no emotional hook to the query (which is really critical for me). Often, I decide to pass once I’ve started the sample pages: the writing doesn’t do it for me for one reason or another. And sometimes, I request a manuscript and read beyond the first ten sample pages but discover that as I keep reading, I begin to lose steam because the plot meanders (this happens a lot in second acts) or the pacing feels sluggish or the story jumps the shark somehow—or often some combination of problems. In any case, as soon as I realize that the submission has lost me, I reject it. This doesn’t mean, though, that as soon as I see a problem in a manuscript, I reject it. If there’s a problem but the manuscript still has me hooked, it is often because I have the editorial vision to know how to fix it, and so I am still excited to be reading it and will even start taking notes to go over with the author.

5. Why might you or another agent request a partial vs a full, or vice versa? If there might be interest, why not just go ahead and request the full?

Honestly, I’m not sure – with my queries, I always request full manuscripts if I’m interested!

Thanks for all your advice, Peter!

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Happy Friday Everyone! I hope you are having a good start to your year and are reading some great books. I'm definitely reading more right now and enjoying it. I am excited to be participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck In Books.

Just want to remind you of my Monday debut author interviews and guest posts that include a giveaway. I also have agent spotlight interviews with literary agents with query critique giveaways for aspiring authors. Please take advantage of this all and enter my contests.

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.




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 February 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:

Monday, February 5th I'll have a Q&A with agent Peter Knapp

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Friday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop: