Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Pam Gruber Query Critique through March 6th

Let's Get Lucky Giveaway Hop through March 16th

Pride and Premeditation through March 20th

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Caryn Wiseman and Merriam Sarcia Saunders Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/15/2021

Jennifer Herrington Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/17/2021

Emily Fortney Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/14/2021

Agent Peter Knapp and Author Daniel Aleman Guest Post and Query Critique and Indivisible Giveaway on 5/5/2021

Joyce Sweeney Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2021

Michelle Hauck Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/19/2021

Agent Maura Kye-Cassella and Author Sam Subity Guest Post and The Last Shadow Warrior on 5/24/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Melissa Richeson here. She is an associate literary agent at Apokedak Literary Agency.

Hi­ Melissa! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Melissa:

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

Short story: I became an agent after interning for Sally at the Apokedak Literary Agency for about a year. Long story: Sally and I met at a conference a few years ago, and I appreciated her insight and vision for the children’s book industry right away. When she opened her own agency, I applied for an internship in hopes of learning more about children’s books overall. During that year, I learned a lot about the business side of the publishing industry, which really piqued my interest, since I have a background in marketing. This past spring, Sally took a leap of faith and promoted me to associate agent. :)

About the Agency:

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

We’re a small, boutique agency, which I think gives us an edge in terms of personal service for and personal interaction with our clients. We’re also editorial, which means we like to help authors shine up the little things in the manuscript before submission. You only get one shot when it comes to submissions—might as well make it the best it can be! We also request the full manuscript and synopsis at time of query in an effort to really immerse ourselves in the storyline. We recognize that a story is more than its first pages (though first pages are still very important!). 

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 PB through YA. I’m drawn to witty wording and whimsical design for picture books, humor and quick pacing for chapter books, charming mysteries or low fantasy in middle grade, and lyrical, magical, character-driven stories in young adult.

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

In YA, I’d love to see more clean contemporary that’s aimed at younger readers, a smart, non-violent mystery, or a lighthearted rom-com with a witty, unpredictable twist. I’d also love fresh, hook-y MG—extra bonus points for non-bathroom humor.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

No horror, graphic violence, or erotica, please. Paranormal and sci-fi don’t usually fit my taste either, but I can be persuaded with a strong character arc.

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?

My philosophy—altruism, happiness, and fun! I want to represent authors who want to make the world a better place. I want to represent projects that make children feel happy and loved. And making books for kids should be fun!

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?

Yes. I make suggestions at both a concept level and a line level, usually based on my perceptions of marketability. Many times there will be multiple back-and-forth documents as we work together toward a final version. But the ultimate say goes to the author, of course.

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

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

I accept queries over e-mail (see below). I like short and sweet query letters that give me a good taste for the story in just a few sentences. Also, I think it’s best to keep the bio portion relevant to the project at hand. I really enjoy reading queries, so don’t be nervous! :)

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

I dislike it when people aren’t nice—a bullying tone (telling me I have to take a project on or else) is a turn off. It tells me that the author will not be pleasant to work with. I also dislike an impatiently worded followup. And I especially dislike a rude response to my polite, personal decision. (I was once told to squeeze a pair of sea urchins, among other things. Not nice.) 

Response Time:

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

Our official agency line is twelve weeks or less for a decision, since the full manuscript should be attached in the first place. Because I’m still building my list, I try my best to keep it under the four week mark personally…but that’s not a promise. ;)

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?

Sure! But it’s in your best interest to query something new. Moving a previously published book to a different house is not my area of expertise. A new manuscript allows for a fresh start!

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?

Time will tell, I suppose. Right now I see myself as an advocate for authors while also looking out for editors. That’s why I take the editorial part of my role so seriously—I want to give authors the best chance, AND I also want to give editors a story worth falling in love with.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

13. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

Links and Contact Info:

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

Please submit a query letter plus the first ten pages pasted into the body of the email; add the full manuscript and synopsis as attachments. 
Email: melissa.richeson at apokedakliterary dot com 

Additional Advice:

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

Never underestimate the power of a critique group. I know it can be scary to have other people look at and pick apart your work, but the experience is so valuable. (In fact, those who mention being part of a critique group in their query letter always get a little extra attention from me, honestly.) Also, don’t give up! Rejections will happen at every level—learn from them and press on. Your story will not resonate with everyone—that’s just the nature of this subjective business. Keep going until you find the right people to champion your work. 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melissa.

­Melissa 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 September 7th.  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: 5/25/2020. 
Agent Contacted for Review? No
Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A
Comment: Confirmed her agency and submission status

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

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.


Hi All! I am terribly sorry but the blog was offline for about a week because our domain name with GoDaddy expired. I was on vacation when it happened, and it took me a few days to reach Casey, my former blog partner, to renew it. I am so sorry about that. I'm SO relieved that she took care of it right away.

I am extending the deadline to enter the Newly Released MG & YA Book Giveaway until August 31st because of this.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Wednesday, September 4th I have an interview with debut author Mara Rutherford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL and my IWSG post

Monday, September 9th I have an interview with debut author Sara Faring and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TENTH GIRL

Monday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Marlo Berliner

Monday, September 23rd I have a guest post by Martin Cavannagh from Reedsy

Hope to see you on Monday, August 26th!


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm doing a newly released MG and YA book giveaway. It's an opportunity to spotlight some new books I can't otherwise feature, give you another chance to win recent debut author books I've shared, and shout out again about followers' newly released books.

I'm doing this because there is no giveaway hop this month. I'm starting this feature on a trial basis and will continue it if I get a good response.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA books and recent books by followers that I hope you're looking forward to reading.  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 of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through August 31st. 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. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Wednesday, September 4th I have an interview with debut author Mara Rutherford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL and my IWSG post

Monday, September 9th I have an interview with debut author Sara Faring and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TENTH GIRL

Monday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Marlo Berliner

Monday, September 23rd I have a guest post by Martin Cavannagh from Reedsy

Hope to see you on Monday, August 26th!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you're having a great summer. I just got back from a fun weekend with my mom visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins. And I am going to Dallas later this month with my daughter to visit my late husband's family. It's been my best summer since my husband died.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Gabrielle Byrne share about her debut MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON. Her book is a Junior Library Guild selection It sounds like it has beautiful world building and a main character with mysterious past, which is my kind of book. Can’t wait to read this.

Follower News

Angela Brown has a new adult book release, PEEL. Here's a blurb: 
Divinia “Divvy” Simone loves her daughter and making time for her passion for writing. Time for a love life? Not so much, especially not after being a divorced, single mother for several years.
That is, until Vance Mallard.
With Vance’s help, Divvy must put together her best friend’s wedding in under thirty days. The first week is the most crucial of all. Planning locations, music, and food are all par for the course. Peeling back the scarred layers protecting her heart? No way.
Vance has a plan of his own. And…
In one week, everything could change.
And a few links: 

Before I get to Gabrielle’s interview, I also 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 is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are: The co-hosts this month are Renee Scattergood,Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Optional Question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

There's two ways that my writing has taken me by surprise since I restarted writing for myself again. First, I've gotten better in writing since I took a break and focused on my contract writing job.

Second, I'm surprised where my story goes sometimes. I have a general outline but some important plot points and other parts of the story have changed in dramatic ways as I listen to my critique partners' suggestions and I try to create characters and a story line that is a little different.

How has your writing surprised you?

Now onto Gabrielle's interview. Here’s a blurb of RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON from Goodreads

The ice never forgives.

The ice never forgets.

Princess Toli may be heir to the throne, but she longs to be a fierce hunter and warrior. Alone in a frozen world, her queendom is at the mercy of the dragons that killed her father, and Toli is certain it’s only a matter of time before they come back to destroy what’s left of her family.

When the dragons rise and seize her mother, Toli will do anything to save her— even trust a young dragon who may be the only key to the Queen's release.

With her sister and best friend at her side, Toli makes the treacherous journey across the vast ice barrens to Dragon Mountain, where long-held secrets await. Bear-cats are on their trail, and dragons stalk them, but the greatest danger might be a mystery buried in Toli’s past.

Hi Gabrielle! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Everyone, and thanks so much for having me, Natalie! I’ve always loved to write--and in fact, wrote three books before I even decided to “be a writer”. It was really my first writing conference, and workshops on how to pitch to agents, that lit a fire under me to get published. My brain just hadn’t made the leap, from writing books to publishing them. Really, although of course they’re related, those are almost two separate journeys in my mind.

2. Where did you get the idea for RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON? 

It developed organically from two initial things. I knew I wanted Toli to be my main character. She started as a secondary character in a different book, and just took up residence in my brain. The other thing was the cold. I wanted to build Toli’s life around the idea of stories being told around a fire. I wanted to explore ideas about trust between siblings and between friends in the context of doubting those stories.

3. Awesome that Toli started as a secondary character in another story.The world you created is cold and icy but beautiful. What was your world building process like? What advice do you have on this for other fantasy writers?

For me, the story develops in tandem with the world building. I have a strong background in science, so I use that a lot too. I start with one or two things I want, and build around those things by asking questions about how needs are fulfilled. For example, in a cold world, how does each animal (or person) stay warm? What do they eat? What does their prey eat? What happens when they die? For the humans, what are their beliefs around each of those categories? Each question builds a richer place (and more questions). I never use all of it. I’d say only a third to half makes it into the book. I’m also a big believer in the setting being a character. Really, that’s about sharing emotional connections to the world, and making it feel real enough for the reader to expect things. For example, if your house smells like pancakes every Sunday morning, then one Sunday you wake up and it smells like burned rubber, you don’t need anyone to explain something’s wrong. The reader knows it, because they know the world. They have expectations that can be fulfilled, or countered.

4. I can see how science influences your world building. Toli, your main character, sounds like a strong leader, but also has her flaws. Share a bit about her and how her character developed as you told her story.

Toli was tough from the start--strong, but myopic. She can’t see that needing people doesn’t make her weak, and that making mistakes doesn’t make her a failure. What started as a kind-of social awkwardness and discomfort with feelings, evolved into the idea that her own flawed view of herself, and misunderstanding of her role in the world would impact all her decisions. Those decisions have consequences that move the story forward.

5. Share a challenge you had in revising your story with your agent or publisher. What did you learn from the process?

Tracking the days and the time were a big challenge. Instead of a sun, there are two moons that each rise and set differently on Ire. Over the course of a couple big edits, a lot of Toli’s journey shifted around, and the rising and setting of each moon, and the passage of time got all jumbled up. It took a while to untangle it. Now I keep notes that specifically track of the time of day, and passage of time in a story, at the start and end of each chapter. 

6. Your agent is Catherine Drayton. Tell us how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I queried Catherine with a book I had worked on as a Pitch Wars mentee. She loved it, and offered rep! Rise of the Dragon Moon was our third book together. From the time I went to that first writing conference that got me amped to publish, to the time I sold my debut to Macmillan, was about seven years. Depending on how you count (which always seems to be a question with authors), I think ROTDM was about the seventh or eighth book that I’d written.

7. That's great how Catherine worked with you on more than one book. How have you been building your social media platform and planning for your release? What are your plans to promote your book?

I work full time and have kids, so my time is really limited. Everything I’ve heard is that it’s better to
be fully in one or two places that you enjoy, than to be in lots of places in a less engaged way. I really enjoy twitter - so it’s my platform of choice. Some people know me there because of Pitch Wars, which is lovely. I do have a facebook account for family and friends (including author friends), and I have an instagram account that I’m terrible at keeping up with, but really Twitter is my happy place. I’ve been able to do some great panel events, including at the Emerald City ComiCon and the SFWA annual conference. Those were a blast, and it’s always fun and enlightening to engage with other authors. I also hope to work with libraries and schools to the extent that I’m able, and I’m especially excited to maybe do some workshops around worldbuilding through a natural history lens, since that’s my background. I’ll be piloting that at the GeekGirl Con in Seattle in November.

8. You have also been a #PitchWars mentor. Tell us about PitchWars and how this can help an aspiring author get to the next step in terms of obtaining an agent and publishing contract.

PitchWars is amazing for a lot of reasons. Yes, it can help people reach agents, and eventually get published, and for some it’s done just that. But one this it can definitely do is improve craft. It’s a great place to me other serious aspiring writers, and exchange material and experiences. For me--and for lots of other people, the benefits of Pitch Wars are much more about building a community of committed writers that you can rely on to help develop your craft, and eventually, your career. While there have certainly been big successes through Pitch Wars, writers are more likely to find their agents through the query process (as I did), but participating does give authors the opportunity to improve, and build a network of writers at the same time--a priceless and ongoing resource.

9. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a new middle grade fantasy for Macmillan/Imprint--The Edge of Strange Hollow, about a girl named Poppy Sunshine who wants to hunt cursed objects in a fairy tale forest called the Grimwood.

Thanks so much for your advice, Gabrielle. You can find Gabrielle at:

Twitter: @gkbyrne 
Instagram: gkbyrnebooks

Gabrielle has generously offered an ARC of RISE OF THE DRAGON 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 August 24th. 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 ARC giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up next:

Monday, August 12th I'm doing a monthly newly released MG and YA giveaway if there is no giveaway hop in August

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Monday, August 12th!