Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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 6/26/2024

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! I’m excited to have debut author Jessica Kim here to share about her middle grade contemporary, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! It sounds like a fantastic blend of humor and dealing with heavy issues that many middle graders can relate to.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her "Yu-MEAT" because she smells like her family's Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she's reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she's a girl named Kay Nakamura--and Yumi doesn't correct them.

As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

To be honest, I’d never really considered becoming a writer. In my former life, I was a classroom teacher and I assumed that I’d retire as one. It wasn’t until I moved away to New York City for three years and started a personal blog that I realized how much I enjoy storytelling. As my readership grew beyond my friends and family, I started to hear the comment, “You should really write a book!” and that stuck with me. So much so that when we moved back to California, I decided not to return to the classroom as planned but decided to pursue publication seriously. I joined a critique group and took some writing classes and pretty soon found the writing community, which has been very supportive.

2. Love how you got into writing. Where did you get the idea for STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!?

I really wanted to write about the complexities of being a second-generation American and the unique challenges we face toggling between our parents’ culture and the American one we grew up in. Specifically, I wanted to write about the desire to pursue something less conventional, something more creative, and more “risky.” At the time, I was dealing with my own conflicting feelings about a career in publishing and found myself second-guessing myself because of all the things I was taught when I was younger: do something practical, regular Americans aren’t interested in our stories, find a stable more predictable endeavor. At the same time, the passion I had for writing was growing and I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t at least try to chase my dream of writing a book. That inner turmoil became the seed for the idea of STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!

3. I bet a lot of kid will relate to the feelings you were dealing with. Your story has a lot of humor and jokes that Yumi is working on. People who have read it said that they laughed out loud. Did the humor come easy to you? What tips do you have for authors who want to write stories that include humor? 

Some of the observational humor that’s included in the narrative was easy for me to write, but the jokes and bits she uses in her acts on stage were very difficult. I have my own notebook full of jokes that never made it into the book. Comedy truly is a craft and I needed to hard work on making those bits work. As far as tips, I’d suggest simply spending time with young people, watching the media they find funny, and immersing oneself in that world. Personally, I have a ten-year-old daughter so that part is not a choice for me.

4. Yumi also has to deal with a lot more issues in the story, like disappointing her parents and
risking her dream. How did you create a balance the humor and serious moments in your story? 

I really wanted to write a fun adventure story full of hijinks and high tension but also one that went deep into authentic family relations and the conflicts that happen there. In a sense, the nature of that friction between Yumi and her parents naturally led to some of the more serious moments in the book. I was careful to bring comic relief throughout to maintain a balance between light and heavy. It’s kind of like seasoning your food when you’re cooking. A little of this, but not too much, and a little of that, but not too much.

5. I like the food analogy. What was a challenge you had in writing STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG? How did you overcome it?

I wanted to be careful about stereotypes. It was important that I portrayed the characters in an
authentic light without turning them into caricatures. In the first draft, I may have over-corrected in my writing of Mrs. Chung, Yumi’s mother. I was keenly aware of the way Asian women are often painted in Western media: stern and harsh tiger moms. So, in the original version she spoke perfect English, had a crush on George Clooney, and joked around with her kids. But she never really rang true to me. In my revision, I tried a few more times to nail her down and finally ended up writing her based on the moms I grew up with in my community. At first glance, especially in the first chapters, Mrs. Chung might come off as your stereotypical strict academic-minded Asian mom. However, as you read on and come to know her, you see more dimensions of her personality and by the end you’re rooting for her because you understand her and the tremendous love she has for her daughter. I learned that I can’t just write in reaction to the stereotypes that are out there. I need to write deeper to explore what’s beneath the surface and then, in my specificity, I can tap into the universal. 

6. Thao Le is your agent. How did you get your agent and what was your road to publication like? 

A year before I signed with my dream agent, Thao Le, I actually queried her with a different manuscript. I’ll never forget receiving her rejection email, it said something about how she couldn’t “connect to my voice.” I was devastated because there are a lot of things I can change about my writing, but voice wasn’t one of them. I thought that’d be the end of Thao and me. But then a year later, I pitched my new story, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! on #DVpit, a Twitter pitch event for marginalized writers and illustrators, and to my surprise she requested materials from me. I held my breath and sent it, bracing myself for another rejection. You know, because of my “voice.” But this time it was a YES! Just another reminder that we can’t give up hope and even if we get rejected, we can’t stop, we have to keep writing something else and keep trying.

7. That's a great story of how to get an agent that I think the rest of us wouldn't mind having. I saw on your website that you’ve planned a number of events since January 2020 outside of California, where you live. Were these events scheduled by your publisher or you? What was the experience like of attending them and making presentations as a new author? 

So far, all the events I’ve attended or will attend have been set up through my publisher. I haven’t been to a lot of events yet, but the few I attended were wonderful. It was so great talking about my book and the inspirations I had for it. I am currently working on making a presentation for my future school visits and I can’t wait to meet my young readers!

8. Besides events, what are other ways that you are promoting your book and building your social platform?

I’m working with my local indie bookstores to help boost other authors, moderating signings, and being active in my community promoting representation.

9. What are you working on now?

Currently working on writing book 2! Stay tuned for another fun middle grade novel soon.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica. You can find Kim at www.jesskimwrites.com and @jesskimwrites on all social platforms.

Jessica has generously offered an ARC of STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower  of my blog and leave a comment that includes your email address by April 18th. 

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. 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:

Tuesday, April 14 I am participating in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop 

Monday, April 20th I have a guest post with debut author Lorial Ryon and her agent Kristy Hunter and a giveaway of Lorial's MG magical realism INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS and a query critique by Kristy

Monday, April 27th I have an agent spotlight interview with Lindsay Davis and query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Tuesday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think it's cool that blogging made Jessica find her storytelling voice and grow an audience. Congratulations on the release!

R's Rue said...

I'd love to win.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm sure there was a lot to balance but Jessica had a lot of real-life to draw upon and make it sound authentic. Well done!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yumi sounds like such a delightful character. Your voice obviously shines through her.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Humor is so difficult to write. I've tried! How wonderful that Jessica was able to study what her ten-year-old daughter finds funny.

But with this pandemic, any events she planned have to be virtual. Best of luck!

Unknown said...

My students would love to read this book! carrolla@sw1.k12.wy.us

Greg Pattridge said...

Enjoyed reading how she connected with her agent...you just never know. Thanks for the inspiring interview. I look forward to reading and reviewing the book.

Brenda said...

Sounds like a wonderful story and how neat that you observed your daughter in order to get at the humor of a ten year old. Have a lovely week Natalie.

Danielle H. said...

This book has been a must read for me since I first read about it. I can't wait to know Yumi. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/614673187287056384/jessica-kim-interview-and-stand-up-yumi-chung

Michelle Mason said...

This book sounds fantastic! I love MG with humor.

Jemi Fraser said...

LOVE the premise for this book! I can see tons of kids (and adults) enjoying this one!

DMS said...

This book sounds amazing. I loved hearing about the revision process too. Sometimes it can be hard to nail down characters, but they take better shape during revisions. Thanks for sharing! I would love to win a copy of this book. I will share on twitter too. :)

Stay safe!

DMS said...


Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

I've heard so many great things about this book, and this interview makes me want to read it even more! It was especially interesting to hear about how Kim worked to portray Mrs. Chung. Thanks for the great interview!

Jenni said...

This book sounds really unique. I love humorous MG, and a character who wants to do stand up sounds fun. I really liked what Jessica said about digging deeper with her characters. Can't wait to read this one!

Patricia T. said...

I'm so glad Jessica listened to her inner muse. We need more books that include the struggles of second-generation Korean children. Her book really interests me. What a meaningful interview! Good luck, Jessica.

Music That Doesn't Suck said...

My ten year old daughter will love this! (and I retweeted the post - waughwright@gmail.com)

Debra Branigan said...

This sounds like an outstanding MG read that all readers can relate to. Thanks for sharing Best wishes to the author on the new release. I shared on twitter at (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1247503096361693184?s=20)
(dbranigan27 at gmail dot com)

Christi M. said...

Sounds like a terrific book and enjoyable read. I'd be mortified to do comedy and can't even imagine thinking about it at such a young age where every experience big or small seems so dramatic.

Lynn Rogalsky said...

Like this interview and know I'd love the book, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! I'm also writing a humorous/touching MG novel and would love this as a mentor text. Thank you, Natalie and Jessica for the giveaway opportunity!

Lynn Rogalsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn Rogalsky said...

Oops! My email address: lynn@lynnrogalsky.com
Thanks again! :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Sounds like the perfect book for right now. We could use some humor and positiveness.

tetewa said...

Thanks for the opportunity, count me in! tWarner419@aol.com

Patsy said...

I love the comparison between writing and seasoning our food. I'd never thought of it that way, but I totally agree. It might vary from genre to genre, but all stories need a blend, not just a great dollop of one thing.

Rosi said...

I always enjoy reading your interviews and get a lot from them. Thanks for this one. I will pass on the giveaway. I have recently won a query critique from you. Thanks!

Maria Antonia said...

What a fun sounding book! Thanks for sharing. Really enjoyed the interview. :)

Marykate said...

This book looks great! Can't wait to read it!

Yolanda Renée said...

Sounds like a great book to learn about humor and how to write it. Thanks for the interview, I'll be picking this one up!

Computer Tutor said...

That book sounds fresh, clever, funny, and a hit! Good luck with the launch.

Sherry Ellis said...

Sounds like a great story for middle-grade readers!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I like that you incorporated humor into your story, and stand-up comedy is no easy feat. Best of luck to Jessica! Stay well Jessica and Natalie.


Tyrean Martinson said...

I love that you found a way to balance humor with deeper issues in your book. Excellent interview!

Steph Lau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy P said...

Follow you on Goodreads. There's no follow option on your Facebook page. Thanks for the chance. positive DOT ideas DOT 4you AT gmail DOT com

Lauren said...

I think my daughter would like this book!

diedre Knight said...

Terrific interview! The book sounds really good.