Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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

Guest Post: Agent Janna Bonikowski and Debut Author Casie Bazay and Not Our Summer and Query Critique Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you’re having a great start to summer, which is right around the corner. Today I’m excited to have debut author Casie Bazay and her agent Janna Bonikowski here to share about Casie’s YA contemporary Not Our Summer. It sounds like a great story about families and summer trips that I’m hoping to read this summer.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Five trips, two cousins, one family feud, and a summer that will change their lives forever.

It's bad enough that estranged cousins Becka and KJ see each other at their grandfather's funeral, but when he leaves them a bucket list of places to visit together over the summer, so they can earn their inheritance, it seems like things are about to get much worse.

However, with each trip the cousins complete -- like riding mules into the Grand Canyon or encountering a bear and a hot tour guide at Yellowstone -- they steadily learn about and begin to trust one another. That is until the truth behind Grandpa's bucket list, and their family feud, is revealed, testing Becka and KJ far beyond their limits.

 Before I get to Casie’s and Janna’s guest post, I have my IWSG post and also want to let those of you who follow by email know that I switched my email subscription service to follow.it because Feedburner is no longer going to be supported by Google. This is my first major change on the blog since Casey left the blog. She used to handle all these things. So if you're getting two email notices of posts, please delete the Feedburner one. Hopefully, you won't be getting those emails anymore.



Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

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!

The awesome co-hosts for the June 2nd posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Lee Lowery, Rachna Chhabria and meI’m so excited to co-host this month.

First, Yvonne Lewis at Nashville Cats asked me to let everyone know that her laptop broke during a thunderstorm. She got it working, but Blogger isn't working anymore. She'll be back as soon as she gets it fixed. She's a poet and has a great blog that I encourage you to follow.

Optional Question: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I’ve only finished one manuscript so far and am moving towards finishing my current one in the next four or five months. I think it’s a good idea to put it away for a few weeks before tackling revisions. It makes it easier to see the manuscript with fresh eyes. I’m also planning to take one of my turns in my critique group and see what overall revisions they suggest since they will have read all or most of the first draft as I wrote it.

What about you? Do you wait after you write your first draft before revising?

Casie Bazay and Janna Bonikowski Guest Post

A little about how I came to sign with Janna Bonikowski at The Knight Agency:

My path to signing with an agent and getting published wasn’t the traditional one because I actually got the publishing offer first. This occurred after an editor from Running Press Kids favorited my pitch for Not Our Summer during #pitmad in the fall of 2019. I had previously queried about sixty agents with this book (my fourth completed manuscript), and though I had quite a bit of interest, all the queries ultimately ended in rejections.

However, after getting the publishing offer, I still really wanted an agent to help guide me through the process of signing with a Big 5 imprint, so I did one last round of querying. I ended up receiving two offers of representation and decided to sign with Janna in January of 2020!

Instead of doing the usual tell-about-ourselves blog post, Janna and I decided to each share about a personal summer road trip experience since road trips and traveling are a major part of Not Our Summer. So here goes!


Most of the road trips I’ve taken have involved camping, either in truck bed camper, RV, or fifth wheel. I grew up camping with my family quite a bit, and now, my husband and kids and I take the occasional camping trip in our teardrop trailer as well. I’ve traveled to many places over the years and have also been to three of the destination that KJ and Becka travel to in Not Our Summer: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Key West. They are, in fact, three of my favorite places ever, but for the purposes of this post, I thought I’d pick a road trip unrelated to the story.

The summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, my family and I packed up our late 1970’s model RV for a two-week trip to Florida. Our ultimate destination was Disney World, and even though the beloved theme park was absolutely amazing and definitely defied my expectations, some of the other places we visited along the way were just as memorable.

One such place was Manatee Springs State Park, near the Suwanee River in Florida. The spring itself was crystal clear, and bald cypress trees draped over the bright teal water, giving the area a swampy but magical feel. My family and I walked along a lengthy boardwalk through the trees, which allowed us to venture across the marshland and toward the Suwannee River. We hoped (and also feared) that we might see an alligator along the way. To our disappointment (and relief), we didn’t. Nor did we see any manatees in the area either, but it’s still a place I will never forget.

After visiting Disney World, we then spent a week at the beach near Tampa where we splashed in the waves, built sand creations, and developed sunburns. I had been to the beach at Galveston, Texas as a small child, but visiting the beach in Florida was the first time I actually remember seeing the ocean and realizing just how small we are in comparison to this great big world. It, too, is a memory that has stuck with me.

On the way home, our RV broke down at one point, and I remember spending the day in a church parking lot somewhere in the South, exploring the small, adjacent cemetery while my dad worked on the vehicle. It was hot and humid and we’d had our fill of sightseeing, but it was just one of those hiccups people sometimes deal with while on a road trip—especially when driving an old RV. We eventually made it back home to Oklahoma, eager to get our photos processed and relive those two magical weeks. I’m fairly certain my parents and my younger brother would also say it was one of their favorite vacations as well.


I have been on so many road trips, they all blur together into one rear-end-numbing, out-the-window-staring, are-we-there-yet-hearing lump. I have family on all four edges of the US, and I logged many summer hours in the back of my moms old blue station wagon visiting them. More still in my own car as an adult with my kids are we there-ing” in the backseat. 

Ive driven through snow in Flagstaff, Arizona to play in the Pacific Ocean on Christmas Day. Driven through entire towns that smell like feedlots. (The smell of money,” according to my cattle-ranching father.) Ive seen Mt. Rushmore, Old Faithful, the Taos Pueblos, the White House, and the Worlds Biggest Windchime. (Why not?) 

Johnny Cash could have been singing about me with Ive Been Everywhere.” Or I could be singing it. (On second thought, no. No one wants to hear that. Especially on a long car ride.)

But KJ and Beckas road trip to Key West reminded me of one road trip in particular. It was a summer tradition for my brother and I to travel to North Dakota to visit my grandparents. Most years, my dad would drive us halfway and wed meet my grandparents, finishing the two-day trip with them. But on this trip, my older brother had just graduated, had a drivers license and a car, and we were teenagers with freedom.

I was mainly concerned about getting lost—trust my older brother to navigate? No thank you—and whether his hand-me-down car would make the trip. He was mainly concerned with talking to truck drivers on the radio.

We drove up US Route 54 through Dalhart, Texas and Liberal, Kansas, making our way on two-lane roads up through the center of the country. We stayed overnight at a hotel in the aforementioned town that smelled of feedlot. He drove, dodging every states main summer crop—the orange barrel––and I picked out cassettes to play when we couldnt find a station.

Dodge City. Salina. Sioux Falls. It isnt the most scenic drive. Certainly not vacation destinations. But we were on our own, and the freedom from parental oversight had us getting along for the first time in our history.

Maybe its shared memories, or just being inside your own four-wheeled bubble, but theres something special about the bond you form on a road trip.

Thanks for sharing, Casie and Janna!

Casie’s Bio

Casie Bazay is a former middle school teacher who now works as a freelance writer, editor, and author. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, spending time at the barn with her horses and goats, reading, and watching movies. Casie lives on a hay farm in Oklahoma with her husband and two children but loves traveling to new and exciting destinations whenever she can.

Twitter: @casiebazay

Instagram: @Casie_Bazay

Facebook: @casiebazayyaauthor

Website: casiebazay.com

Janna’s Bio

Janna Bonikowski joined the Knight Agency in 2016 with several years of experience as both an independent editor and a freelance editor for Lyrical Press/Kensington. She holds a bachelors degree focused on business and economics, but her passion for books made a career in publishing inevitable.

Jannas clients have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists. She is actively building her list, focusing on finding authors with unique viewpoints and fresh, engaging stories to tell.

Agency Website: https://knightagency.net

Twitter: @Jannabonikowski

Giveaway Details

Casie has generously offered a hardback of Not This Summer and Janna has offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by June 19th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is international.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, June 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katherine Wessbecher and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 14th I have an interview with debut author Joanne Rossmassler Fritz and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Everywhere Blue

Wednesday, June 16th I’m participating in the Dad-o-mite Giveaway Hop

Monday, June 21st I have an interview with debut author Mike Thayer and a giveaway of his MG fantasy The Double Life of Danny Day

Monday, June 28th I have an interview with Sacha Wunsch, founder of As You Wish Literary, with a 5 first pages plus query critique or 10 first pages critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!





Cathrina Constantine said...

Putting aside your finished first draft is a good idea. Like you said, to see it with fresh eyes. I don't wait too long because I'm too antsy. However, I have gone back to a ms that I had shelved for quite a while and after reading a few paragraphs I can see the problems instantly.
It's nice that you have wonderful critique partners!

Thank you for co-hosting.

Unknown said...

The idea of writing about a road trip has come up for me over the past week! Maybe this is my inspiration sign that I need to write it. Thank you for the inspiration.

Liza said...

I love the premise of this story. Congratulations, Casey. I am about to go on a road trip myself. Thank you both for sharing your experiences!

Lynn La Vita said...

"Not Our Summer" sounds intriguing. The blurb caused me to reflect on what it would be like to travel with my sister.
Good luck with your new email app.
Thank you for co-hosting this month.
Lynn La Vita @ http://la-vita.us/write/

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Get some revision tips - it will make editing so much easier.
Yvonne let me know about her laptop. Real bummer.
Thanks for co-hosting!

Nancy Gideon said...

Growing up, our road trips consisted of going "Up North"- a 3-hr drive into the Michigan wilderness that began with a trailer and outhouse (with spiders!) until we built our cabin. Looking back at it now, those were wonderful times. I've more than made up for the lack of early wonderlust by traveling the US to writers conferences. Favorite spot - New Orleans!

J.Q. Rose said...

I remember the road trip our family took to New York state. My mom had motion sickness so bad. We pulled over many times along the way to empty her cup alongside the road. That was also the trip my brothers told me not to eat the goat's milk fudge because it had goat hair in it. So, I didn't. !!! Congratulations to Casey. Enjoyed the interviews and articles.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Your post has brought back so many memories. Road-trips were special times when I was a kid, 100 years ago. Haha. Thanks for co-hosting, Natalie. Congratulations to Casie.

Leigh Caron said...

I love road trips...no matter how short or long...the experiences are always worth it. Not My Summer sounds like an incredible journey for the two cousins.

Shamaila J said...

I agree with your editing style. I would give it a month before I go back to my manuscript to edit it with fresh eyes. Please do put me in for the query critique: shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Jemi Fraser said...

Poor Yvonne - hope that gets fixed soon!
Casie's book sounds great - love the premise!

Samantha Bryant said...

I like a decent break between drafts, to freshen my outlook. I don't always get it, but that's what I like :)

Erika said...

Good to know that you queried after the interest. I assumed getting an answer would take too long.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, even I got an email from Follow.it to make the switch from Feedburner. I'll do it this week.

I ideally prefer a decent interval between drafts.

Not Our Summer looks great.

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, it's great that you have a critique group that can help you. Definitely take advantage of that!

Janna and Casie, I loved your travel stories. Everyone loves a good road trip! Thanks for sharing and congrats on your new release. Sharing on Twitter!

S.VanZandt said...

Great post! Love road trip stories - so many opportunities for tension and conflict! Sharing on Twitter, too!

Angie Quantrell said...

I like (or at least feel the need to) to leave my manuscripts alone for a month or more. Sometimes I am too excited and jump back in...other times those months turn into months. And years.

Congratulations, Cassie and Janna! Thanks for the summer road trip interview. Best wishes on your new book! It sounds like a perfect read!

I follow by email and I tweeted this post. :)

Angie Quantrell said...

And I spelled your name wrong, Casie! Sorry!

cleemckenzie said...

I love road trip stories. They always entertain me. Good luck Casie. I hope this book does very well.

Letting a manuscript sit before editing is good. I'm surprised at what I find after I haven't been buried in the story for a while.

Melissa said...

Are we there yet? My parents grew to hate that question. LOL

Thanks for co-hosting.

Pat Garcia said...

Yes, I do let my manuscripts sit before I edit them.
Thank you so much for co-hosting.
Wishing you a lovely month of June.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

PK HREZO said...

Hi Natalie! You always have such nice giveaways. Thanks for cohosting this month. And wishing you all the best with your WIP! Happy SUmmer!

Sadira Stone said...

I love a good road trip story! In July, we'll embark on our first road trip since the pandemic began. Looking forward to that despite the heat. Thanks for co-hosting!

C. D. Gallant-King said...

You always have so much going on! Cassie's book sounds great. Thanks for co-hosting!

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks for co-hosting the blog hop this month, Natalie!
You always have such wonderful giveaways!
Thanks for all that you do for writers and authors.

Good luck with your work-in-progress.

Anonymous said...

Road trip stories are fun to read. But I would sooner be eaten by a bear in Yellowstone Park than take one with my estranged cousins. It'd have to be one heck of an inheritance. :-D

By training, I always let a brief sit before editing, usually more than once. And when I published non-fiction, I always had a deadline looming, so lots of incentive there. My fiction, however . . . :-D

Loni Townsend said...

I peg my critique group with future book stuff every time it's my turn, and then hit up individual members to beta read when I'm ready. It's sometimes problematic because I'm a "edit-right-away" person because that's when the inspiration hits, and when I'm editing book 3, I'm not working on book 2. Whoops!

I hope you get good feedback from your critique group!

Computer Tutor said...

I love the story of how you found your agent. It gives hope to those of us who might otherwise have given up!

Carol Kilgore said...

I let mine sit, but not too long, since it takes me about a month to go through each draft.

Olga Godim said...

Fascinating road trips, Casie and Janna. I haven't traveled much myself, as I'm an armchair traveler. Books take me everywhere. Casie's book promises another great road trip.

emaginette said...

Mostly I tackle my second and third draft right away. I only take a rest before my beta reader's revision. Trying to clean it up as much as possible before they help me bump-it-up. ;-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Sandra Cox said...

'one rear-end-numbing, out-the-window-staring, are-we-there-yet-hearing lump.' I love it.
Wishing much success for NOT OUR SUMMER.
'Lo, Natalie:)

Jennifer Hawes said...

Camping season has begun! I prefer to day camp then sleep in my own bed at night. Good luck getting your second novel finished.

Juneta key said...

Sounds like lots of fun. Enjoyed reading. Congrats on books!

diedre Knight said...

As an avid road tripper, everything about this post pleasantly resonates. I'm sure I'll love NOT OUR SUMMER ;-)

Having "fresh eyes" is the key to objective editing. I call it changing hats. A little time in between makes it easier to be constructively hard on my defensive self :-)

Thank you for co-hosting and happy June!

Jenni said...

This sounds like a great read. I love books about road trips! Congrats, Natalie, on getting closer to finishing your second manuscript. It sounds like you have a fabulous critique group!

tetewa said...

Would love to get a copy! Bucket list on a road trip sounds like so much fun!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

You have so much amazing material coming up in the near future! Nicely done, Natalie. I agree about shelving a manuscript for a bit after completion. It helps clear the eyes and also the biases we've gained while writing that we can't see because we're too close to the material.

Fundy Blue said...

I love the premise of "Not Our Summer." I enjoyed reading about Casie's and Janna's road trips. That was something my family did not do when I was growing up. We went on summer moving trips, because we moved frequently. I've been to Dodge City and Liberal, Kansas a number of times, and I'd go again. Definitely not Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or Key West, but beautiful in their own ways.

Beth Camp said...

Hubby and I will travel just about anywhere. If one of us says, "Would you like to go . . . ," the other one gets out the suitcase. Leads to lots of adventures on the road! As long as I can take my laptop for writing, I'm just fine with that -- as your interesting interview with Janna suggests. And, you always have an amazing amount of work going on . . . planning, writing, revising, reviewing. Your energy is inspirational!

Liz A. said...

There's something about that first trip without the parents that is so freeing. And car problems are bound to crop up while on a long trip.

SC Seaman said...

Thanks for another great interview Natalie!

Adrienne Reiter said...

Congrats on finishing up manuscript 2. Sometimes I shelve my drafts of novels and shorts for months depending on my schedule. I'm a scheduling outliner in theory, and pantser in denial. Great interview post. I love learning about another's journey. Thank you for co-hosting!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Good luck on getting that second manuscript done!

Ah, road trips. I've done more than my share, and will do plenty more.

Steph W. said...

Seems like that small break is a common idea!

Lidy said...

Thank you for co-hosting today! I wait and shelve my WIP before I start redrafting.
I've only went on two road trips. Once in college up to a New Hampshire cabin, the cabin owned by my friend's uncle. It was only a couple of miles from the Canadian border. We visited and had lunch at a little cafe. Swam and went fishing at this huge lake. And visited this little spot where there was a gravitational pull that pulled the car backwards. Didn't go on another road trip until a few years ago. My husband and I, drove to Toronto with my inlaws and friends for Caribana. They still tell stories about what happened then (ahem me).

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Putting a manuscript away for a while definitely helps with giving you fresh eyes for editing.

Not Our Summer sounds great.

Rosi said...

I have put my manuscripts away for long periods before getting back to them. It's a good thing. This book sounds terrific. I love the concept. I'm going to put it on my list, but I will pass on the giveaways. I'm buried in books and not ready for another query critique right now. Thanks for a fun post. I have some road trip stories I could tell.

J Lenni Dorner said...

Let me know how things go with that followit program. I've never found a blog-email subscription service that I liked.

Great author you interviewed here! The books seems like a fun read.

Denise Covey said...

Hey yes follow.it contacted me about moving my subscribers. I found the process too difficult, but I managed to do the same thing at MailerLite - I hate fiddling with my HTML which you had to do for both!

Arlee Bird said...

Glad to hear that Yvonne got part of her computer problems fixed. I keep having new issues with Blogger but I think that's because those crazies keep tweaking what was already working just fine.

I enjoyed hearing the road trip experiences. I love road trips, but I've spent much of my life on the road so it's in my blood. Planning another cross-country trip this summer since we couldn't do it last year. Hope nothing weird comes up to interfere with our plans!

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Susan B.Rouchard said...

Thanks Natalie for your news and giveaway opportunities and congratulations on co-hosting once again at the IWSG.
Your words and writing are inspiring.
Happy summer months and all the best for your second draft.

Richard Fellinger said...

Thanks for all of your engagement with the writing community, and best of luck with the new book.

Kate Larkindale said...

Love the road trip stories! It sounds like a fun book.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Sounds like a good book, and I love the road trip stories. I, too, am a veteran of many road trips, though I’ve yet to make it to Key West.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

You always have so much going on here on your blog! I hadn't heard of the Insecure Writer's Group---I'll have to give that a peek!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

DMS said...

I love road trips. This sounds like a great read and I really enjoyed finding out about the author's publishing journey. Thanks for sharing and wishing her all the best!

Liesbet said...

Not Our Summer sounds like a book I might enjoy, since I am a road tripper myself, having been a nomad since 2003. It was fun to read the stories of Casie and Janna. Even though I've been to Florida a few times - extensively in my own RV - I have yet to visit Manatee Springs State Park. I hope, one day, I can swim with manatees there. :-)

Thanks for co-hosting this week, Natalie!!!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie,

Another great interview. Thanks for hosting the IWSG this month! Hope all is well and have a great weekend!

Diane Burton said...

It's best to let a ms sit for a bit--fresh eyes, as you say. Sometimes the timing doesn't work. Thanks for cohosting this month. Terrific interview.

Stephanie Owen said...

Thank you again for making such a wonderful blog!
Thank you for the chance to win a new book and/or query critique as well.

Debra Renée Byrd said...

Thanks for co-hosting and stopping by my blog!

Jenelle Theis said...

fingers crossed for the query critique. :)

Biz said...

Who doesn't love a good roadtrip?!! Love the premise and it's interesting that you captured a publisher's interest during pitmad first and then got your agent after! Congratulations!

Unknown said...

Roadtrips are the best and great fodder for future stories! :) Thanks so much for sharing about your journey! my email address is: kristabarrett(at)yahoo . com

Danielle H. said...

I love books that feature road trips, especially now and last year. My parents were both teachers, so during the summer we often traveled to camp grounds. My favorite trips were to Florida and Alaska. I follow Natalie on Twitter and would love to win a copy of Not Our Summer, but please do not enter my name for the critique.

Shanah Salter said...

Apologies if this is a duplicate comment, not sure if my first sent. Great interview and I would love to be considered for a critique. Have shared on Twitter.

Julie said...

I'd never heard of IWSG! I'll have to look them up!
Following on Twitter now :)

Makayla Munnings said...

I'd love to be added to both giveaways :)



I am following you on Twitter (@elizjameswrites)


I am following you via your sidebar widget. Not sure if my email is in my profile or not but it's: helloelizabethjames (at) gmail.com

Thank you!