Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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

Transitioning From a Self-Published to Hybrid Author by Author Karen Pokras and The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Karen Pokras here to share a guest post to celebrate the release of her MG historical The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler. It sounds like a great story that combines historical with mysteries to solve. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Eleven-year-old Danny Wexler, the only Jewish boy in his blue-collar town during the late 1970s, is obsessed with the Bermuda Triangle. When a local child goes missing, Danny's convinced it's connected to an old Bermuda Triangle theory involving UFOs. With his two best friends and their Spacetron telescope, Danny heads to his backyard to investigate. But hunting for extraterrestrials is complicated, and it doesn't help that his friend Nicholas's mom doesn't want her son hanging out with a Jewish boy. Equipped with his super-secret spy notebook, Danny sets out to fight both the aliens and the growing anti-Semitism in the town, in hopes of mending his divided community.

Now here’s Karen!

Hello and thank you so much for inviting me to write about my publishing journey!

My journey started out later in life, as it took me a while to figure out that I wanted to be a writer. In fact, growing up, I probably wanted to be anything but a writer. I was a numbers person (still am, really) and spent much of my professional life writing only law and tax related emails and memos. But I had a story floating around in my head and a nagging feeling that I’d be missing out on something truly amazing if I didn’t try to write it. Turns out, I was correct – just not about the story. That didn’t turn out quite as amazing as I’d hoped. I’m talking about taking the leap into writing. And while the road to publication has at times been rocky, I haven’t looked back since, although I still do love my numbers.

Putting aside my first non-amazing book, I wrote a second story just over ten years ago and thought it might be good enough to publish. But I knew even less about publishing than I knew about writing. I first learned about self-publishing and felt it was a great place to start, enjoying the business end of each process: editing, cover design, formatting, timing, and marketing. I continued down this path for several more books, winning a few literary awards along the way. But as much as I loved the experience of self-publishing, I met certain roadblocks when it came to stocking my middle grade books in schools and public libraries and became curious about other types of publishing and what they had to offer in terms of distribution.

Finding an agent took many years, several manuscripts, continued growth and learning as a writer, countless internal pep talks, and a lot of patience. At some point, I lost track of the number of rejection letters I’d received. But I’d also been receiving some requests for partial and full manuscripts. Those little inklings of interest, even though they didn’t turn into offers, kept me going, and I kept writing new stories. Then, in 2018, Barbara Krasner from Olswanger Literary offered representation for the manuscript that would become THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER, and I was thrilled! Upon Barbara’s advice, I decided to first submit to PJ Library’s PJ Our Way program. My manuscript went through a few rounds of deep edits based on thoughtful and invaluable feedback from PJ’s young and grown readers, and I’m excited to say THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER will be a PJ Our Way monthly selection next summer. From PJ, we found my publisher, Kar-Ben Publishing, an imprint of Lerner Publishing.

My book hit the shelves on November 1st!  Another thrilling moment!

Admittedly, after self-publishing for many years, I was worried that transitioning to a more traditional model might be challenging. I was used to having complete creative control over things like cover design and even editing, and everything moved much faster with self-publishing. Did I really have to wait nearly two years for my book to come out? But, once the process began, all of my worries disappeared. Each step of the publishing process has been truly exciting through this new experience, and now that DANNY WEXLER is out, there’s nothing better than seeing it in reader’s hands. It’s also great to see it in so many schools and libraries.

Going forward, I have two new middle grade manuscripts: one currently on submission, and another that has made its way through PJ Our Way’s critical eye and is ready to go on submission. I also have a new agent as Barbara decided to take a different career path. I’m so grateful for all that she did for me and look forward to an exciting future with my new agent, Sera Rivers at Martin Literary. Stay tuned!


Karen Pokras is the author of the middle grade novel The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler (Lerner/Kar-Ben, November 2021) and the author of numerous award-winning self-published books. A numbers geek at heart with degrees in law and finance, Karen enjoys a good spreadsheet almost as much as she loves storytelling. Always an avid reader, Karen found her passion for writing later in life. Over the past ten years, Karen has spoken at various workshops and events on topics related to marketing books and writing for children. A native of Connecticut, Karen is a daisy lover, cat wrangler, occasional baker, and the proud mom to three brilliant teens/young-adults who still provide an endless stream of great book material. She lives with her family outside of Philadelphia. ​For more information, visit karenpokras.com.  Karen can also be found on social media, mostly on Instagram: @karenpokras_author  and occasionally on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/karenptoz and Twitter: @karentoz .

Giveaway Details

Karen has generously offered a hardback of The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler 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 December 18th. 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. This giveaway is U.S.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, December 13th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jemma Cooper and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 15th I have an agent spotlight interview with Stacey Kondla and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, December 16th I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 5th I have an interview with debut author Leslie Vedder and a giveaway of her YA fantasy The Bone Spindler and my IWSG post

Monday, January 10th I have an agent/debut author guest post with Charlotte Wenger and Nancy Tandon and a query critique and MG contemporary The Way I Say It giveaway

Wednesday, January 12th I have an agent spotlight interview with Haley Casey and a query critique giveaway

Sunday, January 16th I’m participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Shannon Snow and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!




Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations to Karen on the book (great cover!) and her persistence in getting representation and a publishing deal.

Beth said...

I would love to read more about Danny Wexler. My family has a secret Jewish grandfather who I try to add in to my own MG writing. Interesting interview, ladies!

Test said...

There was certainly an odd amount of interest in the Bermuda Triangle in the 1970s! Thanks for a great interview.

Sue Heavenrich said...

Congratulations to Karen - this looks like a really fun book! And Lerner folks are really good to work with. Can't wait to read about Danny.

Computer Tutor said...

Book sounds great. There is a lot to explore in backyards. I love your list of what you stopped counting.

Danielle H. said...

I'm happy you are finding traditional publishing an exciting process too. I can't wait to read your book and get to know Danny. I shared: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/669850235392212992/transitioning-from-a-self-published-to-hybrid

Greg Pattridge said...

Thanks for your honest and insightful thoughts on publishing. You've certainly will have success with the traditionally published route. I'm looking forward to reading this new title. It has all the elements of hard to put down story.

Liz A. said...

Congrats Karen. Sounds like a great book.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler sounds like such a compelling read, and I really enjoyed Pokras's guest post—I'm glad that traditional publishing has been a valuable and frustration-free experience for this book! I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great post, Natalie!

Eileen said...

Sounds like a really good book - engaging on many levels! Thank you for the interview - encouraging to this busy mom who, like you, started writing (fiction, at least) later in life!

Rebecca Gardyn Levington said...

My 10 year old would LOVE this book! Congrats on it and thank you for sharing your inspirational journey with us!
Rebecca Gardyn Levington (rgardyn@hotmail.com)

Patricia T. said...

What a great cover! I remember all of the 70s conversations about the Bermuda Triangle. So I'd enjoy this story. Must have had fun writing this one. Congratulations on its release. And, I enjoyed reading about your publishing journey! Wow!

Sandra Cox said...

It sounds like you've had an exciting journey to becoming a hybrid author. Congratulations.

Sandra Cox said...

'Lo Natalie;)

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, Happy holidays!

Rosi said...

Congratulations to Karen. That is quite the journey! Thanks for an interesting post. I will pass on the giveaway. Buried in books here.

Melanie B said...

Following your blog and twitter!
melanie_brac (at) Yahoo (dot) com

Donna K. Weaver said...

What a fun premise. Congrats, Karen!

Nick Wilford said...

Great interview. Sounds like Karen has been on an exciting path with her writing.

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations on your new book, Karen!

Nancy P said...

Fabulous cover positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Unknown said...

This definitely looks like a fun read.