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.

Importance of Taking Breaks in Your Writing Schedule by Debut Author Justine Pucella Winans and Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Justine Pucella Winans here to share a guest post in celebration of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything. It sounds like a gripping murder mystery, and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Murder most fowl? In this sardonic and campy YA thriller, an anxious, introverted nonbinary teen birder somehow finds themself solving a murder mystery with their neighbor/fellow anime lover, all while falling for a cute girl from their birding group . . . and trying not to get murdered.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Torre is an avid birder undergoing a gender identity crisis and grappling with an ever-growing list of fears. Some, like Fear #6: Initiating Conversation, keep them constrained, forcing them to watch birds from the telescope in their bedroom. And, occasionally, their neighbors. When their gaze wanders from the birds to one particular window across the street, Bianca witnesses a creepy plague-masked murderer take their neighbor’s life. Worse, the death is ruled a suicide, forcing Bianca to make a choice—succumb to their long list of fears (including #3: Murder and #55: Breaking into a Dead Guy’s Apartment) or investigate what happened.

Bianca enlists the help of their friend Anderson Coleman, but the two have more knowledge of anime than true crime. As Bianca and Anderson dig deeper into the murder with a little help from Bianca’s crush and fellow birding aficionado, Elaine Yee (#13: Beautiful People, #11: Parents Discovering They’re A Raging Lesbian), the trio uncovers a conspiracy much larger—and weirder—than imagined. But when the killer catches wind of the investigation, Bianca’s #1 fear of public speaking doesn’t sound so bad compared to the threat of being silenced for good.

In this absurdist, bizarrely comical YA thriller that is at turns a deceptively deep exploration of anxiety and identity, perhaps the real murder investigation is the friends we make along the way.

Now here’s Justine!

I feel like I need to start out by saying two things: one, the most important writing process is the one that works for you, and all I can do is share what works for me.  Two: I love writing. The whole process of it. I don’t necessarily love every aspect of publishing, But I love coming up with ideas, finding the voice, those moments when words just seem to spill on your fingertips and the moment you stop is like waking from a dream. I’m obsessed with it.

But I don’t write every day. 

In fact, I kind of hate the pressure to “write every day” like we all have the motivation to get up at the crack ass of dawn and journal or jot down ideas or whatever go-getters expect you to be able to do at 5AM. If that’s you, awesome. Sincerely, I might make jokes about it but if it makes you happy, it’s golden. If it helps you, hell yeah, keep doing it. However, if that’s not you, you’re not any less of a writer. It’s okay. Seriously. 

Not only do I not write every day, sometimes, I won’t write anything in a week. A month. At one point in my post-starting-to-query, pre-getting-an-agent life, I think I went about a year. Shit, I don’t even write every day while I’m on deadline (almost every day, but I still try to keep at least one weekend day free, and you can bet I’m taking time off after I turn that project in). 


We need breaks. We need rest. Sometimes, we need a full day to stay in our underwear ordering to-go ramen from that amazing restaurant across the street and binging romance fantasy manhwas with a cat curled up next to us (or whatever your me-time of choice is). Writing is work. Whether or not you’re currently paid for it, or do it as a full-time, or a second full-time, or a hobby, it’s work. Even when it’s fun and you’re writing silly queer murder mysteries for teens, it’s WORK.

If my day job told me I had to work every day in order to get better, I’d quit. (Arguably, even five out of seven seems really excessive?) Why is there this pressure to not hold writing (a job) to some ridiculous standard?

I get it: sometimes, you have to. You have to open up that google doc and type through your lunches to make deadline (been there), you like to escape from things into your book on the daily. If it works for you, do it. But this is for the times when it doesn’t. When mental health happens. When life happens. When you just don’t freaking feel like it happens.

You don’t need to feel guilty. You need that break. And that’s okay.

Writing is creative. We take from our lives, from our experiences, from the jokes that we landed once with friends and feel like we can reuse. We take from our pain, from our fears, from our imaginations. A lot of this doesn’t happen in front of a computer.

Maybe you didn’t add to your word count. Maybe you didn’t even open your document.

But did you watch a movie? Read a book or the new chapters of the 50+ reincarnated-into-a-romance-fantasy webcomics you’re subscribed to? (This is a self-call out. I deeply love them all.) Take a walk? A shower? Go on a drive? Treat yourself to something nice? Hang out with your friends or your family or your found family or your pets or even just yourself but somewhere different?

Did you take care of yourself? Drink water? Sleep? Do whatever it is that makes you happy?

That’s more important than the words on the page. That’s what will allow you to keep going, to keep being inspired, to keep the “holy shit I love books and writing and escaping into stories” fire burning because it will keep you, the brilliant, creative, writer who is a human and not a typing machine, from burning out.

The days of not writing are what can help you on the days that are. Relish in them. 

I feel like I have been writing all my life. Maybe it’s because of one of those people who simply doesn’t remember much of anything before I was like ten, but like so many of you, writing is part of who I am. I can’t imagine not coming up with some kind of story idea, some character, some voice to explore (although not always (or even usually) good ones). It made me realize that, in whatever form, storytelling will be there for me. I might spend some time away, thinking about my projects, or experiencing new lives by escaping into the work of others, or even doing nothing related to writing and books at all, but then I’ll come back to it (ideally refreshed or reinspired or, in dire straights, re-caffeinated).

Your work will be there for you. What is important is that you also show up for yourself and give yourself the time and care that you need to create.

If that’s not something you can do every single day?

That’s more than okay. Promise.

Thanks for all your advice, Justine! You can find Justine at:

Website: https://www.justinepucellawinans.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/justinepwinans

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justinepwinans/

Giveaway Details

Justine is generously offering a hardback of Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything 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 April 29th. If your email 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 or Justine on her social media sites, 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 book giveaway is international wherever The Book Depository ships for free.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, May 3 I have an interview with debut author Matt McMann and a giveaway of his MG spooky mystery Escape From Grimstone Manor and my IWSG post

Thursday, May 4 I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 8 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ellen Goff and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 15 I have an interview with debut author Jen St. Jude and a giveaway of her YA contemporary speculative If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come

Tuesday, May 16 I’m participating in the Mom’s Rock Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 17 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristina Perez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 22 I have an agent spotlight interview with  Natasha Mihell and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!



Literary Agent Interview: Roma Panganiban Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Roma Panganiban here. She is a literary assistant at Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

Hi­ Roma! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Roma:

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

Like many agents, I was once an English major who thought editing books sounded like a pretty cool way to make a living. Also like many agents, I spent a few years applying to editorial jobs with very little idea of what I was doing; unsurprisingly, I didn't get very far. I got the foot in the door I needed when I had an informational interview with a Big Five editor, who held onto my resumé and generously let me know whenever an entry-level job opened up somewhere. When another editor (who didn't hire me, but no hard feelings) passed my information on to a literary agency that was looking for a new assistant, I went in for an interview knowing only as much about the work of a literary agency as Google could tell me, i.e. not very much. Though I didn't get the job, that introduction to agenting redirected my job search, and an incredibly hands-on internship at The Gernert Company convinced me I was headed in the right direction.

 Since starting a full-time assistant position at Janklow & Nesbit in 2019, I've been mentored by three incredible agents in-house, as well as by others in the industry. After gleaning invaluable experience from riding in the passenger seat on dozens of deals over the past four years, I'm now representing my own literary/upmarket fiction and nonfiction clients writing for both the children's and adult markets. Agents have the freedom to rep only books that they love and clients whom they believe in, and I'm grateful that my list reflects just that.

About the Agency:

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

Janklow & Nesbit is a full service literary agency, which means that while I focus on helping my authors shape and polish their writing; developing relationships with editors, film agents, and scouts; positioning my clients' books for critical and financial success; and otherwise being the #1 supporter and advocate for my writers, they can rest assured that my colleagues are expertly managing the legal and financial aspects of their careers, as well as subrights like foreign and audio deals. I always tell clients that I'm their point person, but working with me means they have a whole team behind them.

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'm currently considering subnissions of YA & MG novels; most nonfiction comes to me by referral or request. I gravitate toward realistic contemporary and historical fiction in the vein of Kelly Loy Gilbert, Angie Thomas, and Mary H.K. Choi, but I get really excited about otherwise grounded stories with a twist of magic, mystery, or eccentricity, e.g. Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson (and everything else) books, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society. I'm always hoping for stories by and about people of color.

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

It may be an unusual way to think about fiction, but I'm eager to read books that not only tell a great story, but incidentally also immerse me in a niche interest, culture, or experience and teach me something about a subject I'd never thought much about before—e.g. in my own early days as a reader, I learned about the Met from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, frontier life from Little House on the Prairie, and the difference between raspberry cordial and currant wine from Anne of Green Gables, and all of that knowledge has since become a part of me in some way.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I'm not the best fit for romance (including rom-coms), horror, straightforward action/adventure, or fantasy/sci-fi that takes place in a world totally different from our own. I like a strong sense of humor, but anything that could be called "silly" or "goofy" probably isn't for me. I don't tend to enjoy stories about bullying, parent/child relationships, death by suicide or terminal illness. As much as I enjoy retellings of fairy tales, mythology, and classic literature, I'm not the best agent for them.

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?

Because I read so widely, I look for clients with some range, i.e. the interest and ability to write books with different themes, settings, structures, and character archetypes, even within the same genre. I want writers who are excited to keep trying new things, but I want to see quality over quantity, and the ambition to do more than just tell an entertaining story: I want each book I send out on behalf of a client to be one that we genuinely think will make the literary world a tiny bit better—more diverse, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more interesting, more hopeful, more fun—than it was before. My authors and I are a team, and we're on a mission.

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?

I'm very heavily editorial, which is a strong selling point for the writers who sign with me. My goal as an editor is not to tell you what story you should tell, but to help you effectively communicate what you mean to say, while perhaps nudging you to consider what else you could say that's even truer to your heart than what's already on the page. That starts with a conversation about character, setting, theme, plot, and pacing: the "what" of the book.

Then, because I approach all writing with a "literary" perspective (i.e. the belief that language matters, and that word choice, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. all make a meaningful difference in what the reader takes away), I'll do at least one round of nitty-gritty line edits for style, voice, and consistency: the "how" of the book. I love working with writers who are just as excited about this part of the process as I am, whether they have formal experience, e.g. via an MFA program, or just the passion and dedication to think deeply about how words work.

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?

Please send a query, synopsis (if available—I do read them), and first 10 pages in the body of the email to submissions@janklow.com with my full name in the subject line. The best query letter is one that gives me just enough information to know that I want to read the manuscript, so I hope authors keep in mind that the worst thing a query letter can do is oversell or misrepresent the book. The best thing to ask yourself isn't, "Is my query good?" but "Does it match the book I'm pitching?" A successful query isn't one that results in a full request 100% of the time, but one that gets your book in front of an agent who will fall in love with it.

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

Most of the time, a pass means that I'm not interested in the book for some reason, not necessarily that I disliked the query—which, again, is just a step toward me considering the book itself. I might miss out on a great book, however, if the query is too vague: if it sounds like something else I've already read without adding anything new, or there's no clear goal or conflict that the book aims to address, I won't feel compelled to read more to figure out those fundamental details.  

Response Time:

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

It really can vary, from less than a day to a few months, and the speed of my response is dependent only on when I get the chance to look at the query, not my level of interest. I have days when I'm raring to look at queries, and days when I'm not in the right state to evaluate them fairly, so I look at them in batches at irregular intervals, and at that point I make a decision on each one quite quickly. That's probably frustrating to hear, and I'm sorry! But I'd rather take a little more time to be sure in my response than be too hasty in rejecting a book someone's worked so hard on, or requesting and then not being the right person to read it after all.

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?

I've had the pleasure of working with a few authors with previous books not published by a Big Five or major indie publisher, and I think that kind of experience is invaluable if it's helped them keep developing their craft. Traditional publishing is a different ballgame than micro-press or self-pub, though, and I'll pass on a writer who seems like they either aren't versed in that distinction or aren't interested in understanding it—including pitching a book that's already been published elsewhere.

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?

An agent's job is already different now than it was just a few decades ago, let alone when the profession was first invented, but the basic role is always to be an advocate for the author. These days, that might mean being more hands-on editorially, doing more deliberate outreach to editors outside the New York bubble, keeping closer tabs on other ways that someone's writing might be adapted (remember when Netflix and podcasts didn't exist?), etc. Books and culture are always changing, so agents should be changing, too.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent a number of authors who haven't yet announced deals, but I'm proud to have sold THE STARS TOO FONDLY by Emily Hamilton, a queer adult speculative rom-com set on a once-abandoned spaceship that mysteriously launches with an accidental crew of four friends and a hologram of the ship's former captain who have to figure out how it happened and what they can do to get home; and a YA novel called THE NOTES, along with an untitled second YA novel, by Catherine Con Morse: a coming-of-age story about a Chinese-American pianist at a competitive performing arts boarding school in the South, her fellow pianist who's a little more charming and talented, but a lot more reckless, and a glamorous but challenging new teacher whose influence leads them both to question who they really are and want to be. The common theme is that my authors write about characters whose stories we haven't heard before in sharp, smart, often funny voices, and each of them has written a book that almost made me cry at least once.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

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

My full MSWL is at https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/roma-panganiban.

Links and Contact Info:

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

Submission guidelines are at https://janklowandnesbit.com/submissions

Twitter: @romapancake

Additional Advice: 

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

Always be learning—or, alternatively, think of everything you do as a way to learn. Read books, but also magazines at your doctor's office and board game instructions manuals and tweets and group texts from your friends; watch movies and TV and TikToks and your child's soccer game; attend panels and conferences and workshops as well as poetry readings, political rallies, dinner parties; walk away from your notebook or computer and discover something worth writing about.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Roma.

 Giveaway Details

­Roma is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through April 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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.

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.

Debut Author Interview: Meg Eden Kuyatt and Good Different Blog Tour Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Meg Eden Kuyatt here to share about her MG contemporary Good Different. It sounds like a beautifully told story in verse that many middle graders will be able to relate to. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An extraordinary novel-in-verse about a neurodivergent girl who comes to understand and celebrate her difference. Selah knows her rules for being normal. She always, always sticks to them. This means keeping her feelings locked tightly inside, despite the way they build up inside her as each school day goes on, so that she has to run to the bathroom and hide in the stall until she can calm down. So that she has to tear off her normal-person mask the second she gets home from school, and listen to her favorite pop song on repeat, trying to recharge. Selah feels like a dragon stuck in a world of humans, but she knows how to hide it. Until the day she explodes and hits a fellow student. Selah's friends pull away from her, her school threatens expulsion, and her comfortable, familiar world starts to crumble. But as Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn’t mean damaged. Can she get her school to understand that, too, before it’s too late?

Hi Meg! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thanks so much for having me! I’m Meg Eden Kuyatt. I am a poet, kidlit writer, and creative writing instructor—so I’m around words all day! I mostly focus on writing middle grade right now, but also write YA and poetry for adults. I’m also really enjoying the intersection of poetry and prose through novels-in-verse. I started writing poems because “all my friends were doing it” (ha!) but began to fall in love with it as I practiced, especially when my eighth-grade history teacher told me I was a good writer. As I wrote, I realized it was a great space to process and communicate my thoughts. In high school, I became serious about writing and got my first agent, but it wasn’t until 2017 that my first book came out with a small press, and now for 2023 that my first book with a large traditional press is coming out. So it’s been a long journey, but a very rewarding one.

2. It’s awesome that your friends got you into writing poetry in high school. Where you got the idea for Good Different?

Good Different came from Selah—because my novels always start with character. Selah came out in the worst of 2020, when my autism and anxiety felt so overwhelming in this world where people were (are) not being considerate of each other’s space and each other’s safety. I felt so overwhelmed, attacked and scared, and as I wrote, I dug up an old memory of a classmate braiding my hair without my consent. But then the speaker was no longer me but this other girl, Selah. And Selah took action. She hit her classmate! I was in shock, but then also I knew I needed to write a novel to figure out why she hit her classmate and what would happen from there.

About Your Writing Process

3. What made you decide to write Good Different as a novel in verse? What tips do you have for other writers writing a story in verse?

I didn’t exactly decide. So far, when I’ve had a novel in verse idea it just comes out that way. I start writing poems but there’s this overarching narrative and characters to explore and I go, well I guess I’m writing a verse novel! That may change but that’s been the process so far.

I really strongly encourage those interested in exploring a story in verse to study poems—whether that’s in taking some webinars or courses or doing lots of reading—just to get a sense of some of the tools at your disposal, and strengthening those poetic instincts. I don’t think everyone that writes a novel in verse needs to have an MFA, or needs to necessarily even think of themselves as a poet, so don’t panic! But I do get really pulled out of a novel in verse when they use the tools of verse to no clear purpose. There are lots of unique tools in the toolbox of verse, things like line length, enjambment (where you break the line), stanza size, punctuation, white space and caesuras, or how you justify the lines. I think a decent number of novels in verse that come out don’t pay as much attention to these tools, and it’s a missed opportunity. That’s the other thing—really make sure the content needs to be in verse. This is something my editor and I talk about a lot, and when I read content in verse that feels like it’d do better in prose, it really feels off. Verse tends to call subjects that are really emotionally resonant, and usually introspective. If you want to write a story in verse, make sure you feel confident that you could argue why it HAS to be in verse, why it can’t be anything else.

4. Selah sounds like a compelling character that readers will want to root for. How did you share her journey of embracing how she’s different without becoming preachy?

Thanks so much, Natalie! It’s really important to me that my books aren’t preachy. If we wanted a sermon, we would, well, listen to a sermon—not a book! That said, my childhood pastor has been a huge model for me in this. He always said that when he came to speak on Sunday, he’d share what God’s teaching him. I try to do that with my writing too. I try to just share what I’m learning, what I’m struggling with, and I think that personal, confessional act is something that can show instead of tell. Stories pull us in and can sometimes teach us way more effectively than being preached at.  

5. I so agree with you that stories can teach us things. Sometimes characters say things that are so wise without preachy that readers can relate to. How long did it take you to write and edit Good Different before you started querying agents? How did you know that you were ready to stop revising and start querying?

This one was really unusual. I drafted and did initial edits in about 2 months. I was accepted into Pitch Wars, where my mentor Eric Bell and I edited one or two rounds, then sent to agents. Most of my books have taken much, much longer and still are sitting in my drawers, waiting! I don’t know how to definitively define when you “know”—often I don’t know, I think I know but the book isn’t ready. But once I’ve felt like I said what I wanted to say, sent it around, people confirmed it said what I wanted it to say—and after that waiting, I still think it’s pretty good, or that I don’t really have anything to add, I start thinking it’s probably ready. If the main argument, the main idea I care about, is showing that it’s coming through to my readers, that’s the most important thing. And then if there’s market interest, that’s a bonus!

Your Road to Publication

6. Lauren Spieller is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Yes, she is! Lauren is the best agent; she’s a perfect fit for me and I’m so grateful to have her! She came to be my agent rather unconventionally. I was in one of the last classes of Pitch Wars. Lauren requested my manuscript from the showcase, and later offered representation. She’s very fast and very good, so we did a couple rounds of editing, sent off, and pretty quickly got offers!

7. What was the process of working on revisions with your editor like? What did you learn from the process?

It was stressful at first. My last agent was more difficult to communicate with, so she’d give edit notes, we’d think we were on the same page, but then from my edits it became clear we were on two totally separate pages. So I was really scared of this happening with Lauren, and then my editor Emily. But Emily is absolutely amazing to work with, balancing encouragement with really pushing my work to shine. I didn’t want to do much with Good Different. I felt like I said what I wanted to, and that people liked it, but Emily really pushed me to make the plot tighter, and to really dive more into the autism self-advocacy end of the story. I’m SO glad she did! I think the story is so much stronger now because of it.

Promoting Your Book

8. That’s great that Lauren helped you so much with revisions. You list a lot of writing courses, conferences, and other events that you have or will be offering or attending in 2023 on your website. Share how you were able to schedule all these appearances. What advice do you have for other debut authors who would like to attend events like the ones you’re going to?

The short of it is that I’m shameless! Some of them are set up by my publisher, but most of them are ones I’ve set up. I see an event or an organization, then email them and ask if they’re seeking proposals. You’d be surprised how many say yes. It never hurts to ask—the worst folks can do is say no, or not reply. And I really delight in this sort of stuff!

9. How else do you plan to promote your book?

I have a mini virtual “tour” with interviews like this, guest posts and more—which I scheduled because I enjoy virtual tours. I also sent out review copies to some folks I really admire and respect, and am doing some guest posts. But my main promotion that I do is through teaching, events and conferences.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m drafting a new middle grade novel in verse, and have a couple things in the pipeline I’d love to get sent out, but we’ll see. So much of this process is completely out of my control. The main thing I can do is write the next thing and be patient.

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



Twitter: @ConfusedNarwhal

Instagram: @meden_author

Blog Tour Giveaway Details

I'm excited to be a part of Meg's Blog Tour Giveaway. She's giving away ARCs of Good Different and other goodies. Here's the Rafflecopter link:


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

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Wednesday, April 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Roma Panganiban and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 17 I have a guest post by debut author Justine Pucella Winans and a giveaway of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything 

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Dancing in the Rain Giveaway Hop-$10 Amazon Gift Card

Happy Thursday Everyone! Today I'm excited to be participating in the Dancing in the Rain Giveaway Hop hosted by The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It. I hope you're having a good spring. We're still waiting for it to warm up in Michigan. Still, it can't be too much longer until I can start my vegetable garden and dream about planting flowers. 

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

I'm offering a $10 gift card to Amazon for this giveaway. 

Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Open to entrants internationally as long The Book Depository ships to you for free, 13 years and older. Open for entry from 4/6 – 4/29/2023 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

Please note that you must be a blog follower and leave a blog comment to enter the contest. 

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, April 10 I have an interview with debut author Meg Eden Kuyatt and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Good Different

Wednesday, April 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Roma Panganiban and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 17 I have a guest post by debut author Justine Pucella Winans and a giveaway of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything 

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Monday!

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

Debut Author Interview: Lauren Thoman and I’ll Stop the World Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Lauren Thoman here to share about her YA mystery I’ll Stop the World. I’m super excited to read it because I love mysteries, and this story also involves time travel.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

The end and the beginning become one in a heart-pounding coming-of-age mystery about the power of friendship, fate, and inexplicable second chances.

Is it the right place at the wrong time? Or the wrong place at the right time?

Trapped in a dead-end town, Justin Warren has had his life defined by the suspicious deaths of his grandparents. The unsolved crime happened long before Justin was born, but the ripple effects are still felt after thirty-eight years. Justin always knew he wouldn’t have much of a future. He just never imagined that his life might take him backward.

In a cosmic twist of fate, Justin’s choices send him crashing into the path of determined optimist Rose Yin. Justin and Rose live in the same town and attend the same school, but have never met―because Rose lives in 1985. Justin won’t be born for another twenty years. And his grandparents are still alive―for now.

In a series of events that reverberate through multiple lifetimes, Justin and Rose have a week to get Justin unstuck in time and put each of them in control of their futures―by solving a murder that hasn’t even happened yet.

Before I get to Lauren’s interview I have my IWSG Post.

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 this month are:  Jemima Pett, Nancy Gideon, and Natalie Aguirre!

Optional Question: Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you? If you're at the start of the journey, what are your goals?

Oh yes, I remember when I wrote my first middle grade fantasy 20 years ago when my daughter was about 6 years old. I’d just read the first book in the Harry Potter series and had an idea I was excited about. It’ll probably be the only book in my life where I wrote the draft quickly.

I was so excited about the story and getting published back then. I worked on the manuscript for about ten years.

But then I watched how some authors flourished and others struggled to get a new publishing contract over the years as I featured debut authors here.

And then I lost my husband and my job and became an empty nester fairly quickly. I’ve shared about my struggles a lot after he died and how I lost the desire to write for about six years.

Thankfully, I’m writing again. The process gives me great joy. But after all I’ve seen in the publishing industry and everything I’ve gone through, I’m not sure that I want to get published anymore. I’d need the support of a traditional publisher to do it. The path to that road to publication is filled with rejections, struggles, and a lack of control over much of the process. Of course, there is joy too in getting a book published and sharing it with readers.  But, with everything I’ve gone through in life, I’m not sure I care enough about being published to go through it all.

I’m just taking it day by day for now. I’ll see where my journey leads over the next years and what my goals become.

Interview With Lauren Thoman

Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie, and thanks for having me! I’m a mixed-race Chinese American who was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, PA but has lived outside of Nashville, TN for more than a decade now. I’ve got two teenagers, two dogs, and a husband who keeps accumulating fish tanks. We also foster dogs, so there is frequently a whole pack of furry friends roaming around our house. In addition to writing books, I’m also a freelance pop culture writer, writing about movies and TV for various online publications.

Unlike a lot of authors, I actually haven’t been a writer my whole life. Although I’ve been a lifelong reader, and I always enjoyed writing assignments in school, I didn’t decide to try my hand at writing a book of my own until my second kiddo was getting ready to start preschool. I’d just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and had a massive book hangover, and nothing else I picked up to read was scratching that itch. So I impulsively decided I’d just write my own book. Nothing beyond a couple vague scenes came from that very first idea, but it didn’t take me long to come up with another one, and that turned into a whole book. It wasn’t good enough to snag me an agent or sell, but it was definitely enough to get me hooked on writing. I’ve been writing ever since.

2. I’m like you. I didn’t start writing until I became a mom. Where did you get the idea for I’ll Stop the World?

The idea for I’ll Stop the World came from a lot of places. First and foremost, I wanted to write a time travel book. Time travel stories have always fascinated me (I’ve actually written about them a fair amount in my pop culture writing) so coming up with my own unique spin was incredibly appealing to me. But of course, a time travel story can look like just about anything, so figuring out my own was a matter of asking myself what other elements tend to draw me into a story.

I tend to really enjoy clockwork universes, where every piece of the story is a cog that affects something else in the story (Breaking Bad is my favorite example of this). I love big ensemble casts, and stories told from multiple points of view. And I like stories that keep you guessing all the way until the end. And then in the realm of time travel specifically, I am particularly drawn to stories that wrestle with big questions of fate and free will and how we move through the universe, and the impact our actions and choices have on the world around us. I also thought it would be interesting to do a time travel story where the protagonist is left uncertain about the mechanism behind the time travel—where he doesn’t know how or why he traveled, or what he’s supposed to do about it. So all of those thoughts kind of tumbled around in my head for a bit, until they eventually coalesced into this story.

About Your Writing Process

3. I’ll Stop the World is a mystery made more complicated because Justin travels back in time. Share how you created the mystery aspect of your plot. Do you have any tips and/or book recommendations on how to write a mystery?

My biggest tip is do not do what I did and attempt to just fly by the seat of your pants with no idea where you’re going. That just leads to a deleted scenes folder that is twice as thick as your actual book. Definitely don’t recommend that.

Once I realized that you can’t just wing a mystery (at least not one that’s very satisfying to read), I had to rein myself in and think through it a lot more intentionally. I started with the ending—what actually did happen to Justin’s grandparents 38 years ago, and how is he going to try to change it? Is he going to succeed? What does a satisfying conclusion to this story look like?

After I’d figured all of that out for myself, I worked backwards, asking myself which characters were instrumental to that ending, and which of that group needed their own point-of-view in order for readers to understand the full story. But of course, if a character is going to have their own POV, they also need their own conflict and ARC; they can’t just be there in service of the ending. So I then had to flesh each of them out to make sure their chapters both worked to further the overall story, and added something individually, as well as working to make sure every character and subplot felt cohesive thematically. I also tried to seed in little clues as early as I could that would help the ending feel like it paid off. I did a lot of revising of earlier chapters to weave those pieces in as unobtrusively as I could. As a reader, I always like when a writer gives me all the clues I’d need to solve it on my own, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. So I tried my best to do that here.

I also was watching a lot of ensemble mystery shows at the time like Broadchurch, Mare of Easttown, and even Riverdale, and trying to take mental notes on what worked about those plots for me. How did they surprise me? How did they build tension? How did they handle their reveals? I tend to play my stories out like a movie in my head as I write, so I often tend to gravitate toward films and TV rather than books when I’m trying to get in the right mindset for my stories. The really bizarre thing is that even though I was watching all of these mystery shows, I still didn’t realize I was writing a mystery. I was just focusing on how to build toward a surprising yet inevitable ending, one that felt both emotionally and intellectually satisfying, and it didn’t even occur to me that of course I was following a mystery formula.

My best advice for plotting a story with a mystery element is to ask yourself three questions: 1) What really happened? 2) What do the characters think happened? 3) Why is 2 more compelling than 1? If you want what really happened to be surprising, you need to make a solid argument for why your characters spend so much of the story looking in the opposite direction. There’s got to be some really convincing evidence leading away from the truth. I wish I’d started here; it would’ve saved me a lot of trouble.

4. Thanks so much for your helpful tips. I want to write a mystery someday and will definitely use them. Reviewers have said that they couldn’t put down your book. How did you create a page-turner?

I’m so glad to hear that! When you’re writing, you honestly have no idea how others are going to receive it. Especially with a story that requires readers to suspend a huge amount of disbelief due to the time travel, it’s really a relief to hear that people are resonating with it. All I could really do when I was writing was make sure I wasn’t bored. Since I’ll Stop the World is written from multiple POVs, I tried to make sure that each one had some sort of conflict that readers would be invested in and eager to return to, which meant that I had to be invested in it. Anytime I found my mind wandering or feeling like I was just spinning my wheels in a chapter, I took a hard look at it and asked if this chapter was actually working. Often, that led to me throwing the whole thing out and starting over.

Years ago, I heard someone say about a super popular yet divisive YA writer something to the effect of, say what you will about the story, but she sure knows how to end a chapter. That stuck with me, and always plays in my head when I’m revising my chapter endings. I try to end each one on a question, maybe not a literal question, but something the reader is left wondering about so that they’re eager to keep going and find out the answer. Most of my chapters are also pretty short, which I hope makes it easier for a reader to think, “just one more chapter.” I try to avoid writing in good stopping places. If a reader has to take a break, I always want it to be against their will.

5. I like short chapters too. You are also a freelance writer and have a family. How do you schedule enough time for your own writing to be productive with your freelance writing deadlines and your responsibilities to your family?

Short answer: I don’t? That’s tongue-in-cheek, but honestly, I am frequently intimidated by writers who seem like they have the schedule juggling down to a science, and I most definitely do not. There are plenty of days (or even weeks, or months) where I feel like I haven’t been productive at all, or at least not in the way I wanted to be. So I think it’s important to state up front that I tend to have grand intentions of scheduling in enough time for all the things, but the reality is that some days I’m successful and some days I’m not and most land somewhere in between.

That said, I took several months off from freelancing when I sold I’ll Stop the World because I knew I wouldn’t have the time or brain power to be able to keep it up while going through edits. I just recently reached out to a few of my editors and told them I’m ready to start picking up some pieces again, but I definitely need to keep it light. The issue for me isn’t so much blocks of time as it is mental capacity. If I’m spending mental energy writing articles, I don’t have any left for creative writing. And it also takes me time to shift mindsets from one to the other. So even though I’m picking some freelancing back up, I’m trying to be protective of my time and only working on it one or two days a week, and only in the mornings. (I can never write creatively in the mornings anyway; I just stare at the blank page until after lunch.)

My kids are both in high school, so the bulk of my writing time happens during school hours. It’s not how I’d write if I was single and childless; the words flow the easiest for me at night, after dinner. But that’s my family time, and after the kids are in their rooms for the night, time for me to spend with my husband. So even though I’m a slower writer during the day, I’ve forced myself to try to fit it all in there. Nights and weekends are for family and rest. Unless I’m on a tight deadline, of course, in which case all bets are off.

Your Road to Publication

6. Holly Root is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Holly and I actually went to college together, but didn’t know each other very well at the time. But when I first started writing, I read a slew of books that turned out to all be by Holly clients, even though I hadn’t planned that at all. So that told me that had very similar tastes! And she did remember me from college enough that we were Facebook friends. Still, though, the first time I queried her (with a fantasy novel), she passed. It just wasn’t there yet. I queried her again with my next book, and she signed me on that, but it didn’t sell. We went on sub several times, with a few different projects, and none of them sold. The passes from the editors were always very nice—over and over, I heard that the writing was good and the story was good, but it just wasn’t a fit for their list/the market/whatever—but after a while, even a glowing rejection just feels like a rejection.

I wound up taking a few years off from creative writing entirely, which is when I started freelancing. I signed with Holly in 2014, and by 2018, I was just tired and discouraged and needed to take a break for a while. I didn’t write a word of fiction again until the summer of 2021, when I decided to finally finish this time travel book I’d been working on on-and-off since I first signed with Holly. I finished it by the beginning of 2022, and we revised it together before sending it out on sub that March. She told me it would likely be months before we heard anything back, since such was the state of publishing after two years in a pandemic, and that didn’t phase me at all, since I was used to being on sub for ages, and for nothing to ever come of it. I really had no expectations anymore; I just figured I’d finished the book, I had an amazing agent, so why not?

But then we heard from one of the editors within 24 hours that they were very interested, even though they hadn’t even finished reading yet. Within the next couple weeks, we knew of several others who were preparing to throw their hats in the ring. But then the pre-empt came in from Mindy’s Book Studio, and it was just too good to pass up. So that’s the one we wound up taking. It was all extremely fast and unexpected and more than a little weird.

7. How awesome that Holly and you knew each other in college. What was the process of going on submission like? What tips do you have for other writers going on submission?

As I mentioned above, I’ve had several very different submission experiences. Several that led nowhere and took a really long time—probably around a year each, all told—and one that landed me a book deal and was done in two weeks. It was nerve wracking each time, although the last time was probably the easiest in terms of keeping my hopes getting too high, ironically. I’ve been to acquisitions with multiple books, only to have them not get over that final hurdle.

My best advice for other writers going on submission is to just try to let it go and trust your agent (if you have one). Once you’ve written the best book you can, the rest is totally out of your control, and you can tie yourself into emotional knots trying to figure out what’s going on in every editor’s head when the reality is that there’s nothing more you can do to sell that book or figure out if it’s going to sell.

If you get an offer, great! If you get multiple offers, amazing! If you get rejections, you can revise if there’s a common theme in their feedback—your agent is your best guide in figuring out whether there’s anything actionable in there, or if it’s just not the right fit—but sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do other than write the next book. Trust me, I find it super hard to follow my own advice, and am constantly sitting on my hands to avoid hounding my agent for updates that she probably doesn’t even have. But once a book is out on sub, the only thing I actually have control over is writing the next one, and my mental health is definitely best when I can focus on that instead of the one that’s out of my hands.

Promoting Your Book

8. How are you planning to market your book?

I am fortunate to have a great publicity team that is handling most of that for me. I’ve been sharing positive reviews and mentions on my social media, boosting sales, that sort of thing. Occasionally I’ll do a giveaway. And since I’m already used to pitching freelance articles, I’ve done some pitching of my own when I get an idea for something I might want to write that ties into my book. But mostly, I’m letting my publicists focus on the marketing, while I focus on the writing. Marketing is not my strength, so I’m happy to defer to the experts there.

9. How have you been planning for your book’s release in the year leading up to its release? What advice do you have for other debut authors?

I joined a debut group, the 2023 Debuts, which been a great resource in letting me know what I should be doing when, and has also connected me with some amazing other debut authors. I’ve had a lot of fun planning my launch party, which will have already happened by the time this interview publishes, so I hope it went well! I roped several other local author friends into participating in it with me, which makes it feel a little more like a party, and also less intimidating for me, since I won’t be the sole focus of attention. I’ve also been researching book festivals I may want to apply to, since I have always loved attending those as an audience member and would love to finally participate as an author!

Otherwise, I’ve just been taking my own advice and working on the next thing. I finished a proposal for what I hope will be my second book, and then moved on to drafting a new book after I sent the proposal on to my agent. In between, I’ve been responding to interview questions (like this one!) and writing guest posts that my publicity team sets up, but mostly I’m trying to enjoy this period of relative quiet when I don’t have anything under contract, nothing on deadline, and can just enjoy the anticipation.

My best advice for other debut authors is to work on the next thing, and try not to be an island. Join a debut group, for sure, but also plug into your local writing community (or even a virtual writing community, if you don’t know any local writers). I’m fortunate to have a wonderful group of local writer friends at all stages of publication, and we try to meet together to write and commiserate at least once every week or two. My family is so supportive of my writing, and I’m incredibly grateful, but publishing is just a deeply weird and confusing profession and industry, and no one gets it like other writers. My writer friends offer invaluable support, understanding, and encouragement for me, and also help keep me grounded when I start to spiral—which I think all writers are a little wont to do.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m back to drafting right now, and am working on a book that’s very different from anything I’ve written before, while still being very me. This one is a horror book for adults (although there are still some younger characters in there), set in a post-apocalyptic haunted house. It’s got even more narrators than I’ll Stop the World, because apparently I am simply incapable of keeping my cast small. I’m having a ton of fun with it. I hope people get to read it someday.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lauren. You can find Lauren at her official website, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Giveaway Details

Lauren’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of I’ll Stop the World 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 April 15th. If your email 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 or Lauren on her social media sites, 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 book giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Thursday, April 6 I’m participating in the Dancing in the Rain Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 10 I have an interview with debut author Meg Eden Kuyatt and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Good Different

Wednesday, April 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Roma Panganiban and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 17 I have a guest post by debut author Justine Pucella Winans and a giveaway of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Thursday!