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.

Author Interview: Elisa Stone Leahy and Tethered to Other Stars Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Elisa Stone Leahy here to share about her MG contemporary Tethered to Other Stars. It sounds like a powerful story about a middle grade girl dealing with immigration worries while navigating middle grade issues. I’m looking forward to reading it this fall.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Perfect for fans of Efrén Divided and A Good Kind of Trouble, this luminous middle grade debut follows a tween girl navigating the devastating impact of ICE's looming presence on her family and community.

Seventh grader Wendy Toledo knows that black holes and immigration police have one thing in common: they can both make things disappear without a trace. When her family moves to a new all-American neighborhood, Wendy knows the plan: keep her head down, build a telescope that will win the science fair, and stay on her family's safe orbit.

But that's easier said than done when there's a woman hiding out from ICE agents in the church across the alley--and making Wendy's parents very nervous.

As bullying at school threatens Wendy's friendships and her hopes for the science fair, and her family's secrets start to unravel, Wendy finds herself caught in the middle of far too many gravitational pulls. When someone she loves is detained by ICE, Wendy must find the courage to set her own orbit--and maybe shift the paths of everyone around her.

Follower News

Before I get to Elisa's interview, I have Follower News to share. My nephew, Joshua Corder, has just 
released his debut MG contemporary, Joshua's dream stories. Here's a blurb: Enter the imaginative mind of author Joshua Corder, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 3.  Joshua is pleased to have you join him as he explores 16 whimsical stories that began as his childhood dreams. Joshua has always wanted to be a published author and share his stories with everyone. And here is a purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Joshuas-Dream-Stories-Joshua-Corder/dp/B0CKM3G2PN/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1OPD1UCYIWVNR&keywords=joshua%27s+dream+stories&qid=1697475097&sprefix=Joshua%27s+D%2Caps%2C143&sr=8-1

Interview With Elisa Stone Leahy

Hi Elisa! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I have always been drawn to stories. Growing up Peruvian-American meant continuously examining how my two cultures intersect. There are gaps between how different people see the world, and I’ve always been fascinated by that space of disconnect and how stories work to bridge the gap. I learned to tell stories early on as a way to bring those two parts of my world closer together. As I grew older, I saw the value of stories in shifting perceptions and garnering a deeper understanding of others. Storytelling is such an integral part of who I am that I became a documentary filmmaker and eventually found work at the library. I firmly believe stories are the best tool we have to build a more empathetic future and I want to be a part of that, whether it’s handing a kid a library book or writing the book itself!

2. Where did you get the idea for Tethered to Other Stars?

This book is shaped by the experiences of many, many friends who I have had the privilege of walking alongside. I fought alongside Edith Espinal who lived in sanctuary for over 3 years in a church to avoid a deportation order. She took her fight to the news, to the presidential candidates and to the front page of the New York Times. I traveled with her team to DC to lobby for her and others in sanctuary. We led letter-writing campaigns and petition signings. Edith became the face of the sanctuary movement. One day she wondered out loud why the immigrant community didn’t show greater support for her case. This book began as an attempt to answer that question in an accessible way. I wanted the experience of sanctuary and all it’s complicated, messy truth to make sense for any kid (or adult), regardless of how much they know or understand about immigration.

About Your Writing Process

3. You’re also a documentary filmmaker. How has this helped you in plotting out your story and keeping the plot moving? Share two or three tips on plotting a contemporary middle-grade manuscript.

I’m happy to give tips, with the caveat that different methods work for different writers! Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and what I need in my writing:

  1. Know your limits. Documentary storytelling has many more limits than fiction, so when I first started writing, I felt like I could do anything. The freedom went to my head. It was like a shopping spree– “More characters! Pile on the subplots! I’ll take all the world-building!” My shopping cart ended up overstuffed with an unfinished, epic, multi-POV fantasy set in an alternate South American inspired magical world. I’m from Peru, so there were elements of “write what you know” in that book, but as a writer I did not have the chops to pull it off. I finally realized that if I wanted to become a professional author, I had to start with something manageable. I chose to write a contemporary middle grade book, set in the place where I live, about a topic I was familiar with. I had to impose the limits I needed on my writing. That book became Tethered to Other Stars, my debut!
  1. Know your ending! The gift of fiction is the ability to decide the ending for yourself, unlike in documentary filmmaking. I’ve written many stories that went nowhere, because I hadn’t figured out the ending. But I knew from the beginning how I wanted this one to end and that gave me a finish line to write towards. 
  1. Know the market. It is important to write what you love. But it is also important to figure out where that intersects with what your audience loves. Working at the library has been such a gift to me, because I have a constant stream of information about what is being published and what is getting checked out. If you have any kids in your life who fit the audience you are writing to, get to know them and their friends and follow their interests. If you don’t have kids in your life, pay attention to those who do. There are plenty of book-loving teachers, librarians and authors out there who love nothing more than talking about what kids are reading. Listen to podcasts, follow blogs, get on your librarian’s email lists, sign up for newsletters, etc. If you want your book out on the shelves one day, you need to know what’s already there and where your book will fit. 

4. Those are great tips. Reviewers have said that this is a very powerful, heart-warming story that also did a good job balancing Wendy’s worries about her family’s immigration status with her struggles navigating typical middle grade issues, like friends and crushes. How did you balance all this as you wrote Wendy’s story?

I wanted this book to be something that any kid could pick up and understand, regardless of how much they knew or understood about immigration policy. I also wanted to clearly show Wendy as a typical seventh grader, dealing with all the usual stuff that a new school and new friends might bring. My own kids were about the same age as Wendy when I started writing, so I was already thinking about those issues and questions that middle schoolers face. There is a scene in the book that takes place at a school skate party, which I actually drafted on my laptop while at my own kids’ school skate party! Being connected to the age group you are writing for definitely helps. It also helps to stay connected to your own internal kid. I love astronomy, and I would have loved a book that connected to that dreamy side of me, but also pulled in those big life questions about right and wrong. Although I never would have built a winning telescope in seventh grade–Wendy is way smarter than me!

5. How long did it take you to write and revise Tethered to Other Stars? What did you learn from the process that will help you write your next manuscript that will most likely be written under contract with a deadline to complete it?

I wrote this book little by little, during lunch breaks and my kids’ sports practices, so it took a LONG time. The first draft took me 3 years and I finished it in early 2020. I spent the Covid lockdown editing, polishing and figuring out what to do with it next. I did some version of an “I wrote a book, now what?” google search and discovered I needed an agent and had to do something called “querying”–all brand new information for me! After I got my agent and a book deal, I still had another year of revisions before this book was done. In total it took about 5 years to write from start to finish. But I must have learned a lot because my second book only took 1 month! NaNoWriMo is an event where writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, and I decided to participate. I started writing book 2 on November 1st. On November 3rd, my agent called me with a two book offer from Quill Tree/HarperCollins, for Tethered to Other Stars and for the untitled book I had started writing just two days before! I still feel like I stumbled into some kind of lucky fairy dust! Having a two book offer on the table was a powerful motivation to complete that NaNoWriMo! By the end of November, I had a very rough draft of my second book (coming Fall of 2024). And anyone can participate in challenges like NaNoWriMo, so if that kind of structure is what you need, I encourage you to try it! NaNoWriMo pushed me to get that messy draft done much faster than the first book I wrote. I did it the next year as well and hit my goal even without a book deal to motivate me!

Your Road to Publication

6. I’d love to be able to write a book in a

month. Brent Taylor is your agent. How did he become your agent and how long did you query before you received his offer of representation?

I had been querying for about 5 months when I attended the SCBWI Summer conference and heard Brent Taylor speak on a panel. Agents are typically open to queries from writers who hear them speak on panels, which was one of the reasons I attended the conference (this was 2021, and the conference was all virtual). I queried him the next day. It was surreal how quickly everything happened after that! He requested the full almost immediately and read it over the weekend. That Monday, I got an email saying he wanted to talk. The first thing he said when we spoke on the phone was that he was calling to offer representation. It was a great conversation and he was so authentic and professional. I did have 8 other agents with the full, so I asked them to get back to me in the next 2 weeks. I ended up with 4 offers of representation and only one other who I seriously considered. In the end, I went with Brent and I am so glad! He is fantastic at what he does and I know I’m in great hands.

7. What a great road to getting an agent story. Share what it was like to go on submission. What tips do you have for other writers going on submission?

It’s similar to querying in that there is a lot of waiting! My agent put together a list of editors who he thought would be interested in my book and sent it out to them. He asked me if I wanted to hear every time someone responded or if I’d rather wait until there was good news. I wanted to know everything, so he shared it all! There were a few rejections and two interested editors. Having calls with interested editors was so exciting and nerve-wracking! I was incredibly grateful to have Brent walk me through what to expect. Again, it all happened so fast! I was only on submission for about 2 months. But the waiting always feels long. So my biggest advice is to keep busy! While I was on submission, I got my idea for the second book and decided to do NaNoWriMo, largely because I needed to keep my mind on something else. And I’m so glad I did, because I now have a second book coming out next Fall!

Promoting Your Book

8. Tell us about the events you have planned to celebrate the release of your book and how you decided to organize these events.

The main event is a book launch hosted by my local children’s bookstore at the public library. In addition to that, I contacted all my favorite local bookstores to ask if I could come in and sign stock. I’ve tried to keep my expectations low as far as numbers. I think I’ll have a decent turn out at the big launch event, but the bookstore signings will probably just be me, sitting at a table, signing stock copies. And I’m fine with that! I think if I had high expectations it would be different, but I’m actually excited to just go and sign some books and hang out in local bookstores. I’m so thrilled to see my book on the shelf, that is really all I need! For the actual day that my book releases, I’ve tried to plan low stress, fun ways to celebrate, like meeting a friend for brunch and signing books at a bookstore. Although I took off work, I’m probably going to stop in at my library (where I work) to see my books on the library shelves. And then I have a private launch party planned with friends after all those events are over. My introvert author friends would probably shudder at all the people interaction but I think I’ve planned a good balance for myself!

9. What else have you done to promote your book? What are you planning for the future?

There are some articles coming out around the launch in local newspapers and magazines, and I specifically reached out to those who have covered immigration and the sanctuary movement. I’ve done a handful of online interviews (Literary Rambles, Middle Grade-Minded, Smack Dab in the Middle, the Middle Grade Matters podcast) and I have a panel on Utopia State of Mind YouTube channel coming up. My main goal is to connect my book with middle grade teachers, so I’m working on an educator packet and I’ve begun setting up school/library visits. I’ll be speaking on a panel at a conference for Ohio school librarians just a few days after the book comes out and I’ll be at Books on the Banks, a festival in Cincinnati, next month. I’m trying to stay on top of all the application deadlines for book festivals and conferences that will help get my book out there. It is a lot! I have a spreadsheet to manage all the folks I’ve reached out to and where we are in the process.

10. What are you working on now?

If you loved Wendy and her friends, then I have some great news! The second book, which follows one of Wendy’s new friends from school, comes out next Fall. The title reveal and description are coming soon! It takes place just a few weeks after Tethered to Other Stars. I can’t give too much away, but there will be: A secret Sci-Fi webcomic, library shenanigans, a drag queen story time, a cute new enby kid, chaos twin brothers, an exorbitant amount of people-pleasing and a glitter cat.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Elisa. You can find Elisa at www.elisastoneleahy.com and @elisastoneleahy on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Giveaway Details

Elisa is generously offering a hardback of Tethered to Other Stars 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 November 4th. 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 Elisa 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.

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, November 1st I have a guest post by debut author Mackenzie Reed and a giveaway of her YA mystery The Rosewood Hunt and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an agent spotlight interview with Morgan Hughes and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, November 9th I’m participating in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 13th I have an interview with debut author DaVaun Sanders and a giveaway of his MG fantasy Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew

Hope to see you on Wednesday, November 1st!










Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Working at the library would be perfect for a writer! Congratulations to Elisa.

Valinora Troy said...

Congratulations to Joshua, Natalie! That's very exciting and wishing him lots of success with his book! Great interview, I love hearing of of these happy literary agent & publisher stories! Congratulations to Elisa on her book, and wishing her all the best!

Computer Tutor said...

Great tips on writing, especially "Know your market". That is critical, innit?

Danielle H. said...

I already had this exciting novel on my Goodreads TBR and just added the next book to be published in 2024. Thank you for the tips--knowing how your book ends before you start drafting is excellent. I can't wait to read this book! I shared on tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. I also follow Natalie on Twitter and the author on Instagram.

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like a great read! And congrats to your nephew! I hope his book sells well.

Carol Baldwin said...

Congratulations to your nephew--so kind of you to highlight him! TETHERED sounds like a compelling read and I like how the author integrates science with the story.

Liz A. said...

Okay, I need to know what a glitter cat is. It sounds like you'd need a spreadsheet to keep up with everything going. Yikes.

C. Sheer said...

Tethered to Other Stars sounds like a great read! If I'm lucky enough to win a copy...I'll enjoy it myself and then would pass it along for sharing through my local Little Free Library!
charlotte.sheer@gmail.com Thank you, Elisa...and Congratulations to Joshua, Natalie!!!

Greg Pattridge said...

Another insightful interview! Having the background on the author and her path to publication will make reading this story even better. I have it high on my TBR list. Thanks for featuring your post on MMGM.

Sandra Cox said...

Many, many congrats, Elisa. What a timely subject. Wishing you much success.
'Lo, Natalie;)

nashvillecats2 said...

Great post Natalie as always.Most enjoyable.
Hope you're well

Tonja Drecker said...

Congratulations to your nephew! And congratulations to Elisa, too!

Rosi said...

I really appreciate the writing tips. Sounds like a great story. I'll pass on the giveaway. I am buried in books.

Donna K. Weaver said...

How interesting that she makes documentary films and writes books for children!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

J.Q. Rose said...

Congrats to Mackenzie on her new release. The book sounds like an intriguing read indeed!