Interview with Agent Tracey Adams

Tracey Adams, together with her husband Josh, runs Adams Literary – a boutique agency exclusively dedicated to representing children’s and young adult authors and artists, including many award-winning and bestselling clients. She founded Adams Literary in 2004, after years with Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, where she was the head of the children’s department. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked in the marketing and editorial departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books. Tracey speaks frequently about her profession and the children’s book industry at conferences across the country. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), and a founding member of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) chapter in Charlotte, NC. In her free time, Tracey enjoys Taekwondo (she is currently a 2nd degree black belt), exploring the South (especially beaches), and test-marketing children’s books with her two daughters. 
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite? 
“Onwards and upwards!” because to me there is no other choice. Why waste time and energy thinking any other way? Anyone working with me will hear me say this. 
When you’re giving critiques, what piece of advice do you find yourself giving most to writers? 
Show, don’t tell. I want details. I don’t want to be aware that I’m reading–I want to be IN the book. What does this place look like? Smell like? Sound like? Put me there. Make me want to stay. 
In your career, who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to encourage you? 
During college, I interned for Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow Books and later I worked for Margaret McElderry at Margaret K. McElderry Books. I desperately wanted to be like them when I grew up. Above all, I admired the relationships they had with their authors and the classic books which resulted. They encouraged me by having faith in me and including me. Susan took me to lunch with Jack Prelutsky, and I’ll never forget that. She would invite me into her office when Peter Sis came by with new artwork, to be a part of that awesome moment. Margaret pushed hard for perfection, but with her smile and a wink. She wrote me a personal check to take a course in children’s publishing when corporate denied my request. 
If at all possible, could you pick one book from your childhood that has deeply affected you? If so, what was it and what moved you about it? 
I have to choose Katherine Paterson’s BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, because I so clearly remember reading it on my bottom bunk, unable to put it down, and thinking “No, it can’t be.” It was the first book that made me weep, and it taught me the power of words. 
For the busy Mom’s/Dad’s out there, could you offer some advice on how you juggle family and work? 
*laughs hysterically at irony of answering this with children watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the next room* I love having the flexibility to negotiate a contract and throw in a load of laundry, to do good work and then run over to my kids’ school to read a book in a classroom. It is juggling, and I love the challenge of not dropping any balls. I’m happiest when this is all going well. But I also realize the tremendous value of turning off work for family time, which absolutely recharges me. 
If you could send a piece of advice to your teen self in one tweet, what would you say? 
To thine own self be true. (But rethink that black prom dress.) 
If you could pick a word to describe yourself, what would it be? 
Optimist. But not in a head-in-the-clouds kind of way. I believe good things happen when you combine hard work and passion–even if you have to hear “Onwards and upwards!” more than a few times along the way.

Thank you, Tracey! Onwards and upwards is something I’ve been needing to hear! And thank you for this interview, you are so much fun! 

If you would like to find out more about Tracey, please visit Adams Literary.

2 comments

  1. Wonderful interview! I learned things about Tracey I didn't know before, like her love for "Bridge to Terabithia". When I met Katherine Paterson for the first time many, many years ago and had her sign my copy I started crying in front of her and was so embarrassed.Tracey has also had to tell me "Onward and Upward" many, many times . . . 😉

  2. Thank you, Kimberley! Aren't words put onto the page amazing?! I love it when I meet an author and their words have affected me so much that I cry. No need to be embarrassed by that, I think it's wonderful 🙂

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