Agents

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.

Interview with Agent Mary Kole

Mary Kole came to children’s literature from a writer’s perspective and got involved at Andrea Brown Literary Agency to see what it was like “on the other side of the desk.” In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked in the children’s editorial department at Chronicle Books and has recently earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. She also has a fabulous blog, www.kidlit.com
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artists, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote?
My favorite writing quote comes from legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom, who worked for Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) in the 50s and published what we think of as the classics, from RUNAWAY BUNNY to CHARLOTTE’S WEB to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. She said:
“The writer of books about the real world has to dig deep and tell the truth.”
 
You just finished classes for your MFA in creative writing.  Was there a professor that left an impression on you in a big way? If so, what did they do that was so different from the others?
I’m an extremely practical person, and an MFA isn’t exactly a practical degree, unless you want to teach at the university level. Other than that, it is more of a self-enrichment experience and a study of craft. Sometimes, all this lovey-dovey craft talk and no focus on the business end of publishing—where I’d been employed ever since I started the program—drove me a bit batty.
My two favorite professors, middle-grade and adult author Lewis Buzbee and adult author Kate Brady, married craft discussions with a great no-BS attitude that I really appreciated. If there was something wrong with a piece of writing, they weren’t afraid to say it, they weren’t afraid to say why, and they weren’t afraid to evangelize revision. I think the best writing teachers are inspiring but not shy to tell students when something isn’t working. In my own writing and with my clients, I love growth and change and learning. And that often involves cutting and revision. The most successful writers love the play and exploration involved in hearing the truth, getting mad, getting excited and rolling their sleeves up to edit and refine (usually in that order).
 
How many manuscripts have you completed? Which one would you like to have published first and why?
Ha! I’m a very slow learner in my own writing life. In fact, I had an agent at one point and we had a manuscript go out on submission and not sell. When that happened, I started reading for an agency because I wanted to learn and see what other writers were doing and what agents were seeing. If I hadn’t been so eager to learn after my experience on submission, I never would’ve ended up at Andrea Brown!
So I use manuscripts as learning experiences. I have six full drawer manuscripts that will probably never see the light of day again, and a few partials that I started but never finished. Sometimes, a manuscript helps you figure out an element of craft and then it outlives its usefulness. It’s okay, great even, to put that work away because, in the grand scheme of things, it has served a purpose and is very valuable to your growth.
The one I’m working on right now, though, is the first one I’ve really felt differently about. This is one I’d like to see out there because I think I’ve finally got all the gears working right. If it doesn’t sell, though, I’ll do what I’ve always done and start the next one.
 
What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an agent/writer did this come as a surprise?
I’ve always worked with words and come from a very creative family. My mom’s talent is fine art painting. Unfortunately, that must’ve skipped a generation. My dad’s talent is film and acting. One of my college degrees was in theatre but that was more of an intellectual interest—I wasn’t a very good actor, either. But somehow all that creativity made me good with words and language. I published my first story (in the Humane Society newsletter, to mark the passing of a beloved pet) when I was 11 and have been writing steadily since. Not only do I love writing, though, but I really do love the concepts behind the craft of the novel, talking to writers, teaching, giving workshops, building relationships with editors, pitching projects I’m passionate about, the business side of publishing, and all of the other fun perks of being an agent, not just a writer.
How do you encourage your clients when they’re having moments of self-doubt?
There is so much rejection in this business. Even well-published authors face it all the time. I tell my writers to develop healthy self-esteem in regards to the pitfalls they’ll encounter in their careers. The act of writing is deeply personal but the business of publishing isn’t. At all. Success in this industry takes talent, sure, but it takes perseverance, grit, a sense of humor and a stream of ideas that doesn’t dry up. My clients have all that in spades—or they wouldn’t be my clients! Sometimes it just takes a reminder and a pep talk…and, yeah, sometimes it takes a drink. But tomorrow is another day and another chance for someone to fall in love with their writing as much as I have.
Are there ever times you feel your creative spark dying? If so, how do you light it back up?
The only thing that ever stops me, creatively, is a lack of time. I’m always busy growing my list and working on behalf of my clients, even now that my MFA is done. That’s just the way I like it but my work sometimes takes to the back burner.
Since I’m here to give advice, though, I will say this: don’t give yourself the luxury (or the crutch) of believing in writer’s block.  A lot of the time, a block happens when you don’t know what to do next or when you’re approaching an ambitious part in your writing. It’s usually easier to avoid it than to plow through, but don’t be intimidated. Challenge yourself. Take that risk and keep writing, even when you want to stop. If you’re stuck in a specific place, skip it and move on to the next thing you know for sure. Professional writers show up at the page every single day, even if it feels like pulling teeth and the results aren’t that great. Writer’s block is for people who have lots of time to have long, tortured conversations with their muses. I’m too busy for it. Work expands to the amount of time you have for it. If you have your whole life to write a novel, you’ll spend an awful lot of your time blocked or contemplating sunsets and baby ducks. And who’s got time for that?
Don’t rely on a creative spark or inspiration. Get in the habit of writing, in the habit of creating, and your brain will get itself in the habit of supplying the words and the new ideas, automatically. Creativity is very much an unconscious process that you can train. Life’s too short to wait around for some kind of spark. You sit down and you make it happen. And if today’s spark fizzles out, try again tomorrow. The worst thing you can do is wallow and lose time…that’s a self-defeating cycle.
 
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?
Excited!

Thank you for the great interview Mary and for creating Kidlit.com!  I know many writers who’ve learned so much from you (including myself) and are very thankful for all the guidance you give.  You’re loved by many!


If you would like to find out more about Mary please visit her incredible blog or the amazing agency she works for, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.

Interview with Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard

Mandy Hubbard is the author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, and five other to-be-published novels for teens. She is also a literary agent for D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle grade and teen fiction. She is currently living happily ever after with her husband and young daughter in Enumclaw, Washington.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? 

The first quote that really helped me was, 

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke.
I pinned it above my computer in 2005, when I first started querying. That way if I ever felt “not good enough,” I could look up at it and realize that it’s okay if I’m not the very best, that I still have a place somewhere, and my voice deserves to be heard.

What’s your favorite piece of advice you like to give writers trying to follow in your footsteps?
My blog’s tag line is: “A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit. Don’t quit.”
That pretty much sums it up. I put that tag line up sometime in 2007 or 2008, before I got my deal, and it’s stayed there ever since.
Your book Prada and Prejudice has been flying off the shelves. It is now in its fifth printing, this is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations! When you first started writing it, did you have moments of self-doubt? If so, how did you keep going?
Thank you! And yes, of course, I think we all have doubts from time to time. Prada & Prejudice weathered so many rejections and revisions I wanted to hurl it out the window more than a time or two. But at the end of the day, I still believed in the story. Luckily, my agent did too, so we just kept trying and trying and trying, and eventually it worked out.
There’s no secret or tip I can give you to make it easier, or make the rejections sting a little less. Just remember they are part of this business—forever more–and if you view them as an inevitable part of things, it gets easier. Because even after the deal, there will be someone on amazon tearing your novel apart, or one of the chains will decide not to carry it at all… you just have to have a thick skin and believe in yourself above all else.
What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an author/agent did this come as a surprise?

I wanted to be a veterinarian for pretty much as long as I can remember. I grew up on a dairy surrounded by animals, so it made sense.
Well, until I “assisted” one of the vets that stopped by weekly, while he performed surgery. About the time he was pulling the stomach out of the cow, I almost passed out. I remember saying, “it’s getting dark around the edges…” and then rushing away on wobbly legs. I ran into him last summer (more than 10 years later!) and he looked right at me and said, “It’s getting dark around the edges!” I couldn’t believe he remembered.
Needless to say, being a vet wasn’t in the cards.
I kind of stumbled into the writing thing in 2003, but it’s become an overwhelming passion. I can’t get enough!
Who has been the biggest influence on you in your writing career? What have they done to encourage you?

I thanked Lauren Barnholdt in my acknowledgments for Prada & Prejudice. Any time something happened that I didn’t understand or that just frustrated the heck out of me, I’d email her, and she was always around to help. Other than her, my critique partner, Cyn Balog, has been absolutely instrumental in this journey. We met before either of us had agents or publishing deals, and now we have 11 books between us. Every curve and hill on this road has been shared with her!
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

I guess I would pick tenacious. Dictionary.com describes it as persistent or stubborn. I’m one of those two.

WOW!  Thank you Mandy.  If you would like to find out more about Mandy Hubbard please visit her site here

   And congratulations Mandy on, You Wish hitting shelves everywhere August 5th, 201o!     

Interview with Agent Gordon Warnock

Gordon Warnock has a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Combined with his industry knowledge and respectful manner, he works diligently with authors to develop and polish their manuscripts and book proposals. With a zest for fresh, new writing and a deep love of the classics, Gordon always has his eye out for works which will not only thrive in the current market but will also withstand the test of time. In that spirit, he seeks to establish involved, long term working relationships with talented and dedicated authors in such areas as memoir, political and current affairs, health, humor and cookbooks. His eclectic taste in fiction focuses on a commercial narrative with a literary edge. His 2010 conferences include the San Francisco Writers Conference, Algonkian’s inaugural Write and Pitch Conference and the American Independent Writers Conference, among others.


Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?

I would have to go with, “He told me not to worry about being him or being me. That if I learned how to begin everything I do or say with love, to fill my heart with it, everything would look different. That it doesn’t matter to be right.”Tanya Chernov.

Gorgeous and poignant. It kind of embodies what it means to be an artist. Not only is it the kind of quote that I try to live by, but it was one of many that made me fall in love with a manuscript that is currently getting a lot of attention from New York.

What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an agent did this come as a surprise?

As a kid, I was in the odd position of knowing, yet never having an answer to that question. I simply wanted to not be an asshole. But since that wouldn’t satisfy the question (and would likely get me in trouble for swearing), I would make something up or just agree with whatever that adult wanted me to be. The agenting thing came as quite a surprise. I was a writer looking to learn about “the other side” of publishing for my own personal use, and it just stuck. I love working with authors and helping them achieve the success they deserve.


How do you encourage your clients when they are having moments of self-doubt?

A good agent knows his/her writers as well as their manuscripts and knows that they are all wired differently. Some perk back up with gentle encouragement or a joke, others need more of a tough love approach, and some require dairy products. It’s like any relationship. If you pay attention to what they do and say, you will know how to make them happy.

Has there ever been a writer that made a long lasting impression on you but you never took them on as a client?

My specialty in memoir often has me reading touching manuscripts that for one reason or another have no chance in the current marketplace. I do my best to point them in the right direction, but I simply don’t have the time to work with them (and most likely come up empty-handed). I have also been offered the occasional manuscript from a former writing mentor, which is an odd experience, but they usually aren’t of the type that I work with.


I find it fascinating that you are also a musician. Could you describe the instruments you play and if you write your own music?

I have been writing and recording music since before I knew how to play any instruments. Right now, I pretend to know how to play guitar, organ, drums, harmonica, ukulele, thumb piano, and whatever else I can get a hold of. I quite enjoy using non-instrument items, such as cell phones and remote controls to add character to a song. And as if I didn’t have enough to keep me busy, I am currently writing music for my new band, Lovesies.

Are there ever moments when you feel your creative spark is dying? If so, how do you light it back up?

It’s funny you should ask. I was just discussing this with Tanya. She says it well on her blog, www.tanyachernov.com. Sometimes I’m just not able to power through it, and I need some sort of drastic change to regain perspective and fuel inspiration. I am a big proponent of putting something away and coming back to it whether or not you are having difficulty with it, but she took it one step further and removed herself from the physical environment that she was writing in. That is a good practice, especially if you work and write in the same place.


If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

“I,” or possibly “me,” depending upon the grammatical context. I’m really big on grammar, so perhaps “nerd” would be more appropriate.

Thank you Gordon!  If you would like to find out more about Gordon Warnock and the great agency he works for please visit, www.andreahurst.com