A Conversation with a Children’s Book Agent (and a contest announcement), by Anthony D. Fredericks

Navigating  clip_image002[2] (1)   Nonfiction

A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks

interview-1992447__480Last month we discussed how you can get an agent for your book. This month we’ll talk with an agent (mine) about what she looks for in potential clients and in the books they write. My agent (Sandy) and I have been working together for almost twenty-five years, and she has shepherded over forty of my children’s books into publication.

TONY: What should authors know about agents?

SANDY: Authors have choices. They may choose whether or not to engage an agent, and they should be aware of a variety of available professionals. It is possible to negotiate/navigate the children’s publishing field, to an extent, without an agent. Many publishers entertain unsolicited submissions and remain open to new authors who approach them sans agent. The majority of larger traditional publishers still request representation, but there are many small to mid-size publishers and alternative publishing models to pursue without an agent.

TONY: What is a common misperception about your job?

SANDY: I always try to be up-front that I can’t devote all of my time to a single author. Sometimes I’m willing to be a counselor or cheerleader, but never a personal valet! Each author I represent deserves my attention and requires a share of valuable time; but, I’m not anyone’s exclusive agent.

TONY: What do you look for in a potential client (new author)?

kid readingSANDY: The first thing I look for is a manuscript that I love or that has the potential for me or others to love, either as is or with development. Equally attractive to me is an author who is talented, can write, and offers a unique voice or aspect. Generally, I prefer to take on an aspiring writer who has more than one manuscript available or ideas on the back burner . . . a writer who is seeking a career instead of a one-shot deal. Publishers prefer that too! I also look for a manuscript that is timely in its message or entirely unique in the market—publishers are searching for the same. Something fresh, sustaining, but that hasn’t been done a hundred times over.

TONY: What can you NOT DO for an author?

SANDY: I will never “promise a contract” up front. Children’s book publishing is a competitive, subjective, often fickle business. For any author to believe that an agent guarantees a ticket to success is a misperception. Also, I won’t stand behind a proposal or manuscript that I don’t believe in or that doesn’t resonate. Ultimately, this will tarnish our agency reputation or alter an editor’s perception of our tastes.

TONY: What makes a manuscript “easy” to pitch to an editor?

laptop writingSANDY: A manuscript must be well written. If the author can offer some specific points to pitch to the publisher (why they’ve written it, what’s important about it, etc.), I will include this in my cover letter. If I can quote an author in a cover letter . . . even better. If an author has crafted a book proposal targeting a specific publisher’s list, that is ideal. Those manuscripts have the best chance for publication.

TONY: If there is a secret to success in this very competitive business, what would it be?

SANDY: (1) Perseverance—for author, illustrator, and agent. Hang in there, to a fault. Believe in your work, then stick with it. If you get rejected, it’s not over. Also, realize when to say, “Okay, let’s try something different.” (2) Savvy—know the market/editorial tastes, with or without an agent. A more informed author is always a better author . . . most “new” authors aren’t knowledgeable about current trends and events in the industry. Do your research.

TONY: What is the best piece of advice you can offer new children’s authors?

outside writingSANDY: Hang in there. Research—get educated about the market and about the business. Don’t quit your day job. Honor your writing passion. Take it seriously. For starters, don’t rely on it to put bread on the table. That should come in time! Write as much as you can, wherever and whenever, on a regular basis even if you’re not creating a book every day.

TONY: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SANDY: I’d like to emphasize that a good personal relationship and loyalty between author and agent is primary. I believe there is an unwritten code of ethics in this business, which should be respected. Some authors never honor the agent’s hard work and ultimate goal to build a signature group of clients. Bottom line: Agents need our successful authors as much as they need us!

A CONTEST!

In discussions with master blogmaster, Laura Parnum, of Eastern Penn Points, a change is coming to the “Navigating Nonfiction” column. We’d like to offer a wider range of writing topics—for both fiction and nonfiction authors—for maximum impact to our readers. Topics may include (but are not limited to) the following: characterization, plot, points of view, overcoming writer’s block, contracts, editing, common writing mistakes, how to generate ideas, how to begin a story, how to end a story, manuscript formats, verbal clutter, hybrid publishers, and self-publishing. Also included could be a Q&A section.

But first, we need a title for this new column on writing children’s books . . . and that means a contest! WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST AS A COLUMN TITLE? Send your ideas to epa@scbwi.org by no later than July 10, 2019 (please use “Column Contest” in the subject line). The person submitting the winning title (as determined by Laura and myself) will win an autographed copy of Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2YbaS0D).

So, fire up those brain cells and send along some possible column titles (there’s no limit to the number of potential titles you can submit). The winning title will begin headlining the (“new and improved”) column in August 2019.

_________________________
WritingChildrensBooks

 

Tony is an award-winning author of more than fifty children’s books. He has also authored Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2tREKCa).

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A Recap of the 27th Annual SCBWI Pocono Retreat, by Laura Parnum

Highlights

The Annual SCBWI Pocono Retreat at the Highlights Foundation has easily become one of my favorite SCBWI events. It has the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a writing retreat but with the faculty, facilities, and programming of a top-rate conference. This year’s retreat was truly a weekend to remember. The sold-out event featured many of the same wonderful programming opportunities that attendees have come to depend on, such as informative workshops, inspiring keynote speeches, and valuable faculty critiques, as well as all the perks that the Highlight’s Foundation has to offer. There were familiar faces of returning attendees as well as many new friends with whom we connected.

faculty

Faculty members (left-right) Marie Lamba, Melissa Iwai, Lisa Maxwell, Eileen Robinson, Jennifer Herrera, Mallory Grigg, and Amanda Ramirez

This year, our regional team also introduced some exciting new features that made the weekend even more special. We kicked things off with an optional tour of Lindsay Barrett George’s studio, and after that we all gathered at the Highlights Foundation Barn for an introduction to our faculty. Each faculty member was seated at a different table, and the attendees at those tables had only fifteen minutes to get to know them and find out their deepest, darkest secrets—and then present them to the whole group! We discovered their fears, phobias, passions, and possible secret identities—though I’ve promised not to publish them here.

Another new feature this year was the addition of member presentations. Some of our fellow Eastern PA authors and illustrators were given the opportunity to lead sessions of their own, including breakout sessions and a session of roundtable presentations. For the roundtable presentations, attendees could choose from a list of varying topics for a brief fifteen-minute presentation. After the first fifteen-minute presentation, attendees scattered across the room to sit in on another roundtable session of their choice for a total of three presentations. Some choices included “Games as Character Builders,” “Empowering Your Voice in a World Overrun with Gifs and Emojis,” and “Sensory, Rhythm, Music, and Theater in Writing Early Children’s Lit” among others.

Cabins

The rain pounded on our cabins most of Friday night, but by Saturday morning the sun was out, just in time for a full day of activities on the Highlights campus. This was the busiest day of all, with keynote speeches, breakout sessions, faculty critiques, peer group critiques, and a silent auction to top off the evening. Our silent auction featured a wide array of donations from attendees and faculty including prints, books, critiques, and even Highlights Foundation workshops. All proceeds from the silent auction benefit our scholarship program, which allows our SCBWI chapter to fund scholarships for this event.

Not every part of the weekend was devoted to writing and illustrating. There were nature walks, yoga, some musical entertainment, plenty of socializing, and of course great meals. A few critters got in on the action (I’m thinking of Bob the Mouse in cabin 21 and a very active woodpecker that made quite a racket on my cabin walls in the wee hours of Sunday morning).

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Of course, I’m not the only one raving about the Pocono Retreat. Here are some things other attendees had to say:

As a newcomer, I found that the retreat exceeded my expectations. I felt surrounded by creative support, generously shared practical tips, and insight into how publishing decisions are made. The first stop at Lindsay Barrett George’s studio inspired me to better integrate my work and living space. I came home with a clear revision plan and a strategy for seeking a publisher. Kudos and thank you to the EPA leadership and the faculty!

—Carol Wolfe

It was the best of times; it was the greatest of times! For me, one of the highlights of the retreat was the mealtime discussions. Opportunities to talk informally with fellow authors, share spirited conversations, and engage in active dialogue about common challenges was both invigorating and refreshing. Mealtimes were certainly nourishment for the mind as much as they were a sustenance for the body. Creatively speaking, they were also an incubator for new ideas (I’m currently working on two new book projects generated as a result of those exchanges). The retreat was truly an experience to savor . . . a delicious intellectual repast!

—Anthony D. Fredericks

I was so thrilled and excited to present at the Pocono retreat during the roundtable event. It was such a pleasure to talk about my characters, “Lola and Louie,” and to explain my process for creating a three-panel story. I greatly appreciated the presentation by Melissa Iwai about making art a daily practice and her emphasis on self-care. Mallory Grigg’s presentation on “The Art and Architecture of Picture Books” helped me see how I might improve my portfolio in creating artwork with varying perspectives. Another bonus from the retreat was the conversations I had with people who are as passionate as me about children’s books and gaining new fans of my work.

—Berrie Torgan-Randall

I appreciated the rare opportunity to personally interact with the faculty during happy hours, over meals, and through seminars. Eric Taylor’s seminar on the “Unspoken Elements of Dialogue” was especially helpful. I could immediately apply what he suggested to my writing. The Barn served as a perfect place to casually socialize with attendees all weekend long. In addition, the hospitality of the Highlights family can’t be topped!

—Susan North

One thing that makes the Eastern PA Annual Pocono Mountain Retreat a fully enjoyable experience is that the faculty members sit among the attendees at meals and mingle at the cocktail hours in a relaxed indoor/outdoor setting. This year, I was excited at the chance to offer a fifteen-minute “Roundtable” exercise in painting skin tones, and was pleased to have two faculty members joining in. Dissolving that invisible barrier results in members feeling more confident when submitting writing or art samples. Organizers make sure there are numerous topics of interest to illustrators and opportunities to display our portfolios. As a PAL illustrator, I appreciate the discounted registration fee offered us, along with the breakout gathering titled “PAL Clubhouse.”

—Anni Matsick

Group photo

Attendees of the 27th Annual SCBWI Pocono Retreat

All photos courtesy of Julie Gonzalez, Anni Matsick, and Eastern PA SCBWI.
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And the Winners Are . . . The 2019 PA Young Reader’s Choice Award Winners, by Nadine Poper, Librarian and Committee Member

I am a school librarian—one of the best jobs on this planet. I am also one of twenty-four librarians on the committee for the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award.

The Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award (PAYRCA) is an opportunity for the students of Pennsylvania to vote in their very own book award. There are four lists created each year by the committee members: grades K-3, 3-6, 6-8, and YA. Each list has fifteen books on which students can vote for their favorite, one per list. The book with the most votes from each list is the winner. The votes are cast by the students of Pennsylvania each spring.

The lists are carefully balanced to include all genres—picture books, poetry, chapter books, middle grade, biographies, and nonfiction—as well as a variety of topics and characters that will appeal to both boys and girls and that celebrate various cultures. The winning books are revealed at the annual Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) conference held each spring. Winning authors from the previous year often attend the awards breakfast at the conference to receive their recognition.

School libraries across the Commonwealth participate by purchasing the books for their collections and sharing the book talks, book trailers, and lesson ideas with their students. The book talks and lesson ideas are created by the committee members so that teachers and librarians have resources at their fingertips.

One lesson idea, for example, that I incorporate with my elementary students involves students taking on the roles of animals in the ocean and demonstrating the breakdown in the food chain as discussed in If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams.

My students enjoy participating each year because it is a book award in which their voice matters. I do a big Caldecott and Newbery award unit also, which we have so much fun doing. However, the kids know that those awards are chosen by adults, whereas the PA Young Reader’s Choice Award is all about what they like the most.

Do you want to know which books our PA students chose for 2019?

Drum roll . . .

NarwhalFrom the kindergarten-grade 3 list: Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

 

 

Wild RobotFrom the grades 3-6 list: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

 

 

 

RefugeeFrom the grades 6-8 list: Refugee by Alan Gratz

 

 

 

THUGFrom the YA list: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

 

 

A big Congratulations to all these winning authors and for all the nominated titles!

For more information and to see a complete list of all 2019-2020 books, visit the PAYRCA website here.


36900463_10214830257504129_6755719377464590336_nNadine Nadine is an elementary librarian for an urban PA school district. She loves how fortunate she is to be surrounded all day by books and children to share them with. She is a mom to three young men and two dachshunds. Nadine has two picture books being published later this year by Blue Whale Press. You can visit her website Nadinepoper.weebly.com to learn more and follow her on Facebook (@Nadinebooks) and Twitter (@NadinePoper).

 

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Mindfulness, Anxiety, and a New Picture Book: Anna Forrester Has a Café Chat with Picture Book Author Gail Silver

GailSilver_MindfulBeaAndTheWorryTree_Cover_matchsize_SM2-230x300

Gail Silver’s fourth picture book, Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, came out April 16 with Magination Press, the American Psychological Association’s children’s book imprint. Gail lives in Philadelphia, and when she’s not writing picture books she is running Yoga Child Inc. and The School Mindfulness Project.

Anna: Thanks for being here Gail—and congratulations on Bea! Can I offer you a little something to drink this morning?

teaandbooks2Gail: Thanks so much, Anna! I’m thrilled to be here with you, and I’d love an herbal tea. A Chamomile with a slice of lemon should do the trick.

Anna: Great. I’m going to go with a little green tea—Genmaicha is my go-to these days!

If it’s okay, by way of introduction, I’d like to share the story of how you and I first met.

Gail: Yes, please do! My mind’s eye remembers everything about that day as clearly as if I had captured it on film.

Anna: I’ll go for broad strokes since it’s more of a blur for me!

So: thirteen years ago, I was eight and a half months pregnant with my second child. I had a toddler underfoot and my husband in the hospital with a ruptured appendix and sepsis, when I learned that my new baby was sunny-side-up, meaning I was going to have back labor. Back labor had been just the tip of the iceberg with my first daughter’s traumatic birth, so I freaked.

A friend sent me to Gail for help. She came right to my house and taught me yoga poses and breathing techniques for back labor. More than that, though, she gave me a sense of my own capability at a moment when everything felt very much out of control. And that gift, I think, is the same gift that she shares with children in her picture books.

Gail: I just got goose bumps. Thank you, Anna.

Anna: Thank YOU, Gail!

So, who is Bea, and how did she enter your life?

Gail: Sure. Bea is the heroic protagonist of Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, but by design, she’s intended to represent any child who experiences anxiety, which according to the CDC, is about 4.4 million kids in America alone. What I admire about Bea, though, is that she has faced her worries enough times to know that she can use the power of mindfulness to overcome her anxiety. And although her mom is nearby and supportive, Bea really does the hard work on her own, which in my mind, makes her more of a warrior than a worrier.

Bea came into my life in response to seeing people I care about struggle with anxiety. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my central life-tenets is that mindfulness (when applied regularly) can make nearly anything feel easier. If Bea can help a child struggling with anxiety while also breaking down the stigma that so often isolates young warrior-worriers, then she’s done what she set out to do.

Anna: That’s a great goal! Your first three books also introduce kids to mindfulness practices. Can you tell us a little bit about the relationship between your books and your “day jobs” with Yoga Child Inc. and The School Mindfulness Project?

Gail: Sure, I’d love to! Thanks so much for asking about this.

Anh’s Anger, Steps and Stones, and Peace, Bugs, and Understanding have been incorporated into the curricula of both of these organizations for the purpose of helping to integrate mindfulness practice into classroom life.

Yoga Child is a Philadelphia-based organization and a registered children’s yoga school that has been providing school-based yoga in Philadelphia classrooms since 2003. When Yoga Child trains yoga teachers to teach its curriculum, instructors are taught how to integrate the books into their yoga classes. For example, if the yoga theme of the day is self-expression, a Yoga Child teacher might reserve time to read Anh’s Anger to the class as a way to help students self-regulate using the practice of sitting meditation; or if addressing bullying and kindness, then they might employ Steps and Stones as a guide for walking meditation or Peace, Bugs, and Understanding to facilitate the practice of friendliness meditation. The endgame is that the books provide a road map for the related practices that follow.

Their use in The School Mindfulness Project (SMP) is similar, however SMP is a nonprofit that provides sustainable yoga and mindfulness programming to whole schools, fully supporting both teachers and students and working exclusively with underserved schools. Its mission is to improve school climate and enhance the physical, social, and academic well-being of entire school communities by engaging every body and every mind in that school. Every classroom in each school receives a gift copy of each book so that after SMP educators teach the lesson that highlights the skill that comes alive in that particular story, students can easily return to the book and the practice again and again, without being dependent on the presence of their mindfulness educator.

Anna: Are there ways that your books connect or teach differently from your other work?

Gail: This question deserves an emphatic “Yes!” It’s really something that I love to talk about. I think narrative is one of the most meaningful ways to impart a lesson or inspire a new skill, possibly because engaging with a protagonist provides just enough distance to allow a young reader to identify with the character and their obstacle without becoming overwhelmed by the issue at hand. Young readers might recall the story and the steps for managing a particular emotion simply by remembering or revisiting the images and the depiction of the character’s journey. Books also have the perk of finding their way into the hands of children who might not be able to enjoy a yoga and mindfulness class or who might not have a therapist to help them through their anxiety. It always makes my heart sing to read a review by a grown-up explaining how a child or student has come to make a beeline for the bookshelf in order to manage their emotions along with Anh and his Anger.

Anna: It seems that you have a really clear platform that has evolved organically and that you’ve found niche publishers who are a really great fit. Can you talk a bit about the publishers you’ve worked with and what that process has been like?

Gail: Thanks, Anna! I’m incredibly grateful that the fit has been right each time, which definitely helps support that “organically evolving platform.” I’m fortunate in that Parallax Press, the publisher of Anh’s Anger, Steps and Stones, and Peace, Bugs, and Understanding, has a built-in audience of mindfulness devotees. And now I’m sort of doubly blessed in that Magination Press, as the children’s book division of the American Psychological Association, will publicize Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree to psychologists across the country for use in their professional practice. 

If you visit the “About” page of gailsilver.com, you can find a sort of ironic account of the phone call I received from Parallax Press in 2007 when then-Editor Rachel Neumann introduced herself before gently asking if I might want to publish Anh’s Anger with them. “Um, yes, please!” Being a mindfulness practitioner, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to publish with an organization where the staff begins each workday with group mindfulness practice. When practicing regularly, the benefits of the practice extend to those you interact with, so I sort of saw myself as a lucky beneficiary of their dedication to the practice. There are other perks of working with a niche press too, like being involved in choosing an illustrator and being invited to sign books at Book Expo America in NYC where you can find yourself sitting starstruck beside Mo Willems and Jon Muth, barely able to concentrate on your own signature.

When Mindful Bea needed a home, I wondered if she and I might be ready for a more mainstream press, especially since mindfulness was becoming “trendy” and childhood anxiety was becoming increasingly prevalent on social media and in the world at large. It took just one afternoon at a publishing conference for me to learn I should wonder no more. “This book needs a niche press,” I was told by more than one industry professional, and so I went home to my publishing roots. I knew about Magination Press from the exquisite job they had done with Lauren Rubenstein’s Visiting Feelings, and after talking with Lauren, I crossed my fingers that Magination might want to do the same with Bea. I’m thankful they saw in Bea what I did, and that, like Parallax, they solicited my input from early edits right up to choosing the artistry of Franziska Höllbacher. I’m as thrilled with Magination and Franzi as I am with Parallax and illustrators Christiane Krömer and Youme Ly.

Anna: Thanks so much for sharing your story and your work, Gail. Your niche is such an important one, and your publishing history is so fascinating. Congrats, again, on Bea!! 


Gail-Silver-Author-Parallex-Press_6693-3

 

You can visit Gail Silver at http://gailsilver.com/ or on twitter, facebookor instagram. 

Find out more about Anna Forrester at www.annaforrester.com and on twitter.

 

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Finding an Agent for Your Nonfiction Books, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Navigating clip_image002[2] (1)    Nonfiction

A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks

blogging-336375__480When I began writing children’s books, I knew I was in it for the “long haul”—that is, I wanted to write many books and devote many years to this profession. I also knew that eventually I would want an agent on my side to make that possible. But, I also knew another reality—I couldn’t get an agent just because I had decided to write nonfiction children’s books—I had to do some homework.

Consider this: There are some agents more appropriate for your writing career than others. If you are like many people, you probably didn’t select your spouse as the first person you dated. You, most likely, went out on dates with many different people—you got to know different personalities, different philosophies, and different outlooks on life. The dating process gave you an opportunity to “narrow the field”—finding the one right person with whom you wanted to spend the rest of your life.

rings-2319465__480In many ways, finding an agent—particularly one versed in nonfiction—is similar to finding your life’s mate. (Of course there are no diamond rings, house mortgages, or diaper changing involved with an agent.) You need to do your research, sifting through all the possibilities to discover the one with whom you have a high degree of compatibility and the one who will best advance your career as a children’s author.

There are several resources available to help you on your search. Here is a list of some of the most useful:

  • Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (annual) has a listing of agents, along with their contact information, guidelines, and specific needs of each agency.
  • SCBWI has a list of agents available free of charge to all its members.
  • AgentQuery.com offers one of the largest, searchable databases of literary agents on the web—a collection of reputable and established agents from a variety of agencies.
  • Literary Marketplace (annual) has an up-to-date listing of agents for both children’s and adult authors.
  • Agents Directory in The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children (annual), published by SCBWI.
  • Writer’s Digest Magazine maintains a regular blog (Guide to Literary Agents) with frequent updates on literary agents (both new and established) and what they are looking for.
  • Guide to Literary Agents (annual) has a listing of more than 1,000 agents who represent writers and their books.

sunset-698501__480When you “selected” your spouse or your life’s partner, you probably had some basic criteria in mind. Whatever they were, they helped you narrow the field and identify individuals most compatible with your personality or outlook on life. Below I have listed some of the essential criteria you should consider if you are in the market for a literary agent.

  1. Make sure any agent you consider is a member of The Association of Authors Representatives (AAR). This is a professional society of agents, all of whom embrace a strict code of conduct and ethical guidelines.
  2. Discover the books an agent has represented in the past. Oftentimes, an agent’s name will appear in the dedication of a book or in a brief acknowledgments section. You need to know if an agent handles a large percentage of nonfiction work.
  3. Check out a prospective agent’s compensation for representation. Most agents will require ten to fifteen percent of your total sales (fifteen percent is the standard).
  4. How long has the agent been in business? Do you need an agent with lots of experience (and thus lots of contacts within the publishing industry), or are you more comfortable with an agent who is just getting her career started?
  5. Contact writer friends and ask for recommendations. One of the advantages of joining a local writing consortium is the opportunity to tap into the collective wisdom of the group.
  6. It used to be that if you really wanted an outstanding agent, you should look in only one place: New York City. That’s no longer true. Good agents can be found all over the map (mine is in Colorado).
  7. manuscriptConsider whether a specific agent offers any kind of editorial guidance prior to submitting a manuscript. Do they do any kind of line editing (and are there any additional fees for those services)?

An agent has the potential to advance your writing career to new heights and new possibilities. Choose carefully, choose wisely—it’s a lifelong (literary) commitment!

___________________

WritingChildrensBooks

 

Tony is an award-winning author of more than fifty children’s books. He has also authored Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2tREKCa).

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Agent Spotlight: An Interview with Alyssa Henkin, by Laura Parnum

Alyssa Henkin Headshot

We are thrilled to have Alyssa Henkin, literary agent and Senior Vice President at Trident Media Group, here on the blog today.

After earning her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Alyssa fulfilled a childhood dream that she professed on a home video at the age of six: move to New York and work with books. In 1999, Alyssa began her career in editorial at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Here she found “kindred spirits” who loved Anne of Green Gables as much as she did and a kids book space that was rapidly growing. In late 2006 Alyssa (and her inner-entrepreneur) headed to Trident to expand the firm’s children’s book business.

Wonder EnglishOver twelve years, hundreds of deals, and numerous bestsellers and award-winners later, Alyssa still delights in nurturing her books at every stage. From editing and idea-honing to collaborating with marketing, foreign, dramatic, merchandising, and audio partners, Alyssa works hard to ensure longevity for her authors’ work. She represents multiple award-winning and bestselling authors, including Julie Berry, Ruth Behar, Jen Bryant, and R.J. Palacio, whose novel Wonder has been on the New York Times bestseller list since it came out in 2012 and was turned into a feature film by Lionsgate, which came out in 2017.

Laura: Welcome, Alyssa, and thank you for taking the time to be here with us. You’ve been involved in children’s book publishing for about twenty years now. What can you tell us about the landscape of children’s literature today and how it has evolved in that time?

spiderwick chroniclesAlyssa: First, when I started in children’s publishing, we were just beginning to see books like HARRY POTTER, A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, and THE SPIDERWICK CHORNICLES become feature films, and it really ushered in a golden age of big blockbusters and bestsellers for kids’ books. The idea of co-viewing and getting parents and kids to read and watch content together has really grown in the last twenty years. Second, we’ve seen graphic novels and illustrated fiction for middle grade and even YA become a much bigger part of the book landscape. And third, the era of power librarians and influencers building buzz about more literary books on social media has really taken shape over the last decade. It used to be books were either commercial/high concept or literary/librarian-driven, and now many of the popular books are both commercial and literary.

Laura: What directions do you foresee children’s literature moving in the near future?

Alyssa: I think children’s publishing will continue to want to publish more diverse voices and more little-heard point of views so the cannon of kidlit reflects the diversity of our world. I also think, given how many kids are using technology from the time they can hold an iPhone, the industry will continue to try new formats and initiatives to hook kids on reading, since we are competing with video games and apps even in the preschool age group.

Laura: You currently live here in Eastern PA and have strong ties with the area. Tell us about how these ties helped you develop your career early on.

Alyssa: I was fortunate to have met local residents Eileen and Jerry Spinelli early in my career, and they were kind enough to introduce me both to SCBWI Eastern PA and also to my client Jen Bryant who lives in the area. Over the years I’ve also had the opportunity to spend time with the publishing graduate studies classes at Rosemont College and to speak on publishing panels at my alma mater, U Penn, to prospective authors and students. I also love chatting with local booksellers at Haverford Children’s Book World and Main Point Books and seeing the wonderful local authors they champion.

Laura: What are your favorite local stories from our area, not just in children’s books but other media as well?

thee, hannahAlyssa: When I was seven and recovering from appendicitis a dear family friend gave me a copy of Marguerite De Angeli’s THEE, HANNAH, and I loved seeing Philadelphia brought to life in the nineteenth century. Over the years I’ve come to love MANIAC MAGEE and FEVER 1793 and recognize familiar places in each of those. And as a kid I loved watching THIRTYSOMETHING, which was set on the Main Line. More recently I’ve enjoyed the adaptations of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and THE GOLDBERGS on ABC.

Laura: What kinds of manuscripts are you currently looking for in your inbox?

Alyssa: I am looking for more illustrated and graphic projects (both nonfiction and fiction) for middle grade—maybe something in a DOG MAN format with a MADELINE sensibility. I’d love to find more memoirs in the vein of EDUCATED by Tara Westover that could cross over to YA. And I’d love to see something like the I SURVIVED series but for an older readership. I think there’s a real hole in the market, as when kids (like my third grader) outgrow I SURVIVED and the WHO WAS . . . ? series, there aren’t too many new series of that ilk for slightly older MG readers.

Laura: What advice do you have for authors who would like to query you for representation?

Alyssa: Take a shot and write to me! I don’t worry too much about whether your query letter is perfect. If I like the sound of the work, I will request it. If it’s a right fit, I will work very hard for you!

Laura: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Alyssa.

Alyssa: Thank you!


To find out more about Alyssa, her clients, and Trident Media Group, go to https://www.tridentmediagroup.com/agents/alyssa-eisner-henkin/. You can also follow her on Twitter (@AgentHenkin) and check out her latest interests on her Manuscript Wish List page (http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/alyssa-eisner-henkin/).

 

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A Book Launch Event for Gayle C. Krause’s Daddy, Can You See the Moon?

daddy cover

Written in rhyme to keep the serious topic light, Daddy, Can You See the Moon? by Gayle C. Krause is about the special moments a young boy and his deployed dad share by looking at the moon, until the father comes home a wounded warrior and the boy realizes that love was what kept them connected all along.

Gayle writes, “As a former early childhood educator training prospective teachers, I directed a laboratory pre-K affiliated with a teaching-training program in New York. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school reading countless picture books to the preschoolers or acting out fairy tales as creative dramatic presentations, that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.

IMG_1514“These precious little guys struggle to make sense of the world around them, especially the adult world of their parents. Emotional situations like divorce and deployment affect these children in a way that most adults cannot see. It was one particular little boy that was having a very difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family that came back to me years later, and the end result is Daddy, Can You See the Moon?

“In this book, military children can see that they’re not alone in this incredible, perplexing moment when Mom or Dad has to leave the family. And for nonmilitary children, it demonstrates a family’s strong, loving bond.”

376727ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As a Master Educationalist, Gayle C. Krause has taught children’s literature, creative writing, and story-telling techniques at the secondary and post-secondary levels. She’s a member of SCBWI, the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and a past member of The Poets’ Garage. Gayle is the author of six children’s books. Her work has been nominated for the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and the International Reading Award. She currently serves on Angie Karcher’s National Rhyme Revolution Committee, choosing the best rhyming picture book from 2015-2018, and presents writing seminars to children’s authors. Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary represents her. Her website is: http://www.gayleckrause.com.

Daddy, Can You See The Moon? Releases on April 9, 2019.

April 27, 2019-2Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at the book launch on April 27, 2019.

ABOUT THE BOOK LAUNCH: Come celebrate the launch of Daddy, Can You See the Moon?, written by Gayle C. Krause and illustrated by Carlos de la Garza, on April 27, 2019, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Library Express Bookstore in the Steamtown Mall, 300 Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton, PA. Ten percent of royalties will go to Our Military Kids (https://ourmilitarykids.org).

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