Member News—April 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org before May 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Crystal Kite Award Finalists

Congratulations to authors Katey Howes and Alison Green Myers for advancing to Round 2 of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award selection for the Atlantic region. The Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. SCBWI members are asked to vote in two rounds to determine the award for each division. Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes and A Bird Will Soar by Alison Green Myers were two of four books to be selected for Round 2. Round 2 voting ends April 30.


Deal Announcement

Sophia Ezomoghene recently announced a book deal for her chapter book series, The Osagie Twins. Winsome Bingham at Reycraft has acquired English and Spanish rights for three books in the series. In the first book, twins Eddie and Nosa break the #1 house rule of going into Baba’s home office. When they knock over a vase, releasing Eshu the trickster god, they need to recapture him before Baba gets home. Publication for the first book is set for fall 2023.


Publication Announcement

The Secret Life of the Sea Otter illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

Illustrator Kate Garchinsky’s next book in the Secret Life series will release on May 24. The Secret Life of the Sea Otter (Astra Young Readers) was written by Laurence Pringle. Living off the coast of California in the Northern Pacific Ocean, Lutris the sea otter shares her life in a giant kelp forest habitat with many other otters and animals. Lutris is resourceful and relies on her keen sense of sight and smell to find food and survive. When her pup is born, Lutris lovingly tends to and teaches her daughter until she is ready to head out into the world on her own. Filled with important facts and Kate’s gorgeous illustrations, readers will be fascinated by the story of these remarkable mammals. This latest title in the Secret Life series has been vetted by a sea otter expert and includes back matter with more in-depth information, a glossary, and further resources. The Secret Life of the Sea Otter is available for preorder.


Upcoming Publication and Preorder

Ghosts Come Rising by Adam Perry

Author Adam Perry’s next book will release this September. Ghosts Come Rising (Yellow Jacket, September 6, 2022) is a middle grade novel set in the mid 19th century, when a religious movement called Spiritualism spread across America. Spiritualists believe that the living could communicate with the dead. Complete with ghostly black-and-white photographs, this suspenseful book tells the story of twelve-year-old Liza Carroll and her little brother as they try to find answers and hide a secret while staying at a spooky Spiritualist commune. Ghosts Come Rising is available for preorder.


Deal Announcement

Author Annette Whipple recently announced a deal for her book Wild Wonders: Animal Devotions for Kids. The book was acquired by Linda Howard at Tyndale. This new book for kids celebrates children’s curiosity through 52 devotions featuring 52 different animals. Wild Wonders is scheduled for publication in fall 2023.


Cover Reveal and Preorders

Author Katey Howes has two upcoming picture books in the works. She recently revealed the cover for A Poem Grows Inside You (Innovation Pr, October 4, 2022) illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee. We all hold the seed of something wonderful inside us, just waiting for the right moment to bloom. In A Poem Grows Inside You, the seed of an idea waits for the rhythm of the rainfall to awaken it, then takes root and begins to grow. At once a celebration of the deep connection creatives have with their art and an acknowledgement of the courage it takes to let it into the sun, this beautifully illustrated picture book encourages readers to nurture their talents and boldly share them with the world. Her next picture book, Woven of the World (Chronicle Books, February 7, 2023), is illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova. Told from the perspective of a young girl learning to weave, Woven of the World is a lyrical meditation on the ancient art of weaving and what this beautiful craft can teach us. Both books are available for preorder. 


Upcoming Publication and Preorder

Our Shadows Have Claws Anthology featuring a story by Alexandra Villasante

A short story by author Alexandra Villasante will be included in the upcoming anthology Our Shadows Have Claws (Algonquin Young Readers, September 6, 2022). The book contains fifteen original short stories from YA superstars, featuring Latine mythology’s most memorable monsters. Our Shadows Have Claws is available for preorder.


Song Collaborations

Songwriter Annie Lynn recently collaborated with two SCBWI members from other chapters. The first song is a commissioned song, written during STORYSTORM, by teacher/author/SCBWI Carolinas member Tonnye Fletcher and Annie Lynn. It’s the theme song for Tonnye’s video interview show “PBJamz.” The song will explain the show. Tonnye also has a lovely voice, and sang accompaniment on the song. Anyone with a book that also has a song with it should contact Tonnye at tonnyefletcher.com if they’d like to apply as a guest author.

The second song is another STORYSTORM song, written and inspired by author/NJSCBWI member Tara Lazar and her new book Absurd Words (Sourcebooks Explore, January 2, 2022). The song features an appearance by Tara at the end, channeling her best “Ernestine the Operator.”


Publication and Workshop

Author-illustrator Berrie Torgan-Randall’s six panel illustration “Firefly Fun” is in the May/June edition of Ladybug Magazine. Berrie was also the invited Resident Assistant at a recent Highlights Foundation Conference, “Creating Picture Books with Humor and Heart: A working retreat.”


Bank Street Best Children’s Books of 2021

The Bank Street College of Education released their list of the Best Children’s Books of the Year for books published in 2021. Each year, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee issues an annotated guide to more than 650 children’s books they consider the best publications of the prior year. Among the books honored were several written by members of our region, including Way Past Jealous by Hallee Adelman, The Cot in the Living Room by Hilda Eunice Burgos, The Cicadas Are Coming by Doug Wechsler, Miosotis Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice Burgos, Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz, and Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb. In addition, several books illustrated by the late Floyd Cooper were featured in the list, including A Day for Remembering’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day by Leah Henderson, The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly across the United States by Louisa Jagger and Shari Becker, and Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carol Boston Weatherford. For a complete list of the Bank Street Best Childnren’s books of 2021 click here.


SCBWI Recommended Reading List—April 2022

Each month, SCBWI features books written and illustrated by members from across the globe and every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! April is the month we bring awareness to our environment and promote clean living and a healthy, sustainable habitat for both the people and wildlife living on this place we call home: Earth. This month, two of our Eastern PA members’ books were featured in the Recommended Reading List: Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz and Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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Walk the Walk, by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

Walk the Walk

I’m currently working on a new children’s book—one commissioned by Wellspan Heath, an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. For the past fifteen years, they have run Get Outdoors (GO) York!—a summer-long physical activity initiative, conducted in partnership with York County Libraries, that encourages children and families to visit parks and trails in and around York County, PA. It is designed to promote reading and physical activity for children of all ages. In celebration of their 15th anniversary, I was invited to create a children’s book that would feature the parks, reserves, and forests of York County via narratives, poetry, stories, and hands-on activities.

To be successful, I knew I had to “walk the walk.”

I suppose it would have been quite easy to sit in front of my computer, access a couple of local websites, and put together an assembly of facts and figures that would define the various parks and outposts of the county. But, that was not my perception of the assignment. I had to give my young readers a sense of the spirit and energy of each designated spot; they needed to know that a naturalistic environment was more than an assembly of trails, a collage of playground equipment, or an occasional gathering of wildlife. Each of these places was a pause in the cacophony of everyday life—places devoid of cell phones, emails, text messages, apps, tweets, and all manner of electronic interruptions and intrusions that push and shove the real world to the fringes of our consciousness. Many kids are wrapped in an electronic cocoon—an envelope that isolates them from the natural world. What youngsters often need is to step out of their comfort zones and reconnect with things wondrously normal and contemplatively natural—to visit a truer ebb and flow of life.

To do that, I needed to do on-site research. I needed to get “up close and personal” with each distinctive ecosystem. I needed to personally walk the trails, commune with trees, pause beside tumbling streams, wander beside long fields of cornstalks, and observe the arc of migratory birds over the Susquehanna River. I needed to get close with nature so that my readers could do the same in their personal ventures around this vibrant landscape. My personal connections were a necessary framework and essential foundation for each chapter of the book, without which the manuscript would be an empty vessel—one lacking both personality and passion. You, too, can discover that spirit in a local park, garden, or hiking trail.

The same is no less true for works of fiction. When I crafted my fictional story The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather’s Story, I wanted to give youngsters a personal feeling about the impact of tsunamis, not in a scientific way, but more in a personal sense. I wanted them to feel the impact of this natural disaster on families and neighbors. Again, I could have made my writing much easier by referencing any number of websites. But, I decided that, unless I physically visited the site of a disastrous tsunami (and its aftermath) I could not, in all good conscience, tell a story about the personal impact on a young boy’s relationship with his grandfather. So, I took a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii and Laupāhoehoe Point where, on April 1, 1946, a devastating tsunami destroyed a school and took the lives of 24 teachers and children. As I walked the same grounds that students and educators walked more than 75 years ago, I began to feel the spirit of the place—a transference of emotions that underscored the passion and peril I needed for this book. Truth be told, it was a walk unlike any other walk I have ever taken. I still have those goosebumps.

Success as a children’s author is more than a mastery of grammar, a command of dialogue, or the establishment of voice. It’s also about engagement . . . insights of a character, dynamics of place, and the intimacy of a scene. It is storytelling from the inside out. It is crawling inside the soul of your narrative and a way of building an impassioned bridge between ourselves as authors and the readers for whom we are writing. Without walking the walk, our words are empty and lifeless. They take up space on the page but seldom gain a space in the hearts and minds of our readers. Experience what you want your readers to experience and you will begin to craft stories that command attention, drive the narrative, and engage emotions.

By walking the walk, you’ll be able to talk the talk!

NOTE: The “Get Outdoors” book profiled above will be the fourth “community-based” children’s book I’ve written. Others include books for the York Revolution minor league baseball team, United Way of York, and the Northern Central Railway of York (an excursion train that runs along a historical rail line). Consider contacting your own local groups and organizations to see if they might be interested in a specially written children’s book for their members or as part of their outreach efforts.


DEAR READERS: For the past four years, I have been deeply honored to write this column. I sincerely hope that these monthly musings have provided you with engaging ideas and insightful practices—aiding in your success as a children’s author. But, now it is time for me to “retire.” My decision is based on a few factors; but primarily on the realization that we grow as writers only when we consider a wide variety of viewpoints and embrace a plethora of dynamic possibilities. A fresh voice, new experiences, and a different way of thinking will help you achieve your own literary goals. That said, it is still my continuing wish that every reader experience a most passionate career and a most triumphant venture (and adventure) into the hearts and minds of children everywhere! I look forward to reading your creative productions! Bon voyage! Bon vivant! 

In Friendship and with All Best Wishes,

Tony Fredericks

_______________________

Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books—many of which have won national writing awards (i.e., Outstanding Science Trade Book [Children’s Book Council], Isaac Walton Book of the Year, etc.). He has also authored the best-selling (and Spider-Man–approved) Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know From Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/3CqgSYu). 


Editor’s Note

Eastern PA SCBWI would like to thank Tony Fredericks for providing four years of writing advice, insights, and wisdom in his monthly column here on the EasternPennPoints blog. We are so grateful for his dedication to our region and our members over the years.

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Lori Steel, by Jenny Krumrine, and a Critique Giveaway

Our “Meet the Agency” webinar series, featuring Raven Quill Literary, is running through the month of April with presentations from four agents from Raven Quill. At the end of the series we are hosting a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, one of our Eastern PA SCBWI Equity and Inclusion Team members, Jenny Krumrine, interviews our final presenter in the “Meet the Agency” webinar series, literary agent Lori Steel. Lori will be presenting “The Magic of Revision” on April 28, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free manuscript critique by Lori to one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Lori Steel, by Jenny Krumrine

Jenny: Hi, Lori. Welcome to the EasternPennPoints virtual café! 

Lori: Thank you for inviting me!

Jenny: What are you having to drink? And anything to eat with that? I’m in the mood for tea and a scone. Maybe that’s because I saw from your bio that you lived in Oxford, UK.

Lori: Tea and scones are a perfect pairing for an afternoon break! Coffee is my drink of choice in the mornings, but afternoons always include milky tea, often with a piece of toast and jam, or a Jaffa cake if handy.

Jenny: What did you do in the UK? What do you miss most about it?

Lori: You’ve done your homework! I actually studied history at the University of Liverpool for a year during my undergrad years where I met my husband. We moved to Oxford for him to pursue graduate work. While he studied, I worked at St. Hilda’s College, rowed crew, and raised a family. Our extended family still lives up north in the spectacular Lake District, so I consider both Oxford and Cumbria special places. Mostly, I miss our family and friends—especially over the past few years during the pandemic. But I also miss meandering walks that often end with a good bitter at a local pub.

Jenny: I’m really looking forward to your talk—The Magic of Revision. You describe revision as both the “real work” and the “real magic.” Some writers might feel that the “magic” in their story is the original spark that inspired them to write in the first place. Others might feel the “magic” is their plot. Can you give us a teaser about revision magic?

Lori: Transforming a blank page into a story is a special magic all unto itself. A creationism that can, at times, feel like an out-of-body experience. At least, that’s been my experience! But, for me, revision is a different kind of magic. This space is more analytical, process-oriented, and revelatory. It’s where we take graphemes and grammar, sentences and syntax, into skilled hands and sculpt, manipulate, flesh out until it becomes a living, breathing Story. 

In this talk, The Magic of Revision, I hope to demonstrate how writers can approach revision through the five senses. We’ll discuss story development and specific tips and tools to help  support revision organization.

Jenny: Your bio at ravenliterary.com describes you as working “editorially with clients to ensure their work shines before finding its perfect home.” What metrics do you use when evaluating a story? What elements are you looking for? How do you typically work with a client during the editorial process to make their work shine?

Lori: I’m not sure I use any metrics with my clients’ projects, per se, but certainly story craft and market viability both come into play. Of course, story development and revision look different for picture books and novels. Within each form, I need to consider the illustrative possibilities, the audience, and the narrative style and approach for each subject, among many other craft elements. However, even if I love the story, I must also be confident that I can place it in a good publishing home. That’s where the market comes into play. 

Once a decision has been made to go out on submission (to editors) with a project, it’s time to revise until the pages sing and shine. That means looking at the manuscript globally before getting down to line-level edits. This often starts with a phone/Zoom conversation followed by one or more rounds of revisions before we feel confident that it’s ready for an editor’s eyes. Working with clients is a partnership and, in the end, revisions must resonate with their own creative vision of the work. One of the great joys of my job is receiving a client’s revised manuscript and discovering the treasure they unearthed during the revision process. The skill, dedication, and professionalism with which they approach each project is absolutely inspiring!

Jenny: How has children’s literature changed over your career? How do you see children’s literature evolving in the future? You have more than one perspective on this—as a librarian, as an agent, and you also have an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

Lori: Being an educator, school librarian, and writer before becoming a literary agent certainly provides me with a unique perspective on the evolution of children’s literature. However, while kidlit is ever-changing and, in many cases, acts as a bellwether on the state of childhood and young adulthood, there is one constant: their stories must engage and trust young audiences. I call these “sustaining stories,” and this is the quality I look for when evaluating a project. Stories that authentically speak to the trials and tribulations—and joys!—of growing up, without talking down to their audience. Books that speak to greater truths that young people experience without didacticism. These are books that stand the test of time, regardless of their topics. 

Jenny: What kinds of stories are you gravitating toward?

Lori: I gravitate toward authentic, voicy, setting-rich stories where the first lines grab me and won’t let go. Like any reader, I yearn to be immersed in a new world where I come away a little changed because I experienced a new place, situation, emotion, and/or connection with a character. I gravitate toward authors who trust readers to meet stories where they are without “teaching them a lesson” as the purpose of their book. Young people have enough adults doing this every day! I’m on the lookout for those sustaining stories where I can picture both the perfect publishing home and imagine young readers requesting holds on these titles, whether they be humorous, mysterious, or dramatic. This may all sound ambiguous, but, unless it’s hard sci-fi or YA horror, I’m curious to find any story that grabs me and won’t let go. I guess you could say, I’m looking for story magic!


Lori Steel is a literary agent at Raven Quill Literary where she represents both authors and illustrators ranging from picture books through YA. Prior to agenting, Lori was an educator and school librarian where she had the special honor of finding just-right books for young readers. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art’s Writing for Children and Young Adult Program and is a member of AALA. Lori lives with her family in Washington DC. When not engaged in bookish pursuits, Lori is probably walking their golden-chow mix or whipping up a new recipe. @Bookishsort


Webinar Information

April 28, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time 

The Magic of Revision with literary agent Lori Steel

You’ve got a full draft, but now what? Revision! It’s where the real work—and magic—happens. But where to start? RQLA literary agent Lori Steel will discuss how to approach revision with an artist’s eye and a carpenter’s skill. The goal of the talk is for writers to add concrete strategies to jump-start the revision process and keep momentum going until their manuscript shines.

To register, please visit our registration page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (picture book and middle grade fiction or nonfiction and YA fiction (no horror or hard sci-fi, please) with literary agent Lori Steel to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! For picture books, Lori will critique one full manuscript plus a 2- to 3-sentence pitch in the same document. For MG/YA, Lori will critique up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page, single-spaced synopsis.

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, April 16. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday, April 29, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Saba Sulaiman, by Joy Ogbonnaya, and a Career Consultation Opportunity

Part 4 in our Query Grind webinar series is coming up on May 19 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time with Literary Agent Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services. Seeking representation can be hard for writers, especially when they don’t know the rules of the process. Saba’s session will help writers develop a formidable strategy for querying and provide suggestions for coping with the uncertainties of this phase. We are also collaborating with Saba to offer four 15-minute virtual career consultations for writers who belong to marginalized communities that have been historically underrepresented in publishing. Please read to the end of this interview to learn more about this opportunity.

In preparation for the webinar, SCBWI Eastern PA’s Equity and Inclusion Team member, Joy Ogbonnaya, had a chat with Saba in our virtual café. Here’s what they had to say:

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Saba Sulaiman, by Joy Ogbonnaya

Joy: Hi, Saba! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints virtual café! It is a cold and cloudy day in the city of Philadelphia where I am, and I have my cup of coffee in hand to help with warmth. How are you doing today, and what’s it like at your location?

Saba: Oh no, I’m sorry spring is still eluding your whereabouts! I’ve been having a busy day and I’m already feeling the screen fatigue (and it isn’t even noon yet), but unfortunately it has been raining all day so I don’t think I’ll be able to get outside either. At least it’s warm rain, though?

Joy: I hope you can find some time to take a break off screen and relax a bit today. And yes, I will take a warm rain day over a cold and cloudy day.  (Laughs) Do you mind sharing a little about your career journey? How did you know you wanted to work in the publishing industry, and how did you get started as a literary agent? 

Saba: Not at all! To be frank, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life for what felt like the longest time (and what I now know to be a perfectly normal amount of time), but after a couple of pitstops at various internships across industries and a short stint at graduate school, I eventually found myself interning at a publishing house and feeling as though I could be happy working in the publishing industry. My next internship was at my current agency, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Joy: Thank you for sharing that, Saba. For what seemed like the longest time, I also didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but internships and volunteering helped me find it. So, I agree wholeheartedly with you that internships can provide direction that can help us find our career path. 

Writers usually feel the jitters when querying literary agents, and I have always wondered if literary agents feel the same way when they reach out to editors/publishers regarding a potential work. Can you shine some light about what that dynamic is like?

Saba: Oh, absolutely! It’s certainly much less pronounced if I already have a working relationship with the editor I’m pitching to, but I’m always a bundle of excited nerves when I reach out about a new project. It’s almost like the few moments before you jump off a plane—a mixture of adrenaline and mild panic. Except I have no desire to skydive ever again, and I love pitching new projects—which is a good thing for my clients, I suppose!

Joy: Absolutely! Your clients are lucky to have you. Do you think the pandemic has in any way affected or changed the children’s publishing industry, and how? What are your predictions for the future of children’s publishing?

Saba: It’s been a mixed bag, to be very honest. But to broadly generalize, most major houses are still acquiring as usual, but smaller independent houses, especially initially, had to either freeze acquisitions or put their staff on furlough to survive, which was unfortunate. There have been some pretty devastating and unexpected layoffs as well, but on the whole, editors are continuing to do business with agents and are insisting that they’re still acquiring as zealously as they would have pre-pandemic. I suspect, however, that the reality is that they’re being slightly more judicious but have been told to try and keep appearances up that it’s business as usual as far as possible. But this is all speculation at the end of the day. All I can say is, I’ve sold books since the pandemic began, and also been told that a book that was going to get an offer on it from a publisher has been stalled specifically because of the pandemic’s effect on their budget. So there have definitely been significant effects, albeit uncertain. I’ve also seen many houses focus on non-fiction more (with some of them even launching non-fiction imprints) because of the increased demand for educational materials for kids who aren’t going back to school because of the pandemic. And then there’s the fact that the quarantine itself (since everyone is working from home) has also delayed contract paperwork considerably because accounting and financials are tough to wrangle remotely because of all the sign-offs involved. But my hope is that this experience will make everyone (especially in editorial) realize that we can continue to function efficiently without all needing to live and work out of NYC.

Joy: Yessss! Saba, I agree. Without giving too much away, what are one or two big things you hope writers will go away with from your presentation?

Saba: I want writers to come away with a sense of comfort and be reassured that while querying is certainly a fraught process, it’s not an insurmountable challenge by any measure, and there are things they can do to mitigate the difficulties of being in the querying trenches that I hope I’ll have touched upon in my presentation. Oh, and that (many) agents are fairly reasonable (friendly even!) and are aware of our collective fallibility as human beings.

Joy: I bet we can all use that reassurance as writers. Thank you! As part of your commitment to our webinar, you have also offered to provide free Zoom career consultations to four creators from underrepresented communities. Thank you so much for your generosity. What do you hope the creators will get out of these consulting sessions?

Saba: I hope they will come away with some valuable knowledge and resources, and a sense of what steps to take next as they plan ahead for their careers. 

Joy: Thank you so much for sharing this time with me, and I look forward to your presentation.

Saba: Thank you for having me, Joy!


Saba Sulaiman is an agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT. She holds a BA in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. Being an immigrant who is constantly negotiating her own identity and sense of belonging in a place she now calls “home,” she is committed to championing books by writers from marginalized communities with compelling stories to tell; stories that demonstrate the true range of perspectives that exist in this world, and address urgent and often underexplored issues in both fiction and non-fiction with veracity and heart.


Webinar Information

Tackling (and Surviving!) the Query Trenches with Literary Agent Saba Sulaiman, Talcott Notch Literary Services

May 19, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Seeking representation is a daunting process with all sorts of unspoken rules that can sometimes feel arbitrary and frustrating. This presentation will address how best to strategize querying literary agents: the dos, the don’ts, and the don’t worry abouts of composing and sending query letters, along with some suggestions for how to cope with the uncertainty of this phase of your writing career.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-query-grind-2022/

Career Consultation Opportunity

As part of this series, literary agent Saba Sulaiman, in collaboration with Eastern PA SCBWI, will be offering four 15-minute Zoom career consultation opportunities with Saba at no charge to writers who belong to marginalized communities that have been historically underrepresented in publishing as well.

To apply, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/rCxsP1uR4HdNXMoQA

Deadline to apply is April 15, 2022.

The four recipients will be chosen at random from the pool of applicants. Recipients will be notified by May 1, 2022.

Recipients will also receive access to Saba’s May 19 webinar.

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Kelly Dyksterhouse, by Berrie Torgan-Randall, and a Critique Giveaway (manuscript or illustration)

Our “Meet the Agency” webinar series, featuring Raven Quill Literary, begins this week and runs through the month of April. We’ll have four webinars led by four different agents from Raven Quill, and at the end of the series we’ll host a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, Berrie Torgan-Randall interviews our third presenter in the “Meet the Agency” webinar series, literary agent Kelly Dyksterhouse. Kelly will be presenting “Do You Feel What I See? An In-Depth Look at First Person Point-of-View” on April 21, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free critique for manuscript pages or illustrations by Kelly to one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Kelly Dyksterhouse

Berrie: Ahoy, Kelly! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints Café Chat. Today we will be paddling in a canoe—I noticed on your website that you love being on the water. I’ll steer since I’m going to be asking you questions, and you can paddle and enjoy the view. I have a bunch of cheesy water/sailing references in my interview—please forgive me. 

Kelly: Ah, I do love a good extended metaphor, particularly if it involves boats or water, so let’s set sail!

Berrie: In your Manuscript Wish List profile, it says you are hungry for author-illustrators. What would an author-illustrator such as myself need in a website or query letter that would make you “sail and then drop anchor” and what would make you “jump ship”? 

Kelly: Great question! If you’re an illustrator, I will absolutely want to see a link to your website in your query. I will always visit and poke around a bit, and hope to see something that causes me to linger and want to return. I think the best websites showcase a diverse portfolio—I want to see how an artist depicts people, settings, and animals. Given that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and that it’s an illustrator’s job to tell a story, that’s what I’m looking for—images that tell a story. Is there action, and if so, is it multilayered? Meaning, are the characters clearly depicted, and is there a hint of continuation/reaction—something that could carry over to another page? If it’s a closeup of a single person or an animal, I want information as to their personality, but I also want my curiosity stirred—What emotion are they feeling and why? What are they thinking? Something that makes me think I’d turn the page with them. If it’s of a setting, again, I want my curiosity stirred. I want to be invited in to explore. What’s down the path? Around the corner? Through the door? Or is it a place that stimulates the senses and makes me want to just sit and absorb the richness? If these things aren’t there, I move on.

Berrie: I noticed in your bio that you are attracted to nonfiction books that are connected to the natural world—bears seem to be your favorite animal in your PB examples. If you could go “forest bathing” anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why do you think being in nature is good for writing for children and young adults?  

Kelly: Bears! That’s so funny, but it caused me to look at my shelves, and you’re right. Lots of bear books. And dogs, and quite a few cats. Why aren’t there more foxes? We need more foxes. 

But, to your question, I love unplugged walks in the woods, and the importance of time outside is one of my most valuable takeaways from those early, isolating months of the pandemic. I also think time outside is absolutely integral to the creative process. It teaches us all—kids and adults—important things. It teaches us to observe, listen, and smell and gives us time to pause and process and question. As a society, we are so overcommitted and programmed to multitask. But when we give our minds the freedom to wander, it’s amazing the things we discover—about ourselves, the world, our friends and family, our characters, and our stories. I’m also a big fan of the afternoon coffee-nap.

Berrie: In your bio on your website, you talk about giving hope to a reader through stories. If you look through your spyglass, what does hope look and sound like to you in a PB, MG, YA, or a graphic novel? Given the slow nature of the publishing world, where books take a couple of years to get published, how can someone write about an event that demonstrates hope and that has a universal appeal. 

Kelly: I think we could all do with a little extra dose of hope right now. When I talk about the need for hope in children’s books, I usually mention one of my favorite quotes by C. S. Lewis, who said, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” 

One of life’s few guarantees is that there will be hardship, pain, and disappointment. I know it’s our instinct to want to protect our children from this, but the reality is that we can’t, so instead, we should be more focused on preparing them—giving them the tools to deal with dark times. It seems to me that hope is the confidence that we can survive hardships—physical, emotional, spiritual—and what better way to teach this than through story? 

In all books, I think this is done by creating characters who kids can see themselves in. And books don’t have to be all about struggle or darkness or have endings that wrap up all neat and tidy to show glimpses of hope. Hopeful stories can be filled with joy and celebrate strengths and identity. I think the big thing is introducing kids to complex characters who grow and who kids can identify with.

And I think that is the answer to the second part of your question, as well. No matter what the subject matter or the setting (current events, historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), the way to keep a book relevant is to create characters who readers can identify with and understand. 

Berrie: On your blog, you talk about the query letter as being similar to a job interview. Can you give an example of a book you acquired that had an amazing elevator pitch that was so well written that you immediately wanted to call that person and say, “Here is your contract”? 

Kelly: I don’t know that a query letter ever made me want to offer a person representation, but there have been some that absolutely made me request the full manuscript and to prioritize its read once it came in. 

My client, Kellye Crocker’s, query was that good. Polished, professional, and filled with the same amazing voice that permeates her book. I had a great sense right away of the sweet, funny, and beautifully flawed protagonist, Ava, and a solid picture of what she was up against in her story and the major themes the book incorporated. All from just a few sentences. The level of professionalism and polish in the query gave me confidence that the manuscript would also be polished, and it was. And from the voice of the query, I knew immediately that I was in for a funny ride with a character who was so very likeable—someone who I wanted to root for. The book is Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties, and it will be out in September 2022 from Albert Whitman & Co. Be on the lookout! 

Berrie: You have a lot of great quotes on your website. One quote that I keep tacked on my fridge is, “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone” from Neale Donald Walsch. For me this means to always be open to trying something new, even if you think you won’t be good at it. Are there quotes that you live by? 

Kelly: That is a great quote! I may have to steal it. One quote I have taped above my computer is, “Only wish as hard as you’re willing to work,” from Rita Mae Brown. I think a lot of people fall into writing for children without fully understanding what it takes to do it well. (I know I did, way back when.) Maybe they buy into a sense of romanticism that we tend to build around beloved children’s books. But writing for children demands constant learning and devotion to craft, and that never goes away, no matter how many books you’ve written. Which flows into another of my favorite sayings, “Trust the process.” Each book is different, and therefore each book teaches you how to write it (hence the constant learning). The successful author is a person who strives after craft and humbly learns from each project.

Berrie: Okay, we have made it to the dock. While I’m tying the canoe, here is a lightning round of questions: 

Red sky at night or red sky in morning? Night!—Sailor’s delight. 

Low tide or high tide? Low—I love seeing the secrets the ocean has left behind.

Clam chowder—cream or red broth? Cream 100%. 

Walk on the beach or walk in the woods? Hmmmm. That’s tough. I live in the woods, so I get that all the time, which makes a beach much more novel. Here at the end of winter, I’ll say that a beach sounds pretty nice!

Berrie: Thank you, Kelly, for joining me on this cruise around the lake and for answering my questions. I look forward to one day having further industry-related conversations instead of being like two ships who met in the night.

Kelly: Thanks so much for having me! This was lots of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the beautiful illustrations that come from EPA SCBWI artists!


Kelly Dyksterhouse grew up with a book always in her hands and a story always in her head. The important role that books played in her early years developed into a passion for children’s literature in her adult life. Kelly holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and got her start in agenting by working as an editorial reader and assistant at leading literary agencies. She considers the opportunity to help bring books into existence to be a great honor, and it is a particular joy for her to work alongside authors as they develop their project from idea to polished manuscript. The best feeling of all is when those manuscripts end up as books in the hands of children. Kelly will consider picture books (author-illustrators only), middle grade, and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction.


Webinar Information

April 21, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time

DO YOU FEEL WHAT I SEE? An in-depth look at first person point-of-view with literary agent Kelly Dyksterhouse

First person point-of-view has become the predominant POV of choice in young adult novels and increasingly common in middle grade novels. It’s easy to understand its lure: writing directly from your character’s point of view can create a sense of intimacy and immediacy that invites the reader into the story world. However, writing in first person POV is not as simple as successful writers make it seem. In this talk, I’ll consider the pros and cons of first person POV, discuss pitfalls to avoid, and practical tips to employ to help you write a compelling and emotionally engaging story.

To register, please visit our registration page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (middle grade, young adult, or illustration) with literary agent Kelly Dyksterhouse to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! For MG or YA manuscripts, Kelly will critique up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page single-spaced synopsis in the same document. For illustrations, Kelly will critique six or fewer portfolio-ready illustrations/sketches, medium resolution JPG.

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, April 8. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday April 22, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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Member News—March 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org before April 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Book Release

Scrumptious by Jennie K. Brown

Author Jennie K. Brown recently released her middle grade novel, Scrumptious (Snowy Wings Publishing) on March 1. In the book, twelve-year-old Petunia Fair spends her free time cooking meals from her Grammy Joanne’s recipe book and watching her favorite reality cooking show, Chef Extraordinaire. When Petunia’s idol, the world-renowned Chef Jordan Ramikin, announces that the first round of his newest culinary competition, Chef Extraordinaire, Junior, will take place in her home town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, Petunia’s dreams of having a cookbook and restaurant of her very own may be closer than she thinks. All she has to do is do what she does best—cook. Easy as apple pie, right?! But in order for her dreams to come true, she’ll need to out-chef not only the snotty Bianca Friday (who just so happens to be the daughter of her dad’s new “lady friend”), but also Luke Paring (Petunia’s super cute and super talented crush), all while coming to terms with the death of her greatest culinary inspiration of all—her Grammy Joanne. 


Award Announcements

Blue by L.E. DeLano

Author L.E. DeLano’s latest book, Blue (Gaze Publishing, July 2021), won the Gold Prize in the 2021 Reader Views Literary Awards in the Young Adult Fiction category. It also received Bronze in the Overall Grand Prize for Fiction (chosen from the category winners). In addition, it was named Best Teen/YA Book of the Year in the Reader Views Kids Award category.

About the book: When Blue Mancini’s mother picked her name, it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. A year ago, Blue’s brother, Jack, was involved in a car accident that killed the father of her classmate Maya Rodriguez. Luckily for Jack, he got out of a manslaughter charge and into a plea bargain thanks to the top-notch lawyer hired by Blue’s wealthy parents. The fallout is now affecting Blue as Maya returns to school determined to carve out a pound of flesh from the only member of the Mancini family she can reach. On top of that, Blue has a demanding mother, a father who’s never around, a drama-addicted best friend, and a secretive new guy who’s determined to make Blue his own personal cheer-up project. It’s a perfect storm of misery. When Maya’s social media taunts and in-person digs finally push Blue to retaliate, they find themselves in afterschool detention and forced into a project meant to foster cooperation and civility. As the layers of their tangled drama unravel, Blue learns more about Maya’s life—and her own sense of privilege—when secrets are revealed that cast a new perspective on everything in Blue’s world.


SCBWI Golden Kite Nominees

Earlier this month SCBWI announced the 2022 Golden Kite Award nominees. The Golden Kites, sponsored by SCBWI, are the most prestigious children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. The awards recognize excellence in children’s literature in eight categories: Young Reader and Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction Text for Younger Readers, Nonfiction Text for Older Readers, Picture Book Illustration, Illustrated Book for Older Readers, Picture Book Text, and the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor. Eastern PA member Jared Reck was nominated in the Young Adult Fiction category for his book Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love (Knopf Books for Young Readers). In addition, the late Floyd Cooper was nominated in the Illustrated Books for Older Readers category for Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States (Crown Books for Young Readers).


Book Release

This Is a School illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

Illustrator Veronica Miller Jamison’s This Is a School (Candlewick, March 29, 2022), written by John Schu, was released this month. A school isn’t just a building; it is all the people who work and learn together. It is a place for discovery and asking questions. A place for sharing, for helping, and for community. It is a place of hope and healing, even when that community can’t be together in the same room. This Is a School is a loving letter to schools and the people that make up the communities.


Book Releases

Way Past Lonely, Way Past Afraid, and The Strongest Thing by Hallee Adelman

This spring, author Hallee Adelman is releasing three new picture books published by Albert Whitman & Company. Way Past Lonely and Way Past Afraid (April 1), illustrated by Karen Wall, are the two latest books in Hallee’s Great Big Feelings series, joining 2020 titles Way Past Mad and Way Past Worried (illustrated by Sandra de la Prada) and 2021 titles Way Past Jealous and Way Past Sad (illustrated by Karen Wall). These Social Emotional Learning books help kids explore and manage their feelings, with accompanying lesson plans, activities, and videos available for free at WayPastBooks.com. Hallee is also launching The Strongest Thing (April 4), illustrated by Rea Zhai, a standalone picture book that reminds children of the strength found in love and kindness—and in themselves.


SCBWI Recommended Reading List—March 2022

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

Each month, SCBWI features books written and illustrated by members from across the globe and every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! March’s list celebrates women, including the book A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Eastern PA SCBWI member Veronica Miller Jamison.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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Eastern PA SCBWI 2022 Mentorship Program

Eastern PA SCBWI 2022 Mentorship Program

May – October 2022

We are pleased to announce the return of the Eastern PA SCBWI Mentorship Program! Apply for a one-on-one mentorship with one of our region’s published authors or author-illustrators.

This one-on-one mentorship program runs from May to October 2022 and has been made possible through the efforts of our volunteers and mentors—celebrated storytellers from our region. Each mentor will review applications from prospective mentees and select the storyteller they feel would be the best match for their mentorship style and interests. 

What to expect as a mentee:

  • Monthly individual email or phone check-ins with your mentor (May – October 2022).
  • Virtual monthly large-group meetings within our mentor/mentee community to ask questions, share support, and learn together.
  • Your choice of full or partial manuscript feedback for novelists OR up to two picture book manuscripts for feedback for picture book authors or author-illustrators.
  • A place to find creative support and build community in the Eastern PA region.

Pricing:

  • $275 for a partial novel or two picture books
  • $525 for a full novel
  • Full scholarships available! (See application form)

To apply to be a mentee, please fill out the following form: https://forms.gle/us4RCjdUpCbWUFmR8

Deadline to apply: April 12, 2022

Questions? Email lindsay@lindsaybandybooks.com

Meet the Mentors

Hallee Adelman https://halleeadelman.com/
Sandy Asher https://sandyasher.com/
Lindsay Bandy  http://lindsaybandybooks.com/
Jennifer Robin Barr: https://jenniferrobinbarr.com/
Eric Bell https://iamericbell.com/
Jennifer Digiovanni https://jenniferdigiovanni.com/
Julie Fortenberry https://www.juliefortenberry.com/
Linda Oatman High http://www.lindaoatmanhigh.com/
Katey Howes https://www.kateyhowes.com/
Nadine Poper http://nadinepoper.weebly.com/
Berrie Torgan-Randall https://www.berrietr.com/
Kat Yeh http://katyeh.com
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An Interview with Literary Agent Kortney Price, by Heather Stigall, and a Critique Giveaway

Next month Eastern PA SCBWI is offering a webinar series called “Meet the Agency.” Our featured agency will be Raven Quill Literary. We’ll have four webinars led by four different agents from Raven Quill, and at the end of the series we’ll host a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, Heather Stigall interviews our second presenter in the “Meet the Agency” webinar series, literary agent Kortney Price. Kortney will be presenting “Mastering Your First Five Pages” on April 11, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free critique by Kortney for one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

An Interview with Literary Agent Kortney Price

Heather: Kortney, thank you so much for agreeing to present “Mastering Your First Five Pages” on April 11 as part of our “Meet the Agency” series. I’m looking forward to your webinar! Has agenting always been your dream job? Can you tell us a little about the path that led you to agenting?

Kortney: I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a kid. Not like Indiana Jones. More like Daniel Jackson. Getting into the publishing industry was a bit of a leap of faith in that I didn’t know what I exactly wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work with books and authors, and so I switched my major my senior year of college. When I landed an internship with an agency, I fell in love with the job almost immediately. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Heather: It sounds like you and agenting were meant to be together! What is your favorite thing about being an agent?

Kortney: Oh, there are so many things. My clients are incredible, and I’m always amazed at my luck in getting to work with them. It’s literally my job to help authors make their dreams come true. Getting to make “the call” and tell a client that we have an offer from a publisher has definitely been one of those singular tasks that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. 

Heather: I know your clients love getting “the call” and hearing about book offers too. What do you wish writers and illustrators knew about agenting?

Kortney: This industry is so incredibly subjective, and when I take on a new client it’s because I cannot fathom not working on their stories. I’ve declined manuscripts that have gone on to do really well! Not because I messed up or the author sent me an earlier, less-polished draft, but because I wasn’t the agent who could best work on that story and with that author. If you’re querying or even on sub with your agent and are feeling beat down by rejection, keep your head up. Write to the best of your ability, keep learning, and eventually you’ll find the perfect agent for your stories. We’re rooting for you. 

Heather: Thank you for the pep talk! In your webinar, you will be talking about how important the first five pages are in hooking your readers. What are a couple of books that really hooked you by their opening pages and why?

Kortney:

  • Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven: I actually wanted to put the book down because the opening was so gutting for me. Naturally, that reaction made me want to read more. 
  • Well Met by Jen DeLuca: For the opposite reason as above. I immediately knew I was going to love the voice and humor of this book.
  • House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig: The atmosphere of this book is just incredible, and she sets it up SO WELL in the opening scenes.
  • Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur: This is a great example of being dropped into the action and getting enough details to keep reading without being overwhelmed with backstory or confused by lack of detail. She also jumps right into a wonderful moment of suspense. The fact that on page 3, I already care if the main character is found out is a huge sign of a fantastic start.

Heather: These books sound amazing. I’m going to have to add more to my “to read” list. Your website states that you represent picture books to young adult, from “dark and spooky to light and fluffy.” Can you give us a sense of your tastes by telling us some recently published books that you love and why?

Kortney: I enjoy stories that have a lighthearted, witty feel to them but are practically bursting with a relatable and deeper meaning. These have been a trend in my recent reads: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey; Love, Lists and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz; Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzalez; Float Plan by Trish Doller; and (to a slightly lesser extent) Well Met by Jen DeLuca. 

This trend extends into the fantasy, horror, and thriller genres for me as well. One of my favorite fantasy novels is The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (which isn’t exactly recent). I adore stories that are fast paced, suspenseful, and beautifully dark with an undercurrent of humor to balance out the story. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is the epitome of what I love in books. She had a wonderful suspenseful plot line, but the community in the story became a sort of character, and I’m just obsessed with this book. 

In middle grade I’m really fond of seeing kids doing incredible things such as From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury (which is in a league of its own by combining audiobook and orchestra). 

Heather: Thank you for the recommendations. Now for some fun! What is your superpower? Your kryptonite?

Kortney: I swear my superpower must be something to do with getting people to talk. I’ve had more strangers spill their secrets to me than I can honestly remember. It’s always an adventure when you’re waiting for coffee and the person behind you tells you all about their quarantine experiences, or when you’re at the hospital for a routine blood draw and the person holding the needle is ranting about how much they hate their son’s fiancé (that one was particularly memorable). 

My kryptonite is definitely anything requiring any sort of coordination. My center of gravity is like seven feet to my left or something . . . I trip a lot and run into things. I swear walls, doorframes, and door handles are all out to get me. It’s a problem.

Heather: Ha! Maybe you could follow Lucy’s lead (from Peanuts) and put up a sign charging for your advice. Just be careful not to trip over your stand. Thank you so much for your time, Kortney. We’re all looking forward to your webinar on April 11. See you then!


Kortney Price graduated with a B.A. in English from Greenville University in 2014. Since then she has interned  with several prominent literary agencies and worked as an agency assistant and associate at several leading kid lit agencies. She found her home with Raven Quill in January of 2020 and is building up her list of wonderfully talented authors. Kortney specializes in books for children from picture books through young adult with an eye for all things dark and spooky to light and fluffy. To connect and learn more about Kortney, check out her  Twitter,  Pinterest, or  MSWL page. Twitter: https://twitter.com/kortney_price; Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kortney8821/_saved/; MSWL: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kortney-price/ 


Webinar Information

April 11, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time

Mastering Your First Five Pages with literary agent Kortney Price

No matter the length of your novel, the first five pages are going to do the most work. In the publishing industry, the quality of an entire novel is gauged through just these pages. In bookstores around the world, readers decide whether or not to purchase after reading just a few pages in. Therefore, we need to put a lot of care and attention into making sure that we put our best foot forward by carefully crafting five pages that draw a reader in and hook them so that they read until the very end. In this talk, we’ll go through some of the most common pitfalls as well as strategies to polish these hard-working pages to a shine.

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (early reader, chapter book, middle grade, young adult, or graphic novel; fiction or nonfiction) with literary agent Kortney Price to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! Kortney will critique up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page single-spaced synopsis in the same document. 

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, April 1. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday April 15, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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An Interview with Literary Agent Jacqui Lipton, by Heather Stigall, and a Critique Giveaway!

Eastern PA SCBWI is excited to bring a new webinar series to you in April called “Meet the Agency.” Our featured agency will be Raven Quill Literary. We’ll have four webinars led by four different agents from Raven Quill, and at the end of the series we’ll host a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, Heather Stigall interviews literary agent Jacqui Lipton, who will be our first webinar presenter for the “Meet the Agency” series. Jacqui will be presenting “Publishing Law 101” on April 7 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free critique by Jacqui for one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

An Interview with Literary Agent Jacqui Lipton

Heather: Jacqui, thank you so much for agreeing to present “Publishing Law 101” on April 7 as part of our “Meet the Agency” series. I’m looking forward to your webinar! Your background in law and writing seems especially suited to agenting. Was founding your own literary agency always a career goal? Can you tell us a little about how Raven Quill came to be?

Jacqui: Yes, my background was pretty well suited to agenting, but I never really thought about it until a really smart mentor pointed it out to me. I was having a bit of a midlife crisis and looking for new challenges, and she pointed out that I liked writing, editing, and contract/intellectual property law, so had I ever considered agenting? It was one of those lightbulb moments for me. Of course, I didn’t wake up and start an agency the next day. I interned for a number of years for an established agent before I even considered going out on my own. I also worked at another agency and consulted for many years on publishing contracts before taking the leap. In deciding to welcome other agents to the nest, I also ensured that they had the necessary background to hit the ground running (from past experience as agents, assistants, interns, etc.). It can be a risky business, but it can also be very rewarding for a supportive team able and willing to grow together, and I’ve been very fortunate in the team at Raven Quill now: Kelly, Kortney, Lori, and our wonderful assistant Lindsay, as well as a group of our own amazing interns.

Heather: The mentor who gave you that nudge to pursue a career in agenting does sound very smart. (And I’m guessing your clients are thankful!) In your webinar, you will be talking about publishing law. What are some common legal questions you come across when dealing with your clients’ manuscripts?

Jacqui: There are a lot of common legal questions, some of which I’ll cover in the webinar. There’s always a lot of confusion about how copyright law works because, frankly, it’s a pretty complex law, often without clear answers in particular situations. So, authors (and editors) often worry about the use of someone else’s song lyric, poem, or other content in their own work and when permission is necessary or when the use is a fair use. There is also a very common misconception that if you attribute someone else for the use of their work, it is a fair use. That’s unfortunately not correct. Copyright law is about copying, not attribution. A content creator may ask for attribution as a condition of giving you a license to use their work, but that’s a contract matter rather than a copyright issue. See? Now I’m getting into the weeds of copyright law. I’m a bit of a copyright/contract nerd and can talk about this stuff until you tell me to stop!

Heather: Your clients are very fortunate to have an agent with your expertise. When reviewing and negotiating contracts, are there any red flags you sometimes see? Are there certain things you always try to fight for on behalf of your clients?

Jacqui: Generally, we try to work with reputable, established publishers, so there shouldn’t be too many red flags in the sense of things that are inappropriate or unprofessional in a contract. However, there are of course things we always try to fight for on behalf of our clients, including making sure we’re not giving away rights that could be exploited elsewhere in a more lucrative way. For example, many publishers do not necessarily focus on exploiting film/TV rights, and those can often be exploited more effectively outside the original contract. The same goes for a number of other sub rights like foreign and translation rights. If the publisher wants to take more sub rights, our aim is to make sure they compensate the author accordingly. Additionally, it’s generally important to understand the scope of option and noncompete clauses and to limit them as effectively as possible so they won’t hinder the author’s future work—I’ve written a number of blog posts on these issues that I can share during the webinar. You’ll find some of them at https://lunastationquarterly.com/tag/non-compete/, https://lunastationquarterly.com/option-and-non-compete-clauses/, and https://lunastationquarterly.com/option-clauses-pros-and-cons/.

Heather: Thank you for sharing those resources! Two of our lucky webinar participants will be receiving a copy of your book, Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (*NOTE: you must attend the webinar live to be eligible for the book giveaway!), which sounds perfectly suited for our crowd. But you also have another book coming out called Our Data, Ourselves: A Personal Guide to Digital Privacy. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jacqui: Sure. Thank you for asking! It’s kind of a depressing book, but the aim is similar to Law and Authors—to make people aware of legal and regulatory issues that may impact them in their personal or professional lives and to hopefully explain those issues in a user-friendly way. Our Data, Ourselves attempts to explain what corporations and governments can do with your personal information—how, where, when, and why they collect it and what rights you have to monitor and control those uses (unfortunately, not a lot!). The book is broken down into chapters relating to different aspects of our lives, e.g., privacy at school, privacy in the workplace, health information privacy, financial information privacy, social media privacy, etc. Each chapter ends with some tips and tricks about how to monitor what is happening with your personal information and whether there are avenues to investigate and object to particular uses.

Heather: As depressing as you say it may be, that sounds like a must-read for all of us. Many of our members are looking for agents. What qualities would the ideal client have?

Jacqui: Actually, I think the better question is, What qualities would the ideal agent have for each client?—because the agent/author/illustrator relationship is so personal. I have always tried to be client focused, figuring out what approach best suits the client and working in a way that makes sense to them in terms of edits, submission strategies, etc. I tend to be pretty transparent and possibly give too much feedback on projects (although I’m working on that!). I try to ensure that clients understand that my feedback, while often voluminous, is not intended to be prescriptive, and only food for thought for revision, etc.

But as to your original question, what qualities an ideal client for me would possess, I think the most important thing is a sense of professionalism and a willingness to work hard and ask questions if something doesn’t make sense. Talent is obviously a big part of the equation for success, but there are so many talented authors and illustrators out there that if you can add a level of professionalism and openness to feedback from an agent and/or editor (even if you don’t ultimately accept the feedback), you are already a step above a lot of other creatives. And bear in mind that feedback won’t always be about your manuscript per se (if you’re an author). It may be about choice of illustrator for a picture book or graphic novel; design/format issues; publication/marketing questions, etc. Publishing is a more collaborative process than many authors and illustrators realize when they first dip their toe into the industry’s waters. SCBWI is a great organization for learning about those aspects of the industry outside the scope of the actual writing or illustrating process.

Heather: This is great advice for our readers—thank you! Your website states that you represent everything from picture books to middle grade to young adult, and even some adult projects. Can you give us a sense of your tastes by telling us some recently published books that you love and why?

Jacqui: That’s such a tough question! (But thank you for asking.) My tastes are so ridiculously eclectic that it’s hard to nail down favorites. And I should also say that even if there’s a particular book or project I love, I don’t always have a sense of how best to position it in the marketplace and might think another agent is a better fit for that reason—although when that happens, I usually make a point of noting that in my pass note to the author. 

I actually just picked up a copy of Cherie Dimaline’s Hunting By Stars (having loved the original Marrow Thieves). These pieces are set in a dystopian future that weaves in the way Native peoples have been treated in the past in such a clever, eye-opening, and beautifully written manner. I’m so glad she was able to continue the series. And like everyone else, Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter blew me away last year for similar reasons. And it’s just a heck of a good read. I loved Rita Williams-Garcia’s A Sitting in St James. It’s such an ambitious, epic, and intricately crafted piece.

In mystery/thriller, I’ve been very partial to Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series (also extremely clever and beautifully crafted) and Kristen Simmons’ Vale Hall trilogy. I actually love everything Kristen writes—she’s so versatile and always has something interesting to say. And in adult mystery/thriller, I’m a fan of Megan Miranda and Lucy Foley. (I also love Megan Miranda’s YA mysteries, and Fragments of the Lost is a perennial favorite.)

I’m always a sucker for a good romance in both YA and adult. I really enjoy Casey McQuiston’s books, as well as Alexis Hall and Jen De Luca.

I realize I’m listing a lot of adult and YA fiction and a lot of my own sales recently have, strangely enough, been picture books and middle grade nonfiction. I always love nonfiction if done well—interesting structures, subjects, and approaches.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that two of my own clients have MG releases coming out this spring: Monica Roe’s Air and Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s Moonwalking (co-authored with Zetta Elliot). Both of these books are with FSG, and they are both amazing. Art Coulson’s MG debut, Chasing Bigfoot, also just came out with Reycraft, a Native thriller/mystery with a lot of humor and heart. 

And for those who like adult mystery, Soho Crime is re-releasing Marcie Rendon’s Cash Blackbear series—the first two books are re-releasing in April, and the brand new and long-awaited third book, Sinister Graves, is releasing in October.

Okay—lengthy answer to short question, but I love talking about books as much if not more than I love talking about contract law.

Heather: I think I’m going to have to add a few more books to my “to read” list! Thank you so much for your time, Jacqui. We’re all looking forward to your webinar on April 7. See you then!


Jacqui Lipton is a professor of law/legal writing, consultant, and literary agent who has published widely on contract, copyright, and trademark law, cyberlaw, privacy, and defamation issues, with an emphasis on laws relating to the publishing industry. She is the author of Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (University of California Press, 2020) and the forthcoming Our Data, Ourselves: A Personal Guide to Digital Privacy (University of California Press, 2022). She writes regular columns on legal issues for authors for the SCBWI Bulletin, Luna Station Quarterly, Savvy Authors, Catapult, and her own agency’s website (Conspiracy of Ravens Blog). She is the founding agent at Raven Quill Literary Agency where she represents a variety of projects from children’s literature (picture book through young adult) to adult genre fiction.


Webinar Information

April 7, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time 

Publishing Law 101 with literary agent Jacqui Lipton

Can I quote song lyrics in my book? When can I incorporate other people’s photography and art in my own work? What if I want to write about a real person? Could I be sued for defamation? In this webinar, agent/attorney Jacqui Lipton will take us through the publishing law basics, surveying copyright, fair use, defamation, privacy, and contract law (contracts with agents and publishing houses). Come along with your legal questions and concerns! There will be a giveaway of two copies of Jacqui’s book, Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers, for two lucky participants who attend the live webinar. For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-meet-the-agency-rqla/.

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (PB, MG, or YA; fiction or nonfiction) with literary agent Jacqui Lipton to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! For picture books, Jacqui will critique one full manuscript plus a 2- to 3-sentence pitch in the same document. For middle grade or young adult, send up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page query letter in the same document.

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, March 25. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday April 8, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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An Element of Curiosity, by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

An Element of Curiosity

A few years ago, when my book Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published was released, a friend inquired, “Gee, Tony, you spent over 300 pages helping writers craft a children’s book. Is it really that intense?” I smiled in response. He continued, “Okay, I’m curious: What is one of the most important things prospective authors need to know in order to write a good book?” I responded by informing him that his question was actually the answer.

As naturally inquisitive creatures, we are fascinated with the unknown; we are transfixed with the mysteries of life that surround us; and we are amazed at all that we have to explore. The mysteries of the world around us have always been an impetus for us to peek and poke and prod for answers—learning something about our surroundings as well as about ourselves. Nowhere is this truer than when we watch the youngest among us—our children.

Young children are known for sticking their fingers in places where young fingers should never be. They are famous for putting all manner of objects and substances in their mouths . . . everything from plastic blocks, the pet dog’s ears, and any object in the room not nailed down or sufficiently weighted. As any parent knows, children will expand their curiosity by reading new books, looking under rocks, or creating “music” with pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils. Theirs is a world full of unknowns propelled by a desire to discover and learn.

In adults, curiosity guides us toward a lifetime occupation, it drives us to search out potential partners with whom we may want to spend the rest of our lives, it stimulates us to travel to new destinations, and it holds our hand as we move into old age and the unknowns of the future. By and large, we are relentless question-askers. We want to know more than we know. We want to expand our horizons, try out the new and undiscovered, and pursue experiences that deepen our comprehension (and appreciation) of the world we live in.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”Albert Einstein

Interestingly, as authors, curiosity drives, not only our creativity, but the quality of our writing. Our inquisitiveness propels us to describe characters with greater detail, craft imaginative events with spirit and intent, and ask questions that have never been asked before (by adults, at least). Our authorial curiosity injects passion and heart into our stories—a constant search for revision and improvement that will turn a simple tale into a compelling book and an intent to go where “no author has gone before.” When we celebrate and utilize our natural sense of curiosity, we give our readers an opportunity to see behind the scenes, observe behaviors that define our characters, and propel a narrative into new dimensions and territories. Our curiosity is the fuel that can power a story beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

Curiosity drives creativity; creativity ignites imagination; and imagination is the foundation of all writing.

Most importantly, curiosity injects intent and zeal into a story—it is a transformative process that changes mere words into compelling literature. Asking the questions our readers ask as well as offering magnificent responses is part and parcel of our craft. Young readers know, intuitively, whether an author has crawled inside their minds and satisfied their own innate curiosity. The authors who do, capture the hearts AND minds of their readers.

When we ask the right questions, we can generate the “write” answers.

__________________

Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books—many of which have won national writing awards (i.e., Outstanding Science Trade Book [Children’s Book Council], Isaac Walton Book of the Year, etc.). He has also authored the recently published From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (“. . . the author supplies an endless array of examples to enhance creative thought.” —5 stars) [https://amzn.to/3HESeVO]. 

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