A Cafe Chat with Author K.M. Walton, by Lindsay Bandy

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I am so happy to host K.M. Walton here at the Cafe today! She’ll be keynoting at Fall Philly/PA Author Day this year on November 5, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her and her books just like I have.

k-m-walton-81347146LB: Hi there Kate, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! What can we get you to drink?

KMW: Oooh, I’d love a steaming mug of coffee, please. Half a teaspoon of Coconut Palm Sugar and heavy on the half-and-half. Thanks.

LB: And something to munch on?

KMW: Any chance you have dark chocolate lying around?

LB: Oh, just wait til you see my chocolate stash! It’s about to get larger after I pillage my children’s Halloween buckets…ohmygoodness did I just say that? Anyway, DARK CHOCOLATE. Yes.  Excellent choice.

Oh, speaking of excellent choices, did you notice the background music today? I borrowed it from your book play-lists! (Pssst….readers…click here and you, too, can soak in the atmosphere!) I just love the way you connect music with the emotion in your stories. Can you talk a little bit about the way music inspires you in your writing?

behind the song.jpgKMW: LOVE the background music—that is an excellent choice. Funny enough, when I’m writing a novel music doesn’t come into my process until I’m done with a first draft. I need complete silence to write. But, once that first draft is behind me, I listen closely to every song I hear, trying to decide if it goes with my characters, my story, the emotions in the book. That’s when I start building my playlist. For my YA anthology, BEHIND THE SONG, music and lyrics are 100% connected to every piece. I gave my contributors a choice, they could interpret the lyrics to one of their favorite songs and use it as inspiration for a short story, or take that same song and write a personal essay sharing how that song changed their life. My short story was inspired by one of my all-time-favorite songs, “All the Lights Went Out” by Marcy Playground. Each contributor brought something unique and powerful to this anthology, and it was a joy working with such a talented group of writers and musicians.


LB: If you had to pick one, what would you choose for your writing theme song?

KMW: “Everything’s Not Lost” by Coldplay. This song, for me, is the perfect mix of raw emotion and hope, and that’s how I’d like to consider my body of published work.


LB: The characters in your books endure a lot of painful experiences, including abuse, bullying, drug use, and depression. What drives you to write these kids’ stories?

KMW: For people who know me, it came as no surprise that my first two novels—CRACKED and EMPTY—were about bullying. I spent twelve years teaching, ten of them in a middle school. I dedicated the core principals of my teaching career to anti-bullying. I never shied away from facing and addressing bullying. I believed it was my job, as the adult, to face it head on, every single time it reared its head. I wanted my students to see each other as human beings, not the labels they’d attached to each other. When we humans peel back the labels we’ve slapped onto each other—and truly see the person—that’s when we discover similarities and break down assumptions/prejudices/hatred. And only then.

ULTIMATUM is my latest contemporary YA release about two brothers who don’t understand each other. Oscar and Vance have mastered anger and assumptions, but when they’re faced with watching their father die in hospice they must decide if they’re willing to act like brothers. The novel plunges readers into the intricacies of family life, investigating the ways we fail each other and finding grace in the moments when we find our way back home.

I write these books to shine a light on those who silently suffer. I want readers to experience the pain and humiliation that goes along with suffering alone and gain some kind of understanding of what it’s like to hurt. I sincerely hope my books inspire readers to stand up, to do something. To “see” those who silently suffer in their lives and reach out, let them know they care. Smile. Say hello. Validate them. I hope CRACKED, EMPTY, and ULTIMATUM show my readers that words have power, that words matter, that words can either rip someone to shreds or save a life.

LB: Do you have a favorite story from a school visit presenting on “The Power of Human Kindness?” A moment that made you say – YES! This is why I’m doing this!?

KMW: Wow, this is a hard question. There are so many stories I could share here. A powerful moment took place after I spoke to an auditorium of high school freshman and sophomore. I was signing books and a male student leaned down and said, “I’m Bull. Don’t make it obvious, but four kids back in line is the kid I bullied. You actually wrote our story because we both ended up in the psych ward at the same time. We weren’t roommates like Bull and Victor from Cracked, but we were both there together. I already read your book and I get it now. I want you to know that I will never bully that kid behind me again. And your book was awesome. Thank you.”

LB: What advice do you have for writers dealing with tough YA topics?

KMW: Be real. Be honest. Don’t hold back. Teen readers don’t need to be coddled. Teen readers want the truth.

LB: Okay, Kate. You’ve survived the hard part. Now for the rapid-fire favorites! Swallow that last bite and tell us your favorite….

 -Thing about teaching

Reaching a student who needed to be reached.

napoleon.jpg-Scene from Napoleon Dynamite

That, my friend, is like asking me to choose my favorite child. The entire movie is G E N I U S. But, if have to choose one scene, I’m particularly fond of the scene that leads up to the “Napoleon and Kip slap fight”.

-Spot to curl up and read

I’m a big fan of reading in bed, which is even more sweet since we got our adjustable Sleep Number bed. Best investment ever.

hemingway.jpgQuote about writing or Writing advice

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” –Ernest Hemingway

-Nail polish shade

Love any shade of purple.

LB: Thank you so much for joining us today, Kate! Can’t wait to see you at Fall Philly/PA Author Day!

KMW: Thanks for hosting me today! Really looking forward to keynoting at Fall Philly.


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Agent Larissa Helena on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

Can you believe Fall Philly/PA Author Day is only three weeks away? If you’re planning on pitching one or more agents at the event, read below for some advice and guidelines from Pippin Properties agent Larissa Helena!

Larissa HelenaLB: Hi there, Larissa! Got any good advice for crafting a strong pitch?
LH: Everyone will try to give you a lot of rules about how big it should be, how much of the story you should tell etc. But what is really important, at least for me, is to find the answer to the questions: why did you have to write that story? Why did you have to write that story? And why did you have to write that story? In other words, find a way to convey your passion and why your story is unique.
LB: What are you looking for/not looking for right now?
LH: I love twists and to be surprised by the end of a book. In contemporary fiction, I love different voices, quirky characters and diversity all around. On the YA side, I am always looking for innovative fantasy and sci-fi. It’s one of the hardest things, to dive into realms so full of tropes and clichés and bring back something new. As for middle-grade, I’d like to see a genuinely funny book. As in laugh-out-loud-on-the-subway funny.
I am not looking for rhyming picture books.
LB: Are you open to representing picture book authors and/or illustrators? 
LH: At Pippin we represent both authors and illustrators of Picture Books. I’d be particularly thrilled to find someone who both writes and illustrates.

Thanks, Larissa!

If you’d like to register for Fall Philly/PA Author Day, just click here. And while you’re at it, go ahead and reserve a pitch with Larissa!

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Agent Suzie Townsend on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

We continue our pitching-advice series today with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. Suzie will be accepting pitches at our 2017 Fall Philly event, and you can register and reserve a pitch with her today! But first, read below to find out what she’s looking for.



LB: Hi Suzie! What is your best advice for crafting a strong pitch?

ST: Use concrete and concise language focusing on Who and What. Who is your main character and what is their main conflict. Don’t worry about the hows and the whys and all the complexities. While those elements make your story great, you can let them speak for themselves after someone has requested the manuscript.


LB:  What are you looking for/not looking for right now?

ST: I’m looking for Women’s Fiction, Psychological Suspense, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult and literary Middle Grade. I’m especially looking for inclusive and diverse stories with new and unique voices in all genres and age groups.

In Women’s Fiction, I’m interested in upmarket bookclub fiction, historical that explores cultural heritage particularly untold non-European historical events, contemporary fiction that exposes a new light on a topical issue, or that features quirky, dysfunctional families. I also love magical realism in the vein of Sarah Addison Allen or Alice Hoffman. And I’m especially interested in Psychological Suspense featuring strong and complicated protagonists who have dark secrets.

In Romance, I’m a fan of strong characters with agency who are proactive participants in their own stories. I enjoy when the heroes/heroines act against their stereotypes and surprise me while still being swoonworthy. Some of my favorite historical romance authors are Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Courtney Milan. In contemporary, I love high concept trope driven stories like those by Christina Lauren and Jill Shalvis, and I’d love to a great and dark romantic suspense series like Karen Rose and Elle Kennedy.

In SFF in both the Adult and YA spectrum, I love strong characters and voice-driven stories that break out of the typical tropes of their genres. I’m a huge fan of expansive world building and atmospheric settings. I’m excited about stories rooted in history, mythology and legends, especially those that are lesser-known or underrepresented in traditional publishing.

In contemporary YA, I’m particularly looking for authentic teen voices and raw emotional stories that will make me laugh, cry, and swoon, as well as novels that tackle social justice issues with nuance and empathy. Some of my YA favorites are The Sun is Also a Star, I’ll Give You the Sun, All the Bright Places, Before I Fall, Where She Went, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Hate U Give.

And in Middle Grade, I’m looking for literary and character driven stories with poignant prose, whether it’s historical, contemporary, magical realism, or even fantasy. In addition to the novels I’ve worked on, some of my favorites are Savvy, When You Reach Me, Summer & Bird, Lost in the Sun, The Thing About Jellyfish, Brown Girl Dreaming, Inside Out and Back Again, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and Wolf Hollow. I’m also an animal lover and a sucker for beautifully written emotional stories that involve animals like A Dog’s Way Home and Pax.

In the end, I love novels with a commercial hook, compelling storytelling, and beautiful writing, and I’ll follow a character that I love anywhere. I’m excited to add more writers of diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status) to my list.


LB: Are you open to representing picture book authors and/or illustrators?

ST: Not at this time.

Thanks for stopping by, Suzie! We’ll see you soon!

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Agent Sean McCarthy on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

A familiar face is taking the spotlight today – agent Sean McCarthy of (you guessed it) the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency! If you were at our 2016 Pocono Retreat, you might have met Sean, and for a more in-depth interview, you can read his Cafe Chat with Lori Ann Palma here. Today, Sean is stopping by to give some stellar advice and let you know what he’s looking for…or not looking for…right now!

Sean McCarthy - Photo 2LB: What’s your best advice for crafting a strong pitch?

SM: I think the most important factor when crafting a strong pitch is to be absolutely positive about the strengths of your work, and to build around them. When I’m writing them for myself, I try to think about the best possible way I could convince someone that’s skeptical of the manuscript that they need to read it, and to keep it as succinct as possible. I’m also a big believer in getting feedback from the market on pitches, so if you’re not sure what are the most compelling elements to your work, it can be helpful to create two different pitches, send both out to a limited number of agents (e.g. Pitch A to 5 agents, Pitch B to 5 different agents), and see which one gets a better response.

LB: What are you looking for/not looking for right now?

SM: I have some general guidelines on my website  for my interests:

“He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and character-driven work or smartly paced mysteries/adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in issue-driven stories or query letters that pose too many questions.”

Also, I have participated in MSWL a few times (http://mswishlist.com/profile/literary-agent/mccarthylit), but….

The longer that I work in publishing, the more I’m looking for something that immediately demands my attention and keeps me hooked until the last page. Strong characters, unforgettable voice, and a dynamic narrative arc will draw me in, no matter the genre.

LB: Are you open to representing picture book authors and/or illustrators?

SM: I am open to representing picture book authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators!

Thanks for stopping by, Sean! See you soon!

You can register for Fall Philly/PA Author Day and reserve a pitch session with Sean today.


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Agent Carrie Prestritto on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

If you’re crafting a pitch, take a moment to absorb some wisdom from Carrie Prestritto of Prospect Agency! Carrie will be accepting pitches at our 2017 Fall Philly/PA Author Day event at the Warwick Hotel in Rittenhouse Square on November 5, so be sure to register and see her friendly face in person.

Everyone say, Hi Carrie!

carrie prestrittoLB: What is your best advice for crafting a strong pitch?

CP: Try to write something concisely and sharply written (almost as if it were back cover copy) that draws agents in and gets them interested in reading more.  You want to showcase your writing, but also get to the point, so that we quickly understand what the story is about and get excited to read more.

LB: What are you looking for/not looking for right now?

CP: You can look at my #MSWL tweets or recent blog post for a more exhaustive list, but right now I’d really love to see more quirky and diverse MG, YA across the board (fantasy, contemporary, and diverse stories), and children’s nonfiction.  I’d also really love a fantastic YA memoir.

LB: Are you open to representing picture book authors and/or illustrators?

CP: I do not represent illustrators at all, although I do admire them very much!  For authors, I only represent non-fiction or educational pictures, so anything else would be outside my bailiwick.

Thank you for stopping by, Carrie! We will see you soon!

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Agent John Cusick on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

Fall Philly pitching is just around the corner, and today agent John Cusick from Folio Literary Management is here to give you some advice. Everyone say, Hi John!
JCLB: What is your best advice for crafting a strong pitch?
JC: Tell me what’s at stake for your character: Why must the mystery be solved? What happens if the hero fails? What does she stand to gain or lose? Also, give me a few choice details that make your story or concept stand out. Agents and editors want to know what makes your project unique.

LB: What are you looking for/not looking for right now? JC: I’m seeking unique voices in fiction for young people, stories that move readers, moments that make me look up and say “Wow, yes. I’ve felt that.”

Send me the books kids will sneak / steal / borrow in secret. Those personal, dangerous, life-saving stories. I’m looking for boundary pushers, a pitch that makes (certain) people say, “You can’t write a YA / MG about THAT!!” I want beautiful, character-driven YA and MG that connects like an emotional gut-punch. I love the strange, iconoclastic, and unusual.

I’m drawn to contemporary realistic stories with strong hooks, as well as fresh fantasy set in our world and others. I love stories told in alternate formats (letters, texts…sticky notes?). I love funny, quirky, and spooky. I want books that keep me turning the page. I love proactive protagonists, kids and teens chasing a dream or a hero who swings in with a song in her heart and a knife in her teeth.

WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR: Picture book texts. I also tend to shy away from novels with talking animals, sports stories, and poetry.

LB:  Are you open to representing picture book authors and/or illustrators?

JC: When it comes to picture books, I’m only considering submissions by author-illustrators. Thank you!

Thank YOU for stopping by! We’ll see you in Philly!

If you haven’t registered yet, just click on over and reserve your spot to pitch to John!

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Happy Fall! by Lindsay Bandy

Hello out there in internet land! We here at Team EPA have been hard at work, preparing to treat (but never trick) you with exciting Fall events! We hope you’ll join us for the following….

Poetry Day in Lancaster PA on October 7 at the Lancaster Public Library. Join us for a relaxed and informative day of exploring the options for poets today, from novels-in-verse to poems for young children. (It’s only one week away, so hurry and register today!)

Fall Philly and PA Author Day on November 5 at the Warwick Hotel, Rittenhouse Square. Come to meet and learn from PA authors and illustrators, and register to pitch to one of our *growing* list of agents!

Perfecting Your Pitch: An October blog series. No registration required for this one! Just tune in regularly throughout the month of October as our Fall Philly agents share their pitchy wisdom and bookish wishes with us!


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