This morning, we are chatting with another of our fabulous faculty for Fall Philly and Pitch Shop: Mackenzie Brady, agent at New Leaf Literary and Media, Inc. If you haven’t registered yet, just click here ! Then, sit back and enjoy some time with Mackenzie.
Lindsay: Hi there, Mackenzie, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! Thanks for stopping by to chat. As we settle into our cozy booth, what are you drinking?
Mackenzie: Good morning, good morning. I’ve got a little French press La Colombe coffee here to help kick start the day!
Lindsay: And what’s that you’re munching on?
Mackenzie: An everything bagel with scallion cream cheese (apologies for my breath!).
Lindsay: I’ll have one, too. Now we can both have onion breath. So, I know that in your former life, you were a microbiologist. What inspired you to make the switch to literary agent?
Mackenzie: When I graduated college, I immediately began working as a lab tech for a former professor of mine. It was my first “real” 40 hrs/ week job, so it was also the first time I realized just how much time a person spends at work. 40 hours can feel like 4,000 when you’re not intellectually or emotionally engaged in the work you’re doing and that’s exactly how it felt for me. In fact, the only bright moments in my days were listening to New Yorker podcasts, writing sloppy fiction, or staying up late with great books. I knew something had to change – I hated that I no longer cared about working hard, which up until then had been my default setting – so I decided to make my love of reading and writing a priority and applied to a ton of publishing internships. I got one and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lindsay: What was the last book you read that….
Made you laugh out loud? DAD IS FAT by Jim Gaffigan
Made you cry? WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart
Blew your mind? GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (obvious choice) but also BRAIN ON FIRE by Susanna Cahalan
Kept you up waay to late? BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty
Changed you? WONDER by RJ Palacio
Lindsay: You’ve finally invented a way to shrink yourself down to a microscopic size! Fear not, you’ve also invented the reverse, so it’s not permanent. Of course, you’re anticipating your Nobel, and your New York Times Best Seller! What do you do as a teeny-tiny Mackenzie? Where do you go?
Mackenzie: This is going to sound gross, but I’d hop right into someone’s body. I’m hoping I’ll make it out alive – I mean Ms. Frizzle’s class did! – but either way it would be so worth it to see what really goes on inside of a body in real time. I’ve been obsessed with human anatomy ever since I was a kid – my father was a chiropractor so we had skeleton models all over the house – so, for lack of a better word, this corporeal adventure would be a treat.
Lindsay: You’ve had yet another mad-genius moment, and unlocked the secret to time travel. Where do you go? Who do you visit? Do you come back?
Mackenzie: I often feel like I missed my decade. The 60s had some of my favorite music and don’t even get me started on the hairstyles. Hello volume! But on a serious note, I’d very much like to go back and experience those years of dramatic social change. I want to march, I want to holler, I want to burn my bra and lay down in the streets. I want to hear (or maybe write) speeches that will be remembered forever. I want to feel like I am a part of something far larger than myself. That is still possible today, of course, but it’s rare to see collective action on that large of a scale.
Lindsay: What would be your best advice to aspiring writers and/or illustrators?
Mackenzie: Spend time getting to know yourself as a writer. Do you write better in the morning or pulling all-nighters? Do you need lots of distractions or should you buy a cabin on a remote island? Do you prefer to work on one story at a time or several? Once you’ve figured out a routine, don’t sacrifice it for anything. Also, find writer friends and make them your people. Everyone can benefit from first readers, confidants, commiserators, sounding-boards, and askers of tough questions.
Lindsay: What’s the best advantage for writers/illustrators in having a literary agent?
Mackenzie: Simply put, we are the author’s/illustrator’s first line of defense. It’s our job to negotiate the best deal possible and also to protect the author’s work through publication and beyond. We are the follow-uppers, the nags, the bulldogs. We handle much of the behind the scenes work, so authors/illustrators can spend more of their precious time on their craft.
Lindsay: Finish this sentence: I would jump for joy, sing, and dance a jig if I came across a book that…..
Mackenzie: was a YA psychological thriller reminiscent of Tana French.
Lindsay: How soon should submitters follow up with you?
Mackenzie: I’m usually pretty quick to read what I’ve requested, but if I haven’t responded in 8 weeks, go ahead and follow up. Also, if another agent or publisher has requested/offered, do let me know.
Your ideal client would:
Always… welcome and consider thoughtful criticism (from me, editors, reviewers, readers etc).
Never… sacrifice his/her vision for the work.
Lindsay: And now, for rapid-fire favorites! Name your favorite:
Type of shoe – Rainbow leather flip flops
Dinner – My mother’s crab and rice casserole
TV Show – Breaking Bad
Song or Band – One Bourbon, One Scotch & One Beer by George Thorogood (my song with my dad)
Science experiment – The one I won the 5th grade science fair with: Where do microbes come from and in what conditions can they be grown?
Memoir – It’s more of a collection of personal essays/responses to questions, but Cheryl Strayed’s TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS
Candy – REALLY dark chocolate with almonds
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Mackenzie! We’re looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks!