Happy snow day, Eastern PA! Since it is technically spring now, I bring you a ray of sunshine: Meet Pocono Retreat faculty member Kira Watson, agent with the Emma Sweeney Agency!
LB: Hi there, Kira, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our comfy booth, can we get you something to drink? And a snack?
KW: Thank you so much for having me! I’d love a cup of hot Earl Grey with a chocolate chip cookie (or two, if we’re being indulgent 😀)
LB: Two for you and two for me! We’re excited to have you as a faculty member for our upcoming Pocono Retreat! While we wait for our cookies and tea, let’s talk books! Name the last book you read that made you…..
Laugh out loud:
Fall in love with the voice:
KW: I’m so excited to be a part of this year’s retreat and cannot wait to meet new writers! The last book I read that made me laugh out loud was MEDDLING KIDS by Edgar Cantero. It’s funny and witty with just the right amount of horror and adventure.
GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow made me cry and fall in love with the voice. Charlie’s story is so compelling, heart-wrenching, and impossible to turn away from. GIRL IN PIECES is one of those stories that stays with you long after you finish it. As for a book that made me jump–I have yet to find one! Maybe I’ll find it at the Pocono Retreat 😉
LB: If you could become any one character and live in the book of your choice, who would you be?
KW: Oh goodness! You’re asking very hard questions…but, if I had to pick one, I would go with Alina Starkov from The Grisha Trilogy. I’m in love with the world Leigh Bardugo created in those books. I also really want to wear one of the Grisha keftas and have the biggest book crush on the Darkling! (I love villains!)
LB: Do you represent picture book authors and/or illustrators? What kinds of picture books catch your eye?
KW: I represent picture book authors, but not illustrators. When it comes to picture books a unique concept is a major element I look for in a submission. I love stories that explore ideas, people, and cultures we don’t get to see all the time. I like stories that have a great narrative arc and teach the reader a lesson without forcing it upon them.
LB: When it comes to Middle Grade or Young Adult novels, what are some elements that consistently get your attention?
KW: I know all agents say this, but voice is huge. If the voice is great, then everything else that may not be 100% perfect can be fixed. I also love strong female protagonists who do not need a male character to help them become “whole.” We so often see a female protagonist’s transformation happen because she meets a boy. Although there is nothing wrong with that–love can be a powerful agent in changing a person–it’s also important to show young girls and young women that they do not need a boy in their life to save a kingdom and kick some butt. Now, on the other spectrum of things, I also love realistic romance in stories. I like seeing two characters fall in love in a slower, left “swoony” way.
LB: Any major turn-offs or pet peeves?
KW: Yes, I have a few. When it comes to stories it’s a major turn-off when female characters say things like “I’m not like other girls.” Not only is it lazy writing and characterization, but it also reinforces the idea that girls need to be at an opposition with each other. There’s nothing wrong with having a protagonist that’s a total tomboy and there is nothing wrong with having a protagonist who loves make up and dresses and other “girly” things.
Another turn off, when writers do not have a clear grasp of the voice and try to sound like teens. More often than not, the voice comes across as forced and it signals to me that the writer doesn’t understand his/her audience. If I can see that issue, so will an editor, and so will the reader. Going along with this, another major turn-off is when an author does not read in the category/genre they write it. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it’s evident and is a HUGE problem.
LB: Congratulations! You’re the first literary agent in space! Suit up, and tell us three things you would pack to pass the light years.
KW: The three things I would need are: my iPhone because it has all of my music on it, my laptop so I can write/edit, and my kindle (pre-loaded with a ton of books).
LB: What’s your best advice for writers in the querying trenches?
KW: Do your research. Make sure the agent you query represents your category/genre. I see so many queries sent my way from authors looking for an agent to represent their adult thriller or adult literary novel. Had those authors spend a few minutes reading my bio, they’d see that I only am working on Children’s Books. Another piece of advice, have a comp title or two in your query because it signals to the agent that you have some understanding of the market. I’d recommend avoiding Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. Everyone and their mother have read those. They’re not good comps.
LB: Can we have a little sneak-peek into what you’ll be sharing with us in the Poconos?
KW: Whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, understanding the importance and structure of a scene is crucial. In this session, we will examine the function of a scene, discuss the pitfalls of—as I like to call them—”fluff scenes”, and identify helpful steps to developing impact and meaning in your writing.
LB: Okay, Kira, it’s time for Flash Favorites! Deep breath…..focus…..what’s your favorite….
Creature (imaginary or real) to tame as a pet A unicorn! I’m going to blame my author Naomi Hughes for my sudden love of unicorns.
Midnight snack I actually don’t snack at night, but if I had to pick something it would be a protein shake.
Phrase in Russian Oi, I think I’ll have to go with “к черту.”
Netflix binge Stranger Things! I’ve watched and rewatched it so many times.
Type of shoe Sneakers! I pretty much live in workout clothes (unless I’m in the office), so sneakers are a must.
LB: Thanks so much for joining us today, Kira! Can’t wait to see you in May!
KW: Thanks, Lindsay! I had so much fun!