I recently had the very lovely pleasure of chatting with Marie Lamba at the Eastern Penn Points Café. Marie is an author as well as a literary agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency and will be joining our faculty and offering critiques at the 2019 Pocono Retreat. More information about the retreat can be found here.
Laura: Hi, Marie. Thanks so much for joining me at the Eastern Penn Points Café. What can we get you to drink?
Marie: Hi! So happy to hang out with you. Yeah—a decaf cappuccino is awesome. I so don’t need caffeine . . . I’m kind of naturally zingy.
Laura: And anything to snack on?
Marie: Dark chocolate, always. Don’t mind caffeine from that!
Laura: Ooh, let’s get a giant plate of dark chocolate to share!
So, you are an author as well as an agent. How do you juggle both careers while also attending author events, conferences, workshops, and more?
Marie: In some ways the two really dovetail. Being a writer informs how I deal with my clients and helps me anticipate their concerns and needs. Being an agent informs how to target my writing. Finding time for both? Well, that’s tricky. Agenting involves a lot of putting out fires, whereas writing, unless you have a deadline, can easily be shoved aside till later. It’s a balancing act for sure, but making my weekends my own really helps with the writing part of things. And being hyper organized and obsessed with finishing what I start is key on all fronts. Also, I have a different desk for each!
Laura: What have you learned as an agent that has been most valuable to you as an author?
Marie: That you should always be working on the next thing. You want a steady flow of manuscripts. Keeping focused on that is great for your career AND your head space. Send the work out to your agent, or through queries, but always keep creating other stuff while that goes on. It’ll move your writing forward AND impress agents too!
Laura: What makes you perk up when reading a submission?
Marie: Confidence and voice. The kind of story that grabs my hand and pulls me in so I forget that I’m reading and I believe I’m truly within that author’s world.
Laura: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be presenting at the Pocono Retreat?
Marie: I’m going to be talking about picture book pitfalls. I see a lot of repeated mistakes in picture book manuscripts that I think really hold back some potentially solid stories. By helping writers spot these in their own works, and offering possible fixes, I’m hoping writers might have some aha moments that will propel them ahead.
Laura: And now for something fun: In your book Drawn, the main character is transported back in time to the fifteenth century. If you were transported back in time and could choose three things to bring with you, what would you choose?
Marie: Wow, this is a tough one! Hmm. I’d say a medical kit full of first aid and basic medicines, first off. In Drawn, my heroine saves her love’s life with the help of one of those tiny first aid purse packs, so . . . Also an applicable history book so I can anticipate what’s what . . . And a great set of running shoes so I can escape the mobs when they think I’m a witch due to having the other two items!
Laura: Sounds like a solid plan. Thanks so much for chatting with me, Marie. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Pocono Retreat in April!
Marie: Me too! I just want to add that many moons ago I attended the Pocono Retreat as an aspiring writer. It means so much to be coming back and sharing this weekend with you all.
Marie Lamba (marielamba.com) is author of the picture book Green Green (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017), of the upcoming picture book A Day So Gray (Clarion, Fall 2019), and of the young adult novels What I Meant . . . (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. Her articles have appeared in more than 100 publications, and she’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. She has worked as an editor, an award-winning public relations writer, and a book publicist. As a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in NYC (jdlit.com), Marie represents picture book writers and illustrators, middle grade, YA and adult fiction, plus memoir. You can follow her on Twitter @marielamba, and like her Facebook page: Marie Lamba, Author.