The Eastern PA SCBWI team is gearing up for our Annual Pocono Retreat in April. We have a fantastic faculty line-up who will be leading breakout sessions or giving keynotes as well as offering one-on-one critiques. To find out more about our retreat and to register, click here.
Last week, at our favorite virtual café, I had a chance to chat with one of our Pocono Retreat faculty members, Eric Smith, who is a literary agent with P.S. Literary. Here’s what he had to say.
Laura: Hi Eric! We’re happy to have you at the Eastern Penn Points Café. Can we get you something to drink or snack on?
Eric: Hi! Yes, please pass me whatever overly sugary coffee drink you can that would be offensive to true coffee drinkers. Something with the words cinnamon, spice, whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut in the name. If all of them are in a drink’s name, all you have to do is whisper that drink’s name in the mirror, and it summons me.
Laura: Okay, one cinnamon-spice-chocolate-hazelnut-vanilla-whipped-cream-grande-mocha-latte with sprinkles coming right up! While we’re waiting on that let’s get to know you a bit. You’re an author as well as a literary agent, you’ve worked at Quirk Books, and you’ve also edited a few anthologies. Tell us how it all began. Did you dive into the publishing world or take baby steps?
Eric: It’s true! So my journey was a little unconventional. I’d been applying everywhere you can imagine while I was in graduate school, while running a popular local geek blog. Since Quirk was local, I sometimes did book giveaways for them and quickly became friends with the folks there. When a publicity and social media gig opened, I applied . . . and that was my way in. I’d made enough noise online that someone finally noticed!
Before my first publishing job, I worked a fine array of retail gigs through college and, while in graduate school, spent time as a graduate assistant and a full-time blogger for the city’s tourism board. Took a minute to get where I wanted, but I got there.
Laura: You also have a podcast that focuses on YA lit (Hey YA from Book Riot). Can you tell us a little about that?
Eric: Sure! It’s co-hosted by me and the wonderful Kelly Jensen (her YA anthologies are a GIFT to the world). We talk about various things every other week, and sometimes do extra credit episodes with guest YA authors, digging into their favorite books and current reads. It’s a lot of fun, and you can subscribe on any platform that let’s you, well, subscribe to podcasts.
Laura: Nice! I’m sure our YA author members will want to check that out if they haven’t already. I understand you have a big interest in representing nonfiction. What are some nonfiction topics you’d love to see in your inbox? What are some recent favorites?
Eric: When it comes to kid-lit, totally. I really love YA memoirs, and would just so love to see more of those, as well as YA and MG that focuses on topics that don’t get dished in the classroom enough. One of my favorite YA nonfiction books is Queer There and Everywhere by the amazing Sarah Prager, and I’d just love to see more books like that one in my e-mail. Teach me about people, places, and events that were missing (and sometimes still are!) in classrooms when I was a kid, please. Some of my recent titles in that space include Robin Stevenson’s Kid Activists, which is a perfect example of what I’d like to see more of.
Laura: You live in Philadelphia. Many of our members are from Philadelphia and the surrounding region. How are you involved with the Philadelphia writing community? What local resources are out there for us that we may not know about?
Eric: I like to think I’m pretty involved, but mostly just with my author pals? I go to events, and I serve on the board of Blue Stoop, a great organization trying to pull the literary community together. I also hold a monthly brain pick meet-up that’s absolutely free, and you can learn more about it here, www.penslanding.com. I recommend signing up for my newsletter and the Facebook group to stay in the loop though.
Laura: Okay, time for our lightning round. Are you ready? What is your favorite . . .
Color: Charcoal gray!
Snack food: Doritos!
Bird: As long as it’s tiny and round and fluffy, it’s a favorite bird. Or BIRB.
Mode of transportation: Walking, I don’t drive!
Fandom: Star Trek.
Laura: And finally, can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be presenting at our Pocono Retreat?
Eric: I’ll be talking about the agent/author relationship, and what to expect after signing with one. And I’ll have plenty of time to chat with writers about their query letters, as I’m pretty passionate about helping them get those ready to go.
Laura: Sounds great, Eric! Thanks for stopping by the Eastern Penn Points Café and chatting with us. We’re looking forward to having you at our Pocono Retreat in April.
Eric: Thank you!
Eric Smith is an author and literary agent living in Philadelphia. As an agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on award-winning and New York Times bestselling titles, and represents an array of categories, from literary fiction to cookbooks, though his heart is in Young Adult novels. In his author life, his latest novel, Don’t Read the Comments, was published by Inkyard Press, and his books have been translated into ten languages. You can catch him writing (and podcasting!) about books with Book Riot and Paste Magazine, and can learn more about him and his list at www.ericsmithrocks.com.