An Interview with Literary Agent Jacqui Lipton, by Heather Stigall, and a Critique Giveaway!

Eastern PA SCBWI is excited to bring a new webinar series to you in April called “Meet the Agency.” Our featured agency will be Raven Quill Literary. We’ll have four webinars led by four different agents from Raven Quill, and at the end of the series we’ll host a live virtual “Pitch Parlor” with the agents. For more information, including how to register for the webinars and sign up for a pitch session, go to

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog, Heather Stigall interviews literary agent Jacqui Lipton, who will be our first webinar presenter for the “Meet the Agency” series. Jacqui will be presenting “Publishing Law 101” on April 7 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We are also giving away a free critique by Jacqui for one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details at the end of this interview!

An Interview with Literary Agent Jacqui Lipton

Heather: Jacqui, thank you so much for agreeing to present “Publishing Law 101” on April 7 as part of our “Meet the Agency” series. I’m looking forward to your webinar! Your background in law and writing seems especially suited to agenting. Was founding your own literary agency always a career goal? Can you tell us a little about how Raven Quill came to be?

Jacqui: Yes, my background was pretty well suited to agenting, but I never really thought about it until a really smart mentor pointed it out to me. I was having a bit of a midlife crisis and looking for new challenges, and she pointed out that I liked writing, editing, and contract/intellectual property law, so had I ever considered agenting? It was one of those lightbulb moments for me. Of course, I didn’t wake up and start an agency the next day. I interned for a number of years for an established agent before I even considered going out on my own. I also worked at another agency and consulted for many years on publishing contracts before taking the leap. In deciding to welcome other agents to the nest, I also ensured that they had the necessary background to hit the ground running (from past experience as agents, assistants, interns, etc.). It can be a risky business, but it can also be very rewarding for a supportive team able and willing to grow together, and I’ve been very fortunate in the team at Raven Quill now: Kelly, Kortney, Lori, and our wonderful assistant Lindsay, as well as a group of our own amazing interns.

Heather: The mentor who gave you that nudge to pursue a career in agenting does sound very smart. (And I’m guessing your clients are thankful!) In your webinar, you will be talking about publishing law. What are some common legal questions you come across when dealing with your clients’ manuscripts?

Jacqui: There are a lot of common legal questions, some of which I’ll cover in the webinar. There’s always a lot of confusion about how copyright law works because, frankly, it’s a pretty complex law, often without clear answers in particular situations. So, authors (and editors) often worry about the use of someone else’s song lyric, poem, or other content in their own work and when permission is necessary or when the use is a fair use. There is also a very common misconception that if you attribute someone else for the use of their work, it is a fair use. That’s unfortunately not correct. Copyright law is about copying, not attribution. A content creator may ask for attribution as a condition of giving you a license to use their work, but that’s a contract matter rather than a copyright issue. See? Now I’m getting into the weeds of copyright law. I’m a bit of a copyright/contract nerd and can talk about this stuff until you tell me to stop!

Heather: Your clients are very fortunate to have an agent with your expertise. When reviewing and negotiating contracts, are there any red flags you sometimes see? Are there certain things you always try to fight for on behalf of your clients?

Jacqui: Generally, we try to work with reputable, established publishers, so there shouldn’t be too many red flags in the sense of things that are inappropriate or unprofessional in a contract. However, there are of course things we always try to fight for on behalf of our clients, including making sure we’re not giving away rights that could be exploited elsewhere in a more lucrative way. For example, many publishers do not necessarily focus on exploiting film/TV rights, and those can often be exploited more effectively outside the original contract. The same goes for a number of other sub rights like foreign and translation rights. If the publisher wants to take more sub rights, our aim is to make sure they compensate the author accordingly. Additionally, it’s generally important to understand the scope of option and noncompete clauses and to limit them as effectively as possible so they won’t hinder the author’s future work—I’ve written a number of blog posts on these issues that I can share during the webinar. You’ll find some of them at,, and

Heather: Thank you for sharing those resources! Two of our lucky webinar participants will be receiving a copy of your book, Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (*NOTE: you must attend the webinar live to be eligible for the book giveaway!), which sounds perfectly suited for our crowd. But you also have another book coming out called Our Data, Ourselves: A Personal Guide to Digital Privacy. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jacqui: Sure. Thank you for asking! It’s kind of a depressing book, but the aim is similar to Law and Authors—to make people aware of legal and regulatory issues that may impact them in their personal or professional lives and to hopefully explain those issues in a user-friendly way. Our Data, Ourselves attempts to explain what corporations and governments can do with your personal information—how, where, when, and why they collect it and what rights you have to monitor and control those uses (unfortunately, not a lot!). The book is broken down into chapters relating to different aspects of our lives, e.g., privacy at school, privacy in the workplace, health information privacy, financial information privacy, social media privacy, etc. Each chapter ends with some tips and tricks about how to monitor what is happening with your personal information and whether there are avenues to investigate and object to particular uses.

Heather: As depressing as you say it may be, that sounds like a must-read for all of us. Many of our members are looking for agents. What qualities would the ideal client have?

Jacqui: Actually, I think the better question is, What qualities would the ideal agent have for each client?—because the agent/author/illustrator relationship is so personal. I have always tried to be client focused, figuring out what approach best suits the client and working in a way that makes sense to them in terms of edits, submission strategies, etc. I tend to be pretty transparent and possibly give too much feedback on projects (although I’m working on that!). I try to ensure that clients understand that my feedback, while often voluminous, is not intended to be prescriptive, and only food for thought for revision, etc.

But as to your original question, what qualities an ideal client for me would possess, I think the most important thing is a sense of professionalism and a willingness to work hard and ask questions if something doesn’t make sense. Talent is obviously a big part of the equation for success, but there are so many talented authors and illustrators out there that if you can add a level of professionalism and openness to feedback from an agent and/or editor (even if you don’t ultimately accept the feedback), you are already a step above a lot of other creatives. And bear in mind that feedback won’t always be about your manuscript per se (if you’re an author). It may be about choice of illustrator for a picture book or graphic novel; design/format issues; publication/marketing questions, etc. Publishing is a more collaborative process than many authors and illustrators realize when they first dip their toe into the industry’s waters. SCBWI is a great organization for learning about those aspects of the industry outside the scope of the actual writing or illustrating process.

Heather: This is great advice for our readers—thank you! Your website states that you represent everything from picture books to middle grade to young adult, and even some adult projects. Can you give us a sense of your tastes by telling us some recently published books that you love and why?

Jacqui: That’s such a tough question! (But thank you for asking.) My tastes are so ridiculously eclectic that it’s hard to nail down favorites. And I should also say that even if there’s a particular book or project I love, I don’t always have a sense of how best to position it in the marketplace and might think another agent is a better fit for that reason—although when that happens, I usually make a point of noting that in my pass note to the author. 

I actually just picked up a copy of Cherie Dimaline’s Hunting By Stars (having loved the original Marrow Thieves). These pieces are set in a dystopian future that weaves in the way Native peoples have been treated in the past in such a clever, eye-opening, and beautifully written manner. I’m so glad she was able to continue the series. And like everyone else, Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter blew me away last year for similar reasons. And it’s just a heck of a good read. I loved Rita Williams-Garcia’s A Sitting in St James. It’s such an ambitious, epic, and intricately crafted piece.

In mystery/thriller, I’ve been very partial to Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series (also extremely clever and beautifully crafted) and Kristen Simmons’ Vale Hall trilogy. I actually love everything Kristen writes—she’s so versatile and always has something interesting to say. And in adult mystery/thriller, I’m a fan of Megan Miranda and Lucy Foley. (I also love Megan Miranda’s YA mysteries, and Fragments of the Lost is a perennial favorite.)

I’m always a sucker for a good romance in both YA and adult. I really enjoy Casey McQuiston’s books, as well as Alexis Hall and Jen De Luca.

I realize I’m listing a lot of adult and YA fiction and a lot of my own sales recently have, strangely enough, been picture books and middle grade nonfiction. I always love nonfiction if done well—interesting structures, subjects, and approaches.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that two of my own clients have MG releases coming out this spring: Monica Roe’s Air and Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s Moonwalking (co-authored with Zetta Elliot). Both of these books are with FSG, and they are both amazing. Art Coulson’s MG debut, Chasing Bigfoot, also just came out with Reycraft, a Native thriller/mystery with a lot of humor and heart. 

And for those who like adult mystery, Soho Crime is re-releasing Marcie Rendon’s Cash Blackbear series—the first two books are re-releasing in April, and the brand new and long-awaited third book, Sinister Graves, is releasing in October.

Okay—lengthy answer to short question, but I love talking about books as much if not more than I love talking about contract law.

Heather: I think I’m going to have to add a few more books to my “to read” list! Thank you so much for your time, Jacqui. We’re all looking forward to your webinar on April 7. See you then!

Jacqui Lipton is a professor of law/legal writing, consultant, and literary agent who has published widely on contract, copyright, and trademark law, cyberlaw, privacy, and defamation issues, with an emphasis on laws relating to the publishing industry. She is the author of Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (University of California Press, 2020) and the forthcoming Our Data, Ourselves: A Personal Guide to Digital Privacy (University of California Press, 2022). She writes regular columns on legal issues for authors for the SCBWI Bulletin, Luna Station Quarterly, Savvy Authors, Catapult, and her own agency’s website (Conspiracy of Ravens Blog). She is the founding agent at Raven Quill Literary Agency where she represents a variety of projects from children’s literature (picture book through young adult) to adult genre fiction.

Webinar Information

April 7, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time 

Publishing Law 101 with literary agent Jacqui Lipton

Can I quote song lyrics in my book? When can I incorporate other people’s photography and art in my own work? What if I want to write about a real person? Could I be sued for defamation? In this webinar, agent/attorney Jacqui Lipton will take us through the publishing law basics, surveying copyright, fair use, defamation, privacy, and contract law (contracts with agents and publishing houses). Come along with your legal questions and concerns! There will be a giveaway of two copies of Jacqui’s book, Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers, for two lucky participants who attend the live webinar. For more information and to register, go to

Critique Giveaway

Eastern PA SCBWI is giving away a free written critique (PB, MG, or YA; fiction or nonfiction) with literary agent Jacqui Lipton to one lucky Eastern PA SCBWI member! For picture books, Jacqui will critique one full manuscript plus a 2- to 3-sentence pitch in the same document. For middle grade or young adult, send up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page query letter in the same document.

To enter, please comment on this blog post before 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, March 25. We will choose the winner at random from those who comment. Must be a current Eastern PA SCBWI member to be eligible. Please include your full name as it appears in your SCBWI membership. If you’d like to comment on this blog post but not be entered to win (e.g., if you are not an Eastern PA SCBWI member or if you are not interested in a critique), simply state that along with your comment. Materials for the critique are due Friday April 8, 2022. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post, so check back after the deadline to see if you’re our winner! Instructions for submitting materials will be sent to the winner. 

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An Element of Curiosity, by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

An Element of Curiosity

A few years ago, when my book Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published was released, a friend inquired, “Gee, Tony, you spent over 300 pages helping writers craft a children’s book. Is it really that intense?” I smiled in response. He continued, “Okay, I’m curious: What is one of the most important things prospective authors need to know in order to write a good book?” I responded by informing him that his question was actually the answer.

As naturally inquisitive creatures, we are fascinated with the unknown; we are transfixed with the mysteries of life that surround us; and we are amazed at all that we have to explore. The mysteries of the world around us have always been an impetus for us to peek and poke and prod for answers—learning something about our surroundings as well as about ourselves. Nowhere is this truer than when we watch the youngest among us—our children.

Young children are known for sticking their fingers in places where young fingers should never be. They are famous for putting all manner of objects and substances in their mouths . . . everything from plastic blocks, the pet dog’s ears, and any object in the room not nailed down or sufficiently weighted. As any parent knows, children will expand their curiosity by reading new books, looking under rocks, or creating “music” with pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils. Theirs is a world full of unknowns propelled by a desire to discover and learn.

In adults, curiosity guides us toward a lifetime occupation, it drives us to search out potential partners with whom we may want to spend the rest of our lives, it stimulates us to travel to new destinations, and it holds our hand as we move into old age and the unknowns of the future. By and large, we are relentless question-askers. We want to know more than we know. We want to expand our horizons, try out the new and undiscovered, and pursue experiences that deepen our comprehension (and appreciation) of the world we live in.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”Albert Einstein

Interestingly, as authors, curiosity drives, not only our creativity, but the quality of our writing. Our inquisitiveness propels us to describe characters with greater detail, craft imaginative events with spirit and intent, and ask questions that have never been asked before (by adults, at least). Our authorial curiosity injects passion and heart into our stories—a constant search for revision and improvement that will turn a simple tale into a compelling book and an intent to go where “no author has gone before.” When we celebrate and utilize our natural sense of curiosity, we give our readers an opportunity to see behind the scenes, observe behaviors that define our characters, and propel a narrative into new dimensions and territories. Our curiosity is the fuel that can power a story beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

Curiosity drives creativity; creativity ignites imagination; and imagination is the foundation of all writing.

Most importantly, curiosity injects intent and zeal into a story—it is a transformative process that changes mere words into compelling literature. Asking the questions our readers ask as well as offering magnificent responses is part and parcel of our craft. Young readers know, intuitively, whether an author has crawled inside their minds and satisfied their own innate curiosity. The authors who do, capture the hearts AND minds of their readers.

When we ask the right questions, we can generate the “write” answers.


Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books—many of which have won national writing awards (i.e., Outstanding Science Trade Book [Children’s Book Council], Isaac Walton Book of the Year, etc.). He has also authored the recently published From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (“. . . the author supplies an endless array of examples to enhance creative thought.” —5 stars) []. 

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Leslie Zampetti, by Laura Parnum

Part 3 in our Query Grind webinar series is coming up on March 21 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time with literary agent Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Literary. What do agents and editors mean by “voice”? Leslie will break it down for us. In preparation for the webinar, Eastern PA SCBWI’s Co-Regional Advisor, Laura Parnum, had a chat with Leslie in our virtual café. Here’s what they had to say:

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Leslie Zampetti, by Laura Parnum

Laura: Hey there, Leslie! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints virtual café! The great thing about a virtual café is, you can come in your pajamas! I’m wearing my plaid flannels and I’ve got my heated blanket and a mug of tea. How about you?

Leslie: I’m sitting in my sapphire velvet desk chair in my new light-filled home office. It’s full of books and pictures of Venice and color. Always have a cup of tea (or glass of iced tea) handy! Today’s is my morning fave, Lady Grey. I’d like to be as cozy as you are, but then I wouldn’t get any work done. 😉

Laura: Well, despite my current cocoon of coziness, spring is coming, and with it—your webinar! Without giving too much away, can you give us a brief sneak peek into what you’ll be presenting about on March 21?

Leslie: I’ll be discussing voice—how to define it, how to improve it, and how to recognize what makes a voice strong and distinct. One question I’m often asked is how commercial and literary voices differ, and we’ll explore that.

Laura: It’s a great topic, and one that people have many questions about. Speaking of spring, are there any titles coming out this spring that you’re excited about? Particularly ones that might have great voice?

Leslie: I’m eagerly anticipating Zetta Elliott’s and Lyn Miller-Lachman’s MOONWALKING, which releases in April. DIAMOND PARK by Phillipe Diederich is a book I passed on representing but am so glad to see on shelves! Of course, I can’t wait for my writing group partner Liz Lim’s THE DRAGON’S PROMISE, and while it’s not coming till this fall, my client Andrea Shapiro’s TWO THOUSAND MILES TO HAPPY. 

Laura: Thanks for those titles. I will definitely have to check them out! Spring is all about new growth, but we also enjoy experiencing the same spring sights, sounds, smells, and feelings year after year. With your 20-plus years of background as a librarian, I’d love to hear about how the children’s book industry has grown over that time, and what has remained timeless? 

Leslie: Obviously, the growth in representation and diversity of voices is one of the best changes in children’s books. I’m constantly seeing books I would have loved to buy for my students and patrons. I also love how nonfiction picture books have gained ground outside of the classroom. So many children love nonfiction, and that is timeless. Also timeless is the need for books that explore difficult topics through fiction—this is one of the strongest ways that children face their fears and question their world.  

Laura: Tell us about switching from librarian to literary agent. Besides working with books, are there any other similarities between the two professions?

Leslie: Yes! Both professions actually are about working with people—librarians even more so than literary agents. My skill in finding the right book for a reader applies equally to finding editors. 

Laura: And what is your favorite part of agenting—finding new books to champion, working with authors to hone their manuscripts, finding a publishing home for a project, or something else?

Leslie: All of the above? I feel that agenting allows me to be at the beginning of the process of advocating for books that can improve our world. Honestly, my favorite part of agenting is enjoying conversations with my clients, agent colleagues, and editors about books and reading.

Laura: Since we’re looking forward to spring, how about a quick spring-themed lightning round to end our chat!

Favorite spring flower: Cherry blossoms or crocus

Dream spring break vacation: Visiting a new city and exploring its parks and gardens

Favorite springtime activity: Brunch outside accompanied by my little old man shih tzu and a long walk

A book about spring? Kenard Pak’s GOODBYE WINTER, HELLO SPRING

One thing that gives you that “Spring is here!” feeling: No longer needing gloves! 🙂

Laura: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today, Leslie. I’m looking forward to your webinar!

After much experience as a librarian and writer, Leslie Zampetti became a literary agent. Her clients include Ann Clare LeZotte (SHOW ME A SIGN, SET ME FREE [Fall 2021]) and Lisa Rose (THE SINGER AND THE SCIENTIST). Leslie represents picture books through young adult, but middle grade is her sweet spot. At the moment, Leslie is seeking more humor (dry or sweet, not gross), mysteries for all ages, and friendship/sibling/found family stories. Inclusivity and stories by marginalized creators are a priority for her. @leslie_zampetti

To find out more about our Query Grind webinar series and to register, visit our event page at Leslie’s webinar, Voice: Level Up! Exploring Commercial vs. Literary Voice, will be held on March 21 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.

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Member News—February 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at before March 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Cover Reveal and Book Announcement

Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs by Annette Whipple

The newest book in the “Truth About” series by author Annette Whipple has a cover! Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs is available for preorder and will release on May 15, 2022 from Reycraft Books. Where do frogs live? What sounds do frogs make? How do frogs eat? These and other questions are answered, along with some extra information provided by the frogs themselves.

In other news, Annette also recently announced that her book Meow! The Truth About Cats will be forthcoming this fall 2022, also from Reycraft Books.

Cover Reveal

Hold Them Close by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

The cover for author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s upcoming picture book has been revealed. Hold Them Close is a love letter to Black children. The book is illustrated by Patrick Dougher with photographs by Jamel Shabazz. It is now available for preorder and is due to release in October 2022 from HarperCollins.

Agent Signings

We heard about a number of our members signing with agents this month! We wish everyone a very successful partnership!

  • Author Abbey Nash signed with Laura Crockett at Triada US for her YA novel
  • Picture book author Kathy Kelly signed with agent Mary Cummings of the Great River Literary Agency
  • Poet and picture book author Jessica Whipple signed with Emily S. Keyes of the Keyes Agency
  • Picture book author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow signed with Paige Terlip of Andrea Brown Literary Agency
  • Author Linda Oatman High signed with Rachel Ekstrom of Folio Literary Management

Publication Announcement

Author-illustrator Berrie Torgan-Randall has been asked to create and illustrate a six-panel story for Ladybug Magazine for the May/June issue. She will also be creating another six-panel story to be featured at a later date for Ladybug Magazine‘s pet issue.

Award Announcements

The Cot in the Living Room by Hilda Eunice Burgos

The Cot in the Living Room, a picture book by Hilda Eunice Burgos (Penguin/Kokila, June 2021), was named a Notable Children’s Book by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Each year the ALSC identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: “Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry, and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.” In The Cot in the Living Room, a young girl develops empathy for the children who need to use the living-room cot while their parents work the nightshift.

Blue by L.E. DeLano

YA author L.E. DeLano’s latest novel, Blue (Gaze Publishing, July 2021), received the 2022 SCBWI Spark Award for a book for older readers. The Spark Award is an annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a nontraditional publishing route. When Blue Mancini’s mother picked her name, it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. A year ago, Blue’s brother, Jack, was involved in a car accident that killed the father of her classmate Maya Rodriguez. Luckily for Jack, he got out of a manslaughter charge and into a plea bargain thanks to the top-notch lawyer hired by Blue’s wealthy parents. The fallout is now affecting Blue as Maya returns to school determined to carve out a pound of flesh from the only member of the Mancini family she can reach. On top of that, Blue has a demanding mother, a father who’s never around, a drama-addicted best friend, and a secretive new guy who’s determined to make Blue his own personal cheer-up project. It’s a perfect storm of misery. When Maya’s social media taunts and in-person digs finally push Blue to retaliate, they find themselves in afterschool detention and forced into a project meant to foster cooperation and civility. As the layers of their tangled drama unravel, Blue learns more about Maya’s life—and her own sense of privilege—when secrets are revealed that cast a new perspective on everything in Blue’s world.

Book Release

There’s a Lion in the Forest by Mônica Carnesi

Author-illustrator Mônica Carnesi has released a new picture book, There’s a Lion in the Forest (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 22, 2022). Toucan heard it first. It was deep. It was growly. It was a deep, growly growl. And that can mean only one thing: THERE’S A LION IN THE FOREST! But how can that be? Everyone knows that lions don’t live in tropical forests. But the growls keep coming—and now even Capybara and Coati are anxious, especially when they get a glimpse through the trees of a long, terrifying tail and a thick, menacing mane . . . With a rhythmic text that begs to be read aloud, Mônica’s clever tale illustrates the importance of not rushing to conclusions. Young readers will get a kick out of sleuthing along with the forest animals as they try to get to the bottom of this sweetly suspenseful mystery.

SCBWI’s Recommended Reading List—February 2022

Each month, SCBWI features books written and illustrated by members from across the globe and every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! February’s list celebrates Black voices and features Eastern PA members Christine Kendall, who authored The True Definition of Neva Beane, and the late Floyd Cooper, who illustrated A Day for Rememberin’.

If you have good news to share, please send it to to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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A Cafe Chat with Editor Andrea Welch, by Laura Parnum

Here in Eastern PA we’re looking forward to spring! To get into the spring mindset, we’re offering two “Spring into Nonfiction” webinars with author Annette Whipple (March 3) and Beach Lane Books Executive Editor Andrea Welch (March 7). Both webinars will occur live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. Learn more about them and register here

In preparation for the March 7 webinar, which will be all about back matter in nonfiction children’s books, we reached out to Andrea Welch to find out a little more about her and her work. Here’s what she had to say:

Laura: Hi, Andrea! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints Café, a virtual café where you can order virtually anything! I’m having a warm cinnamon roll and a cup of Earl Gray tea. How about you?

Andrea: Hi, Laura! So lovely to join you today. I’m having a big mug of super-hot black coffee and an almond croissant. 

Laura: Sounds delicious! Let’s start at the beginning. At what point in your life did you know you wanted to work in publishing?

Andrea: I studied journalism in college, and I realized pretty early on that I preferred helping talented writers tell their stories rather than writing my own. I thought I’d work in magazine publishing, but after a few internships, I decided the pace of the industry was just too darn fast for my liking. So, I began exploring book publishing, and here I am, many years later, in a job I absolutely love.  

Laura: I understand you are one of the co-founders of Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. How did that come about?

Andrea: Beach Lane’s publisher Allyn Johnston and I had worked together for a number of years at Harcourt Children’s Books. After Houghton Mifflin acquired Harcourt, Rubin Pfeffer, then senior vice president of S&S Children’s Publishing (and now a top literary agent), invited us to come to S&S and start a new imprint. It was an exciting—and challenging!—opportunity, and we were thrilled to accept. Beach Lane will celebrate its fourteenth birthday this year. (Fun fact: Allyn and I have been working together for almost 22 years!)

Laura: Wow! Sounds like a great partnership. In our March 7 webinar, you’ll be delving into the topic of back matter in nonfiction books. I know you’ll cover a lot of information in the webinar, but let’s just get basic for moment. What is back matter, and do all nonfiction books need it?

Andrea: Good question! And yes, I’ll definitely be digging into this in my talk. Back matter is the additional information located in the back of a book that helps round out the story the author and illustrator have told. It can include things like an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, a timeline, a list of sources, resources for further reading, photographs, etc. I think the best back matter gives context to the story, answers any lingering questions a reader might have, and inspires further thinking, learning, and discussion. I do think most nonfiction books should have back matter. 

Laura: In terms of your nonfiction acquisitions, are there any subjects you are particularly drawn to?

Andrea: I tend to gravitate toward books about nature, biographies of little-known people who did (or are doing) big things, and books that illuminate different cultures. 

Laura: What else makes you want to say, “Yes, please!”?

Andrea: A fascinating topic (especially one that I almost can’t believe is true!), a fresh voice, a unique perspective, and writing that’s perfect for reading aloud. I also look for manuscripts that have lots of illustration possibilities. 

Laura: Okay, time for our lightning round! Quick as you can!

Last book that made you laugh out loud: Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

Last book that pulled at your heartstrings: Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for Wildlife by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Alexander Vidal

A good beach read: Vladmir by Julia Mae Jonas (this one’s for grownups!)

Favorite thing about spring: Oh, where to begin?! The birdsong, the flowers, the moody weather, and the wonderful feeling of a new beginning and of everything springing back to life.  

Laura: Whew! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. We’re looking forward to welcoming spring with our “Spring into Nonfiction” webinars. See you on March 7!

Andrea: Thanks, Laura. I’m looking forward to it!

Andrea Welch is Executive Editor at Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. She has the pleasure of working with a long list of wonderful authors and illustrators, including Liz Garton Scanlon, Ashley Wolff, and Jennifer Ward. Books she has edited include What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes; Life by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel; The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Terry & Eric Fan; and the New York Times bestselling LMNO Peas series by Keith Baker.

To find out more about our “Spring into Nonfiction” webinars on March 3 and March 7, and to register, please visit the events page at

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A Cafe Chat with Editor Rachel Diebel, by Kristen Strocchia

Our second webinar in the 2022 Query Grind webinar series is coming up on February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. We’ll have Feiwel & Friends Assistant Editor Rachel Diebel telling us all about comp titles! To get ready for this webinar, our Assistant Regional Advisor and Webinar Coordinator, Kristen Strocchia, had a chat with Rachel at our virtual EasternPennPoints Café. Check it out!

Kristen: Welcome, Rachel! It’s so good to “e-see” you. I noticed on your Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) that you enjoy hockey and women’s soccer, so I thought you might like to try out our virtual sports café (pets and pet books allowed for the dog lover in you). Plus, we can watch any matchup of any two sports teams in history. Which pair would you like to see? 

Rachel: I’d love to see today’s USA women’s hockey team take on the 2019 World Cup–winning US Women’s soccer team—I genuinely don’t know who would win, but it sure would be a fun time watching!

Kristen: That does sound like an exciting game! And a snack to go with that? 

Rachel: Give me an enormous bag of gummy candy and I’m happy! 

Kristen: One Goliath-sized bag of gummies it is. And I think I’m feeling a gargantuan need for guac—with a chip or two.

So, while we wait for our order, let me ask you—As a writer, I’ve heard so much advice about comps, some of it conflicting. Like are they comparative titles or competitive titles?

Rachel: Comp titles is short for comparative titles—authors and agents will use them while querying and submitting to editors to both give a shorthand as to what their book is like (“it has the dazzling setting of THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS and the burning romance of THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US,” for example) and to show that they have an audience for their book in mind—that they know what’s working in their genre. In a publishing house, we use comps slightly differently, in a more sales-driven way, but I always encourage authors to be creative with their comps! As long as they satisfy the three Rs: recent, realistic, and relevant. 

Kristen: Looks like the game is about to start. Can’t help a few sports analogies while we’re here. Let’s talk about “reading the play”: In recent years, I’ve seen graphic novels created from already-existing successful novels. But is there ever a time when a querying author should consider pivoting from a traditional MG/YA manuscript to a graphic novel script?

Rachel: I think this is definitely on a book-by-book basis, and you really have to consider your content and your skillset. Is the content/plot of your book something that you’re seeing a lot of in graphic novels right now? Do you have comp titles you could use? Do you know how to write a graphic novel script? It’s a very different, specific skillset from writing a novel! Ultimately I think you should only make the switch if you’re confident in your ability to write a graphic novel script and you have a strong sense of where your project fits in with graphic novels that are already working in the market.

Kristen: The gummies and guac have finally arrived. Perfect timing. As someone who acquires MG, YA and MG/YA graphic novels, how do you feel about upper MG and young YA manuscripts?

Rachel: I think, as YA in particular trends upwards in age, there’s definitely still a place for younger YA/upper middle grade. It can be very tricky to position, as ultimately your book is going to end up on either the YA or MG shelf in a bookstore, but it can be done. The most important thing is having a really solid book, and then your agent and editor can help you position it in a way that will serve you and your story best! I’ve seen sales ask for projects to change age category during the acquisitions process, so even if you go on submission as a YA novel, there’s a chance you may end up with a middle grade book on sale! It’s all about making sure your book has the best chance possible to find the right audience. 

Kristen: Next up, publishing penalty box: Hypothetically, let’s say you receive a manuscript that has several components you love—dogs, cats, soccer, hockey, great comp titles, a rural Pacific Northwest setting—what issues might cause you to pass on the project?

Rachel: Those are all elements that I love and will make me more interested in reading further into a book or submission, but if the voice doesn’t pull me in right away, I’m unlikely to want to keep reading. Also, characters. If I don’t fall in love with your characters and want to root for them, then it doesn’t matter how many dogs or cats are in your book!

Kristen: To extend that, how important is it that a writer has personal experience with any setting, sport, or other subject in their novel? And when is it okay to write from research?

Rachel: There are a zillion things you can research effectively and become expert in enough to write about—sports, settings, locations, etc. It will just always read and feel more authentic if you have a personal connection or experience with what you’re writing about. Think about it—you can decide you want to write a soccer book, do a ton of research, and get all of your facts correct, but it’s just not going to read as powerfully if you can’t describe what it feels like to score a game-winning goal from having done it yourself! Research goes a long way in these things, but firsthand experience is always best if possible. 

Kristen: Looks like the soccer game is all tied up. How about a little overtime of our own? Five questions. Answer in a sentence or less:

  • Name a character-turned-BFF from one of your favorite reads: This is cheating, since it’s from a book I edited, but I think I’d love to be IRL friends with Ophelia from OPHELIA AFTER ALL by Racquel Marie! 
  • Dogs vs cats in soccer—Who wins? I’m not sure it counts as a “win,” since I think the cats would just straight up walk away without trying, but, dogs!
  • Tea or coffee? Tea, no question. English breakfast!
  • Some comp titles you’d love to see in your inbox: I’d love to see something with an incredible setting like THE SCORPIO RACES, a super-fun mystery like THE INHERITANCE GAMES, or a packed-full-of-action middle grade that features history/mythology we traditionally haven’t seen centered in middle grade stories, like PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE RIVER OF TEARS.
  • Thing you miss most from the Pacific Northwest: The mountains! East coast mountains just don’t compete.

Kristen: Thank you so much, Rachel! It’s been great to chat publishing in front of this incredible soccer matchup.

Rachel Diebel is an assistant editor at Feiwel & Friends, where she works on celebrity picture books like Natalie Portman’s Fables and Cleo Wade’s What the Road Said for her boss and acquires voicey, heartfelt middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels for herself. She holds a masters in publishing from Pace University. Rachel is originally from the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Brooklyn.

Webinar Info

Rachel Diebel’s webinar, “No Stress Comp Titles – Choosing the Right Comparison Titles for Your Book,” will be held on Thursday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. There’s still time to register for this webinar as well as the remaining webinars in the 2022 Query Grind series. Visit our registration page for all the details:

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Resolution(s), by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks


This month’s column is being written in early January. You are, no doubt, reading it sometime in mid-February. Those time frames are not coincidental; they were intentionally chosen.

Every year, millions of Americans predictably make one or more New Year’s resolutions. We swear to lose that “rubber tire” encircling our waistline. We promise to maintain a low-carb diet and include more veggies in our meals. We decree that we will be nicer to other people, including our brother-in-law whose political views are driving us up a wall. Or, we commit ourselves to writing three dynamite young adult novels that will capture the minds and wallets of the reading public as never before.

Eventually, many (if not all) of those resolutions evaporate, are extinguished, or simply disappear by sometime in the middle of February. Gone with the wind, so to speak! Current statistics show that of those who make New Year’s resolutions, only 46% of them are still working on those edicts after six months.

According to a significant body of psychological research, the resolutions we make at the beginning of the year have virtually evaporated weeks later due to several reasons. Prominent among those reasons is that we tend to make our resolutions too large, too unwieldy, and too unobtainable.

Stephen Guise in his book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results makes a case for the power of small habits rather than our over-reliance on large and often weighty big habits. He makes a valid point when he says, “Big intensions are worthless if they don’t bring results.” For example, we may make a resolution to lose 50 pounds this year, but we often find ourselves giving up (sooner rather than later) because the perceived goal was much too large. Guise emphatically states that most people “have big ambitions, but overestimate their ability to make themselves do what it takes to change.”

Early in the book, he makes two clear and penetrating points: “1) Doing a little bit is infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing, and 2) doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day.” Now, let’s put that in terms of our writing: 1) Writing a little bit of text is better than doing nothing at all, and 2) writing a little every day is much more effective and practical than trying to generate a very large manuscript every so often. The point is clear—a determination to make (a little) writing a regular and normal part of our daily activities is much more “cost effective” than a focus on a finished book.

So, in case you’re still looking for some appropriate 2022 resolutions, please consider these:

  • Effort is much more important than production. Celebrate your hard work, not your final product.
  • Take a risk; take a chance. Try new things just because . . . just because they’re new—not because they’re safe.
  • Don’t aim for literary perfection; rather, aim for the learning that’s involved. Far better to be a constant learner than one who rests on their laurels.
  • Reflect: What is one new thing you learned today? If you can’t answer that query, then you have some work to do.
  • If you are wrestling with a writing challenge or struggling with a problem, tell yourself that you haven’t quite mastered it yet. Perseverance is just as important as effort.
  • Writing is a habit and an obligation. It can’t be done every so often. It must be a daily commitment . . . like brushing your teeth or fastening your seat belt when you get in the car. No excuses!
  • Set an achievable goal every single day: 200 words, 300 words, 564 words . . . whatever! When you meet your goal, reward yourself. (I prefer anything with chocolate chips: cookies, ice cream, brownies . . . .)

Pick one of the resolutions above. Write it on a sticky note. Post it over your computer. Keep it there until December. Watch what happens!


Tony is the author of more than four dozen children’s books. In addition, he has written From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (—a guide to the nature and nurturing of creativity. Numerous references to the intersection of writing and creativity are included throughout the book.

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Member News—January 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at before February 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Book Release

Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters by Jan Zauzmer

Author Jan Zauzmer’s newest picture book, Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters (illustrated by Corlette Douglas, and published by The Experiment), will be released on February 1. Just in time for the kids’ Covid vaccine, this cheerful and soothing story about spunky Maxine and her adorable stuffies shows that there’s no need to be grouchy about this little ouchy!

Agent Signing

Author Annette Whipple recently signed with literary agent Stacey Kondla at The Rights Factory. We wish you a successful partnership!

Deal Announcements

Laura Parnum’s middle grade novel, Peril at Price Manor, has been acquired by Sarah Homer at Harper Children’s in a two-book deal. The novel tells the story of a young girl who is determined to play the damsel in distress in a future horror film by her favorite director, but when she visits his home, she finds his household under attack by a mysterious creature. With the help of the director’s uniquely resourceful twins, she must embrace her inner heroine. Publication is scheduled for summer 2023.

Author Diana Rodriquez Wallach just announced the acquisition of her next novel, Hatchet Girls, a YA Latinx horror in which a teenager living in Fall River, Massachusetts, home to New England’s infamous Bridgewater Triangle, must prove her brother innocent in the murder of his girlfriend’s parents with an ax—a mystery that proves to be all too close to the Lizzie Borden murders of 100 years before. The book was acquired by Alison Romig at Delacorte and is scheduled for publication in fall 2023.

Cover Reveal and Publication Announcement

The Mouse Who Played Football, illustrated by Tom Uleau

Illustrator Tom Uleau recently announced his collaboration with Temple University Press on the upcoming picture book The Mouse Who Played Football, which was written by Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer Brian Westbrook and TV personality Lesley Van Arsdall. The Mouse Who Played Football is about a mouse named Brian who is looked down upon because of his size. He proves doubters wrong at each stage of his life, mirroring the experiences of Westbrook, former Eagles running back from 2002 to 2010. The book will be released in July 2022, and half of the profits will go to nonprofits dedicated to helping children.

Award Announcement

A Bird Will Soar by Alison Green Myers

The American Library Association recently announced in its 2022 ALA Youth Media Awards that Alison Green Myers was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award for Best Middle Grade Book for her debut novel, A Bird Will Soar (Dutton Books for Young Readers, October 2021). The Schneider Family Book Award is for creators of books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. The ALA Youth Media Awards has become known as the premiere event for the recognition of books and media for children and young adults.

If you have good news to share, please send it to to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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Writer/Learner, by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks


Early in my writing career I adopted a philosophy that has guided and nurtured me through more than 45 years of authorship. It has been both my light and my destiny, and I have freely shared it in almost every writing workshop I have ever taught. It has never failed me as an author, and I share it with you as perhaps the most significant piece of advice for your own writing success:

The best writers are those who have as much to learn as they do to write.

Somewhere along the line, I got this notion that if I’m going to be a proficient and life-long writer, I also need to be open to new ideas, new strategies, and new ways of improving myself. For me, writing is never about the product, but always about the process. The complicated steps that lead to the publication and release of a new children’s book are underscored by an author’s commitment to staying “up to speed” on self-improvement and literary upgrading. Maintaining the status quo is never an option; it is, quite often, an excuse. 

Recently, I visited a local elementary school and provided time after each grade-level presentation for students to ask questions. Toward the end of one session, a young lady stood up and asked a very penetrating question—one seldom asked of children’s authors. “Is there any one of your published books that you would now like to change?” she inquired. I thought about her query for a few moments and then responded as follows: “Yes, all of them!” There was, as you might expect, a collective gasp from the audience.

I explained that although a book might be published, it only expresses my knowledge, my intent, and my passion for the theme at that point in time. Since its publication I have learned new things, found other information that could be included in the text, or discovered a writing strategy that would have given readers a different perspective or alternative view. Yes, I said, every one of my books could be changed, or even improved, because I keep learning new stuff all the time.

Then, as you might imagine, I put on my teacher’s hat and explained to the group that they, too, could use writing as a way of learning about the world. I told them that knowledge is never static. (According to several researchers, human knowledge—on average—is doubling every 13 months.) As a result, we all have much to learn—whether we are in school or whether our formal schooling is in the rearview mirror. Everything evolves with more knowledge, more skills, and improved attention to the processes that improve our writing over time.

I also explained that each of my published books originally went through 25 to 30 drafts before its submission to an editor. Each draft was an attempt to improve the manuscript; each draft was an opportunity to apply new “learnings” to a specific draft to make it better than the previous one. I concluded by telling the group that the best learners in the world are those who write. That’s because writing opens your eyes to what’s around and what can be learned.

I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that self-education is never a product, it’s always a process. That is to say, it is always going on . . . always taking place . . . always in motion. To stop learning is to stop growing. And when you stop growing, you shortchange your writing career. And that’s never good!

When we acknowledge the potential for growth in our lives, then we can celebrate the possibilities for self-improvement and self-development. People who resist change and say, “That’s the way I’ve always done it,” frighten me. The implication is that if it worked in the past, it will surely work in the future. Coping with the world by clinging to the past makes life static, stagnant, and unrewarding. There is real value in realizing our capacity for growth and development. Growing, changing, and becoming are what writers do . . . or should do! They are part of a lifelong process to be pursued and celebrated.

“Be teachable. You’re not always right!” —Anonymous


Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books. In addition, he has written From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them. This book offers “insights into the mysteries of creativity and how we (writers) can all become more creative through a ‘growth’ mindset in concert with daily practices.”

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Linda Camacho, by Kristen Strocchia

Our Query Grind webinar series is back by popular demand! This four-part series will dive deep into the query process and the ins and outs of working with an agent. To kick off the series on January 27, our first webinar will be led by literary agent Linda Camacho, who will present “Things To Know About Literary Agents.” You can learn more about it and register here. In preparation for the event, our assistant regional advisor, Kristen Strocchia, had a virtual chat with Linda Camacho at the EasternPennPoints Café. Let’s hear what they had to say!

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Linda Camacho

Kristen: Welcome to our virtual café in the land of chocolate. Before we get down to business, how about a nibble? We have Hershey’s from Hershey, Gertrude Hawk from Scranton, killer chocolate ice cream from Turkey Hill down by Philly, and any other chocolate you might wish for. What’s your pleasure?

Linda: Ooh, I do love chocolate! I could always go for a classic Hershey’s chocolate bar with almonds.

Kristen: Great choice! I think I’ll have a Scranton classic, the Gertrude Hawk smidgen, peanut butter all the way. We’re so excited for your upcoming webinar, “Things To Know About Literary Agents.” There’s so much to research when deciding who to query, it’s not always easy to know which things to focus on. What kinds of expectations or misperceptions do you find that authors bring to the relationship?

Linda: The main misperception is that agents are haughty, powerful beings who deign to look at writers’ work. But really, agents are book-loving nerds who are eager to fall in love with new stories. When an agent offers rep, they’re excited to get to know the writer, so writers shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves and interview the agent. The writer has more power than they know. 

Kristen: That’s super encouraging! I’ve heard that following an agent’s submission guidelines helps lay the foundation for a good working relationship. But some guidelines can be subjective, like the request for a polished manuscript. What does polished mean to you personally? And what kinds of revision needs might be an automatic pass for you?

Linda: Polished means that the manuscript is as tight and clean as possible. It shouldn’t be an early draft (like a NaNoWriMo first draft), but one that has had beta readers and has really been worked on as much as possible. I don’t really have automatic turnoffs, though if a manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors, I’d likely pass.

Kristen: I noticed on Twitter that you are currently closed to queries. When an agent closes to queries, what does that look like for existing clients? (i.e., Can they still submit new projects? What kind of communication expectations are realistic during this time? Any workflow courtesies to observe?)

Linda: Nothing changes for existing clients. My focus remains on them, as they’re the priority. I tend to close to submissions when I’m feeling a bit busier than average with my clients, like if I had many manuscripts to get in shape for pitching editors. That means I’ll have even less time to read outside submissions, so I close up shop for a bit.

Kristen: Authors can learn about your personality and literary tastes through Manuscript Wish List, your agency bio, social media feeds like Twitter, online interviews, and attending events where you are speaking. But as an agent, you are also looking for a good client relationship fit. Of all the material and communication you gather, what insight helps you to know “This is a person I can really work with”?

Linda: It really is a gut instinct that starts with the first conversation when I’m deciding to offer representation. I always have a talk with the potential client first and ask many questions (and answer many, in turn) to see if it could be a good collaborative fit. Then we get to know each other over time and, hopefully, that initial instinct is confirmed. Open communication is key, so a client should always be up-front about what they need from me since I really do want our relationship to be a solid one built on trust.

Kristen: Thank you for such open and honest insight. We’re looking forward to taking a deeper dive into the agent-writer relationship with you during the webinar. But before we let you go today, how about a couple of get-to-know-you questions, lightning-round style? 

  1. TV show you’d love to see as a book/book seriesPose
  2. Favorite TV character—Blanca from Pose
  3. Travel destination/s on the top of your TBV (To Be Visited) list—Egypt
  4. Best unsolicited advice you’ve ever received—Don’t forget to take a break every now and again!
  5. Favorite piece of unsolicited advice for authors in general—Don’t give up! The last person standing is usually the one that gets published.

Kristen: How great would it be to visit Egypt while taking that every-now-and-again break? That would definitely recharge the creative batteries to keep going. But on this frigid Eastern PA day, a chocolate break will have to do. And I’m glad I got to spend it getting to know you and your agenting style a little better. 

We hope everyone will join us for the webinar on January 27 @7pm Eastern time and get to know both Linda and the agenting process a little better. We will also be giving away a book by one of Linda’s clients at the end of the night. To register, go to

Linda Camacho graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Communication and has held various positions at Penguin Random House, Dorchester, Simon and Schuster, Writers House, and Prospect Agency. She’s done everything from foreign rights to editorial to marketing to operations, and received her MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Now at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, Linda is looking for MG, YA, and adult fiction across all genres (especially upmarket, women’s fiction/romance, and literary horror).

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