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This Thursday, June 14th at 1 p.m. Eastern, I’m teaching my first ever webinar on crafting characters for MG and YA novels! This is something I consider very important to any novelist’s toolbox, and so I’m very excited to give you the opportunity to join me. I’ll focus on rendering complex protagonists, secondary characters, antagonists, and give YA writers a special section on chemistry and relationships in novels–that romantic element is absolutely something you have to think about if you’re trying to enter the teen market these days. This webinar draws heavily on content I developed for my upcoming book–WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT–which won’t be out until October (from Writer’s Digest Books). Here’s your chance to get a sneak peek!

You’ve probably seen some of my posts about webinars in the past, and the same rules apply here. Registered students can call in via phone or log on with their computers to experience the webinar. Even if you can’t make the time of the webinar, you will get a recorded file of it that you can view for up to one year after the event. All registered students, regardless of whether or not you can attend live, get the following benefits:

1) Every question you ask will be answered, either during the webinar or after.
2) Every student receives critique. For this webinar, you can send in up to 500 words of character description or interaction from your MG or YA novel for critique…this will help you really hone in on your character development and relationships.

Sign up for the webinar here. This will probably be my last one until the fall, so hop on this opportunity while you can!

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I’m taking the week off from blogging so that I can dive into BEA–and then blog about it next week.

To entertain yourselves in the meantime, check out Neil Gaiman’s wonderful commencement address at the University of the Arts that’s been making the rounds on the Internet.

Also, the amazing Cynthia Leitich Smith posted this follow-up interview with me. Check it and see you next Monday!

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I’m taking the day off from the blog today. But I do have some good news to ring in the holiday… Kidlit.com has been picked as one of the 101 Best Writing Websites by Writer’s Digest Magazine for the third year in a row. If you want to see the issue and my 100 fellow best websites, you can buy it and read the electronic version immediately here.

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Sorry to close early, but I’ve gotten such an overwhelming response to my call for interns, that I’m almost at the point where I’d need to hire an intern to help me hire an intern. Keep in mind that I’ll offer this opportunity periodically. Everyone who managed to get applications in, you’ll hear from me next week about whether or not you’ve made it to the next round. I’ll keep everyone’s information on file for future intern calls. Thank you all for your responses!

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ETA, May 20th: I’m so sorry to close early but the call for interns is now closed. If you’re interested to be considered for future internships, email me and I’ll keep your information on file. But I’ve officially gotten more applications than I can handle.

The other day, someone asked me how I became a literary agent. I started out as a reader at Kimberly Cameron and Associates during the first year of my MFA program. I also interned at Chronicle Books. Then I started reading at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and the rest…as they say…is history. Now, I can’t offer you an agency slot or guarantee you a job, but interning for an agency or publisher is the #1 thing you can do if you’re curious about publishing, agenting, writing, or the children’s book world. It gives you insight into story and editing, as well as context for what other writers are doing. You’ll also learn about the inner working of publishing by talking to your mentor about what’s involved in giving notes to clients, pitching books, and negotiating deals.

In that vein, I’m looking for some interns now that I’m ramping up at Movable Type. This is an open call for all those interested in agenting, publishing, and writing.

You: College student, college grad, MA/MFA/PhD candidate who loves reading, giving notes, deconstructing story, and who wants to learn more about publishing and the marketplace. Ideally you have some knowledge of what’s on shelves today, but are yearning to learn more. You are a writer or interested in publishing as a career.
Your location: Anywhere! This is a remote position and you’ll work primarily over email. If you happen to be in the NYC area, we can have several in-person meetings.
Internship length: Six months minimum, more if it is a good fit, depending on your schedule.
Time commitment: I’m looking for candidates who can devote 5-10 hours per week to reading, putting together data, and otherwise corresponding with me. Only apply if this seems realistic–if you’re about to get busy and know you’ll have to flake out sooner rather than later, thanks but no thanks. We will set schedules and expectations as we begin to work together.
Responsibilities: Reading and responding to manuscripts, first and foremost. You should be very interested in editorial work and like the idea of putting your thoughts into reader reports (examples will be provided). The bulk of your work will be full manuscripts, but I’ll also expose you to the slush pile. Then, depending on your other areas of interest, you will be helping me with editor correspondence, market analysis, marketing, idea development, etc. Every day is different for me–I am always reading, taking meetings, negotiating a deal, reviewing a contract, etc. You should be flexible and be willing to roll with whatever comes up. I want you to get the maximum benefit from this, so I’ll give you tasks that correspond to your interests.
Pay: The good ol’ publishing starting salary of free. Unfortunately, this is an unpaid position, but I hope to reward you for your hard work with access to behind-the-scenes information that will give you new insights into children’s publishing.
Incentives: I’ll offer you some editor contacts at publishing houses, a letter or phone call of reference whenever you’re applying for a job, several phone calls over the course of our work together to discuss your questions or any pertinent issues that arise (if you are working remotely), and lunch on me if we ever happen to be in the same city.

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As of today, I am officially a Senior Literary Manager and the head of Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult at Movable Type Management! This is a wonderful new opportunity for me and I’m leaving with the full support of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which has been my foundation and professional home for the past three and a half years. A huge thank you to my family of former colleagues: Andrea, Laura, Caryn, Jen, Jenn, Kelly, Jennifer, Taryn, and Lara. I’ve learned so much from this amazing team of women–truly among the best in the children’s book business. I have been blessed and am so grateful to have had my start at such an amazing place.

Being in such an enviable position, however, raises its own set of questions: Where can I go from here? What’s the future of publishing and agenting? Where do I fit into the brave new world of books and content and digital? As many of you know, I spent the first six years of my professional life working at a start-up that went on to sell to Google. I grew up in the Silicon Valley. There’s a rebellious and entrepreneurial streak in my blood.

Even though I’d found a wonderful place to work, I caught myself yearning to learn more about some other elements of publishing–namely digital books and packaging–because I believe they will become more and more important in the future. I wanted to amass new skills and explore what another agency is doing–both for my future as an agent and to provide new opportunities for my clients. I wanted my years of experience as a dot.com-er to dovetail with my passion for children’s books. I wanted more of that start-up feeling in my life.

It has been an absolute joy to learn from the very best, but I know that there is no reward without risk. Now it’s time for me to evolve and join a new and like-minded team at Movable Type, a small, nimble, and entrepreneurial agency. So here’s to my new colleagues: Jason Allen Ashlock, Adam Chromy, Jamie Brenner, and Michele Matrichiani. There are so many possibilities out there in today’s publishing world, and I want to learn about them and make them happen for my clients. Plus, I want to grow! I can’t describe to you the thrill of starting a department, enriching my relationships with the children’s publishing business, finding new clients, and truly being responsible for my own enterprise within an agency. This is the kind of leadership role that I’ve been dreaming about and I couldn’t be more excited to get started.

This transition may come as a surprise to some of you. It certainly did to me when I found myself seriously considering walking away from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. But this is the right choice, and I’m thrilled to also have the full support of my client list! That vote of confidence means the world. These last few weeks have been extremely fraught and bittersweet. There were lots of tears, but they’ve all been tears of gratitude. I am completely indebted to my colleagues, past and present, my friends, my family, my clients, my blog readers, and everyone else who has stood by me and decided to go along for the ride. As I wrote in the acknowledgments for my book: “Y’all know me–and you love me anyway!”

Now. Nitty gritty. The blog and my work for Writer’s Digest will not change. Neither will my availability for conferences and events. I’ll still write posts here every Monday and Wednesday. I’ll still teach webinars (including a children’s market overview this Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern, click here for more information). I’ll still hang out on Twitter and Facebook. If I still owe you a Writer’s Digest critique or a response to a manuscript or query, you will still get it as soon as possible. I still have all of your submissions and correspondence.

Now, though, you can query me at Movable Type! At Andrea Brown, you had to choose from one of nine wonderful agents. In my new role, I’ll be the only one seeing the children’s queries, focusing on picture books, middle grade, and young adult. We are still tweaking the MTM website, but my new email is up and running. It’s MKole@MovableTM.com! My submission guidelines remain the same as they were at ABLA: I want to see your query letter and the first 10 pages of your novel submission or full picture book text copied and pasted into the body of your email. The word “Query” should appear somewhere in your subject line. No attachments please (illustrators send a link to an online portfolio) and no snail mail.

Thank you all for your support and I can’t wait to see what I can do over at Movable Type. I hope to see your submissions pouring in soon so that I can start my new job off with a bang!

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Skipsies!

Whoops. Once in a blue moon, a day completely gets away from me and I don’t blog, and that’s what happened yesterday. Sorry. But good stuff is coming your way next week, including a big announcement. Enjoy this unexpected break. I took it easy on y’all this week. Not for long! I see more thought-provoking craft posts in your future! For now, sign up for my webinar next Thursday, May 10th.

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This week, I am in Italy for the Bologna children’s book rights fair. Tough life. Someone’s gotta do it. Etc. Last week I was in France. Again, boo hoo. However, middle-of-the-week trade shows like Bologna and BEA and Digital Book World always throw me off my blogging game, so you’ll have to indulge a blog vacation this week. I’m skipping today and Wednesday on Kidlit, and tomorrow on KidlitApps (my one reader over there will be devastated, I’m sure…hehe).

The good news, though, is that next week I’ll talk a little bit about the international rights market. It’s a topic that might make your head spin, but it’s quite interesting and something I’m obviously getting more into by being here at the Bologna fair. It’s fascinating to remember that our part in the US kidlit landscape is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

In the meantime, I’m always eager for your questions. I’ve had some good ones in recent months, so let’s keep it going. What are you dying to know about writing, publishing, agents, picture books, middle grade, young adult, or anything else? Ask in the comments, and I’ll have answers for you once I emerge from Trade Show Coma. (The cure for that, in Italy, by the way, is più espresso!)

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This is a list that I’d written a while ago to help a friend who had just been offered representation. I thought it would be perfect for the blog, and frankly can’t believe I held on to it in my files for so long.

When you’re offered representation by a literary agent, you should have the opportunity to talk to them about potentially working together. This is an exciting and nerve-wracking phone call for a writer (and sometimes for an agent if we want to work with you really, really badly!), but it’s important that you really take the time, ask the right questions, get full answers, and give yourself as much information as possible.

The following are 10 questions that I would ask if I were signing with an agent. They’re questions I answer about myself when speaking to writers all the time. If you get an agent who is unwilling to answer questions or seems to balk at these basic ones, that would be a red flag for me, personally. Communication problems and transparency are big issues in a writer-agent relationship, and if there are issues from the word “go,” the situation is unlikely to get better.

So do your due diligence. Here’s the list I would use to get started:

1. What is your communication style? Do you prefer phone or email? Do you check in often even when we’re not on active submission?
2. Tell me more about how your agency works and handles clients. Is there an agency agreement for new clients? (There usually will be, it’s okay to ask to see it beforehand.) What are steps for termination? (You hope it doesn’t happen, but you need to know that you have an out if you need it.)
3. Are you a member of AAR? (The Association of Author Representatives. Member agencies agree to abide by a code of ethics. Their website is www.aaronline.org.)
4. What books have you sold and what publishers do you work with?
5. What is your submission strategy? Do you go on a big round to editors or do you do smaller rounds that let us hear feedback and make changes, should we need to?
6. How would you position this book to editors? Where do you see this fitting in to publishers’ lists?
7. What editorial changes do you think I should make to this manuscript?
8. What happens if we don’t sell this book?
9. How do you work on revisions with clients?
10. How do you work with clients as they’re generating new ideas? (For example, I ask clients for idea pitches and then help them hone in on what’s strongest to pursue.)

Before you put these questions to an agent, of course, figure out what you feel like you want the answers to be. Some of these issues may not matter to you, but you may have strong opinions about others. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, per se, but right and wrong answers for you. (“If we don’t see this book, I will burn down your house and run around your backyard naked,” would probably be a wrong answer for everyone, though…)

Different agents have different styles. Part of this feeling-each-other-out process after an offer of representation is made is to see if you like their answers and strategies and if you can see working well with them.

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We still have space available at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency’s Big Sur workshop that’s happening March 2nd to the 4th in beautiful Monterey, CA. Guest editors this time around include the fabulous Lisa Yoskowitz of Disney-Hyperion, Sharyn November of Viking/Penguin, and Julie Romeis from Chronicle Books. We’ve also got film agent Brandi Rivers from Magnet Management in Los Angeles if you’re writing a screenplay or are otherwise interested in Hollywood. If you’re writing anything from picture books to young adult, come on down and hone your craft with four intensive hands-on workshops throughout the weekend. Learn more about the weekend and register here.

As for me, I’m up to something hands-on and intensive before Big Sur weekend. I’m not quite ready to make the big announcement yet, but you should be able to guess my news from these pictures. Here’s the first clue that I posted to my Twitter back in October. It’s me mailing something very important:

Hmm. What could it be? Here’s a new clue. This is what’s my desk looks like these days:

Actually, that’s a lie. My desk is nowhere near this orderly. I cleaned it up a little for the photo. Either way, I’m getting away from the point. I’ll do a proper reveal of my news in a few weeks, but I think you can figure out what I’m working on. Just for the hell of it, the first person to guess correctly in the comments will win…whatever this project might be…whenever it’s available! ;)

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