October 2016 Manuscript Wish List

Below is a list of things I am currently wishing for, but it’s not a definitive list. Sometimes I don’t know I want something until I see it!

What I represent, in the most general terms:

  • Picture books, including baby books (both from authors and author-illustrators)
  • Middle grade fiction and nonfiction, including early readers and chapter books
  • Young adult fiction and nonfiction

What I would love to come across in my email box right now (but not limited to):

  • One of the most important things I am looking for in any YA or middle grade novel is a STRONG VOICE. This is a big requirement for me. I also love imperfect characters that readers can really root for.
  • I’m interested in promoting diversity in children’s literature. Across all genres, I am interested in characters and voices that are not often heard from. I’m from a multicultural family myself, and know what it’s like to be a kid and not see yourself represented in the books you read. A book like Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown would have been so important to me!
  • I am very keen on developing my YA clientele. I’m mostly interested in commercial, reality-based YA featuring a strong voice (high importance!), memorable characters, resonant themes and a pitch perfect premise. I’m always into humor.
  • Middle grade requirements same as with YA! Although I am more open to fantastical elements and adventures. Illustrated, funny MG is very cool with me.
  • I always appreciate YA or MG stories that have a basis in history or true events–as long as the time period is thoroughly researched. Unusual or unsung parts of history are always interesting to me.
  • International stories. Both of my parents are immigrants, from different continents, and I have a great appreciation for international stories.
  • Literary YA or MG.
  • This is a biggie for me: YA or MG memoirs or narrative nonfiction. Specifically, I would love to see a YA memoir related to the modern Native American teenage experience. An author with a great personal story and a great platform.
  • Authors/illustrators with a large social media following, Instagram, Snap Chat and YouTube in particular.
  • YA true crime to play off of the success true crime has had in the adult world with series like Serial, The Jinx and Making a Murderer. Preferably with a happy ending since we’re dealing with real young people.
  • YA or MG magical realism a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende. If you don’t know what I am referring to, then your book is not magical realism. A good recent YA example of this style is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.
  • Charming, quirky, tongue-in-cheek YA similar to the movie Amelie
  • Quirky, funny picture books that feel thoroughly modern.
  • A picture book featuring alternative/cool parents like Tell Me a Tattoo Story (Chronicle 2016).
  • Okapis are my favorite animal. I’d love to do a quirky, funny book about an okapi! Think the humor in DIARY OF A WOMBAT.
  • Nonfiction for all age groups and genres! Educational, memoir, historical, biographical, STEM-related.  I do a lot more nonfiction than the average kid lit agent and I’d like to keep it that way.
  • Nonfiction teaching kids in a clever, unconventional way like the recent Never Insult a Killer Zucchini or the upcoming Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head.

What I am not looking for (sorry!):

  • Adult anything. If you have an adult nonfiction query, consider my colleague, Sharlene Martin, who specializes in that genre
  • Christian books. We have a new agent for that! Check out Adria Goetz, who is representing adult and children’s Christian fiction and nonfiction books
  • New adult (college through 20s character experience)
  • Hard fantasy or sci-fi (not my thing)
  • Protagonist finds out she/he has a magical/paranormal ability on his/her birthday YA or MG (flooded/fatigued market).
  • Dystopian YA or MG (flooded/fatigued market)
  • Picture books where the moral leads the story, lesson-based, didactic books (trade publishers don’t want these either)
  • Rhyming picture books (I most often find them cloying, sorry!)
  • Manuscripts that have not been through a thorough editing process, that have not been seen by eyes other than the author’s

Check out my submission guidelines at my agency’s website: http://www.martinlit.com.

Welcome to the world, BINGO DID IT!

wistyjane-2-13-15-page-001   bingo

The ever-charming Wisteria Jane embarks on her second adventure in BINGO DID IT, published by the educational publisher, Redleaf Lane. I absolutely adore this series about a spunky little girl who walks to the beat of  her own drum. She’s sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, but always entertaining. You’ll fall in love with Wisty as she learns some of life’s simple, but important lessons. It’s a great family read.   And the illustrations by the amazing Ard Hoyt are to die for!

Author Amber Harris has a special knack for creating characters with a whole lot of charm, and sending them on adventures that help educate kid readers on how to make positive behavioral decisions. Amber is such an incredible woman, professional and author–I am always so impressed with her! Just like Wisteria Jane, she’s a force to be reckoned with! Look out for more fun with Wisteria Jane–she’ll be embarking on her third adventure next year.

Here’s my interview with Amber:

amber-harris-head-shotWhat inspired you to create the Wisteria Jane series?

During my graduate program, I had the opportunity to work closely with children on the autism spectrum. One of the struggles I faced as an educator was finding picture books that taught clear and concise social skills. There were amazing books about social skills, but the reader was expected to “read into” the overall story and find an almost hidden message. For neurotypical children, these books are amazing. For kids on the autism spectrum, these books are not useful tools. I decided that if I couldn’t find the books I was looking for, I would go ahead and write them. The series I’ve written works for any parent or teacher who wants to teach social skills or character building to the children in their lives. Both neurotypical kids and children on the spectrum can benefit from these books.

What was your favorite part about writing the books in series?

I absolutely love diving into the world of Wisteria. It is a blast to walk back into childhood and view the world the way a young child does. I have a nine-year-old daughter who makes this process a whole lot easier. She is a spicy little lady with opinions galore. Her personality is absolutely reflected in Wisteria’s character. It’s probably why I truly love Wisty so much. She is a real person to me. This probably makes me sound crazy, but it’s the truth.

What was your least favorite part about writing?

My least favorite part of writing is the waiting between the time the manuscript is completely edited and when the art work is finished. I’m not the world’s most patient individual, and the art takes time. Ard Hoyt’s illustrations are so amazing that it makes waiting really hard. I thought I would get better at waiting as each book comes out, but I am actually getting worse. Gah!

Where and when do you write?

I have an office, but don’t usually end up working in there. I love to grab my laptop and curl up in a pile of pillows on my bed to write. I’ve been a bedroom writer since I was little. When I was younger, I did my writing on a yellow legal pad while sprawled out on my bed. It seems like the natural place to write. It’s where I do most of my dreaming and feels like the perfect spot to put those dreams down on paper.

What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?

I was shocked at how much I love this part of the process. I have an amazing editor who is absolutely a joy to work with. I love the back and forth of ideas that comes with the editorial process. I’ve always loved team work, and having someone who loves these books as much as I do makes every interaction a blast.

Who are some writers who inspire your work?

I am a book junkie and love so many different authors. Emmy Payne’s Katy No Pockets was one of my favorites for years. Robert McCloskey’s work is probably my all-time favorite. Blueberries for Sal was a book I checked out from the Nichols Library over and over. Picture books are good for the soul. They inspire dreams and ideas in a way that no other format offers.

What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?

If you have a story to tell…tell it. The path to publishing can be a tough one, but it is worth every bump in the road. There will never be too many picture books, and each author’s take on a subject is going to be different. If there is a story inside your heart you should share it with the world and see how many children you can inspire to dream.


Learn more about Amber at www.amberbharris.com.



Guys! This is a very exciting day! I have not one but two great clients who have book birthdays today. The first book I’m going to talk about is a book very close to my heart–THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS by debut author-illustrator, Brittany R. Jacobs. It’s the story of a lonely Kraken who is TIRED of not having friends, and turns to another sea beast–a great white shark–for advice.

This book actually has a pretty unusual back story. It all started one day when I was in a PaperSource, and I noticed a table filled with Kraken-themed things. The Kraken is a mythical octopus-like sea beast and I thought to myself, Okay, this thing is in the zeitgeist and it would make a good picture book hero. After a quick Amazon search, I saw there were no Kraken picture books out in the world yet, so I tweeted out my interest using #MSWL and reached out to the wonderful ladies of SCBWI-Western Washington, who put a call out for Kraken picture books for me on their blog. From there, I received about 40 submissions — and Brittany’s was my absolute favorite. Her lonely Kraken just looking to make friends captured my heart, as did her sense of humor and art style. We eventually found a home at the super cool Brooklyn-based indie, POW! (the kids imprint of powerHouse Books), known for its beautiful, art-forward books. It’s been a long swim in the publishing waters, but our beloved Kraken has been officially released!

Brittany is a great client–creatively talented, a super hard worker, and just a delightful person. I love having her on the MLM team! I think her career is just getting started and I’m so excited to see it flourish.

Here is my interview with Brittany:

brittany-jacobs-headshotWhat inspired you to write THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS?
Back in January of last year I received an email saying that you were looking for picture book dummies based on the mythological sea creature, the Kraken. There were several author/illustrators submitting, so this was kind of like a sudden-death situation, or really I should say “sudden-life” because whoever’s dummy you liked the best got the deal and would go on to be published. I had been trying to get published for 6 years, so of course I jumped on this opportunity and threw my hat in the ring. We had a little over two weeks to write, sketch and render our Kraken picture books, and – spoiler alert! – I got the gig! So, long answer to a short question – it was YOU who inspired me to write The Kraken’s Rules For Making Friends🙂
What was your favorite part about writing/illustrating the book?
My favorite part was watching the story come together in the early stages of the storyboard. I typically start out with an ending, and work my way backwards to fill in the gaps. When a story is in the conceptual stage, there is room for all sorts of shenanigans, and very often I found myself laughing out loud as I “discovered” how the Kraken learned to make a friend. I hope that the fun and laughter that I had while creating this book translates to the page and, in turn, to the reader/listener.
What was your least favorite part about writing/illustrating the book?
Do you know those scenes in movies where the main character is forced to do something over and over and over again, in the hopes of perfecting the movements? No matter how painful, they must keep going and going and going? If they were to make a movie about the process of creating this book, the bulk of it would consist of me sitting at my work station drawing and redrawing and redrawing the same 16 spreads over and over and over again. There are NO MORE WAYS to draw a shark! I have drawn ALL THE SHARKS!! But they were right, there were more ways to draw a shark, or a knitted Koi suit, or a school of fish. But it was a painful, and LONG process of getting it right. Looking back, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, and – despite my own feelings of frustration – I turned out a new shark when they asked for one, or came up with a new pun, or redrew an entire spread. The edits were my least favorite part, however they were the most important. I’m a better author/illustrator because of it, and for that I am grateful.
Where and when do you write?
I have this fabulous little moleskin notebook specifically made for storyboarding, and it is outside with this notebook where all of my stories begin. I think visually – along the lines of a movie playing in my mind – therefore I sketch out the thumbnail illustrations first. Then, I go back and whatever isn’t conveyed in the illustrations, I write out. With a background in writing curriculum and programming for children, the writing portion of the books comes very naturally to me and is done quite quickly. I start out outside with a notebook because I feel most at ease when I’m in nature and have the most room to think. Thankfully I have two dogs that shadow me wherever I go, so it doesn’t seem strange at all that I spend so much time standing in fields and forests🙂
Where and when do you illustrate?
For some reason, the Witching Hour seems to be one and the same with the Illustration Inspiration Hour. I have one heck of a wonky schedule thanks to this, but alas, art cannot be forced, leaving me at the mercy of when the mood strikes – which, as I mentioned, happens to be in the dead of night. There’s a theory that people are more creative at night due to the frontal lobe being “checked-out” allowing the rest of your brain to function at higher capacities, which would explain things. I work digitally, and have my work station set up in a spare bedroom that overlooks the back garden – again, nature is a big support system of mine.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
The editorial process was pretty painless. I was pleasantly surprised to get the text nailed down rather quickly. The art took longer.
What was the most surprising part about the art direction process?
So many edits–more than I thought possible. The best piece of advice I got from the art director was to limit my color palette to two colors. This transformed the feeling of the book, and really made it shine!
Who are some writers or illustrators who inspire your work?
I am a huge fan of animators, specifically the storyboard artists. I love to look through the Pixar “Art Of” books and see what the conceptual art looked like while they hashed the story out. I’m inspired by the lovely Sir Quentin Blake, Benji Davies, Ryan Green, Mark Anthony, Brittney Lee, and the list goes on and on.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators?
Thicken-up your skin, and when the rejections are coming in, just keep going… and going… and going! Persistence is a key quality, and if you can master it in the beginning then you’ll be ready to hash it out in the editorial/publication process. I had a whopping 287 rejections before I got noticed, and have added quite a few more to the pile–even since having one book to my name. I attribute much of my journey to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, so if they’re not already a member, then I would suggest they get on the SCBWI bandwagon. Attend the conferences, regional events, and local meet-ups. Networking is important, and it just so happens that the Kid Lit gang are some of the best people on the planet, and they know how to throw a wicked party! The overall BEST piece of advice I can give, isn’t my advice at all. I once heard an author (forgive me, I don’t remember who it was) tell a room of pre-published writers/illustrators that the best thing you can do for your writing career is to try as many new life experiences as possible. Learn a new language, see a play, hike in the woods, travel! If you’re open to new things then it will make you, and the stories you tell, that much more dimensional.
Read more about Brittany at www.brjacobsart.com. She has cool printable coloring material on her website.


Happy Pub Day to SUPER GEAR!

supergear cover
As many of you know, I’m interested in nonfiction kid lit more than the average agent. So when Jennifer Swanson, prolific author of more than 25 STEM-related books for kids, queried me, I responded to her right away! Her impressive catalog of books includes this year’s EVERYTHING ROBOTICS and last year’s BRAIN GAMES, both pubbed by National Geographic. Her amazing ability to take advanced concepts and break them down in a way that is digestible for kids truly impressed me and I was so thrilled when she came on board. Today her book SUPER GEAR: NANOTECHNOLOGY AND SPORTS TEAM UP, published by Charlesbridge, debuts. It’s a really cool book that examines nanotechnology and how it’s used by world class athletes in their equipment, facilities and attire. Jen, who has degrees in both engineering and teaching, does what she does best and explains the exciting and cool science that makes our world go round. A great book for kids who love science and/or sports! Here’s my Q&A with Jen:
head shot
What inspired you to write SUPER GEAR?
I think nanotechnology is COOL! I really wanted to share this unique and cutting edge science with young readers. Nanotechnology is in everything you do. From the cell phones you use every day to the eco-friendly techniques in our oceans, to tiny nanotech machines that keep us well.  The trick was finding the right hook to present the material. My inspiration for this book came from two things: my love of sports and my love of the Disney movie, The Incredibles. In my family, sports was always a big deal and every year we would sit down to watch the Olympics. I was fascinated by the controversy of the full-body swimsuits that Michael Phelps and other elite swimmers wore at the 2008 Olympics, when they broke tons of records.  When I learned that it was because they were made using nanotechnology, I was interested. Still, I needed a great hook and title. That’s where the movie comes in. Anyone remember the part where IceMan is walking around during The Incredibles movie saying “Where is my supersuit?”  Yep. That was it. The idea was formed and SUPER GEAR was born!
What was your favorite part about writing the manuscript?
I learned SO much about nanotechnology and materials science. It was really fascinating to me. I love learning new things and then being able to communicate the concepts behind this cutting-edge science to kids is just awesome! I hope my book may inspire some of my readers to become scientists and engineers one day.
What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?
I had to do a lot of searching to find the right resources for this book. Since a lot of what I wrote about was proprietary equipment, it was sometimes difficult to find the information that I needed for the book.
Where and when do you write?
I write in my home office. I try to write every day, but it depends. More often than not, I am working really hard on a deadline, and that can mean 8 hours or more of straight researching and writing. But some days, when I don’t have a deadline looming, I just take the day off and surf the internet or go on a walk with my dogs.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
How often we went through the manuscript. I am a fast writer and I research as I write. The editorial process on this book was very involved, mostly because it was such a complex topic. My editor, Alyssa Pusey,  was fantastic to work with!! She challenged me and encouraged me, she asked tough questions and she gave great edits. I learned so much about the editorial process. I give her great kudos for hanging in there with me on this challenging topic!!
Who are some writers who inspire your work?
Wow. There are so many. My mentor for the last ten years has been Clara Gillow Clark. She is just amazing. But I am also inspired by Mary Kay Carson, Melissa Stewart, and many other awesome authors.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?
Never give up! This business is hard, even for those of us who are getting contracts. It’s an up and down kind of thing. You can work really hard on a proposal or manuscript and never have it go anywhere and sometimes something you aren’t too sure about will hit and get picked up. Have faith in yourself. Get a critique group, not just for help with your manuscript but also for a squad to cheer you on and hold you up when you’re down. Being a children’s author is an amazing job, and one that I’m so lucky to have!
Find out more about Jen at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com!


William Meyer Secret of the scarab beetle cover

I first met William Meyer (a.k.a. Bill) through an old friend from college, who has the esteemed privilege of being married to him! Bill was about to self-publish his middle grade time travel novel, which he also illustrates, when he shared it with me. I immediately loved THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE’s protagonist, shy but brave 11-year-old Horace, and was swept into this time travel adventure where Horace befriends a young King Tut in Ancient Egypt.  Bill is a history teacher who is working on his PhD in history, and he had meticulously researched and incorporated the many strange but true connections between Ancient Egypt and modern day Michigan. This book has strong sense of place–something that can be missing from middle grade books–which is why Sleeping Bear, a Michigan-based publisher, was the perfect publisher for this book. The series will continue, further unraveling Michigan’s curious and totally real connections to the past through Horace’s time travel adventures. As a fan of the book, I can’t wait to see where Horace’s adventures take him next!

Here is my interview with Bill:

Bill Meyer headshotWhat inspired you to write THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE?
Two things inspired the writing of “The Secret of the Scarab Beetle.”  The first was my love for Egypt and the second was my grandfather.  I can still remember my grandfather visiting my first grade classroom and sharing a slide presentation from his trip to Egypt the previous year.  Ever since that moment, seeing the mummies, the pyramids, and just learning about the mysteries of this ancient land, I was hooked.
What was your favorite part about writing your manuscript?
I really loved getting to know the characters through the writing process and having an opportunity to travel with them across time and space.  It was this connection between history and people that brought the story to life for me.  In many ways, I discovered the story and mysteries of Egypt alongside Horace and his friends.
What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?
Editing.  I must have fifty drafts of the manuscript saved on my hard drive and another fifty stored in boxes in the basement.  Letting go of pieces of the manuscript that took months to write is never easy, but it is a necessary part of great writing.  At one point the book was over 80,000 words in length.  In the end it finished at around 40,000, but I think it is a much stronger and fast-paced story for all.
Where and when do you write?
I write best in the morning.  Sometimes I’ll do this in a coffee shop, sometimes in a library, but more often than not I’ll just write at the kitchen table.  The sooner I get started the better.  Many mornings I never make it past my first cup of tea before I find myself grabbing my laptop and becoming engrossed in the writing process.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
How much was rewritten, especially the opening of the manuscript.  I spent about six months writing the first five chapters, all of which were reduced to a little over one chapter in the end.  It was in the writing process that I had to learn the backstory for myself, but I also realized it wasn’t necessary for the reader to go through all that to fully understand who Horace and his friends were.
Who are some writers who inspire your work?
I love the work of Colin Meloy and Ellis Carson in the “Wildwood Series.”  The mix of great writing, world crafting, and art is very inspiring.  I also love Stephen King.  While he might not be a great match for young readers, his ability to create suspense and drive a narrative is second to none in my opinion.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?
Just go for it.  Find a routine and start writing.  Don’t worry about the details, getting an agent, or who will publish your book in the end.  Those things can be figured out later.  There is a momentum to writing, just as I think there is a momentum to life.  Catching that wave and bringing the story to life takes a lot of energy and capturing that first wave of excitement and riding it as far as you can is so important.  The rest you can leave up to caffeine, and in the end you’ll probably need a lot of caffeine.

The Many Roles of An Agent

Being a literary agent is a job that requires you to play a lot of roles. One of the reasons I love being an agent is because I think it’s a profession that calls on all of the skills that I most excel at — I feel like I am being put to my best use. When I speak to potential clients, many of them are new to the publishing industry and are not exactly sure what a literary agent does. Below, I’ve outlined the many roles that an agent must play to represent their clients. As you’ll see, we agents are the wearers of many hats!

caps for sale

Genre Expert: For an agent to represent a genre, that means they have read tons and tons in that genre–they know what’s great writing, what’s bad writing and what’s so so writing. They know the old stuff and the new stuff.

Talent Scout: Agents are reading submissions all of the time, evaluating them for quality and for that “It” factor. Agents also go after clients that they read about, hear about, encounter in some way or another, either randomly or deliberately.

Trendspotter: Agents stay on top of what trends are in the genres they represent, by reading through deal listings, reading industry news, observing the market, staying on top of what is in the cultural zeitgeist, talking with other people in the field.

Idea Conceiver: Sometimes agents come up with ideas that they think would work really well in the market, and they have one of their clients execute the idea. These ideas come from being genre experts and trendspotters.

Editor: Before a manuscript is submitted, an agent helps a client get their manuscript or proposal into tip-top shape. As I like to describe it: an author gets their manuscript into good shape, an agent helps the author get it into great shape, and an editor at a publishing house helps the author get it into excellent shape — and then it’s ready for publication. Sometimes the editorial process at the agency level can take months, with several back and forths.

Networker: Agents pound the pavement hard when it comes to networking with editors. Getting to know editors means an agent will have a better understanding of their acquisition interests, which means the agent will do a better, more precise job at submitting manuscripts, and increase the potential for their clients’ manuscripts to land a great home. This means an agent is always making phone calls, sending emails, attending conferences, having meetings, coffee, drinks, meals, etc. with editors.

Matchmaker: When a manuscript is ready to submit, an agent submits to editors based on their knowledge of their editorial needs and interests. It needs to be a good match to proceed in the process– think of agents as literary yentas.

Negotiator: Once an offer is made, contracts become involved and an agent advocates on behalf of their client to try and sweeten the deal as best they can. Knowledge of common industry contract clauses, the market for advances for books of this nature, standard royalty rates, and legal expectations are a must. Some agents were lawyers (like me!), which is helpful in this role, but not necessary to be a fierce advocate for a client.

Publicist: Maintaining good media contacts and contacts with publicists and speakers bureaus to help support a client once their book is out is helpful, as an author should never solely count on the publisher for publicity support.

Firefighter: Sometimes things go wrong–in the editorial process, in the publicity process, in the production process–really, things can go wrong at any point in the process. Agents must help their clients get through these hoops, sometimes having to mediate between them and the publisher. You gotta be tough to play this role.

Therapist: Writing is so personal — a client’s book is their baby. Sometimes things can get quite emotional during the writing, editing, or other process. A good agent is also a good listener, a good advisor and knows when to give some tough love if they need to.

As you can see, being an agent isn’t just submitting manuscripts and negotiating contracts–there’s a lot we have to be good at to best represent our clients!

Interested in knowing what I’m looking for? Check out my most recent manuscript wish list.



Got the Super Tuesday blues like I do? Here’s a ray a sunshine for you!

Dario cover

Happy pub day to DARIO AND THE WHALE, a picture book by my client, the wonderful Cheryl Lawton Malone, illustrated by the talented Bistra Masseva, and published by Albert Whitman & Co.

Cheryl was one of my earliest clients and she makes her beautiful debut with this book about a lonely boy who befriends a whale on the Cape Cod shore. I love Cheryl’s soft, lyrical style–you can tell she is a poet! I also love how this book is from the perspective of a Brazilian boy, an immigrant who speaks Portuguese, the son of a seasonal, migrant worker. Dario feels lonely because of the cultural and language differences, and because he finds himself in a new place where he doesn’t know anyone. His story parallels that of the whale, who is also only in Cape Cod for the season. Simply put, it’s a beautiful story.

I met Cheryl over two years ago in a coffee shop in Newton, MA where she lives (I happened to be in town). I signed her on as a client based on a different book. When she showed me DARIO, I knew we had something very special. And now it’s here in our hands! Below is a little interview I did with Cheryl.

Cheryl Lawton Malone

Cheryl Lawton Malone

What inspired you to write DARIO AND THE WHALE?

DARIO was inspired by a true-life experience – I spent the month of April, 2011 at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony in Provincetown, MA finishing a YA murder mystery. The wonderful people who run that program let me bring my dog, Chief. On our last day, I took him for a walk on Race Point Beach very early in the morning. April is the month when whales of all kinds, including the North Atlantic right whale, migrate through the Cape. You can see their tails and spouts in the distance. Chief and I were walking when we heard a whoosh about fifteen feet off shore. It was a whale! In shock, I stopped. Chief barked. And the juvenile right whale raised its head out of the water. He looked right AT US, as if he was just as curious as we were. Those few seconds—as we three connected—inspired me to write about a boy who meets a whale and a whale who meets a boy. I share the experience with readers in the author’s note at the back of the book.

What was your favorite part about writing your manuscript?

Learning about North Atlantic right whales. There are less than 300 – 500 left in the world. In the nineteenth century, whalers nicknamed them the “right” whales to hunt because they swam so slowly. I also enjoyed crafting a story from two different points of view—Dario’s and the whale’s. I worked hard to write Dario’s side of the story, and even harder to keep the whale true to his authentic whale self. 

What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?

The uncertainty that came with writing draft after draft after draft, not knowing if DARIO would resonate with anyone. I even tried a nonfiction version of DARIO, which my saintly and patient writing group reviewed, and liked, sort of. In the end, of course, the journey was worth it.

Where and when do you write?

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit but my best writing time is very early in the morning, after my husband goes to work, and my dogs are still sleeping, after I’ve made a cup of coffee and slipped back into bed in pajamas. No phones. No internet. No email. Just writing. Typically, I write 5 pages of a WIP per day or some corresponding amount for pbs. Around 9:00AM, the dogs need to go out, and my day starts. As a professional writer (no longer wearing pajamas), I move to my home office where I attack whatever needs to be done, including the balance of daily pages not completed in the pajama phase. If a scene or a twist isn’t working, I’ll take my dogs out for a long walk or I’ll head to a coffee shop.

What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?

I’d heard stories about how unresponsive publishers were to new writers and writers in general. When Wendy McClure and Albert Whitman asked for my opinion on the preliminary art in DARIO, I was thrilled.  

Who are some writers who inspire your work?

There are so many. For picture books: Jane Yoland, Jon Klassen, Kevin Henkes, Maira Kalman, Marla Frazee, Mo Willems, and David Elliott to name a few. For MG: Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, Karen Hesse, Pam Muñoz Ryan and a new favorite Kwame Alexander. I also read YA and adult, but the list would never end. 

What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?

Write! Write in the morning. Write at night. Write on your lunch hour. Write while your kids are at the dentist. Write when your house is asleep. When you’re not writing, read widely in your genre. Also, notwithstanding the burning need to get published, a writer needs to hone her craft. So take classes, go to kid lit meet ups, join writing groups online and in person, attend conferences. Get to know your local writing community. Participate in your local writing community. These are the resources that will help you through the long cold winter of rejection. In yoga, they define ‘stealing’ to include wanting something before you have prepared for it. I think there is much truth in that concept.

A little plug for my Hugo House class

I am very excited to be teaching a class at Seattle’s wonderful community writing center, Hugo House, on Saturday, February 20th. The class is called Legal Concepts Writers Need to Know.

I think one of the most important ways for a writer to position themselves for success is to acquire information about the publishing industry and the way it works. I know that anything dealing with law and contracts can be intimidating to a non-lawyer, but just getting a little bit of knowledge about legal concepts and issues that are relevant to writers during and after the writing process goes a long way–and can help protect you from an unpleasant or unexpected situation.

Prior to being an agent, I was a litigator in NYC (seems like ages ago!). With a law degree under my belt, four years of law practice, and a current career as a literary agent, I’ve got lots of insight on what legal concepts are important to writers. Here are some questions I am going to be answering in this course, which will be broken down in four sections (one for each hour of fun!)


  • What is copyright law? How is it different from trademark and patent? What does a copyright protect?
  • How do I get copyright protection for my work? Do I have to file for a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office?
  • What is fair use of another’s work? Can I excerpt someone else’s work? Can I use a quote in my epigraph?


  • What are best practices for seeking permission for photos and other visual materials? Song lyrics and quotes? Recipes?
  • What does a good release form contain?
  • Can I use a real life person as a character in my book?


  • What makes a fair agency agreement?  What clauses and terms should I expect to see? And what the heck do they mean?


  • What makes a fair publishing agreement? What are red flags?
  • What’s the deal with subsidiary rights and licensing?
  • Is this a fair self-publishing contract?

And many more!

Seattle writers, does this sound interesting to you? Or does this sound relevant to you? If so, register! Let’s spend four hours on a Saturday together! I promise I will make all of this information fun, informative and accessible! Link to register is here.

Wisdom nugget for writers: Be an expert in your genre!

I have tons of advice for writers, but if I only had one piece of advice to give, one that I think could make the most impact, it would be this: Whatever genre you write in, make sure you are an expert in that genre. What do I mean by this? I mean that you’ve read tons of books in the genre that you write in. Not just ten or twenty books, but one hundred or two hundred plus books.  This advice applies no matter if you are a true crime writer, a picture book writer, a memoirist or a middle grade novel writer–whatever kind of writer you are!  I think knowing your genre is important because it helps you become a better writer of that particular genre because you’ve seen how it’s been done really well (or conversely, really badly or just okay). You not only know what bar you have to reach with your own writing, you also become familiar with trends and archetypes of the genre. In children’s literature, it helps clue you in on things like tone and vocabulary  and themes that are appropriate for the age group you are writing for.

Some writers worry that reading other books while they are writing will overly influence their own writing. Personally, I think it’s okay to be inspired or influenced by other writers and stories–there’s plenty of evidence of that happening in all art forms.

I think it’s particularly important that you read as many books in your genre as possible that have been published in the last two years. This is important because I think it helps give you a sense of what publishers and readers for looking for right now and the state of the current market. So often, I receive queries (particularly for picture books) that seem to be from another time. The kind of book that might have worked in the fifties or the nineties, but isn’t representative of what the current marketplace is for a picture book or a middle grade or young adult novel. The picture book of our youth is different from the picture book of today. The middle grade novel of our youth is different from the middle grade novel of today. The young adult novel of our youth is different from the young adult novel of today. Of course, write what’s in your heart, but if you keep in mind considerations of the current marketplace you are better positioned for success.

So get reading!

Hello, writers!

Hi, everyone! Happy new year! My name is Clelia Gore and I am a kid lit agent at the Seattle-based agency, Martin Literary Management. One of my professional goals of 2016 is to create a place for talented writers to get to know me better and also a place where I can provide my best advice to writers hoping to make their big break. The publishing industry is a fiercely competitive one, with many gatekeepers, and I truly believe that writers who equip themselves with knowledge about how the publishing industry works are better positioned for success than those who focus solely on writing. I will be posting advice or musings related to writing and publishing and also updating my manuscript wish list, letting you know what kind of manuscripts and clients I am looking for at the moment.  The first of these posts are coming soon!