January 2017 Manuscript Wishlist

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! This list is a result of my musings and it’s a living document.

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.
  • Anything space. This upcoming generation will know space travel in a way we will never know! Interested in space-based fiction and nonfiction across the age genres.
  • International stories. Both of my parents are immigrants, from different continents, and I have a great appreciation for international stories. I prefer contemporary international stories here — not historical fiction.
  • 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 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.
  • A metaphorical “we love you” picture book for parents who have children using alternative methods (IVF, adoption, surrogacy, etc.) a la WISH by Matthew Cordell.
  • 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!) unless you are a VERY thoughtful and creative rhymer who has studied the art.
  • 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, IGNITE YOUR SPARK!

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Today is an exciting day because Patricia Wooster’s debut, IGNITE YOUR SPARK, arrives in bookstores! IGNITE YOUR SPARK is just the kind of book I needed as a teen — a book that asked me big questions, offered me personal guidance and gave me examples of young people doing amazing things to inspire. This book really promotes the idea that it’s okay to be different and pursuing what’s important and meaningful to you is what really matters. There is truly something for everyone in this book — it relates to the arts, sports, sciences, school, home, hobbies etc. It’s also interactive, with role playing exercises and short quizzes. I think teens are thirsty for a resource like this–something that speaks their language and helps offer them some guidance during a formative, often difficult, time. Seriously, I think every single teenager could benefit from a book like this!

Patricia is so lovely and is so genuinely inspired by young people. I know this book will be so helpful to so many and I hope there are more inspiring and guiding books from Patricia to come!

Here is my interview with her:

authorjpegWhat inspired you to write IGNITE YOUR SPARK?
It was always in the back of my mind, because I thought my teen years were really tough. As I get older I keep learning new things about myself and wishing I knew them sooner. There’s so many great books for adults about identity, finding your passions, relationships, creating habits, etc.., and as I read them I’m always thinking about how I could’ve used that information in my youth.

Back in 2012, I was doing a couple of work-for-hire projects where I was interviewing successful young adults.The question that kept coming back to me was: How are these ordinary teens doing such extraordinary things? I decided I wanted to answer this question and write Ignite Your Spark: Discovering Who You Are From the Inside Out. In the process, I got to talk to some of the most inspirational, interesting, and unique people I’ve every encountered. They aren’t all geniuses, rich, or in private schools, etc.. In fact, many of them started at a perceived disadvantage with learning disabilities, low income, or social problems at school.  The common thread among these super-amazing young adults was their foundation for success was built with a strong sense of self-identity, determination, and grit.

You interviewed a lot of young people for this book. Who are some of your favorites?

They were all special, so it seems a little disloyal to make a list, but I will tell you about one that was life-changing for me regarding how I view kids and education…

Adora Svitak is a college student, writer, and advocate who at the age of 12 gave a TED Talk titled “What Adults Can Learn From Kids”. She introduced me to the concept of collaborative learning where teachers and students work together to create curriculum and special projects. Instead of students only being consumers of education at school, they actually participate in the entire process. This is how I created the idea of students using school projects and research assignments to learn more about their interests. For example: My 7th grader lives and dies for basketball, so he could research the history of the game for Social Studies, do an experiment on speed and velocity for Science, and use text-based evidence in Language Arts to compare and contrast the difference between two NBA players. His grade improves because he’s interested in the subject and does more research, and he picks up a few pointers for his own game in the process.

What was your favorite part about writing your manuscript?

My favorite part was the research. I have a passion for the material, so it never felt like work. I read 50+ nonfiction books, visited a gazillion websites, and spoke to some amazing teens and youth professionals. I learned something new every day and couldn’t wait to restructure the information for a younger audience.

What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?

That’s easy…. annotations and footnotes. All of the technical details your publisher needs in order to make the book legal. If you do it as your writing the manuscript it’s easy, but oftentimes I had to go back and find the information again.

Where and when do you write?

I can’t stand to sit in any one place for long. I have a beautiful office, but I must constantly be moving around. Sometimes it’s at a table, propped up in bed, or at a coffee shop. Almost all of the quizzes were written at my neighborhood pool, while my kids ran around with their friends. It often depends on the logistics of motherhood. I once conducted an interview while sitting in a school carline … it happens.

What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?

The editing process was the most surprising. First of all, I was shocked that I wasn’t at all offended or defensive about all of the changes my publisher wanted to my original manuscript. They sent me a developmental letter with a ton of suggestions along with Post-it tabs with notes sticking out from many of the pages. They are so thorough. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can do for your work. By working together we were able to make the book so much better. It was fun to watch it all come together. The best thing an author can do is to be open for suggestion. You don’t have to take all of the advice you are given, but you should listen.

Who are some writers who inspire your work?

It depends on what I am writing. I always fully immerse myself in what I’m working on. It effects what I read, watch on television, and listen to on the radio. For this book, I read a lot of parenting books from amazing experts like Rosalind Wiseman, Katie Hurley, Dr. Carol Dweck, Jessica Lahey, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Dr. Michelle Borba, Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, and Rachel Stafford to name a few.

I also got into the business development books from Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Duhigg, Daniel Coyle, Brian Grazer, Sarah Lewis, etc.. When I was reading these books I kept thinking … why didn’t I know this stuff when I was younger and had more time to incorporate it into my life?

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

This sounds simple, but WRITE. It’s so easy to waste time preparing to write, learning to write, or researching the industry. I’m not saying it’s not important to do those things, but do them second. Schedule your writing time first. The words don’t have to be amazing, because you can change them in the editing process. I used to make sure each sentence was 100% perfect before I wrote the next one and it worked against me in two ways #1 it slowed me down #2 it made it so hard to edit the sentences out when they weren’t working for my story.

Every person is different regarding their approach to writing. Some people like to outline everything out, while others start with page one and let the story unfold. If you want help with structure then check out a book like Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, which is a screenwriting book many authors have used to help with creating a framework for their books. I’m using it now for my fiction series and I never struggle during my writing time. It gives direction without sacrificing flexibility of making changes if your characters decide to take you in another direction.

Happy book birthday to BAND GEEKS 2!

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The darling Amy Cobb holds the distinction of being my very first client! She came on board back in the fall of 2013. For this, she will always hold a special spot in my heart– she took  a chance on a fledgling agent. I’m happy  and proud to say that she’s now the author of three series–totaling 14 books! The talented Miss Amy is the author of a six-book middle grade series called BAND GEEKS, about the misadventures of a group of band kids, published by the awesome (seriously, I love them) educational publisher, ABDO. After the success of the first series, ABDO asked Amy to do a sequel series following the same characters plus a new generation of band geeks. We were thrilled at the opportunity to further explore these characters and this junior high world. And now, this month, BAND GEEKS 2 is available in schools and libraries! I also really love the illustrations by Anna Cattish. They’ve got a sort of anime vibe that is very cool. Here is what Amy has to say about writing BAND GEEKS 2:

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Tell us about what it was like to write this series.

Do you know that feeling you get when you haven’t seen an old friend in a long time, and you finally get the chance to catch up on all that’s new? It’s warm and comfortable and just feels right. That’s what writing Band Geeks 2 was like for me! I got to hang out with an entire band room filled with old friends and some new ones, too.

What is it like to write a sequel?

Writing a sequel was easier in that I already had existing main characters and a junior high school setting in place. But because several months had already passed since Band Geeks 1 was published, I did spend a lot of time reviewing notes and even reading book excerpts and looking at illustrations to ensure that the characterization and dialogue between the two sets was seamless. That was actually much tougher than I’d expected!

What was your favorite part about writing Band Geeks 2?

When I was first contacted about writing Band Geeks 2, I was super excited! Because I had so much fun hanging out in the band room with the first set of characters, I could hardly wait to return to Room 217. I’m also especially proud of the character diversity this new set brings. Plus, the ABDO team is amazing to work with, and I was thrilled to be back on board for Band Geeks 2!

Who is your favorite character and why?

The Band Geeks are all so different, and it’s tough to choose just one who’s my favorite. But if I have to pick, it would be Zac Wiles. He’s so silly and always lightens the more serious moments, particularly when there’s a clash among the other Band Geeks. That said, Zac is also a much deeper character than that. When he’s not goofing off and cracking jokes, Zac is thoughtful, caring, and understands what it’s like to overcome learning difficulties—all things that he doesn’t want other students at Benton Bluff Junior High to find out.

Where and when do you write?

I typically write early in the morning before my family wakes up and while the house is still quiet. As far as location, I like to mix things up. Sometimes I curl up on the couch with my laptop. Other times, I head outdoors to soak up the sunshine and listen to the birds singing as I work.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

My favorite writers are writers who make me laugh out loud—Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Karma Wilson, and Jeff Kinney definitely tickle my funny bone!

What is some advice you can give to aspiring writers?

Early on in my writing journey, I got easily discouraged when publication opportunities didn’t immediately come my way. I can’t tell you the number of times I said, “I quit!” But writing was something I couldn’t walk away from, at least not for very long. Looking back, if I’d had more patience, I would have enjoyed the road to publication so much more. So be patient and be kind to yourself. You’ll get there! Also, it’s extremely important to schedule writing time each day (Jot it on the calendar if you have to!) and to surround yourself with people who support you and your work.