Monday, May 22, 2017

Getting the Call with Elizabeth Roderick

I’m so happy to come back as a Query Kombat judge this year! It’s really difficult to choose between all the awesome entries, but it’s worth it. I learn so much from the entrants and the other judges. I’m really excited about our new forum, too!

Our spectacular host and accomplished author Michelle Hauck has invited judges to share our publication stories. Even now I’m published, I still love reading these stories: they’re tales of hope and happiness. Reading them helped me even more when I was slogging through the query trenches, getting rejected over and over, and wallowing in self-doubt. So, I’ll share mine, in the hope it might bring you some hope and happiness if you’re feeling bleak. Don’t feel like publication will never happen for you: it will, if you don’t give up.

I’m in the mood for reminiscence, and it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ll turn this into a bit of an epic. I’ll tell the whole story of how I began writing, and how that convoluted mess eventually led to publication.

As some of you know, I’m neurodivergent. I have PTSD, I’m bipolar and, as it turns out, maybe autistic as well. This is a lot more fun than it may sound to some people—at least some of the time. Other times, it can make stuff harder. My publication story arises out of one of these difficult times.

It was the fall of 2013. My husband, tween daughter, and I had just moved to the south-central coast of California for my husband’s new job. I’d left my friends, my bands (I’m a musician) and my family behind. I was unemployed for the first time since my daughter was born, and my daughter was nine, so my days were no longer filled up with chasing her around, playing princess, and changing her diaper. Add this to the fact that we had to live in a trashy hotel for months since there were difficulties in closing on our house, and I was left ungrounded. It sent me manic in a huge way.

I’d always written, but now I started writing sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours a day. I was so involved in my YA fantasy epic I couldn’t sleep. I never talked about anything besides my books. This annoyed my husband a lot and he got pretty insulting about it, so I started avoiding him, hauling Kid (who was homeschooled at the time) on road trips to visit the sites in the Desert Southwest where my novels largely took place.

I wrote all seven books in that series in a year. By then, we were in a house, but my marriage was deteriorating. This situation brought up a lot of old feelings and fears, so I started writing a new series, this one dealing with some of the heavy stuff I’d experienced, like addiction, abuse, and psychosis.

Meanwhile, I was querying the first novel in my YA series…with very little success. It was my first book, and even I knew that I was probably querying it too early, but I don’t regret it even now. I entered a lot of contests, joined a lot of critique groups, and learned so much about writing and the querying process. Some of us learn best by doing, and that involves making a “fool” of ourselves sometimes. But those who are afraid to be foolish don’t accomplish as much, in my experience.

Anyway, I began to slide out of my mania while writing my new series. As I was engulfed by depression, I clung even tighter to my stories, living as much as I could in that fantasy world. This put further stress on my marriage.

Then, when I was writing The Other Place (which is told from the point of view of a young schizophrenic man) I made good friends with a schizophrenic guy in town. I became a bit obsessed with him. He not only made me feel like I wasn’t alone, he helped me to see that my psychosis and other mental illnesses were nothing to be afraid of. There was a beauty in our shared world when we were together that was a powerful medicine for my depression.

However, hanging out with him didn’t help my marriage, either. My husband began kicking me out of the house regularly, during which times I’d live in my car with the schizophrenic guy. I always went back to my husband when he calmed down, though. I knew even then that this was partly because of my abuse syndrome, but I didn’t have the spoons at that point to get myself together. My only hope—the hope I clung to with all I had—was that I could get published, and that would lead to other opportunities to make money doing what I loved, like editing.

I started querying The Other Place. I got a lot more requests than I did with my first book, but they all turned into rejections. “I love your concept, and the writing is good, but I can’t identify with your character.” I hated that one—basically they were saying, “We love the concept of mental illness, but we can’t identify with the mentally ill.” I also had agents and editors say the plot was too nontraditional (in other words, too neurodivergent), and a couple that said “Love this, but we already have a book about mental illness.”

I started to drink. Heavily. Even my daughter was begging me to leave my husband at that point. But I was afraid to, for a lot of reasons. I was having psychotic breaks, and serious thoughts of suicide. I didn’t feel able to support myself or take care of my kid alone. I needed an out. I needed some faith in myself. I also needed help, but I wasn’t really aware of that yet.

So, I started writing a book that wasn’t so “crazy”. It was a romantic suspense called Love or Money, which had a more traditional plot and characters. I didn’t send that book to agents—I only pitched it on #PitMad. I got two full requests from publishers, which pretty quickly turned into two offers.

When I got those emails, it was like the heavens had opened and said, You can do this. You’re worth it, and your life is worth living.

Finally, I took my daughter and got the hell out of that house. My parents convinced me to come home. I half built, half renovated a tiny home on the ten-acre farm that has been in our family for generations, and I’m living there happily, writing; editing; and raising fruit, vegetables, egg chickens, and bees.

I got the psychiatric help I needed, and I’m more stable than I’ve ever been. I’ve since gotten my whole Other Place Series published. I’m coming to terms with my neurodivergence, and have become an advocate, speaking up and fighting for civil rights and respect for the mentally ill.

That schizophrenic guy—we’re engaged now.

I know this is a sort of different publication story, but maybe it can give some hope to those who are having a lot of difficulty in the writing trenches. It’s a lot harder, physically and emotionally, than non-writers could ever understand. I also hope it might help those struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and we can live beautiful lives on our own terms if we know our own worth.

Elizabeth is a freelance editor and the author of the LGBT romantic suspense novel, Love or Money, and the Own Voices magical realism The Other Place Series, which deals with abuse, addiction, PTSD, and psychosis. She has written eleven other novels in a wide range of genres, which are in various stages of revision and pitching.

She grew up as a barefoot ruffian on a fruit orchard near Yakima, in the eastern part of Washington State. After weathering the grunge revolution and devolution and migrating up and down the West Coast, she is back in Yakima, where she lives in a (mostly) off-grid tiny house she renovated and built herself, and grows most of her own food.
She earned a bachelor's degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and worked for many years as a paralegal and translator. She is a musician and songwriter, and has played in many bands, rocking some instruments she doesn't even know the real names for, but mostly guitar, bass and keyboards.

Elizabeth is a mentally ill advocate, and believes if people get to know those who live on the fringes of society, both in stories and in real life, they'll find them more likeable than they originally thought.

Find her on:  Amazon I Goodreads I Twitter I Facebook I Website  I

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Query Kombat Thoughts from a Kontestant

I was a 2016 contestant in Query Kombat (Go, Team #WriteyMcWriterFace!), and I really only entered for one reason: to improve my query. I was thrilled to get into the contest, and after getting knocked out in Round 3, I was even more thrilled with my query. It was tight, to the point, and I had gotten great feedback from people who knew what they were talking about.

But you know what surprised me? A killer query was not the best thing I got out of Query Kombat. Don’t get me wrong, a great query was an amazing benefit. But there were unexpected benefits that I had never imagined, some of which were much more important to my writing career than my query letter.

Number One: It helped me develop a thick skin. I went through three rounds, which meant I got dozens of comments about everything that was wrong with my query and first 250. Most people were encouraging and supportive, but they still told me what I was doing wrong. I needed them to tell me what I was doing wrong. As much as I wanted the feedback, I still had to steel myself up for it every day. Soon I was able to read it, understand it, and apply it. Query Kombat taught me how to embrace critique, and that is an essential part of surviving and thriving in the world of publishing.

Side note (we’ll call it Number One-A): Query Kombat also taught me how to filter critique so I knew what would work for my query and manuscript, and what wouldn’t. Spoiler alert: if you get into Query Kombat, you’re going to get conflicting feedback! Some of it will fit with your vision for your story, and some of it won’t. Sifting through all that feedback and figuring out what resonates (and what doesn’t) is a skill that needs to be practiced. The further you go in the contest, the more practice you’re going to get.

Number Two: The QK Community. If you’re not active on the #QueryKombat hashtag yet, you are missing out. Connecting with a community of writers who are at a similar stage in their careers is truly invaluable. I met some great writing friends just by being active on the hashtag. That’s something you can take advantage of whether you are chosen to be an official Kombatant or not.

This year they’ve made the community even more amazing with the addition of the Query Kombat Forums. You can give and receive feedback on your query and first page, and you can put up ads looking for critique partners and beta readers. If you haven’t taken advantage of the forums yet, you’ll find them here:

Number Three: I learned how to give critique. Every contestant is expected to critique a number of other entries in every round. That meant I analyzed almost two dozen queries and first pages, and I got to see how other people analyzed them as well. I probably learned more about writing a great query from giving critiques than I did from just reading the comments on my own.

Giving critique is another benefit you can take advantage of whether you are an official Kombatant or not. If you don’t get into the contest, don’t disappear. Read the other queries in your genre, analyze them, and analyze the comments on them. This process will help you enormously when it comes time to revise your own work.

Writing contests like Query Kombat are not just about winning a prize at the end. They’re about actively engaging in a community of writers and making each other better. The more you put into the community, the more you’ll get out of it, whether you’re an official contestant or not.

Julia Nobel is a writing coach and middle grade/young adult author. Her childhood obsession with The Babysitters Club turned into a lifelong passion for reading and writing children’s literature. She offers writing masterclasses and courses for writers in all genres, and is a 2017 Pitch Wars Mentor. Her 3-year-old daughter likes to help her write by throwing apple sauce at the keyboard and pressing the escape key. 

Twitter: @nobeljulia

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It's Submission Time for Query Kombat 2017

The submission window is NOW OPEN until May 19 at noon EDT. There is no cap on entries.

If you don't receive email confirmation within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via Twitter and let us know. Kontestants will be revealed on May 26, and the tournament will kick off on June 2.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun…
So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered. 

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, Mike, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to:  QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com.

We're asking for a $5 - $10 donation with each entry so we don't have to start charging a fee for the contest. Donations may be sent via the Query Kombat icon in the sidebar.

Formatting Guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.

Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica). Nicknames should be 25 characters or less. Make it as unique as possible so there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament, so keep it PG-13 and make it relate to your story.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Name: Michael Anthony
Email address: myboyfriendwasbittenbyashark (at) gmail (dot) com.
Twitter Handle: @BarbforSenate36

Title: Eunuchs and Politics
Entry Nickname: I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll
Word count: 68K
Genre: Adult Erotica (Note Ownvoices here if applicable only) 


Barbara B. Doll seemed like a woman who had it all, from the perfect body to her own dream house, McDonald's, and a variety of vehicles. She even managed to become a U.S. Senator and go to the moon! However, something seemed missing. She didn't have any idea what it was until she met Ken.

Ken Dahl is funny, good-looking, and may have ties to the Illuminati. Barbara is immediately drawn to his shiny, perfect hair and teeth. When he offers to teach her surfing, they hit it off instantly. Everything seems to be going perfectly until Barbara discovers Ken has no genitalia. She must search within herself to determine whether love can overcome plastic, non-removable underwear.

EUNUCHS AND POLITICS is adult erotica, complete at 68,000 words.

First 250:

Words, words, words. 250 of them, in fact.

Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a middle of a sentence. If the 250th word puts you in the middle of a sentence, you may go up to 258 to finish that sentence. Do not abuse this rule. Both Pages and Google Docs will return incorrect word counts if you have hyphens, em-dashes, and ellipses. Microsoft Word counts correctly. 

Please use this site to give you an accurate word count if you are concerned about your standard word counter: If you must, count by hand. A properly hyphenated word is one word. Words separated by an em-dash or ellipse are two words.

Do not include a bio or comp title in the query.

All entries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. Competition will be fierce.

Best of luck in the tournament!


Contests need to be fun. To help keep you from worrying as the hosts read through the emails, we're having a party! These are the daily topics, but feel free to start your own as well.

May 16th    Before the big day arrives tweet your category and genre. Ask questions about genre if you’re unsure where your manuscript fits.

May 17th  After 8:30AM tweet when you’ve submitted your entry to our QK email. Nerves and jitters can be calmed by sharing with others. All day long tweet out what your entry Nickname is and why you chose it.

May 18th   Day 2 of submissions! Judges get fun secret names. Entrants get to create nicknames. Your poor hosts are left out. Create nicknames for Laura, Michael and Michelle!  (Keep it clean. We blush easily.) And tweet your favorite comp title.

May 19th    Last day to submit. We close at noon. Tweet your main character’s name and a special tidbit about them. See what sorts of names are popular and if anyone else shares MC’s names with you.

May 20th    Tweet what you find the hardest about writing. Is it keeping out telling? Writing action scenes? What’s hard for you? Anyone have tips for making them easier?

May 21st   Say hi to an entrant you’ve never talked to. Wish them luck in the slush round. If you need to let out some nerves, see if your new friend will lend an ear.

May 22nd     Tweet something about how you write. Do you use music or prefer silence? Morning or late at night? We celebrate our differences.

May 23rd     Tweet us your villain’s name and something evil about them.

May 24th      If you’re looking for some beta readers or CP, now is the time to tweet about it.

May 25th     Tweet us your favorite line from your novel. If you read any you like, favorite it. Have any favorite lines from a novel that’s not yours? Tweet those too!

May 26th     Tweet your thanks to the agents, editors, and judges of Query Kombat 2016. They’re dedicating a lot of time to help out. The least we can do is take a day to celebrate them! The big reveal is today! (We'll be running around like crazy gerbils getting everything ready.)

Release Day for SHE WANTS IT ALL

NEW RELEASE! SHE WANTS IT ALL (Book 3, Sheridan Hall Series)

Author: Jessica Calla
Genre: NA Romance
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: BookFish Books
Cover Designer: Anita B. Carroll, Race-Point US

About She Wants it All...

Happy to sing cover songs with his band and float through New Jersey University with little to no effort, Dave Novak spends the first week of college partying. Then he meets Maggie Patrinski. Performing on stage in front of hundreds is easy for Dave, but the mere thought of Maggie sends his heart racing and turns him into a bumbling idiot. Even so, he can’t get her out of his mind.

Maggie’s not exactly thrilled when her roommate sets her up with Second Floor Dave, the hottie with a reputation. Not only has she just had her heart broken, but she’s vying for a competitive summer internship and studying to become a vet. She doesn’t have time for guys and isn’t interested in falling in love, especially when she may be moving across the country for the summer.

But as Maggie gets to know Dave, his charm wins her over and she falls hard and fast. The problem? Maggie has goals, Dave doesn’t. Maggie studies, Dave doesn’t. Maggie wants it all, Dave only wants her. With their summer plans up in the air and past mistakes creeping back into their lives, their future together is uncertain. The only thing they’re sure of is that when they’re together, they’re better.


Other Books In the Sheridan Hall Series...

SHE LAUGHS IN PINK (Book 1, Sheridan Hall Series)

SHE RUNS AWAY (Book 2, Sheridan Hall Series)

About the Author...

Jessica Calla is a contemporary romance, new adult, and women's fiction author who moonlights during the day as an attorney. If she's not writing, lawyering, or parenting, you'll most likely find her at the movies, scrolling through her Twitter feed, or gulping down various forms of caffeine (sometimes all three at once).

Jessica is a member of Romance Writers of America, involved in the Contemporary, Young Adult, and New Jersey Chapters, and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. A Jersey girl through and through, she resides in the central part of the state with her husband, two sons, and dog.


Rafflecopter Giveaway! $25 Amazon Gift Card

Monday, May 15, 2017

Five Reason for Writing in Verse

Shari Green is here to tell us more about writing in verse. I've always been curious about this form of writing (we sometimes see these in contests) and I'm glad for a chance to know more about why to pick verse!

And don't forget to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.

Take it away, Shari.

It seems to me, verse novels are everywhere…although I might possibly have highly-developed verse-novel radar. ;-) I do seek them out, because I love the form so much, and I’ve written two verse novels myself. (The second one is brand new! MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS launches in the U.S. on May 15. Details below.)

I’m often asked why verse? so I’ve given it some thought. Whether you’re a reader curious about the form, or a writer wondering if verse might be right for your next story, here are five reasons why you might choose to write in verse.
  1. It suits the story: A story element may lend itself to verse, to the techniques and structure of a verse novel. For example, a bleak setting or subject can be reflected in short, stark lines; or the setting may be enriched by using verse that reflects the rhythm of a culture’s language or music; or the subject matter may be directly related to poetry or writing, making verse a natural fit.
  2. It lightens the load: Difficult or demanding subject matter can be more palatable in verse. The economy of words and the abundance of white space may help the reader to absorb what’s happening without being overwhelmed.
  3. It gets to the heart: Because verse tends to be intimate, immediate, and often intense, it can be easier to get to the heart of a story by using poetry. This may be partly because of the economy of words, the spareness, but also because things like spacing and alignment—the visual elements of the poems—can become a metaphor for the character’s emotion or state of mind, hitting the reader on a subconscious level and increasing the emotional impact.
  4. It helps readers: For kids (and adults) who struggle with reading or who think they don’t really like reading, verse novels can be much less intimidating – readers aren’t hit with a huge block of text when they open the book. And since verse novels often are fairly quick reads, less enthusiastic readers are more likely to finish them, giving them a sense of competence and confidence. Rhythm and repetition can be a huge help to struggling readers in processing & retaining what they read, too.
  5. It feels right: Sometimes verse just feels right, which probably sounds a bit vague, but it was certainly my experience when I began writing novels in verse. Verse was not only how I heard my characters’ voices, but also a natural fit for my own voice and style. And I must say, playing with poetry and the musicality of words is a joy!
Have you tried writing in verse? Have you read many verse novels? I’d love to know! Leave a comment and include your email address for a chance to win a copy of MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS.

Olivia has been Macy McMillan’s best friend ever since Macy transferred to Hamilton Elementary from Braeside School for the Deaf. But then their sixth grade teacher assigned that embarrassing family tree project, and Olivia made a joke about Macy’s father, and now neither girl is speaking—or signing—to the other.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. With her mother getting married and an ugly For Sale sign jammed into their yard, Macy could really use a best friend right now. But it seems the only person who has time for her these days is Iris Gillan from next door. And it’s not like a crabby, old woman who doesn’t even know sign language is going to be any comfort. Right?

MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS is a Junior Library Guild 2017 selection. A summer read for fans of Sharon Creech and Kate DiCamillo, from Pajama Press.

Shari Green writes fiction for kids and teens. She lives on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, with her husband, kids, and the worst watchdog ever. Visit her online at

Friday, May 12, 2017

Partial List of Query Kombat Agents and Editors

Want to know what agents and editors we have for Query Kombat? WE HAVE THIRTY-TWO, AND COUNTING!! There are so many publishing professionals participating, we can’t fit them all on one blog! View one-third of them below, then click on over to Michael’s and Laura's blogs to see the rest.

We’ve got both well-established agents/editors and some newer professionals who are actively seeking to build their lists. Query Kombat 2017 is going to be an AWESOME Kontest. 

Don't miss the submission window from May 17 - May 19, 2017!! We’re giving you three days to get your entries in!  And consider donating to keep the contests rolling:

For more information on how to enter when the window opens, please click here. Otherwise, scroll down to meet the agents and editors!

Lindsay Mealing of Emerald City Literary

Lindsay has been writing stories since she could first hold a pencil. It wasn’t until she sat down to edit a manuscript for the first time she realized her true love was not on the writing side of the publishing industry, but the business side. She began interning for Mandy in early 2015 and quickly realized agenting was what she wanted to do forever more.
Lindsay is a self-proclaimed  nerd, loving everything science fiction and fantasy – from epic tomes to gaming. She fell head over heels with the SFF genre when she read KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey (she even has Phedre’s marque tattooed on her back).
Lindsay represents both adult and young adult fiction. In adult she’s primarily looking for fantasy and science fiction, but is also interested in psychological thrillers, women’s fiction, and romance. In YA, she loves all genres – contemporary, fantasy, horror, romance – anything!


Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary Agency

Margaret Bail has a BA in English and an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing. With years of experience editing manuscripts, as well as teaching university-level English and writing, she looks forward to working closely with new and established authors to help develop their voice and craft.
Her lifelong love of stories and storytelling has her looking for books that transport her into the heart of the story, so much so that she’ll forget where she is and lose track of time while she reads.
Margaret is interested in adult fiction in the genres of romance (no Christian or inspirational, please), science fiction (soft sci-fi rather than hard), mystery, thrillers, action adventure, historical fiction (not a fan of WWII era), and fantasy. In nonfiction, Margaret is interested in memoirs with a unique hook, and cookbooks with a strong platform.

Fiction genres Margaret is NOT interested in: YA, MG, children’s books; steampunk, Christian/religious literature, chick lit, women’s fiction, literary, poetry, screenplays.

Caitie Flum of Liza Dawson Literary Agency

Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a B.A. in English with a concentration in publishing studies. She interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an editorial assistant then coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club.

Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, romance, and book club fiction. She is open to science fiction and fantasy that crosses over to a young adult market.

She is also looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult projects, particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, and contemporary books with diverse characters.
In nonfiction, she is looking for narrative nonfiction, especially history that’s impossible to put down, books on pop culture, theater, current events, women’s issues, and humor.

Lauren Galit of LKG Agency

Agent: such a loaded job description. It’s the word you scream into the phone when you get stuck in an airline or cable company’s automated loop. AGENT! Or it might call to mind images of a classic real estate or Hollywood agent with slicked-back hair and too-sharp clothes. But that’s not who I am. My client, Clinton Kelly, once wrote in the acknowledgments of Freakin’ Fabulous: “Lauren Keller Galit, a totally chill agent who’s not even a jerk.”
Being a literary agent is my dream job (but then again, I was a literary geek at Harvard): I get to work with writers all day long, helping them craft their book ideas and editing their proposals. And then, once the proposal is complete, I get to connect with editors to sell them on something I have passionately committed myself to for the past few months. And I get to chat — a lot (but hopefully not too much). With writers, with editors, with Caitlen. All good.
I also get to be a world-class dilettante. For each new project that comes along, I delve deep into that writer’s world and expertise, learning all I can, so that I can speak knowledgeably about the subject. What could be bad about exploring a new angle on parenting or fitness or style every few months? My closet is certainly the better for it; hopefully my kids, too.
I started my agenting career in 2002 at John Boswell Associates, a literary agency and book packager that’s most noted for creating 365 Ways To Cook Chicken, as well as countless other best sellers. Because Boswell was a packager as well as an agent, he taught me how to do more than just craft a proposal and sell it; he showed me how to create a book from scratch, working with designers and production people along the way. It is that attention to detail that I bring to my current projects, even if we aren’t packaging them. I help my authors envision what their books could be.
Before becoming an agent, I was a magazine editor for 10 years, starting at GQ (Gentleman’s Quarterly) and ending at GH (Good Housekeeping). That’s where I learned to edit and copy edit, to read and reread until an article or caption or pull quote was just so. It is a skill I bring to every proposal I work on with a writer. It won’t go out until it is just so, because the proposal should beautifully and accurately represent the idea an author is dying to bring to the world.

Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis 

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s.

For YA, she is especially interested in contemporary, thriller/mystery, fantasy and horror. She looks for a compelling voice and a strong hook that will set a YA novel apart in the flooded market. She is open to all types of middle grade and especially enjoys adventure, mystery, and magical realism. For both YA and MG, she is interested in unique settings and cultural influences, interesting structure, complicated romances, diverse characters, sister or friendship-centric stories, and stories that feature artists of any kind. In picture books she is drawn to cute, funny stories (as opposed to sweet and quiet) that will grab kids as well as the occasional nonfiction biography on a subject whose story has yet to be told.

Christa is not looking for any Adult fiction or non-fiction, paranormal or dystopian at this time.


Mallory Brown of Triada US Literary Agency

Literary Agent Assistant Mallory C. Brown is seeking young adult, women’s fiction, adult, and non-fiction. She is especially drawn to pieces with strong character-driven plots and witty humor. She loves contemporary fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and romance. Mallory also appreciates a well-placed comma and hopes you do, too.

Some of Mallory’s favorites at the moment are: The Presidents Club, Bringing up Bébé, The Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Alex and Eliza, and Leave Me.


Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Literary

A literary agent for over fifteen years, Andrea represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including projects for adult, young adult and middle grade audiences. Her clients’ books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, as well as nominated for The Governor General’s Award, the Lambda Award, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and have been chosen for ABA’s Indies Introduce Program. Andrea is a guest instructor for MediaBistro and Writers Digest.

Her clients' books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, as well as nominated for The Governor General's Award, the Lambda Award, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the VCU Campbell First Novelist Award. Andrea also teaches courses for MediaBistro and Writers Digest on topics such as nonfiction, memoir, mystery and thrillers, fantasy and sf. Her client list is quite full, however she is always actively looking to take on new authors who write in the following categories: Fiction: literary, commercial, book club fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, new adult, middle grade. Nonfiction: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design, crafts, cookbooks, business, sports, diet, health & fitness.


Renee Nyen of KT Literary

Several years in the editorial department at Random House’s Colorado division provided Renee with the opportunity to work with bestselling and debut authors alike. After leaving Random House, she came to KT Literary in early 2013. She loves digging into manuscripts and helping the author shape the best story possible. Though this is great for her profession, it tends to frustrate people watching movies with her. With a penchant for depressing hipster music and an abiding love for a good adventure story, Renee is always looking for book recommendations. Even if that means creeping on people reading in public. Which she does frequently. She makes her home in Arizona with her husband, and their two children.

In both YA and MG I would love to see some more gothic stories. Secret societies, creepy old mansions, and morally questionable science experiments always get me excited. I even have a soft spot for serial killer stories–especially if they’re heavy on the psychological thrills and not gore. I adore Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. She balances humor and horror in the most compelling way.

Specifically in YA, I love thrillers with twists! I will never forget the way I felt when I read Daphne DuMaurier’s REBECCA for the first time. Or Elizabeth Wein’s CODE NAME VERITY. Or everything Gillian Flynn has ever written. I love them dark; I love them twisty. It’s fascinating to push characters to the very edge and see how they respond.
Another thing I’d like to see more is reworked classics. Not necessarily Jane Austin or William Shakespeare; those have been done. (Though I love “Clueless” and “10 Things I Hate About You” as much as the next girl.) TILL WE HAVE FACES by CS Lewis is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s mythology and sisters. I’m a sucker for both of those things. So, someone write that for me, please? Retellings of classics are great for a few reasons, they make classics accessible to a new audience and they spark nostalgia for those of us who loved the original.

Sci-fi and fantasy: For YA or MG I would love to sign something akin to “Firefly”. I’m not sure if I love the rebel-with-a-cause attitude or the ensemble cast more. Typically, I prefer my sci-fi set in space, not on earth. The beauty of sci-fi is the boundless universe. I like to get off planet earth and discover what else is out there. Also, I would love to see more LGBTQ characters in sci-fi and fantasy. For me, the most exciting stories reinvent typical tropes! Go ahead, send me characters who break the rules.

What you’re hearing is: I love plot/action driven books. Character development, beautiful prose, and romantic tension are important, but action keeps me reading into the wee hours of the morning.


Jess Dallow of Brower Literary

Having grown up with the same name as her favorite Sweet Valley High twin, Jess has always had a love for books, especially those that feature well developed, strong female characters. She is fascinated with complex characters and a world that she can fall in love with, stories that make her want to sob and laugh within minutes of each other, and a book that she can’t put down no matter what time it is or what rerun of SVU is on. She has a BFA in Writing for Film and Television from the University of the Arts and worked in entertainment for eight years before returning to her home state of NY where she worked at a literary agency for two years before joining Brower Literary & Management.

Jess Dallow is interested in both YA and adult commercial fiction with a focus in romance, family stories, thrillers, mystery, and women’s fiction. She loves strong, complex female characters, worlds that she can fall in love with, stories that make her want to sob and laugh within minutes of each other, and a book that she can’t put down no matter what time it is. She is not looking to currently represent picture or chapter books.


Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann Literary

Hattie is looking for women's fiction, crime and thrillers outside of the 'male cop, dead woman' mould, speculative fiction and realistic YA and middle-grade fiction. In non-fiction, she is looking for personal development, accessible books about politics, economics and science, and funny and clever narrative non-fiction. She is not currently accepting fantasy or fiction set before 1900, and she hates sport - sorry!
Specifically (but not exclusively), Hattie loves: love stories, especially slow-burners or ones disguised as something else; dysfunctional families (particularly step families, or dads who are neither deadbeats nor heroes); large sprawling casts of diverse and believable characters; authors from under-represented backgrounds; books that aren't afraid to call themselves feminist; books about mental health; blogs and tweets and writers that understand social media; pop culture; anything to do with food.
Jennifer Azantian of Azantian Literary

Founder Jennifer Azantian graduated with a B.S. in clinical and developmental psychology from the University of California, San Diego where she was an executive editor for the Trition Psychology Report. In 2011, she began her agenting career, first as an intern and then as an assistant and associate, at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. In 2014, while working with senior agent and entertainment lawyer Paul Levine, Jennifer opened her own agency specializing in speculative fiction.

Jennifer is particularly interested in stories that explore meaningful human interactions against fantastic backdrops, underrepresented voices, literary science fiction, historical fantasy, creepy stories for young readers, humorous space operas, well-crafted and hopeful futures, internally consistent epic fantasy, obscure retold fairy tales, modernized mythologies, and eccentric protagonists. She brings to her clients a passion for literature born of a writer's heart, an editorial eye honed from reviewing thousands of projects, and contract knowledge empowered by guidance from her mentor Paul Levine. She is also a conference and convention regular who has spoken at and provided critiques for SCBWI, ConDor Con, SCWC, WNBA-LA, Literary Orange, GLAWS, Cascade Writers' Workshop, and more.


Ashley Hearn of Page Street Publishing

Ashley is an Associate YA Editor at Page Street Publishing.

Prior to joining Page Street, she earned a degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a producer for the football and basketball coaches’ television show while interning at Entangled Publishing. She is an addictive coffee drinker, a Gilmore Girls fanatic, and a proud Gryffindor. When she ferrets away enough gas money, she can be found scouring the Georgia and South Carolina Sea Islands for ruined plantations, folk magic, and a fresh story.

Ashley is seeking only YA at this time. She’s drawn to high concept stories with a unique twist and an unforgettable voice. She’s especially interested in fantasy, gothic horror, paranormal, magical realism, quirky contemporary, and historicals—with a special affinity for atmospheric stories that offer a strong sense of place and time. Anything “Southern” and/or “sporty” is her kryptonite.

Recent favorites include HALF BAD by Sally Green, BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C Parker, THIS MONSTROUS THING by Mackenzi Lee, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi, and HOW WE FALL by Kate Brauning.



Steven Salpeter of Curtis Brown

Steven Salpeter is a literary agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. A graduate of the University of Florida, Steven edited Tea and founded the Palmetto Prize for Fiction. He began his publishing career at Writers House and Brandt & Hochman before moving to Curtis Brown to assist Mitchell Waters and help Timothy Knowlton manage many of the agency’s venerable estate clients, including W. H. Auden, Stanley Ellin, John Knowles, Alfred Lansing, and Ayn Rand, among other bestsellers and literary award winners. He is now actively building his list, seeking literary fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and authors who can blend elements of these genres. Steven is also interested in narrative nonfiction, gift books, history, humor, and popular science. He lives in New York City.