The 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop: March 25, 2023

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 10.34.26 PM.pngAfter successful 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 events in Minnesota, Writing Day Workshops is excited to announce The 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop — a full-day “How to Get Published” writing event in St. Paul, MN on March 25, 2023.

This writing event is a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more. Note that there are limited seats at the event (200 total). All questions about the event regarding schedule, details and registration are answered below. Thank you for your interest in the 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop! We are very proud of our many success stories where attendees sign with agents following events — see our growing list of success stories here.

(Please note that this is an in-person event. We at Writing Day Workshops plan both online/virtual as well as in-person events. This next MWW is an in-person event happening in St. Paul on March 25, 2023. See you there.)

WHAT IS IT?

This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront. In other words, it’s one day full of classes and advice designed to give you the best instruction concerning how to get your writing & books published. We’ll discuss your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries & pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the day’s classes will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

This event is designed to squeeze as much into one day of learning as possible. You can ask any questions you like during the classes, and get your specific concerns addressed. We will have literary agents onsite to give feedback and take pitches from writers, as well. This year’s agent and editor faculty so far includes:

  • literary agent Jennifer Carlson (Dunow, Carlson & Lerner)
  • literary agent Erin Casey Westin (Gallt & Zacker)
  • literary agent Claire Harris (P.S. Literary)
  • editor Elizabeth Schleisman (Beaming Books)
  • literary agent Savannah Brooks (KT Literary)
  • literary agent Catherine Hedrick Armstrong (The Purcell Agency)
  • editor Meg Gaertner (Flux & Jolly Fish Press)
  • literary agent Laura Zats (Headwater Literary)
  • literary agent Michael Croy (Northstar Literary)
  • editor Deidra Purvis (Free Spirit Publishing)
  • and possibly more to come.

By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey. This independent event is organized by coordinator Brian Klems of Writing Day Workshops. E-mail him to register for the event at WritingDayWorkshops@gmail.com.

EVENT LOCATION & DETAILS:

9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, March 25, 2023 — at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront, an IHG Hotel, 11 E Kellogg Blvd, St Paul, MN 55101. (651)292-1900.
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(Please note that this is an in-person event. We at Writing Day Workshops plan both online/virtual as well as in-person events. This next MWW is an in-person event happening in St. Paul on March 25, 2023. See you there.)

THIS YEAR’S SESSIONS & WORKSHOPS (MARCH 25, 2023):

What you see below is a quick layout of the day’s events. The topics below are mostly set, but subject to change. You can see a more detailed layout of the day’s classes on the Schedule Page here.

Please Note: There will be 2-3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day, so you will have your choice of what class you attend at any time. The final schedule of topics is subject to change, but here is the current layout:

8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location.

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. 10 Things I’ve Learned by Editing 1,000 Manuscripts (and What Writers Can Take Away from My Experience). Thinking like a developmental editor can help you mold your book for success even as you write. In this seminar, we will discuss developmental vs. line- or copy-editing, what dev editors consider when editing and exercises that can help you dev-edit yourself.

2. The Quintessential Query: Writing a Query Letter that Gets Noticed. This session outlines the key elements of a stand-out query, and discover what keeps an agent reading. Bring your own anonymous query and, if time permits, we’ll look at them as a group and provide feedback.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.44.34 AMBLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Create Awesome First Pages That Get Requests for More. This presentation, taught by a literary agent, covers the why and how of inserting motivation, voice, and tension into the first page.

2. Building an Author Brand. Learn what your author identity is (or should be) to how you can convey that image online to connecting with fellow readers and writers who will support you throughout your publishing journey.

(What you see here is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest, with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission.

2. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create a nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Open Agent Q&A Panel. Several attending literary agents will open themselves up to open Q&A from MWW attendees. Bring your questions and get them answered in this popular session.

2. Three Laws and Ten Pages: How to Use Newtonian Physics to Add Momentum to Your Fiction. In this session, we’re going to throw “writing rules” out the window and, using Newton’s Laws of Motion, reframe your book in a way that won’t stifle your creativity but will keep your readers clamoring for more.

(What you see here is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. How to Know if an Agent Offer of Representation is Right for You.  An agent wants to have a call! Hooray! But what do you ask them? And what do the answers mean? How do you know if you’re an ideal, longterm match with this agent?

2. TBD

SESSIONS END: 5:00

At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore for a short while to sign any books for attendees.

Agent & Editor Pitching: All throughout the day.

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PITCH AN AGENT OR EDITOR (IN PERSON):

Jennifer Carlson is a literary agent with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. Jennifer has been agenting since 1997. Previously, she worked at Henry Dunow Literary Agency and Harold Ober Associates. She works with narrative nonfiction writers and journalists covering current events and ideas and cultural history, as well as literary and upmarket commercial novelists. On the children’s side, her clients are primarily young adult and middle grade fiction writers. She is not currently looking for new picture books or YA fantasy. Learn more about Jennifer here.

Erin Casey Westin is a literary agent with Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. Erin is open to all kid lit age groups, from picture books through YA, and is particularly drawn to work that shows the author’s world- and character-building ability. She wants to believe wholeheartedly in the world of the book, whether the setting is familiar or fantastic. She wants to see authentic, thoughtful representations of all people so that every kid can find a book that speaks to them. Learn more about Erin here.

Claire Harris is a literary agent with P.S. Literary Agency. Claire is acquiring both fiction and nonfiction projects for adults. She’s actively seeking projects that shine a spotlight on people, places, and events that are often overlooked or not given the attention they deserve. In fiction, she’s looking for adult rom coms, contemporary fiction, psychological thrillers, select horror, and cozy mysteries—all for millennial audiences, specifically. Claire is happiest when reading manuscripts with unexpected endings or new twists on classic genre tropes. For nonfiction, Claire is seeking a range of projects, including lifestyle guides, pop culture celebrations, pop psychology, cultural criticism, humor, true crime, essay collections, and illustrated books for adults. Learn more about Claire here.

Elizabeth Schleisman is an associate editor with Beaming Books. Elizabeth is seeking a range of kidlit and children’s books. In picture books, she seeks fiction and nonfiction. In middle grade and young adult, she is seeking nonfiction submissions only (no fiction). She is also open to all types of board books. Beaming Books publishes high-quality children’s books that help kids thrive in every part of who they are–emotionally, socially, and spiritually. With topics ranging from self-esteem to kindness, ethics, and faith, our books are designed to spark the imagination and equip kids and families to live full and flourishing lives, together. Learn more about Elizabeth here.

Savannah Brooks is an agent with KT Literary. Savannah represents all types of children’s books as well as adult contemporary/commercial fiction, romcoms, thrillers/mystery/suspense, and horror. She’s especially interested in stories that teach her something new, add to a larger sociopolitical conversation, and highlight underrepresented identities and cultures. In kidlit, she seeks picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult fiction, and also young adult nonfiction (from authors with platforms). Learn more about Savannah here.

Catherine Hedrick-Armstrong is a literary agent with The Purcell Agency. A prolific reader of many genres, Cathie represents young adult fiction, contemporary and historical romance, upmarket women’s fiction, mysteries, and thrillers. She deliberately keeps her client list small to give her authors the attention each deserves. Cathie looks for manuscripts that catch her attention within the first few pages. If you can evoke an emotional response in the opening pages—make her laugh out loud, cause her pulse to race, make her cry—you’ve got a winner. Cathie is never interested in Science Fiction or High Fantasy in any genre; however, fantasy with paranormal/supernatural elements, if absolutely grounded in the real world, can be a good fit. Learn more about Catherine here.

Laura Zats is a literary agent with Headwater Literary. (Note: Concerning the 10-minute “pitch” appointments at the event, Laura’s agency handles these opportunities in a specific way. In her own words: “Headwater, as a policy doesn’t do traditional pitch sessions, but we DO perform consultations, where we meet with anyone and answer questions & give feedback, rather than just give a yes/no.”) Laura represents young adult books, science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, literary fiction with speculative elements, and select contemporary and historical fiction. “I particularly love to work on books that appeal to readers of different genres or subgenres—if you’re pitching something that crosses multiple areas of my list, I want to see it!” Learn more about Laura here.

Michael Croy is a literary agent with Northstar Literary. Michael is interested in acquiring general/mainstream fiction – stories told with heart and humor that have a strong sense of place with characters you quickly cheer for (or against!). Recent fiction favorites like Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison, When All is Said by Anne Griffin or The Bear by Andrew Krivak. On the narrative nonfiction side he is looking for thoughtful pop culture commentary, or cultural history, think Valeria Luiselli’s powerful Tell Me How It Ends, or Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties, or This Woman’s Work by Sinead Gleeson and Kim Gordon. Sports biographies that are less about sport and more about personal struggles to overcome political, cultural, or physical hurdles – think of Path Lit By Lightning: The life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. Learn more about Michael here.

Meg Gaertner is a senior editor with Flux and Jolly Fish Press. She is seeking young adult works in all genres and voices. In young adult, she is happy to consider contemporary, science fiction, historical fiction, horror, thrillers, mystery, contemporary fantasy, genre-blending stories, “out-of-the-box” stories that combine social commentary with a killer voice and a fresh premise, diversity representation, and more. Learn more about Meg here.

Deidra Purvis is the acquisitions editor for Free Spirit Publishing, the leading publisher of books to support young people’s social-emotional learning and wellbeing. She’s looking for new board books, picture books, as well nonfiction books for kids and teens. She gravitates toward books about books such as environment appreciation, social-emotional learning, health & wellness, and stories that portray important stories and explore the truths of pain and joy from historically underrepresented voices. Learn more about Deidra here.

 

ADDED ONLINE PITCHING: To ensure that writers have a robust and diverse lineup of agents & editors to pitch, 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop attendees will have the ability to also pitch literary agents at the Writing Day Workshops *online* event that follows the 2023 MWW on our event calendar.

That event is the 2023 Online Writing Workshop of San Francisco, April 14-15, 2023, which will have 30-40 agents taking one-on-one Zoom virtual pitches. 

This means that 2023 MWW attendees can have access to pitching all those online WWSF agents — pitches still at $29 each — without being a formal registrant for the online April 2023 WWSF. (That said, if you want to formally register for the WWSF and have access to all classes and panels, let us know, as there is a discount for confirmed Minnesota attendees.)

If you are interested in this added pitching opportunity, the first step is to get formally registered for Minnesota. Following the MWW one-day conference on March 25, 2023, we will be in touch with all MWW attendees and ask them if they want to partake in pitching online agents at the 2023 WWSF (April 14-15). At that time, you can communicate your pitch requests and purchase meeting time.

* * * * *

* * * * *

        More 2023 agents to be announced as they are confirmed. You can sign up for pitches at any time, or switch pitches at any time, so long as the agent in question still has appointments open.

These one-on-one meetings are an amazing chance to pitch your book face-to-face with an agent, and get personal, individual feedback on your pitch/concept. If the agent likes your pitch, they’ll request to see part/all of your book — sending you straight past the slush pile. It also gives you an intimate chance to meet with an agent and pick their brain with any questions on your mind.

(Please note that Agent/Editor Pitching is an add-on, separate aspect of the day, for only those who sign up. Spaces are limited for these premium meetings, and pricing/detail is explained below.)

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PRICING:

$199 — EARLY BIRD base price for registration to the 2023 MWW and access to all workshops, all day. As of fall 2022, registration is now OPEN.

Add $29 — to secure a 10-minute one-on-one meeting with any of our literary agents or editors in attendance. Use this special meeting as a chance to pitch your work and get professional feedback on your pitch. (Spaces limited.) If they wish, attendees are free to sign up for multiple 10-minute pitch sessions at $29/session — pitching multiple individuals, or securing 20 minutes to pitch one person rather than the usual 10. Here are four quick testimonials regarding writers who have signed with literary agents after pitching them at prior Writing Day Workshops events. (Our bigger, growing  list of success stories an be seen here.)

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 11.11.29 AM.png“I met my client, Alison Hammer, at the Writing
Workshop of Chicago and just sold her book.”
– literary agent Joanna Mackenzie of Nelson Literary

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 11.47.54 PM.png“Good news! I signed a client [novelist Aliza Mann]
from the Michigan Writing Workshop!”
– literary agent Sara Mebigow of KT Literary

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 12.56.10 PM“I signed author Stephanie Wright from
the Seattle Writing Workshop.”
– literary agent Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 9.07.44 PM“I signed an author [Kate Thompson] that I
met at the Philadelphia Writing Workshop.”
– literary agent Kimberly Brower of Brower Literary

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 2.54.50 PM.png“I signed novelist Kathleen McInnis after meeting her
at the Chesapeake Writing Workshop.”

– literary agent Adriann Ranta of Foundry Literary + Media

Add $69 — for an in-depth, personal critique of your one-page query letter from Chuck Sambuchino, one of the day’s instructors. (This rate is a special event value for Minnesota Writing Workshop attendees only.) Registrants are encouraged to take advantage of the specially-priced critique, so they can send out their query letter with confidence following the workshop. Also, if you are meeting with an agent at the event, you’re essentially speaking your query letter aloud to them. Wouldn’t it be wise to give that query letter (i.e., your pitch) one great edit before that meeting?

Add $89 — for an in-depth personal critique of the first 10 pages of your novel. Spaces with faculty for these critiques are very limited, and participating attendees will either 1) get an in-person meeting at the workshop, if the faculty member is attending the live event, or 2) get a 10-minute phone call with the faculty member, and have notes passed along via email, if the critiquer is not attending the live event. Options:

  • Adult romance and young adult romance, both contemporary or paranormal (in-person critiques): Faculty member Anne Greenwood Brown, an author, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for 15 minutes in person at the 2023 MWW to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting.
  • Middle grade and children’s picture books (virtual critiques): Faculty member Denise McConduit, an author, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you online (Zoom, etc.) or by phone for 15 minutes sometime around the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting. If you are submitting a picture book, make the submission 1,000 words or fewer, and it can or cannot include illustrations.
  • Thriller, suspense, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, spiritual writing (virtual critiques): Faculty member James Rubart, an author, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you online (Zoom, etc.) or by phone for 15 minutes sometime before the workshop to discuss his thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting. 
  • Psychological thrillers, horror, mysteries, suspense, general contemporary adult fiction; and lastly some romance and women’s fiction (virtual critiques): Faculty member S.Z. Estavillo, a writing coach and former literary agent, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you online (Zoom, etc.) or by phone for 15 minutes sometime before the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting. 
  • Young adult fiction, middle grade fiction, children’s picture books (virtual critiques): Faculty member Shelli Johannes, an author and freelance editor, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you online (Zoom, etc.) or by phone for 15 minutes sometime before the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting. If submitting a picture book, make the submission 1000 words maximum, and it can include illustrations (optional).
  • Romance, women’s fiction, domestic suspense, and young adult fiction (virtual critiques): Faculty member Swati Hegde, an author and freelance editor, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you online (Zoom, etc.) or by phone for 15 minutes sometime before the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes before or after the meeting. 
  • More critique options possible forthcoming.

How to pay/register — Registration is now open. Reach out to workshop organizer Brian Klems via email: WritingDayWorkshops@gmail.com, and he will provide specific instructions for payment and registration to get you a reserved seat at the event. Payment is by credit card, PayPal, or check. Because Brian plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the Minnesota workshop specifically.

REGISTRATION:

Because of limited space at the venue (InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront), the workshop can only allow 200 registrants, unless spacing issues change. For this reason, we encourage you to book sooner rather than later.

(Please note that this is an in-person event. We at Writing Day Workshops plan both online/virtual as well as in-person events. This next MWW is an in-person event happening in St. Paul on March 25, 2023. See you there.)

Are spaces still available? Yes, we still have spaces available. We will announce RIGHT HERE, at this point on this web page, when all spaces are taken. If you do not see a note right here saying how all spaces are booked, then yes, we still have room, and you are encouraged to register.

How to Register: The easy first step is simply to reach out to workshop organizer Brian Klems via email: WritingDayWorkshops@gmail.com. Brian will pass along registration information to you, and give instructions on how to pay by credit card, PayPal, or check. Once payment is complete, you will have a reserved seat at the event. The MWW will send out periodic e-mail updates to all registered attendees with any & all news about the event. Because Brian plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the Minnesota workshop specifically.

Refunds: If you sign up for the event and have to cancel for any reason at any time, you will receive 50% of your total payment back [sent by check or PayPal]. The other 50% is nonrefundable and will not be returned, and helps the workshop ensure that only those truly interested in the limited spacing sign up for the event. (Please note that query editing payments and manuscript editing payments are completely non-refundable if the instructor has already edited your work.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 4.10.21 PM

Thank you for your interest in the 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop.

 

 

Get to Know an Editor in Attendance: Elizabeth Schleisman of Beaming Books

Elizabeth Schleisman is an associate editor with Beaming Books.

Elizabeth is seeking a range of kidlit and children’s books. In picture books, she seeks fiction and nonfiction. In middle grade and young adult, she is seeking nonfiction submissions only (no fiction). She is also open to all types of board books.

Beaming Books publishes high-quality children’s books that help kids thrive in every part of who they are–emotionally, socially, and spiritually. With topics ranging from self-esteem to kindness, ethics, and faith, our books are designed to spark the imagination and equip kids and families to live full and flourishing lives, together.

Beaming Books is an imprint of 1517 Media. 1517 Media creates multimedia resources and distinctive books for Christian communities, higher-education learning and scholars, and the general reader. 1517 Media’s imprints include: Augsburg Fortress, Beaming Books, Fortress Press, and Sparkhouse.

Elizabeth has a Bachelor’s degree focused in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and English from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Claire Harris of P.S. Literary Agency

Claire Harris is a literary agent with P.S. Literary Agency

Claire (she/her) is a literary agent with a passion for a wide range of fiction and nonfiction for adults. After graduating from UT Austin, she worked at a mid-sized agency before joining the PSLA team. Claire seeks projects with unique voices, interesting writing styles, and compelling characters. She enjoys the creative process of working with creators and collaborating closely with them throughout all stages of their careers, and she has represented everything from debuts to NYT bestsellers. Having grown up in Wisconsin, she has a soft spot for stories set in the Midwest.

Claire is acquiring both fiction and nonfiction projects for adults. She’s actively seeking projects that shine a spotlight on people, places, and events that are often overlooked or not given the attention they deserve. In fiction, she’s looking for adult rom coms, contemporary fiction, psychological thrillers, select horror, and cozy mysteries—all for millennial audiences, specifically. Claire is happiest when reading manuscripts with unexpected endings or new twists on classic genre tropes. For nonfiction, Claire is seeking a range of projects, including lifestyle guides, pop culture celebrations, pop psychology, cultural criticism, humor, true crime, essay collections, and illustrated books for adults.

 

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Laura Zats of Headwater Literary

Laura Zats is a literary agent with Headwater Literary.

For over a decade, Laura has worked with books in every way from bookselling to editing to self-publishing. A literary agent since 2014, she finds the most joy in working closely with authors to build their long-term careers in ways that contribute positively to their financial and mental health, as well as the greater community. Since 2016, Laura has hosted Print Run, a publishing podcast, with Erik Hane and is increasingly passionate about teaching, mentorship, and the role books play in the fight for social justice.

In her spare time, Laura plays tabletop role-playing games, cooks elaborate meals, follows long-distance dogsled racing, and drinks a lot of tea. Connect with her on twitter @LZats.

LAURA’S REPRESENTATIVE CATEGORIES: 

  • YA
  • Science fiction/fantasy
  • Romance
  • Select mystery
  • Literary fiction with speculative elements
  • Select contemporary and historical fiction

“I am actively looking to flesh out the adult side of my list but am always excited to read YA. I particularly love to work on books that appeal to readers of different genres or subgenres—if you’re pitching something that crosses multiple areas of my list, I want to see it!”

IN YOUNG ADULT:

I’m interested in reading about standout characters I’ve never met before, clever twists on familiar themes, and compassionate writing. I’m also very interested in seeing marginalized creators take on “tired” tropes.

Unfortunately, 2020 has killed my interest in dystopia/big government stories, but I’m very much open to anything else. This is a category where I don’t quite know what I want until I see it, so take the above and run with it!

Favorite recent reads: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power, GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson

IN ROMANCE:

I gravitate towards tropes that build conflict from the roles and expectations a character brings with them at the start of the book—think enemies (or rivals) to lovers, fake relationship, and coworkers. Put another way, I like the tension to come from forces outside the relationship versus forces inside the relationship (like accidental pregnancy, love triangle, miscommunication, etc.)

I’m not a good fit for Christian romance.

I work with a lot of LGBTQ+ romance and am always excited to add more to my list in all subgenres! I particularly would love to see more f/f and would love more nb or trans characters.

Favorite recent reads: THE LADY’S GUIDE TO CELESTIAL MECHANICS by Olivia Waite, THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan

IN MYSTERY:

I am a life-long cozy mystery fan and am always looking for anything that hits Jessica Fletcher and/or Miss Marple notes. I am particularly looking for cozy series or standalone books that bring something fresh to the genre beyond a distinctive setting. For example, I’d love to see projects that play with romance or speculative fiction tropes as much as traditional mystery tropes, or that feature a BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ protagonist.

I will consider historical and contemporary mysteries, as well as speculative ones, as long as they hit the requirements listed above.

I am not looking for police/law enforcement heroes or love interests. I am also not looking for thrillers, even domestic thrillers.

Favorite recent reads: ARSENIC AND ADOBO by Mia P. Manansala, DEATH IN CASTLE DARK by Veronica Bond, the Below Stairs series by Jennifer Ashley, and anything by Elly Griffiths

IN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY:

SF/F will always be my first love, and as such, I’m very open to all subgenres, as well as horror. However, submitted projects must pass the Bechdel and/or the Mako Mori test.

Forever loves for me are heists/cons, fantasy that taps into gaming culture/fandom, witches, and reluctant, flawed heroes. I prefer to see traditional settings and tropes twisted on their heads. I’m drawn to seeing progressive, community-focused politics in my SFF and would love to have more decolonized worlds come across my desk.

I am less interested in dystopian/big gov stories, superheroes, steampunk, military SFF, and traditional Tolkien-esque high fantasy, but still willing to look at these books if they’re doing something new.

Favorite recent reads: GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir, RETURN OF THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, MAGIC FOR LIARS by Sarah Gailey, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar

IN LITERARY FICTION WITH SPECULATIVE ELEMENTS:

The primary distinction between literary fiction with speculative elements and general SFF is usually a matter of sales, not content. I’m separating this section out only in the event that you, the reader, haven’t considered querying agents who rep SFF!

I’m looking for a wide range of speculative elements here—from something as fantastical as the Cthulhu monsters in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY to something as subtle as the earth’s slowing rotation backdrop in THE AGE OF MIRACLES.

SELECT CONTEMPORARY AND HISTORICAL FICTION:

Historical with LGBTQ+ main characters (like THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters, THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Historical and contemporary fiction that isn’t speculative but either feels adjacent to SFF (like LITTLE by Edward Carey) or appeals to related fandoms (like A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas)

 

Get to Know an Editor in Attendance: Meg Gaertner of Flux & Jolly Fish Press

Meg Gaertner is a senior editor with Flux and Jolly Fish Press.

She is seeking young adult works.

Following jobs and internships in neuroscience, social work, and education, Meg rediscovered a childhood love of writing, earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch L.A., and got a job editing nonfiction at a publishing house. She has written three novels, attended multiple Futurescapes workshops, was a 2019 Pitch Wars mentee, made the Top Ten and Judges’ Favorites lists for Ink & Insights 2020, and is now the senior editor of middle grade and young adult fiction at Jolly Fish Press and Flux. She is also an author of YA fantasy and science fiction.

Young Adult Fiction Wish List:

Flux empowers young adults through imaginative, insightful, and inspiring fiction. Consistently provocative and independently alternative, Flux publishes unique narratives that expand perspectives, provide fresh takes, and increase representation. We welcome all voices and all genres of novel-length YA fiction.

I’m looking for well-crafted YA fiction with strong, engaging plots and one-of-a-kind characters. I prefer “out-of-the-box” stories that combine social commentary with a killer voice and a fresh premise. I also prefer stories with strong emotional arcs and themes.

I am open to the following YA genres:
• Contemporary
• Science Fiction
• Historical Fiction
• Horror
• Thrillers
• Mystery
• Contemporary Fantasy

Some specific wish list items:
• Genre-blending stories (mythology-inspired horror, sci-fi thriller, etc.)
• Anything horror, especially of the uncanny/unsettling variety
• Character-driven science fiction (less space opera and more exploring a theme such as our relationship to technology or what it means to be human)
• Historical fiction that highlights excluded or underrepresented experiences
• Protagonists as changemakers and activists
• Feminist, intersectional, post-colonial, and/or environmentally conscious stories
• Male lead characters who subvert toxic masculinity
• Found families and strong friendships, sibling relationships, and diverse ensemble casts
• Romance as a subplot OR romance not included at all (I’m not the best fit for romance as the chief plot)

Across all young adult genres, I welcome:
• LGBTQIA+ representation
• Neurodiversity
• Immigrant main characters
• Racial or cultural diversity

 

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Erin Casey Westin of Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency

Erin Casey Westin is a literary agent with Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

Erin graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and an ever-growing list of books to read.

She is open to all kid lit age groups, from picture books through YA, and is particularly drawn to work that shows the author’s world- and character-building ability. She wants to believe wholeheartedly in the world of the book, whether the setting is familiar or fantastic. She wants to see authentic, thoughtful representations of all people so that every kid can find a book that speaks to them. She wants even the simplest lines of dialogue to pluck at her heartstrings because they’re so perfectly written for that character. Erin loves that startled feeling you get upon reaching the end of a chapter in a really good book. You forget you’re reading when you’re so busy living, you know?

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Catherine Hedrick Armstrong of The Purcell Agency

Cathie Hedrick-Armstrong is a literary agent with The Purcell Agency.

Cathie is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota for nearly 30 years. A proud alumnus of The University of Oklahoma, she holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in History and is a rabid fan of OU Sooners Football.

A prolific reader of many genres, Cathie represents Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary and Historical Romance, Upmarket Women’s Fiction, Mysteries, and Thrillers. She deliberately keeps her client list small to give her authors the attention each deserves while still allowing herself time for her own writing career as an author of issue-driven young adult and women’s fiction. Her own authored titles include the young adult novel, Roam, and the women’s fiction title, The Edge of Nowhere.

Cathie looks for manuscripts that catch her attention within the first few pages. If you can evoke an emotional response in the opening pages—make her laugh out loud, cause her pulse to race, make her cry—you’ve got a winner.

Cathie is never interested in Science Fiction or High Fantasy in any genre; however, fantasy with paranormal/supernatural elements IF GROUNDED IN THE REAL WORLD are often a good fit. (Examples: Victoria Laurie’s Ghost Hunter series, Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries series, Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series, or Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse or Harper Connelly series).

Overall Wishlist:

  • As an Oklahoma native, Cathie is desperately searching for an #OwnVoices novel from a Native American perspective in either Young Adult or Adult categories. Bonus points if the setting is in Oklahoma or the characters are from one of the many tribes who call Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, etc., home.
  • A slow-burn enemies to lovers romance like The Spanish Love Deception, or a misunderstandings breed false assumptions like The Love Hypothesis.
  • Forever on the lookout for a contemporary rom-com similar to Jill Barnett’s Dreaming.

Young Adult:

Cathie is currently looking for YA romance, romantic comedies, mysteries, thrillers, and horror.
She loves strong female characters and would love a female athlete such as gymnast, competitive diver, or girl playing a non-traditional female sport and kicking butt while doing it.
Favorite YA Authors: E. Lockhart, Dana L. Davis. Tiffany D. Jackson, Karen M. McManus, and Nikki Barthelmess

Romance:

The most important aspect of a good romance for Cathie is one with a slow burn that allows the reader time to get to know the characters and root for them. The more angst keeping them apart (and eventually bringing them together), the better.

Favorite tropes are romantic comedies, enemies to lovers, misunderstandings, and best friends to lovers.

Varying heat levels are absolutely fine, but the story itself has to be strong enough that graphic sex isn’t what holds it together. Sex on the page should, in Cathie’s opinion, always make a story stronger and make sense for the characters’ story progression without “weakening” it if it was moved behind closed doors.

Favorite Romance Authors: Tessa Bailey, Rachel Van Dyken, Talia Hibbert, Helen Hoang, Alyssa Cole, Lyssa Kay Adams, Emily Henry, Ali Hazelwood, Kelly Cain, and Elena Armas.

Women’s Fiction, Mysteries, Thrillers, and Suspense:

Cathie wants to be pulled into the story immediately and forget everything else going on in the world around her. Oftentimes, these include stories with quirky characters, strong family relationships, or a hidden secrets the main character is keeping and must discover—or we, the reader, must discover.

Favorite Women’s Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers, and Suspense Authors: Colleen Hoover, Janet Evanovich, Kate Morton, Victoria Laurie, Lorna Landvik, Cathy Lamb, Heather Gudenkauf, Joshilyn Jackson, Mary Kubica, B.A. Paris, John Grisham, and Ruth Ware.

DO NOT PITCH CATHIE:

  • Nonfiction
  • High Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Stories including sexual assault when included without an absolutely “need” for inclusion in the story.
  • Queries to any social media inbox.
  • Queries to her email address or when she is closed to queries except by specific invitation from her to do so.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner

Jennifer Carlson is a literary agent with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner.

Jennifer has been agenting since 1997. Previously, she worked at Henry Dunow Literary Agency and Harold Ober Associates.

She works with narrative nonfiction writers and journalists covering current events and ideas and cultural history, as well as literary and upmarket commercial novelists. On the children’s side, her clients are primarily young adult and middle grade fiction writers. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she divides her time between Brooklyn and Minneapolis.

*She is not currently looking for new picture books or YA fantasy.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Savannah Brooks of KT Literary

Savannah Brooks is an agent with KT Literary.

Savannah started in agenting as an intern with the Jennifer De Chiara team in 2017, moving to associate agent in 2018. In 2022, she joined the incredible team at KT Literary as an agent, where she represents all of kid lit and adult contemporary fiction, romcoms, thrillers/mystery/suspense, and horror. She’s especially interested in stories that teach her something new, add to a larger sociopolitical conversation, and highlight underrepresented identities and cultures. She earned her MFA, focused in creative nonfiction, from Hamline University and her BS in marketing management from Virginia Tech and worked on the editorial side of publishing for two years prior to joining JDLA. As well as agenting, she works as a publishing and literature lecturer at the University of Minnesota and a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center. She lives in Minneapolis and can regularly be found at one of Minnesota’s 11,842 lakes — yes, even in winter.

She represents:

  • picture books
  • chapter books
  • middle grade
  • young adult (fiction and nonfiction)
  • adult fiction (contemporary/commercial, romcoms, thrillers/mysteries, and horror)

For kid lit, I always want to learn something—which means I want your characters to teach me something. If your MC has an unusual hobby or interest, they’re probably for me. I’m also always looking to acquire books that give insight to our increasingly global world, so books that take place in other countries, books that highlight cultural pockets within a country, books about cultural intersection, etc. I want books that highlight friendship (especially when it isn’t easy), battling social norms to find one’s place, and diversity (across all spectrums). And I always, always need a strong voice.

“As a general breakdown:

“In picture books, I’m looking for 1) stories that tackle serious subjects like politics, mental health, grief, and belonging in an accessible and empowering way, 2) stories that teach about and celebrate different cultures and places in the world, and 3) nonfiction that delights and inspires—especially if it has a feminist/disability/multicultural/queer angle.

“In middle grade, I lean very heavily toward action-adventure—especially when it’s based on non-western (that means no Greek/Roman) mythology and folklore. If you think it could sit on a bookshelf next to Rick Riordan’s works, it’s for me. I’m looking for humor and fast-pacing but still want content that touches on larger themes like belonging, grief, friendship, family, culture, etc. I’m not a good fit for quiet and serious books.

“In young adult, I’m looking for multicultural, disabled, and queer perspectives on everything from modern teen experiences to reframing classic tropes like vampires and witches. Voice is everything for me—I love sarcasm, quirk, and wit—and the story needs to be speaking to a larger sociopolitical conversation, even if in a lighthearted way. I’m all for books that empower teens to get political and take a stand for what they believe in. I’m also really drawn to stories that treat setting like a character, and I’ve especially been wanting atmospheric horror—stories where the spook comes from the place itself, similar to Wilder Girls.

“On a specific level, I’m looking for:

  • Recreational fighting, both combat and noncombat (MMA, kick/boxing, karate, fencing, weapon work, etc.)
  • Girl gamers
  • Girl mechanics/riders (give me cars, motorcycles, racing, and rebuilding all day, please)
  • Science/math oriented clubs and hobbies (robotics, rockets, astronomy, coding, VR, etc.)
  • Career-orientation (more for YA than MG)
  • Activism
  • Crossing gender stereotypes/norms (boy ballerinas, girl motocrossers, what have you)
  • #OwnVoices Hmong characters (doesn’t have to take place in the Twin Cities, but that would be a plus!)
  • #OwnVoices Native American and indigenous characters
  • Books that take place around (but don’t necessarily center on) non-Christian holidays (Eid, Dio de los Muertos, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Holi, etc.)—especially for PB!
  • Inter-generational friendship (especially in MG)
  • Spooks/thrillers/ghosties
  • Unlikeable, snarky, witty MCs
  • Retellings of global, often-underrepresented folklore/mythology
  • Smart, quirky humor (especially if your book takes on heavy issues; I don’t do heavy without humor)
  • Author-illustrator graphic novels (especially those aimed at reluctant readers)
  • Informational nonfiction about unexpected, fun, inspiring topics

“Note about nonfiction: if I’m going to take it on, I need to know you’re qualified to write about it and have a strong platform/network, so be sure to include that in your query.

“I’m more interested in contemporary and light fantasy/spec than I am in SFF, but that doesn’t mean SFF won’t be a fit (I’m mainly just a real stickler about world building). I’m also not a great fit for trauma/terminal illness/impending death unless you’re taking a laughing-through-the-pain approach, and I pretty much entirely stay away from sexual assault.

“On the adult side, I represent both contemporary/commercial fiction, romcoms, thrillers and mysteries, and horror.

“For contemporary: I want smart writing that has something important to say while still incorporating humor. Voice is everything, so gives me a witty/sarcastic MC. Think SKYE FALLING, QUEENIE, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. I’m always looking for underrepresented voices and to learn something new.

“For romcoms, I want big emphasis on COM—à la Emily Henry. I also love stories that teach me something, so characters with intriguing jobs/hobbies is going to be up my alley. I’m particularly looking for interracial/intercultural stories (big plus if both character are of color).

“For thriller/mystery, I do NOT want the MC to be in law enforcement (including FBI/CIA). I’ve been digging Lisa Gardner’s Frankie Elkin series, and I love Lucy Foley, Andrea Bartz, and Riley Sager. I want badass, smart women, brilliant plotting, whiplash pacing, a strong secondary cast. I’m also open to paranormal elements here—think Simone St. James. I love a good haunting.

“For horror, atmosphere is everything, and I’d LOVE to get horror that plays off of folklore, particularly non-Eurocentric—think Stephen Graham Jones. I also want to learn about other cultures/histories—think Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Perks if there’s an environmental bent.

A note about thrillers, mysteries, and horror: while I love spooky and twisty and dark, I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence, and, again, I stay away from sexual assault.”

Get to Know an Editor in Attendance: Deidra Purvis of Free Spirit Publishing

Deidra Purvis is the acquisitions editor for Free Spirit Publishing, the leading publisher of books to support young people’s social-emotional learning and wellbeing.

She’s looking for new board books, picture books, and nonfiction books for kids and teens.

Before joining Free Spirit Publishing, Deidra gained market insight as a bookseller of books for children and teens. Deidra has a B.S. in Secondary Education in English and is finishing up her MFA in Creative Writing, with expected completion in May 2023.

Wishlist and info:
• Books for ages 0-18
• Human characters only, please
• Narrative, high-interest, and lyrically written pictures books about experiences children find relatable and personally meaningful, especially stories and perspectives that are original and fresh
• Picture books that portray important stories and explore the truths of pain and joy from historically underrepresented voices
• Picture books exploring appreciation for the environment
• Picture books and board books grounded in place (might include elements of culture, music, food, family, nature, etc.)
• High-interest, original, and fun picture books with any of these themes: creativity, zest, patience, mindfulness, hard work, perseverance, grit, determination, friendship, gratitude, kindness, honesty, emotions, confidence, resilience, respect, empathy, growth-mindset, self-awareness, social-awareness, etc.
• Fiction and nonfiction books portraying social-emotional learning (SEL) skills applied to STEM
• Nonfiction picture books for younger kids about disabilities
• Nonfiction for older kids and teens applying SEL to youth activism
• Nonfiction books for kids and teens on physical and mental health (wellness) topics, especially written by experts in the field
• New and exciting biographical picture books

Prioritizing:
• Authentic voices from underrepresented authors
• Culturally relevant books written by Asian American and Latine/Hispanic authors

About Free Spirit:
Whether at home, in school, or out in the world, all kids face challenges. No matter the choices, changes, and opportunities young people encounter, Free Spirit has had the same mission since 1983: to provide children and teens—and the adults who care for and about them—with the tools they need to think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.

Today more than ever, young people need social and emotional guidance. We aim to meet all kids—babies, teens, and everyone in between—where they are (not where we wish they were) and to support them in developing their talents, building resiliency, and fostering a positive outlook on life so they can reach their full potential.

We are currently focused on growing our list of culturally relevant and authentic picture books aligned with Social Emotional Learning themes.