Presenters and Instructors

This faculty page for presenters and critique personnel
will be updated over time for the 2020 event. Thank you.


dawn-1313Red Sofa Literary is the celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our exciting literary community.  Realizing that the best ideas come via engaging conversations and over good coffee, while sometimes relaxing in a colorful lounger.

Established by literary agent Dawn Frederick, previously of Sebastian Literary Agency,  she brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table—with multiple years of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores; sales, marketing, & book development at a YA publisher, a published nonfiction author, and an agent associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency in 2002 (before Red Sofa Literary was established).

In addition to her literary agent duties, she extensively volunteers with her local library system, while still finding time to spend quality time on her “wheels.”

At the 2020 Minnesota event, Dawn will not be taking pitches. Rather, she is focusing on teaching and critiques. She is doing critiques as an add-on element for attendees — for young adult, middle grade, picture books, nonfiction, and memoir.


Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 12.19.34 PMMary Kole is a former literary agent and current book editor.  Since 2009, her website has inspired aspiring writers with articles on the writing craft and getting published. The blog has been named one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” by Writer’s Digest every year since its inception, and her success online led to a book of completely original content on the art of writing novels for the middle grade and young adult categories, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, out from Writer’s Digest Books.

At the 2020 MN workshop, Mary is teaching on writing awesome young adult and middle grade novels.

Mary was formerly a literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency before becoming a Senior Literary Manager and founder of the children’s book department at Movable Type Management in New York City. In 2013, she left to finally pursue her first love, editorial work, full-time.

Mary grew up in the Bay Area and spent many years in her adopted home city of beautiful San Francisco, CA. After three years in Brooklyn, NY, at the heart of the publishing industry, she now lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her chef husband, Todd, sons, Theo and Finn, and two needy and adorable pugs, Olive and Gertie.


Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 12.30.07 PMKate Hopper is a teacher, editor, writing coach, and mother (and wife and daughter and sister and friend…the list goes on and on). She writes memoir, essays, and is currently working on a novel.

Kate is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood, winner of a MIPA Midwest Book Award, and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. And she is the co-author of Silent Running: Our Family’s Journey to the Finish Line with Autism (Triumph Books) Other writing has appeared in a number of magazines and journals, including Brevity, Literary Mama, Los Angeles Review of Books,, Poets & Writers, and River Teeth.

Kate has been the recipient of a Fulbright Grant, a Gesell Summer Fellowship at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota, a University of Minnesota English Department Outstanding Teacher Award for Graduate Assistants, a 2008 and a 2014 MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and a 2011 Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant.

At the 2020 MN conference, Kate is teaching classes on memoir writing as well as writing with empathy, and also doing critiques as an add-on element for attendees.


Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 10.21.50 AMLaura Zats is a literary agent and founder of Headwater Literary.

At the 2020 MN conference, Laura is not taking pitches, but rather teaching and doing critiques for attendees.

For a decade, Laura has worked with books in every way from book selling, to editing and ghostwriting, to helping authors self-publish. A literary agent for over six years, 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 weekly publishing podcast, with Erik Hane. Passionate about teaching, mentorship, and the role books play in the fight for social justice, she is currently serving her third term on the board of the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable, a non-profit that provides ongoing education for new and established publishing professionals. In her spare time, Laura plays tabletop role-playing games, follows the long-distance dogsled-racing season from her couch, and drinks a lot of tea. Connect with her on twitter @LZats.


Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 10.10.00 PM.pngEric Smith is a literary agent with P.S. Literary Agency.

Eric began his publishing career at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, working social media and marketing on numerous books he absolutely adored. Eric completed his BA in English at Kean University, and his MA in English at Arcadia University. A frequent blogger, his ramblings about books appear on Book Riot, Paste Magazine, Barnes & Noble’s blog, and more. As an author, he’s been published by Bloomsbury, Quirk, and Flux.

At the 2020 MN workshop, he is taking pitches, and also teaching the speech: Understanding How to Use Social Media (and Demystifying “Platform”).

He is seeking: He seeks adult science fiction and fantasy. “I’m looking for accessible fantasy and sci-fi, especially books that do a bit of genre blending. John Scalzi is probably the perfect example. Redshirts (sci-fi collides with pop culture) and Lock In (sci-fi smashed up with noir and mystery) are great comparables for what I love.” That said, no adult epic fantasy or military sci-fi, please. He likes adult literary & commercial/mainstream fiction: “Again, the sweet spot here, is work that does a bit of genre mashing. Think Station Eleven or The Last Policeman (one of my favorite books ever). I like literary novels with a splash of quirk.” Thrillers and mysteries are welcome, but no thrillers about terrorism, please. In young adult, he seeks contemporary, science fiction and fantasy — including diverse voices/books or genre blending. For nonfiction, he likes cookbooks (particularly ideas from bloggers), books that focus on pop culture and geekery, fun books that teach readers about the odd and the unique (a la Mary Roach), and essay collections & memoir from people who are writing and publishing pieces actively.

He is not seeking: middle grade, picture books, angel & demon love stories, heaven/hell stories, horror, or adult fiction about sports. (YA fiction about sports is fine.)



Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 1.03.06 PMSavannah Brooks is a literary agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

At the 2020 MN event, she will be meeting with attendees for one-on-one pitches. She will also be teaching a class on researching your fiction.

Savannah joined the Jennifer De Chiara team in 2018, after interning for a year and a half. She’s an MFA candidate at Hamline University focusing in creative nonfiction as well as an editor at Red Bird Chapbooks, a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center, and a reader for multiple literary magazines. Her own creative work has been publishing in Hobart, Lime Hawk, and Every Writer’s Resource, among others. When not immersed in the world of words, she can be found on her bike, at a dive bar, or lounging at one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. She lives in the most beautiful literary capital: Saint Paul.

To learn more about the genres and categories she seeks, check out her agent page here.



Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 6.42.01 PM.pngEssie White is a literary agent and founder of Storm Literary Agency.

She specializes in children’s picture books. She also represents some middle grade fiction and middle grade nonfiction.

At the 2020 Minnesota workshop, Essie is teaching on picture book writing. She is also taking one-on-one pitches from attendees.

Essie started her literary career by focusing on those for whom the literature was written: Children. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education with per primary focus in Special Education. When working with special needs children, struggling with language, she discovered the beauty of words, and the rhythm of a well composed story, engaged them. She later went on to teach traditional elementary students and found that reading was best achieved, when a good book was the focus, not the specific skillset.

While expecting her third child (she has four), Essie completed her Masters of Arts in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction for Early Childhood Education. That’s when her real journey with books began. Using quality children’s literature as the foundation, she began creating curricula for local and national homeschool groups as well as independent preschool organizations. For each subject, each topic, each thematic unit, she used a book as the starting point. When teaching, she read a book to begin each lesson. And when writing curriculum, she utilized a book as the launching pad for each learning objective.

A few years later, and with her youngest daughter as the inaugural student, Essie used this combination of skills and passions, to start her own early childhood development program. Still in operation today, after seventeen years, the school serves over 110 students daily in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States. Although Essie is no longer managing the school on site, each lesson, each day, still begins with a quality children’s book.

Fueling not just their creativity but also their emotional and intellectual growth, Essie understood the power art played in the development of small children. She became accustomed to including art activities as complimentary lessons to the literary ones. Her passion for exceptional art grew as a result. She witnessed the impact of stories told through beautiful pictures, both the stories the children created, as well as those she shared with them in books.

When she relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and entrenched herself into the local children’s book community, Essie started receiving inquiries from local authors, asking about the path to publication. A lot of research later, as well as a lot of work, Essie decided to open her small agency with the hope of ensuring capable artists and authors, could eventually get their work seen by editors and publishers. Storm Literary Agency was subsequently launched in 2014.

Essie White is most proud, not necessarily of the agency’s work, but of the individuals that compile that agency. She is thankful and appreciative of the efforts of those members who work hard to support one another, and to represent the best in children’s publishing, always mindful of those whom reap the benefits: Children.


Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 2.06.14 PMEve Porinchak is an author, as well as a former literary agent.

At the 2020 MN workshop, Eve is offering critiques for attendees.

Please note that Eve is only critiquer who will not personally be at the MN event. Instead, she is happy to have her 10-minute consultation meetings with writers over the phone or Skype.

Since earning degrees in Biology and Psychology from UCLA, Eve has lived all over the planet and spent much of her time in and out of jail – as a creative writing teacher for teen inmates. A former agent with Jill Corcoran Literary Agency, Eve also attended medical school, served as a social worker with foster youth and homeless populations, and taught everything from first grade to college courses.

Eve writes stories featuring youth she feels have been underrepresented in children’s literature, such as those born into gang life, the abandoned, and the incarcerated who – ironically – have the most fascinating tales to tell. Her first book, the critically acclaimed ONE CUT – a haunting nonfiction story with a juvenile justice bent – launched Simon and Schuster’s new young adult true crime line, Simon True.


Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 4.55.13 PM.pngLesley Sabga is a literary agent with The Seymour Agency.

At the 2020 MN workshop, she is teaching on social media. She is also meeting with attendees for one-on-one pitches.

Lesley loves intricate and vivid world-building and character driven plots. She is actively acquiring middle grade sci-fi & fantasy, young adult sci-fi & fantasy, and adult sci-fi & fantasy. She is always down to read a dark and twisty suspense or thriller featuring strong, female protagonists. She also loves a classic happily-ever-after romance or curling up with a good mystery. She is also interested in acquiring narrative nonfiction.

Since graduating from The University of Kentucky (Go Cats!) and obtaining her Editorial Certification from The University of Chicago, Lesley has worked as an editorial intern and freelancer for multiple publishing houses. She’s also been working for The Seymour Agency since 2014.

When she is not rescuing animals or searching for her next debut author, Lesley is a constant occupant at local bookstores in Colorado Springs and is a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado.


Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.58.43 AM.pngKelly Peterson is a literary agent with Rees Literary Agency.

At the 2020 MN workshop, Kelly is teaching on synopsis writing. She is also meeting with attendees for one-on-one pitches.

Kelly is a West Chester University graduate with a B.S.Ed in English and Literature. She worked as a Junior Literary Agent for two years before moving to Rees Literary Agency, continuing to champion her authors and the manuscripts she loves.

Kelly seeks manuscripts in various genres within Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult age ranges. In Middle Grade, she loves fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary that touches on tough issues for young readers. Her Young Adult preferences vary from contemporary to high fantasy, sci-fi (not the space kind) to paranormal (all the ghost stories, please!), and historical all the way back to rom-coms. Kelly is proud to continue to represent Adult manuscripts in romance, fantasy, and sci-fi. She is very interested in representing authors with marginalized own voices stories, witty and unique characters, pirates, witches, and dark fantasies.


Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 12.18.29 PM.pngRachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Agency.

At the 2020 MN workshop, Rachelle is teaching a class on the timeline of a book. She is also meeting with attendees for one-on-one meetings.

For adult fiction, she seeks submissions in both the general and Christian markets — for women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller, family saga, historical, legal, literary fiction, mainstream fiction, and romance. For nonfiction,she seeks both Christian market and general market projects: memoirs, home life, current affairs, health & diet, narrative nonfiction, popular culture, self-help, women’s and issues. Platform is important, so be sure to highlight it in your pitch. She occasionally looks at devotionals

“As a literary agent, I’ve negotiated 200+ contracts with more than 20 publishers, and worked with more than 100 authors to bring their books to publication and build their careers. I’ve been in publishing since 1995, worked in-house at two publishing companies, and edited books published by Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and many more. Nowadays I’m lucky to do my work at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.”

“Besides publishing: Just out of college, I spent five years at Fox Broadcasting Company in Los Angeles. My bachelor’s degree is in Communications, and I later did graduate studies in Psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu. When I’m not working, you can usually find me out hiking the local trails, riding my bike, haunting bookstores, or having coffee at Starbucks.”


Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 8.16.11 PMChuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) is a freelance editor, best-selling book author, and former longtime staffer for Writer’s Digest Books. For many years he edited the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET.

At the 2020 Minnesota conference, he is teaching many courses on getting published, and critiquing attendee query letters as an add-on element.

His Guide to Literary Agents Blog was one of the largest blogs in publishing, and he wrote the platform guidebook CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. His humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck’s books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, Buzzfeed, Mental Floss, New York magazine, and many more media outlets. He is a successful freelance editor of queries, synopses, and manuscripts—seeing dozens of clients get agents or book deals following his consultations/edits. He loves meeting new writers.