Meet the Conference Faculty: Jason Pinter

“For me, it all comes down to character.”

-Jason Pinter

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Jason Pinter

Jason Pinter is the founder and Publisher of Polis Books, an independent press he launched in 2013, and the bestselling author of six novels and two children’s books. Polis titles have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Thriller Award, and Jason’s own books have been nominated for the Strand Critics Award, Thriller, Shamus, Barry, and more. He was named one of Publisher Weekly’s inaugural Star Watch honorees, which “recognizes young publishing professionals who have distinguished themselves as future leaders of the industry.”

Scribe: What is your approach to the author/publisher relationship?

Jason Pinter: As a writer myself, I empathize with the publishing process from my authors’ perspectives. I know how much work went into their manuscripts, and all the anxieties and unknowns that are a part of being a debut author—or even an author starting out with a new publisher. So I try to be as communicative as possible, to make sure the authors know each step of the process and timelines, what to expect and when. Publishing may be a business, but I try to make our authors feel like they’re part of a creative partnership, so that by the time their book comes out and hits shelves and e-readers, they’re happy with the finished product inside and out.

Scribe: Are there specific elements draw you to a project?

JP: Writing. Characters. Plot. You can tell right off the bat—I mean page one—if an author can write. That’s a talent evident in every sentence. But you need to delve into the manuscript to see if they create fully-fleshed out characters, and a story that moves and engages. I like to see stories we haven’t seen before or familiar stories told in a different way. But for me, it all comes down to character. If I’m going to spend the next 300-400 pages with a group of people, I want be fascinated with them, and disappointed when they leave my life at the end of the book.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

JP: Ain’t Nobody Nobody is a debut novel we’re publishing this fall from a Texas author named Heather Harper Ellett. Every sentence has personality, every character feels like someone you could meet on the street, and the amount of humor and humanity Heather packs into her story just floored me.

Scribe: And also, what is your favorite thriller that came out recently?

JP: Finding Katarina M. by Elisabeth Elo is a riveting novel about a woman who thought her family had perished years ago in Stalin’s gulags, only to find out that may not be the case. And she then must go from D.C. all the way to snow-packed Siberia to learn the truth. On the non-Polis side, I’m not sure it’s a thriller but I can’t stop raving about Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. It’s The Talented Mr. Ripley for the social media generation, a coiled snake of a novel that continually surprised me (and I’m not easy to surprise).

Thanks, Jason!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

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Meet the Publisher: Arte Público Press

“The Arte Público Press created an outlet for Latinos, especially during the civil rights movement, which was something that was inevitable because we were striving for independence in every direction of every single way.”

-Dr. Nicolás Kanellos

Arte Público Press, publisher of Latino literary creativity and arts, is the nation’s oldest and largest publisher of U.S.-based Hispanic authors. Founded in 1979 by Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, Arte Público Press has shone an incredible spotlight on Latino voices and provided a much-needed platform for their success and publication through the intellectual space at the University of Houston. The Press was the original publisher to many literary revolutionaries like Sandra Cisneros, Luis Valdez, Victor Villaseñor, and Helena María Viramontes, and they have done extensive philanthropic work to promote young voices and literacy. On their 40th anniversary this January, Arte Público Press received the prestigious Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award given annually to a person or institution with great contributions to book culture, with past recipients including Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer-winning Toni Morrison. This award is monumental, and we would like to share an interview with Dr. Kanellos regarding the award and Press’ accomplishments.

 

An Interview with Dr. Nicolás Kanellos

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WLT: You started Arte Público Press in 1979 during the Hispanic Civil Rights movement to showcase Latino voices especially because mainstream media did not publish their incredible works. What value do you believe that writing and the creative arts bring to a person, and how has your press been able to emphasize these values of creative expression for the Latino community?

Dr. Nicolás Kanellos: Ever since human beings walked the planet on the earth, expression has been very important and became elevated to the level of art very early in human history. What we have found, going back to the civil rights movement in the 1960s for independence, is that with no creative outlet, it’s like putting a stopper on a bottle of gas, just building up pressure until it must be released. The Press created an outlet for Latinos, especially during the civil rights movement, which was something that was inevitable because we were striving for independence in every direction of every single way. Second, the creative arts–theatre, music, literature–became just as much a part of the civil rights movement as voting, political organizing, marching, boycotting, etc. At first literature, theatre, and music were used to support these movements as secondary to the politics, but by the end of the 1970s the creative arts were liberated from just serving political ends and became independent endeavors. In fact, the poets were the ones who would kick off a march, support a boycott and verbalize what people were feeling during the whole movement. We were on the same page and were aware of all these creative people not getting much of an outlet, which is why we started our magazine in 1973 and created the Press in 1979.

WLT: What benefits do creating an exclusively Latino platform bring to the Latino community? And also, have you faced any setbacks because of the platform belonging to one group?

NK: We named ourselves Arte Público Press because we saw ourselves as part of the public art movement which meant that we would be drawn to the community, from public spaces, and reflect it back just like a mural reflecting the Latino community’s life. We thought that our literature should be drawn from the community, its languages, its themes, its perspectives, its visual culture, and reflect that back to the community by making our books available to the community and not just the grassroots. The importance of that, why we continue to do that, is because there is still very very few opportunities for Latinos to publish their works. You pick up an issue of Publisher’s Weekly and quite often, of the 50 or 60 books reviewed each weeks, there are weeks you don’t even find one book written by a Latino. You pick up the New York Times book review and you often won’t find anything by Latinos. The doors are still very closed, though there are exceptions that go through the creative writing pipeline or other publishing houses, but still, writers outside of the institutions who did not go to elite colleges, don’t have that much of a chance. We still have a role here, and the drawbacks are that we are a minority organization and a minority community, and we are treated like such. Automatically, Latino creativity is seen as something marginal, unprofessional, untutored; all these stereotypes are natural, and we are facing them. When we put our books out there, there are librarians and teachers going over every piece we work, and looking at how well we write English.. It’s that kind of response we often get: not seeing our books reviewed, not being eligible for any awards, that’s the response we get. So getting this major award, the major award for publishers, will hopefully help us break through to get more of our books and writers recognized.

WLT: The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement award is such a huge prestige and given annually to a person or institution with an extensive history of significant contributions to book culture, which is often often authors. You received this award as the director and founder of the Arte Público Press; what was your initial reaction to this great honor and what did it mean to you all?

NK: Well, to be honest, I cried. It took me completely by surprise, it was like a bolt of lightning coming out of nowhere, I hadn’t even aspired it to that. It’s only the fourth time they (National Book Critics Circle) have every given it to a publishing house, so it’s something that was never even on my horizon. The initial shock, surprise, happiness, was very emotional for all our staff, and so was going up on the stage with the staff to receive the award; they have been with us about twenty years or more, and we are all in love with the mission. We work very hard, over forty hours a week, and we put all our efforts into publishing and promoting the writers and books, though we do not promote the Press. We’re an unknown entity, even in our hometown; we are called one of the best-kept secrets because we are not helping or marketing ourselves, we’re marketing our writers and books.

WLT: Given all the hard work you and the Press staff put in, which accumulated in this great award, to what do you most attribute your Press’s success?

NK: We have to mention, as part of our success, our writers and the books that they have written, which have become bestsellers, and we’ve launched the careers of many writers that have gone onto big publishing houses. The publishing world know where these people came from; it wasn’t from agents or other publishers, they came from us. We are out there scouting at book festivals and community organizing, and we recognize people doing good work and invite them to submit their books. We get 2000 submissions a year and only get to publish about 25 books a year. Unlike other publishing houses, we go through all the submissions, and we find gems. In the case of Sandra Cisneros, she was working at a high school in Chicago with at-risk kids and capturing the lives and stories of these students; she’d read these stories at open mics and writer gatherings, so I invited her to put these stories together and submit to us. We worked with her to form it into a book, The House on Mango Street, and it was wonderful. At first, nobody knew about it, but we raised money to tour the authors around small libraries and convincing professors to let the writers come meet, and so Sandra, Evangelina Vigil, Pat Mora, Helena María Viramontes, all became recognized and known in academia. It wasn’t until a few years later, when Stanford and elite institutions integrated the curriculum and started picking up our books, that the rest of the world began to take note. And quite often, that note was negative. The Wall Street Journal had a headline about us–great books replaced by the not-so-great, they were talking about our books. It had a wonderful effect actually, the opposite of what they wanted because people started wondering what these books are. People went to bookstores that didn’t carry our books, so we began to get more orders to be shelved and took off from there.

WLT: I see that you left teaching at Indiana and accepted an offer at the University of Houston in 1980, where you led much of the efforts for Arte Público Press. How does the Houston writing community compare to other communities and how has it helped the Press gain the momentum it did?

NK: Houston, out of Texas, is probably home to the most dynamic writing community because you have grassroots writers from diverse communities in the most diverse city in the country. You have Asian American, African American, Latino, Anglo American writers quite often performing at the same venue. We have many community-based writing organizations like Imprint for national writers, and Nuestra Palabra, which is a Latino grassroots writing organization that has a radio show and does presentations of local writers. We take writers across the country touring and into the schools, which is supported in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts. We have programs with the Houston Public Library, and Houston has two major creative writing programs at the University of Houston in the English and Spanish departments. We have one of the major literary bookstores in all of the Southwest, Brazos Books, that has open doors to everyone with an active reading program that has had quite a bit of impact. A lot is going on Houston.

WLT: Issues like the word gap in low income communities with children not receiving the same vocabulary or exposure to certain words impact their outcomes greatly, and especially being raised in non-English speaking households can affect how children perform on standardized testing. Your Latino Children’s Wellness Program among other initiatives is incredibly impactful on such children’s lives. How have these communities particularly benefited from your program and what future do you hope it creates?

NK: We have our Pinata Books imprint which has children’s dynamic picture books, middle reader books, and adult books. We have a program with the Houston Independent School District wherein we take a librarian, writer, and one of our staff people and go into a school to work with parents where we teach them how to support their children’s reading, create a reading culture at home, and show them how books work and how to read to their kids. They’ll give everybody a library card, a handout, and five them children’s books for them to take home. Quite often they’re the first books these children ever own. We bring in writers to talk about the importance of creativity and writing and how they became writers as well as teach them to tell their own stories. Our program goes beyond reading to kids, we are more involved because, oftentimes, these kids have never seen someone who looks like this and published a book.

WLT: As a final question, what has been your favorite moment with Arte Público in the past 40 years?

NK: What gives me the greatest joy, is when I’m in the schools and I see the kids holding the books and reading them and loving them. I love when I’m there, and the kids will come around and hug you and want to hold onto you because they’re just so overwhelmed. That–that’s my best moment.

Thank you, Dr. Kanellos, for your inspiring work!

To find more about Arte Público Press, click here.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Saba Sulaiman

“Our interests are aligned in that we both want the author to succeed, so ideally we work together to make that happen.”

-Saba Sulaiman

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Saba Sulaiman

Saba Sulaiman holds a BA from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. She joined Talcott Notch Literary after working as an editorial intern at Sourcebooks, where she worked primarily on their romance line. She’s looking primarily to build her Middle Grade and Young Adult lists, and is particularly (although not exclusively) interested in contemporary realistic stories. She’s also open to category romance (all subgenres except paranormal), literary, upmarket, and commercial fiction, tightly plotted, character-driven psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries a la Agatha Christie, and memoir.

Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Saba Sulaiman: Every author/agent relationship is naturally different, but I like to think all of my clients trust me and my judgment implicitly and feel comfortable approaching me about anything at all. Our interests are aligned in that we both want the author to succeed, so ideally we work together to make that happen. This means keeping communication channels open at all times and checking in frequently with each other regarding our expectations of each other as well as our changing circumstances. As long as we remain honest, forthright, and dedicated to working as hard as we can towards achieving our common goals, the relationship should remain healthy and (hopefully!) prove fruitful.

Scribe: Are there specific elements draw you to a project?

SS: A strong, personable, authoritative, and stylish voice with a fresh take on a topic/themes I’m interested in.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

SS: I’m very excited about the first YA novel I sold—it’s called Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor (Scholastic, October 2019), and it’s an incredibly written science fantasy novel with queer main characters who are ambitious and flawed and on an unforgettable journey to achieve their (often conflicting) goals. Oh, and there are villainous parents and large hats involved, so how can you resist?

Thanks, Saba!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference: Boldface Conference

Emerging doesn’t mean inexperienced — it means on the cusp of something great. All of our participants are on that cusp, and we do everything we can at Boldface to help give them that tiny push they need to really take their creative writing to the next level.”

– Cait Wess Orcutt

The Boldface Conference is a week-long convention held annually at the University of Houston for undergraduate and emerging writers both locally and nationwide. The conference itinerary is filled with writing workshops, craft talks, professional panels, readings, evening events around the city, and private consultations with the 2019 Visiting Writers: Jason Koo, Bryan Washington, and Jessica Willbanks. Boldface is open to any writers who have not yet published a book through a major publisher or enrolled in an MFA Creative Writing program. This year it falls from May 20th through May 24th, and we would like to share an interview with this year’s Boldface Conference Coordinator, Cait Weiss Orcutt, below.

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An Interview with Cait Weiss Orcutt

Scribe: What inspired your decision to coordinate the Boldface Conference?

Cait Wess Orcutt: As a current PhD Poetry student at the University of Houston, I was given the opportunity to learn the ropes of conference planning, not simply theoretically, but by actually being plunked right down into experience. I have admired Boldface ever since I first taught my own class at the conference. I’ve been floored by the students who attend, the great balance between community members and students, and the conference’s investment in providing all emerging writers with a sort of mini-MFA experience surrounded by big name authors, poets and essayists in one of the most dynamic cities in America.

Scribe: I see that there is a focus on craft, through workshops and master classes. What are the sorts of craft issues that past participants at the conference have gotten excited to work on and talk about?

CWO: “Craft” comes up quite a bit at Boldface, not only in our discussions about the tools we have to tell a story, to craft a memoir, or to create or poem, but also in the potential problems with any single, pervasive idea of “craft” itself. When we say “craft,” part of what we’re talking about is the how. How can you take your ideas and get them on the page. If the ideas are already on the page (and we hope you’re celebrating this if they are), how can you make them live us to your vision for the piece? “Craft” allows us to expand our ideas of what a story, poem, essay or book can be. Last year’s visiting writer craft talks were “Authenticity, Originality, and Ego: How to Navigate Culture & Lyric in Eurocentric Spaces” (presented by Analicia Sotelo), “Trauma and Radical Empathy: Painting Scenes through Narrative Gaze and Authorial Observation” (presented by Daniel Peña) and “Keeping It 100: Bringing Your Whole Self to the Page” (presented by Dickson Lam). We have had talks that investigate chronology in Science Fiction writing, topics in translation, the persona poem, code-switching as character development, the “rules” of setting and when/how to break them, building momentum in a novel, how to craft and support your own unique aesthetic… Really, our craft discussion center on anything that might get someone excited about their writing or prompt them to look at familiar territory in a new, electric way.

Scribe: Why focus on undergrads and emerging writers?

CWO: There are so many avenues open to students currently in an MFA or PhD program that we really wanted to focus on the writers who, though they may well be writing at or above that level, did not choose to attend a traditional creative writing graduate school program. I took almost a decade off between undergrad and graduate school myself, but I was still an emerging, hungry writer. I enrolled myself in workshops and conferences much like Boldface to keep my creative life vibrant and active, even while I was working a 9-to-5. Our participants at Boldface are newly graduated college students, young professionals who create on the side, parents who can’t take on the full-time financial and time commitment of a traditional writing program, career-driven STEM majors who just can’t not write even if it’s not their literal job to do so, retirees who have been holding onto their stories (imagined or not) for far too long… Emerging doesn’t mean inexperienced — it means on the cusp of something great. All of our  participants are on that cusp, and we do everything we can at Boldface to help give them that tiny push they need to really take their creative writing to the next level, no matter what they choose to do with their work in the long run.

Scribe: What do each of the visiting writers bring to the Boldface conference?

CWO: This year’s visiting writers are Bryan Washington, Jessica Wilbanks and Jason Koo. All three bring an outstanding level of insight, empathy, creative passion and pedagogical magic to Boldface. Every year, our visiting writers astonish us with their commitment to the mission of Boldface–to foster real, lasting connections between writers and help participants see their creative work in a fresh, inspiring light.

WLT: What sort of field trips do participants go on?

CWO: This year, we’ll be focusing on the Houston arts scene, specifically the world-renowned Menil Collection, including the Rothko Chapel, and the University of Houston’s own Blaffer Museum, which will be showcasing the work of Amie Siegel, whose multi-media art uses the associative structure of poetry and the dispassionate perspective of sociology to investigate complex systems of power and value.

As usual, we’ll also have two off-campus evening readings/Open Mics showcasing Houston’s literary scene. This year we’ll be gathering at Brasil Cafe in Montrose and Kaboom Books in the Heights.

Scribe: Two of the visiting writers live in Houston. One (Bryan Washington) has written a story collection set there, and the conference is hosted by the University of Houston, one of the most prestigious MFA programs in the country. What about Houston makes it a particularly fertile community for writers?

CWO: You’ve asked my favorite question! What about Houston creates writers? What doesn’t! Houston in the most diverse city in America, meaning we can’t foreground one version of the American story–we learn from our earliest moments here that every single narrative has complications, interactions, and counter-narratives. Houston is a polyphonic, multilingual city of a million recipes and family stories all put in a pressure cooker of voice-nurturing humidity, unparalleled arts funding, innovative scholarship, flourishing business, terrifying ecology, immense Texas sky, and flowers the size of your face. If you’re looking for a landscape full of mythic potential, full of expanse and minutiae, of hard work and big dreams, of political tension and ice house ease, you’d have a tough time finding one better than Houston.

Thank you, Cait!

To find more about the Boldface Conference registration, click here.

For a schedule of events, click here.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Paul Stevens

“If I’m drawn in and want to keep reading, that’s a really good sign.”

-Paul Stevens

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens has been an agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency since 2016. Before joining DMLA, he worked as an editor at Tor Books for 15 years focusing on science fiction and fantasy. Paul is primarily looking to represent science fiction and fantasy for adults, but he also will consider other genres such as mystery and suspense if they have science fiction / fantasy elements. He represents authors such as Kel Kade, Jeremy Finley, Dan Koboldt, Leanna Renee Hieber, and Sean Grigsby.

Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Paul Stevens: I’m generally a pretty laid back person, so I prefer to have a pretty calm relationship with my clients. I’m happy to answer their questions and explain how the process works, and I do my best to make sure that the client is kept informed as things develop.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

PS: I get most excited about projects where I am immediately drawn into the story. This can happen even with something as short as a 5-page sample–if I’m drawn in and want to keep reading, that’s a really good sign.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

PS: The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, which goes on sale June 18, in print, ebook, and audio. Agnes submitted a query and a 5-page sample that captured me with its lyrical writing and intriguing story. When I emailed her to ask for more, my first comment was, “Wow, Agnes. This is pretty awesome!” The Record Keeper is a near-future dystopia that examines past and present race relations and is based on the life of Frederick Douglass.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in sci-fi and fantasy that subvert their tropes. Is there a recent novel that you’ve encountered that does this?

PS: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade , which is scheduled for November 5, in print, ebook and audio. Kel is the New York Times bestselling author of the King’s Dark Tidings series. With Fate of the Fallen, Kel begins a brand new, unrelated series that takes the classic “hero’s quest” trope and turns it on its head.

Thanks, Paul!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Kim Lionetti

I’ve been dying for a story that focuses on the sibling relationships there: the complicated feelings of obligation, love, responsibility, etc.

-Kim Lionetti

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Kim Lionetti

Kim Lionetti is a senior literary agent at BookEnds. Having started her twenty-five-year career in the industry as an editor at Berkley Publishing, she enjoys helping authors shape their works into books their readers will love. Kim’s client list includes women’s fiction, suspense, young adult and romance, and she’s looking for new talent in all of these genres, but she’s especially eager to represent more diverse voices. As an autism mom, she’s most passionate about stories featuring neurodiverse characters, and those with special needs.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Kim Lionetti: I view it as a partnership and have a collaborative relationship with all of my clients. I advise based on my 20+ years in the business, with the benefit of having worked on both the publisher and agent side, but at the end of the day I also respect that this is their book and their career. They need to feel comfortable and satisfied with every decision. Because of my past experience as an editor, I also tend to be pretty hands on. I still enjoy the revision process and helping authors bring their books to their fullest potential.  

Scribe: Are there specific elements draw you to a project?

KL: I’m eager to find more #ownvoices in women’s fiction, suspense, contemporary romance and YA.  I’d most especially like to see more Latinx and African-American adult romcom and women’s fiction. I’d also like to see more special needs families represented in women’s fiction and YA. I’ve been dying for a story that focuses on the sibling relationships there: the complicated feelings of obligation, love, responsibility, etc.  

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

KL: Oh wow, it’s hard to narrow it down! I’m excited for USA Today bestseller Rochelle Weinstein’s This Is Not How It Ends that’s coming soon from Lake Union. It’s an emotional women’s fiction novel about love and friendship that is both heart-stopping and timeless. Also, it’s set in the Florida Keys, and I just felt swept away there as I was reading. And Nicola Marsh’s domestic suspense novel, The Scandal, will be released from Bookouture in July. Nicola is a USA Today bestselling author and has written dozens of novels, but this is her first foray into suspense. I love the complicated relationships between the women in this book and the way each of their POVs reveals another part of the mystery.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re passionate about books featuring neurodiverse characters. Is there a recent novel that features neurodiversity that you loved?

KL: Yes, my son’s on the autism spectrum, so it’s important to me to see voices like his represented. Obviously I’m biased, but I’m really excited about what my client Helen Hoang has accomplished in the adult romance market. The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test are emotional, sexy, unputdownable reads that just happen to feature neurodiverse protagonists. And I love that readers are finding just how relatable these characters are. I’m also a big fan of Cammie McGovern, who writes YA and MG novels featuring special needs and neurodiverse characters. Her book, A Step Toward Falling, is about an attack on a developmentally disabled teen and illustrates various perspectives about how we all relate to one another and how complicated, but important, it is to do the right thing. I think it should be required reading for every high-schooler. I’ve read that she’s currently working on a nonfiction project about her autistic son’s journey aging out of the school system, the wider issue of the population losing access to the resources when that happens, and also about the limitations we put on them based on our own assumptions and expectations of their potential. I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity to preorder!

Thanks, Kim!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Members: Samantha M. Clark

“The WLT conferences and webinars (which I also really LOVE) have taught me about craft, persevering, and the business of publishing, as well as continue to inspire me.”

— Samantha M Clark

A member of the Writers’ League since 2012, Samantha lives in Cedar Park, TX.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Samantha M. Clark: My middle-grade novel The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast which came out from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster in 2018, is contemporary fantasy, and nearly all my stories come to me with some kind of fantastical element, whether fantasy or sci-fi. I also write young adult novels and recently have been playing with picture books and chapter books, and I have an unpublished novella for adult readers that I love and ideas for more of them. I basically love to read and write stories for all ages and in many genres, as long as they stretch my imagination, make me think, and dig into my heart.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

SMC: Hmmm. I don’t do well narrowing down my choices with questions like this. There are so many! I’d love to have a drink with Shakespeare and ask him — or her — who really wrote those plays and sonnets? But seriously, I’d love to learn how Shakespeare and other poets like Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou translated their worlds into words, whether their amazing use of symbolism just came to them or took a lot of brainstorming. I’m hoping the latter, since that’s what I have to do.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

SMC: Could I have a Kindle stuffed with books? In that case, I’d have the whole Harry Potter series, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Cosmic, Ready Player One, the Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings books, The Hunger Games series, all of Linda Sue Park’s books, all of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books… If it has to be one print book, I’d want a notebook with lots of blank pages. I’ll find something to write with…

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

SMC: So much! Early on in my membership, I attended a class by the amazing author Liz Garton Scanlon on writing poetry. I left feeling, for the first time, that while I don’t consider myself a poet in any way, I could perhaps write like a poet. Years later, I put those lessons to use while I was revising The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast before it sold. I’ve also learned a lot at the WLT conferences over the years. Agent Sarah Davies did a fantastic session on writing thrillers a few years ago, which was so informative. The WLT conferences and webinars (which I also really LOVE) have taught me about craft, persevering, and the business of publishing, as well as continue to inspire me.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

SMC: I’ve always hoped for a career in fiction, just the chance to tell stories full-time. I had a career in nonfiction, as a journalist and editor, before I started to focus on fiction. But having a sustainable career in fiction has many more challenges. For a long time, I didn’t believe it would happen. I queried four novels and had more than 100 rejections before I signed with my agent. And when we went on submission with The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, I got around 14 rejections and had to do another big revision before it sold. After it sold, I kept expecting an email saying they’d made a mistake and had meant to acquire another book about a boy who wakes on a mysterious beach with no memory. It wasn’t until I got printed advanced reader copies that I thought, “They’re probably not going to back out now.” Now the book is in bookstores and libraries, the hardcover has gone into a second printing, and foreign rights have sold in three languages. Of course, one book doesn’t make a career, but I just finished another middle-grade that’s with my editor now, and I have a young adult that will be going on submission soon. I’m working on other books and have folders full of ideas that I want to tackle in the future. There’s no guarantee that any of these will sell, but having gone through it once, I have more hope, primarily because I now know what it takes: Hard work and never giving up. I did that for The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast. It was the third novel I wrote, but by the time it sold, I had written three more novels and a novella, learned from them and used what I’d learned to revise. My plan now is to keep on doing that. Write, revise, submit, repeat. Perhaps not every book I’ll write will sell, but if I keep working hard and never give up, hopefully this first novel can build into a career.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

SMC: I loved Sean Easley’s The Hotel Between, which was also published by Simon & Schuster last year. It’s a middle-grade fantasy about a hotel that magically connects all these different places all over the world, and the protagonist discovers the hotel through its Dallas door. It’s such a fun adventure. Check it out! And if you’re older than 12 and saying to yourself that middle-grade is too young for you, I challenge you to change that thinking. No book should have a maximum age. So dig into those younger books too. You’ll be surprised what you find.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

SMC: Well, not so much about me, but… Keep writing. Keep believing. Keep reading! Oh, and if you’re looking for books to read, The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast comes out in paperback on June 25!

Thank you, Samantha!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!