Meet the Conference Faculty: Jeff Silberman

“This past year I also helped two authors become television writers and executive producers for series based on their books.”

-Jeff Silberman

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 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Jeff Silberman

Jeff Silberman is a new horizon hunter. He began his career as an entertainment attorney and navigates the film and television worlds as well as publishing. His interests are wide, his passions run deep, and the books he represents cut a wide swath: narrative non-fiction, memoir, science and technology, history, social issues, sports, the animal kingdom, literary fiction, upmarket fiction, and more. He seek s books that in some way leave us different than we were before, and he works closely with all of his authors.

 Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Jeff Silberman: I work closely with all my authors, from the conception of an idea to unearthing how that idea actually becomes a book; providing editorial notes and suggestions from characters and themes in narrative books to arguments and solutions in policy an prescriptive books; crafting marketing plans, and creating opportunities in film and television for both scripted and unscripted projects. (This past year I also helped two authors become television writers and executive producers for series based on their books.)

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

JS: A compelling idea or premise, a unique voice and talent, a good heart and mind, and a personal connection.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

JS: Follow your heart. Live your dream.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

JS: All the time. Take me somewhere I haven’t been,

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

JS: The Blood of Patriots published this past fall and also received 9 offers for film and television rights before it published. Set in Alaska, it is the true story of Bill Fulton, a diehard Army vet who did a lot of off the books missions during his Army career, and after his discharge opened up a surplus supply store and fugitive recovery business and wound up going undercover for the FBI to infiltrate a right wing militia group plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers. It is both wildly funny and deadly serious.  Seemingly a total testosterone story, but written by a woman – Jeanne Devon. Jeannie’s writing was so compelling, so smart,  so funny, and so easy to read, that though she had never written a page for television before, she is writing a one hour pilot script and will executive produce the series with Bill.

Thanks, Jeff!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

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Meet the Conference Faculty: Rachel Orr

“I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder.”

-Rachel Orr

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 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Rachel Orr

Rachel Orr is celebrating her eleventh year at Prospect Agency, where she represents both authors and illustrators in projects ranging from picture books through YA. She previously worked for eight rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books and uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include Kit Alloway (the Dream Walker series), Samantha M. Clark (The Boy, the Boat and the Beast), Cori Doerrfeld (The Rabbit Listened), Emma Wunsch (The Movie Version), and Kim Zarins (Sometimes We Tell the Truth). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time, but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.

 Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Rachel Orr: Every client works differently, so I usually tailor my approach to the specific needs and desires of the author or illustrator. However, in general, I tend to work very closely with my clients, specifically during the editorial stage. This is something I really enjoy, especially given my experience of working as an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books for eight years. I also like developing personal relationships with my clients. Again, it’s not necessary—many writers and illustrators prefer their space, and that’s fine—but I do find that good communication is helpful. It’s also useful to know what is going on in their lives, which can better help me to help them. Plus, it’s another aspect of the job that I really enjoy. Many clients have become good friends of mine.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

RO: I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder. This is especially important at Prospect Agency, since we’re looking to foster a client’s entire career, rather than a single title. Knowledge of the industry is always a plus, as is an ability to balance a positive attitude with realistic expectations. Publishing is still a business, after all—for better or worse—and I’ve found that the clients who are most successful are those who have come to terms with that fact, while also staying true to their craft. Most importantly, I’m looking for someone who is willing to do the hard work that it takes to succeed.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

RO: Along the lines above, I would say being aware of the market without writing to it. I realize that it can be tempting to follow trends, but when writers intentionally do so, those stories almost always comes across sounding derivative. Not comparing oneself to other writers and illustrators—no matter what stage or your career you’re in—is another piece of advice that I would give to anyone. Everyone’s publishing journey is unique, and while it’s fine to have aspirations, wishing to be in someone else’s shoes is hardly ever a healthy attitude.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

RO: There are some illustrator clients whose work is vastly different than the more commercial art I tend to be drawn to. But there was something so striking about their art that I just couldn’t resist!

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

RO: Well, of course, I can’t wait for the launch of the debut middle-grade novel The Boy, The Boat and the Beast (Simon & Schuster/June 2018) by Austin’s own Samantha M. Clark.  I remember reading the manuscript for the first time and absolutely falling in love with it. So I was thrilled when Sam and I visited the S&S offices recently and were surrounded by publishing professionals who loved the book just as much as we do! I’m also very excited for Cori Doerrfeld’s picture book, The Rabbit Listened (Dial/February 2018), which is a beautiful—and important—book about grief. I’ve represented Cori for over a decade now, and she has published many wonderful stories, but I’m hoping this will be a real break-out book for her. On the flipside, I’m looking forward to another client’s author-illustrator debut with her book entitled Underwear (still to be announced. Stay tuned for that!). It’s about, well …underwear. It’s completely not a serious book, but it is 100% completely kid-friendly and will cause many giggles to ensue, which makes this an important book in its own special way, too.

Thanks, Rachel!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Grace A. Ross

“I do not shy away from a book that has potential but needs revision.”

-Grace A. Ross

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 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Grace A. Ross

Grace A. Ross recently joined Regal Hoffmann & Associates, a boutique agency that represents quality literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, biography, journalism, politics, and social history. She was previously at Denise Shannon Literary Agency and Barbara Lowenstein Associates. Grace is interested in literary fiction that experiments with form and speaks to the current cultural climate; historical fiction; international narratives; and dynamic plots that bridge genres. In nonfiction, she is looking for socially and politically conscious narratives, especially those that engage with cultural conversations about gender, race, and class in an accessible way; but she’s also drawn to popular science, biography, cultural theory, and memoir.

 Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Grace A. Ross: Hands on when it comes to editorial work – I do not shy away from a book that has potential but needs revision. I have a unique individual relationship with each of my clients so that I can be the best possible advocate. In some cases that means sending cat gifs for inspiration, and in others, it means setting up frequent phone calls to brainstorm ideas or noodle out a plot or thesis. The idea is that I’ll be working with my authors over the course of their entire career, so I want to get to know each of my clients and their specific needs deeply.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

GR: An author who thrives while working with an editorial partner but who doesn’t need close line editing. The process from manuscript to book-on-the-shelf can be a long and frustrating process, so I also appreciate an author who shows enthusiasm and continues to put in effort even when the going gets tough.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

GR: Try to stay positive! If you don’t initially find representation or a book doesn’t sell, know that you can always revise or start working on something new. Of course, it can be so frustrating when something you’ve worked hard on doesn’t get liftoff, but sometimes it’s worth putting a project aside and finding something fresh to work on. You can always return to that original project later down the road.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

GR: Last fall, a referral for a debut mystery dropped into my inbox. I’m not usually in the market for mysteries or thrillers, but the concept really caught my eye. The author was writing about a young wine sommelier who fakes rare wine, very similar to Rudy Kurniawan who was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years in prison for selling millions of dollars of fake rare vintages. The writing was gripping, and the details were so tantalizing – the author clearly did a lot of research, especially for the historical sections. I had just vacationed in the south of France and fallen in love with the wine there so it couldn’t have been a more perfectly timed query! I immediately offered representation and she accepted.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

GR: Speaking of the wine book above, I just recently sold it Seven Street Books. I couldn’t be more pleased to work on a book out of my typical milieu and have it land at the perfect place!

Thanks, Grace!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

What We’re Reading Now: THE MIDNIGHT MAN

The Midnight Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by David Eric Tomlinson

Published in January 2017 by Gallery Books

Reviewed by K.L. Romo

In his debut novel, The Midnight Man, David Eric Tomlinson weaves basketball, law enforcement, self-realization, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building into a tapestry of Oklahoma culture and attitudes. The unexpected intersection of such diverse lives gives us a glimpse of what we can learn from each other if we keep ourselves open to possibilities.

Brothers Cecil and Ben Porter survived a long-ago tragedy that left one paralyzed from the waist down, and the other infected with guilt. Now little brother Ben is a successful real estate developer who can schmooze a meal from a starving man. He’s never admitted to anyone that his fortune is the result of some not-so-legal business deals – and Ben’s hidden an even bigger secret for most of his life: the truth about his older brother Cecil, who’s been his hero ever since he can remember and is never far from his mind.

Becca Porter is in a rut now that her children are grown and gone, and her husband, Ben, is never home. She decides to fill her days as a volunteer at a local social services center, forming a bond with a young Native American boy who’s been placed in foster care. As her love for the boy grows stronger, so does her understanding of what she must do. But will Ben be able to accept her decision?

Dean Goodnight is an investigator with the Oklahoma City Public Defender’s office, assisting with the defense of an addict who’s been accused of the torturous murder of a drug dealer when things went south. Because Dean is Choctaw, like the defendant, he hopes he’ll be able to get enough background information from the Choctaw community to save his client’s life.

Aura Jefferson is a former collegiate basketball player whose basketball-superstar brother has just been killed. Although she’s a nurse and physical therapist, she still plays in the midnight basketball league she founded years earlier to keep kids off the street. Playing basketball helps release her fury.

“It’s come undone,” is a sentiment often felt by these seemingly unconnected Oklahoma residents, their lives unraveling in ways they aren’t sure how to stop until their paths ironically become tangled in a strange synthesis of strength, forgiveness, and devotion.

With a voice and perspective befitting the Southwest, Tomlinson tells the story of very different people growing up in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. But their stories soon intersect and merge into a tale of accountability, alternate perspectives, forgiveness, and the need to care for one another. In the end, these diverse individuals learn that their differences of White, Black and Native American only play second fiddle to all they have in common, the individual pieces finally fitting together like a complicated jigsaw puzzle.

K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Her historical novel, Life Before, is about two women separated by a century who discover they’ve shared a soul. Web: KLRomo.com or @klromo.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

What We’re Reading Now: BLOODLINES

Bloodlines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Melissa del Bosque

Published in September 2017 by Ecco

Reviewed by Mary Pritchard

In this suspenseful nonfiction book, Melissa del Bosque details the true story of a Mexican drug cartel and the FBI’s pursuit.

In December 2009, a young Special FBI Agent, Scott Lawson, arrived at his assigned post in Laredo, Texas, far from his home in Tennessee. He was already trained at the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia, for his new job on the Texas/Mexico border. In Laredo, Lawson soon discovered that the FBI competed with other arms of federal law: the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) at the top of the ladder, and Homeland Security Investigations. The FBI fell in the middle of the pecking order.

Lawson’s Laredo FBI supervisor, David Villarreal, briefed him on the focus of their team: the Mexican drug smuggling cartel known as the Zetas, especially the Treviño brothers, Miguel and Omar. Miguel had a “reputation as a sadistic, cold-blooded killer whose appetite for violence verged on the psychotic.” Another brother, Jose Treviño, was also involved.

As an up and coming member of the Zetas, Miguel Trevino had already been investing in quarter horse racing, a sign of his status in the drug cartel world. His horse, Tempting Dash, had been winning races in Mexico and was now about to be entered in the Dash for Cash Futurity at the Lone Star Park racetrack in Grand Prairie, Texas, which had a $450,000 purse. Horse racing in the United States seemed an excellent way to launder the huge amounts of cash the drug trade brought in.  Miguel’s horse agent, Ramiro Villareal, would take Tempting Dash to the Grand Prairie race, and if he won, pose as the horse’s owner.

Even though political changes in Mexico tried to end government corruption and bribery, cartels were already firmly entrenched. “The Zetas were a multibillion dollar, transnational business;” the Treviños needed investments other than casinos, bars and coal mines. Their love of horse racing was the ideal way to put money in U.S. banks “where it would be safe from …enemies.”

In order to infiltrate the Treviños’ horse racing enterprise in the U.S., Lawson was put in touch with a legitimate quarter horse breeder outside Austin, Texas who boarded, bred and trained some of the Treviños’ horses, including Tempting Dash. His name was Tyler Graham, and because he had inadvertently taken on the Treviños’ horses, he was drawn into helping the FBI in exchange for their protection.

Del Bosque chronicles the rapid expansion of the Treviño brothers horse racing from Texas to New Mexico and even into California where through bribery, horse doping, intimidation and murder, their racing wins ballooned until it all started falling apart in 2013 and 2015 with the arrests of Jose Treviño, who was operating a horse ranch in Oklahoma, and other principals in the case. Miguel and Omar Treviño are currently being held in a maximum security prison outside Mexico City.

This thoroughly documented book is important reading because it shows how the Mexican cartels started and how they multiply and grow more savage in their thirst for money and power.


Mary Pritchard is currently an adjunct instructor at Tarrant County College SE.  She has written poetry all her life, and is now working on a memoir that is based on her mother’s letters to her from the last half of the 1950s.  She also enjoys watercolor painting and photography.  She was raised in the Panhandle of Texas, and that landscape is part of her soul.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

What We’re Reading Now: THE BLINDS

The Blinds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Adam Sternbergh

Published in August 2017 by Kensington Books

Reviewed by Amanda Moore

In The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh tells an intriguing story about the residents of a town called Caesura, Texas. Caesura is an extremely small community of individuals who try to live normal and relatively peaceful lives. However, Caesura is not like other towns — it is isolated and located in a remote part of Texas, where communications with the outside world are virtually non-existent.

As the story progresses, the reader is introduced to residents in the town whose personalities range from friendly and sociable, to odd and reclusive. With the exception of the mysterious presence of a sheriff and two deputies, the residents of Caesura have some memories of their past lives, but they do not remember the circumstances that led them there. They do not know their real names, and they are told to choose new names and identities. All of their food and supplies are shipped to them in a delivery truck. In a community of strangers where everyone has a questionable past, the town is a refuge from the outside world. They are free to leave Caesura, but they can never return.

In this novel, the knowledge of their past actions is something that the residents both seek and fear. As one character states, “It’s hard enough to live with what you’ve done. It’s immeasurably harder to live with knowing you’ve done something, but not knowing what exactly it is you did.” The reader learns about the backgrounds of characters whose pasts are as varied and diverse as their new names. Sternbergh explores the emotional struggles of these characters, but he also allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.

As the tale unfolds, horrible incidents occur in the town. A man is found murdered in a bar. A shop is vandalized for no apparent reason. Residents of the town begin to fear the worst as the town becomes as unsafe as the world beyond it. When the reader least expects it, secrets are revealed and more crimes are committed. The story morphs into the ultimate page-turner that forces the reader to reach a shocking but familiar conclusion: people can leave the world they know, but they may never truly escape their past.


Amanda Moore is an attorney and writer living in Austin, Texas.  She won first place in the Texas Bar Journal 2015 Short Story Contest and was asked to return as a judge in the annual competition for two consecutive years. She has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2014.  Amanda is an avid reader and book aficionado.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Dana Murphy

“I’m often asked: ‘How do I create a voice that agents want?’ But at the heart of finding your voice is authenticity. It’s not about writing what you think agents want to read but finding the one agent who gets you and your book.”

-Dana Murphy

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 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Dana Murphy

Dana Murphy is a literary agent with The Book Group, focusing on literary fiction and voice-driven nonfiction. After studying critical film theory and sociology at NYU, Dana began her literary career as an assistant at the Book Group in 2012 and started building her own list in 2015. She is interested in adult and YA fiction that feels surprising and immersive and smart narrative nonfiction about pop culture, social issues, and critical theory. She is always looking for a sense of humor, diverse and underrepresented perspectives, and characters that stick in your thoughts long after the story is finished.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Dana Murphy: Personalized. I purposely keep a pretty small client list and do my best to let each client inform our working relationship. Overall, I’d say I definitely lean on the personal side of professional relationships – I take my job very seriously and, because of the nature of the work, I care very deeply for each of my authors. Beyond just loving the work and the writing, I need to be an advocate for the author, and that usually works better when I like them as a person just as much as I like their words.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

DM: First and foremost, always voice. That’s not to say there is a one-size-fits-all voice that I’m interested in, but I’m always looking for life behind the words. This is intangible and can sometimes be discouraging for authors to hear. I’m often asked: “How do I create a voice that agents want?” But at the heart of finding your voice is authenticity. It’s not about writing what you think agents want to read but finding the one agent who gets you and your book. I promise, if you’re writing something that your heart isn’t invested in, any agent reading it will see that.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

DM: When querying, research agents and follow their submission rules! Every agency has different policies, which can be annoying and sometimes feel arbitrary, but they are essential for me to effectively do my job. There is nothing that turns me off quicker than an author whose behavior belies that they don’t respect our processes, whether that be calling when we explicitly state not to, or mass-emailing non-specific “Dear Agent” queries.  You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and your behavior during the querying process is usually a good indicator to how you will behave as a client. Entitlement and indigence are not a good look. Do some research about each agent you’re querying, know a little about their list, think about how your book would be a good fit for them, and include that in your query.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on? 

DM: I feel like that can describe many of my projects! I’m often found saying “Oh, I’m not interested in XYZ” and then turning around and signing something of that ilk the next week. But that is often tied up in what I mentioned earlier: voice. If I find an undeniable voice, I can find myself interested in anything.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

DM:  The first book I sold, Danya Kukafka’s Girl in Snow, was published last summer and has continued to be a thrilling experience. The author is a close friend — we met when I hired her as my intern. Even though the book hasn’t been in the market long, I’ve been working on it with her for nearly 5 years.  It was a project close to both of our hearts, my first sale and her debut novel, and we were consistently (and still!) learning as we go. She’s now an international best seller, we’ve sold the book in over a dozen foreign territories, and the TV rights have been optioned. We couldn’t have anticipated any of this when we first decided to work together and brave the new professional world side by side.  We went into this without expectations, just hoping someone wanted to publish the book, and it’s been so rewarding to go through the good (and bad!) with her.

Thanks, Dana!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.