Meet the Conference Faculty: James Melia

“I don’t differentiate between ‘debut’ or not when I’m considering a work.”

-James Melia

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 James Melia

James Melia previously worked at Doubleday before joining Flatiron Books, where he edits and acquires upmarket commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, and pop culture. Notable books he has edited include The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder (an Entertainment Weekly Summer Must-Read), James Rebanks’s The Shepherd’s Life (which was named one of the top ten books of the year by Michiko Kakutani), and Marc Maron’s Waiting for the Punch. In 2018, James will publish Ron Stallworth’s memoir Black Klansman, the basis for the forthcoming film produced by Jordan Peele and directed by Spike Lee.

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

James Melia: Each author (and book) is different. I will say that editing a book is an incredibly personal experience between author and editor​. It’s what I love most about my job. Before we move on to marketing and publicizing the book, it’s just this special thing you and the writer are working on — bouncing off ideas, drafting new chapters, trying a new perspective or tone. Whatever the work might need. My job as an editor is to be the author’s biggest fan, but that also comes with wanting the work to be the best it can possibly be.

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

JM: ​I don’t differentiate between “debut” or not when I’m considering a work in terms of what I’m looking for content-wise. I want whatever I’m reading to totally grab me​ and get my heart racing. There is no better feeling than opening a manuscript and knowing by the end of the first page that you have something special in your hands, something you just want to push into the hands of others and say, “Here. Take this. Read it now!” That’s what I’m always looking for.

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

JM: ​If you’re not enjoying the writing of it, people probably aren’t going to enjoy reading of it. Follow your instinct and passion.

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?

JM: ​I’m still pretty young in my career, so I’m pretty game for new challenges. But, I did discover a novel through Instagram once.​

​It was self-published, and I just clicked the link on this stranger’s bio and started reading the book. It immediately drew me in — sort of a millennial Brett Easton Ellis. I’m lucky enough to work for two great publishers that let me buy it, and just this past week the New York Times Book Review ended their review of it with the demand of, “You must read this now!” I think it’s important to think outside the box and test the limits just a bit, now more than ever. The book is called Into? by North Morgan. Follow the Times’ advice and read it now!

Thanks, James!

Click here and here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent & editor 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: Vivian Lee

“Ultimately, I am here to protect the author’s voice—what I fell in love with in the first place.”

-Vivian Lee

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.

A Brief Interview with Vivian Lee

Vivian Lee is an editor at Little A, Amazon Publishing’s literary fiction and narrative nonfiction imprint. Her list includes Matthew Salesses’ The Hundred-Year Flood, Viet Dinh’s After Disasters (PEN/Faulkner Finalist), Harold Schechter’s Hell’s Princess, Naima Coster’s Halsey Street, and Natalia Sylvester’s Everyone Knows You Go Home. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a BA in Literary Journalism and from the New School University in New York with a MFA in Creative Writing (Non-Fiction). For Little A, she is interested in language and character-driven literary fiction dealing with relationships and identity. For nonfiction, she is looking for personal memoirs, investigative journalism, and anything in popular science. In both genres, she is interested in the intersection of race/class/gender/ethnicity (etc).

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

Vivian Lee: Of course, every author and every story is different, so different approaches work for different writers. However, one thing never changes: this is a partnership. I am always deeply honored whenever a writer trusts their work with me and so I take what I do very seriously. Even before acquisition, I talk to a writer to make sure we’re on the same page: does my vision for this book vibe with the author’s vision? Ultimately, I am here to protect the author’s voice—what I fell in love with in the first place—while also making sure the language, the characters, the plot, and the tension are all there to make it the best book it can be.

Thanks, Vivian!

 

Click here and here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent & editor 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: 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.

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.