Meet the Conference Faculty: Jessica Errera

“I am always drawn to a creative and fresh hook for a story, something we haven’t seen before or a trope turned on its head.”

-Jessica Errera

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 Jessica Errera

Jessica Errera has been with JRA since 2014. She is looking for commercial women’s fiction with a fresh and fun hook, all genres of YA (especially diverse stories), contemporary romance, mysteries and suspense, the occasional historical fiction, and anything that might be read in a day on the beach. Jessica is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she spent four years cheering on the Tar Heels and a few fantastic months interning with Algonquin Books.

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

Jessica Errera: It’s my job to be your partner and your advocate–not just for one book but for what will become, I hope, a long and successful career. For that reason, I look for authors interested in building a long-term partnership and whose goals align with my skills and interests.

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

JE: I am always drawn to a creative and fresh hook for a story, something we haven’t seen before or a trope turned on its head. I am also particularly fond of sister/family stories or anything told in a unique format (letters, texts, mixed media, etc.) However, great writing is the most important element and that trumps all the rest!

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

JE: I am very excited about S.C. Perkins’ debut mystery novel Murder Once Removed, which will be published by SMP/Minotaur in March. It’s a cozy mystery featuring a genealogist-turned-sleuth, plus TexMex/tacos! It’s fabulous.

Scribe: And also, what is a recent women’s fiction novel that had an interesting hook that caught your attention?

JE: I loved Yara Zgheib’s The Girls at 17 Swann Street, about a young woman reclaiming her life in the face of an eating disorder. It’s just beautifully and poetically written. I’ve also been seeing a lot of great titles in the romantic comedy space lately—most recently I loved The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, which features a neuro-diverse heroine and a love interest who’s an escort, and which I read in one sitting.

Thanks, Jessica!

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 Conference Faculty: Rayhané Sanders

“I think of the author/agent relationship as a marriage…we’re in it together, and if there’s no trust there, it won’t work.”

-Rayhané Sanders

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 Rayhané Sanders

Rayhané Sanders is a literary agent at Massie & McQuilkin and an independent book editor with over 10 years of industry experience. She began her career at Newsweek Magazine, before moving to book publishing, working for Penguin’s Dutton and Gotham Books and then for William Morris Endeavor, where she worked closely with veteran agent Dorian Karchmar. Rayhané began to represent authors at WSK Management, adding a New York Times bestseller to her list, before moving to Massie & McQuilkin in 2015. She represents literary, historical, and upmarket book club fiction; narrative nonfiction; and memoir. Her clients include bestselling, award-winning authors Lidia Yuknavitch, Janet Beard, Devin Murphy, Jonathan Weisman, Margaret Malone, and others. As an independent book editor, she offers a wide range of editorial and consulting services to help emerging writers polish their fiction and non-fiction projects to attract agents and publishers.

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

Rayhané Sanders: Ideally, I will sign a client on for the long term, which is to say, over multiple books.  Even if I love a single book, I like to know what an author is working on next, what their ideas are. I think of the author/agent relationship as a marriage…we’re in it together, and if there’s no trust there, it won’t work. I’m very honest with my authors—and blunt as well. If something’s not working in a manuscript, it’s no use to beat around the bush about it. We have to roll up our sleeves and address the problem—I’m a very editorially hands-on agent.

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

RS: I love an immersive story that transports me into a fully realized world. I love a strong, assertive voice from page 1—one that makes me laugh or chuckle with its wry, keen observation nearly always draws me in.

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

RS: Lidia Yuknavitch’s story collection, Verge, will be coming out with Riverhead in Spring 2020. She is so talented at delivering us right into what may be an average quotidian scene—in one story, a line of cars at a fast-food drive-in—and animating the depths of a person’s internal world, which are as complex and dramatic as any fantasy realm.

Scribe: And also, what’s a novel that you recently fell in love with?

RS: Jamie Weisman’s debut novel, We Are Gathered, comes out in paperback with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June 2019. Longlisted for the JQ Wingate Literary Prize and nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award, the book takes place over the course of a hot, humid afternoon wedding in Atlanta, told from the perspectives of the various guests…it’s such a great conceit, and peopled with delicious voices.

Thanks, Rayhané!

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: Joan Moran

“I had never taken a real writing course in my life, and the Writers’ League classes introduced me to a world I always wanted to enter, but never had the time to do so. “

— Joan Moran

A member of the Writers’ League since 2016, Joan lives in Austin, TX.

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

Joan Moran: I usually write non-fiction, memoir, screenplays, and I’m a compulsive blogger. However, I had secret thoughts that to be a real writer, I would have to settle down and write fiction. I wrote my first book of fiction in 1986, Women Obsessed, and that was an afterthought in order to enhance the prospects of selling the screenplay by the same name. It was written in the form of letters exchanged between two women. After writing this work, I scared myself and didn’t tackle fiction again until two years ago.

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

JM: Toni Morrison. I read her book, Beloved, and was captivated by the deep emotional connection she had with her characters, in particular, Beloved — her sorrow, resilience, her ability to love and exist in a world of duality. Since I was a young girl of 11, I invaded my mother’s extensive library of classic literature. My favorite writers were Russian: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. I devoured their books for years during the summers before high school, then began to read Chekov and Nabokov. When Morrison’s Beloved came out in 1987, I went to the bookstore and bought it immediately. I was curious about her writing, her challenge to the ‘old school’ novelists, which included poetry and the use of creative language in an attempt to restructure the way we think about how fiction is assessed. I’ve seen her interviews throughout the years, and I felt a compelling urge to hug her, perhaps because of her passion and understanding of the deep recesses of human nature. If I could talk to Ms. Morrison, maybe I could breathe in that essence.

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

JM: I’m conflicted between two choices: Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I read both before I entered high school and they both reflected my love for very long books — sagas, if you will — interwoven with multiple characters dealing with life on multiple levels with complicated story lines woven throughout the novel. Colorful sagas go on forever, which I adore. I can tell you exactly the moment I finished Gone with the Wind: the summer before I entered seventh grade, sitting on a diving board stretched out over the pool in my backyard. I finished War and Peace the cold winter of eighth grade huddled in a corner of my living room catching the rays of the sun.

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

JM: It’s axiomatic to say that I have learned how to write. I had never taken a real writing course in my life, and the Writers’ League classes introduced me to a world I always wanted to enter, but never had the time to do so. Thanks to retirement and my love for writing and books, I migrated into the positive and energetic world of the community of writers and teachers who have guided me into another level of artistic passion.

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

JM: Writing will take me into a future of knowing and learning more about the nuances of how fiction is structured. More classes are ahead of me and a re-reading of Michael Noll’s book on how to write fiction: The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction. After completing my new book, An Accidental Cuban, and managing its launch, I am going back to writing my next book, The Homecoming Queen.

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?

JM: Empire of the Summer Moon. I believe this terrific book by S. C. Gwynne came out several years ago, but this is my favorite book about how the territory of Texas struggled for almost a hundred years with the Apache Tribes. It was vivid, compulsive reading.

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

 

JM: Blatant self-promotion:  An Accidental Cuban, now on Amazon and Goodreads. I traveled to Cuba several years ago and discovered the beginnings of a story about a young man I met in Cienfuegos, a Cuban national, who wanted to get off the island and find his freedom in America. The fictionalized story began after our introduction and hours of conversation in the Plaza Marti. Harry, the protagonist, goes to Havana and unwittingly gets embroiled into the Cuban underground economy, controlled by nefarious non-Cuban businessmen. His work for his employers compromises his moral compass. Harry’s journey sends him down a rabbit hole that creates a Faustian bargain that dramatically changes the direction of his life.

Thank you, Joan!

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!

Meet the Conference Faculty: Tricia Lawrence

“Fun is my main ingredient. If we’re not at least enjoying this, what is the point?”

-Tricia Lawrence

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 Tricia Lawrence

Tricia Lawrence is the Pacific Northwest branch of EMLA, born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 22 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist. As agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go. Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves.

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

Tricia Lawrence: Communication, vision, evolution, and fun! Let’s break it down.

Communication is vital to the success of a working partnership. My clients and I are writing and selling partners. If we don’t talk or tell the truth, this partnership is not going to work. Vision is long-term planning. Often a client has a vision for their career and it’s going to take time (it doesn’t spring up that day or that week or even that year!), so we need to know where we are headed. Evolution is so necessary. This process of writing and submitting forces my clients and I to rethink our strategy, our vision, our communication, and our motives. And hopefully, we get better. Fun is my main ingredient. If we’re not at least enjoying this, what is the point? Sure, there are elements that just SUCK but most of the time, I want to have fun and enjoy the heck out of the journey.

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

TL: Voice every time. If the project beckons to me, I’m in.

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

TL: A MG graphic novel adaptation that I’m about to go out with. It began as a YA novel, and we sent it out on sub, got feedback about the voice sounding too young for YA, so my client and I talked about it, and she decided to turn it into a MG graphic novel. It’s been so much fun. I’m so excited, so pleased with her vision, her evolution, her determination, and that she had fun! You can tell!

Scribe: And also, what is your favorite children’s lit story to have recently come out? 

TL: Jerome By Heart, put out by Enchanted Lion. It’s just masterful. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Thanks, Tricia!

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.

Community Member Q&A: Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services

“For the staff at HWP&E supporting our local communities and the state matters. Through involvement in the arts, journalism, conservation and social issues, we have found our voice!”

– LuLynne Streeter

Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services is a BANTAM publisher, editorial service, web-zine, and provides writer workshops dedicated to promoting and giving voice to literary fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and the arts.

In addition to supporting and promoting authors, Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services is a proud Community Member of the Writers’ League of Texas. Read the interview below with founder LuLynne Streeter to find out more.

Scribe: Tell us a little about why you founded Hollering Woman Press, the meaning of its name, and its mission.

LuLynne Streeter: As three independent female artists, we decided to collaborate and define a space where creativity and diversity could move in the same direction.  We chose Hollering Woman as our name and logo because it reflected a powerful female voice and our deep Texas roots. Our mission is to promote and support independent and emerging artists in all genres from literary, musical, visual, and performing arts.

Scribe: Hollering Woman Press provides a lot of different services — from editing to writing workshopscould you tell us more about what you offer?

LS: HWP&E offers standard pre-publication literary services, promotional activities, mentoring, and writer workshops and classes.

Scribe: What is the biggest take away from working with Hollering Woman Press?

LS: HWP&E offers the author the opportunity to work with a multi-generational staff that is supportive and hands-on in their approach.  We know the goal of all writers, whether it is the traditional or Indie journey, is publication.

Scribe: As a writer yourself, what is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?

LS: As we say in our writer workshops: “Writers Write & Write & . . .”

Scribe: What’s important to you about supporting the Writers’ League of Texas and being a community member?

LS: As a Texas business and Texas writers, we are honored to have the opportunity to work with and support the premier writing organization in the state.

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? 

LS: I recently read Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars by Jay Wehnert and published by Texas A&M University Press.  It examines the lives and motivations of practicing Texas artists outside the mainstream. A topic that is dear to the heart of Hollering Woman Press.

Scribe: Anything else you’d like to share? 

TB: For the staff at HWP&E supporting our local communities and the state matters. Through involvement in the arts, journalism, conservation and social issues, we have found our voice!

Thanks, LuLynne!

Click here to visit Hollering Woman Press’s website.

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Melissa Edwards

“While beautiful writing can keep me going for a while, I need a snappy pace to keep me turning pages.”

-Melissa Edwards

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 Melissa Edwards

Melissa Edwards joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a 40-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa represents authors of children’s fiction, adult commercial fiction, and select pop-culture nonfiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and accessible young adult fiction. For adults, she is looking for fast-paced thrillers and smart women’s fiction. Melissa also acts as a contract consultant for authors and agents under the business MLE Consulting.

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

Melissa Edwards:I look at the author/agent relationship as a variable one. It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience. Certain clients are best off when I don’t hear from them–I know they’re writing and happy. Others need a more active cheerleader. Some want to know everything about the submission process; others only want the highlights. One of the great parts of being a literary agent is learning what my clients need and adapting to their style. The role of literary agent has so many elements–editor, therapist, business consultant, negotiator, contract specialist–we need to be able to switch hats at a moment’s notice.

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

ME: I prefer a pretty driving pace in all my genres and age groups. My taste tends to run on the commercial side, and while beautiful writing can keep me going for a while, I need a snappy pace to keep me turning pages.

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

ME: I am really excited about Dianne Freeman’s cozy Victorian mystery series, which started in June 2018 with A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. That book has been nominated for three awards already (a Lefty, a Mary Higgins Clark Award, and an Agatha) and the series shows no sign of slowing down. It’s truly a delight!

Scribe: And also, what is your favorite YA book to have come out recently? 

ME: Immoral Code by Lillian Clark is one of mine–it’s like a teenage Ocean’s 8, and I think it’s absolutely stellar! It’s that amazing mix of funny, heartfelt, honest, and thrilling that just gets me. But if I am going to pick a book that’s not mine… I would say Sadie.

Thanks, Melissa!

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: Serene Hakim

“It’s important to find someone who not only understands your work but who you feel comfortable talking openly with.”

-Serene Hakim

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 Serene Hakim

Serene Hakim has been with Ayesha Pande Literary since 2015. A child of immigrants, she grew up straddling cultures and languages. She is looking for both adult fiction and non-fiction as well as YA (all genres) with international themes or a focus on LGBTQ+, feminist issues and underrepresented/marginalized voices. She is especially interested in stories dealing with the Middle East and is specifically looking for writing that explores meanings of identity, home, family and parenthood/motherhood. Forthcoming projects include Kristen Arnett’s debut novel Mostly Dead Things.

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

Serene Hakim: For me, the author/agent relationship is really unique. It’s a professional relationship, but it’s also very personal so it’s important to find someone who not only understands your work but who you feel comfortable talking openly with. We’re your advocates and want to make sure we’re all on the same page. So I believe in full transparency and being open and honest about my approach, both in terms of my revision plans and the submission later down the road.

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

SH: I love when projects have some sort of quirky element or something that’s just a bit different and fun. In this sense, I love magical realism, but I’m also drawn to offbeat themes. No matter what though, I love confident, voice-y writing and a compelling plot (which I totally know is what everyone says they want!).

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

SH: The first book I ever sold is finally coming out this June – Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (about a woman who takes over her father’s taxidermy shop) – so I’m really excited to see this book exist in the world and I can’t wait to hear how readers react. In terms of projects that I’m working on, one of my authors is writing a YA coming-of-age story about a Filipina-American girl who gets into a lot of trouble in the aftermath of her mother’s death. It’s heart wrenching but also subtly funny and so relatable. Another one of my authors is working on an adult novel about two Iranian-American friends who start having odd mystical experiences that connect them to a culture they thought they had lost.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in novels dealing with themes of family and identity. Is there a novel that you recently enjoyed that deal with these themes?

SH: Last year I read Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram and loved it. It follows a boy who visits Iran for the first time with his family and it expertly captures the feeling of both being connected to a culture and yet completely outside of it. The author focuses a lot on family, friendship and identity, and it’s basically everything I’m drawn to!

Thanks, Serene!

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.