Meet the Conference Faculty: Kristin van Ogtrop

“Just try to stay on brand, whatever your brand is.”

-Kristin van Ogtrop

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 Kristin van Ogtrop

Kristin van Ogtrop is the former editor-in-chief of Real Simple and an agent at InkWell Management. Under her stewardship, Real Simple became the #1 American women’s lifestyle magazine brand with a print and digital reach of 25 million and was nominated for 15 National Magazine Awards. Kristin’s blog, “Adventures in Chaos,” was nominated for a Media Industry Newsletter “Best of the Web” award, and in 2014, she was named by Fortune magazine as one of the “55 Most Influential Women on Twitter.” She is a contributor to the New York Times bestseller, The Bitch in the House and the author of Just Let Me Lie Down, published by Little, Brown. As an agent, she will represent memoir, commercial women’s fiction, humor, lifestyle and big idea books driven by counterintuitive thinking.

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

Kristin van Ogtrop: It really depends on the author. Sometimes I am the conductor and sometimes I’m head cheerleader. But in all cases I am here to support, encourage, advise, edit (early and often) and offer gentle course correction when needed.

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

KO: It always helps when I have a personal connection to an author or an idea. Right now I find myself working on three projects (two narrative nonfiction and a memoir) about upstate New York, which I know I sparked to initially because I love the Adirondacks. I’m working on a memoir about service dogs, and I happen to have two released service dogs as pets. I love anything that stands out from the crowd: either a really unique idea, a unique treatment of an old idea, or a really distinctive voice.

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

KO: I am about to send out a memoir in verse about a writer’s lifelong struggle with food addiction. It came to me as a blind pitch, and it’s clever, a bit funny, and a bit sad. Sort of a perfect combination of weird and wonderful.

Scribe: And also, what advice do you have for writer’s using social media?

KO: Oh, I don’t know. Don’t post anything that will make people hate you, unless that’s your method of getting eyeballs and the reason people might want to buy your book. Just try to stay on brand, whatever your brand is.

Thanks, Kristin!

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: Sara Goodman

“The editing process often begins with a conversation.”

-Sara Goodman

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 Sara Goodman

Sara Goodman began her career in 2001 as a junior agent at the Ralph M. Vicinanza, Ltd. literary agency, then moved over to St. Martin’s Press in 2007 to start fresh as an editorial assistant when she realized being an agent was not her calling. In the course of her career, she has edited Rainbow Rowell, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & ParkFangirlLandline, and Carry On; Courtney Summers, the New York Times bestselling author of SadieAll The RageThis is Not a TestFall for AnythingSome Girls Are and Cracked Up To Be. I edited the anthologies My True Love Gave To Me and Summer Days and Summer Nights with bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, in addition to editing the co-authored novel by David Levithan & Nina LaCour, You Know Me Well. I also published I Hate Everyone But You by YouTube sensations Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

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

Sara Goodman: Authors need to be able to trust their editors implicitly, so communication and honesty are essential.  The editing process often begins with a conversation. I ask a lot of questions and I listen. I never want to turn a book into something the author doesn’t want, but I always want the book to be the best it can be.  That takes trust.

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

SG: A fresh voice. A fresh perspective. A character I’ve never seen before. Good dialogue. I love it when books are funny and sad.  Strong, fully-realized primary and secondary characters. 

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

SG: I just wrapped up edits on The Mall by Megan McCafferty, which is a young adult novel set entirely at a mall in New Jersey in the 90s.  It is hilarious and moving and just a delight. It won’t be out until Summer 2020, but I’m already spreading the word!

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

SG: I absolutely loved Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds. It’s a love story at its heart, but it’s also so much about growing up and doing the right thing.  About following your heart.  It’s wise and warm and wonderful!

Thanks, Sara!

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: 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 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: Lauren E. Abramo

“If you can hook me on page one and make me regret every time I have to put the book down, chances are I’ll want to work with you!”

-Lauren E Abramo

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 Lauren E. Abramo

Lauren E. Abramo joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2005. As VP and subrights director, she maintains a small client list and sells foreign and audio rights for the agency. Her interests include humorous middle-grade, contemporary young adult, and upmarket commercial fiction and well-paced literary fiction on the adult side. She’s also interested in nonfiction, especially pop culture, psychology, pop science, reportage, media, and contemporary culture. Her list has a strong focus on books that engage in some way with social justice. In all categories she’s especially seeking authors from marginalized communities traditionally underrepresented in publishing.

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

Lauren Abramo: In general, my goal is to support my clients in whatever ways they need to do their best work. Some clients love the phone, others hate to feel like they’re on the spot. Some need space to develop their ideas without pressure or outside influence, others want me to set deadlines for them or give them feedback as they go. Some want to know as much as possible, some prefer having fewer details to stress about or want to focus on craft rather than business. So my approach is to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. My relationships with clients vary based on what the authors need from me to accomplish their goals.

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

LA: Lots of things, but the key for me is voice. If you can hook me on page one and make me regret every time I have to put the book down, chances are I’ll want to work with you! There are so many things I can constructively edit, but the voice is really something the author needs to find for themselves, so it’s always a high priority.

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

LA: One book that I’m working on selling now is the story of a man who has the perfect life on paper, but he has a tenuous grasp on his mental health, his marriage, and his relationship with his daughter that’s buoyed only by the support of his best friend. That support leads him to ignore some pretty bold red flags about that friend, and when she winds up in prison and in debt to him and his husband for more than $20,000, both their lives come crashing down around them. It’s a wry and clever debut novel that nonetheless carries a lot of emotional weight and explores some complex ideas—the perfect combination in my book.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in novels that have a strong focus on books that engage with social justice. What’s a recent example you’ve fallen in love with?

LA: In nonfiction I represent authors like Ijeoma Oluo, Dylan Marron, Rabia Chaudry, and Robin DiAngelo, whose work either directly engages social justice concepts or simply incorporates them into the perspective with which they tackle other things. In fiction it tends to be more indirect. For example, Mason Deaver’s YA debut I Wish You All the Best, which comes out this May, is a novel about a non-binary teenager falling in love and coming to terms with being rejected by their parents. It’s both heartbreaking and joyful. It’s a story–and character-driven, not didactic, but the author made a conscious choice to center a non-binary protagonist in a love story with a happy ending.

Thanks, Lauren!

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: 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.

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.