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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.