Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Brandi Bowles

“The joy of making a difference in someone’s life — perhaps someone who’s dreamt about a book their whole life, and put an incredible amount of legwork into making it happen — that’s very real and there isn’t anything like it.” 

-Brandi Bowles

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 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30–July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Brandi Bowles

Brandi Bowles’ lifelong passion for the written word, a great sense of humor, and the art of engaging storytelling have led her to cultivate a standout client list and an uncommon approach to book representation. At Foundry Literary + Media, Brandi is often the invisible hand helping her clients develop marketable book ideas that take their careers into new directions and heights. On the nonfiction side, she has represented memoirs, cookbooks, and prescriptive books of all kinds, as well as science, humor, pop culture, and real-life inspirational stories. For fiction, she represents high-concept novels that feature strong female bonds, and psychological or scientific themes. All of her books have in common surprising plots or fresh takes on otherwise familiar subjects.

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

Brandi Bowles: When I find a potential candidate I want to represent, we usually start with a long phone call laying out the timeline, and the editorial and submission strategy for the book. But the first step is always editing and rewriting the material to make sure it’s just right. I don’t think I’ve ever sent out a project unedited. So I work closely with the author to make sure we’re presenting the very best material possible, and in a format (usually a book proposal) that will garner maximum attention and maximum sale dollars for the book. Once we have a final draft, I take over and begin the submission process. I don’t share passes — they’re demoralizing for the author, and only helpful if the first round leads to sale. But as we get closer and closer I will share good news and positive publisher interest, until, ideally, we have moved to auction. Then, once we’ve sold the book, I am a resource for the author to ask questions, push the publisher, and of course for selling all the subrights related to the book.

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

BB: Professionalism, patience, and candor. And trust — trust is key for any great working relationship. I am an open book to my authors but there is much about this job that requires some faith!

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

BB: Yes, I actually do. If an author isn’t engaged on social media I would question their ability to promote the book (particularly their ability and desire to engage in the cultural conversation, and to build or maintain a public facing brand).

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

BB: For nonfiction writers especially, you must focus on your platform as much as your work. If you’re not putting yourself out there online, in print, in public arenas, wherever, then a publisher has no proof of your ability to promote yourself or the book.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like the projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

BB: There have been many proud moments! My first New York Times bestseller, my first six figure book deal, anytime I have a big auction, and every time I sell a book for a first-time author. The joy of making a difference in someone’s life — perhaps someone who’s dreamt about a book their whole life, and put an incredible amount of legwork into making it happen — that’s very real and there isn’t anything like it.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on?

BB: I have several books upcoming that aren’t yet published or on my website, but of which I’m immensely proud. These include Rabbit by Patricia Williams, a stand-up comic from the Atlanta projects who had two kids and was a successful crack dealer by the age of 16, who pulled herself and her family out of poverty and was saved by comedy… it’s a beautiful, powerful read. A joyful advice book called You’re Not Lost by this young millennials thought leader, Maxie McCoy, who has incredibly fresh advice for her generation. And a parenting book called Neuroparent from a neuroscientist and mother of four, who teaches her readers how to raise kids with more empathy, creativity, and self-control using brain science. None of these were “celebrity” or high profile authors, but they all had nascent platforms that I was able to work with and stellar book concepts that stood out within their categories.

Thanks, Brandi!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

An Interview with Charles Dee Mitchell of WordSpace

“Dallas has become known as a significant center for the visual and performing arts. WordSpace wants to provide the same visibility and enthusiasm for the written word.”

-Charles Dee Mitchell, WordSpace 

WordSpace is a non-profit literary organization that supports education and writers, connecting Dallas with the best of world literature. Founded in 1994, the organization hosts authors, readings, student workshops, concerts, and salons to promote established and emerging artists who use imaginative language in traditional and experimental forms. Through diverse, multi-cultural programs, WordSpace enhances the development of language artists of all ages, facilitates communication throughout the literary community, and contributes to expanding the Dallas literary scene to the widest possible audience. We spoke with Charles Dee Mitchell, board president, about WordSpace’s upcoming May events.

Scribe: Can you tell us more about WordSpace’s mission and the programs you offer in support of that mission?

Charles Dee Mitchell: WordSpace produces about 50 events per season. We feature readers both local and national. We feature authors just starting out and possibly giving their first public readings, as well as such well-known and respected local figures as David Searcey and Willard Spiegelman who have just published their latest books after turning seventy. By holding free events in bookstores, community centers, theaters, galleries, and private homes spread across the city, we are making a concentrated effort to get contemporary writing both new and established audiences. Dallas has become known as a significant center for the visual and performing arts. WordSpace wants to provide the same visibility and enthusiasm for the written word.

Scribe: WordSpace is hosting several events in Dallas in May at various venues. Can you tell us a little more about these events?

CDM: Douglas Kearney’s appearance at the South Dallas Cultural Center on May 25 concludes the third season African Diaspora: New Dialogues, our collaboration with the SDCC. This series has brought local, national, and international writers to Dallas. Season three included Jamaican novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn and poet Tyehimba Jess, who won the Pulitzer Prize a few days after his reading in Dallas. We plan to make Natalia Toledo Paz’s reading at the Latino Cultural Center the beginning of a new collaboration with the SDCC series. Ms. Toleday Paz is a distinguished Mexican poet, and this will be a unique trilingual event. Much of her verse is in Zapotec, and the peformance will include live Spanish translation and projected English super titles.

The Kessler Theater has hosted our Headliner Series since 2011. This series, one of our few ticketed programs, has featured such writers and performers  as John Waters, Nikki Giovanni, Sandra Berhnardt, and Laurie Anderson. Our first headliner was Dan Savage, and we felt that the time was right to bring him back to Dallas on May 11.

Scribe: Deep Ellum Lit Hop will be held in June and includes a packed lineup of individual hour-long showcases of literary talent. Can you tell us more about this event and how those interested can participate?

CDM: The first Deep Ellum Lit Hop took place in the summer of 2016 and attracted around 200 people for an afternoon and evening of poetry and music. By announcing this as the Second Annual Deep Ellum Lit Hop we are committing to making this a soon-to-be Dallas institution.  So far there are four Deep Ellum venues and twelve participating groups, but the event is still evolving. Checking out the Facebook event page is the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening, https://www.facebook.com/events/129649400912879/

Scribe: Here are 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?

CDM: Kathleen Kent’s The Dime is a debut crime novel set in Dallas, Weatherford, and a white supremacist compound in East Texas. It does not disappoint.

Thanks, Charles!

To find out more about WordSpace and May’s events, visit their website.

Instructor Q&A: Wendi Aarons

“Humor works best when it’s sprinkled in lightly, then occasionally dropped like a bomb. Less is more.”

-Wendi Aarons

Wendi Aarons is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on May 20 at St. Edward’s University called “How to Write Funny.” This class will introduce tips, tricks, and easy ways to lighten up dialogue and prose to be more humorous in conceptual humor pieces. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.


Wendi AaronsScribe:
When developing humor, do you find that character personalities or setting and circumstance play a larger role? Or perhaps a mix of multiple elements?

Wendi Aarons: I prefer a mix of multiple elements, but most enjoy seeing how certain personality types react to uncomfortable or different situations and circumstances. For example, you could write a character that is naturally funny and have her sit in a room all day just saying humorous lines and that would work somewhat. But it’s even better to take that character and place her in a situation where she’s not living in a humor vacuum. David Sedaris’ narrator in his essay “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol” is amusing on his own, but David places him at a local grade school’s Christmas pageant, which he then reviews like the snotty theater critic he is. That’s a humor home run. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be as elaborate as that, but think of the humorous situations you’ve seen in real life, things that make you laugh, and use it for material or inspiration.

Scribe: Do you have any tips to help writers find a balance so that humor within the story doesn’t overpower the plot?

WA: Even if you’re able to do it, an essay or story that has wall-to-wall jokes is exhausting to read. You’re not a stand-up comedian. When written, humor needs air to make the lines really work. Think about meeting someone in real life who just cracks jokes non-stop instead of letting you see his or her real personality. It gets annoying quickly. Humor works best when it’s sprinkled in lightly, then occasionally dropped like a bomb. Less is more.

Scribe: Are there any tropes that you find particularly useful for first-time humor writers, or any that you feel are overused and should be avoided?

WA: I’m a big fan of the List. My first accepted humor piece was a list on McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, and it was called “Potential Nicknames for the Star Player on My Son’s Soccer Team.” I think there were less than 100 words total, but it was an easy way to jump into that type of writing. It’s not as intimidating as prose or a longer piece. As for what should be avoided, I admit to not enjoying song parody because I think the joke is made immediately, then it’s the same thing for three more minutes. (However, the success of Weird Al Yankovic means many people don’t agree with me on that.) I also think people should be careful when jumping into parody where they are speaking in another person’s voice, like my Twitter parody account @PaulRyanGosling that concerns Speaker Paul Ryan. It’s not as easy as it seems, and care should be taken to get the tone and voice right before really going full-steam on it.

Scribe: What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to someone who is trying to write funny for the first time?

WA: Read a lot of humor. Listen to a lot of humor. Realize that humor is subjective above anything else. What you find funny may not be funny to me and vice versa (although, let’s be honest, I’m probably right). Be natural and don’t force the jokes. Don’t be offensive or insulting because the meanness will outshadow the humor. Play around with words because even the adjustment of one word can take something from “eh” to LOL. Don’t expect to get it right the first time you try because it’s not always that simple. As they say, dying is easy, comedy is hard.

Thanks, Wendi!

Click here to register for Wendi’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. In the past few years, she has written for a number of publications including McSweeneys, and for Esther’s Follies, Austin’s famous comedy revue. She has also been a commentator on Austin’s NPR station, KUT. Wendi is one of the creators of Mouthy Housewives and the much-lauded twitter feed @paulryangosling. She is also a writer for US Weekly magazine’s Fashion Police.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Andy Ross

“A lot of writers think that the purpose of an agent is to negotiate a contract and disappear. I don’t work that way. I begin by helping the writer define what the real idea is in their project, or in fiction, what the real story is. “

-Andy 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 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Andy Ross

Andy Ross opened his literary agency in 2008. Prior to becoming an agent, he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Andy represents books in a wide range of nonfiction genres, including: narrative nonfiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, memoir, and current events. He also represents literary, commercial, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction. Authors Andy represents include Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Anjanette Delgado Elisa Kleven, Tawni Waters, Randall Platt, Mary Jo McConahay, Gerald Nachman, Paul Krassner, Milton Viorst, and Beth Hensperger. You can read more about Andy on his website at www.anyrossagency.com and on his popular blog “Ask the Agent” at www.andyrossagency.wordpress.com.

andyagency2-1-of-1Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Andy Ross: A lot of writers think that the purpose of an agent is to negotiate a contract and disappear. I don’t work that way. I begin by helping the writer define what the real idea is in their project; or in fiction, what the real story is. I will often do a full line edit of a novel. I continue to work with the author as her ally and advisor throughout the publishing process.

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

AR: In a world dominated by celebrity, debut fiction can be challenging to sell. Even if the writing is superb, publishing decisions usually get made based as much on marketing as on literary merit. But the decision is also highly subjective. If the acquisition editor doesn’t fall in love with the book, they won’t buy it. And it’s hard to know in advance which editors will respond emotionally to the book. The best I can do is find authors with talent telling stories that grab me by the heart.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

AR: It’s important for authors to put themselves out in the world. Books aren’t going to sell just by magic. A lot of writers think that just getting published by a prestigious imprint is going to make the book a success, that these publishers have secret alchemical powers that can promote a book. This isn’t true. For a debut novelist, most of the marketing and promotion will have to come from the author. All that being said, I think social media has been overhyped as a way of selling books. Yes, you should probably be on Facebook. A blog would be nice. But don’t expect miracles.

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

AR: Don’t get discouraged by rejection.

Scribe: Tell us about 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; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

AR: When I was at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference, I met a writer on the faculty, Tawni Waters. She was teaching nonfiction travel writing. She approached me and asked if I would look at her novel that she had written for her MFA. When I saw it, I could tell she had talent, but I didn’t think I could sell the book. She asked me to look at another book, something that had been sitting under her bed for ten years. I graciously agreed. By the time I had finished reading the first paragraph, I was sold. Her YA novel, Beauty of the Broken, was published by Simon/Pulse and was the winner of the International Literacy Association YA Award. I feel pretty good about that.

Scribe: Your biography on your website talks about some of your experiences owning Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years; how do you think your retailer and business-owner positions — as well as the specifics of owning Cody’s, iconic for its cultural and literary importance — have helped you in your career as a literary agent?

AR: When I left Cody’s, I wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. I had been a bookseller all my adult life and didn’t really know much about anything else. One night I woke up and decided rather impetuously that I would become an agent. No one really helped me get started. I was an autodidact. I was familiar with all the publisher imprints (something many experienced agents still don’t know), and I had spent my whole life talking to readers and book lovers. It turned out I knew a lot more than I thought I knew, and it has served me in good stead.

Thanks, Andy!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Instructor Q&A: Greg Garrett

“By pushing people into a literal or metaphorical journey, we’re pushing them across their usual boundaries. Things happen to them. They meet people. And story follows in its wake.”

-Greg Garrett

Greg Garrett is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas called “On The Hero’s Journey: Discovering Plot, Character, and Meaning for Your Novel” on May 13 at the ACC Highland Campus in Austin, TX. The class will provide writers with an overview of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and how this model will help a writer with almost any novel. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

greggarrett (2)

Scribe: In case anyone is unclear, what exactly is the Hero’s Journey?

Greg Garrett: The Hero’s Journey is an archetypal story told by cultures around the world for thousands of years. In it, a hero goes on a journey, proves her- or himself through a series of adventures and tests, experiences a sort of death and rebirth, and returns home with a boon or gift that, in ways large or small, saves her or his people. The pattern itself was named by Joseph Campbell, a twentieth-century scholar of comparative literature who studied hero and creation myths and found this incredible similarity from story to story. It was almost, he thought, like there was a story pattern to which we were conditioned to respond. I like to say that the Hero’s Journey is hard-wired into our genes, which makes it an essential piece of knowledge for every storyteller.

Scribe: In your opinion, why is the Hero’s Journey such a strong model that writers have been able to rely on for so long?

GG: I think the thing that works about the Hero’s Journey for storytellers is that the journey model is a perfect way to create conflict. If we say there are two great stories—a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town—they’re both about cracking open a hermetically sealed system and making story possible. If people remain hidden in their living rooms, then nothing happens to them (normally; the Will Ferrell character in Stranger than Fiction is a funny meta-fictional exception). But by pushing people into a literal or metaphorical journey, we’re pushing them across their usual boundaries. Things happen to them. They meet people. And story follows in its wake.

Scribe: Do you think it’s possible to abbreviate the Hero’s Journey for short form fiction, or is long form necessary?

GG: The short story plot arc is a much narrower arc than in a novel, play, or screenplay, so while you can use fragments of the Hero’s Journey, you can’t walk a character through the full journey in 12 pages. But you might show their Threshold Crossing, Ordeal, and Rebirth moments—that would make a strong short story. So knowing about the Hero’s Journey is a useful device for any story, but it most fully flowers in a long narrative.

Scribe: Is there any part of Joseph Campbell’s original Hero’s Journey model that you don’t agree with, or would like to see changed in some way?

GG: I find Campbell’s model really useful, but his expression of it is hard to digest for most writers. He was a scholar, not a storyteller. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is brilliant, but it’s really hard to read. Very dense. Even the PBS series he did with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, doesn’t really capture in any useful form the story pattern, the archetypal characters, or any real practical storytelling wisdom. It has taken story analysts and professional storytellers to find ways to make the Hero’s Journey a useful tool.

Scribe: Of the plethora of well-known works that are structured around the Hero’s Journey, do you have a favorite?

GG: Star Wars is the obvious response; George Lucas very consciously used the Hero’s Journey model and brought Joseph Campbell to Skywalker Ranch to talk with him about story. But I think maybe my personal favorite of the works that contains the Hero’s Journey is the Harry Potter epic. Every one of the seven novels contains a discrete Hero’s Journey, and then the 4100-page master narrative also bears the imprint of the Hero’s Journey. You can see how the archetype works in the most-popular story of all time—and it works REALLY well!

Thanks, Greg!

Click here to register for Greg’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Greg Garrett is the author of over twenty books of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, including the acclaimed novels Free Bird, Cycling, Shame, and The Prodigal. He teaches fiction writing and screenwriting at Baylor University, where he has received numerous teaching honors, and has offered highly-rated classes for the Writers League for over a decade. He lives with his wife and family in Austin.

Instructor Q&A: Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

“Personal essays keep us tethered to the human experience at a time when everything we know about being human seems to be undergoing a disruptive, at times frightening, transformation.”

-Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “How to Conceive and Structure Personal Essays” on May 6 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. This class will help writers learn to pair traditional journalistic methods and structures with the narrative energy of short fiction and memoir in order to craft compelling essays. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoScribe: For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, can you explain what a personal essay is?

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho: A personal essay is usually a brief piece where the author shares in vivid detail a personal moment in her life and how it transformed her or helped her understand something about herself, or the world, she didn’t before. A personal essay is to a memoir in nonfiction what a short story would be to a novel in fiction.

Scribe: What topics do you think make for strong personal essays?

AR: As in any other piece of storytelling, regardless of genre, the best essays combine compelling narrative force with indelible emotional import. As long as an essay has both, it can delve into any topic you may be able to think of – from the intricacies of small talk, to the enrapturing experience of moving to New York from Sacramento, as students enrolled in this class will see in the personal essays written by Karan Mahajan and Joan Didion we’ll be discussing.

Scribe: Is there a common slip-up that you notice in personal essays that you want to warn writers away from?

AR: Lack of detail and resonance, inconsequential events, and shallow perspective are always signs of a poorly developed essay. Interesting things happen to all of us all the time, but not every experience – compelling or life-altering as it might be – will translate by itself into a powerful essay. More important than what happened is how such experience is recreated narratively and how its impact on the larger scale of things is insightfully articulated on the page.

Scribe: Is there a market for personal essays? How would someone go about getting their essays published?

AR: Absolutely. Some of the most popular series in The New York Times, like Private Lives and Modern Love, are strictly devoted to featuring personal essays. Most literary journals publish them. If you are interested in publishing a personal essay, regardless of publication, you should pay attention to the topics we, collectively as a society, are discussing, and see if you have a personal, transformative experience that may shed new light on it, that may offer an unexplored or fresh angle to such topic, that may advance its public discussion somehow. But it must have inherent narrative force, its thought-provoking impact on the author must be genuine and not merely a fabrication aimed at producing a piece whose only goal is to get published. Editors, and readers, can easily identify when an essayist is “faking it” – and won’t buy it.

Scribe: Personal essays appear to be a recently popular trend; do you foresee the excitement around them continuing?

AR: Are they? Sure, every now and then we see an essay go viral with the same force of a Joe Biden meme, but Didion’s personal essays turned her into a literary rock star back in the sixties. George Orwell might be en vogue once again for his novel 1984, but back in his day he was a defining essayist who tackled sensitive issues such as colonialism, totalitarianism and social justice – his sharp essays remain as timely as his fiction works. Phillip Lopate’s must-read anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, opens with a piece by Seneca, a philosopher and writer who was born around the same time as Jesus Christ. Personal essays have been part of our literary tradition for centuries, and I don’t foresee their demise any time soon – just the opposite. The need to connect to a larger experience through storytelling remains as essential as ever, but our increasingly fragmented interaction with the world is rendering us isolated. We’ve never been more connected – and lonelier. Personal essays keep us tethered to the human experience at a time when everything we know about being human seems to be undergoing a disruptive, at times frightening, transformation.

Thanks, Antonio!

 

Click here to register for Antonio’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho was born and raised in Toluca, Mexico. A former Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University, a Dobie Paisano fellow in fiction by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters, and a Walter E. Dakin fellow in fiction at Sewanee Writers’ Conference, he earned his MFA from The New Writers Project at UT Austin. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Texas Monthly, The Millions, and elsewhere. His debut story collection Barefoot Dogs won the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction and was named a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Chronicle, Texas Observer and PRI’s The World. It was published in Spanish translation by the author, and is forthcoming in Dutch. Antonio lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, where he’s currently at work on a novel.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Allison Devereux

“Even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.”

-Allison Devereux

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 24th Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here. 

An Interview with Allison Devereux

Allison Devereux is a graduate of UT Austin and has been an agent at Wolf Literary since 2012. She represents up-market and literary fiction and is especially interested in global settings, every-man characters, moral ambiguity, magical realism, underrepresented voices, female protagonists, and stories set firmly in reality but that explore something fantastical or surreal. She’s actively looking for narrative nonfiction that uses a particular niche topic to explore larger truths about our culture; journalistic examinations of progressive politics, pop culture, unique subcultures, and modern feminism; and anything with a convincing narrative voice or a great sense of humor.

ad-wordpressScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Allison Devereux: I tend to be very hands-on with my authors. These days agents need to be more editorially minded than ever, so it’s not uncommon to go through 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5…) rounds of revision together before I send a book out on a submission. I also try to be as accessible, responsive, and straightforward with my clients as possible.

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

AD: A distinctive, believable voice; an original or unusual concept; open-mindedness to edits and the unpredictable publishing process more generally; ideas for future books!

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

AD: No. Social media can be an incredibly useful tool if you are genuinely active and engaged with it — connecting with readers, other writers, and folks in the industry – but it’s useless if you don’t stay active, or if you’re just sending out the occasional perfunctory tweet or Facebook post. If you enjoy social media, take advantage of these platforms to self-promote and engage with the broader writing & reading communities. Otherwise, I personally don’t think it’s worth the trouble to simply go through the motions. For nonfiction, however, selling books is often platform-driven, and that frequently means an author will have some sort of presence online. I still don’t consider it a strict requirement, but it can be a big help to bring your publisher a built-in audience.

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

AD: Getting published rarely happens quickly or without roadblocks. It often requires years and years of practice to hone your writing skills, and countless rejections before something gets picked up. Your first book — or even second or third — may not be the one to make it across the line with an agent or editor. And even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.

Scribe: Tell us about 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; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

AD: I recently signed up a graphic middle grade series that has been a bestseller in Spain. I represent children’s books only selectively — and I don’t normally sign up untranslated books in languages I don’t speak! — but this series was too clever and fun to pass up.

Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?

AD: I’m looking forward to a debut novel called Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel, which is coming out from Unnamed Press in June. The novel is timely, it takes place in an unique setting, and the voice and plot are original. I’d love more submissions like this.

Thanks, Allison!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.