Meet the Members: Lucia DiStefano

“My hope for writing in the future is that I continue to love it and feel challenged by it.”

-Lucia DiStefano

A member of the Writers’ League since 2017, Lucia DiStefano lives in Georgetown.

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

Lucia DiStefano: As a ghostwriter, I write in almost every genre (fiction, non-fiction, self-help, even the other-than-the-recipe content of a cookbook), but under my own name, I write Young Adult novels. As a former high school English teacher, my heart has a giant book-shaped spot for that audience.  

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

LD: Richard Ford (Independence Day). Assuming I wouldn’t be stunned speechless by being across a table from him, I’d ask him whether Frank Bascombe feels as real to him as he does me (which is more real than many people I’ve met in the flesh); and then I’d ask him whether he realizes he’s one of the great experts in human psychology alive today (and then I’d try to still my quaking hands enough to avoid embarrassing myself with a catastrophic spill).  

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

LD: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. (Indeed, I have had the experience of feeling metaphorically stranded, and this book is one of the ones that reminded me of the redemptive and connective power of story.)

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

LD: That Texas writers are just as friendly and supportive and warm as Texans in general. Thank you, y’all! 

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

LD: Writing has always been the largest and most consistent presence in my life, but I also want to work on achieving balance. Now that I’m here in the Hill Country and surrounded by so much that I’d love to explore, I want to learn how to give quality time to a life beyond my desk. So I guess my hope for writing in the future is that I continue to love it and feel challenged by it. I know that the business side of it is unpredictable (understatement!) and quite often downright zany, so I don’t want to hold out expectations for what I can’t control.

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?

LD: News of the World by Paulette Jiles. (Need I say more? Sometimes I read her work and catch myself wondering if a mere mortal wrote it. I mean that as the highest compliment, of course. I’m gobsmacked by her talent!)

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

LD: Ah, yes — blatant self-promotion! As a ghostwriter, I had no need to self-promote, but now I need to get the hang of that (and push through my resistance toward it). So here goes … I was recently named the winner of the 2018 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize, which means my Young Adult novel Borrowed will be published in the fall by Elephant Rock Books — it’ll be my first non-ghosted book!

I’m on Twitter at @LuciaDiStef. My website is currently under construction, but when it’s live, it will be www.LuciaDiStefano.com

Thank you, Lucia!

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!

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Meet the Conference Faculty: Rachel Orr

“I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder.”

-Rachel Orr

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Rachel Orr

Rachel Orr is celebrating her eleventh year at Prospect Agency, where she represents both authors and illustrators in projects ranging from picture books through YA. She previously worked for eight rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books and uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include Kit Alloway (the Dream Walker series), Samantha M. Clark (The Boy, the Boat and the Beast), Cori Doerrfeld (The Rabbit Listened), Emma Wunsch (The Movie Version), and Kim Zarins (Sometimes We Tell the Truth). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time, but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.

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

Rachel Orr: Every client works differently, so I usually tailor my approach to the specific needs and desires of the author or illustrator. However, in general, I tend to work very closely with my clients, specifically during the editorial stage. This is something I really enjoy, especially given my experience of working as an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books for eight years. I also like developing personal relationships with my clients. Again, it’s not necessary—many writers and illustrators prefer their space, and that’s fine—but I do find that good communication is helpful. It’s also useful to know what is going on in their lives, which can better help me to help them. Plus, it’s another aspect of the job that I really enjoy. Many clients have become good friends of mine.

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

RO: I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder. This is especially important at Prospect Agency, since we’re looking to foster a client’s entire career, rather than a single title. Knowledge of the industry is always a plus, as is an ability to balance a positive attitude with realistic expectations. Publishing is still a business, after all—for better or worse—and I’ve found that the clients who are most successful are those who have come to terms with that fact, while also staying true to their craft. Most importantly, I’m looking for someone who is willing to do the hard work that it takes to succeed.

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

RO: Along the lines above, I would say being aware of the market without writing to it. I realize that it can be tempting to follow trends, but when writers intentionally do so, those stories almost always comes across sounding derivative. Not comparing oneself to other writers and illustrators—no matter what stage or your career you’re in—is another piece of advice that I would give to anyone. Everyone’s publishing journey is unique, and while it’s fine to have aspirations, wishing to be in someone else’s shoes is hardly ever a healthy attitude.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

RO: There are some illustrator clients whose work is vastly different than the more commercial art I tend to be drawn to. But there was something so striking about their art that I just couldn’t resist!

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

RO: Well, of course, I can’t wait for the launch of the debut middle-grade novel The Boy, The Boat and the Beast (Simon & Schuster/June 2018) by Austin’s own Samantha M. Clark.  I remember reading the manuscript for the first time and absolutely falling in love with it. So I was thrilled when Sam and I visited the S&S offices recently and were surrounded by publishing professionals who loved the book just as much as we do! I’m also very excited for Cori Doerrfeld’s picture book, The Rabbit Listened (Dial/February 2018), which is a beautiful—and important—book about grief. I’ve represented Cori for over a decade now, and she has published many wonderful stories, but I’m hoping this will be a real break-out book for her. On the flipside, I’m looking forward to another client’s author-illustrator debut with her book entitled Underwear (still to be announced. Stay tuned for that!). It’s about, well …underwear. It’s completely not a serious book, but it is 100% completely kid-friendly and will cause many giggles to ensue, which makes this an important book in its own special way, too.

Thanks, Rachel!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Members: Enzo Milo Michel

“The sheer communal feel [to the Writers’ League] alone is stunning, truly. I’m amazed with the conferences, and the agents and editors who attend them.”

-Enzo Milo Michel

A member of the Writers’ League for six months, Enzo Milo Michel lives in Killeen.

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

Enzo Milo Michel: Mostly literary fiction, some experimental.

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

Enzo Milo Michel: Kafka, hands down. My first question would be, assuming he has some consciousness of the 21st century academic world, “what would you change in the American Philosophy and English departments?”

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

EMM: Probably something written by Nietzsche, a Sci-Fi anthology, or a good detective novel!

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

EMM: The sheer communal feel alone is stunning, truly. I’m amazed with the conferences, and the agents and editors who attend them. They’re incorporated at every turn into the hospitable and warm tone set by the Writer’s League, adapting as if they too are members. It’s unprecedented.

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

EMM: I have to say, the current projects alone don’t have me looking too far. It’s safe to say, I’m focused on where the writing will take me within the next stroke of my pencil! Let’s keep it there.

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?

EMM: Latest reads usually are short stories, but one I enjoyed particularly was The Boathouse by Tim Griffith.  

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

EMM: I’m currently working on my first novel! For updates on short stories, essays, and that novel visit my website. There you will find updates on my projects and social media links.

Thanks, Enzo!

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: Grace A. Ross

“I do not shy away from a book that has potential but needs revision.”

-Grace A. Ross

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Grace A. Ross

Grace A. Ross recently joined Regal Hoffmann & Associates, a boutique agency that represents quality literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, biography, journalism, politics, and social history. She was previously at Denise Shannon Literary Agency and Barbara Lowenstein Associates. Grace is interested in literary fiction that experiments with form and speaks to the current cultural climate; historical fiction; international narratives; and dynamic plots that bridge genres. In nonfiction, she is looking for socially and politically conscious narratives, especially those that engage with cultural conversations about gender, race, and class in an accessible way; but she’s also drawn to popular science, biography, cultural theory, and memoir.

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

Grace A. Ross: Hands on when it comes to editorial work – I do not shy away from a book that has potential but needs revision. I have a unique individual relationship with each of my clients so that I can be the best possible advocate. In some cases that means sending cat gifs for inspiration, and in others, it means setting up frequent phone calls to brainstorm ideas or noodle out a plot or thesis. The idea is that I’ll be working with my authors over the course of their entire career, so I want to get to know each of my clients and their specific needs deeply.

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

GR: An author who thrives while working with an editorial partner but who doesn’t need close line editing. The process from manuscript to book-on-the-shelf can be a long and frustrating process, so I also appreciate an author who shows enthusiasm and continues to put in effort even when the going gets tough.

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

GR: Try to stay positive! If you don’t initially find representation or a book doesn’t sell, know that you can always revise or start working on something new. Of course, it can be so frustrating when something you’ve worked hard on doesn’t get liftoff, but sometimes it’s worth putting a project aside and finding something fresh to work on. You can always return to that original project later down the road.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

GR: Last fall, a referral for a debut mystery dropped into my inbox. I’m not usually in the market for mysteries or thrillers, but the concept really caught my eye. The author was writing about a young wine sommelier who fakes rare wine, very similar to Rudy Kurniawan who was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years in prison for selling millions of dollars of fake rare vintages. The writing was gripping, and the details were so tantalizing – the author clearly did a lot of research, especially for the historical sections. I had just vacationed in the south of France and fallen in love with the wine there so it couldn’t have been a more perfectly timed query! I immediately offered representation and she accepted.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

GR: Speaking of the wine book above, I just recently sold it Seven Street Books. I couldn’t be more pleased to work on a book out of my typical milieu and have it land at the perfect place!

Thanks, Grace!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Members: Gates Whitley

“It seems doubtful that I shall run out of material. More likely, I shall first run out of time.”

-Gates Whitley

A member of the Writers’ League for one year, Gates Whitley lives in San Antonio.

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

Gates Whitley: Historical fiction and biography.

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

GW: Winston Churchill. After exploring our possible family connection, I would want to ask his opinion of T. E. Lawrence’s assessment in the aftermath of WWI, found in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom, that “the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep….” If I were allowed a follow-up question, I would ask him how those terms would apply in the aftermath of WWII.

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

GW: Clearly, the Bible, specifically the NRSV. You did say however, for purposes of keeping one sane. If for entertainment…well that would be Amor Towles’ ( A Gentleman in Moscow, Rules of Civility ) new book.

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

GW: From the bountiful selection of courses and teaching staff, I relish the opportunity to grow in the craft.

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

GW: There seems to be, in my family, a sizeable number of relatives who had very interesting lives, lived in interesting times and had great adventures. It seems doubtful that I shall run out of material. More likely, I shall first run out of time.

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?

GW: If I may stretch the time frame to last two years, it would be Stephen L. Moore’s (with William Morrow), Texas Rising.

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

GW: Share with the world? More and better humour, especially the self-effacing kind.

Thanks, Gates!

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 Members: Bruce Thatcher

“I’ve gained a great appreciation of how much hard work it takes — after the writing — to promote and disseminate the end product.”

-Bruce Thatcher

A member of the Writers’ League since 2013, Bruce Thatcher lives outside New Braunfels.

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

Bruce Thatcher: Non-fiction: political science and history.

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

BT: Martin Dugard (co-author of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing books). I’d ask him, “after deciding on a subject, which comes first, outline of the book or research?”

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

BT: Can’t think of a single title. I’d probably like the luxury of a complete series by Tom Clancy, W.E.B. Griffin or Jeff Shaara, etc. They’re all so thoroughly researched and well written that my time on the island would be both pleasurable and educational … and it would fly by.

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

BT: I’ve gained a great appreciation of how much hard work it takes, after the writing, to promote and disseminate the end product.

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

BT: My purpose is to distill history’s lessons into practical and reliable advice for today’s Americans and our leaders. Shorter works and articles/essays may have a place in that program.

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?

BT: Though it first came out in 2013, I was recently given a copy of Philipp Meyer’s The Son, a historical novel of a family/dynasty set in Texas from 1811 to well past the mid-20th century. It’s too long for a single sitting but, once begun, that’s the way I wanted to read it.

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

BT: I wrote a few books during my business career (including one on a short-deadline contract), but they were for specialised audiences and limited purpose. After retiring and moving to Texas I started writing the HST books out of frustration with how country’s leaders – America’s and others – seem to approach most problems with no apparent awareness of history’s relevant lessons. History Speaks Today was launched as my attempt to correct that ignorance, at least in some small way. I decided to use a business-case approach to presenting practical historical lessons, focused not so much on the who-what-when-where-why of history but, rather, on the so what that is usually absent from traditional history teaching. The result has been three books that articulate clear guidelines for dealing with specific problems of today (Adamant Aggressors, Immigration and Rise and Decline).

When I began HST, I envisioned it could be an umbrella under which other authors could research and present historical lessons for today. That hasn’t yet happened, but if it sounds interesting to other Writers’ League members, I’d like to hear from them.

Thanks, Bruce!

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 Members: Rebecca Nolen

Everyone I’ve ever met who is a member at WLT has been a good friend.

-Rebecca Nolen

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas for three years, Rebecca Nolen lives in Houston.

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

Rebecca Nolen: I write middle-grade fiction – I have a published middle-grade historical fantasy. I also write adult suspense! I’ve won awards for my published novel Deadly Thymeand I write and illustrate picture books as well — but I am not published yet.

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

RN: Rudyard Kipling. I would ask him where in the world he enjoyed living the most and why.

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

RN: The Bible, because it would keep my hope alive.

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

RN: Everyone I’ve ever met who is a member at WLT has been a good friend.

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

RN: A series of adult suspense – the Deadly series. And many partially illustrated picture books are waiting on my shelf for completion. I dream that happens soon.

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?

RN: I just finished Nikki Loftin’s book Wish Girl! Loved it.

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

Houston Writers House (of which I am director) has published a Texas-themed anthology, which I illustrated!

Thanks, Rebecca!

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!