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.

Advertisements

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Jennifer Chen Tran

“Part of doing the work means being a good literary citizen, so support your fellow writers and bookstores.”

-Jennifer Chen Tran

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 Jennifer Chen Tran

Jennifer Chen Tran is an agent at Bradford Literary. She represents both fiction and non-fiction. Originally from New York, Jennifer is a lifelong reader and experienced member of the publishing industry. Prior to joining Bradford Literary, she was an Associate Agent at Fuse Literary and served as Counsel at The New Press. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer understands the importance of negotiation in securing rights on behalf of her authors. She counsels her clients on how to expand their platforms, improve on craft, and works collaboratively with her clients throughout the editorial and publication process. Her ultimate goal is to work in concert with authors to shape books that will have a positive social impact on the world–books that also inform and entertain. She is looking to sign authors from diverse or marginalized backgrounds.

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

Jennifer Chen Tran: I’m a very hands-on and editorial agent. I see myself as an author cheerleader and savvy negotiator, and I truly believe in securing the best book deal for my author but also think broadly about how else we can take advantage of subsidiary rights beyond the book. I brainstorm with my clients on creative out-of-the-box approaches to promotion and marketing. I really am a friend and business partner and pride myself on being very responsive to my clients. My role is to add value to all of my interactions with my author-clients, who I feel so gratified to work with.

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

JCT: Many things, but paramount is voice and tension on the page. Characters that feel real, a story that makes me care and think more deeply about the world at large. Professionalism and realistic expectations about the publishing journey, also doesn’t hurt.

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

JCT: Do the work. Work on your craft, improve your writing. If you write non-fiction, keep placing essays and shorter pieces in journals, magazines, and other literary publications. If you write fiction, keep refining your story, your characters, the setting, and get feedback from others. Part of doing the work means being a good literary citizen, so support your fellow writers and bookstores. (I think that is more than one piece of advice! I like giving advice).

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? 

JCT: Yes. I represent Cori Salchert, a former perinatal bereavement nurse who now takes care of hospice babies and kiddos with life-limiting medical conditions. She’s been covered in national media outlets, including a recent appearance on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda. I think it’s the most unique project I’ve worked on because it takes on so many ethical and spiritual questions in a scenario that you don’t often see. Plus, it made me cry more times than I can count.

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

JCT: I’m super excited about Spark! a three-book middle grade series that was originally based on a viral Tumblr blog called “Little Girls are Better Superheroes Than You,” where little girls sent in pictures of themselves in homemade costumes and comics artists created superheroic characters based on these pictures. It features Lucia Marquez-Miller, who loves tinkering with her Legos and can take things apart with just the power of her mind. She’s a very positive role model for little girls everywhere but she’s also a normal girl who has homework and wants to please her parents. Lucia fights crime with a motley crew of characters in modern-day San Francisco. It’s a fun story, full of adventure, and I think a lot of middle grade kids will love it. Lion Forge comics is the publisher and the first book in the series will be released next year.

Thanks, Jennifer!

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 Conference Faculty: Agent Eric Myers

“Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.”

-Eric Myers

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 Eric Myers

Eric Myers entered publishing as an author, with three books published by St. Martin’s Press. He has been an agent since 2002, having worked at The Spieler Agency and Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret before establishing Myers Literary Management. His clients include Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library), Sam Staggs (All About “All About Eve,” Closeup On “Sunset Boulevard”), Seth Rudetsky (My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan), Miriam Davis (The Axeman of New Orleans), and Patrice Banks (The Girls’ Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide), among many others. He specializes in YA, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, and most non-fiction, including memoir that comes with a strong platform.

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

Eric Myers: As an author myself, I try to be supportive as well as sensitive to an author’s needs.  I am constantly attempting to put myself in my client’s place. But a little tough love is sometimes required as well, and it’s important to know when and when not to use it.

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

EM: I look for a manuscript that is already at least 95 percent perfect; one which shows me that a writer really knows what he or she is doing and is ready for Prime Time.  It helps if the author is social-media savvy, has a feeling for self-promotion, and is willing and able to go out there and do everything possible to get copies of their book sold.

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

EM: Writing is no longer a solitary profession. Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.

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? 

EM: One of my most unusual projects is a forthcoming memoir called Girl Electric by Alisa Jones, who was diagnosed with adult-onset epilepsy at 40.  I’ll bet you don’t think an epilepsy memoir can actually be laugh-out-loud funny. Think again! You can find out this November, when it is published by Imagine/Charlesbridge.

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

EM: My client Lydia Kang, a physician based in Omaha, has already written several great YA and adult novels.  She joined forces with her journalist friend Nate Pedersen to write Quackery, which was published last year by Workman.  It’s an amazing compendium of all the horrendous quack cures that have been tried out on patients over the centuries. Darkly funny, it is peppered with great visuals, including outrageous old advertisements for every kind of snake-oil scam you can imagine.  It became one of Workman’s biggest hits of the year.

Thanks, Eric!

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 Conference Faculty: Agent Terra Chalberg

“Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.”

-Terra Chalberg

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 Terra Chalberg

Terra Chalberg began her publishing career in 2002 at Scribner after graduating from UCLA and working in film development. As an agent, she represents a range of fiction and nonfiction writers, including Victoria Fedden, author of This Is Not My Beautiful Life; Margaux Fragoso, author of the New York Times and international bestseller Tiger, Tiger; Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group; Lori Ostlund, author of Barnes & Noble Discover selection, finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize After the Parade; Andrew Porter, Flannery O’Connor Award-winner and author of the Indie Next List pick In Between Days; Melissa Radke, author of Eat Cake. Be Brave.; Alex Taylor, author of Kentucky Literary Award-finalist The Marble Orchard; and Glenn Taylor, NBCC Award Finalist in Fiction and author of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom.

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

Terra Chalberg: I tailor the job to the author and what she needs at any given part of the process, which can change book to book as well. There are periods when my authors and I are in constant, close communication (e.g. project development and sale), and periods when I take a backseat but am hands-on/involved as needed. Because part of the job is problem solving and liaising, I can best serve the client when author, editor, and, eventually, publicist all keep me in the loop. The more we work as a team, the better the results.

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

TC: Reserves of enthusiasm and optimism; the ability to revise based on feedback but with creative license and authority. I appreciate someone who is willing to put all he’s got into promoting himself and his brand, but I also understand it doesn’t always come naturally, so effort counts for a lot in my book.

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

TC: Putting aside the craft, a writing career is like any other in that there are components of the career that don’t involve the actual work but are still part of the job, like cultivating relationships with readers and other writers, and planning for long-term success. Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.

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? 

TC: Yes. One of my first clients, Margaux Fragoso, who has since passed away, wrote a memoir called Tiger, Tiger. Her nuanced approach to the material and her beautiful command of language humanized a pedophile in a way our society refuses to do. It’s controversial, haunting, and a crucial contribution to the world. I hadn’t been looking out for a writer whose topic was her experience with a sexual predator, but I recognized its unique qualities and potential to educate readers.

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

TC: Melissa Radke—born and bred in East Texas—is a phenomenal writer, speaker, and entertainer whose book of hilarious, heartfelt personal stories called Eat Cake. Be Brave. is coming in July from Grand Central Publishing. The book’s title is inspired by one of the many Facebook videos that has given Melissa her huge social media following; she made the video on the eve of her forty-first birthday to remind herself and everyone else that we are all whole, good, and unique, and that we need to love ourselves as we are, even when (and especially when) the world is not being kind.

Thanks, Terra!

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 Conference Faculty: Agent Susan Velazquez

“A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.”

-Susan Velazquez

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 Susan Velazquez

Susan Velazquez is the assistant to Eddie Schneider and Joshua Bilmes and manages audio rights at JABberwocky Literary. She was born and raised outside of Dallas and studied Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego. Susan generally gravitates towards any story that details a complicated family dynamic, illustrates a transformative coming-of-age experience, or features multicultural characters or unique voices. In non-fiction, she is interested in memoirs, pop culture, and history. In science fiction and fantasy, she is looking for richly built worlds to become immersed in and stories that explore what humanity is like–or could be like.

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

Susan Velazquez:  I would describe my approach as “part-Jedi trainer, part-cheerleader.” Part of my job is to guide authors through the publishing business and help them understand all the possible avenues for their creativity, which can include books, film/TV, merchandise and licensing, etc. The other part, which is my favorite, is to help authors shape their ideas into the best possible version. I am happy to provide editorial feedback, but I never try to steer the story one way or the other. Our authors have amazing stories to tell and I want to do everything I can to help share them with the world.

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

SV: Excellent writing skills and boundless creativity. If a writer has both of these, the world is theirs. A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.

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

SV: Show your character’s personality on the page! One of the quickest ways I fall in love with a story is if I fall in love with the characters. There’s so many ways to express a character’s personality: in their dialogue, their inner monologue, or their driving motivations. Characters should feel as human as possible because it makes it easier to develop an emotional connection to them and thus, the rest of the story.

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

TC:  I’m currently working with one of our newest clients, Joy Lanzendorfer, on a historical family saga set in California that spans the Gold Rush, the Great Depression in Hollywood, and the beginning of World War II. Joy has created these beautifully complicated women who are trying to chase a version of the American Dream, no matter the cost. They are not always likable, but it’s mesmerizing to watch them go after what they want. She’s a wonderful, talented writer and I’m so excited to help bring this book (and her other future books!) to life.

Thanks, Susan!

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 Conference Faculty: Agent Kristina Moore

“Plot points in fiction or narrative argument in nonfiction can be improved through editorial work, but the fundamentals of writing have to be there from the start.”

-Kristina Moore

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 Kristina Moore

Kristina Moore joined The Wylie Agency in 2009. She specializes in literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, and is particularly interested in reportage, history, biography, science, sports writing, and arts and cultural criticism. She also represents authors’ estates. She graduated from Harvard College and began her career as an editor at SCOTUSBlog.

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

Kristina Moore: We seek to represent authors for the life of their careers, and in all aspects of their creative work—books, magazine, film/TV, speaking engagements. We’re not looking to represent one commercial hit, but rather to represent the highest quality writing in both fiction and nonfiction, and to find authors who are in dialogue with other important work. We’re advocates and cheerleaders, business managers and tacticians; we’re not editors, except in rare cases where the author has asked for our guidance.

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

KM: The strength of the writing and voice—plot points in fiction or narrative argument in nonfiction can be improved through editorial work, but the fundamentals of writing have to be there from the start.

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

KM: Don’t try to chase a trend or write “the next Gone Girl”—you really do have to write what you know.

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? 

KM: I recently sold a collection of sci-fi short stories, even though I don’t work in the sci-fi genre and short stories are generally a tough sell, because the literary quality of the writing was so unique, and the author was a supremely interesting young woman.

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

KM:  Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends received such an amazing critical reception, and it is a true privilege to bring her work to US readers. She’s only 26 and we’ve just sold her second novel.

Thanks, Kristina!

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 Conference Faculty: Agent Arielle Datz

“Read! Consider it research for your career.”

-Arielle Datz

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 Arielle Datz

Arielle Datz started as an intern at Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner in 2011. She then worked in the foreign rights department at WME, followed by 2 years at the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency. She returned to DCLA in 2015. She is looking for fiction (mostly adult, but is open to young adult and middle grade), both literary and commercial. In nonfiction, she is looking for essays, unconventional memoir, pop culture, and sociology.

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

Arielle Datz: I am as involved as the author wants me to be. I have a strong editorial eye, so I am very involved pre-book sale, and once a book is with an editor at a publisher I take a step back unless my input is needed. I see myself as a guide for the author through the labyrinth of the publishing world.

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

AD: A strong voice with a story (or stories!) to tell.

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

AD: Read! Consider it research for your career. Read books within your genre, and stay up to date on what is successful in mainstream publishing.

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

AD: If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio–the story set me ablaze from the beginning, and then it turned out that we work tremendously well as a team. She has a keen sense of voice and her characters weasel their way into my brain, such that I can’t stop thinking about them.

Thanks, Arielle!

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.