Monday, October 31, 2011

To Reveal or Not to Reveal The Agent's Identity--That Is the Question

I'd love to hear what you thought of October's round of "An Agent's Inbox," specifically what you thought about knowing who The Agent was beforehand. Do you want to try another round like that sometime, or do you prefer not knowing The Agent's identity upfront? I can see pros and cons to both, so I wanted to get a sense of what you guys were thinking as we get ready for next month's contest.

P.S. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Hannah Bowman

And “Interview with an Agent” returns! Today’s INTERACTIVE installment features Hannah Bowman, the newest agent at Liza Dawson Associates. Details on the interactive part are at the bottom. See you down there!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

HB: I've been officially an agent since the beginning of August this year--I'm still brand new. Before that I interned at Liza Dawson Associates for eight months.

I actually got interested in publishing from the writing side: I wrote and queried a couple novels of my own--both of which were (rightly) rejected. So I've been there! As I was querying, I realized I was really interested in what agents do--the editing, negotiations, and business side of publishing--so I started looking for internships and opportunities to read manuscripts. I interned briefly with agent Weronika Janczuk before starting at Liza Dawson Associates.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

HB: I'm a very hands-on agent. I love to edit and help writers draw out their story. It's so satisfying to give writers suggestions and have them say, "Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say!" I really want to be involved in every part of the publishing process, from editing to marketing, and help my clients turn ideas and talent into long-term careers.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

HB: Since I'm so new, I don't have any projects coming out yet. I can tell you what I'm drawn to, though: big concepts, twisty plots, and strong voices.

Let me break that down a little.

Big concepts: I love science fiction and fantasy because of the world building and the big ideas in the books. When I read query letters, I'm looking in large part for a story idea that takes my breath away. That doesn't have to a be a speculative idea: the right romance or contemporary YA concept has the same punch.

Twisty plots: I love the feeling when the threads of a complex plot come together and suddenly you know where the story has to go--and then it goes there. Revelations of secrets, hard choices and sacrifices, and anything Tolkien would call "eucatastrophe"--a happy ending pulled off when things are at their absolute worst and all seems lost--are all very satisfying to me. I really like to see conflicts be pushed as far as they can be, and I love characters who are forced to make difficult choices in impossible situations, where there's no right thing to do.

Strong voices: I think successful fiction really comes down to characters. A strong voice doesn't necessarily have to be snarky or funny, but I want to feel like the character is right there beside me.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

HB: I represent all kinds of commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and cozy mysteries. I also represent all genres of YA.

I'm a hard sell on thrillers, unless they're offbeat, and on anything that could be described as "hard-boiled." I'm also likely not the right agent for a literary fiction project.

I'm looking for some select nonfiction, mostly about math or science, or religion and spirituality, especially church history. I'm not the right agent for memoirs, though.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

HB: There's no pet peeve that will make me put down a query without reading it. I make my decisions based on the quality of writing in the query and the concept of the book. That said: I'm really not interested in hearing about what message you expect your book to teach. And, for YA queries, if you say that your book is appropriate for YA because it doesn't have bad language/mature themes, I'm likely to be skeptical that you're really familiar with the YA market.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

HB: It doesn't really make a difference to me. Usually I've made up my mind if I want to read more before I read the pages, based on the concept and writing in the query. Occasionally, if I'm not sure, I'll look at the pages, but in most cases, the writing isn't good enough to convince me to request more. In my experience, it's more common for pages to convince me to pass than to request--but if the writing doesn't catch me, I'll end up passing on a partial anyway, so in the long run it won't change anything.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

HB: Right now I'd love to find: a really sweet contemporary romance, a high-concept women's fiction that revolves around one major event in a woman's life, and a big far-future space opera. But that's by no means a complete list--I'm open for anything great that shows up.

I'm tired of YA voices that sound the same--a little snarky, a little insecure, but not really grounded in the personality of a particular character. I'd love to see a really fresh voice in a YA contemporary or paranormal.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

HB: Query me by e-mail at, with just a query letter in the body of the e-mail. You can also send a paper query if you prefer, per our submission guidelines at, but I prefer e-queries.

My submission guidelines are also available at

Thanks again, Ms. Bowman, for these responses. And good luck to everyone who decides to query! I imagine that will be a lot of you:)

But before you fire off those e-mails, feel free to ask any questions you may have for Ms. Bowman in the comments below. She’ll drop in periodically throughout the day to answer whatever questions she finds down there, leaving her answers in the comments as well. We’ll wrap things up at 5:00 p.m. EDT (or 2:00 p.m. PDT), but until then, ask away!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Steve's Query and First Page

I'm half excited and half nervous to share Steve's query and first page with you. Gives me a new appreciation for how you "An Agent's Inbox" entrants must feel, and this isn't even a contest!

Anyway, here they are (for the time being, at least). Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Steve's Query Twelve-year-old Ella Mae is a sensible girl. She believes in the Good Lord Jesus Christ and tunes in once a week for that new television show I Love Lucy (but only when Dragnet isn’t on). So when some egghead scientist starts spouting nonsense about deoxy-something-or-other and how he can regenerate her auntie Mildred’s long-dead son from the blood on his old dog tags, Ella Mae doesn’t believe him. Or at least she doesn’t until a man steps out of the bio-pod and drips yellow-green slime onto the floor.

Problem is, the man who steps out of that bio-pod isn’t her cousin. He’s a Japanese.

Ella Mae knows that she should hate him, but when he can’t remember his own name, she feels more pity than hate. Ella Mae gives the man a name and, like any good mama, vows to protect him from the world. She spits at the reverend for calling him an abomination and even tells off her loose-lipped cousin for trying to kiss him. But when the man’s memories resurface, memories about the war and what really happened on the day his blood splashed on her cousin’s dog tags, Ella Mae has to learn the hard way that she can’t protect him from some things.

[TITLE], complete at 52,000 words, is an MG historical with a dash of science fiction. [Agent-specific comments]

I am a BYU graduate, a stay-at-home mom, and a blogger. My blog, Mother. Write. (Repeat.), receives an average of 8,000 pageviews a month.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Steve's First Page Mama said it was plum foolishness to keep my cousin’s dog tags like that, with his blood still stuck between the ridges of his name. “Don’t know why Mildred won’t wash ’em,” Mama muttered one day while scrubbing dishes. “It’s like she thinks that blood will keep Robby alive somehow, like it’ll keep him with her. And we both know that’s plum foolishness.” She shook a soapy finger in my face. “That’s foolishness, Ella Mae, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Especially Auntie Mildred.”

But that was exactly what Mildred told me. “It’s not foolishness, Ella Mae,” she said one day while sweeping floors. “It’s science.” She gave the broom a flick. “And one of these days, those eggheads who invented the atomic bomb are gonna figure out how to create life instead of just destroy it.”

I never told Auntie Mildred what Mama had said, and I never told Mama what Auntie Mildred had said, either. Those two already had enough to fight about, seeing as how they were sisters and all. In fact, when Mama answered the telephone that Saturday afternoon, I figured it was Auntie Mildred calling to resume their ongoing argument about Ajax.

But I was only half right.

“Settle down, Mildred,” Mama said, since she wasn’t the sort to stand for anyone’s shenanigans (especially Auntie Mildred’s). “Now what’s this about Robby?”

I stopped chomping on my asparagus. Something told me I’d want to hear every word of this particular conversation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Big Black Cat, an Interview, and a Little Bit of Steve

First things first. Agented writer and blogging friend Mindy McGinnis--better known to most of you as bigblackcat97--has started a new query critiquing series on her blog. Basically, you e-mail her your query, and she posts it on her blog and sinks her claws into it gives you some constructive criticism. (In all seriousness, though, Mindy is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, so she dispenses her advice in the kindest possible way.) Other readers share their thoughts with you as well, so you end up with several worthy opinions (which is good, since the truth generally lies somewhere in the middle).

This is especially helpful if you’re looking for feedback before you reach the query stage (and heaven only knows we could all use a little feedback then), so hop over to her blog and give The Saturday Slash a look-see. You do need to be a follower to participate, but I’m sure you’ll want to be one once you check out her site.

Next things next. I (finally) have another installment of “Interview with an Agent” in the pipeline, and better yet, it’s going to be INTERACTIVE. Hannah Bowman, the newest agent at Liza Dawson Associates, will be here this Friday, October 28, to answer any questions you may have. Definitely plan on checking in that day to catch Ms. Bowman’s responses to the usual questions--and a bunch more.

Lastly, I’ve felt a little bad that I always ask you guys to put your queries and first pages on the chopping block but never offer up my own. (Not that I would ever enter one of my own contests, but still.) So in the spirit of not cowering behind the chopping block any longer, I plan to post the current drafts of Steve’s query and first page tomorrow morning, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have a minute, you might check those out as well.

Well, I think that’s it. Anyone else know of any other exciting goings-on around the blogosphere this week?

P.S. Don’t miss the winners Ms. Testerman picked from last week’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox.” Did one of your favorites make the list?

October's Winners!

Without further ado, I give you Ms. Testerman’s winners!

Runners up:


These entries win a request for the first 5 chapters and a synopsis!

First place: #2 SAVING ANDROMEDA

SAVING ANDROMEDA wins a full request!

Congratulations, winners! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for instructions on how to submit. And a big thank-you to Ms. Testerman, our entrants, and anyone and everyone who critiqued this round. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we appreciate your participation.

But lest you think the excitement is over, we have an action-packed week coming up on the blog! Later this afternoon, I’ll post a few announcements. For now, you’ll have to settle for some hints: another query-critiquing opportunity, Steve’s query and first page, and another INTERACTIVE installment of “Interview with an Agent.” Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Critique Away!

The entries are up, and they're great! But I know our entrants are hoping for some feedback, so feel free to give them a little constructive criticism. ENTRANTS, PLEASE REMEMBER TO COMMENT ON AT LEAST 3 OF THE ENTRIES; everyone else, feel free to comment on any or all of them. And if you want to think like The Agent, consider the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" as you give your feedback.

I'll announce Ms. Testerman's winners and prizes next week, no later than Tuesday, October 25. Until then, have at it!

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Ms. Testerman,

My 82,000-word novel, Silhouette, is a young adult fantasy romance that combines the love story of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight with the fantasy world of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. And because you are actively seeking novels in this genre, I thought we might be a good match.

After her mother’s death, seventeen year old Leira Sky has no other option but to go live at the mansion where her only aunt works. It’s here that Leira meets Tristan Harper. From their first encounter she finds herself oddly drawn to him. His otherworldly beauty, his pointed ears, his eyes that change colors--it all adds to his mysterious allure. But when an unexplained incident happens in his presence, Leira can’t help but think there’s more to Tristan than meets the eye. Determined to find out what he’s hiding from her, she trails him into the forest behind his home. And there, she stumbles upon something he never meant for her to see--the way into his world. Watching as he presses his hand against the trunk of an old tree, she sees a gap form beneath his palm--a gap just big enough for a person to fit through. And, when Tristan ducks down and disappears inside the hole, Leira makes a decision that will forever seal her fate with his. She follows him.

Emerging in a land called D’or, Leira finds herself faced with creatures from folktales and mythologies including a Pombero and a Leshy couple. But it isn’t until she sees Tristan again, that Leira realizes the severity of what she’s done. Will Tristan be able to forgive her for discovering his secret? And will he care enough to protect her when her fate begins to unravel before his eyes?

Told entirely from the viewpoint of the teenage heroine, this emotionally driven story is filled with lush descriptions and captivating adventures while still retaining the delicate voice of a girl in love.

If you would like to see the entire manuscript, I’d be happy to e-mail it at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Driving down the old dirt road, I stole a glance in the rear view mirror at the boxes stacked on the back seat. Everything I was able to bring with me, I had. Everything else, well, I’d already said my goodbyes. I gripped the steering wheel and looked through the windshield at the branches of the trees lining the narrow lane. They were reaching out to touch the sides of the car like fingers lightly stroking the cheeks of a delicate face. And dark green ivy was running along the sides of the car, keeping steady pace with me.

I looked over at the empty passenger seat and imagined Mama was there with me. I could picture her watching the scrolling green outside her window, unconsciously twisting her tiny fingers through her hair, sunlight sparkling off her pale skin.

I personally didn’t think I looked very much like my mother. Yes, we both had long brown hair and her eyes were only a few shades darker then my own honey colored ones. But Mama’s features were alluring and beautiful. She had a smile that was contagious. People tended to gravitate toward her like moths to a flame. Me; I was just happy floating around in the shadow of her bright light.

But last year when Mama got sick, a silent fog crept over our lives. And suddenly our roles had reversed. Now I was the one pulling the quilt over her when she fell asleep in the living room chair.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Mrs. Testerman,

Suburban teen Sophie MacNeil only wants two things in life: to dance and to visit Paris--her secretive mother’s hometown. When Sophie finally gets an offer to spend the summer in the City of Light, she leaps at the chance. Once there, however, a strange woman attempts to steal Sophie’s mother’s gold medallion, triggering an impossible journey backward in time.

Now in 1895, Sophie is mistaken for Rachel Lazare, the daughter of an affluent Jewish family. In addition to a roof over her head and quiche in her belly, living temporarily as Rachel has perks, like meeting the handsome and passionate Alexandre, the intended fiancĂ© for Rachel’s older sister.

The strange woman succeeds in stealing Sophie’s mysterious heirloom, threatening Sophie’s comfortable life with the Lazares. Sophie must retrieve her medallion and unlock its secrets before her affection for Alexandre destroys the life of a friend from her own time and permanently changes her future.

SOPHIE is a young adult manuscript complete at 68,000 words. While SOPHIE can stand alone, it is the first in a planned trilogy that will follow the women of Sophie’s family in reverse chronology.

I was recently commissioned to write a non-fiction book for a leveled reader program. A member of SCBWI, I am also a French teacher and an avid traveler. I studied in Paris during college, and focused on 19th century French literature.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I have pasted the first 250 words below.



I fall out of the darkness and my feet slam onto the pavement. My ankles fail and I cry out in pain and surprise.

I squint at the lights shining from streetlamps and rushing cars. Music blasts, car horns blare, people talk, laugh, sing. I touch my temple and groan. Everything is too much.

“Est-ce que tout va bien, mademoiselle? Avez-vous besoin d'aide?” a man asks, kneeling at my side.

Why is he speaking French? Is everything okay, as he asked? My whole body hurts, but especially my ankle. I can’t remember how I got here, or where here is.

I check out my surroundings and recognize the plaza hemmed in by five- and six-storey buildings sporting arched windows, dominated by a building with more columns than I can count, winged gold statues at each corner of the roof, and a green dome. Two French flags billow in the still air. The Paris Opera.

Okay, deep breaths. I’m in Paris. Mom's birthplace.

My head feels stuffed with feathers and it only gets worse the more I try to remember. I frown at the long, dark skirt I’m wearing. Pointy-toed black ankle boots? No wonder my ankle is weak and swollen. A long-sleeved cream shirt scratches my neck. What happened to my shorts and flip flops?

I stand, vaguely wondering where my good samaritan went, when a necklace bounces against my chest. I grab the gold medallion and stare at the engraved pattern. Memories blast into me, pushing out the feathers stuffing my mind.

An Agent's Inbox #18


An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Sixteen-year-old Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Elite and they need Avery as a pawn--or want her dead.

To decipher the ancient mystery that’s putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the crypts of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with the two boys the family sent to kidnap her. But when the trail of clues exposes a secret that might plunge the world into World War 3, she won’t only have to betray her new family to stop it. She’ll have to choose between the boy who might help her save the world and the one she’s falling in love with.

Though it can stand alone, my 93,000 word YA Thriller THE ELITE is meant as the first in a trilogy. I am currently a freelance writer and recently spent time as a bookstore events and marketing coordinator, where I learned everything from the importance of co-op to the futility of wearing heels for three days straight at BEA.

Thank you for your consideration.



“It’s not flattering, it’s stalking. Jack Basil is totally stalking you.” My best friend Lara ripped open a handful of sugar packets and dumped them in her coffee.

“Could you say it a little louder?” I felt my face flush and looked around. It was pouring outside, so half the school was crowded into the cafe where I worked instead of lounging on the patio at Burt’s like usual. “And it is not. He--”

“He knew your name. And he asked me how long you’ve lived here, and where your dad is, and why you’re homeschooled.” Lara took a sip of her coffee and made a face. “It’s not like he asked me if you have a date to prom or something. That would be normal. This was not normal.”

It wasn’t normal, but Lara was wrong--Jack Basil asking about me was definitely flattering. EmmaBeth Porter, the leader of the self-proclaimed Sexy Seven, had dumped her boyfriend to ask Jack to prom, only a few days after Jack had moved here. He’d turned her down. No one turned down EmmaBeth.

And now, he was asking Lara about me.

Just then, the door jingled, a gust of cool, rain-scented breeze blew inside, and Jack Basil himself walked into the cafe. A shiver ran down my spine that I tried to tell myself was just from the cold.

Jack shook the rain out of his hair, which was the color of espresso and slightly too long, and made wavy by the storm.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Chase Garrety only knows his name because it was coded on a microchip found under his scalp. He remembers nothing before he stumbled across the savage landscape of the planet Trucon and into the home of a troubled orphan named Parker, who offers help with one hand and a fist with the other. A battle of wills sets the boys against each other, but when an unknown enemy attacks their planet, they must rely on each other to survive.

Traveling through space to find a man who can help them both, Chase and Parker enter an alien underworld where their choices lead them to the truth behind the Trucon attack. When Chase finally finds people who recognize him, they try to kill him, and after he runs through a solid door, he realizes that there may be more to his past than he could even guess. As the boys uncover more secrets of interplanetary corruption and betrayal, Chase must learn to use his strange ability to solve the puzzle of who--or what--he really is.

FULCRUM is a 70,000-word upper middle grade novel. I would be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time.



The screaming was so loud it blocked out all thought. It took a few moments before the boy realized the sound was coming from his own parched mouth, and that it was not so much a scream as a hoarse squeak.

He dragged in a great whoop of air and sat up, eyes bugging out, head jerking around like it was strung on wires. A wide yellow sky stretched overhead, but the rest of world swam around him in a hot blur. Dread fanned out in the pit of his stomach.

Something had gone terribly wrong.

He needed to get help. A black wave of pain crashed down inside his skull as he lurched to his feet, sending exploding stars across his vision. He staggered a few dizzy steps before dropping to his hands and knees, and drew in a deep, slow breath. He had to get back up. He had to stop this thing before it was too late.

A high-pitched noise rose and fell in the background. Looking around, he located a grey blob--possibly a building. He slid a hand across the scratchy ground toward it, then a knee, driven by the now-frantic, undefined fear. He could still fix this. He had to.

Light pressure landed on his back. He turned his head. Squinting, he made out the fuzzy outline of a face, the black gaping hole of a mouth flapping open and closed.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Testerman,

I’m seeking representation for THE GEARS OF WAR, a 60, 000 word YA steampunk set in fantasy versions of China and Japan.

Ever since his sister died in an airship bombing raid, Kiyoshi has been keeping his grief-maddened mother stable by masquerading as the dead girl, clothing and mannerism including. When his mother unexpectedly dies, he’s left a very gender-confused teenager.

Determined to find the man within himself, Kiyoshi heads to the war front as the pilot of a mechanical steam weapon. His plan is hindered by a samurai who, believing that Kiyoshi is a girl in disguise, is intent on protecting ‘her’ from both the enemy and their fellow soldiers’ attentions. Kiyoshi is unable to discern if the attraction he feels for the samurai is real or a product of the years he spent pretending to be a girl.

Kiyoshi soon learns that the enemy has been sacrificing their own people to animate war golems with their souls. He meets a runaway golem on the battlefield, a former human girl named Jiao who managed to free herself from the magic that keeps golems bound to obey their master.

Together they embark on a quest to find a dragon to grant their deepest desire. Jiao wants to be a human girl and Kiyoshi is starting to think that’s what he wants to be, too.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Every morning, Kiyoshi rose from sleep as a boy with messy hair, a slim frame and, usually, an urge to pee.

Every morning, he rolled up the futon and knelt before the shrine honoring his sister’s memory, gazing at her sunny face and burning incense for her. Aiko, the name on the picture said. Aiko, meaning beloved. Beloved of an entire family, jewel in the eyes of her parents and role model in the eyes of her little brother.

Every morning, he brushed his long hair until it lay straight and still against his back, dipped fingertips into bowls of cosmetics to outline eyes and lips and slid into one of his sister’s kimono.

Every morning, Kiyoshi entered the kitchen as a dead girl.

“Aiko!” her mother said, waving her chopsticks. “You’ll be late for work again. Hurry and eat.”

“Yes, mother. Sorry.” Aiko’s lips were always quick to smile with infectious cheer; they spread now in sheepish apology and the smile was returned.

Kneeling at the low table across from her mother, Aiko began her assault on the feast spread before her: miso soup, steamed rice, a rolled omelet, a bowl of fermented soybeans and various pickled vegetables. She ate as if to fill a bottomless hole, wielding her lacquered chopsticks like a weapon to slay her breakfast.

“Eat, eat,” her mother said. “You’re a growing girl and you have a day of hard work ahead.”

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Chelsea Park is pretty sure there's nothing worse than getting kicked off the dance team for a hazing she didn't commit. Wait. Scratch that. Getting kicked off dance team and then being forced to spend senior year in drama class to fill her elective credit is worse. And this social downgrade isn't just a blow to her reputation; she needs to get to the bottom of this hazing or her dream of dancing in college is done.

But it turns out theater class isn’t the nerd parade she expected. Chelsea actually starts to feel at home on stage with the colorful drama kids, despite the fact that the sister of her “hazing victim” is out to make her life h***. Even more surprising, she’s crushing on the adorkable theater boy who stepped up to save her from drama class's biggest bully.

Now Chelsea is busting her butt to save her reputation. Not only does she need to clear her name, she also desperately wants to keep her new thespian life (and boyfriend) a secret from her popular friends. Everything rides on Chelsea discovering the truth about the hazing, but she finds that exposing what happened could actually cut her off from her past life, not bring her back to it. And giving up her reign as campus queen and making peace with her inner dork are both a lot harder than she ever expected.

AVOIDING DRAMA is a contemporary YA complete at 80,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI and YALITCHAT. On a personal note, I am a huge fan of your client list and count Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins among my influences when it comes to writing contemporary YA.

Thank you for your time.



So, no one ever came out and said bad things would never happen to people like me, but, as ridiculous as it might sound, that’s what I always thought.

But here I was, having the worst bad day ever. I mean, it doesn’t get much worse than standing at the door to the school theater on the second week of my senior year, trying to delay walking into the freaking drama class I was now being forced to take.

Well, not for me, anyway.

The only way I knew to get into the theater was through the large doors at the front, but those doors were locked. I discovered this after several minutes of shaking, pounding, and kicking them when I couldn’t get them open. It wasn’t until my third circle around the building that I found the side entrance (down a ramp, totally hidden to the outside world), and now I lurked in front of the mystery door that was hopefully unlocked, my mind grasping desperately for any excuse to keep me from walking into this class.

I was in the middle of a yoga breath when the door swung open. I jumped out of the way, and the lanky blonde guy with glasses who was walking out jumped as well. We locked eyes for a fleeting second, then he shot his gaze down to the ground and we both let out short, uncomfortable laughs. “Sorry, Chelsea,” he mumbled to the pavement. “I didn’t know you were there."

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Kate Schafer Testerman,

The first day of school sucks. Jonathan Stevens expected becoming a social outcast, getting lost in the halls, and embarrassing himself over and over in front of cute girls. But falling face-first into a giant hole caused by an earthquake? Not so much.

Waking in the underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped by a pain-in-the-butt sorceress who insists he is an immortal and he's on the top of a very long hit list. But Jonathan isn't like any other immortal. He was created to save the sorceress' realm from the Master, an overlord with the power to locate immortals strong enough to challenge him before they are old enough to know how.

The sorceress says he possesses the one power that will destroy the Master, but neither her nor Jonathan know what it is or how to trigger it. When the sorceress is captured, Jonathan learns from her allies that the Master has discovered the means to control mortals as well--and he intends to test that power on Jonathan's parents. To destroy the most dangerous man in two realms, Jonathan will have to risk his life by triggering an unknown power too early. And if he fails, his family--as well as every other mortal and immortal in existence--will suffer for it.

The Privileged is a middle grade fantasy complete at 82,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



School can only be defined one way to Jonathan Stevens: foreign. Walking up to the unfamiliar doors was not just nerve racking, it was completely horrifying. Each step felt like a boulder crashing down into his stomach. By the time he got to the top of the staircase, he felt as if he could collapse from the weight.

He tried to suck in a deep breath to build his confidence, but could not find any air. How ridiculous it was to be afraid of something so common and he knew he needed to get over it. After all, he would be facing this building for the next three years.

Finding the air again, Jonathan took a cautious step forward and was instantly pulled into the traffic of high school. He was jostled around until he found a small opening where he could melt into the flow. There were too many people to consider giving him a second glance and he couldn’t find anyone to focus on either, so instead he brought his gaze to the hallway itself.

There had to be a sign, some indication of where the front office was, but he found nothing like that. Colorful posters adorned the walls with smiling faces and big words campaigning for student government. Pictures of winning debate teams and national champion dancers hung from the ceiling on long banners. Fliers littered the floors advertising the upcoming play, the school prom, and last minute order forms for graduation gowns. As if starting public school for the first time wasn’t intimidating enough, he had to be thrown into it in May.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Seventeen-year-old Heiren Delaire should’ve killed the captain before he sprouted claws.

As a peasant raised in the wretched slums of Andumir, she’s never set much store in fairytales. But now a creature from stories, the demon Arawn, has possessed the captain of the kingdom’s guard and slaughtered countless innocents, including Heiren's father. With Andumir falling and the nobles’ swords and spears doing nothing to quell Arawn’s fiery wrath, Heiren takes it upon herself to find a solution.

If demons are real, maybe the sword Erhistaut is, too. Legend tells that the demons forged it to store their powers before the star-born angels cast them to the sky. The sword is the only weapon that can exterminate the possessed captain before his unquenchable fire envelops the land in shadow.

Heiren just needs to find it.

THE DEMON SWORD is a 75,000-word fantasy novel for young adults. I have included the first 250 words below. Thank you for your time and attention.



In the dim lamplight of the cabin, the man’s fingers curled around his dagger. He slammed its point into the edge of a piece of parchment, pinning it to the table.

In the shadows behind him, Heiren Delaire watched her father with uncertainty. The cold of the night raised goosebumps on her skin. She shivered. “What are you doing?”

He didn’t answer.

She clutched her arm with trembling fingers and stepped forward, letting her green eyes trail over the black ink as it curved and flowered into lakes, rivers, and mountains. A map. The tiny dashes trailed from her home in the Kadian Mountains northward to the walled city of Beniin, and farther.

A trail to a sword of miracles.

Of course. Her father would be obsessed with a thing of legend. A sword that doesn’t even exist. “The map’s a fake, you know.” Heiren combed her tangled hair with calloused fingers, watching him. “I don’t understand why you bought it.”

Still he did not reply.

“You want to use the sword to bring Mother back, don’t you?”

He turned his head a little, and greasy black hair fell over his eyes. He listened now, she knew, but refused to acknowledge her. Like he did when he fell from his depression into one of his manic states. When he stopped listening to reason.

Heiren folded her arms.

"You're a fool if you think Erhistaut can bring back the dead. The demons forged it; why would they make it useful for anything good?"

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Testerman,

I discovered kt literary through your blog, Daphne!. You reeled me in with the shoes. However, it’s your explanations of what works in a novel (or query) and what doesn’t that I find so valuable.

Lily Josephine Carter can’t wait to meet her first fairy-in broad daylight, with a small crowd nearby (just until they know each other better). Lily and her best friend since Kindergarten spend every recess hiding piles of shiny stones to lure fairies to the playground. Two weeks into third grade, her best friend doesn’t believe in fairies anymore; she likes unicorns now.

Lily makes a fairy trap so dazzling, it puts Barbie’s Dream House to shame. She’s positive that one peek at a real fairy will get her best friend back. After an unfortunate accident destroys her trap and knocks out her first loose tooth (finally), Lily can’t face another day of school without her best friend.

Her older sister reluctantly offers to help her make a new trap. With her baby tooth in hand, Lily knows exactly which fairy to trap first. Daisy’s plan only uses string and super glue. Except, tooth fairies are smarter than that.

After a near success (or failure as Daisy calls it), Lily loses her fairy finding partner again. Turns out she’ll need the help of the third grade nose picker, who just might be more of a hero than a nuisance.

FAIRY FINDERS is an 11,250 word, early middle grade novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Lily Josephine Carter Hearts Fairies

Lily yanked Skylar behind their favorite oak tree on the playground. The two girls kneeled behind the gnarled old trunk, knees touching.

Lily leaned in toward her best friend, “I found fairy pictures in my mom’s closet yesterday,” she whispered.

Skylar nodded and twisted the hem of her skirt.

Lily grabbed her by the shoulders. “Not drawings, real pictures.”

Skylar gasped.

“The last section is taped shut and it says ‘beware,’” Lily said in a spooky voice.

“What was in it?” Skylar asked, breathless.

“I was hiding under the clothes with a flashlight. That’s not a good place for reading secret pages."

Skylar eased back and sighed.

“I was alone,” Lily repeated, “but I snuck a picture to show you.”

She pulled out a grainy black and white photo from her back pocket. Skylar snatched it away and smoothed it across her lap. “Wow. The wings look like spiderwebs,” Skylar said, tracing the shape of the wispy wings.

“I know,” Lily squealed. “Some look like dragonfly wings and some have feathers like birds.” She pulled another piece of paper from her pocket.

This time Skylar squealed. “You brought me one, too!”

“Rose made you a copy.”

Skylar touched one of the web-like wings, accidentally smudging the tip. Even the tiny nose and lips were drawn perfectly. “Wish I could draw like this.”

Lily nodded. Rose was Lily’s four year old sister who drew better than an art teacher. Both girls kept a notebook of Rose’s fairy drawings.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Ms. Schafer Testerman,

Becoming part of the little girl's life was supposed to increase Emma's college options, not take them all away.

Everything Emma Francis owns fits in a garbage bag. Don’t you dare pity her. She’s survived the foster care system and is finally eighteen, free to make her own decisions. It’s about time.

The plan going forward is simple: graduate high school, go to college, get a job in marketing. Unfortunately, due to the foster-care-shuffle, Emma hasn’t stayed in one place long enough to put anything other than decent grades on her college applications. Community service is a must.

Her friend suggests she volunteer at her church and it is there she meets Gigi, a blonde hair, blue eyed, opinionated little girl, who is more than willing to be Emma’s charity case. What’s supposed to be an ice cream every couple weeks, turns into an unexplained desire to make Gigi happy.

As Gigi wiggles her way under Emma’s hard shell, someone else pokes through the cracks. Emma is far from a damsel in distress but when she’s attacked behind the diner, her knight in shining t-shirt comes to her rescue. She never expects it to be South High’s quarterback, known to her simply as Burger and Fries, an order he delivers with a charming smile every week. But there’s more to the boy than a strong appetite and a great throwing arm. Sam morphs from friend, to special friend to boyfriend so slowly Emma doesn’t even realize her guard is faulty.

Emma’s terrified of the soft, chocolaty center under her hard candy coating but she can’t deny she loves him. Maybe a happy ending is in the cards after all.

Emma's life plan is in full swing until Gigi’s sorry excuse for a father kills himself in a drunk driving accident, leaving the little girl with no one. Gigi is headed for hell, the foster system Emma lived through, unless someone steps in and saves her.

Emma must decide if she's willing to change everything she's got planned to save Gigi from the life she was forced to endure.

All She Needs is Love is Contemporary YA complete at 68,000 words.

I am a twenty five year old, Chemical Engineer by degree who has found a stronger calling as a fiction writer and singer in a classic rock band. The inspiration for All She Needs is Love comes from my experience as a Big Sister in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. The premise started with a question. If my Lil’ Sister Payge had no family, would I alter my life and take her in as my own? The answer is a resounding yes.

I love a number of the works you represent including Stephanie Perkin's, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Ransom Riggs', Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I read about the KT Literary Retreat and think it's wonderful that you not only work on representing your author's work but also make an effort to build a relationship with your authors.

Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.



“Happy birthday to me,” I mumble as I walk out the front door holding a garbage bag with all my possessions. Every last one fits in this bag. Pathetic, I know.

When you’re a foster kid, you do a lot of borrowing. You never really own anything. So, I guess I’m lucky I even have something to put in my garbage bag.

I’ve been preparing for this day for a while though. When you turn eighteen the state washes there hands of you. Jan was nice. She let me stay an extra day. Didn’t want to kick me out on my actual birthday.

I’ve been working since I was sixteen, saving every penny I can. I’m not gonna end up like those other foster kids who take to the street when they officially become an adult. I’ve got big plans: graduate high school, four year college, a job in marketing.

“Emma!” little Jimmy calls from the porch. I turn and look at the tyke. I am gonna miss him, even if he did steal most of my socks.

“What’s up little man?”

“Where ya goin’?” he asks as he runs down the front steps. “I mean, can I come visit ya sometimes?”

I ruffle his hair and put on a smile. “Course you can little man. I’m not goin’ far. You know the diner where I work?” He gives me a big nod. “Ms. Shepherd is letting me live in the apartment above it. You can visit me anytime you want.”

He wraps his little arms around my leg. I can’t help but cringe. I don’t like affection, makes me feel awkward.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Greetings! I am seeking representation for my YA contemporary novel, UGLY STICK.

Seventeen-year-old April Somerfield is a shy, self-loathing misfit who would blend in with the wallpaper, if only the wallpaper were a little less attractive. April's life is even more frustrating when she compares herself to her gorgeous, confident mother Diane, and her cute, feisty best friend Ani. Nowhere is April’s ugly-duckling status more obvious, though, than at Prescott High School, where she is surrounded by overachievers like the practically perfect Vivienne.

When a project for school sends April on the hunt for her mother’s mysteriously missing high school yearbooks, she and Ani discover a big family secret. It turns out that being touched “with an ugly stick” is a surprisingly literal occurrence in April’s family tree. A midwife’s vengeful curse of ugliness has been transferred from mother to daughter for over two hundred years. However, nobody else in April’s family has had to live with the curse in the age of digital photos and Facebook…so when she seizes an opportunity to get even with some cruel gossip by passing the curse on a little early, April must decide if becoming beautiful on the outside is worth giving up the truly beautiful person she would otherwise become.

UGLY STICK is complete at 50,000 words. I have included the first page below, and I would be delighted to share the manuscript with you. I look forward to a reply at your convenience. This is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your consideration!

Best regards,


“And now for everyone’s favorite part of Honors English…” Ms. Kearns intoned with a grin, “example reading!”

Judging by the apathetic classroom reaction, “favorite part” was a bit of a misnomer. Ms. Kearns was a brand-new teacher, fresh out of college, and she had a remarkable way of pulling our class into engaging discussions of Shakespeare, Shelley, and even Dickens--my personal favorite. But nobody really liked example reading, the Russian roulette of criticism, especially on a Friday afternoon.

My personal dislike of the practice was entirely selfish. I hated having anyone but my best friend Ani or my parents read my stuff, even though if somebody asked me what I did best, I would probably, hesitantly answer, “Writing?"

Example readings were anonymous, but whenever the other two dozen students in my class looked over a work, they picked it to pieces. I usually remained silent, jotting down notes. Invisibility was a trait I had perfected in my first two years at Prescott High, and junior year would be no different.

Ms. Kearns passed out print-outs of the example. “This was one of the prompts from last week about different storytelling lenses--imagining you were writing the introduction to your memoir.”

My ribcage seized as I recognized the first few lines on the page. She’d chosen mine. For Heaven’s sake, why?

I had known it would happen sooner or later--Ms. Kearns always gave me high grades on my essays and papers. However, I had never gotten up the nerve to tell her that having my own work critiqued would be the emotional equivalent of trimming my toenails with a paper shredder. I inched lower in my seat, praying that my face wasn’t as red as it felt.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Ms. Testerman,

As you represent strong authors such as Thomas E. Sniegoski and Maureen Johnson, I hoped you might be interested in my YA book of fiction, MIRANDA DEPAYENS AND THE SPEAR OF DESTINY.

MAD. That’s what friends call sixteen-year-old Miranda Depayens. It may be Miranda’s initials, but lately she wonders if it’s not her mental status. The haunting vision that plagues her sanity now comes more frequent and violent.

Never having met her biological father, Miranda lives with a neglectful mother and step-father, and longs for the day she graduates high school. She has but two and half more years of hell to survive, and Miranda can start living.

Within the blink of any eye, her plans are changed...

by the note...

by the ring...

by the Templars, and most of all...

by the Solomon Priest.

Raised an atheist, Miranda soon comes to question all she has ever believed, when learning of her family’s legacy. Miranda takes an emotional, spiritual, and magical journey, as she finally lets down her guard, and allows herself to trust those around her.

Now, Miranda must risk losing the love and acceptance that she has found, in order to help the Templars and the Solomon Priest recover the Spear of Destiny from the evil demon, and send him back to hell, before he changes the course of history.

MIRANDA DEPAYENS AND THE SPEAR OF DESTINY is book one of the Solomon Priest Series. The novel is complete at around 77,000 words, and I have begun writing the second book of this series, as well as, compiling a book from the diary entries of the Solomon Priest's battles against evil.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The forest was ominously silent, but for the pounding of her running feet, and the occasional snap of a twig. Every so often, a thorn would catch, and rip at her clothes or delicate skin. Her heart was beating so hard that she expected, at any moment, her chest to burst. Now, with every breath, air stung her lungs, but she dare not stop, for fear of loosing this battle. She didn't hear the beast, but felt him--felt his presence like a sharp icicle scratching and stabbing at her back. Right on her heels, he lingered. At any second of his choosing, all he had to do was reach-out, grab her, and her young life would be extinguished. He toyed with her, but there remained a chance she could out-smart him.

Terror and Adrenaline carried her on legs of an athlete. Sweat that moments ago ran down her forehead, now stung her eyes, and threatened an escape. The woods stood dense, dark, and humid. If not for the moonlight that trickled in from between the trees, she would have been completely blind. A person could easily get lost in here, and never find civilization, but finding her way out was not a concern. All concentration had to be on looking for obstacles in her path, and staying alive. One slip and she knew she would be dead.

Giving up was not in her nature.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Schafer Testerman,

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him to the 23rd century.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues--a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium--that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

I'm a big fan of Carrie Harris's BAD TASTE IN BOYS and believe you might like my heroine's similar smart feistiness. Complete at 80K words, LOOP is a science fiction novel for young adults. I am a member of SCBWI and an active participant in our local chapter’s critique group. Thank you so much for your consideration.



Hitting the ground is the hardest part. Nine times out of ten, it’s dirt or gravel. But all it takes is that one time on concrete, or worse, asphalt, to send even the most experienced Shifter into a panic.

My feet slammed into cobblestone. Muskets cracked and echoed down the alley where I’d landed. Acrid gunpowder stung my nostrils, searing my throat as I fought back a cough. My hair caught in the warm brick wall behind me, twanging and snapping as I lowered myself into a crouch. The gunfire grew louder and louder, bouncing off both sides of the narrow passageway, so I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from.

Where was I? Valley Freakin’ Forge?

If so, my dang transporter had missed the target by well over two centuries. Good grief. How hard was a 23rd to 21st Shift? Wyck must have set a new personal record. He would pay for this when I got back.

If I got back.

Puffs of fresh gunsmoke clouded the few rays of sun in the dim alley. I slipped behind an empty barrel and pulled out my QuantCom. A Virginia address and instructions popped up. “Bree Bennis, pre-Tricentinniel midterm. Deposit package contents on Muffy van Sloot’s grave with following message: ‘There’s no time like the past.’”

So help me, I thought, if this is for a dead cat, heads will roll.

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Testerman:

A humanlike girl empowered with a strange affinity to plants, arrives on earth to defend our garden against invasion. Nameless at five, to learn English she deciphers Dr Seuss and christens herself, Sam I Am. At seven she devours the complete works of Shakespeare. At ten she develops a strategy to end world hunger and disease. When older she plans to attend high school, desiring a Romeo to accompany her Juliet to California’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where her matriarch the 4,768 year-old Methuselah tree will secrete a deflowering pheromone--so she can mate.

But at thirteen, humans discover her landing pod and remove her cloned little ones. More humans, wearing green with Yertle the Turtle shells on their heads hunt for Sam. She escapes helped by Brooke a girl of fourteen with leukemia. Sam starts to cure the rot circulating in Brooke’s red sap. Then stops. A message from the ship she calls Mother advances her timetable, leaving her five days to attract a male pollinator and reach Methuselah. Now with soldiers and aliens closing in, Sam’s fiber is torn between: saving her saplings, her wilting friend, or Mother’s airborne delivery plan for immunizing humans against the alien infestation before she turns eighteen-days-old and her spore sack explodes.

PLANTED (I CAN WATER MYSELF) is a 70,000-word young adult science fiction. I was the founder and president of Strategy First, a worldwide publisher of entertainment software for twenty years. Our franchise titles, Disciples, a fantasy, and Jagged Alliance, an adventure role-playing release, sold over one million copies worldwide respectively and were geared to a young adult audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Thorns spiked from the tips of my twigs, as I scurried along the branch, prepared to drop onto the Humans to save my little ones, but I stopped, letting eye water fall to the earth instead of me. My palms flew to silence the waste.

Mother said have patience, watch, learn and when it hurts, think about something else. “Stone had been known to move and trees to speak,” I whispered Macbeth. The Oak, sensing my stress, released a wave of calming pheromones.

If he lived today, would William welcome us?

A Human covered in white from head to roots, plodded from the dull colored cocoon enveloping my landing pod. He carried a box. He carried my children. Children was their word. Think about something else. The first mutilation I deciphered to learn their language in the dead forest named library. Its words helped when a female worker had asked my name.

“Sam I am,” I said.

She laughed. “Where’s your Mother, Sam?”

I pointed upward.

She touched my limb. “Oh, you poor dear.”

I almost forgot. Never reveal Mother orbited Earth.

No, thinking of the genocide called books did not help. I imagined my tiny boxed buds, screaming words from Yertle the Turtle and Gertrude McFuzz. “I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

Leaves crackled underneath. My stomata knotted. More humans, green like the forest, wearing turtle shells on their heads, prodded the bushes with stingers--hunting me.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Whether Eri’s link to the creatures is a gift or a curse remains undecided. Either way, it will kill her.

Driven by a physical and emotional connection to the beasts plaguing the planet, Eri finds herself running without fear toward oncoming death. Knowing that whatever beckons from the darkness craves her flesh is not enough to stop her. The calling is too powerful. A Protector emerges from the shroud of night and beheads the oncoming beast a sword’s length away from Eri’s demise--the secret guardians exist.

After another episode of the calling draws her into the forbidden, Eri finds that she is not the only one with the link; a boy her age, Finnley, seeks the beasts too. Their secret bond forges an unexpected friendship giving Eri a way to handle the building emotional turmoil. Over time, Eri and Finnley realize they hold the innate qualifications to become one of the mysterious Protectors watching over their village, but since Eri has the unfortunate turn of luck being born a girl, she is stuck with the ability to save her people without permission to do so. Only men can be Protectors.

Eri must hide the inner chaos and follow a path she does not want while the path that has chosen her repeatedly threatens her life.

Finnley receives the opportunity Eri desires--that of becoming a Protector. He vows to teach Eri everything he learns, eventually bringing veteran Protector Grayson into the mix. Grayson’s involvement throws Eri’s life more out of whack when she develops another uncontrollable emotional pull in a direction she should not explore.

Because you’ve represented XVI and Evermore, I think you might be interested in my novel, MY PROTECTOR: THE CALLING, a 67,000 word YA manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Going to the river alone is forbidden: especially at this hour. Knowing this clear-cut rule of our people did not stop me from stepping off the gravel path and walking deep into the vacant field. I no longer controlled my body.

Anger thrummed inside me as I drifted closer to the water. If it was even anger that forced me on this perilous course. I had never felt anger in my fingers. Whatever this was, it spiked across my synapses, pricked my nerve endings, and riveted my senses. Summoning and magnetic, I was pulled toward the unknown.

I didn’t belong here. I knew better. I should run in the opposite direction, back to our village. I could not turn away. With each step into the darkness, the foreign emotion intensified, guiding me forward. I surrendered to the aggression. I had no choice.

I heard the warning bell like everyone else. My people fled for safety into the closest shelter possible. Not me.

A few more steps and I would see the river through the trees if the waning light consented. The coursing water rushed along mirroring my heightened flow of adrenaline. The sensory overload amplified, the calling grew louder, becoming hypnotic. Driving me like a machine, steering me down a path I would not otherwise take.

I should not be here.

The bell clanged again, this time with faster frequency. I froze. Not because I knew better or because I needed to sprint home like everyone else.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Kate Schafer Testerman,

Sixth-grader Abegale Anton-Shale has to take care of everything around the house, since her dad died and her mom is always busy working, or with another boyfriend. Her brother, Jeremy suffers with asthma more and more, leaving her alone and scared. Abegale finds the green medicine book and magic cards her grandmother left behind before disappearing in the Andes Mountains, with clues to a plant that may help him. Abegale is reminded of her own healing gifts, and becomes determined to set out where Nam left off.

A relentless crow and woodland deer, guide Abegale back to her grandmother’s abandoned cottage in the woods, where she witnesses intruders torturing the geese and ducks to produce foie gras. She hatches a plan to rid the town of the new occupants. With the help of her best friend, Stephanie Ruiz and her new neighbor, and “more than a friend” Daniel Sheng, they bring the township of Three Points together with a petition, before things get worse, and wreak havoc on the environment. Soon the mystery of Abegale’s grandmother is revealed, and how she wasn’t that far away after all.

ABEGALE FORCE is an upper middle-grade mystery with supernatural elements, complete at 80,000 words. It is the story of one girl’s journey to speak out about the cruelty she witnesses and stop the environmental impact her town faces. She rediscovers who she is, in a place where the ordinary world becomes extraordinary.

In writing this manuscript, I drew on my studies in herbalism, nutrition, and The Tarot, as well as my work as an artist and my experience as a parent of middle-graders.

I thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,


I’ll never get to Maiden Villas before Stephanie gets back. I have to find out what Mrs. Egremony meant saying, “Your Grandmother Rose is far--but near?”

I take a deep breath, and push on my pedals to make it up the last of the hill to Ridge Road, racing like a firebird on my bicycle; I named Phoenix.

Mrs. Egremony is Stephanie’s new landlady. She seems nice, I guess. But now she tells me, she knew my Grandmother Rose years ago--before she disappeared--and before I was born.

Nam vanished in the Andes Mountains three years ago, searching for herbal remedies with the Quechua people. The police never found her; so I guess there’s always been hope. I’ve always had hope.

I turn right onto Ridge Road--a crow swoops in front of me, and squawks, piercing my eardrums; I swerve my bike, hit a rock and fall facedown, into the asphalt rubble.

A car is coming. I turn, lifting my head and see Mr. Miller--Mrs. Egremony’s henchman--in his rusted brown pickup truck. He pulls up next to me and leans out his window.

“Are you alright Abegale?”

“Yeah--I just scraped my leg.” I jump up, dusting the crumbs of blacktop off. I look over my bike for damage and get that feeling someone is watching. When I turn around, there’s that crow again, just staring from the tree branch--I’m betting it’s the same one.

“Are you on your way to see Stephanie?” Mr. Miller asks.

An Agent's Inbox #3


An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Testerman:

I'm excited to query the agent of both Ransom Riggs and Maureen Johnson. Your list is a wonderful mix of contemporary, suspense and fantasy and I hope SAVING ANDROMEDA, an 85,000-word YA contemporary mystery based on a true story, would be a fit.

On the day Emma Hudson graduates from high school, a mysterious note leads to three shocking revelations: Emma was adopted. Her biological father is internationally famous rocker, Michael Stryker. And her birth mother is convicted killer Andromeda Bain, who has sent Emma a lifetime's worth of letters from prison.

Emma ditches her summer job to meet her parents and track down her roots. As she travels from her home in southeast Alaska to California and Nova Scotia, Emma discovers a family tree loaded with unknown relatives, hidden relationships and simmering feuds. Andromeda's letters reveal her passionate romance with Michael and raise questions about her murder confession nineteen years ago. Emma's hunt to discover who Andromeda was really protecting clashes with her new family, who'd prefer to sweep these secrets under the braided kitchen rug. Finding the truth is as elusive as filling a jar with fog, and the real killer is watching Emma's every move.

My family comes from Nova Scotia, where secrets shroud and family trees tangle. A second cousin told me the story of this murder, which occurred in 1960s Nova Scotia. Rumors along the shore hinted that the lights we saw at the cottage down the road were the ghost of the murdered man. I hope SAVING ANDROMEDA reflects some of this intrigue. For thirteen years, I was a journalist for papers in Minnesota, Washington, and the Anchorage Daily News. I'm now a teacher and co-host a news blog covering my small Alaskan town.

The first 250 words are below. Thanks for reading,



I think I knew long before discovering the letters that my real name wasn’t actually Emma Hudson.

There were the repeat dreams of answering to a different name, of looking in a mirror and seeing someone else’s face. For years, I’d dreamt of drowning, struggling to breathe in a body that wasn’t mine, of wandering through my house to find room after room hidden under floor boards or in closets that unfolded like paper dolls.

I just figured they were the normal dreams of a teenager. If you’d asked me who I was in the weeks leading up to high school graduation, my answer would’ve been a list: basketball player, high school senior, daughter of Jud and Claire, resident of Resurrection, Alaska and Sam’s girlfriend.

The problem was, only some of that was true.

The mystery note came in the mail the week of final exams, along with a pile of late college brochures and other junk I’d been getting since my junior year. Mom put it all on my desk but it wasn’t until graduation day that I had time to sort through it.

The envelope looked like the others with my name written in neat handwriting across the front. I opened the flap and a piece of folded paper slipped out.

Ask your mother about Andromeda. Open the green chest in the basement. It’s yours.

It wasn’t signed. There was no return address.

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Testerman:

I was glad to read you’re looking for funny MG, and you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett. I think middle grade readers with Pratchett’s appreciation of the ridiculous will enjoy my MG novel, THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD.

Stubby Hintertail thought life in his isolated mountain village couldn’t get any worse. The Captain of his Boot Camp already assigned him to the lowly Bunglewad Squad because his corkscrew tail makes him a grade-A klutz. And being squad mates with a monstrous cat who can’t stop eating, a whiskerless close-talker, and a hypochondriac who wraps herself in tree bark is bad enough. But now, Stubby’s mother rescues a peculiar kitten from the river, enrolls it into the Bunglewad Squad, and charges Stubby to watch over it like a brother.

The sadistic Captain Marks detests the bizarre kitten, and Stubby for being its brother. He tries to punish them all with harsh drills, but grows irate when he can’t do a single thing to wipe away the new kitten’s smile. The Captain doubles and redoubles his efforts to make them suffer, but this has unexpected results on Stubby’s squad, due to a fact no one realizes about Stubby’s new brother.

Can Stubby and the rest of THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD learn to be functioning cats, with a little help from a dog?

THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD is a completed 41,000 word MG book that’s The Bad News Bears meets Warriors.

As for me, I’m a crossword puzzle constructor published in the NY and LA Times.

Thank you for your time, and congrats on the blockbuster success of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children!



A small gray cat teetered on a high branch with one paw curled around a red crab apple. “Father, hurry!” he shouted. “This apple is burning my nose, and I’m losing my balance again!” A breeze kicked up and he dug his claws into the swaying oak.

“Just a moment, Stubby,” his father said from below. He stood erect on his hind legs and patted down white fur exploding from his head. “Proceed to drop it.”

“Are you sure?” Stubby asked. “You won’t get hurt?” Stubby cracked an eye open, but quickly squeezed it shut as he caught a glimpse of the eerie Zwicksturm River in the distance.

“I don’t know--it may be even more painful than the granite rock,” his father replied. “But science waits for no cat! And please remember: as my apprentice-in-training, you must follow my every instruction.”

“Sorry, sir,” Stubby mumbled. All the other privates are right, he thought. I’m just a stupid, good-for-nothing bungler. He shuddered as he pictured the village sign which haunted his every moment:


What if I fail at Zwicksturm Boot Camp AND this science apprenticeship? I’d be exiled from our village, into the wild! Who knows what crazy beasts live outside the Great Stone Schutzwall?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Now Accepting Entries!

UPDATE: And that's a wrap! We've got our 20 entries! Look for those to go up first thing Wednesday morning (or later Wednesday morning, if you live on the East Coast)!

I'm now accepting entries for October’s round of "An Agent's Inbox"! Here's a quick refresher:

The Rules

1. To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the genres The Agent represents (which are listed at the bottom of this post).

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY OF THE PREVIOUS ROUNDS OF “AN AGENT’S INBOX,” please DO NOT participate in this one UNLESS YOU HAVE A NEW MANUSCRIPT that meets the criteria listed above. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, October 18, I may allow previous participants to enter (but to be honest, I’ll be surprised if we make it that far).

3. All entries must include A QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. You must paste these items IN THE BODY OF YOUR E-MAIL; otherwise, I'll disqualify it.

4. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 10:00 A.M. EDT (OR 7:00 A.M. PDT). Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 20 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 20 slots fill up.

5. If your entry makes it in, I'll send you a confirmation e-mail with a post number. If your entry doesn't make it in, I'll still send you an e-mail, but it won't have a post number.

6. If your entry makes it in, YOU MUST COMMENT ON AT LEAST 3 OTHER ENTRIES.

The Prizes The Agent, Kate Schafer Testerman* of kt literary, will select both the winners and the prizes. She might pick 20 winners, or she might only pick one. She might offer full requests, or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

Please keep in mind that THIS CONTEST ISN'T FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. I've encouraged The Agent to treat the entries exactly as she would a normal batch of queries. Essentially, she’ll be answering the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" I think this process will be instructive for all of us, but if you enter, you need to be prepared to hear exactly what The Agent thinks of your query and first page.

The Genres

YA fiction (all subgenres)
MG fiction (all subgenres)

To enter, please send an e-mail with YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. And please, please, please remember to PASTE THESE ITEMS IN THE BODY OF THE E-MAIL.

*I know this probably goes without saying, but you should probably treat this round a little differently because you already know who The Agent is. Specifically, if Ms. Testerman has already rejected your query, YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO YOUR QUERY AND/OR MANUSCRIPT. I’m not going to say you can’t enter (mostly because I have no way to police it), but you--and she--are going to get a lot more out of this contest if you enter something The Agent hasn’t seen before.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"An Agent's Inbox" Contest Alert


“An Agent's Inbox” is exactly what it sounds like--next week, I'm turning the blog into an agent's inbox, a public one. We'll get to see 20 queries along with their first pages, and we'll get to hear what a bona fide agent thinks of each one.

The queries and first pages will be yours, of course. I'll accept your entries this Monday, October 17, and then I'll post them next Wednesday, October 19. The entrants and anyone else who wishes to review them may comment on them until the following Tuesday, October 25, when I'll announce the winners.

Those winners will be chosen by The Agent, and this month, we’re handling things a little differently. Sharon Bayliss suggested a while back that we try a round in which we know The Agent’s identity right off the bat, so that’s what we’re going to do. I’m pleased to announce that The Agent for this round is none other than Kate Schafer Testerman* of kt literary.

The Rules

1. To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the genres The Agent represents (which are listed at the bottom of this post).

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY OF THE PREVIOUS ROUNDS OF “AN AGENT’S INBOX,” please DO NOT participate in this one UNLESS YOU HAVE A NEW MANUSCRIPT that meets the criteria listed above. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, October 18, I may allow previous participants to enter (but to be honest, I’ll be surprised if we make it that far).

3. All entries must include A QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. You must paste these items IN THE BODY OF YOUR E-MAIL; otherwise, I'll disqualify it.

4. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 10:00 A.M. EDT (OR 7:00 A.M. PDT). Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 20 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 20 slots fill up.

5. If your entry makes it in, I'll send you a confirmation e-mail with a post number. If your entry doesn't make it in, I'll still send you an e-mail, but it won't have a post number.

6. If your entry makes it in, YOU MUST COMMENT ON AT LEAST 3 OTHER ENTRIES.

The Prizes The Agent will select both the winners and the prizes. The Agent might pick 20 winners, or she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

Please keep in mind that THIS CONTEST ISN'T FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. I've encouraged The Agent to treat the entries exactly as she would a normal batch of queries. Essentially, she’ll be answering the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" I think this process will be instructive for all of us, but if you enter, you need to be prepared to hear exactly what The Agent thinks of your query and first page.

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Monday, October 17, at 10:00 a.m. EDT! At that time, you may send your entries to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it!

The Genres

YA fiction (all subgenres)
MG fiction (all subgenres)

(If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below...)

*I know this probably goes without saying, but if you’re thinking about entering, you should probably treat this round a little differently because you already know who The Agent is. Feel free to do a little research and include personalization in your queries. Also, if Ms. Testerman has already rejected your query, YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO YOUR QUERY AND/OR MANUSCRIPT. I’m not going to say you can’t enter (mostly because I have no way to police it), but you--and she--are going to get a lot more out of this contest if you enter something The Agent hasn’t seen before.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Steve

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 52,000 (6,000 less than last time)
Status: Finished with the third draft!
Attitude: Cautiously optimistic

Third draft complete! And now Steve’s off to meet his next round of beta readers. Thanks, Ben, Jeni, and Kelly! I know he’s in good hands.

I’m optimistic about Steve because the feedback I received from my last bunch of betas was so positive. (One of them even said she read the whole thing in one sitting!) But I’m cautious because I know there are as many opinions in this industry as there are people, and I don’t want to get my hopes up.

I’ve read posts from agented and published writers that say things like, “This manuscript was special from the start. It was the best thing I’d ever written, and I poured everything I had into it. Somehow, I knew it would be the One.” Well, Bob felt like that manuscript for me, and now that he's racked up more rejections than anything else, I know nothing’s a guarantee. No manuscript can be the One (until it actually sells), because too many of the factors that determine its success--or failure--are outside of our control.

I know Steve still needs some work, but at least for the time being, I feel pretty good about where he’s at. So where are you at with your projects, and how do you feel about them?

P.S. In case you missed my tweet, October's round of "An Agent's Inbox" starts next week, and this month, we're trying something new. I'm revealing The Agent's identity RIGHT NOW. I'm thrilled to announce that Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary will be next week's guest judge, so get busy on those entries!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Recommendation: KETURAH AND LORD DEATH by Martine Leavitt

I’ve been tearing through some great books lately, so today you get to hear about another one:) Another good friend and critique partner Myrna suggested I read KETURAH AND LORD DEATH, and I’m glad she did. It’s a few years old, and I haven’t heard a lot about it around the blogosphere.

The storyline is fairly simple: Keturah meets Lord Death in the forest after being lost for several days. He tells her he is there to collect her soul, so to buy herself a little time, she tells him a story. But she doesn’t finish it; in exchange for the story’s ending, she asks for one more day of life. She wants a chance to find her true love. Lord Death grants Keturah’s wish, and as one day becomes two, then three, Keturah learns a few things about life--and love.

What begins as a charming fairy tale ends as a deeply personal allegory on the part of the author, and that’s what really hooked me. I tend to read the Acknowledgments first these days (I’m always on the hunt for a few good agents), so I knew that Ms. Leavitt’s sister, who died of cystic fibrosis as a child, was a major source of inspiration for the book. To quote Ms. Leavitt’s own words, “Now, as a mother and grandmother, I realize what a long journey dying must be for a child to make alone. I wish I could have walked with her a little way. This book is my way of doing so.”

If you like vibrant, soul-deep romance and heart-achingly beautiful prose, you’ll love KETURAH AND LORD DEATH. And for those of you who’ve read it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments (even if they disagree with mine).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Recommendation: OPEN by Andre Agassi

My good friend and critique partner Kelly suggested I read this book after I e-mailed her several weeks ago to ask her a few things about Florida. (My next manuscript, the as-yet un-nicknamed one, takes place in Florida. And it involves tennis. Guess my cat’s out of the bag.) Mr. Agassi’s autobiography hooked me from the first word.

As you might imagine, Mr. Agassi has been playing tennis for pretty much ever. But what you might not imagine is that he’s hated it for about that long as well. Distorted by the constant pressure to be the best, to conform to his father’s standards--and those of the entire tennis world--he was often moody, rebellious, and unconventional. But that unconventionality, he says, was not really who he was.

To be honest, I didn’t always believe Mr. Agassi’s declarations of innocence. How can you pretend to be something for so long and not let at least a little bit of it become a part of you? Still, I found his defense riveting, and here’s what I do believe: Mr. Agassi is one of the most generous, least self-serving famous people I have ever read or heard about. He is a devoted husband and father. And for a ninth-grade dropout, he cares more about education than many educators I’ve spoken to--and puts his money where his mouth is. (His school, Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, sounds like one of the best things growing in Las Vegas at the moment.)

If you're even marginally interested in tennis or like to read about larger-than-life personalities, definitely check out OPEN (which, by the way, is perhaps the most perfect title ever). And if you know anything about playing professional tennis as a teenager--say, if your name is Christina McHale or Andre Agassi--feel free to shoot me an e-mail:)

P.S. You should know that Mr. Agassi--well, one of his coaches, mostly--uses the F-word now and then. I didn’t think the F-words in OPEN were gratuitous, but they were there. Just something to be aware of.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September's Winners!

First off, let’s hear from Ms. Paquette!

I had a lot of fun judging this contest, and very much enjoyed the wide variety of voices, genres, and subject matter. While I hope my comments on the queries and sample pages were helpful, it’s important to note that these are just one agent’s off-the-cuff opinions and reactions; others’ mileage may vary. This is above all things a subjective business, so I encourage you to keep revising, keep polishing, and above all, stick with it.

A few other notes: Several of these queries and manuscripts had been previously sent to me, so in those cases I had a wider familiarity with the material, and I didn’t request projects I had already considered. There were also cases where a project was not picked as a winner but did intrigue me enough that I mentioned in my comment an interest in reading on further, or reading additional work by this author. If I made such a comment on your submission, please feel free to send me your query and first 5 pages via the agency website form at

I wish you all the best with your querying and journey toward publication!

And now for Ms. Paquette’s winners and prizes.

First place: #44 HARBINGERS

HARBINGERS wins a request for the query and first 50 pages!

Runners up:

#40 KORU

These entries all win a request for the query and first chapter!

Winners, please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for instructions on how to submit your pages to Ms. Paquette! And for those of you who aren’t in this list but got a comment from Ms. Paquette like “I would read on” or “I’m interested in reading future work” and have questions you think I might be able to answer, feel free to e-mail me as well.

This turned out to be an awesome round, with lots of energy and wonderful feedback from Ms. Paquette and everyone else. Thank you so much for entering, for critiquing, and for blogging, tweeting, and Facebook-ing about the contest. I really appreciate the shout-outs and your participation.

October’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox” is just over the horizon, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, I hope to have a few more interviews and a bevy of hopefully interesting posts from yours truly to share.

Have a great Monday, everyone!