Saturday, March 31, 2012

Author Linda Gerber Shares Secrets to Writing the Modern Day Nancy Drew During MWG Conference

Linda Gerber is the author of best-selling YA books TRANCE, THE DEATH BY BIKINI MYSTERIES series, and two SASS titles. Her books have been honored as ALA Popular Paperback picks, Women's Sports Foundation and Literacy Lab recommended reads, and Junior Library Guild selections. Her past writing gigs include serving as Regional Advisor for the Tokyo SCBWI, and appearing as the guest author with the CSI Exhibit.

Linda will present a breakout session and a master class about young adult writing, during the Missouri Writers’ Guild “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference.

Her breakout session, titled “From Nancy Drew to You: Mystery Writing for Teens” will teach attendees basic mystery elements and outline ways writers can incorporate those elements into their stories by preplotting, using proven plot devices, creating setting, upping the tension/conflict and avoiding clichés and other common pitfalls. During her Sunday Master Class, called “Get Real: Writing for Teens and Tweens,” Linda will distinguish between young adult and middle grade fiction, share her top teen writing tips, identify trends and provide market insights.

She currently lives and writes in Dublin, Ohio, blissfully ignoring her husband, four kids, and one very naughty puppy.

Sarah:  Linda, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your upcoming appearance at the Missouri Writers’ Guild. We’re looking forward to having you as a part of our notable faculty for this year.

Linda: I’m looking forward to being there!

Sarah:  To get us started, on your web site, you mention that you love to travel and are already planning your next adventure. Places that you’ve lived include Japan, Finland and multiple U.S. states. Plus, you’ve traveled and visited countless more. How has living in multiple places influenced you as a writer?

Linda:  Well, aside from the obvious - eight of the ten books I’ve written* are set overseas - traveling around has fed my writer’s imagination. Every new place holds new possibilities of stories waiting to be told. The trick is finding the time to write them all!

* Published or soon-to-be-published. Does not include the manuscript graveyard under my bed...

Sarah: I love the title of your breakout session. Nancy Drew is such an iconic children’s mystery series that everyone can relate to it. Will you be incorporating Nancy Drew into the session in any other way?

Linda: Absolutely! You can’t talk kids’ mysteries without touching on Nancy Drew. We’ll look at what Nancy and her contemporaries (Trixie Beldon and The Hardy Boys) brought to the mystery table, and how tween/teen mysteries have evolved since.

Sarah:  Do you think writers of adult mysteries would be able to apply some of what you’re teaching in your breakout session to their own writing?

Linda:  Very much so. The examples I will use are from MG/YA books, but the elements of weaving a good mystery yarn have no age limits.

Sarah: What are some of the distinguishing differences between mystery writing for adults and mystery writing for teens?

Linda: Age of the protagonist. Voice. Context. The same situation/mystery is going to impact a teen sleuth differently than, say, a hard boiled detective or seasoned PI. By virtue of their youth, teens have a unique perspective and approach to problem solving that adds a different layer to the way the story and the character evolves.

Sarah: What would you say is the most common cliché when it comes to mystery writing for teens? What can writers do to avoid that particular pitfall?

Linda: What I call Scooby-Doo plotting. This is characterized by cardboard characters, illogical situations, obvious red herrings, and big reveals that could easily include the dialog, “You meddling kids!” How to avoid? Research. Read some really good mysteries to see how it’s done. Fine tune your craft. Let yourself be surprised. Don’t talk down to your audience (teens are pretty savvy and have a fine-tuned B.S. meter. They really can wrap their heads around complex plots and characters, I promise.)

Sarah: In addition to learning about common mystery clichés, what else can attendees of your breakout session expect to learn?

Linda: We’ll discuss the elements of a good mystery, how to pre-plot your mystery, some techniques to keep the game afoot, and look at some examples of recent Edgar winners to discuss what makes a mystery great.

Sarah: I’ve watched several of my writing friends struggle with determining the best genre in which to pitch their manuscript. You’ve written eight books in multiple genres, including some that cross over like mystery/romance, paranormal/thriller, and more. Did you have trouble figuring out the genre with any of your books? If so, how did you approach what can be a tricky dilemma for some writers?

Linda: I’ve been lucky in that my first two books were part of a multi-author series for which I didn’t need to contemplate genre, and with the rest of the books, I leave it up to my publisher. But the best advice I’ve heard in the past is to determine where a bookstore would shelve your books, and that’s your genre. I know that sounds simplistic, especially if your book could fit into several genres, but the reality is, everyone along the food chain - from agent to editor to sales and marketing to retail - wants to know how to categorize your book so they can sell it. So go with the most logical genre and branch out... for example, women’s fiction with strong romance, history, and some supernatural elements. (Bonus points to anyone who guessed I’m talking about Diana Gabaldon’s Highlander series, which crosses genres quite nicely.)

Sarah: In your Master Class, what do you mean by “Get Real”? Could you give attendees a more in-depth look of what to expect during your 3-hour class?

Linda: Ha. Well, when I first started presenting on this topic, “Get real” was supposed to not only convey the sense that an author has to be completely honest and real when writing for teens, it was also a phrase a lot of teens used. Now, not so much later, it’s a good example of why we don’t want to write with a lot of current slang unless we aim to seriously date our books. This is one of the things we’ll discuss when writing for teens and tweens. We’ll also cover how MG differs from YA, and how both differ from adult, how to understand the way teens communicate in order to write effective dialog, how to capture a teen voice, how not to be a poser, what makes teen characters - and readers - tick, what’s hot and what’s not in the teen market, who’s looking for what, and as much fun as we can fit into the three hour slot.

Sarah: And finally, what new project are you working on now?

Linda: The first two books in the LIGHTS, CAMERA, CASSIDY series just hit the shelves, and books three and four will release in June and September respectively. When I’m not launching or promoting those, I’m working on a MG historical fantasy and a YA thriller, depending on the day and my mood.

Sarah: Linda, thank you for taking the time to tell us more about your upcoming appearance at the Missouri Writers’ Guild “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference.

If you’d like to learn more from Linda, click here to register for the Writing Conference and don’t forget to sign up for her Sunday Master Class. Attendees will also be able to buy her books from the conference book store. In addition, Linda will have bookmarks, postcards and charms to give away. In the mean time, I’d recommend subscribing to her blog as she regularly posts links to various writing articles each week. Find her at or follow her on Twitter @gerbsan.

Click to Register Now!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Debut Author Shawntelle Madison Adds to Writers’ Toolboxes

I’m pleased to introduce our next Conference Spotlight, Author Shawntelle Madison. She is a self-described web developer who loves to weave words as much as code. When she's not working in her mad scientist lab on her next tool for writers, she loves to write books for adults and teens. She's the author of COVETED, a forthcoming urban fantasy/paranormal romance series from Ballantine Books featuring a New Jersey werewolf with hilarious hoarding tendencies. Her second book KEPT will be released in the fall/winter of 2012.

During the “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference, Shawntelle will present a breakout session called, “Crafting a Synopsis from the Ground Up.” She will deconstruct and examine the components of a synopsis one-by-one, to help attendees create a coherent and selling synopsis for their manuscripts.

Sarah: Hi Shawntelle, thank you for being our spotlight speaker this week on the MWG Conference Notes blog. Having already heard you speak during the St. Louis Writers’ Guild social media presentation this past summer, I know attendees are going to learn loads of valuable info during your breakout session on synopsis writing.

Shawntelle: Thanks for having me!

Sarah: To get us started, as a St. Louisian with a former day job as a web developer, please tell us how you got into writing? The two seem vastly different, but you seem to have successfully melded the two. Especially, judging by your nifty writing tools on your site.

Shawntelle: Like it’s so often heard, I’ve been writing since I was a teen. I actually still have a notebook with one of my handwritten stories. It’s ghastly and will never see the light of day! In late 2008, I met my crit partner, Sarah Bromley, and through fate, she was jumping back on the saddle as well. Since that point, I’ve been learning the craft and writing new stories. It’s been a hard journey—finding an agent, not selling my first book, etc. Having young children has made it hard as well, but I believe if you’re hungry to finish that book and get it out there, you should give it your all and complete it to the best of your abilities.

Sarah: Thanks for sharing your story, Shawntelle. It’s always encouraging to hear about success stories from local writers. Can you tell us more about your writing tools? How did you come up with the ideas for them?

Shawntelle: They came out of necessity. After reading Debra Dixon’s Goal Motivation Conflict book I needed something to help me create charts. That’s how the GMC Wizard was born. All writers who submit to agents or editors need to write a synopsis. I wanted a tool to make the process more intuitive—something that would hold my hand and help guide me to put the pieces together. The book royalty calculator was just a fun tool to help authors see what it really takes to pay back that advance. And finally, the book store ISBN generator was something I needed as a web designer. I generate links all the time for clients. Why not make an interface that could be useful for everyone?

Sarah: The synopsis tool was especially helpful to me. I’d recommend everyone check that and the GMC wizard, here. Next, it looks like these tools have helped you build your writer platform. Yes, I said it! The dreaded “P” word. How helpful has your platform been for you? With your first novel forthcoming, as you reflect over everything that has happened, is there anything re: your platform that you would do different?

Shawntelle: To be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing. More than a handful of people have told me how useful the tools have been in helping them do their work. (I even had someone sell off the synopsis they wrote using the synopsis wizard.) So if my writer tools are part of who I am in terms of being a writer, then I’ll take it!

Sarah: One thing that impresses me about your platform is you don’t just post on your blog, but you have two other group blogs (here and here) to which you regularly contribute. If someone was interested in getting involved with group blogging, what do you recommend they do?

Shawntelle: I recommend that they network, network, and network. Writing is solitary activity. It’s too easy to hide in the writer cave and not interact with other writers. You can’t join a group blog if the members don’t know you exist. Talk to people during conferences. Interact with other authors on Facebook or Twitter. If you fit into what a group is looking for, they may seek you out.

Sarah: In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve already asked St. Louis Author Susan McBride this next question. But since you’re also based here in St. Louis, I’d like to hear your thoughts as well. Here it goes. What are the challenges of being a Midwest author and working with a publishing industry mostly located in New York? Are there advantages?

Shawntelle: I’d say it doesn’t matter anymore where you live in terms of publishing. With the internet, you could live on a desert island and still write and submit to NY publishers. I will admit though, it is nice being in Central Standard Timezone (CST). I’m not too late (EST) and I’m not too early (PST).

Sarah: Your debut novel, COVETED, an urban fantasy/paranormal romance, will hit bookstores shortly after the MWG conference on April 24. I read the first two chapters and immediately fell in love with your main character, Natalya Stravinsky. She is an obsessive compulsive werewolf who collects Christmas ornaments. I really felt like you had so much fun writing her. How did you come up with such a crazy idea for a character?

Shawntelle: Thanks, Sarah! Natalya’s character was “born” after I read an article in a physician magazine. The front page article was about obsessive compulsive disorders. After reading about the symptoms and treatment plans outlined in it, an idea sprouted. What would happen if I had a character who was a werewolf with OCD? The conflict and secondary characters came after that.

Sarah: What has surprised or challenged you the most about being a debut author? How did you deal with that situation?

Shawntelle: Uncertainty for me is the most challenging aspect of being a debut. I may have an educated guess on how things will go in terms of my launch, but anything could happen. And since I’m new at this, I can’t anticipate the possible roadblocks that might come my way. I deal with the situation by distracting myself. It’s quite easy to do with a family and freelance work.

Sarah: Last but not least. Your breakout session, scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 21, tackles the synopsis, which for me is one of the most brutal parts of being a writer. I’m sure others agree. Writing hundreds of pages of coherent story? No problem. Sum all that up in a couple pages? Terrifying! How will your breakout, “Crafting a Synopsis from the Ground Up?” benefit attendees?

Shawntelle: I’m hoping attendees will leave feeling more confident about writing a synopsis. By breaking down everything piece by piece, like I do in the synopsis wizard, it’s a lot easier to take a full manuscript and convert into a synopsis. Instead of focusing on the whole book (which is quite intimidating), you just think about the individual elements and then bring them together into a cohesive unit. The method still applies when you go from a 5-7 page synopsis down to 2-3 pages. Elements like the opening statements and the conclusion will still be there. It’s plot points and their level of detail that will be affected by the number of pages. Bonus question: Even though your release date is April 24, will you be able to bring advance copies of COVETED to sell at the conference’s book fair? If no, will you be bringing any other goodies?

Shawntelle: Yes, I will have early copies available. I’ll have Coveted swag as well to giveaway.

Sarah: Shawntelle, thank you so much for telling us a little bit about yourself, your book COVETED and what attendees can expect from your breakout session.

 In addition, Shawntelle has generously donated an advanced copy of COVETED for us to give away. To win, just comment below and tell us what you think. In addition, sharing this interview via Twitter, blog posts and Facebook will earn you extra chances to win! Even if you don’t win this time, Shawntelle said will have early copies of COVETED available and other fabulous COVETED swag to give away during the conference.

To learn more about Shawntelle, visit her web site at

The Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference is less than a month away and regular registration prices end April 8. In addition, the deadline to receive hotel reservation discounts ends March 29. Register for the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference right now!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Author Karen Docter Will Help Writers With Plotting, Character Development During Conference

Ever since she was a little girl Karen Docter wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. That all changed the day she registered for her freshman college courses. The English class she wanted was full and she was forced to enroll in Journalism. The rest as she says on her web site,, is history. 

Today, Karen is an award winning author who lives in Colorado. Her contemporary romance, Satin Pleasures, released Feb. 14 on Kindle & Nook. Satin Pleasures was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Contest. She has also won the Category Romantic Mystery Suspense unpublished division of the 2005 Daphne du Maurier Award. She is a four-time Golden Heart finalist and a charter member of The Golden Network® and RWA® PRO®. Also a member of Colorado Romance Writers, KOD and From the Heart chapters, she writes contemporary romance and psychological romantic suspense.

She’s developed her love of teaching by becoming a speaker and presenter to writer groups and has made numerous appearances at writing conferences around the country. During the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference, she will present a breakout session on Saturday and teach a 3-hour workshop on Sunday.

Her breakout session is called, “You Want Me To Do What?” and will help writers of all genres with character development. She will share nine crucial pieces of information writers should know about their characters to make them live in readers’ minds.  Writers who are both plotters and pansters will also learn how to write character goal statements that will help keep the story progression focused.

“The W Plot…Or the Other White Meat for Plotters” is Karen’s Sunday workshop in which she will share the “W” plotting technique she’s used for years. Attendees will work to uncover the skeleton of their novels by applying the “W” plotting technique to the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” Karen will show how the technique works and highlight plot points for all the main characters, including the villain. This 3-hour class will offer solutions for writers who have run into a wall in their story and don’t know where to go next. Read a complete description of her presentations on the MWG web site.

Sarah: Karen, thank you for taking the time to give us a preview into your upcoming appearance at the Missouri Writers’ Guild annual conference.

Karen:  Thanks for allowing me to share a little about my upcoming visit. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference.  It’ll be fun!

Sarah:  To get us started. As this interview is via email, can you tell us, where are you as you answer these questions?

Karen:  I’m relaxing on the couch in my living room after fourteen hours in my office. Time to chat!

Sarah:  How did you become an author? Did you do anything else before then?

Karen:  A loaded question! I’ve written my entire life, mostly journals, short stories, and poetry for my own enjoyment.  In college, I developed my journalism skills.  By the time I graduated reporter jobs were scarce, salary was minimal, and I’d established a career in business management.  That’s where I remained until I “retired” to stay home with my children. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to keep my brain functioning above a two-year-old level.  J  We lived in the mountains and I couldn’t get my hands on enough romance novels, so it was a no-brainer to write one of my own.

Sarah:  As a writer, what are your best daily practices that keep you organized and feeling confident?

Karen:  Working at home, it’s too easy to slip into “weekenditis” and not get anything done.  I treat my writing career as a business, carrying over a lot of the management principles I used in the workplace.  I no longer keep a time card now that I regularly work 8-12 hours a day on my computer (regrettably not all writing time). But I do write “To Do” lists and maintain a detailed calendar.  My fingers are poked in so many pies (for instance, I schedule all of the blogs for RomConInc  “Where Readers Rule” site in addition to running my career), I need to stay organized.  I’m still not getting enough writing time but I’m working on my schedule.  Adding a weekly Just Write session with my critique partners to my calendar has done wonders for my writing recently.

Sarah: You’ve won several romance awards. What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn as an author? What made it so difficult for you?

Karen:  I have the hardest time muting my Type-A personality when I write.  I’m both right and left-brained.  This isn’t a problem on the business side of my career.  It does mean I have an editor with twelve-inch talons embedded in my shoulder and she worries my scenes to death until she’s satisfied.  Finding a balance is an ongoing challenge.

Sarah:  In your breakout description of “You Want Me to Do What?” you explain the session will include nine crucial pieces of information you need to know about your characters to make them live in readers’ minds.” Could you briefly describe two or three of them?

Karen: We’re told as writers to create “larger-than-life” characters for our readers. But what does that mean? Your hero needs to be tall, dark and handsome, with a devilish smile? Your heroine has to be drop dead gorgeous? No. Physical appearance only touches the surface of a character. A character can only “live” when we dig deep into his personality, find out where he’s coming from and what’s important to him. We want to identify a character’s goal, her motivations in pursuing that goal. We’ll talk about defining her strengths. Her weaknesses. Her attitudes about life and how it all affects her characterization.  This workshop is a great precursor to my “W” plotting workshop.

Sarah: For anyone who signs up for your Sunday Master Class, “The W Plot…Or The Other White Meat for Plotters” what will they take away from the session?

Karen: My goal in the master class is to not only teach how the “W” plotting technique works, but help you to apply the technique steps to your own story.  So many times, we learn how a technique is supposed to work but then we go home and find ourselves struggling to translate what we’ve learned to our own work. There will be a number of hands-on exercises that will help you uncover the skeleton of your story. This is a great class for both the plotter and the pantser, the beginning or experienced writer. If you’ve already started a novel, that’s okay. It’s never too late to apply the principles to your developing story. Use the technique to pull apart the elements of your story so you can plug the holes, work through/over/around walls that loom in your path, and get moving on your story once again.

Sarah: As a follow up question to your Feb. 20 Monday  Musing Blog, how do you think the past year and a half has made you a better writer?

Karen:  It’s difficult to be a good writer when you’re pulled in too many directions.  It’s impossible if you don’t take care of yourself.  I learned that the hard way.  I’m a bit of a Type-A personality – okay, maybe more than a bit – so I tend to set a path and bully on no matter the cost. On the one hand, it means I can stay focused on a goal longer. On the other hand, it also narrows my point of view and creativity. Learning to re-prioritize my life goals allowed me to see outside the box I’d built around my life and career. That, in turn, allows me to be more creative.

Sarah: You said in the above blog that you considered yourself a traditionalist, that you’d never publish a digital book. You changed your mind, however, and recently released your newest book, Satin Pleasures, on Amazon. Why did that decision make sense for you?

Karen:  A lot has happened in the book industry in this past year and a half. It’s so much easier for an author to be her own boss these days if she has the skills to navigate the ins-and-outs of digital publishing. I was in the business world nearly 30 years and the concept of writing for me has always had great appeal. It’s also a wider business model than traditional publishing. I know I’m a good writer but, sometimes, that just doesn’t matter with traditional publishers. There are only so many available slots on their schedule. That means there are a lot of good writers out who may never get their stories in reader hands.  With my wider perspective on what I want to write, I decided it was time for me to take the plunge into digital publishing.

Sarah: And finally, what is it about being a writer that makes you an addict?

Karen:  A week ago, as I sat at the kitchen counter watching my husband make breakfast – got to love a man with a spatula in his hand! – I was going on and on about how thrilled I was to have finished a particularly difficult scene in my upcoming romantic suspense, “Killing Secrets”. At one point in the conversation, he looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face and said, “You do realize you’re talking about these people like they’re real.” The truth is my characters are real. They live and breathe in my head.  They make mistakes, face dangers, and fall in love. How can I not tell their stories?

Don’t forget to register! If you’ve learned something from reading this blog and are interested in learning more from Karen in April, please consider attending the 2012 Missouri Writers Guild Annual writing conference. We would love to see you there!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tales from the Slush Pile with Agent Sarah LaPolla

Today I’m pleased to welcome agent Sarah LaPolla, an associate at Curtis Brown, Ltd, to the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference Blog.

Sarah is an associate agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. She studied creative writing at Ithaca College and has an MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. In 2008, she joined Curtis Brown, Ltd. full time as the assistant to the foreign rights department, and became an associate agent in 2010.

Sarah represents both adult and YA fiction. For adult books, she is looking for literary fiction, urban fantasy, magical realism, mystery, literary horror, and has a soft spot for short story collections.

On the YA side, she welcomes contemporary/realistic fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, mystery, and horror. No matter what age the intended audience, Sarah tends to be drawn to voice-driven narratives, strong female protagonists, and complex characters.

Sarah runs a literary blog called Glass Cases ( and can be found on Twitter at @sarahlapolla.

This coming April, she can be found taking individual pitches at the Missouri Writers’ Guild annual creative writing conference, billed as the 2012 “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now! Conference.

Sarah, thank you for taking the time to make a guest appearance on our conference blog. I’m hoping what we talk about today will help conference-goers prepare better pitches for you at our upcoming conference.

Sarah’s reply: Thanks for having me!

Question: To get us started, are there any specific plot lines that you’d love to find or any plot lines that you’re tired of seeing in your slush pile?

Sarah: I think the only plot I prefer to avoid is “Girl or Boy meets Girl or Boy and suddenly their life has meaning.” Since I don’t represent romance, I need more than that to keep reading. I always look for who the characters are outside of their relationship with each other, and what else is happening around them. In terms of what I’m looking for in a plot, I really couldn’t say. I want something that will excite me or challenge me, and I need characters who will keep me interested in the story, no matter what the plot is.

Q: You represent several different types of writing – from literary fiction to magical realism with a special place for short story collections. What percentages does each genre represent in your slush pile?

Sarah: I wish I could do a pie chart for this question! I’m seeing more literary fiction in my slush pile lately, but I’d say it’s still around 30% of my total queries. Contemporary YA and fantasy YA make up the majority of the submissions. YA genre fiction, adult magical realism, and short story collections make up 5-10% total. I’d like to see more of them.

Q:  Are there any types of submissions you don’t accept but repeatedly show up in your slush pile?

Sarah: Yes. I don’t do children’s or picture books, category romance, or general nonfiction; yet they always manage to find me.

Q: Do you get involved in the editing of a manuscript or proposal before sending it out?

Sarah: It depends on the manuscript, but usually I am pretty hands on when it comes to editing. I usually work with a client on a revision or two (if needed) before going out on submission, and usually before I even offer representation. Revision is a different skill set than writing, and it’s important to know a potential client can do both.

Q: On your Blog, Glass Cases, you said you like talking about books, publishing, pop culture and promoting up-and-coming authors. Why do you like working with debut authors? In your answer, could you include an example or two from a current debut author you’re working with right now? KM Walton, perhaps?

Sarah: Part of why I wanted to be an agent was to see a project come to fruition from the beginning. It’s hard to get published and there are so many great writers out there who want to break in. I love being able to help them do that. My client, KM Walton, had her debut novel, CRACKED (Simon Pulse), come out earlier this year. She had sent out over 100 queries for longer than I had even been an agent. I like to think she just had to wait for me to get here. Her query came through the slush pile and she had no reason to think it would turn out differently than the others, but her novel just blew me away. It went on to be the first project I sold as an agent.

Q:  How can writers get something posted on your blog? How do you pick what you post?

Sarah: Writers can submit 1500-word excerpts or flash fiction to my blog at What I post on the blog is not always the same as what I choose to represent. More importantly, submissions to the blog are not considered for representation. Any queries to me via the blog address get instantly deleted without being read. They are two different areas and the blog in no way represents Curtis Brown, Ltd. As long as a story is well-written fiction or narrative nonfiction, and isn’t inappropriate in any way, then it usually gets posted. I don’t treat Glass Cases as a lit magazine or an industry blog. It’s a place for writers.  

Q: You became an agent at Curtis Brown in 2008. In the past three, almost four years, what is the most surprising or unusual thing that’s happened to you as an agent?

Sarah: I started working at Curtis Brown in 2008, but I didn’t become an agent until 2010. I began (and still work) in the foreign rights department. I think the most surprising thing for me was how much I’d enjoy working in foreign rights. Then, of course, being given the chance to build a client list is also up there with surprises. Both were very nice!

Q: Thanks for the clarification. Who knew foreign rights could be enjoyable? My last question, since you’ll be taking pitches at the conference, is could you talk about the elements that a good pitch would include?

Sarah: A good pitch is one that tells me what the book is about right away. Writers sometimes get nervous during pitches, so they end up giving too much or too little information. I think the most important thing to remember when pitching to an agent is that we want to hear about your book. We’re there to hear about it. But if we don’t know what it’s about, we won’t know why we should read it.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add, for anyone who’s thinking about pitching you at the MWG conference?

Sarah: 1) Make sure what you’re pitching to me is something I represent. 2) Don’t be nervous! Most agents are just book nerds like you. :)

Sarah, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate the insights you’ve shared – especially about how it’s important for agents to know writers can work through the revision process and your thoughts on pitching. I hope they will help our conference goers as they decide who is the best person to hear their own pitches.

If anyone would like to learn more about Sarah, I recommend checking out her other interviews here and here. To learn more about her submission guidelines, visit Curtis Brown’s website

Did you like what Sarah had to say? Let us know by leaving a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a Missouri Writers' Guild Conference tote bag. Sharing this blog via Twitter, Facebook, or a blog post earns you additional chances to win.

If you haven’t registered for the “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now! Conference, click here. If you have, thank you and we’re looking forward to seeing you in April. With agents like Sarah, faculty like Jane Friedman and authors like Claire Cook, it’s going to be one of our best conferences yet.