Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview with an Agent: Taylor Haggerty

I'm excited to share my interview with Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. As you might have noticed, Ms. Haggerty is one of the agents who'll be casting her votes in "The Writer's Voice" next month, so this interview feels especially timely. Enjoy!

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

TH: I joined Waxman Leavell in the spring of 2013, and started building my list less than a year ago. I’d always pictured myself working in publishing in some form or another, but when I met a literary agent through a study abroad course in college I was immediately intrigued by this side of the business. After college, I interned at several publishers while completing a graduate degree from Emerson College’s Publishing & Writing program, and then worked at the Gersh Agency before joining WLLA.

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

TH: My philosophy is to work with authors I’m passionate about to help them build a successful career--whatever that means to each individual author. No two careers are identical, and I think communication and a mutual understanding of the goals and expectations at any given point are both particularly important aspects of the agent-author relationship. There can be a lot of ups and downs in this business, but I always expect my authors to be professionals. (Professionals who laugh at my bad jokes are appreciated, not expected! :))

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

TH: I have a lot of exciting projects in the works, but nothing hitting shelves quite yet. Stay tuned for news! 

All of my clients are exceptionally talented (not to mention lovely humans), and I was drawn to their work by that magical combination of a compelling voice, an undeniable command of language, and just flat-out great storytelling.

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

TH: Middle grade, young adult, historical fiction, and romance. I don’t represent poetry, screenplays, or picture books. 

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

TH: I really only have one pet peeve--vague/generic queries. When a query tells me that the characters will face life-changing events, challenging obstacles, or dire consequences, but doesn't elaborate on the stakes or specify what is unique about this particular world, character, or story, it's really difficult to feel invested. I don’t need plot twists or the whole synopsis right up front, but I do need enough details about the manuscript to be hooked and excited to read more. Reel me in!

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

TH: I’m looking for a manuscript that keeps me up late reading, and then stays with me beyond that last page--something that really pulls me into another world and makes me fall in love with the characters. For YA, I'd love to find a smart, funny contemporary romance or friendship story, as well as a gorgeous, original historical fantasy. On the historical fiction side of things, I love reading about kick-ass women in history, so if you have an awesome heroine please do send her my way! I''m also on the lookout for a great dual historical/contemporary narrative.

On the flip side of that, I’m still seeing a lot of books about kids with supernatural powers and/or prophetic dreams, so something along those lines would have to really stand out to catch my eye.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

TH: E-mail, with the query + first ten pages in the body of the e-mail to

Thank you, Ms. Haggerty, for these helpful responses. I think more than one writer just added a new name to his or her query list:)

Have a great weekend. I'm out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The Writer's Voice" Details!

“The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Kimberly P. Chase, and Elizabeth Briggs*. We’re basing it on NBC’s singing reality show The Voice, so these ladies will serve as coaches and select projects for their teams based on their queries and first pages.

Here’s the timeline:

May 1
May 2
Everybody enters the Rafflecopter lottery
The lottery winners sign up on the widget
May 2-10
They select their team members from “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest
May 10-19
They coach their team members, helping them polish their entries
May 19
They post their team members’ entries on their blogs
May 22
Agents vote for their favorites


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 following genres**:

Adult Historical
Adult Fantasy
Adult Science Fiction
Adult Romance (excluding erotica)
YA fiction (all genres)
MG fiction (all genres)

To determine who gets to participate in the blogfest, we’ll hold a single-entry Rafflecopter lottery on Thursday, May 1. The lottery will remain open for 12 hours, from 9:00 a.m. EDT to 9:00 p.m. EDT, at which point the Rafflecopter will select 150 random winners. Those winners will then sign up for the blogfest on one of Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets the next day, May 2. Once you sign up on the widget, you’ll post YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript on your blog.

In summary, you must follow these three steps to enter:

1. Enter the Rafflecopter lottery on May 1 during the submission window listed above.
2. Sign up on the widget on May 2 if you win the lottery.
3. Post your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript on your blog.


The coaches will be building their teams via “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest, so YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONTEST. We don’t care if you’ve had it for five years or five minutes; we just want to be able to fight over you in public:)

The coaches will review the entries and leave a comment on your post that says something like, “I want you!” If more than one coach wants you on her team, you’ll have to pick which coach you want to work with.


The coaches will select 8 team members by May 10, then spend the next week and a half helping them put a final polish on their entries. You won’t have to take all of their suggestions, of course; they just want to help you make your entry the best that it can be before the agents get a look at it.


On May 19, the coaches will post their team members’ queries and first pages on their blogs so that the agents can review them. Here are the awesome agents who’ll be voting on your entries:

Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media

The agents will vote for their favorites on May 22. Each vote will count as a partial or full request depending on how many votes the entry receives. If an entry receives 1 or 2 votes, those votes will count as partial requests. If an entry receives 3 or more votes, those votes will count as full requests.

Voting will stay open until 9:00 a.m. EDT on May 23, at which point we’ll determine which coach’s team received the most votes. That coach will win bragging rights for time immemorial, and everyone who received requests will be able to submit their materials to all the agents who voted for them. These votes represent serious interest in your project, so PLEASE DON’T ACCEPT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION BEFORE GIVING “THE WRITER’S VOICE” AGENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A COMPETING OFFER.

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Thursday, May 1, between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EDT. We can’t wait to read your entries! (And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.)

*As you probably noticed, I’m not going to be one of the coaches this year. I’ve just got a lot on my plate at the moment and can’t give the contest as much time and attention as it deserves. BUT I have full faith and confidence in Elizabeth Briggs, one of my agent sisters and a good friend. In fact, I have so much faith and confidence that I’ve signed on as Liz’s guest coach. Go Team Liz!

**As you probably also noticed, we’re not including any new adult genres. We have to base the genres on the agents’ interests, and most of the agents participating this year aren’t looking for NA at the moment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


And the winner of Susan Gloss's VINTAGE is HeatherCRaglin. (This isn't a joke, I promise!)

Congratulations, Heather! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address so I can pass it on to Ms. Gloss's marketing coordinator.

Monday, March 31, 2014

On Differences of Opinion and Treating Folks with Respect

I’ve been writing this post in my head for months and on paper for weeks. It’s something I’ve thought about and wrestled with, since I’ve wanted to make sure I got every word right. I don’t know if I’ve done that, but I have given it a lot of thought, and I hope you’ll read it in the same spirit in which I wrote it.

I know that what follows will be a politically unpopular opinion (so if you prefer to avoid politics--and religion--in general, you should probably stop reading now). I know I might lose followers and perhaps people’s respect. But I cringe every time I hear someone refer to me as a bigot without knowing anything about me, so even though I post this with some amount of trepidation, I feel strongly that I need to post it.

Please know that it’s not my intent to argue. I didn’t write this post to try to change anyone’s mind. You feel the way you feel because of your beliefs, and I respect both you and them. I only want to explain why I feel the way I feel and perhaps shed a little light on why we feel so differently. I don’t think it’s because you’re a heathen and I’m not (or I’m narrow-minded and you’re not). I think it’s because we start with very different premises.


Lots of folks see this life as a blip of self-awareness between an unknown past and an uncertain future (or between nothing at all), but because of my religious beliefs, I see it as the second act in a three-act play. I believe we lived with God before we came to earth. What’s more, I believe we lived with Him as children. I call Him Heavenly Father because I believe He is a man, with arms and legs and hands and feet, and because I believe He is the father of my spirit, the part of me that cannot die. And if I have a Heavenly Father, I must also have a Heavenly Mother, for it takes a mother and a father to create human life. I know nothing about Her except that She exists, but I believe that They rule as equal partners and that Their only goal is to help us find peace and happiness in this life and in the life to come.

They sent us to this earth to gain physical bodies, obtain real-world experience, and overcome trials and challenges beyond the protective circle of Their home. They gave us families, patterned after the one we had in heaven, to help us achieve these goals.

I don’t think God intended these relationships to end at death. Because our families were patterned after the one we had in heaven, He wants us to return to live with Him together. What’s more, He wants us to live in these families forever. Because it takes a mother and a father to create human life, families based on another pattern won’t be viable eternally.


In other words, my position on same-sex marriage is wrapped up in my belief in God and what my religion teaches is His plan for His children. If you don’t believe that this is His plan for us, I would never expect you to feel how I feel about same-sex marriage.

At this point, some of you might be thinking, “Yes, but what right do you have to force your beliefs on me?” As I said at the outset, it isn’t my intention to force these beliefs on anyone; I’m only trying to explain why I feel the way I feel. Now, having said that, I will say that I do vote for laws that define marriage traditionally, but that’s because I think that God will hold me accountable for the choices I make and the laws I vote for. I feel that marriage is defined by Him and not subject to our interpretation.


Even though I don’t support laws that redefine marriage, I do support civil unions for same-sex couples. Also, I don’t believe that same-sex couples should be discriminated against or treated unkindly. For instance, if I were a nurse and my supervisor told me that I couldn’t allow the partner of a homosexual patient to spend the night at the hospital, I would be the first to defy that policy. Similarly, I don’t think that same-sex couples should be denied housing or banned from stores or restaurants because of their sexual orientation.

Furthermore, I strongly condemn hate crimes. In the early 1800s, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as Mormons, suffered mistreatment and abuse at the hands of the majority--at one point, it was actually legal to kill Mormons in one state in this country for no other reason than that they were Mormon--so I empathize with those who’ve experienced similar mistreatment. Hate crimes are hateful and NEVER okay.

If God is my father--and I believe that He is--then I must believe that He’s your father, too, and if He's your father, you're my brothers and sisters. I believe our Heavenly Father expects us to treat each other with compassion. He can’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, but He loves those who sin--which is all of us, of course--treating them with kindness and respect. He wants us to do the same.


Now that I’ve said my piece, I’m going to let this post speak for itself. You’re welcome to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments, but I ask that you don’t engage previous commenters in a debate. Similarly, while I usually respond to every comment on my blog, I’m not going to respond to the comments on this post. Despite the world’s opinion to the contrary, I still believe it’s possible to respectfully disagree.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Balancing Act

Critique partner and agent sister Amy and I recently had a candid conversation about how we balance writing and motherhood, and superagent Kate was awesome enough to post our chat on her blog. Don't miss parts one and two!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: VINTAGE by Susan Gloss

I've been hanging around the online writing community for almost five years now, and one of my favorite things being involved in this community is being able to follow a book's journey from the query to the bookshelf. I first learned about Susan Gloss's VINTAGE, then titled GENTLY USED, when she entered it in a round of "An Agent's Inbox" several years ago. A few months later, she had an agent and, a few months after that, a book deal. I can't believe it's been two years (though I'm sure Ms. Gloss can), so when her marketing coordinator wanted to know if I'd be interested in reviewing VINTAGE, I couldn't say yes fast enough:)

VINTAGE follows three women--Violet, April, and Amithi--whose paths cross at Hourglass Vintage, a vintage clothing store. Violet is the headstrong owner who's finally figuring out what she wants from life, April is the high school senior who also happens to be pregnant, and Amithi is the stalwart housewife who's spent the last four decades putting her family's needs above her own. But these three intrepid women are more than what they seem, and as they navigate the ups and downs of small-town business ownership and failed and fledgling relationships, they discover just how strong they are--and how much stronger they can be together.

The first chapter drew me in, and the rest of the book delivered on the promise of that first chapter. Violet, April, and Amithi develop a sisterhood that transcends generations and their very different upbringings. When I was a teenager, I read women's fiction almost exclusively, and VINTAGE reminded me of all the things I love about the genre: multifaceted female leads, true-to-life challenges, and sparkling hints of romance.

If you like interesting characters and happy endings, definitely give VINTAGE a read. And to facilitate your reading, the folks at HarperCollins have graciously offered to send a copy to one random winner. To enter, tell me in the comments what your favorite outfit is (or, you know, just tell me that you want to win). Contest closes next Monday, March 31, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (or 8:59 p.m. PDT). I'll select the winner the next day!

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of VINTAGE in connection with this review, but that didn't stop me from giving you my honest opinion about the book.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Difference Between Good Writers and Good Editors

First off, I have to say that I love my critique partners. They're fantastic writers who are at once supportive and insightful. They read every manuscript I throw at them, and they always have something helpful to say. They're also fierce defenders of those manuscripts, so when I feel like chucking one over a cliff, they're always the ones who talk me down from the ledge.

But while my critique partners are great writers and have great editorial insights, they're still not editors. And the difference is profound. When Shauna first sent me notes, they literally knocked my socks off. (I'm using "literally" in its newest sense, which is actually equivalent to "metaphorically" or, in other words, "not literally.") Shauna was able to see things that no one else had seen, including six CPs (two of whom are now published or about to be) and two offering agents (who've sold scads of manuscripts between them), and she was able to communicate those things in a way that got my creative juices flowing. As I've probably already mentioned, I ended up rewriting more than half of Steve (and now that we're nearing the end of the revision process, I'd say that less than twenty percent of the original scenes made the final cut).

I'll be the first to admit that when I'm critiquing a manuscript, it's hard not to tell the writer to just write it how I would have written it. Some things are right or wrong grammatically, and some devices are better or worse from a storytelling point-of-view, but lots of things are just different, and when you're a writer yourself, it can be harder to discriminate between the two.

Now, do I still think I'm a fairly decent CP? Yes. Do I think that qualifies me to be an editor? Not necessarily. Obviously, I couldn't do for Steve what Shauna did for Steve (and not just because I was the one who wrote him). She saw the story's strengths and knew how to help me magnify them, but she also saw the story's weaknesses and knew how to help me fix them. Good editors don't trade your words for theirs; they help you tell the story you meant to tell in the first place.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What I Think of the Latest Attempt to Ban John Green's Books

You've probably heard about the latest attempt to ban John Green's books, but if you haven't, here's a quick recap: A teacher at Strasburg High School in central Colorado wants to teach an elective on young adult literature. The parents in Strasburg have taken issue with several of the books on the proposed list, so they've brought the matter before the school board, which plans to address it at a board meeting next month.

Curious about that proposed list? Here it is:

FEED by M.T. Anderson
DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
UGLIES by Scott Westerfield
TAKEN by Erin Bowman
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
GO ASK ALICE by Anonymous
13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES by Maureen Johnson
PAPER TOWNS by John Green
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare

Other than the fact that this teacher wants to read pretty much everything that John Green's ever written, it's a pretty diverse list:) Of these nineteen books, I've read all or part of thirteen. Of those thirteen, I stopped reading four because I wasn't comfortable with the amount of profanity or the sexual content. (I've also put down books that I thought were too violent or gruesome, but for whatever reason, that doesn't happen as often.)

Now, several of the books I finished probably had the same amount of profanity or sexual content as the ones I didn't. Sometimes, I'm more sensitive, and sometimes, I'm just weak (which is to say that I'm too invested in the story or characters to put the book down, though I feel like I should). I really enjoy YA fiction, and I think I'll enjoy it for many years to come, but there are a number of books that I simply won't read because I find them too profane, too sexually explicit, or too violent.

In other words, while I applaud this teacher for wanting to teach current teen fiction, I also understand where the parents are coming from. But why are we always so concerned about the teachers and parents? What about the students themselves?

As a junior in high school, I was assigned to read John Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH. I only made it a few chapters in before I gave up. I thought it was dull as dishwater, granted, but the way the Joads talked really grated on me. I was a sheltered teenager, yes, but I preferred it that way. I knew the world could be ugly and was often cruel, but I didn't see the need to willingly expose myself to its ugliness and cruelty. Even if a book uses that ugliness as an example of how NOT to be, there's something about bombarding the reader with it that seems contradictory to me.

I stopped reading the book and participating in class discussions (if we even had any, that is). My English teacher that year was less, uh, stringent than most, so she only ever gave us one quiz on the book. It remains to this day the only quiz, test, or assignment I've ever failed.

I like to think that if the stakes had been higher--if my term grade had been on the line, say--I still would have had the moral courage to put the book down. But I guess I wonder if I SHOULD have had to put my grade on the line if it had come to that. Should we make students pick between their religion and/or ethics and failing a class? In the case of Strasburg High School, is it enough to say, "Well, you don't have to take it, so if you're concerned about one of the books on the list, just don't sign up"?

On the one hand, I think there comes a point when you have to trust your kids to make the right decision, but on the other, I don't think kids should be penalized for choosing not to read something. What I'd love to see in a YA literature course of this nature is a two-pronged curriculum in which every book is studied in tandem with another and the students get to pick which one they want to read (or they could even read both). Then you could pair a gritty, true-to-life book with another that addresses the same issues in a less provocative way. I'm sure it would lead to some rousing discussions about the impact of profanity and sexual content in a book and what it contributes (or doesn't).

And I'm sure kids would come down on both sides of the fence.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Open Mike!

I'm turning the blog over to you today (or at least the comments section of this post). If you have a question, comment, or suggestion, I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Agent-Author Chat: Laura Zats and Erin McGhee Petti

So happy to welcome Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary to the blog along with one of her newest clients, Erin McGhee Petti! It's worth noting that Ms. Petti is actually RETURNING to the blog, as she was one of the original members of Team Krista back in 2012, and I'm thrilled to announce that she found representation for THELMA BEE, the very manuscript that was part of that inaugural round of "The Writer's Voice."

Ms. Petti took a break from querying after she had her first baby, because as every new mom can attest, it's tough to find the time to buy toilet paper, let alone query a manuscript. Then two of Ms. Zats's #MSWL tweets caught Ms. Petti's eye:

And the rest, as they say, is history:)

As always, Ms. Petti's query and responses will appear in orange, Ms. Zats's in blue. Enjoy!

Ms. Petti's Query Thanks so much for participating in #MSWL! After reading through your feed, I think you might enjoy reading THELMA BEE. It's got a non-treasure hunting quest through a swamp! Thelma's adventure has a little bit of creepy, a lot of fun, and an MC who is part Dana Scully...but turns out to be a little bit Buffy as well.

Eleven-year-old Thelma Bee might turn red as cherries when she’s embarrassed, but she’s no wallflower. Thelma has adventure in her blood. There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for exploration in her hometown of Riverfish, Massachusetts, though, so she and her best friend Alexander Oldtree are often left to their own devices--with mixed results. The full-scale Viking Longship, for example, was a magnificent flop. 

But one October night, Thelma’s sixth-grade year takes a turn for the peculiar. A ghostly visitor kidnaps her father, leaving her alone and scared to death. Her only clue is a centuries-old jewelry box and one cryptic word the ghost whispered into her ear: “Return.”

That one word draws this adventurer-in-training into a world where her family tree unfolds a mystery that’s more extraordinary than anything her imagination could concoct. With her team of amateur ghost hunters, Thelma delves deep into the New England woods, where the lines between folklore and reality become dangerously blurry. It’s there, where the creaking trees have long memories, that she comes face to face with the devious Mr. Understone, who has been stalking her bloodline for centuries. Thelma has something he wants, and he’ll keep her dad until he gets it. 

To save her father, she must find the bravery to overcome a dark magic…and discover just what she’s made of. 

Please get in touch any time if you need additional information, and thank you for your time!

KV: Ms. Petti, how did you first come up with the idea for THELMA BEE?

EMP: Honestly the very first thing that inspired Thelma Bee was a weird looking rock formation in the river in my backyard. I thought, "Oh man, that looks like the back of a sleeping river monster. THAT'S COOL." I'd just moved out of the city and the change of pace really opened up my imagination. Now, Thelma and her crew are so dear to my heart that I kind of feel like I've been living with them forever. 

KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?

EMP: I had no idea what a query was while I was writing the book, and was embarrassingly clueless at first. I'd read a blog entry that said a query should read like the blurb on a book jacket--so that's what I did for the first round. Not quite the level of compelling detail that agents are looking for, it turns out. It took me a while to plug into the right blogs, Twitter feeds, etc, to put me on the right track.

I revised the query eleventy billion times.

Luckily, I was chosen for your team in The Writer's Voice! Your critique of my query was an incredibly important step to getting it where it needed to be. 

KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query? What was the easiest?

EMP: Cutting the fat and streamlining the ideas were my biggest challenges once I got going. The easiest part was probably the voice, weirdly, because when I start writing about Thelma, she just peeks through. No matter how ill-shaped the query was at any point in time, I always felt that her personality was there.

KV: Ms. Zats, when you first read Ms. Petti’s query, what caught your attention?
LZ: I loved the mention of the Viking longship. Clearly, this story had a smart protagonist, and had just the amount of odd and whimsy that I obsess over.​
KV: I have to add that the Viking longship stuck out to me, too:) Such a great detail! Okay, back to the interview…

Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about THELMA BEE?
LZ: Thelma is such a cool kid. She is a nerd, but she's scientific, which I don't think you see a lot. Her life is full of adventure, so she takes every setback in stride and with a good humor that makes me want to be her best friend. I also loved that who you originally expect to be the villain in this story is just the opposite, which opens the door to a lot of surprises.

KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Petti's manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?
LZ: It took me about a week to request a partial, and then two weeks after that, I requested the full. After that, I had it a month before the Call. That response time is pretty typical, but a bit on the faster side of things.​

KV: Ms. Petti, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?

EMP: For beginners who are just figuring this out, read blogs like these. Find authors you love on Twitter and follow who they follow. Query Shark is terrifying but useful. Your best friend will love your query no matter what, and she's fabulous, but hand it to someone who has been in the trenches for a while for an objective opinion.

For those who have been querying for a long time, stay open to new ideas and track your progress. Talk to folks who are going through the same things as you for support. Publishing is weird and twisty and one email can change everything--have faith! 

KV: Same question to you, Ms. Zats. What query-writing suggestions do you have?
LZ: Rule number one: be nice. Do research and query the agents you actually believe would be a good fit for you. Follow the basic query structure. Instead of being innovative and attention-grabbing, just frame your book in the best and most exciting way possible while retaining you book's essence. Let your book speak for itself. And if you're not sure your query is the clearest, give it to someone who doesn't know anything about your book. Let them read it, and then ask them what the book is about. If they don't give you the answer you'd like, rework it. ​

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

EMP: If you're writing, you're doing something truly awesome. Enjoy the freedom of creativity and try not to get too bogged down with the rest of it. As long as you're creating and finding joy, you're winning. 

LZ: ​It's better to have no agent than an unenthusiastic one. Make sure you're writing the book you want to write, and stick with it. The right agent is out there, but it might just not be the right time for you yet. And for those of you waiting to hear back: agents take way longer with books they like than with books they don't!

I couldn't agree more:) Thanks again, ladies, for taking the time to answer my questions. Fingers crossed for THELMA BEE! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ms. Gref Has Picked Her Winners!

Without any ado, the winners of this month's round:


Congratulations, winners! You win a 50-page critique from Ms. Gref! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for details on how to submit your first 50 pages.

Thank you, everyone, for promoting, entering, and critiquing. And thank you, Ms. Gref, for your insightful comments. I'm sure I'm not the only one who learned a lot from your feedback.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Critique Away!

And we're off! Check out the entries, then leave some feedback in the comments if you feel so inclined. (ENTRANTS, PLEASE REMEMBER TO CRITIQUE AT LEAST THREE OTHER ENTRIES!) And I'm sure this goes without saying, but please keep your comments constructive (i.e., not rude or mean-spirited). If you want to think like The Agent, you might consider the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?"

I'll announce Ms. Gref's winners and prizes at the beginning of next week, but until then, have at it! And don't miss the awesome entries on the second page. I always tell Blogger to put the entries on the first, but it rarely listens...

(Also, just so you're aware, I always take out profanity when I'm formatting the entries. In other words, any asterisks you see in the entries are mine, so you don't need to point them out to the entrants. I just prefer to keep things as PG-rated as possible on the blog.

Last but not least, entrants, if you find a Krista-generated error in your post, feel free to shoot me an e-mail, and I'll correct it straightaway.)

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Ms. Gref,

My previous agent left the business, so I'm querying again. Because of your listing in #MSWL for a story containing fantasy world building with a contemporary voice, I'm hoping to pique your interest with my latest work.

While the world sleeps, Alice Kingston spends her nights fighting creatures known as Nightmares. Without someone to stop them, these fugly beasts threaten to plunge the world into chaos and misery. When the tall, dark, and annoying Addison Hatta charmed Alice into this life, she expected things to be less guts more glory. Instead, the battles grow bloodier, the days darker, and Hatta a little mad…der.

When his mental state deteriorates into fits and rages, Alice crosses into his home world of Wonderland to find out what the fel is going on. She’s intercepted by The Black Knight, whose sharp wit and sly compliments disarm her better than any weapon despite the fact he's an a**. He’s the one controlling the Nightmares, using them to spread his darkness and destruction. Once his power reaches far enough the bastard will unleash a cataclysm, warping Wonderland from the inside and Hatta along with it. Alice’s world is next. Countering the Black Knight’s spell will save Hatta’s life, but the backlash could shatter the bridge between worlds, throwing them off balance and casting both into eternal terror.

DREAMWALKER is a young adult fantasy with series potential complete at 86,000 words, where the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland meets the unadulterated a**-kickery of Buffy. Per the contest guidelines the first 250 words are posted below. I thank you for your time and consideration.



This is stupid, Alice decided. If someone Googled stupid they’d find a picture of her sitting in the dirt waiting to be attacked. Hatta and his dumb ideas. Try live bait, he said. Won’t take long, he said. A**.

The cold of the ground seeped into her jeans and numbed her skin. A shiver shook her and she wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the nighttime chill.

As time stretched, shadows filled the forest. Tangled branches, leaves and vines choked the canopy, keeping the moonlight at bay. The smell of damp earth mingled with the sharp scent of moss and fresh water. Creatures chittered, calling to one another, no doubt mocking her. She felt incredibly mockable.

This wasn’t just stupid, it was crazy, but after trudging through the woods for hours, exhausted and starving, who wouldn’t be somewhat unhinged?

Something croaked a low moooooooron.

“Oh, come on!” Alice’s shout swept outward in echoing waves, silencing the forest save the whispering wind. “Fine. Fine! S’fine.” She pushed to her feet and dusted off her butt. “Guess we’ll do this the hard way.”

She’d backtrack to the Gateway. Hopefully the trail hadn’t gone cold. As she walked, an odd sort of pressure slid along her limbs. Goose bumps prickled her flesh. She paused. 

Everything remained still, quiet enough for her to hear to the wind more clearly as it became a low, heavy pulsing rush. Whuush. Whuush.

Not wind. Breathing.

This plan was stupid, but it worked.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Ms. Gref:
Dee Diller writes lists, mostly about her unsatisfactory fourth grade life. When her mom accidentally flashes the entire class at Parent PE Day, Dee’s humiliated. She figures this is the worst thing that could happen to her. Unfortunately for Dee, school gets worse. Way, way worse. A popularity book lands on her desk and Dee is shocked. People don’t think she’s Funny, or Pretty, or Athletic. Nope, Dee Diller is the Messiest kid at school. There’s an excellent chance Dee won’t ever overcome this awful title. She turns to her secret lists, hoping they’ll save her from a fate of social ruin.
THE DEE LIST is complete at 20,000 words and will appeal to fans of Lauren Child’s CLARICE BEAN series. I’m a member of SCBWI and a Most Promising Middle Grade SCBWI Award Winner.
I understand you’re looking for all genres of MG fiction and while I was reading your well-written blog, sky lavender and cornerless, I discovered you’re a list maker. With this in mind, I thought you might connect with Dee. Thank you for your time and consideration.
My very best,


Facts about my Name
I’m named after my great aunt who I never met and she’s dead now.
That’s really bad luck.
One of the nicknames for my name is Desi.
I do not let people call me Desi.
Desi sounds like someone who likes to drink pickle juice.
My middle name ends with the word man.
Which is weird because I’m a girl.
Desdemona Hillman Diller.
Most people call me Dee.
As if being born with the name Desdemona wasn’t horrible enough, my school had to go and create something called Parent PE Day. God help me. If my mom shows up, school will go from bad to one hundred percent unbearable. She’s the worst athlete I’ve ever seen. When she moves quickly her toes point in towards each other and she flaps her arms all over the place like a bird. 
“Sweetheart!” Mom shouts across the field. "Sweetheart, it's me!"
It's as if she knew I was just thinking about her, except I'm sure she thinks I want her to come, the exact opposite of the truth. I sink my head towards my lap. When I look back up, Mom stands next to Mr. B.
“Hahahahaha,” she laughs.
“Hahahahaha,” he responds.
“Mom,” I interrupt the giggling, on purpose.
“Darling!” Mom says. “Your teacher was just telling me we’re going to be tied together for some sort of race. What fun for us!”

I’d love to dig a hole and hide myself inside it.

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Ms. Gref,

The Army doesn't want kids who are unreliable.

Thirteen-year-old Jamie Hazuki knows that. Knows the soldiers in Iraq will be counting on him to protect them, to stop the bullets with his power. That's how PILOTs serve their country, and Jamie spent the last two years training hard to become one.

He doesn't fail his final test. But he fears failing when it matters most.

Not on his first mission. That was easy. Jamie and his friends--energetic Alesia and headstrong Marie--helped Special Forces search for a missing PILOT in the hostile city of Samarra.

Not on his second mission. That was easy too. They investigated a devastating attack on an Army base that only the missing PILOT could have done.

On his third. When Jamie, Alesia, and Marie are tasked to hunt down and stop the rogue PILOT. The rogue PILOT who tricks the Army into attacking them. The rogue PILOT who's growing strong enough to destroy entire cities. The rogue PILOT who wants to bring the world to its knees before her. Every nation on Earth is looking to the three of them, and Alesia and Marie can't stop the rogue PILOT without him. Jamie has to push past the fear that freezes him. He has to. Has to...

PILOT is a YA science fiction novel complete at 73,000 words. I've used my military experience to add to the authenticity of the PILOTs' own experiences in the story. Thank you for your time and consideration.




The bullet stopped right in front of the boy's face. It stayed there, frozen in midair. His whole body shuddered as he eyed the bullet only six inches from his forehead. Gravity started to take it. The bullet didn't fall straight down, but rolled in a curve away from the boy's body. It bounced along the concrete floor of the lab's firing range, its soft tink-tink-tink easily heard. The boy watched until it stopped. He closed his eyes and swallowed what little saliva he had left in his mouth.

"Are you nervous, Jamie?" the female scientist said over the intercom.

Of course. But it wasn't the bullet. This was the big day. Test day. Jamie was only thirteen, and the last two whole years of his life would amount to nothing if he couldn't pass this test. So the bullet couldn't hurt him, oh no. He was his own worst enemy right now.

"A little," he said, looking up at the elevated observation room's big windows. The bright yellow lights inside made it a beacon in the sterile lighting of the firing range. The observation room had two scientists and a few military personnel in it, but more importantly, Alesia was there. Both of them were testing out today, and she already passed. Most kids washed out well before the test, but some managed to come this far and fail. And the Army didn't want kids who were unreliable.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Gref,

At great risk of losing everyone she loves, Hania must decide if she is willing to help bring back hope to those around her.  I am reaching out to you, Ms. Gref, at Lowenstein Associates for assistance in publishing my recently completed manuscript. I am drawn to you as an agent because we enjoy reading similar books and I often find myself laughing out loud at your blog.  My book, The Heart Song, is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 87,000 words. It is a stand-alone book with series potential, featuring a strong female lead and Native American folklore and practices.

After running from her past for 400 years, Hania, a Golem, discovers that someone she once knew is responsible for the lack of hope and compassion in America.  She must decide if she will open her painful history and draw from her experiences during the Trail of Tears and World War I to fight her way back to finding her self-worth.  With her unusual companions--a snarky New York run-away, a free-spirited musician from Denver, and an elderly medicine man from Moab--she embarks on a quest to defeat, Halleck, a leader set on controlling mankind through his army of Seminole warriors.

Native American folklore has been a passion of mine since growing up in Bicknell, UT, the desert heart of the trilogy.  An avid reader and storyteller, I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration, am a member of the League of Utah Writers, and contribute to numerous literary blogs including Write from the Mountains. 

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



I was breaking and entering, but I didn't care.  I stood quietly in an alley behind the village shops in downtown New York City.  I was amazed at the size of this bustling city. Coming from a small community farther west the lights and movement of the city overwhelmed me.  Listening closely for any sound or movement, I reached out and turned the knob to the back entrance of a barber shop.  It held fast.  I removed a small metal knife from my front pocket and placed it quietly into the lock.  Moving slowly and precisely I slid the pick up and down until I found the correct grooves and all the pins clicked into place.  Turning the knob I pressed on the door.  It made a light squeaking sound as it slid inward.  I looked around once more, before I stepped into the shop and closed the door quietly behind me.

Grabbing clippers from the desk I moved to the sink at the back of the shop away from the windows and leaned my head over.  I shaved my hair down nearly to my scalp leaving dark, shiny black hair covering the sink, counter and floor.  When I finished I stood up and looked in the mirror. A man peered back at me, but I still could feel the woman inside.  Missing her already, I ran my hands over the top of my newly-shorn hair and watched loose pieces fall to the floor. I realized that I didn't even recognize myself anymore.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Gref,

Sixteen-year-old Kenzie Moriarty doesn’t believe in luck or signs. As far as she’s concerned her status as class president, girlfriend of the football star and honor roll student are a result of her actions and personality. That all changes when her Grams tells Kenzie and her two sisters they’re the immortal Fates. To determine which sister will be responsible for each job--spinning, measuring or cutting life-threads--the girls must take tests to reveal their true character. The thought of having eternity to see the world thrills her, but ending lives is an option she won’t even consider. When she meets her soulmate and discovers the only way to be with him forever is to end someone else's life early, though, she finds the life hanging by a thread isn't at all what she expects.

In interviews I’ve read that you’re interested in stories incorporating mythology and fantasy. THE CARDINAL SIGN is a 71,000 word young adult urban fantasy that will appeal to readers of Mindee Arnett’s The Nightmare Affair and The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter.

As one of three sisters, I spent many years in the midst of sibling relationships and rivalries. I’m a member of SCBWI and received my English degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. 



The cardinal saved me. That blur of red, so out of place in a sea of metal and asphalt. I hesitated and watched him fly into the trees before I ran into the high school parking lot.

The referee’s whistle and shouts from fans echoed from the stadium. I’d gone a few steps when I heard the parking lot light creak. I looked up and threw my arms over my head just as it crashed in front of me, a spray of glass. I jumped back, shards crunching under my boots. Had I been a couple of steps ahead the light would’ve crushed me.

But Fate had other plans.

Running through the lot I kept clear of the other towering lights, not that two could break in one night. But I had a job to do at half-time and I intended to be there for it.

When I got to the stadium I climbed the steps, my boots clanging on the metal. My friends had saved me a spot in our usual place.

I leaned against the rail and let out a whoop. Of course, where I stood I knew my backside would get some attention. Not everyone goes to games for the football. The crowd rose to its feet, stamping the bleachers when my boyfriend, Dylan, ran the ball in for a touchdown. I waited for him to blow me a kiss or wave or something, but he just high-fived his teammates. Typical.

“Kenzie, he’s awesome. You're so lucky.”

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Gref:

Germany, 1148. A young woman seeking sanctuary is murdered near the abbey of St. Nicholas. Struck by similarities between the victim and her own dead mother, Eva von Hirschburg, a fiery teenage noblewoman, partners with a peace-loving monk named Brother Clement to find the killer, but the two clash when Eva suspects Brother Karl, a disturbed young man that Clement wants to protect.

As she investigates, Eva is courted by the charismatic Friderich von Starkebrücken. At first Eva rebuffs him, convinced he is only looking for an indiscretion. After days of verbal sparring, reluctant dancing, and thwarted kisses, Eva relents, but Friderich wants Eva to give up what he believes is a dangerous obsession with the murdered woman. Is Friderich trying to protect Eva or is he trying to protect his childhood friend Ragenard, a dark knight with violent tendencies?

Eva cannot capture the killer alone, but trusting the wrong person could prove deadly.

A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN (60,000 words) is a historical mystery for young adults, a medieval Nancy Drew with the lush, sexy feel of Anna Godberson's The Luxe. This book could be either a standalone project or the start of a series. I am writing you because I read several online interviews in which you said you were actively seeking YA and enjoyed stories that went deep into character, time, and place. The first 250 words of the manuscript are below, per agent's inbox guidelines.

I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators and the North Carolina Writers' Network. As a developmental psychologist, I have authored/coauthored numerous academic articles and an adult nonfiction book under my maiden name (Knickmeyer). As a child, I lived in Germany, where I decided I wanted to live in a castle, wear silk brocade, and dance on floors strewn with lavender and hyssop.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Germany, June 1148

Soon they would be safe. When she reached the abbey, she would find an advocate, a protector, someone who could convince him to acknowledge his son. Her arms tightened around the baby nestled in her cloak.

She lost her heart at fifteen when he followed her into the churchyard and, with burning eyes, demanded a kiss. Two years later, despite everything, she loved him still. In her dreams, she savored the saltiness of his lips and felt the weight of his body as they lay on his cloak, the night curled around them like a raven's wing.

A whistle sounded in the distance. The young woman's head jerked up. She knew that tune, his favorite hunting tune. It coursed through her veins like ice water. How had he found her?

She ran but stopped after a few seconds. She could not escape him that way. He would strike her down from behind; the baby would be thrown to the ground, his skull broken.

She would reason with him. She would promise to run away. To go where nobody knew them. She would not endanger his prospects. But he would never believe her. Not now.

Tears streamed down her face. They would hide in the woods. A ridiculous notion. He was an expert hunter. He would find them. She could picture his knife slicing her baby's throat, feel the blood on her hands, taste the screams in her mouth.

She saw only one choice.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Gref,

I read that you have a "weak spot" for fairy tale retellings. I hope that my YA contemporary fantasy, THE GLASS PRINCE, is a story that will appeal to you.

Clara Knight wants nothing more than to perfect her baking skills, enjoy her seventeenth birthday party with friends, and go to prom with her super-popular boyfriend. But then Rion rolls into town, complete with golden-boy good looks and a sexy British accent. When Rion kisses her in front of her boyfriend and all her party guests, all social-hell breaks loose.

Clara flees to upstate New York, accepting her estranged Grandma’s invitation to spend the summer with her. Grandma did promise to unveil some secret family tradition, after all.  What Clara actually learns is that she shares a curse with Rion, the immortal son of Snow White, and that her family is bound to help him. Too bad he seems more interested in kissing Clara than breaking curses.

When a family heirloom and moonlight whoosh her away to the prince’s hometown of Elysia, hundreds of years in the past, Clara finds a cryptic riddle--her first clue to breaking the curse. As she digs deeper into her family’s past, she realizes that Dad’s death, always thought to be an accident, might have actually been murder. And when Grandma starts acting rather “witchy” and seems to be plotting against her, Clara realizes that working with the boy she loves to hate is her only chance for survival.

THE GLASS PRINCE is complete at 72,000 words and the first 250 words are pasted below, per the contest guidelines. I earned a BA in English from Weber State University, am a member of SCBWI, the League of Utah Writers and the Pied Pipers online critique group. I attend at least one writing conference every year and, of course, I'm always reading. I appreciate your time and consideration.



My grandma is alive. Wow. I’d said the words earlier, when I’d first opened and read her letter out loud. They’d tasted foreign on my tongue. I thought them again now, alone and safe in my bedroom. I sunk deeper into my cushy turquoise comforter as I stared at the ceiling and contemplated my not-so-dead grandma’s words. Come to New York, her letter had said. I’ve got a family secret to share. I snorted. As if the fact that she was alive wasn’t secret enough?

I picked up the letter again and held it at arm’s length in front of my face. Her words were so cold, so matter-of-fact. There were no apologies. No explanations for her absence in my life for the past seventeen years. She did wish me a happy birthday. Did she think that was enough?  Oh, yeah. The necklace. I dropped the letter and let it flutter to the edge of my bed. I felt around for a thin chain that had a silver key attached to it. When my fingers made contact with it, I held it up so I could see it. The head of the key was a red ruby apple wearing a tiny silver crown and when the sun rays filtering in from my bedroom window touched it, it twinkled.

Funny. For a grandmother I’d never known, her gift somehow seemed familiar. I let it swing like a pendulum in front of my face, dipping my hand lower and lower until the bottom of the key hit my nose.

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Emily Gref,

Immortality isn’t a gift. Elsbeth desperately seeks mortal witches to end the isolation which follows her through every life, every death. But she’s traveled the world and hasn’t found another witch for centuries. After taking refuge in her old home in Salem, Massachusetts, Elsbeth breaks her biggest rule: trust no one who isn’t magical. Elsbeth lies about her motives just enough to a strangely familiar non-magic human, an Innocent, named Andrew to elicit his help in her search. Andrew in turn invites Elsbeth to a supposed magic festival where she discovers the cruel reality that warlocks hunt witches. Except when a warlock finds a witch, he kills her.

In fact, warlocks encounter no trouble uncovering witches under the leadership of Hopkins, Elsbeth’s old executioner, in his goal to slaughter witches for warlocks’ gain. Terrified at seeing her torturer, Elsbeth flees the festival but is kidnapped by Hopkins where he reveals she is the last; she alone maintains the balance witches are taught to provide for mankind. Only Elsbeth’s immortality prevents the extinction of witches, yet Hopkins vows to break the curse and kill her as a mortal.

Elsbeth must escape, prevent Hopkins from killing her a second time, and protect Andrew whom she put in danger by letting him close. If Elsbeth dies, witchcraft ends, and all that is humane and good in the world ceases. But in order to stop Hopkins, Elsbeth fears she’ll have to sacrifice her magical teachings and become the evil she hopes to prevent.

Complete at 83,000 words, THE FLAME WARS is a contemporary adult fantasy novel with series potential. Please find below the first 250 words of the manuscript for your consideration. Thank you in advance for your time.

Best regards,


I am cursed; I was saved.

Blue smoke, thick as ash, swirls inside my body. Dropped in the dew-covered grass, I clutch my chest, roll over, and curl fetal. Hot bile stings my throat. Come on, heart, pump. Come on.

The smoke drags through me, forcing a shout, then chokes my lungs closed. One minute I’m convulsing on a gurney in New Orleans, the next I’m here--always here. Reborn in Germany after each death, twenty-five years old and still searching.

Some lifetimes I live for decades, others only a few years before… Either way, no one mourns me. Letting anyone close isn’t an option.

Sweat coats my scalp as pain splinters across my ribs. Not a moment too soon, the tight weight lifts and thick hazy spirals exit my body, form a cone above me, and vanish.

Come on, heart. Beat.

Frozen as a corpse, I stare at a spotted falcon circling above. I’d cry his name if I could.

Finally, oxygen rushes in, and I gasp. Shaky moans come between coughs and gags. My heart thumps as I shiver on the frigid ground while blood retraces my veins. Each death is the same. Each death is different. This time a car accident, last time a… I don’t recall. Time distorts my memory.

Tremors jolt my torso as my temperature normalizes. Full recovery is inevitable, but takes time. Time I don’t have.

Every inactive minute equals time lost in my search for witches.