Well, like most kidlit authors, I'm sure, I started my love with the genre when I was a kid myself! I was an only child, and books like Harriet the Spy, Bunnicula, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight made me feel less alone. I kind of put off writing novels for decades (I get scared when I really wanna succeed at something).
Fast forward to when I was an adult. We had a foster child we hoped to adopt, but he got sent back to live with his parents after we'd had him almost a year. I felt a great deal of loss and pain. I decided to channel my emotions by writing a middle grade novel about what he'd be like when he got older.
To hone my kidlit writing skills, I attended a Media Bistro kidlit workshop in NYC. And eventually--like, another decade later--I went back to school to get my MFA in creative writing. While my MFA focused on creative nonfiction, I never lost my true love: writing kidlit.
I wanted to write books like the ones I first fell in love with. So, I wrote more, got involved with SCBWI, and learned everything I could. And here I am now, crossing my fingers as I ready my work for the kidlit universe.
Very interesting journey! So how did you come to snag your agent (and mine), Kelly Dyksterhouse of Tobias Literary?
In the past, I found QueryTracker to be a GREAT resource for finding agents to query, as is SCBWI. I had written the novel about my former foster child, queried it, but didn’t get any offers of representation. I wrote a second novel about a girl growing up on a military base in Naples, Italy, queried it, and, while waiting for the results of that query, wrote another novel. It’s about a boy who opens his door one day to find Death standing on his front porch. They say the best way to distract yourself from waiting for query news is to start writing a new novel, so that's what I did! I eventually received an offer of rep for the novel about the little girl, and it went out on sub.
Then my family and I moved to Okinawa. I wanted to immerse myself further into the world of publishing, so I started working as an assistant literary agent at The Tobias Literary Agency with Natascha Morris. It soon became apparent that my own agent relationship wasn't working for me, so we ended on good terms and I began thinking about querying again--this time leading with the novel about the little boy and Death. I really believed (and still do!) that it's the best thing I've written to date.
When thinking about who to query, I was unsure if it was okay for me to approach anyone about representation at Tobias, since I was working there. So, I began thinking about who outside of the agency I could query. I was sad, because I wanted to query Kelly again; I had actually queried her back in 2020 (when she was still at Raven Quill and I wasn't yet working with Tobias) with the book that landed me my first agent. I just knew that she would be perfect for my newest book--the Death book--which is a Southern gothic, contemporary MG. But since she was now an agent at Tobias, I sent her the manuscript just to ask if she knew any agents outside of our agency that might be a good fit for me. But rather than direct me to someone else, Kelly replied that she LOVED the manuscript and asked if she could represent me! Of course, I said yes, and I AM SO HAPPY SHE IS MY AGENT!
I totally get it! Kelly is an amazing advocate for her clients' work! What types of books do you hope to write in the future and what are you working on now?
Middle grade has my heart. I really enjoy writing grounded contemporaries with a touch of magic. And right now, I'm revising the novel I snagged Kelly with, getting it ready to sub to editors. I've also got an idea for new MG contemporary in which a little girl has to deal with the trauma of losing her foster brother. A full circle moment for me, for sure.
Sounds like your kidlit journey is off to a great start! Thanks again for stopping by, and do keep us in the loop when your first book is acquired.
Thanks for having me! It’s been fun.