Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL)

Last updated: September 2022

Mission Statement:

I look for books that delight readers, that help readers escape, that make readers feel seen, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that comfort readers and make them feel safe, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  4. Adult Fiction
  5. Quirky gift books

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about Bookshop.org, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me, it feels like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!

PICTURE BOOKS:

  1. Picture book author/illustrators. I’m open to receiving submissions from authors, but I’m primarily looking to sign more author-illustrator clients. I’m open to many different illustration aesthetics from hand-drawn to digitally rendered to collage to unconventional mediums. I love having a wide range of styles on my list, and the main thing I’m looking for is a unique, distinctive look. Some of my favorite illustrators include Juana Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, the Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, Anne Lambelet, Brian Selznick, Carson Ellis, Frank Morrison, and Emily Winfield Martin.
  2. Humor—I want the next hilarious, commercial-feeling, NYT Bestseller. It’s important to me that kids really love and are delighted by the books I represent, and humor is also a great entry point into reading for kids who are intimidated by books, so I take silly books seriously. 🙂 Some of my favorite humor-driven books are: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Dragons Love Tacos, The Bad Seed series, Where Bone?, When Unicorns Poop, The Day the Crayons Quit, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, and Rot: the Cutest in the World.
  3. Family Narratives—I love books that reflect families and their everyday experiences. For me, the more specific the story, the better. Examples: Hair Love, Bedtime Bonnet, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Under My Hijab, Alma, Julian is a Mermaid, Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
  4. Magical books—I love magical stories that feel like the type of book that will stick with a child throughout their life. Anything by The Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, and Emily Winfield Martin. A few of my favorite magical books: The Night Gardener, The Antlered Ship, The Bear and the Piano, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, and Lights on Cotton Rock.
  5. Adventures—I would love to see more adventure stories in my inbox! Examples include The Greatest Adventure, It’s Not a Bed It’s a Time Machine, Ocean Meets Sky, and Stella’s Stellar Hair.
  6. Mermaids—Send me all of your mermaids!! (What kind of mermaid have you not seen before? I love when fantastical stories are pure fun but can also provide representation.)
  7. Karaoke—I’d love a joyful picture book about karaoke, sort of like the karaoke equivalent of Hip-Hop Lollipop.
  8. Traditions—I love picture books about family traditions/cultural traditions, especially when there is food, cooking, baking, or recipes involved. I’d also love to see other family traditions, like holiday traditions (loved Night Tree, Mooncakes), faith traditions, house-cleansing or blessing ceremonies/traditions, etc.
  9. Food—I love picture books about food! Some of my favorites are Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, Fry Bread, Tomatoes for Neela, Halal Hot Dogs, and Anni Dreams of Biryani.
  10. Atmospheric—I love a unique atmosphere/strong sense of place in books across the board. Because picture books are fully illustrated, they create the unique opportunity to create a really visually dazzling atmosphere, and I’d love to have more atmospheric picture books on my list. I think Hello Lighthouse is a great example of this.
  11. Spooky—I love spooky stories! (And I loved them as a kid too.) Ghosts, haunted houses, cobwebs. Some of my favorites include How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and The Ugly Doodles and the upcoming book Knight Snacker.
  12. Creativity—I love picture books about art and creativity, like the The Dot, Ish, The Ugly Doodles, The Wonder and Beautiful Oops.
  13. Historical Nonfiction—I would love to see historical nonfiction projects that tell fascinating stories from history’s footnotes. My one caveat is that I’m not as interested in biographies.
  14. Funny Christian picture books—I would love to see more funny and charming Christian picture books in my inbox! They must feel contemporary and appealing to this current generation’s Christian children and their parents that value diversity and inclusivity. I loved how The Inventions of God (and Eva) and My Breakfast with Jesus both accomplished this in different ways. Here are a few of my other favorite Christian picture books.

MIDDLE GRADE:

  1. Magical Realism or Contemporary Fantasy—I love any stories with light touches of magic or fantasy that are still accessible to readers who aren’t “genre readers.” Some of my favorite magical MG tales include Circus Mirandus, and No Ordinary Thing.
  2. Voicey—I love contemporary slice of life stories with a strong voice, like Front Desk, and Stand Up, Yumi Chung! I’m eager to have a diverse swath of identities, backgrounds and experiences represented on my list, but they do not need to be stories centered around identity per se. I really love this take on representation in media.
  3. Graphic Novels—I am open to taking a look at anything here, especially contemporary realistic, magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction. I’m really eager to work on a historical fiction GN. Some recent faves of mine were Pashmina, Witch Boy, and Measuring Up. I’d also like to put out into the universe: I would love to find the next Brian Selznick type of creator that doesn’t shy away from hybrid, unconventional formats.
  4. Historical Fiction—I am a history lover and enjoy historical fiction that feels like it’s shining a spotlight on a piece of history that’s been glossed over in textbooks. I want to see a hook/premise that I think will appeal to young readers, and an engaging voice. I’m open to epistolary novels or novels in verse as well. I love Brown Girl Dreaming, Ship of Dolls, House Without Walls, and Indian No More.
  5. Mystery—I’m hungry for a good mystery! I will never forget reading The Dollhouse Murders when I was in fifth grade and having to close the book for a moment because I was so scared. (But I loved it.) I want to work on books that inspire that same level of book-induced fright! Give me an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.
  6. Epistolary Novel—I’d love an epistolary novel between two pen pals, or some sort of unique format (a story told through texts, etc.).

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. Graphic Novels—Right now in the Young Adult space, I am primarily interested in representing graphic novels. I’m open to a wide range of genres and art styles here. Recent faves of mine include Pumpkinheads, The Prince and the Dressmaker, The Girl from the Sea, Isla to Island, and Batter Royale (which I represented and love so much). A few specific things I’m looking for in this space: 1.) Something very atmospheric where the setting is a crucial element to the story. 2.) Something related to fashion design or sewing in some way. 3.) Something in the vein of Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls show.

ADULT:

  1. General Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! I love the feeling of when I finish reading a book and immediately need to talk to someone about it, and that’s what I’m looking for. I love interesting voices/POVs, dual timelines with a historical feel, rhythmic language, and anything that is both an engaging and accessible read, while being thought-provoking and layered at the same time. The biggest thing I’m looking for is a good hook and a distinctive voice. Some of my favorites include The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Dollhouse, Violeta, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Daisy Jones & The Six, Room, The Maid.
  2. Thrillers—I love pageturning thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing them. I’m really looking for a hook here. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, and Lisa Jewell. I would love to see a fresh take on the genre from a POV we haven’t seen featured as prominently. Some of my favorite thrillers include Luckiest Girl Alive, Verity, The Woman in Cabin 10, Final Girls, Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Then She Was Gone, and Hunting Annabelle. I would also love to see something more in the mystery category that has a cheeky tone and engaging voice like The Maid.
  3. Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on “frothy beach reads” that have both humor and heart. I love a strong voice + unique perspective. I really need a high concept commercial hook here. I welcome tropes of all stripes, especially enemies to lovers, slow burn/friends to lovers, fake relationships, and so on. I’d love to see some speculative rom coms too, like The Ex Hex. Some of my recent favorites include Beach Read, The Unhoneymooners, Real Men Knit, Maybe in Another Life, Read Between the Lines, The Rosie Project, Waiting for Tom Hanks, Not Like the Movies, The Proposal.
  4. Speculative—I am looking for adult fiction with very light touches of magic/speculative elements such as magical realism, grounded fantasy, cozy fantasy, and rom coms. Think “a little bit of magic and a whole lot of heart” like The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, The House in the Cerulean Sea, When Women Were Dragons, and The Ex Hex.
  5. Unique Format—I love stories that are told in unique formats, whether that be epistolary, e-epistolary (I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette), transcripts (like Daisy Jones & The Six), a unique POV (think Room), etc. If it’s slightly outside a traditional novel format or voice, send it my way!
  6. Graphic Novels—I’d love to find some interesting graphic novels for adults. I’m especially interested in humor, romance, nonfiction, or just contemporary stories in general. I’m open to projects with speculative elements but epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me. If you’re not sure, feel free to send it to me anyway! I’d also love a really unique format outside the box of the traditional graphic novel format, something like Caroline Preston’s books The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt and The War Bride’s Scrapbook.
  7. Historical Fiction—I love historical fiction and am especially fascinated by lesser known historical occurrences or anything really “specific” like the focus on the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse, and the focus on the Trinity Test in Come Down Somewhere. I’m a sucker for a dual timeline. I have a special interest in the eras between the 1890s-1970s, but I’m happy to take a look at anything. I’m probably not the best fit for “ancient” historical fiction, though.
  8. Christian Fiction—I am open to Christian fiction, especially in the areas of upbeat voicey contemporary romance and hook-y historical fiction. I am not the right fit for Amish fiction, Christian fantasy, paranormal, angels/demons, or spiritual warfare.
  9. Quirky Gift Books—I represented The Compendium of Magical Beasts, which is all about the anatomy of magical creatures, and would love to represent more gift books like this, especially a concept with series potential. I would love to see humor here, paired with a concept that makes it an irresistible impulse buy. I’d love to build an empire the way Austin Kleon has built an empire around his Steal Like an Artist series. I loved Floriography. I also love books that toe the line between gift book and lifestyle/cookbook/craft book like The Year of Cozy, How to Hygge, and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. I’m open to different topics and styles, but here are a few topics I’m specifically interested in: linguistics, pop science, historical footnotes. In the same vein of “quirky gift book” I’d love to do a concept-driven photography book, like The Art of Clean Up. Or a drone photography book. If it feels like a photography-driven book you’d find in a gift shop, then I’d love to take a look!
  10. Devotionals—I’d love to represent more concept-driven devotionals with unique hooks for the contemporary Christian market. I represented a knitting devotional called Knit, Pray, Share and loved the specificity of it. Christian publishers are often looking for a large platform/social media presence from devotional writers, so that is always a plus, but if you don’t have that, then an incredible hook that will easily find its readers is fantastic.

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stories (I quit tee-ball when I was 4 and faked stomach aches in P.E., so I’m afraid I am not your gal.)
  3. Space operas
  4. Amish Fiction
  5. Angel/Demon narratives
  6. Ancient historical fiction
  7. High/Epic SFF
  8. Military/FBI/espionage thrillers
  9. Dystopian stories

Writing Funny Picture Books!

Everyone loves to laugh, and humor is a fantastic entry point into reading for kids who are intimidated by books. Writing humor is tricky though! It doesn’t come easily for everyone. I’m excited to offer a Zoom workshop on writing funny picture books—I take silly books seriously! In this workshop we will closely examine successful humor-driven picture books on the market and decode the secret to their success. I’ll highlight  specific techniques you can use in your own work. If you’re a picture book writer who wants to add more humor to your work, come join me for this webinar on November 17 at 8 PM EST. You can register at the link below. Since this is my first time offering a workshop independently, I’m offering it for $25 while I test the webinar waters. I’ll make sure to leave plenty of time at the end for a Q+A. Can’t wait to laugh with you!! If you aren’t available to join me live, you can still sign up—I’ll be sending the recording to all registered attendees the next day.

Register here: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gLiZyGfaTvSwPY69M4crSw

Lucky by Christy Mandin

Happy Publication Date to LUCKY by Christy Mandin which published with HarperCollins Children’s today! This is her debut as an author-illustrator and her illustrations/color palette/character designs are to die for. It’s one of those books where you’ll catch something new every time you read it. This is a story about a pearl whose shell home is crushed so she must embark on a journey to find a new one. It’s a story about home and friendship and taking care of our ocean! Plus, the illustrations are to die for. You can buy a copy here, and you can also check out Christy’s website to learn more about her beach cleanup movement called Lucky + Jim’s Cleanup Club

I’m joining P.S. Literary!

I’m so excited to finally share that I’m joining P.S. Literary Agency! I’ve always seen PSLA as an agency that launches incredible careers while also having a warm, supportive voice and presence within the industry—which is something I can’t wait to be part of.

This is a big move for me—I’d been at Martin Literary since I was a shy 19-year-old intern and really feel like I grew up there. I’m so thankful for my time at MLM—especially for the mentorship I received and the brilliant friends I made. I learned the art of tenacity at Martin Literary, and for that I am forever grateful. I can’t wait to see what happens next. 🙂

I’m open to submissions for picture books, middle grade novels, adult fiction, and graphic novels. You can read my submission guidelines here: https://www.psliterary.com/submissions/

I look forward to making more magic at P.S. Literary!

The perfect Christmas gift for the little ones in your life

Ever since I started my career as a literary agent, I’ve wanted to represent a Christmas picture book. I love the idea of having a book I can point to every Christmas season, especially one that has a timeless feeling. I have so many fond memories of reading Christmas books with my mom and sisters as a little kid. We’d take a bath, get in our PJs (often one of my dad’s t-shirts that looked like a nightgown when we wore them) and cuddle up in my parents’ jiggly water bed—and my mom would read to us. She’s a very animated, theatrical person so story time always felt like an event. I loved when she read The Polar Express, The Mitten (or anything by Jan Brett, really), The Legend of the Candy Cone, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Christmas in the Big Woods (the maple syrup candy always sounded dreamy to me!). I wanted to represent a Christmas picture book that gave me that same nostalgic and timeless feeling, and along came The Gift Shop Bear by Phyllis Harris. I fell in love with the cozy, nostalgic feeling, the magical setting of the gift shop and the attic above it that Bear lived in in the off-season, the relationship with Annie and Bear. I was so happy that I was able to represent and sell this beautiful book, and now I’m so delighted to see people buying it and gifting it to the kids in their lives, along with a teddy bear to go along with it. What a special gift! I think this is a perfect gift for the little ones in your life. 🙂 You can order a copy on Bookshop, Amazon, Indiebound, or wherever you prefer to buy your books! A lot of Barnes & Noble locations are featuring it in their Christmas picture book section, too.

AgentChat on YouTube

I was recently invited to do a live AgentChat interview on YouTube with Sarah Nicolas, which was so much fun. Watch to get to know me a little bit better, get a few query tips, and most importantly: hear my cat Maple screaming in the background the entire time.

Thank you so much for having me, Sarah!

Opening to Adult Fiction Submissions

I’m really excited to be opening up to adult fiction submissions, as of February 2020. Here’s some insight into what I’ll be looking for:

ADULT:

  1. Thrillers—I love gritty, juicy thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing thrillers. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, Lisa Jewell. I’m excited to see what Samantha Downing and Wendy Heard write next. Some of my favorites include Luckiest Girl Alive, Sharp Objects Then She Was Gone, My Lovely Wife, Hunting Annabelle, and The Girl on the Train.
  2. Women’s Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon or Oprah ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! I love interesting voices/POVs, dual timelines with a historical feel, rhythmic language, generational sagas. Some of my favorites include Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Dollhouse, Room, The Girls, The Mothers, Little Fires Everywhere, Fates and Furies.
  3. Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on “frothy beach reads” that have both humor and heart. I love a strong voice + unique perspective. I need a commercial hook here. Some of my recent favorites include The Unhoneymooners, Waiting for Tom Hanks, Maybe in Another Life, Playing with Matches, and The Rosie Project.
  4. Graphic Novels—I’d love to find some interesting contemporary graphic novels for adults. I’d be interested in nonfiction, or humor, or romance. Epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me, but I’m open to taking a look at a wide range in this space.

Picture Book Webinar for 12×12 with Julie Hedlund

I’m really excited to be doing a live webinar about all things picture books for 12×12—an online empire built by Julie Hedlund, who is the Patron Saint of Helping Aspiring Picture Book Writers.

So I was very flattered when Julie reached out to me asking if I would be interested in doing this webinar.

Here are the details: the webinar will take place live on Feb. 26 at 10 AM PST, and I believe will be available for a time period after that as well. In order to access the webinar, you need to be a 12×12 member. You can become a member here: http://bit.ly/2RRcqcx

12×12 is an incredible resource no matter where you are at on your publishing/querying journey. Whenever first time writers come to me asking for advice, I point them toward 12×12, and SCBWI.

We will be talking about what makes a strong submission, what I look for in a picture book, current market trends, and what I hope to see pop up in my inbox in 2020. I’m really looking forward to it!

Making story time engaging

Aren’t our nieces so darling? We always look forward to getting to spend time with them when their parents have a date night.

I’ve read books to them before, but in the past I’ve tended to pick books based on what *I* wanted to read, rather than taking account of their current interests and picking a book based off of that. As a literary agent AND an auntie, I always want to encourage the love of reading. I knew that my older niece, Meira, is going through a potty humor phase (she is 5, after all) so when I saw WHEN UNICORNS POOP at Barnes & Noble, I knew I needed to check it out. I thought it was funny and clever, and chock-full of potty humor so it was the perfect fit.

This picture was taken for our first read-through when they both quietly listened. Then they asked to read it again, & they giggled through it. (Meira giggled at the book and Thea followed suit to be like big sis.) Then they asked to read it again & they made sound effects. Then they asked to read it AGAIN & they had it memorized.

My nieces are young and squirmy so I’ve learned that zippy, funny books are best for them, and if there’s a dash of potty humor, all the better. I have also learned: doing funny voices and accents, encouraging them to make sound effects, asking them to point to things on the page, etc. has kept them engaged. I want books to be fun for them! How do you keep your little, squirmy ones engaged?

P.S. I didn’t represent WHEN UNICORNS POOP, but that doesn’t mean I can’t plug it! You can buy it here, or at your local bookstore. I’ve seen it at most Barnes & Noble locations, too.