Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Agent Interview: Emma Patterson, The Wendy Weil Agency INC

Have I mentioned how fantastic my agent is? Yes? Well I wanted to share more of her wonderfulment here on the blog and, I'm happy to say, she was kind enough to agree to answer some of my questions. But before we get to that, I wanted to say something to those writers out there who are getting ready to add Emma Patterson to their agent search list and that something is this--Emma has been amazing to work with over the last few months. From the moment she first expressed interest in my MS to the revisions and submissions, Emma has offered the voice of steadfast wisdom and commitment. I truly feel fortunate to be working with her.

And so, without further blubbering:

Emma Patterson is a literary agent with The Wendy Weil Agency INC. She is actively looking for new clients. 


Can you tell us a little bit about you? How did you get your start as an agent?

I grew up in New Jersey as an avid reader and the daughter of a literary agent.  My mother had her office in our house, and I remember realizing at a young age that my house contained more books and stacks of papers than any of my friends’ houses.  And no one else had multiple copies of books in multiple languages, either!  I loved helping my mother organize her files and bookshelves (I’m still an obsessively organized person…), sort query letters, and read manuscripts that she was excited about.  Basically, I grew up comfortable around books, writers, and writing.  Then, in the secluded Ohio cornfields during college, my love for literature and writing only further intensified, and I knew I wanted to be part of it.  Luckily for me, after two fantastic summer internships with Wendy Weil, she needed an assistant right after I graduated from college, and I jumped at the chance to be part of her amazing team.

What genres are you currently looking for?

I am on the lookout for literary and commercial fiction, women’s fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, and food writing.  I’m open to mostly any project with strong writing and a story that immediately grabs me – and I still think about weeks after I’ve finished reading it.  I’m not one to shy away from dark or quiet, either.

Can you tell us about a couple of the published authors/books your agency represents?

This is a tricky question because I’m very attached to all of our talented authors – and I’d gladly tell you about every single one of them if I could! 

I will tell you about Anthony Doerr, who has been a client of Wendy’s since I started working here, and whose work I’ve adored for years.  His most recent book, Memory Wall, is a wonderful collection of stories, and we’ve loved watching him receive his due credit in recent months – he won the 2010 Story Prize, Memory Wall was named a best book of the year by many newspapers including The New York Times, Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and a story of his won the 2011 Sunday Times Award in England (the largest prize in the world for a short story – a form that should be celebrated more than it is!) this past Spring.  Not only is he a beautiful writer, he is also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.  It’s been incredible to have been with this agency long enough to really watch his career develop and flourish. 

Are you currently accepting queries? If so, what would you love to see in your sub pile right now? 

Yes!  I’d love to see YA fiction with strong plots, great writing, memorable characters, and no vampires (please).  I’d also love to see transporting, powerful adult literary and commercial fiction – anything from a well-written literary thriller to a historical novel set in 19th century France.  I’d also love to consider more nonfiction queries about pop culture, food, history, and memoir.

What do you look for in a query letter? or When a query really grabs you, what is it that makes it stand out?

Honestly, for me, the most important thing is the writing.  If a query is well-written and describes an intriguing story or idea, I’m grabbed.

The most frustrating thing about being an agent is…

Relaying editors’ rejection letters to your talented authors whose work you’re trying to sell (and whose work you wholeheartedly believe in!). 

The best thing about being an agent is…

Seeing strangers reading your authors’ books and loving them as much as you do. 

What is something you wish every writer knew?

Most agents (or at least myself) don’t love being cold-called by writers.  It’s much more important to me to see the writer’s writing on paper…hence the query letter.

What one book, from you childhood, stands out in your memory the most? Why?

I’d have to say Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  It was the first chapter book I can remember reading and adoring; it was the first book that made me cry.  After that, even though my reading tastes changed and developed over time (I went through various Baby Sitters Club, Judy Blume, and Mary Higgins Clark phases in my later childhood years), I can still remember the connection I felt to Island of the Blue Dolphins, a connection that I need to feel with any project I represent today.  And not even in a “this-book-is-so-beautiful-that-it’s-making-me-cry” sort of way (though that’s always a sure sign that I’m in love with a book!), but at least in a “this-book-is-so-good-that-I-can’t-put-down-and-I-want-to-share-it-with-everyone-I-know” sort of way.

If you weren’t an agent, what would you be?

Eek – I have no idea!  I know that if I lived in a fantasy world, I’d own a restaurant in a remote beach town and live within a 2 block radius of all my family and friends.  And I’d have a labradoodle.  And a never-ending supply of Cadbury eggs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your agent, a writer's shiny coin

I was lying in bed (awake at some ridiculous hour because of invisible rag weed particles blowing through my open window and turning my nose into a faucet) and thinking that since I was already awake, and everyone else was still asleep, that it would be a great time to get up and write. So I came down to my office, read a million blog posts and emails, browsed Twitter, fed the cat, made tea, took an allergy pill then decided maybe I should write a blog post first.

Yes, I sometimes blog simply to procrastinate.

But this morning, while feeding the cat, I was thinking about what's different about writing this year vs. last year. Last year I was finishing up Ascendant and getting ready for my agent critique and pitch sessions at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. Last year, I didn't have an agent.

This year, I do. But as I dumped the syrupy meat byproducts into my cat's dish, I realized there is nothing different between now and then when it comes to writing. I still have to find the time and motivation all by myself. I still have to force my brain to focus away from twitter's scrolling time line of instant gratification. I still have to sit alone in my office and actually DO the writing.

But here's what is different. Someone other than me, my husband and my mother believes in what I'm producing during all those hours alone. And, she believes in it enough to think she can sell it. She spent hours of her time, unpaid and with no guarantees, reading, making notes, rereading, making more notes because of the belief that, when we were done with revisions, she would find an editor who loves those 390 pages as much as she does.

That's what is different between writing and having an agent and all the years I spent writing before having her. There's still no guarantee the book will sell, right? I mean, even if she and I love it till the end of time that doesn't mean we aren't the only two people, besides my husband and mother, that will. But I'll say this, in case you're like me and didn't come ready equipped into this world with a storage house full of self assurance, having someone on the inside like what you're doing is like having a shiny coin in your pocket. Whenever you're sitting at you computer and having one of those, "I really suck at this," moments, you remember that coin in your pocket. You remember that Emma, who is not your mother, doesn't think you suck. And then you realize, while you're not there yet, you are closer than you were last year. And maybe it won't be this book, but it might be the next.

Because you are close. Or at least, closer.

But what if you don't have an agent yet? What did I do during those years of writing without some margin of professional assurance?

I had my critique partners. I attended conferences and met other writers. I read industry blogs and communicated through the comments. I connected as much as I could with that world I wanted to belong to. And let's not forget, I had my mother.

But I also wrote. Alone.

The same as I do now. The same as you do.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What's Your Story?


I want to hear your story. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you working on and how much do you:

a. love it

b. hate it

c. feel certain it's the Next Big Thing

d. wonder why you started writing in the first place

You might notice with the above options I've given you no middle ground, no gray. Well, is it just me or do you too have a love hate relationship with your piece? Like some days you're just plowing through a field of weeds, no dream in sight but then, right behind a particularly nasty bramble, it's there. Your desert flower.

Hot and cold. Despair and joy. That roller coaster that makes you sick, sick, sick but you don't have the ability to get off.

Are you on submission? Do you have a query out to that agent you can't stop stalking? Do you have 50 queries out? Are you finishing your first MS? Your eighth? Where are you? How are you dealing? Do you ever feel alone? Connected to more people than your little introverted self can manage?

I want to know--I need to know. Let's commiserate, wallow, roll around in the mud. Let's shout from the roof tops, sing Beethoven's 9th, dance with joy.

Where are you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I WON! (and I never win anything)

I am the big o winner of Anna Banks season of swag giveaway. Hardbacks people, I won hardbacks of The Wolves of Mercy Falls--yes, I'm a lucky girl today. But Anna is insane because she's going to be giving away cool stuff for the next year, right up until her debut The Gift of Poseidon releases in Spring of 2012. Also, Anna has a whole series of posts on getting her agent, selling her book and what the process has been like for her....so definitely worth a look see and a follow. I'll even make it easy:

Anna's book deal
Anna's success story
Anna crosses over 1/2
Crosses over 2/2

Go check her out...she'll be one to watch over the next year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anna Bank's Contest (Win The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

There are a few days left (I think you have until Aug 8th) to win hardbacks of Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls over at Anna Bank's blog. The rules are easy (my kind of contest) follow her blog and her Tweety bird and sing a song about her contest (on Twitter...no karaoke required.)

If you don't already stalk Anna here's a little info: Anna Banks (pen name) is repped by Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency. Her debut YA Fantasy, OF POSEIDON, will be released through Feiwel and Friends in Spring of 2012.

Also, from what I can tell from 140 characters, she appears to be a very nice person.