Amy Giuffrida – Associate Literary Agent

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Amy’s life is consumed with all things bookish. When she’s not working on books, she’s talking about stories with her classes as an 8th grade ELA (English/Language Arts) teacher. In her spare time, you can find her renovating her house, binge-watching TV shows on Hulu, or reading something scary—all while snuggling with her three rescue dogs.

I am always looking for #ownvoices stories written by disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ authors. I am especially interested in seeing stories set in non-western places that envelop me in cultures typically underrepresented.


Horror– Give me your dark and twisted tales that make me question reality. Stories set around Halloween, ghosts and hauntings–all with themes of friendship–are perfect stories for me.

Romance– I really want to see sweet first love stories. I want to feel that wave of butterflies first love creates and the awkwardness of a first kiss or that tension of having a crush—no matter the type of coupling (F/F, M/M, or F/M).

Contemporary– I’m always in search of strong, young characters that fight to change the world. Also, enemies to friends, friendship break-ups, and feel good family stories are always at the top of my #MSWL—think MG or YA Schitt’s Creek.

Mystery– I’d love to see stories including a group of teens that band together to solve puzzles and mysteries. Think of a modern day Goonies or Scooby-Doo with diverse characters.

Adventure- As a rescue dog mama of three, I am on the hunt for a story that includes a rescue dog–preferably one with a breed who is often cast as naughty. But please don’t send me one where the dog speaks.


I am seeking twisty suspense, light magical realism that is grounded in every day life, dark academia, cozy mysteries, southern gothic, and contemporary upmarket women’s fiction.

In Horror– I want scary, smart stories.

Psychological Thrillers– Give me all the unreliable narrators and unexpected twists and turns.

Romance/Rom Com- Give me books that make me swoon, laugh, and cry all at the same time. Stories of best friends turned lovers makes me super happy, no matter the coupling. I’d love to see more of true love stemming from blind dates and making it in the face of diversity. I also seek f/f love stories—give me RED WHITE & ROYAL BLUE,  but with female characters. Would also LOVE to see some stories set during holidays in non-Western settings.


MG, YA, and Adult– I am looking for powerful stories from diverse voices, including cookbooks that highlight family stories or ancestral anecdotes.

I am NOT the best fit for:

  • High Fantasy/Science Fiction/Historical Fiction
  • Pandemic/virus stories
  • Angels/demons/werewolves/zombies/vampires/mermaids/pirates
  • Political/military/police heavy thrillers
  • Novellas/short story collections/poetry collections/screenplays
  • Previously published work
  • Chapter/picture books
  • Stories including religious themes, suicide, rape, physical/mental abuse/abductions/violence against children

Submission Guidelines

Queries should be submitted through QueryManager: http://QueryMe.Online/AmyGiuffrida

For fiction, please include your query letter, synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. For nonfiction, please send your query, proposal, and the first 10 pages.

Guidelines & Details


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 17, 2021

SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE: Inside Children’s Publishing


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 16, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Jaclyn Sinquett

Jaclyn Sinquett grew up playing in her dad’s garden, feeding worms to box turtles and tossing french fries to seagulls at the Jersey shore. She now spends her time painting shells with her little daughter, catching up on a certain great baking show, and illustrating books for children. Her favorite color is yellow ochre.

Her family always encouraged her creativity and provided inspiration with gorgeous nature books and lots of different art supplies.

Jaclyn still loves drawing animals and nature, and crafting thoughtful, detailed illustrations using a wide range of techniques. Her work is best loved for its fresh color palettes, hand-lettering, and characters that touch the heart.

Jaclyn received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in 2008. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is proud to be represented by Christy Tugeau Ewers at the CAT Agency.

Here is Jaclyn discussing her process:

I started work on It Will Be OK: A story of empathy, kindness, and friendship (written by Lisa Katzenberger and publishing with Sourcebooks in Feb. 2021) by reading the manuscript about a million times.

I took notes and researched the characters, in this case a giraffe and zebra. I gathered inspiration of how other artists have illustrated these animals, and started experimenting with how to make mine unique and memorable. I landed on this character study which I shared with the publisher and author. I did refine Zebra and Giraffe more after this, as the sketch process revealed more of who they were to me. Next steps were to create super rough, tiny thumbnail sketches of the whole book, playing with scale and perspective. Once I was happy with the general layout for the whole book, I blew up my thumbnails and sketched right on top of them at full size.

Here is the refined sketch for this spread. This is done completely in Procreate with a pencil brush. I always place type in my sketches using Indesign, something I picked up while working at FSG. For me, the type must be treated as part of the art/composition.

I created a small dummy of all my sketches to be sure I liked the flow of the book.

Once my sketches were approved, I moved on to final art. I painted both the main characters for this book traditionally and worked on them digitally afterwards. Here you can see me working on Zebra – he’s quite scaled up. To do this, I printed a large version of my sketch and used a lightbox to trace the image onto smooth bristol. This was then painted with watercolor and color pencil. I always put sketches and other final paintings out around my work surface, so I can check for consistency. I kept all the color pencils I used for the main characters separate so I had quick access to them.

I tried to keep a lot of life in the painting, as I loved the sketches for this project and didn’t want to lose that energy. Sometimes I think I spend too much of the creative juice on the sketches…it can be hard to recreate the life in the final art. Here is the finished painting scanned and roughly tiled together. At this point I would clean up the image and do some color correction, remove any dust or stray marks. Then I would place him in the scene, and digitally compose the background. I’d add transparent layers over him with extra washes and details. I love the pencil brush in Procreate for adding nice dark lines and definition.

To build the background imagery, I used a library of scanned painted and drawn textures. I especially liked keeping the tree trunk a simple shape full of natural texture from the brushstrokes. I like combining the refined painting of the main characters with a looser approach like this to scenery.

Here is the finished spread.

How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from the University of the Arts in 2008 and have been working ever since. Sometimes that’s looked more like graphic design, but illustration has always played a huge role in my professional life, even when it wasn’t strictly my job description. So I think it’s safe to say I’ve been illustrating 12 years. I’m pretty new to children’s publishing, though, and have only been illustrating in that field for the last 2 years or so.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I did an illustration for a summer reading program brochure for the New York Public Library back in 2008, I think that counts as my first official illustration gig. I cringe when I look back on the art, though…I just dug up the old emails and I’ve grown a LOT in the last decade!

What made you decide on attending The University of the Arts in Philadelphia?

I had been going to school at The College of New Jersey for Fine Art, but ultimately decided I needed something more specified. A kind professor suggested I was a natural illustrator, so I ran with that. I went to an open house event at The University of the Arts and really fell in love with the program—at the time, the illustration degree was broken out into 3 different concentrations: traditional, digital, and design. I really loved the idea of the design track, which seemed practical and well-rounded, blending in graphic design skills with illustration. Plus I’ve always been attracted to working with type and lettering.

Why did you choose illustration as a major?

I loved creating characters and telling stories. I loved solving visual problems and working with metaphor. Oh, and I was totally in love with the idea of my art being printed/sold/seen/used by people in the real world.

Did you take any children’s illustrating classes?

I never took any classes that were specifically about children’s books, though we often learned about them in the main illustration courses.

Did art school help you find work when you graduated?

Yes, they put me in contact with the people at FSG, where I started working as a Junior Designer.

How did you find the job as a Junior Graphic Designer at Farrar, Straus and Giroux after graduation?

The Illustration Chairman at UArts put me in touch with the Art Director at FSG to set up an interview. I was hired to replace another alumni who was moving on.

Did you move to NYC for that job?

Nope, I commuted all the way into Manhattan from PA every day. It was pretty insane and not at all sustainable! But I was young and got the apartment before I got the job.

Do you feel like you learned things by working there that helped you at other jobs?

Oh my gosh, yes. I learned so, so much about designing, working with illustrators, editors, art directors, and a marketing team, and I learned the importance of keeping super organized files. Working in a team setting and seeing “behind the scenes” in publishing was really cool. I didn’t really know what I wanted at that time in my life, and the commute was torture, so I ultimately decided to move on. But I’m forever grateful for that experience and for the incredible team I got to work with. I was lucky to be shown the ropes by designer Jay Colvin, to work with the incredible Frances Foster, and see lots of gorgeous original art (Georg Hallensleben, Peter Sís).

What do you think help you develop your style?

I really, really struggled with this, like so many artists do. I loved creating all different kinds of art, for all different subjects and interests, in lots of different mediums…This made it really impossible to see what I should be narrowing in on. Ultimately nothing but time and creating tons and tons of art made me realize what I wanted to do most. Style follows that, at least for me. I also had to figure out who I was as a person, and what made me tick, what made me happy. I had to grow up some more and figure out where my artistic soul lived. That sounds really dreamy but for me it was true.

I honed my skills as an illustrator working in greeting cards – I still do today. The job offers tons of variation in subject and freedom to experiment with different techniques. Think how different a birthday card for mommy from a young daughter is from a sympathy card for a neighbor, for example. I learned so much about tuning my voice…It’s about who your illustration is for, where it’s coming from, and what you want it to do in the world.

One day I realized I was happiest when I got to create the kids’ cards. I was my most pure artistic self when putting faces on food and painting unicorns. Not sure what that says about me exactly other than I am, at my deepest level, a very silly and sincere person.

I still consider my style to be one that fluctuates with my voice, and with the purpose of the project at hand. I think I’ll always be evolving in that way.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

A few years into illustrating greeting cards, I realized my greatest love was in children’s illustration. I also realized I loved telling stories with my art. I started longing for deeper meaning and narrative in my work, looking for a chance to develop characters more. I was incredibly intimidated at the prospect of starting down the publishing journey, and so I pinned it to a cork board with a caption “someday.” It sat there, untouched for awhile. Then I had a baby girl and realized I needed to create my “someday” or it would never happen. I needed to show her how to really chase down her dreams and believe in herself – how to try your hardest at something you care deeply about, even if you might fail doing so. And I needed to find out if I could make this happen for myself – I could live with failing, but I couldn’t live with myself if I never really tried. So I leapt in. I joined SCBWI, started building up a portfolio with the scraps of time I could string together while working and being a new mother. I started cold-e-mailing people. I got lucky.

How did you connect with your agent Christy Ewers at The Cat Agency?

One of those cold-emails landed in the inbox of the incredible Joann Hill at Disney-Hyperion. She so graciously offered to meet with me and do an in-person portfolio review. Joann spent an hour of her time talking me through my pieces and giving me advice about next steps. Oh my gosh, I’ll always be grateful to her. She recommended a few agencies, and Christy’s was one of them—The CAT Agency. I had already been following Christy on Instagram and had fallen in love with the way she cheer-leaded her illustrators. I also really loved the illustrators on her roster, and how friendly and supportive they were towards each other. I was looking for community. So I worked on my portfolio and reached out to Christy, with all my fingers and toes crossed.

Christy responded with the sweetest email, brimming with kindness and encouragement, and a gentle decline at that time. She gave me a hugely in-depth portfolio review as well, and I took every word to heart. I set to work pushing myself creatively and completely replaced my portfolio with new, better pieces inspired by her and Joann’s advice. I met with Christy in person at a SCBWI conference, looking to thank her and show her my progress. Not long after that we were signing a contract to work together, and I couldn’t be happier. I have an agent that really sees me and believes in me as an artist and a person. I can be totally real with her and ask any questions and she’s always there for me. It’s a total partnership and I got really lucky landing with the right people. The agency vibe is great, too—no icky competitiveness. Nothing but support and encouragement, and advice whenever needed.

Was Sincerely, Emerson: A Girl, Her Letter, and the Helpers All Around Us your first illustrated book?

It’s my first published trade picture book, though I do have a button/board book published with Cottage Door Press that came out this Fall. I also created the artwork for It Will Be OK by Lisa Katzenberger before Sincerely, Emerson, which is publishing in February with Sourcebooks. It all sort of happened at once.

Did The Cat Agency get you that contract?

Yes, Christy is amazing. She suggested me for the project.

How long did HarperCollins give you to illustrated the book?

Sincerely, Emerson was a super rush project because it was/is so timely, and so needed right now! I had about 3 months start to finish. It was lots of fun and really wonderful working with the team at Harper and with Emerson on her inspiring story. I’m beyond grateful I got to work on this project for a million reasons. One of the many great things about it is how quickly it published after I created the art for it – so satisfying and exciting! I didn’t have to wait long for its book birthday.

You have another illustrated picture book coming out this February titled, It Will Be OK: A story of empathy, kindness, and friendship with Sourcebooks Explorer. Were you working on both books at once?

Oh I’m so in love with It Will Be OK. I can’t wait for the world to read this story! Yes, I think there was a week overlap where I wrapped final art for It Will Be OK and plunged into Emerson sketches. It was a thrill for sure. I felt like (still feel like) someone needed to pinch me.

You’ve been working at Designer Greetings for 8 years. Do you work from home or do you have to go into an office for that job?

I can’t really believe it’s been 8 years! But then I remember how much has happened and evolved in that time. Designer Greetings is so great and has been a wonderful resource for me as an artist. I’ve grown so much working in greeting cards, and I feel like I really discovered my style and my artistic purpose through this job. I’m working fully from home at this time and loving it. It has been really helpful creatively to work in my home studio, instead of commuting and working in an office environment. I did that for many many years, though, and it’s all doable. Lots of artists really benefit from traveling outside the home to work. I do miss seeing my lovely coworkers’ faces and working more closely with them, but we still stay connected and work together. And I just love being in my own space and feeling 100% comfortable, free to create. I am very introverted and a total homebody though, which I think helps!

Do you have you any other books?

Yes! I’ve had the pleasure of creating 2 sweet button/board books with Cottage Door Press. Farm Animals published in Fall of 2020 and I just recently wrapped up final art for Meet My Family. I’m also currently working on a super-fun book called I Love Strawberries! written by Shannon Anderson and publishing with Feeding Minds Press in Spring 2022. I can’t wait for the world to meet Jolie and her pet bunny, Munchy.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines or any other magazines? If so, who?

Yes, I’ve gotten to do a couple projects with Ladybug Magazine, which were great fun.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Well I’m actually in the middle of moving. But I did have a lovely studio, and plan to have one again in my new home. It’s important to me to have a really fresh, comfortable space to work in (when I can —I also have a 3 year old!). But I also make little mini spaces all around the house to work in, so I can chip away at projects here and there all day long.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

I won’t say I wouldn’t consider it, but I will say it would have to be incredibly compelling and a perfect fit for me.

You will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Oh my gosh I have a hard time pinning one success over another, because it really is a journey…Signing with Christy was a big one, landing my first PB (It Will Be OK with Sourcebooks) was another. Probably the biggest success has to be my work on Sincerely, Emerson. The scope of that book project really humbled me. It’s based on a true story, and it’s really timely considering the world we are living in. It felt really big to work on that book. But honestly every project has felt big and special.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite way to work is to combine some traditional watercolor painting and color pencil with digital painting. Then adding collaged textures in as well. I call it my “Frankenstein” process because things get all stitched together digitally.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve always been a digital painter, but the process has certainly evolved. I used to do a lot of pen and ink stuff when I was younger.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I do everything with either a Wacom tablet on my desktop, or the Apple Pencil on my iPad.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I have a watercolor pan set (Yarka St. Petersburg Watercolors) that I really love to use with smooth bristol. I also have a huge supply of color pencils I’ve collected since I was a child. I used to gather art supplies at yard sales…some of these pencils are 25 years old or more. I have them sorted by color groups in big bags. I also use Photoshop and Procreate, and pull from a huge library of scanned paint and marker textures.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I don’t have a specific time goal, but I spend a lot of time working. Whenever I can, really. It brings me joy. I don’t really take days away from creating art. Even the stuff I do just for fun tends to involve creating something.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Oh yes, I do lots of researching and brainstorming. I try to think of every character or person in the story, who they are, where they live, what they like…that takes research. Setting, scenery and styling takes research and inspiration. I’m working on a book about a little girl who grows her own strawberries, and I’ve been reading tons about it. I even got to speak with a strawberry farmer in Florida who answered questions for me. It’s a great part of being an illustrator, constantly broadening and learning new things. And it’s so vital that there is accuracy, meaning, and representation in the illustration—especially when you make books for children.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

It’s certainly made inspiration and research easier. And I find Instagram to be a rewarding social media platform, where I’ve made many friends in the kid lit field. It’s great to find a community of like-minded artists, and the internet makes that really doable.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I hope to someday author-illustrate my own picture book(s!).

What are you working on now?

I’m developing I Love Strawberries! at the sketch stage at this time, written by Shannon Anderson and publishing with Feeding Minds Press in 2022. I’m also working on ideas for my own authored stories, and developing my portfolio (always).

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I use a “paper-feel” iPad screen protector that makes sketching much more enjoyable. It feels way more like pencil on paper. “ELECOM” brand, “smooth” surface for $19 on Amazon.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

I will suggest that you make yourself fabulous to work with. Be organized, timely, accommodating (not a doormat, but a good team player), courteous, and professional. Getting that first job isn’t nearly as important as what you do with it and whether you get the one that follows. Make work you are proud to make. Take jobs that speak to your heart, and trust yourself. Be kind. Don’t worry too much about the fastest road or making your art fit a trend. Figure out your voice and what your work is supposed to do in the world, then get after it.

Jaclyn, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. I really enjoyed viewing your illustrations. Please let me know your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

To see more of Jaclyn’s work, you can visit her at:


The Cat Agency:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 15, 2021

January Agent of the Month – Jim McCarthy

Jim McCarthy

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Jim McCarthy interned for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret while studying urban design at New York University. Upon graduating, Jim realized he would much rather continue working with books than make the jump (as he had originally intended) to the field of city planning. Eighteen years later, he remains at DG&B as a VP and agent.

Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Family Saga, Fantasy, General, Historical, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult.

Non-Fiction: Biography, History, Journalism, LGBTQ, Memoir, Pop Culture

As an avid fiction reader, his interests encompass both literary and commercial works in the adult, young adult, and middle grade categories. He is particularly interested in literary fiction, underrepresented voices, fantasy, mysteries, romance, anything unusual or unexpected, and any book that makes him cry or laugh out loud. In addition to fiction he is also interested in narrative nonfiction whether it be memoir, historical, science, pop culture, or just a darn good polemic.

I’m always looking for fresh voices–whether that means authors from underrepresented communities, new takes on old tropes, something that hasn’t been seen before, or all of the above. I love a great humorous novel, but I’m also not afraid of anything that’s extremely dark. I’m always on the lookout for great fiction of any stripe but do gravitate towards YA and the fantastical–still, that doesn’t mean I’m not very open to realistic adult fiction and anything in between.

At this exact moment, I would particularly love to find fantasy or sci-fi in non-Western settings, sagas of family or friendship in the vein of Mary McCarthy’s THE GROUP or J. Courtney Sullivan’s MAINE, queer stories of any kind (particularly if yours has an asexual, non-binary, or intersex lead), and a super fun mystery.

Jim wants to see more

Children’s nonfiction

I’m probably NOT+ your go-to for political or medical thrillers or police procedurals or stories involving time travel (with very rare exceptions). And while I love YA fantasy, I have a strange aversion to stories about fae/faeries.

Fun facts about me:I’m a giant theater geek, so if there are any other nerds out there that these names mean anything to, these are the current playwrights whose work is, for me, unmissable: Lynn Nottage, Annie Baker, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Amy Herzog, Stephen Karam, Suzan-Lori Parks, Samuel Hunter. If you can compare anything you do to anything they’ve done? Please send my way.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Please send your query in the body of an email along with the first 25 pages of your project (either in the body or as a Word attachment).

Guidelines & Details



How did you find the opportunity to intern for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret while attending college?

I was lucky enough to see a job listing on my school’s database and sent in a resume. I knew I wanted to work very broadly “in the arts,” but I had no idea at the time how determinative sending in that resume was because here I still am 21 years later.

What was it about the work you were doing for them that made you want to ditch you career plans and stay with them after you graduated?

Books felt otherworldly to me. I was naïve or perhaps simply uninformed enough that I had never really given a whole lot of thought to where they came from. I remember walking into the old St. Mark’s Bookshop (RIP) and pulling a book off the shelf and seeing Jane and Miriam’s names in the acknowledgments and feeling this sense of wonder and awe that these people I now worked for had their names in real books sold at real bookstores. That was one of the first moments that I started to piece together the power and influence of agenting, and I wanted that for myself. Then there were the moments of finding great things in the slush pile and bringing them to Jane and Miriam’s attention. And when they sold projects I had recommended, I started to believe that I might be able to really make a go of it. One last story: there was a day early in building my own list when I met a burlesque performer in the morning and a former translator for Mao Zedong in the afternoon, both about their potential projects. They were both amazingly interesting people whose backgrounds couldn’t have been more different. That breadth of stories that are out there continues to be my driving inspiration.

Do have a limit on the number of clients you will represent?

I don’t have a number so much as a feeling. One of the most important things about agenting, in my mind, is client care. As long as I feel that I can continue to answer client questions within 24 hours, read manuscripts within 2 weeks, and make them feel cared for and attended, I’m comfortable with signing one more person on. There are moments through a year that those timelines might get a little wonky, especially around vacations or holidays, but those are always my goals.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

It’s almost impossible to say. I’m trying to be more conscious of what I am requesting because I don’t want to limit myself from finding things I might fall in love with. For instance, I’ve said in the past that I don’t want to see time travel stories or books about faeries. Meanwhile, I represent Kosoko Jackson’s YESTERDAY IS HISTORY which features time travel and comes out this month (January 2021), and the most recent author I signed sent me a novel about faeries that I read in one great gulp and fell head over heels for. So I can be wrong about what I don’t want to see for sure. In terms of what I DO want to see…it’s tough to pin down. I’ll say that I respond incredibly well to stories that are built around rich relationships—chosen families, unshakable bonds, feelings of community. I love reading about how people relate to each other. Give me compelling characters with interesting dynamics, and I’ll be delighted.

Did you ever pass on a manuscript that you wished you hadn’t?

For sure. But in the grand scheme of things, when I look at books I passed on that other people sold, I try to remember that if I didn’t see what made that book special, I was never going to be the right advocate for it. The one that truly pains me, though, is a project I passed on because of format alone. I had been told for years that short story collections were impossible to sell, and I took that too much to heart and let a brilliant collection go because I didn’t believe in myself to be able to sell it. It was published to much success, and I keep a copy of it to remind myself to take the chance and make the offer no matter what if my belief in the material is unshakable. So the lessons I try to hold are to shake off the successes that slipped through my fingers and grab more tightly at any writing I love whole-heartedly.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

It’s such a cop-out, but I think I’m pretty down the middle. I love a commercial hook, but I’m also a sucker for small, literary, and beautiful.

Since you also have an office in California in addition to NYC, do you think that it helps your agency acquire more deals for movie deals for your clients by having an office Los Angles?

We do seem to be having more success across a wider number of co-agents and with a higher number of deals done directly with producers. This is still a business of relationships, and the more people we know and have access to, the better we can connect projects with the right advocates, so it’s certainly been a boon.

Do you think Covid-19 has hurt the publishing industry?

A complicated question. Undoubtedly, it has been incredibly hard on independent bookstores who are really the lifeblood of publishing. So I’m hugely concerned by decreasing sales outlets not to mention the ongoing consolidation of publishers. At the same time, people have turned to books quite a bit this year, so sales are rather encouraging. In that way, I do believe that living through this plague has highlighted the durability of the written word.

Do you feel it is better for an author to focus on one age group and genre?

Nah. Something I repeat to clients is that in order to break your brand, you first need to have made your brand. If everything coming from you is scattershot and fans can’t identify what you’re doing, that’s going to be too tricky. BUT. Once you establish yourself as one kind of author, there’s so reason not to branch out into other categories, especially if those different threads of your career are distinctive and easily followed.

If you had a MG or YA author who writes a picture book, would you represent them with the book, pass it on to someone else in your company, or tell them they will need to find another agent for that book?

This is something that’s come up quite a bit recently. This month also sees the publication of my client Livia Blackburne’s I DREAM OF POPO illustrated by the incomparable Julia Kuo. It’s a project where I had to learn a lot in order to represent it well, but I loved Livia’s text so much that I knew I couldn’t let it go. My sincerest appreciation goes out to her for trusting me with it, and we’re about to see the fruits of those labors realized. I’m also lucky in that I work with a number of hugely talented agents who can add guidance and support as I learn my way around a new category.

What do you like to see in a submission?

I like my queries tight, clean, and direct. I want to see just enough to make me go on to the sample. The pages are really the deciding factor.

How important is the query letter?

It’s really important, but also? I think its importance gets a bit overstated. Ultimately, you need something that compels the reader on to the sample. That doesn’t take a lot of tricks or gimmicks. The more your query is tight, professional, and straight-forward, the more likely it is to convey me on to the pages.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for anyone who takes the time to personalize their query. If they can point to something on my list that makes them feel like I could be a match, I know that they’ve put real thought into choosing me, and that makes it harder to say no.

Do you let people know when you are not interested in their submission?

I do. My policy is to respond to every submission. I won’t pretend that things never go astray. Sometimes that’s a spam filter interfering. Other times, it’s entirely my fault. But the goal is always a 100% response rate.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

Typically, unless it’s a vacation or holiday, I will respond to queries in under a week and manuscripts within four weeks. However, you catch me at a time where I’m running slower than usual, so I ask for up to eight weeks for the moments like these when things get a bit backlogged.



In the subject line, please write “JANUARY 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2021 January  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: January 22nd. – noon EST

RESULTS: January 29th.

Talk tomorrow,




Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 14, 2021

Book Giveaway: THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER by Dawn Young

Dawn Young has written a new picture book, THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER, illustrated by Pablo Pino and published by WorthyKids. It is available for pre-order and is coming out on January 26th. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Dawn and Pablo.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Count the sheep — and the laughs — in this hilarious follow-up to picture book The Night Baafore Christmas. With sheep misbehaving all over the house, will Bo get to sleep before the Easter Bunny comes?

In this humorous tale of an Easter Eve gone wrong, Bo just wants to fall asleep so Easter Day — and the Easter Bunny — will come faster. But when he tries counting sheep, the sheep get bored and scatter, and chaos ensues: “Sheep 5 juggles eggs, tossing ten in the air. He misses. They crash and get crushed in Bo’s hair.” Children can count along with Bo as he finds the 10 mischievous sheep misbehaving throughout the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get to sleep before the Easter Bunny comes?

Find out in this hilarious story of a night before Easter gone wrong. With exuberant verse and comical illustrations, this book will have children begging for repeat readings.



In 2017, I read a post by the wonderful Kathy Temean informing us that WorthyKids Publishing was seeking holiday stories. I submitted The Night Baafore Christmas, and in Oct 2019, it was published. Thank you, Kathy!

After The Night Baafore Christmas was released, my editor asked my agent if I had written any other Night Baafore stories, and in particular, if I had an Easter one. At time, I had a Halloween version and a birthday version but no Easter story, so of course, I got right to work on The Night Baafore Easter.  

In the beginning, I struggled a bit. Christmas gave me so much material to work with – a tree, ribbons, bows, cookies, milk, wreaths, presents, caroling, and more, but Easter seemed somewhat limited. Since the story takes place on Easter Eve, the Easter bunny hasn’t arrived yet, so with no candy in the baskets and no eggs to find, I felt even more limited. However, since I knew that Bo wanted to get to sleep so the bunny would come and hide eggs, I had somewhere to start.

Then, I thought about all things related to eggs, and I remembered that when my kids were young their elementary school had an egg to chick club and the students loved it. That gave me an idea. I went into the school and talked to the teacher who ran the club. I learned about how the process worked and, soon the egg to chick idea found its way into the story. I researched Easter traditions and things began coming together. I added Easter bonnet selfies, egg dying, hippity-hopping and before long, I had an Easter draft written. Egg dying gave me the opportunity to add colors to the story, so readers could practice color recognition as well as (sheep) number identification. After I got some feedback from my wonderful critique group, I made some more edits, and then sent The Night Baafore Easter to my agent.

My agent sent the story to my editor, and she loved it. I had a few minor changes to make, and then the story was ready.  Pablo agreed to do the illustrations and, once again, he did an incredible job. The Night Baafore Easter couldn’t have been in better hands!

And some exciting news to share…The Night Baafore the First Day of School comes out June 2021.


Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, as a manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Dawn is an active member of SCBWI and many other children’s writing groups.


Pablo Pino was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up watching cartoons, playing football and drawing a lot. These days, he doesn´t watch as much TV and only plays football once a week, but still has the joy of painting every day. Why? Because, for the last 10 years, he‘s been working as a professional illustrator for different print media.

What he enjoys the most is illustrating books for children and teenagers. Besides the 40 published books Pablo’s illustrated, among novels and tales he also does characters designs, board games and collaborate on designs for schoolbooks and magazines with various worldwide publishing companies. Pablo is self-taught and his illustrations are mostly computer drawn, but he always adds textures that he makes with pencils, crayons, acrylics and pretty much any material that lets him get messy like when he was a child.

Dawn, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is such a great addition to this “Night Baafore” series. I am sure kids will laugh out-loud while counting along with Bo as he finds the 10 mischievous sheep misbehaving. Pablo’s illustrations add to the fun. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 13, 2021

Andrea Brown Literary Agency: Paige Terlip

PAIGE TERLIP: Associate Literary Agent at Andrea Brown Literary

Paige has worked at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 2017, an agency consistently ranked #1 in juvenile sales by Publishers Marketplace. First as an Assistant for Executive Agent Laura Rennert, then as an Assistant Agent, and now as an Associate Agent.

Prior to joining ABLA, she worked at Candlewick Press and Charlesbridge Publishing. She has also worked in a variety of jobs outside of publishing, from communications and marketing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to scooping horse poop at a ranch in the Rockies. She has an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. If she is not reading, you’ll find her practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, rewatching the Great British Baking Show, or hiking with her pup.

Paige Terlip represents all categories of children’s books from picture books to young adult, as well as select adult fiction and nonfiction. She is also actively building her list of illustrators and is especially looking for author-illustrators and graphic novel illustrators.

Across age categories, Paige is drawn to high concept novels with captivating hooks, snarky characters with hearts of gold, creative magic systems, complicated relationships, and found families. She loves well-plotted twists, being a little bit scared, and stories that explore the fluidity of gender and bring queer experiences to light. Regardless of genre, she is seeking inclusive, intersectional voices and gorgeous line-level writing with emotionally compelling narratives.

On the adult side she is open to thrillers/psychological suspense, fantasy/sci-fi, upmarket fiction, cozy mysteries, as well as narrative nonfiction and self-help that centers the mind, body, and spirit. She loves stories that make her feel a range of emotions, even if that means she ugly cries while reading. She wants a narrative that will stick with her long after reading.

Prior to becoming an Associate Agent, Paige was a Senior Assistant for Executive Agent Laura Rennert, and has been with ABLA for over three years. She comes to agenting with a background in marketing, design, and freelance editorial. She’s worked at Charlesbridge Publishing, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and a ranch in the Rockies. She has an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. If she’s not reading, you’ll find her practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, re-watching the Great British Baking Show, or hiking with her Husky-Shepherd mix.



Picture Book
Clever wordplay
Ugly-cute animals
Wry humor
Narrative nonfiction
​Unexpected expository nonfiction
Single father stories
STEAM themes

Early Reader
Graphic novels
Characters to carry a series
STEAM & creative problem solving

Middle Grade
​Humor & heart
Hijinks & adventure
Spooky & moody
Series potential
Quirky girl detectives
All types of fantasy
Outdoor adventures
​Campy horror
Animal-human friendships
Awesome sidekicks
​Horse stories
Mysteries & puzzles


Fractured fairy tales
Black Girl Magic
Dark & twisty
Warrior girls
Creative worldbuilding

Romantic comedies
Complicated friendships
​Snark & sarcasm
Social justice
Survival stories
Historical Fiction
Little known feminist figures
BIPOC perspectives
LGBTQ+ history
Thrillers & Psychological Suspense
Unpredictable twists
Perfectly paced action & reveals
Boarding school settings


​Accessible high fantasy
Badass women
Innovative technology
Ancestral magic

Upmarket Literary
Mother-daughter friendship Generational stories
Unexpected friendships
Love through food

Commercial Fiction
Cozy mysteries
Romantic comedies

Thrillers & Psychological Suspense
Domestic suspense
Female-driven crime procedurals
Martial arts
Authenticity & street cred

Historical Fiction
BIPOC perspectives
LGBTQ+ history

Non-white travelers & explorers
Mind, body, spirit

Bottom line: I am looking for captivating stories, a strong voice, and authentic characters. An exciting premise hooks my interest, but characters and voice keep me reading. I am also open to being surprised. If you think we’d be a good fit, give it a try!


Please submit your query to Query Manager:

Follow the directions on Query Manager to submit your query. If I am interested in reading more, I will request the full manuscript. Per ABLA policy please only submit to one ABLA agent at a time.

For illustrators submitting art samples only (not dummies), please put “SEEKING ART REPRESENTATION” in lieu of a title. And “0” or “1” for Word Count. In the sample section, simply write “n/a.”

Please be patient! I personally read each and every query, and will respond as soon as possible.

You can find her on Twitter @pterlip and Instagram @pterlip.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 12, 2021

Book Giveaway: SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS by Rajani LaRocco

Rajani LaRocco has written a new picture book, SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS, illustrated by Rajani LaRocco and published by Lee & Low. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Rajani and Archana.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


In this clever, convivial picture book, an Indian boy untangles a mathematical conundrum to win a place at the Rajah’s court.

In ancient India, a boy named Bhagat travels to the Rajah’s city, hoping to ensure his family’s prosperity by winning a place at court as a singer. Bhagat carries his family’s entire fortune–a single coin and a chain of seven golden rings–to pay for his lodging. But when the innkeeper demands one ring per night, and every link snipped costs one coin, how can Bhagat both break the chain and avoid overpaying? His inventive solution points the way to an unexpected triumph, and offers readers a friendly lesson in binary numbers–the root of all computing.

Booklist’s starred review noted that it “succeeds both as an entertaining read-aloud and as a teasing introduction to the binary system.” Publisher’s Weekly, in their starred review, called SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS “a deft and engaging introduction to a sometimes flummoxing subject.


Kathy, thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m thrilled to be here today talking about my book journey for my debut picture book, SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS: A TALE OF MUSIC AND MATH, published by Lee & Low Books!

I loved books from a very young age and wrote creatively through childhood and into college. But I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, and I didn’t write much at all when I was in medical school and residency. Then I had my children, and I was busy balancing my career and family life.

Around 2011, I decided to come back to writing. I enrolled in writing classes and met fellow writers and joined critique groups, and around 2013, I decided to pursue publishing in earnest. SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS was one of the first picture book drafts I ever wrote.

I first drafted SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS in October 2013. The story was born from my memory of a logic puzzle I’d heard when I was a kid visiting my family in India. I took that puzzle, made it more complicated, and created a character who loved music and math (like my son) and who needed to solve this puzzle in order to save his family. I dreamed up a poor but clever boy named Bhagat (the name means “devoted” in Sanskrit) who wants to change his family’s fortunes by winning a place with the rajah as a singer. But Bhagat who finds himself faced with a math puzzle that stands in the way of his success.

I revised this story almost seventy times over four years, sometimes taking up to six months between drafts because I was working on other projects or working at my day job and raising my kids. I couldn’t find the right ending for this story. But I kept trying.

It wasn’t until three years after I first drafted SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS that I recognized the connection between the solution to Bhagat’s puzzle and binary numbers. So I wrote an author’s note that explained this connection, and why we care about binary numbers at all.

And the right ending to this story finally came to me almost four years after I first drafted it.

I’m so grateful that this story ultimately found the perfect home with Lee & Low and the perfect editor, Cheryl Klein, who helped me make it even better. And the brilliant illustrator, Archana Sreenivasan, brought Bhagat’s story to life more beautifully than I could have ever imagined.

It took about five years between the first draft and selling SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS, and another two years until it published in October 2020, but it was well worth the wait.


I was born in Bangalore, India and immigrated to the U.S. as a baby. I spent most of my childhood in Louisville, Kentucky.

I attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and trained in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. I’ve been working as a primary care physician since 2001. I live in eastern Massachusetts with my wonderful husband, our two brilliant kids, and an impossibly cute dog.

I’ve always been an omnivorous reader – cereal boxes, comic books, fortune cookie fortunes, magazine articles, and, of course, novels. The books I read as a child helped shape who I am today in ways that I’m still discovering. Books inspired me to pursue medicine as a career; books made me yearn to live in different worlds; books helped me consider what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I still love realistic fiction with puzzles or riddles (like The Westing Game), realistic fiction with a touch of magic (like A Wrinkle in Time), and full-blown sci-fi and fantasy (like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter series). I also love anything to do with Shakespeare. I believe that promoting diversity in children’s literature leads to empathy, and empathy makes the world a better place.

One of the best things about writing for kids is meeting other people who write for kids. I’m a member of SCBWIGrub Street in Boston, The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA, and the 12 x 12 picture book community. I’m a proud Pitch Wars 2017 alum and 2018 and 2019 mentor! I’m a member of as incredible group of debut middle grade and young adult authors, the Novel Nineteens, a powerhouse group of debut picture book writers and illustrators, the Soaring 20s, as well as a group of awesome authors who write about STEAM topics, STEAMTeam2020!

I’m represented by the marvelous Brent Taylor of TriadaUS Literary Agency.

I write middle grade novels and picture books. Some of my books reflect my experiences as an immigrant, book nerd, and foodie; some explain medical topics to kids. And some are just ideas that pop into my head and won’t go away.

And that’s only the beginning of the story…


Archana Sreenivasan is a freelance illustrator based in Bangalore, India. Her illustrations have been published in magazines, children’s books, book covers and comics. She finds the natural world and people watching most inspiring and engaging.

Archana Sreenivasan : Illustrator | DesiCreative

She is an alumna of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. In 2015 she attended the Summer Residency in Illustration at School of Visual Arts, NY.

Archana is represented by Stephanie Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary. For children’s book enquiries, contact For all other queries, contact

Rajani, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I don’t know if this story is an old India folktale, but if it isn’t I can see it becoming one. Love that you included Math and music. It is sure to keep children interested and learning while reading this tale.

Talk tomorrow,


Open to un-agented writers worldwide, the First Pages Prize 2021 invites you to enter your first 5 pages of a fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript.

The Judge

This year’s judge is acclaimed author and director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Lan Samantha Chang.

The Prize

For 2021, FIVE winners will receive US $5,000 total in cash awards, a developmental edit to support the completion of their manuscript, and an agent consultation for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.

Cash awards are as follows: 1st US$2,000, 2nd US$1,250, 3rd US$750, 4th and 5th US$500 each.

Full guidelines and terms & conditions are on our website. Prepare your pages and in the meanwhile, join our mailing list for updates.

Key info

Submit the first FIVE pages (maximum 1,250 words) of a longer work of fiction or creative non-fiction.

Double space your pages and kindly use Times New Roman 12-point font.

No alteration may be made once your entry is submitted.

Your full name must not appear on your document (do check your header and footer) to ensure judging anonymity. You must be currently un-agented to enter and your entry must not be previously published, even on a blog or Wattpad.

Submission dates

Entries open: January 1, 2021

Entries close: February 7, 2021 at 23:59 p.m. Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Extended entry deadline: February 21, 2021 at 23:59 p.m. Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Please check a time zone converter to avoid disappointment and inability to enter, e.g.:

Entry Fees

The fee per entry is US $20.

The fee per entry for the extended deadline is US $35.

Entry fees for submissions that fail to observe submission guidelines cannot be refunded.

More about entries

Simultaneous submissions are possible, however, if your entry wins 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in another competition — or if you gain representation with a literary agent — you must withdraw from the First Pages Prize by emailing Your entry fee will be refunded (minus processing + transaction fees).

Entries (or drafts of entries) that have already won 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in another competition are not eligible to enter.

Entries (or drafts of entries) that previously entered the First Pages Prize and did not place 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th ARE eligible to enter.

By entering this competition, each entrant agrees to the full competition guidelines, terms and conditions:

Please remember to read the full guidelines and terms & conditions before entering.

How to Enter

1) Click the “link below

All submissions must be made through the Submittable platform.

2) Click “create account and continue” to create a Submittable account or log in if you are already a member.

3) Fill in the form. Please be assured that any information you enter about yourself on the form is not seen by the reviewers or judge. All entries are blinded. Reviewers ONLY see your story’s TITLE and its GENRE (fiction or creative nonfiction). Your full name must not appear in your story’s title.

4) Enter payment details by credit / debit card or PayPal.

5) Upload your pages as one file. PDF, Word, Docx, Doc, TXT, RTF, ODT, WPF or WPD files are accepted.

6) Click “Submit”

7) You will see a screen that says, “submission successfully submitted” and receive an email acknowledging receipt of your entry. You will be directed to join our mailing list, please consider joining if you haven’t already, to hear the latest first.

Winners will be notified in April 2021.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 10, 2021

Opportunity: Clavis Publishing

In 1978, Philippe Werck opened a children’s bookstore in his hometown of Hasselt, Belgium. Shortly thereafter, he decided to publish the books he wanted to place on his shelves. This is how Clavis Publishing originated. Now, thirty years later, with over two hundred titles published annually, Clavis, meaning ‘key’ in Latin, has unlocked the doors to their divisions in Amsterdam (2001) and New York(2008)  as well.

Submit your work!

Clavis Publishing is always looking for new talent! Your manuscripts or illustrations are always welcome.

Do you think your story or art is right for Clavis’ list of books for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers? We want to hear about it! Submit your manuscript or artwork and we will gladly take a look.

You can send your work via e-mail to

If you want to send in multiple pieces of work, we recommend that you first make a selection yourself and only send us your best work. If we are interested, we will ask you for your other work anyway.

Make sure to add the following info to your submission:
– Specific target audience (age indication)
– Main theme and synopsis
– Strengths of your story

It’s best to send the attachments via pdf, pcloud or dropbox as they can be opened quickly. Onedrive or protected files should be avoided. WeTransfer is possible, but the link does expire after a while: keep in mind that we might not open it in time and we will have to request it again.

We prefer to receive complete manuscripts, this allows us to better assess the work. Based on a few chapters, it’s more difficult for us to form a well-founded opinion. As a picture book illustrator, it’s not necessary to send a fully detailed picture book. We recommend that you submit a storyboard, a separate text and 2 to 3 detailed illustrations, so that we can get a good idea of your picture book concept.

Our publishers will review your work with care. However, since we do receive a lot of manuscripts and illustrations and review these on top of the daily work load, this may take some time. Keep in mind that it can take a while before you hear from us. Our aim is to handle manuscripts within 3 months. In any case, everyone will receive an answer, whether the work is selected or not.

Questions or remarks? Send an e-mail to

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 9, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Pablo Ballesteros

Pablo is a 28 year old full time illustrator who lives in Spain. Like all his family, he studied classic music at the conservatory, but also illustration at the Art School in his city, because drawing has been his passion since he was a child.​

In 2015 he started to combine small jobs with comic and illustration projects. In 2017 he published his first comic, and in 2018 his first illustrated book. Both for small local publishers.

In 2019 he made the jump to a major publisher: Random House, and started his journey as a freelance illustrator!!

Currently he is illustrating “The Fantastic Hormiguets”, a series of children’s books for Beascoa, Spanish Random House imprint.

He is currently represented By Christy Ewers of “The Cat Acency Inc.”

​Here is Pablo discussing his process:

intro: It has been a little challenge to get a step-by-step of some of my illustrations, since I usually work in photoshop and have a bad habit of not saving almost any sketches. However, I have found quite a bit of documentation for this illustration. It is a commision I made for a website about videogames and e-sports.

1.- ideas: The website offers a tracking and statistics service for gamers to improve their scores. They use an almost black blue background and their corporate colors are orange and light blue.
Since I had to use such a limited and contrasted palette, I decided to use it in a narrative way to give strength to the elements of the image. Therefore, I assigned orange to the player, “the user”, And the light blue to the web, “the service”. So I began to develop several ideas until I found the one I liked the most, representing the web service as a super powerful and improved avatar of the player himself, avery obvious message: “using this service makes you stronger”

2.- sketch: after finding the idea and making a small thumbnail with it, I put it on a canvas with the right size and make a sketch of it as detailed as possible. I start with basic shapes and add details layer after layer. In this image it was important to highlight the “gamer aesthetic” with elements of futuristic  fantasy.

3.- lineart and flat colors: In this illustration it’s not very visible because the background is dark, but my next step is usually “inking”, that is, to make a final lineart that I use as a guide for applying the colors. First I add flat colors, and later I add some shadows and shades.
Finally I back to the line. I erase it in some areas, and color it in others.

I inherited this phase of the process from my years as a comic book artist.
I am currently modifying my creative process and I try to do without the lineart whenever I can.

4.- light effects and foreground elements. This is almost the last step. When the line is already colored and the colors and shadows are in place, I add the complementary elements to the image. Illuminations, effects, etc. In this case there are floating screens in front of the character, which have to illuminate him and are also a bit translucent, so I work them in a group of layers separately.

5.- final corrections: Finally, I apply the last details and color correction so that everything looks uniform, and voila!

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing my whole life, but only since 2017 in a professional way.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

The first drawings I made for money were commissions for close people, at least 8 years ago. Some friends asked me for a drawing to give away, portraits of their pets, small labels for products they sold in their stores, etc. At first I did it for free, but when it got to be too many, and it consumed too much of my time, I decided to start charging for them. Not only did it serve as a filter, but I also amortized my time by earning extra money.

Did you study classical music and study art in college at the same time?

My parents are musicians. They both studied classical music, and they oriented me towards the same profession. During high school, I combined high school with the professional music studies, and after finishing high school, I studied the degree of music at the conservatory. During all that time, I kept drawing as a hobby.

However, over time I realized that music was not for me, and the next day after graduating I took the entrance exam for the art school in my city, and began my illustration studies. I don’t regret having studied music. I have been able to work as a musician in many places and have had very enriching experiences. But when I started my art studies I knew right away that I would never go back to music.

What did you study in art school?

I studied a 2 years illustration degree. In Spain they call it “professional training”. It’s like a technical college in the US, I think.

Did you take any children’s illustrating courses?

I’ve studied several illustration courses, both online and offline, but none focused on children’s illustration. Children’s illustration is what I work in now, but I don’t want to specialize in just one job for now. There are jobs in many other artistic fields that I would like to explore in the future, so I try to take courses in a broader and more transversal way, especially by focusing on the bases of language and visual narration, and on improving my communication tools as an author.

I’ve also taken courses in relation to working as a freelance (invoices, laws, contracts, learning to show and sell your work, etc.). These are basic topics that are often not covered in “official” illustration studies (college, school, etc) and that can save you a lot of trouble..

What do you think help you develop your style?

My current style has a lot to do with comic books and grapic novels. I’ve been a comic reader my whole life and between 2014 and 2018 all my art work was drawing comics. It was at this time that I laid the foundations of my style and my workflow.

Currently I’ve left the comic in the background, and I dedicate myself more to illustration. That is why I’m trying to take my style one step further. Tried new techniques and processes that help me evolve and adapt to new media.

Did the art school help you find work when you graduated?

Not at all. That is common in private art schools, but I studied in a public school, which was the one in my city.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I spent some years mixing small illustration commissions with another job as a music teacher in a small school. The commissions were mostly gift portraits and other little things for friends and family. Later I got in touch with a small local comic book publisher with which I did my first published works collaborating on several books with other authors.

Do you feel doing comic illustrations in 2015 was the spark that set you on the road to publication?

Yes, definitely. Drawing comics for me was the beginning of everything.

On the one hand, they were the first works that I shared online, for me it was a new experience, people from all over saw my art and gave their opinion about it.

On the other hand, they were my first experiences with publishers. “The Rocketman Project”, a small publishing house in my city, gave me the first opportunities to see my work published, and also put me in contact with my colleague and friend Fernando Llor, fantastic comic book writer. With him I developed several comic projects that, although unfortunately they were never published, were a great training and learning for me.

Finally, it was Fernando who put me in contact with the publishing house “Ediciones El Transbordador”, which offered me my first contract to illustrate a children’s book.

How did you connect with the publisher who published you first comic?

The publishing house (“The Rocketman Project”) had a character that identified them. I wrote them an email attaching a drawing of their character that I made, and asking them to call me for future publications. And they offered me to participate in a magazine that they published annually. Later I did several comic book projects with them. Like Sangre en el Suelo, that was published thanks to a successful kickstarter campaign.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

It was not something I decided. I wanted to be a comic book artist. It was the publishing house “Ediciones El Transbordador” which offered me to illustrate a children’s book: La increíble historia de Mara y el sol que cayó del cielo. I accepted without thinking and I am very glad I did.

I was a little burned out from comics after a bad experience with a French publisher. And After draw the book for “El Transbordador” I fell in love with children’s books, and I also saw the differences between working on graphic novels or children’s books. It was clear to me that if I wanted to make a living from my drawings, I had to focus on illustration and leave a bit of the graphic novels / comic-books


Was MARA your first illustrated book?

Yes! La increible historia de Mara y el sol que cayó del cielo was my first illustrated book. I did it at the request of the publishing house “El Transbordador”

How did that contract come about?

I contacted “Ediciones El Transbordador” through Fernando Llor. My writer friend who I was developing a comic project with. He told the editors about me, they liked my work and asked me to illustrate the cover of one of his books. They were very happy with the result and immediately offered me to illustrate La increíble historia de Mara… a fantastic book by Abel Amutxategi that I fell in love with from the first moment.

Have you illustrated any books in English?

Not for now. I trust Christy (The cat Agency) to make this happen in the coming months.

What was the title of the Book you illustrated for Random House?

It’s a series of books: Las fantásticas Hormiguets, a super fun job.

The series is written by Silvia Abril, a well-known comedy actress here in Spain.

In the books she narrates the adventures her own 7 years old daughter goes through with a group of friends she has, they are stories with many adventures and funny moments based on real life.

It has been an incredible experience working on this series. It’s my first job with a large publisher, Random House (it is published by an imprint they have in Spain: “Beascoa”) and it’s the series that has allowed me to become a freelance. So I’m very happy to have had this opportunity. I recently finished Book 4, the last in the series at the moment, due out in March.


How did you connect with your agent Christy Ewer at The Cat Agency?

Since I started working as a freelancer, I’ve wanted to publish my work in the US. All my colleagues and friends by profession recommended me to look for a representation agency, so I set out to find an agent who wanted to represent me.

I emailed a few agencies and Christy was among the first to express interest in my work. It was a great joy for me, because I love The Cat Agency, and I loved the idea of being in a boutique agency.

However, although Christy had interest in my work, she was unable to offer me representation at the time. We kept in touch, and after a few months we talked again about the possibility of establishing a professional relationship, and this time we were able to sign an agreement. A story with a happy ending! (or a happy beginning)

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines or any other magazines? If so, who?

My first published work was for “The Rocketman Project” annual comic-book magazine. A short 8 page story. But it wasn’t for kids.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes! I work from home. It is one of the great advantages of this profession. On my instagram @pablo.balles (shameless self promo) I have a section of highlighted stories with pics from my studio, you can come and see it!

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

No, and the reason is simple: I don’t like that kind of book at all!

Just kidding, let me explain: As a reader, I don’t like picture books without text. Therefore, I am not interested in developing a book without words as personal work. Although I would do it without problem if someone hired me for it!

Was it scary to decide to become a freelance illustrator?

Oh sure, it was a tough decision. In Spain there are poor working conditions, especially in artistic work. Becoming freelance has been a risky bet, since I left my part-time job as a teacher that guaranteed me a monthly income to dedicate myself exclusively to illustrating.

So far It went well, and I’m very happy to be able to make a living from my job even if the income is small. Also, shortly after leaving school they closed due to the pandemic for months, so working from home has helped me not to become unemployed, I think I made a good decision.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Sure, as long as we reach a mutually beneficial agreement, I would have no problem doing so.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

It is difficult to answer, because we can measure “success” in many ways. But if I had to say one, I think if I look at where I was 3 years ago, and where I am now, I could consider the whole journey of small decisions that have led me here as my greatest success, both personally and professionally. In other words. I am very proud of how I have managed and used my resources in these years to be able to become a freelance illustrator in such a short time and with so little experience.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I always work with digital media, not because I like them more, but because they are much more practical to work with.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, when I was a student, I felt a certain rejection of digital media. I thought they were “less authentic”. Over the years those prejudices have disappeared. Also, once I started trying to make a living illustrating, the digital medium seemed much more convenient and efficient.

However, I still use traditional techniques when drawing for fun, especially watercolors and colored pencils, I love mixing wet and dry techniques to achieve eye-catching, eclectic finishes.

During these last months, I’ve began to practice more with these types of techniques, and also with gouache, since I would like to find myself comfortable enough to be able to do professional work with traditional media in the future.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I use my old Wacom intuos pro M for work. I’ve also bought an iPad Pro recently so that’s my new toy.

What materials and / or tools do you use to create your work?

As I said, I mainly use digital tools.

My setup:

– Wacom intuos pro M + imac + photoshop

– iPad Pro + procreate.

When working with traditional techniques I usually use Windsor & Newton watercolors and Polychromos pencils.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I dedicate between 5 and 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday. I like to get up early in the morning and work according to a normal “office” schedule, although my hours are quite flexible depending on the projects I’m working on. There are times when I’ve less work, and other times I’ve to spend even weekends working all day.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I don’t usually take specific photos for each project, but I do like to take photos when I go out, and some of them are useful for projects later.

Usually the first thing that happens when I’m commissioned with a project is that I start to form an idea in my head of how I want the project to look.

This idea is based on my personal sensitivity, my tastes, the things that excite me, my experiences, etc. We could call it artistic look or author’s look.

Then I start to do my research to refine that idea: first I find out well what has been done lately in similar projects and then I look for photographs and illustrations that inspire me or serve as a reference. I do not usually take direct references, but perhaps I use the color palette of one photo, one type of plant from another, an idea of composition from another, etc.

In the end, all that documentation shapes the initial vision and makes it something solid to start working on.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I couldn’t work as an illustrator if the internet didn’t exist. For me, the internet is everything professionally speaking. I Developed my portfolio and connected with all my clients through the internet. Literally from my own home.

In the past, you could count the spanish illustrators with the fingers of your hand, and they almost necessarily had to live in a big city like Madrid or Barcelona if they wanted to get a piece of the scarce and badly paid job that there was. Today we are thousands of illustrators and we work for all parts of the world thanks to the internet. It is a wonderful tool that allows us to be part of a global market. It is mindblowing that now you don’t even need to publish a book, or work on a movie, or in a design company to make a living from drawing. Many can make a living by selling their own original art through platforms like etsy or patreon, or even their own online stores, without intermediaries, just with an internet connection.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I don’t like to talk about “dreams”, I prefer to talk about “goals”, psychologically we understand a dream as something ethereal, without a definite form, unattainable. However, a goal is something tangible, that you can write on paper, that you can achieve if you meet the requirements.

My main short-term goal is to start publishing in the US or Canada. Whether in children’s books, magazines, etc. For this I’ve already taken some steps, such as becoming part of “The Cat Agency”.

In the long term I’ve a goal that I would be very excited to fulfill: to work in animation, in the design department of a film or animated series. It’s something very different from what I do now, and I will have to study and make a suitable portfolio, but I think I’ll get it in the future.

Finally, as a personal goal, I would like to develop my own voice as an author much more, to put more of myself in each work. I am also taking action for it, although this may be the most difficult goal, since it has to do with overcoming my fear of exposing myself through my work.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished book 4 of Las fantásticas Hormiguets and I’m taking a few days off for the Christmas holidays. In 2021 I have 3 books already signed with a Spanish publishing house called “La Galera”, and I hope that some more will come in the future, but my priority at the beginning of the year will be to develop my portfolio to the fullest together with Christy in order to get a contract in English.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

An advice that I’ve learned the hard way: do not save money on material. It’s hard to say, but there’s a BIG difference between good and bad products. Painting with color pencils from Aliexpress is a very different experience than painting with Polychromos, or  Caran d’ache pencils, for example. (I used to think I didn’t like colored pencils, simply because I’ve never had good ones. Now I LOVE them)

I’m not saying that you have to buy the most expensive brands, but inform yourself well before buying, read about which are the best brands, and pick one that is at least competent.

When I was a student, I didn’t give it much importance, I thought there wasn’t much difference, and there is. It’s worth waiting and saving money to buy something good, than suffering the terrible experience of trying to create something with the materials fighting against you.

The same thing happens with digital media. Save money and invest in good and reliable components instead of buying the cheapest ones.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

When they ask me this I always like to send a message of optimism but also of prudence:

I am very optimistic because I think that we live in the best moment in history to be an illustrator. I said it before, the internet has opened the doors and windows of the industry wide, and if you work well, there will be a place for you.

BUT, first of all, GET INFORMED. Just because you like to draw doesn’t mean you have to be an illustrator.

Talk to professionals, read interviews, ask everyone what exactly the different creative or artistic professions consist of. Find out about the ways to earn money,  the good things and the bad, what skills you need, etc. Do not decide your future based on an idealized vision, because that way you will avoid the unpleasant surprise of find that your dreamed job or dreamed career was not what you thought.

Pablo, thank you for sharing your time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. I really enjoyed viewing your illustrations. Please let me know your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

To see more of Pablo’s work, you can visit him at:

The Cat Agency:

Talk tomorrow,



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