Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 31, 2009

Michael Sterns Upstart Crow Literary

Michael Stearns

Michael’s tastes run the gamut from picture books for the very young right up through cutting-edge teen fiction, but the common elements of all the projects he handles are a careful use of language, an often wry quality to the writing, and a fearless wedding of more literary aims with genre plotlines. Yes, he loves good writing, but he also loves for things to happen in a story. Generally, he won’t be drawn to more issue-oriented books.

In terms of teen fiction, he is looking for: realistic, humorous coming-of-age stories along the lines of John Green, Ned Vizzini, E. Lockhart, or Andrew Auseon; breezy re-thinks of traditional fantasy for girls (not so much Marion Zimmer Bradley as Kristin Cashore or Tamora Pierce and Patricia Wrede); dystopian breakneck thrillers such as Michael Grant’s and Suzanne Collins’; and Pullman-esque novels that straddle genres (the Sally Lockhart books or The Golden Compass).

Regarding middle-grade fiction, he is a big fan of traditional children’s fantasy: real-world stories with one fantastic element—more the vein of Half Magic and The Borrowers and The Graveyard Book than, say, high fantasy featuring worlds with made-up languages and the like. He loves humor and wit in my middle-grade novels, and is a big fan of Bruce Coville, Andrew Clements, and Vivian Vande Velde. As well, he loves realistic stories such as those written by Rebecca Stead and E.L. Konigsburg.

As for picture books, he is looking primarily for language-driven stories for the very young. Please, no long manuscripts nor folk tales nor “storybooks” in which the manuscript is longer than six pages. Picture book authors whose work he adores are Mem Fox, Deb Lund, and Bob Shea, and he will always respond well to stories that are about the sound and play of language for the youngest of readers.

They say they will reply withint two weeks to a month, but personal responses are rare.  If they are interested they will ask to see your full manuscript.

Upstart Crow runs a nearly paper-free office (or that’s what we aim for, anyway), and so we do not accept hard copy submissions via the US mail. We consider only electronic submissions.

Interested writers may submit a QUERY and TWENTY PAGES of their manuscripts to one of the email addresses below. Please put your query and sample in the body of the email, we will not open emailed attachments. If your submission is received by our system, an automated response will be emailed to you.

Upstart Crow Literary
P.O. Box 25404
Brooklyn, NY 11202

General requests for information can be sent to


  1. Kathleen,

    Thanks for running such a fantastic website, full to the brim with useful info.

    Amy Baskin


  2. Hi,
    I read on the Upstart Crow Literary website that they are not looking for picture books. Do you know which is the most current information?


  3. Jenn,

    I think the key is this part of this sentence: Unless Michael or Chris have sought you out or spoken to you at a conference and expressed an interest,

    they are NOT looking for nonfiction, books aimed at the educational or spiritual markets, or picture book texts and/or illustrations.

    In Michael’s own words he does have interest in some picture books, but try to grab him at a workshop or conference to get his attention.

    I will make sure I clarify this with him the next time we talk.



  4. please do visit our website for literature and music

    with Regards


    • I visited your site – very interesting.



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