Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 22, 2012

Free Fall Friday – Guess Critiquer Announced

Agent Susan Hawk at The Bent Agency has agreed to be our Guess Critiquer for June.  Susan worked for over 15 years in marketing children’s books, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previously as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. While at Penguin, she also worked for a time in Dutton Editorial, acquiring books for their list. Susan handles books for children exclusively: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction. In middle-grade and YA, she’s looking for something that makes her laugh out loud.

In middle-grade and YA, I’m looking for something that makes me laugh out loud. She’s a sucker for bittersweet, and she can’t resist a character that comes to understand how perfectly imperfect the world is. She wants a book to stay with her long after she finishes reading it, and she’s looking for powerful, original writing. She’s open to mystery, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). Her favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. In non-fiction she’s looking for books that relate to kids’ daily lives and their concerns with the world. In picture books, she’s looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and characters as indelible as her childhood favorites: Ferdinand, Madeline, George and Martha.

WRITERS: You only have today and Saturday June 23rd to use the above illustration to inspire a first page.  I will post four of the pages along with the agents comments on June 29th.

Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail. Put “June 23rd First Page Prompt” in the subject line.

ILLUSTRATORS: You still have until June 26th to submit an illustration for June.  I’m looking for illustrations that will show off some summer fun. Here is your chance to show off a little. I will post the illustrations as they come in during the month, but I will definitely post all by June 30th. Please make sure the illustration is at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about yourself and a link to see more of your work. Please send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com and put “June Illustration” in the subject box.

Here is some deeper information about Susan Hawk and what she’s looking to acquire.  I found this on her blog:

I long for a gorgeous, literary novel for middle grade or YA. In the past couple of years a few books stick with me: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, Chime by Franny Billingsley, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (though this is an older title, I read it recently and fell deeply in love). One thread of commonality between these books is that though they are all wonderfully written, none of them are short on plot: Things happen. There are mysteries to solve. No one’s sitting around luxuriating in doing nothing except come up with some fabulous prose. So, I’m looking for a stop-me-in-my-tracks-beautiful, character driven novel that doesn’t stint on plot.
I’ve always loved rich, atmospheric historicals that feel immediate. Here’s a short list of some time periods/places I’m interested in: World War I, Jazz Age, Berlin between the wars, India under British Colonial rule, Japan and/or China in the first half of the twentieth century, Sydney’s first 50 years, Venice, Henry VIII and the Elizabethan period, Spain during the same time. I’m interested in the moments, and places, where cultures and values have collided and change is happening fast, around people who may or may not want to be caught up in this change. I’m a sucker too for the romanticism of some historical fiction, and can be swept up into the dresses, the balls, and definitely intrigue.
In YA, I do see quite a bit of snarky humor, especially coming from a teen girls’ point of view. In MG, there are plenty of goofy boys, and girls who are quirky originals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but I think it’s harder to be original with these sorts of characters, since there are many of them out there. I’d love to see something, that’s witty, or sly. Also, I love word play.
Mystery is always top of my want list. Many mysteries I see involve a magical element, or a teen that has special powers of some sort. I’d love something that is less fantastical, and more grounded; perhaps about a teen who works with a PI, breaking her own cases?
I’ve always been a fan of scifi and I’d love to see a real space adventure; think Battlestar Gallactica, which I loved (I do see lots of dystopian, which I’m not as keen on right now).
Much of the contemporary that I see has a romantic element (not that I object to romance); I’d love something that’s about the other parts of a teen’s life; perhaps friendships, which can be so hard to navigate at this time too. And I’m always a sucker for a good heart-wrenching mother-daughter story.
Susan says, “Of course, the problem with making this list is that it excludes so much. Often, I think, you don’t know what you’re looking for until you see it, and that’s the wonderful magic of this business – that there is a writer out there, concocting something new and marvelous that I can’t imagine until I read it. And I’m open to that! So, if you’re writing something that I haven’t described here, have no fear and send on.”
To quote Susan: “My ideal client is a talented and imaginative writer, who is willing to go deep into their story and characters. Ability to laugh at life makes you good to work with, and makes for good writing too. I also appreciate someone who understands that publishing is a business, and has done their homework.”
Talk tomorrow,

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