Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 12, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Interview Questions for Adrienne Szpyrka


Adrienne Szpyrka is an assistant editor at Sky Pony Press, searching for new middle grade and young adult voices. She acquires mostly contemporary and historical fiction, but reads all genres in her spare time and has a weakness for a good princess story. She loves books that move her (bonus points if they make her laugh), and she’s always looking for stories that bring more diversity to the kids’ book world. She attended the University of Michigan as an undergrad and has a master’s in publishing from Emerson College.

Interview Questions for Adrienne Szpyrka

  1. You say you are interested in middle grade and young adult novels and mention contemporary and historical. Do they have to have a school tie-in to find a home at Sky Pony Press?We’ve published middle grade and young adult books in a mix of genres, and there certainly is no need for a school tie-in for us to consider a story. The first young adult book I acquired, Divah by Susannah Appelbaum, is purely fun—there are angels and demons, Marilyn Monroe is a demon hunter and Marie Antoinette is the queen of the damned. We consider all kinds of stories!
  1. Are you open to reading work from unagented authors?
    Yes. We do have a few unagented works on most of our lists. To submit to Sky Pony, you can follow our guidelines here:
  1. If so, how would they submit to you? A query and a few pages?A query email with the manuscript attached. I prefer to have the full manuscript with the initial pitch. I may not read the entire thing, but if I am liking it, I won’t have to go back to the author (or agent) and request more pages—I can just keep reading!
  1. How important is the query letter?A good query letter will hook me and get me to open up the attached manuscript right away, rather than letting it sit in my inbox waiting for me to find the time to review it. A brief description and some comp titles are helpful, as well as any important author information. I appreciate when an author makes a query letter easy to read, relatively short and broken up into paragraphs.
  1. Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?As I said before, I’m happy to have the full manuscript from the start, but whether or not I keep reading really depends on the quality of the storytelling and whether or not I see potential for a good book. Voice is always important, and I think that’s what usually draws me in the most at the beginning.
  1. How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?It really depends. Within the first five to ten pages I can tell if something is a definite pass for me. But if I see potential I’ll keep reading. There’s nothing more disappointing than a story that doesn’t hold up at the end, but if I really liked the beginning I’ll often write back with some suggestions and say that I’d be happy to reconsider if the author does revisions.
  1. Would you lose interest in a submission if the writer missed correcting a few misspelled words?No. I think sloppy query emails are a pet peeve for a lot of editors, but most people are forgiving of mistakes in a manuscript—we know the book will have to go through many stages of editing before it’s polished!
  1. Do you let people know if you are not interested in what was sent?I try to reply to everyone who submits to me. We do receive quite a few submissions, so if something hasn’t grabbed me right away, it can take two or three months (sometimes even longer) for me to review a manuscript. But we do try to reply to all submissions eventually!
  1. Any pet peeves?I’m not sure this really counts as a pet peeve, but if I’m reading a submission and I keep coming across gender stereotypes, I’m less likely to keep reading. I want characters who feel fresh, complicated and real.
  1. Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?The most common mistake is probably the classic “telling” instead of “showing.” Even the best writers often fall into the trap of overexplaining instead of letting the action and dialogue speak for themselves. The best writing does a lot less of that.


In the subject line, please write “February First Page Critique” and 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).

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 skipped 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: February 18th.

RESULTS: February 25th.

Please only submit one first page a month. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow


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