Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 6, 2018

Agent of the Month – First Page Results

Andrea Morrison is August’s Agent of the Month. Andrea started at Writer’s House in their California office in 2009 as an intern to Steve Malk and first learned under Brianne Johnson, and then went on to assist Rebecca Sherman and Geri Thoma. She’s had the opportunity to work closely with a variety of bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators, in genres ranging from picture books to middle grade and YA to adult literary fiction and nonfiction. She is actively building her own list of clients.

Andrea studied Literature & Writing at University of California, San Diego and earned my MFA in Fiction from Columbia University—not only does she understand the revision process from an agent’s point of view, but she also understands it from a writer’s perspective. She truly loves editorial work, and is hands-on when it comes to helping authors revise and build projects.

Below you’ll find detailed information about the types of projects Andrea’s looking for:

FICTION:

I’m excited about literary and upmarket commercial fiction that blends gorgeous sentence-level writing with stories featuring younger protagonists, eg. Janet Fitch’s WHITE OLEANDER—one of my favorite books ever, Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and Elissa Schappell’s BLUEPRINTS FOR BUILDING BETTER GIRLS. I’m a total sucker for vivid descriptions of California, and appreciate true-to-life fiction, but am also intrigued by fiction with magical elements or books that take place in worlds slightly different than our own. For example, I fell in love with Leslie Parry’s CHURCH OF MARVELS. I’m game for beautifully constructed short story collections, literary thrillers and mysteries, novels told in stories, illustrated adult books, books that take place in a variety of locales. Recent favorites: THE GIRLS FROM CORONA DEL MAR by Rufi Thorpe and GOLD FAME CITRUS by Claire Vaye Watkins. On my reading list right now: THE STAR SIDE OF BIRD HILL by Naomi Jackson and MR. SPLITFOOT by Samantha Hunt.

NONFICTION:

I’m especially selective when it comes to nonfiction, but I’m interested in narrative work—memoirs, essay collections, etc. I’m a fan of Leslie Jamison, Meghan Daum and Alex Mar. I’m curious about stories that take place close to home and in other countries, that explore little known ways of life as well as work that illuminates experiences we all have. In this category, I gravitate toward work that makes me laugh or cry or both, all in a few pages. I’m drawn toward work that’s elegant, toward work that’s provocative. I also love nonfiction that helps me understand, that makes me want to highlight sentences and write quotes in my notebook. I’m a fan of work that defies genre lines. One title I read recently and loved: Nadja Spiegelman’s I’M SUPPOSED TO PROTECT YOU FROM ALL THIS. Next on my nonfiction list: Molly Crabapple’s DRAWING BLOOD.

YOUNG ADULT:

I have a soft spot for literary YA. I like both true-to-life books and novels that include magical elements (I love low fantasy and magical realism, but I’m not the right match for high fantasy novels). I’m interested in stories about love, friendship, family dynamics, and mixtures of all of the above. Mysteries are great here, too. I do really like edgy Young Adult work, stories involving artwork, books that take place in a variety of locations, and novels that explore rarely discussed topics. A few YA titles I love: WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart, BONE GAP by Laura Ruby, BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson. Next on my reading list: INFANDOUS by Elana K. Arnold.

MIDDLE GRADE:

I love Middle Grade novels about friendships, and those that reveal intricacies of family relationships. I also love adventure stories, and when magical elements reveal truths about our world. I’m definitely a fan of the quirky, whimsical, and laugh-out-loud funny in this category. Voice is extra important. Illustrated middle grade works and graphic novels are great, and as in all categories, books that challenge traditional forms. For example, FLORA AND ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo and K.G. Campbell is one of my favorites. Other favorites: WILDWOOD CHRONICLES by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, WONDER by R.J. Palacio, TIMMY FAILURE by Stephan Pastis and THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick. On my reading list: LOST IN THE SUN by Lisa Graff, ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and WATCH THE SKY by Kirsten Hubbard.

PICTURE BOOKS:

I’m looking for quirky and humorous picture books filled with heart, and stories that help kids learn more about environments they know well, and other ways of life they’re less familiar with. I’m passionate about working with writers and illustrators who have stories they can’t help but tell, and who are excited about sharing tales that children will remember in their teens, in their thirties, in their sixties…stories they’ll want to pass on to their own children and grandchildren. I remember reading MARTHA SPEAKS and A BARGAIN FOR FRANCES countless times as a kid, and I’m looking for books that will also be read multiple times, with characters who are what Martha and Frances were to me. I’m extra selective when it comes to picture book text: I’m a fan of sparse text in general, and I’m most likely not the best match for rhyming text. I’m particularly excited about working with illustrators and author/illustrators—some illustrators whose work I admire: Dana Wulfekotte, Scott Campbell, Diana Sudyka, Matt Phelan, and Birgitta Sif…just to name a few! (The list could really be SO, so long.)

HERE ARE THE FIRST PAGES:

A RIPPLE IN THE WOODS by K. Mullane MG Paranormal

Stories swirled around our town about the unusual woods edging my neighborhood. Most people dismissed them—not me.

So, I lifted the dusty lid of the cardboard box that my dad kept in our basement and pulled out a wrinkled, old newspaper. I’d searched through all the old stuff my grandpa had left behind and found gold.

“Achoo!” My best friend, Oliver, sneezed, and then asked, “What does it say?”

“Just like I told you. The stories are true. Here, look.” I unfolded a page of The Warrenfield Gazette, which wasn’t in print anymore, and spread it out for him to read. An interview of the town’s mayor from 1938 told about a disturbance and a missing boy. The article was titled Missing NJ Youth Found – He Tells Magical Tale.

The interesting part read:

When asked about the investigation, Mayor Jeffries replied, “the eleven-year-old boy has been found safe and sound. He wandered off and got lost for a couple days in the woods. That’s all.

This rumor regarding him being enveloped in a magical fog must cease. Those are old

wives’ tales told by some residents of the woods to keep surveyors and taxmen from

doing their jobs.”

A follow up question regarding the boy’s insistence that he was pulled in to a magical

part of the forest as he walked along the cut-through, got a “no comment” from the mayor.

A magical part of the woods! That’s what’d caught my eye. I turned to Oliver. “What do you think?”

“Wow, can’t believe it. They actually wrote it in the paper, so must be something out there, and he was eleven like us,” he said.

“Exactly, and it talks about being pulled in from a cut-through. That must be the beaten path, right?”

HERE IS ANDREA:

Dear K. Mullane,

Thank you so much for sending the beginning of RIPPLE IN THE WOODS along! I love that the reader is very quickly able to get a sense of the protagonist and Oliver – the sense of friendship and adventure that these two share, and that will define this book.

While it’s really wonderful to see that you start off with a clear sense of place, character, and what will drive our main character, I also think you can take a little more time in the opening pages. For example, our speaker doesn’t have to look far before coming across Grandpa’s old things, and the exact newspaper article he wanted to find. Let us get to know the speaker a little bit more. Maybe he and Oliver can look a bit harder? Explain more about the stories they’ve heard about the unusual woods. Perhaps the speaker is looking in Grandpa’s things because he told the most stories about the woods, and really believed that there was something odd about this part of their town?

In all, I think you can give the reader a little more background information as the book opens (don’t worry about losing steam, or that the pace isn’t fast enough – it’s clear that there’s a lot to be exited about plot-wise and character-wise, so slowing at the start won’t hurt in this case!).

Wishing you all the best as you take the next steps here. Thanks again for sharing!

All best,

Andrea

Chic vs. Shocking: Coco and Schiap Were Rivals    Cecile Mazzucco-Than   PB

Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli (Skap-a-rell-ee) were trend-setters, go-getters, and empire-builders. Their friends called them “Coco” and “Schiap” (Skap), and they built world-famous fashion businesses from tiny shops and big ideas.  For many years, they lived in the same fancy hotel, went to the same fancy parties, and walked by each other’s fancy stores called House of Chanel and House of Schiaparelli.  They should have been friends.

Schiap could draw, but couldn’t sew at all, and Coco could sew well, but couldn’t draw.  Coco began her fashion empire with a hat like nobody else’s. Schiap began hers with a sweater like nothing anyone had ever seen. They should have been good friends.

Coco and Schiap gave women’s fashion a make-over.  No more frills. No more bustles. No more corsets, and no more big hats like crow’s nests. They should have been best friends.

But, Coco decided women needed to sail ships, not look like ships, so she made men’s sailing clothes feminine and chic.

Not to be outdone, Schiap decided women should pilot airplanes, too, so she made Lucky Lindy’s aviator jacket feminine and shocking.

Coco and Schiap weren’t best friends or good friends, or even friends at all.  They were rivals. Chic vs. Shocking. Whatever one could do, the other could do better.

Coco could make tres chic clothes out of anything, even men’s underwear.  From stretchy, cool fabric she made flowing pants and skirts worn with sailor-style blouses and the prim, but saucy, little hats that made her first tiny shop, Chanel Modes, famous and trendy. So liberating! Women jumped out of their corsets and into Chanel’s chic but comfortable la garconne, “little boy,” style.

Coco was the number one fashion designer in Paris, until Schiap arrived.

HERE IS ANDREA:

Dear Cecile,

Thank you so much for giving me the chance to read the opening of CHIC VS. SHOCKING: Coco and Schiap Were Rivals. I love this concept – it’s interesting history, and introduces young readers to two influential women who had vision. I enjoyed the way you present their relationship, how they were alike, and how they differed.

Having said that, I’m not sure the “They should have been friends” lines are hitting the perfect note yet. I love what you’re trying to accomplish with this, but I think, for example, you might take out the first “They should have been friends” line and go straight into “Shiap could draw…” And then I think in general if you were to take out these lines at the beginning of the story, after the lines about Coco making things chic and Shiap making things shocking, we can go straight into “But Coco and Shiap weren’t best friends. Or good friends. Or friends at all. They were rivals…” I think this way, it hits the reader a little harder that these two women who were alike and fighting for the same things in so many ways were surprisingly not friends!

Thanks again for sharing, and I hope this is helpful to you as you move forward.

All best,

Andrea

Mary Ashcliffe        FRIENDS               Middle Grade Contemporary Magical Realism

On that night early in December, silence blanketed the alley. Moonlight created grotesque, opaque shadows in the week-old, icy snow. Everything changed at the first stroke of midnight.

It began with a faint hum in the air. A deepening vibration resonated in an unshadowed patch of white light. That patch, at first, simply shimmered. Soon it began soundlessly to coalesce.

Glistening particles became visible. They twisted and turned in the glow of the moonlight until they took on a solid form – a form that looked like it had always been there – a weathered, dilapidated single-story, wooden structure, lit on the inside by what appeared to be a single, naked light bulb. In keeping with its apparent age, the building abutted the edge of the alley’s broken pavement. Only the most acute eye could discern the sign over the door that read ‘The Antique Shoppe.’

Inside the structure sat a very old man, his hands gnarled and blue veined, his head wreathed in the soft nimbus-like glow of his loosely curling white hair. He marked his place in the book he was reading and set the large leather-bound tome on the counter in front of him. He gently laid his wire-rimmed reading glasses on top of the book as he got off the stool he had been sitting on. He was dressed in a soft, front-laced white linen shirt. His form-fitting medium brown leather pants, supple from much wear, were tucked into dark brown leather boots that gleamed faintly in the subdued light. The matching jerkin strained to contain the old man’s girth.

As he walked toward a darkened corner of the building, he picked up a snow globe off the counter. Once in the corner, he placed the snow globe on a small, inconspicuous shelf among with the half a dozen items that already rested there.

“Which shall it be this time?” His hand wavered as it passed from one piece to the next.

“Ah, yes.” He plucked a small figurine of an orange cat from the shelf. Gently he blew on the figure. “Let it begin.”

HERE IS ANDREA:

Dear Mary,

Thank you so much for giving me the chance to read the opening to your book. You set such an eerie yet beautiful tone here, and I was immediately intrigued by the man we meet and what he’s able to see or achieve with the snow globe and figurine you introduce us to at the bottom of the page.

I do think you can take another look at some of the sentences in the first couple of paragraphs. I love that your prose is so descriptive, but when we enter the story, the visuals are a bit unclear – for example: “A deepening vibration resonated in an unshadowed patch of white light. That patch, at first, simply shimmered. Soon it began soundlessly to coalesce.” I think you might relay this same visual a little more directly, which will help the reader really see it more clearly. You want the reader to feel as grounded as possible in the first paragraph of the book.

Again, I love the tone you’ve set, and this seems like a really beautiful world. Wishing you all the best with this project!

Thanks so much,

Andrea

Christy Adams                  Imagination Checkers                  Middle Grade Fiction

“Put that snake down!” Grammy yelled. “You’re gonna’ get yourself killed one of these days!”

I adjusted my headdress and resumed my Indian-style yoga pose as Poppy yelled back, “It’s just a rat snake, Lois. Give it a rest, will you?”

Poppy put the snake into Grammy’s old bread basket and sat down across from me with his legs crisscrossed. Snake charming required the utmost patience and focus. Grammy just didn’t understand. Poppy began to rock from side to side as he charm-fully played my old recorder. He played London Bridge, Old McDonald, Twinkle, Twinkle, and Rock-A-Bye Baby as we watched the basket. That stubborn snake didn’t even twitch. He just laid there, not even giving us the satisfaction of opening his eyes. What good was snake charming if the dumb ole snake refused to be charmed? He was by far the laziest snake I believe I had ever been around. You’d think a snake that’s been captured would try to escape, but not this one. He just laid there as if he was dead. It’s too bad today wasn’t voodoo doctor day because then we could take turns casting spells on him, instead.

“Oh, well, Cricketbug. We gave it a fair shot. We’ve tried playing every song we can think of. I’ve held him. You’ve held him. We tried dancing with him, staring into his eyes, and even tempted him with a fat, juicy mouse your Grammy caught in her glue trap, but that snake refuses to be charmed. Let’s take Grammy back her bread basket.

Poppy got a head start and bean walking back to the porch. As we got closer, I thought I saw the lid of the basket lift just a little. I shrugged it off. Then as Poppy was walking up the steps, I definitely saw it again. I ran to try to catch up with him so he could know that the snake was trying to get out. Just as I made it to the porch, I heard Poppy inside, “Lois, I wouldn’t worry too much about that dumb, old snake that’s still in your bread basket. Just shake him out in your flowerbed. He’s either stunned or dead, so either way there’s nothing to worry about.”

Andrea thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us this month. Andrea will email everyone, directly.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thank you, Kathy and Andrea. It looks as though Andrea’s comments for Imagination Checkers were dropped. It would be great to see them. (Christy, this is a great opening. I’d keep reading!)

    Like

  2. Hi! I submitted the last story, Imagination Checkers. It appears that the feedback got cut off somehow. Could you re-post or send it my way? Would love to see what Andrea had to say. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 2 people


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