Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 28, 2018

Agent of the Month – John Rudolph – First Page Results

John Rudolph at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret has agreed to be the featured Agent of the Month and will be interviewed and reading four first page for critique. (See bottom for submission guidelines).

John joined DG&B in 2010 after twelve years as an acquiring children’s book editor. He began his career at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers as an Editorial Assistant and then moved to the G. P. Putnam’s Sons imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group, where he eventually served as Executive Editor on a wide range of young adult, middle-grade, nonfiction, and picture book titles.

He graduated from Amherst College with a double major in Classics and Music. While John’s list started out as mostly children’s books, it has evolved to the point where it is now half adult, half children’s authors —and he’s looking to maintain that balance. On the children’s side, John is keenly interested in middle-grade and young adult fiction and would love to find the next great picture book author/illustrator. For adults, he is actively looking for narrative nonfiction, especially in music, sports, history, popular science, “big think”, performing arts, health, business, memoir, military history, and humor. He is also interested in commercial fiction, but is very selective in what he takes on.

John says…

To be honest, I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid. While I devoured comic books, especially Tintin and Asterix, pretty much the only books I read outside of school were John D. Fitzgerald’s Great Brain series—and why a New York City kid in the early 1980s would be so fascinated by the stories of two conniving brothers set in 1890s Utah is still a mystery to me (and my parents).

However, it does make sense that when I properly fell in love with reading later on, I found a home in children’s literature and discovered all the wonderful books I had missed the first time around. Better yet, as an acquiring editor I was fortunate enough to add some truly brilliant authors and illustrators to that literature, all of whose work shed new light on the childhood and teen experience.

Since I switched to agenting in the fall of 2010, I’ve had the pleasure of continuing to contribute to children’s books, yet I’ve also been blown away by the opportunity to represent adult authors, too—it’s such a thrill to be able to work with good writers, regardless of genre or category.

For middle-grade and YA fiction, I’m on the lookout for authentic kids’ voices and rousing, high concept stories—I love a good “what-if” scenario, though I prefer realistic settings and sci-fi to fantasy. At a younger level, I’m very eager to find the next great illustrator who can also write—we’ve developed a nice stable of illustrators here at DG&B, and I’d love to expand the list further. For adults, I’ve found a home in narrative nonfiction for areas like music, sports, history, popular science, health, business, military history, and memoir. And while my adult fiction list is small, I do like good commercial and literary fiction, particularly anything plot-driven and fast-paced.

HERE ARE THE FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

Jason E. Maddux        Flicker the Firefly            Picture Book

Every evening, all the firefly girls and boys meet under the maple tree and flitter around blinking their lights.  Everyone except Flicker the Firefly.

No matter how hard she tried, Flicker could not make her light work.  This made her sad.  She wanted to play just like the other girls and boys.

Flicker asked her mom.  “Mom, how do I make my light work?”

“All you need is patience,” Flicker’s mom said.  “Just be patient, and it will happen.”

Flicker didn’t know if she could be patient, so she asked her dad.  “Dad, how do I make my light work?”

“All you need is practice,” Flicker’s dad said.  “You can accomplish anything (A bit too adult for a picture book?) with enough practice.”

Flicker had practiced, and her light still didn’t work.  She asked her friend Flash.  “Flash, how do you make your light work?”

Flash thought a minute.  “I don’t know.  It just works.”

That didn’t help Flicker at all.  She was ready to fly away when Flash stopped her.

“Wait!  There are other animals with lights.  Maybe they know how theirs work.”

“That’s a great idea,” Flicker said and flew off.

Not too long ago, she had met another animal that lit up, the glowworm.  She remembered where to find her. Telling. And it could be a little confusing for the youngest readers to go back in time like this. What if Flash makes the introduction?

The glowworm lived in the dirt below the maple tree.  Flicker flew down and landed next to her.

“Glowworm,” Flicker said, “how do you make your light work?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” the glowworm said.  “I just light up when I curl around my eggs.”

HERE IS JOHN:

FLICKER THE FIREFLY

This gets off to a nice start! The voice is nice and warm, and for the most part feels just right for a picture book. Flicker and Flash seem like good characters. It does feel a little generic, though—I wish the voice were a bit more distinctive and that Flicker and Flash had a bit more personality. Is there a character trait that might define each of them? And while I’m intrigued to see where it goes, I do worry that the quest to find out how Flicker’s light works will turn into a series of visits with of other light-up animals—in other words, a list. Maybe the author needs to push the plot further?


 
Violet is the Season Spring by: Morgan S. Galvan – PB

Melody and her Pops were walking home from school when Mel looked up to see the most beautiful rainbow arching across the sky.

“WOOOW, Pop pops! Look at all those colors!”

“That sure is breath-taking! You know my favorite thing about rainbows?” Pops asked.

“What’s that?”

“That when I look at each individual color, it makes me think of special moments, so when I step back and look at the rainbow as a whole, I see a collage of colors that bring those memories alive and warms my heart.” Pops said.

“Hmm, what do you mean?” Mel asked, a little puzzled.

“Well, take orange for instance. It reminds me… Well orange to me is playing tag with my best friends. It’s laughing so hard I choke on my drink and spit citrus-y juice all over my friend, Tommy.  It’s playing fetch with my dog Max, and running base to base as FAST as I can during a family baseball game. It’s happily falling, exhausted, onto my bed with mud still sticking to my shoes and sweat dripping from my forehead. What about you, Mel? What does, say, the color pink make you think of?”

“Pink, pink, pink.” Mel thought, “Pink reminds me of a summer’s day. And a summer’s day reminds me of my bestest friend, Rose. I’d say pink is us giggling and sharing sticky popsicles and secrets!” Mel squealed happily as she thought about days spent with her cousin.

HERE IS JOHN:

VIOLET IS THE SEASON

There’s a lot of warmth to this opening, too. But I do worry that it feels a bit forced—the characters don’t really DO much except see a rainbow and talk. I also worry that this might be a bit tough to illustrate, in that Pop shares so many memories that they would take up a lot of space. And like FLICKER, I worry it’s going to turn into a list, where Pop and Mel go through a bunch of different colors before some kind of ending. Can they do more than that? And where’s the conflict?

 


 
I’M COUNTING ON YOU  by Patrick Thornton – MG

“So I guess you’ll be man of the house again,” Stan, my best friend since kindergarten says with his usual goofy expression.

“Very funny.” Kind of funny, I guess, since I’m a girl. But I don’t laugh. “I gotta go. Thanks for hanging,” I tell him.

He tilts his head sideways and jerks on an imaginary noose. I don’t laugh at this either and his face goes serious. “Your dad’s going to be okay.” Then adds. “Your mom too.”

“Yeah,” I say wishing I knew that to be true.

“Okay. See ya tomorrow,” he says as I go inside.

Tomorrow I say to myself as I go upstairs to my room and sit on my bed.

The chart I made matching up the two time zones—here in Virginia and there in Afghanistan where Dad will be—is on the wall. I’ll use it to know what time it is for Dad when I’m getting up in the morning or having dinner or whatever.

For now, I just want to turn my brain off. I want to put the war—what could happen to Dad, what could happen to all of us—out of my head.

“Think fast!”

I jump like I’ve been electric shocked and look up just in time to grab the video game case flying at me before it hits me in the chest.

“Nice catch.” Dad stands in my bedroom doorway wearing his National Guard uniform, all brown and green camouflage. There’s an MP patch on the shoulder.  People say I look like him. I got his dark, curly hair (mine’s a little longer and most of the time under a baseball cap). Got his dark eyes too. I’m in pretty good shape from lots of sports. Guess you could say I’m the girl version of my dad. I love that. I’m hardly any version of my mom. My bed creaks when he sits down next to me. In my hands is the new Xbox game we’ve been waiting for.

HERE IS JOHN:

I’M COUNTING ON YOU

There’s a lot happening in this page—we’re meeting the narrator, her best friend and her dad—and it’s a moment of high drama, in that Dad’s leaving the next day. And for me, it all feels a little rushed. I wish the author would slow down and Show us more about the characters and the setting. A longer conversation with Stan, perhaps, where we can see them sitting outside the narrator’s house? Or a fuller description of Dad when he comes in the room? Along those lines, it feels like the author is relying on the reader’s previous knowledge about Afghanistan, the situation there, and how the military works. I’d love to see the author slow down and develop all of those things a bit more fully.

 


 
One Challah For Us All by Michelle Gould – Picture Book

Pg1-Rabbi spent each Friday leading the blessings of Shabbat. Together we knew we were blessed and the word got out. (A bit non-specific. Rabbi who? Who are “we” And how did they know they were blessed? Word got out to whom?) 
Pg2-Rabbi blessed the candles. Rabbi blessed the wine. Then we all gathered ’round for Challah blessing time. (Chorus)
Pg3-Come together everyone and put one hand on the challah.
Pg4-The more friends, the more love we have to share.
Pg5-When we all touch the Challah then the blessing begins
Pg6-And the next Friday…(Repeat Chorus)
Pg7-Come together everyone and put one hand on the challah.
Pg9-If you cannot touch the challah, touch someone touching the challah
Pg10-The more friends the more love we have to share.
Pg11-When we all touch the challah, then the blessing begins
Pg12-Each Friday, (Repeat Chorus)
Pg13-Come together everyone and put one hand on the challah
Pg14-If you cannot touch the challah, touch someone touching the challah. If you cannot touch someone touching the challah, touch someone touching someone touching the challah. (Seems a bit repetitive–how would the illustrations differ at this point?)
Pg15-The more friends, the more love we have to share.
Pg16-When we all touch the Challah, then the blessing begins. (Why does the chorus repeat here?)
Pg17-Every week Shabbat grew with more and more of us going out the door. ( I’m having trouble getting a handle on the tenss here–is it past or present?)
Pg18-We didn’t know how many of us there were; as far as the eye could see. We all knew we were connected when the Challah would sing.
Pg19-One particular Friday, we were all quite surprised.
Pg20-Just as always, Rabbi blessed the candles, Rabbi blessed the wine. Then we all gathered ’round  for challah blessing time
Pg21-Come together everyone, and put one hand on the challah.
Pg22-If you cannot touch the challah, touch someone touching the challah. If you cannot touch someone touching the challah,touch someone touching someone touching the challah. AND, if you cannot touch someone touching someone touching the challah. touch someone touching someone touching someone touching the challah.
Pg23-Rabbi uncovered the challah.
Pg24-Just then everyone turned
Pg25-From the other side of the temple…
Pg26- We saw one more
Pg27-One more hand reaching through the door
Pg28-We looked out
Pg29-The line had come FULL CIRCLE (Very sweet, but I’m not sure that’s enough of a payoff. And why does it matter that the line came full circle.)

HERE IS JOHN:

ONE CHALLAH FOR US ALL
When a picture book text has a very specific purpose like this one does, I’m a bit leery of offering too much pointed feedback. I will say, though, that it would be good to get a few more specifics in here. Does the Rabbi have a name? Where is this happening? And who are all these people? Also, as mentioned in the comments, I can’t quite get a handle on the tenses—is this happening in the present or the past? And while I certainly understand that this is meant for reading (or even singing) aloud together, I do worry the repetition will make the illustrations a bit static, especially since the resolution is the line of people coming together at the end—are we just going to see people standing in line throughout the book?

 


 
John, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is really appreciated. It was nice getting to know you better.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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