Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 7, 2018

November Agent Anna Oslwanger – First Page Results

Anna Olswanger has been a literary agent since 2005. She started her career at Liza Dawson Associates in Manhattan, and in 2014 launched her own literary agency, Olswanger Literary LLC, where she represents picture books (author-illustrators only), middle grade fiction and adult nonfiction. She is a member of the AAR, Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Anna has sold to major publishers, including Bloomsbury, Chronicle, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Her clients’ books have won the Newbery Honor, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature Honor, Flora Stieglitz Strauss Award for Nonfiction, Orbis Pictus Honor, PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Parents Choice Gold Award, Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books, Sibert Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Honor, Sydney Taylor Silver Medal, Boston Globe Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, International Bologna/Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor, CCBC Choices, and been Junior Library Guild Selections and on The New York Times Bestseller list. You can view all her clients’ books on Pinterest.

Anna enjoys discovering new authors and illustrators, and is looking for “voice,” the sound and rhythm of an author that is hers alone. She has a particular interest in picture books (author-illustrators only).

She works hard with authors to get their manuscripts into shape for submission. She finds that most manuscripts need work on plot, so if you’re a potential author or illustrator client, be ready to go through many revisions before Anna agrees to send out your manuscript. Her job is to get the story to the point where an editor will make an offer. (And then be prepared to make more revisions for the editor.)

Anna is also interested in finding unusual books with a Judaic or Israel theme. She is the agent for Ruchama Feuerman’s novel In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, about the friendship between a rabbi’s assistant and a devout Muslim janitor, and Santiago Cohen’s picture book The Yiddish Fish, about a fish who speaks Yiddish.


I am looking for picture books (author-illustrators only), nonfiction for all ages (PB, MG, YA, and adult, including nonfiction graphic novels), and the occasional middle grade novel (no adult or YA fiction, unless you have written the most brilliant historical cozy mystery series). I rarely represent rhyming texts, and please don’t send manuscripts set in a circus. I would not like to be part of the publication of any book that sends the untrue message that circuses are happy places for animals. You can view my client’s book at:

Submission Guidelines for Anna:

Submissions should be emailed to
Start by sending an email with a few details about your book and the opening pages in the body of an email (not in an attachment). If I like what I read in your query, I’ll ask to see the full manuscript. No phone calls please.


Jean Richardson
Art Cart’s Busy Workshop Day
Picture Book

Life was not very colorful for the Art Cart.

She sat unused in the farthest corner of a small cramped, lonely art room listening as Easel complained of being overworked.

Easel must be very popular, the Art Cart thought. He boasted that great painters such as Rembrandt and Picasso used wooden easels.

The Art Cart was crafted from hard white plastic instead of wood, with no history of famous artists to brag about. But the Art Cart had no time to be sad.

“Today’s my first art workshop!”

Her racks cheerfully rattled when Emily, the art teacher arrived.

After stocking her shelves with art supplies, “All set,” Emily said.

The Art Cart hoped they hadn’t forgotten anything.”

It was nearly time to start.

Her wheels nervously rolled down the ramp…around the corner—and across the floor into the elevator—and up to the art center. She settled beside the big table upfront and braced herself.

“My shelves overflowed with everything an artist could want, including markers, construction paper, drawing paper, paper for paints and paintbrushes on my second shelf. A few sharpeners were on top, next to the erasers.”

“Art class is fun,” gushed one boy with glasses.

The Art Cart artfully angled to hear the boys.

“I love this art workshop,” another student agreed.

The Art Cart felt proud.

HERE ARE ANNA’S thoughts about Art Cart’s Busy Workshop Day:

I would like to see a stronger narrative arc in this story. What I’m seeing on the page is a description, not a story. What is the inciting incident? In a classic plot, something happens to make the protagonist want something. What does the Art Cart want? Until we know what the main character wants, we don’t know what the story is about. You write, “Life was not very colorful for the Art Cart” and “But the Art Cart had no time to be sad,” but it’s not clear from the text that life was dull for the Art Cart or that the Art Cart was sad. You imply it might be sad because it’s made of plastic instead of wood, but why is that a reason to be sad? Again, what does the Art Cart want? The rest of the story will flow from there.


Kirsten Randall
Middle grade novel 


Limbo, first stop in the After-Death

Death is a big adjustment. The other boys tease me about being fixated on sparklers, our nickname for the newly dead. I tried explaining, but they don’t get it. When I first came to Limbo, I waited with all the other sparklers and watched eager folks from the Beyond stream into Limbo to welcome their relatives. Cap in hand, I waited for hours, then days. My sparkle faded away. Nobody ever came.

Everybody else in my Dead Boys Club had somebody to greet them—me. For over a hundred years, I’ve made it my mission to welcome as many new sparkly kids as I can.

On board my grand ship Lucy, I perch on a wooden crate and hook my elbows over the officers’ deck railing. Sparklers of all shapes and sizes shimmer into Limbo on the first-class passenger deck below me, twinkling like golden bits of sunshine on ocean waves.

Limbo’s not so bad once you get used to it. Here in Limbo, everybody has their own view, what I call home base. If you closed your eyes and imagined your favorite place, that would probably be your home base in Limbo. Me, I couldn’t ask for anything better than Lucy, the famous ocean liner R.M.S. Lusitania. Her upper deck shows off a row of four bright red steam funnels with black bands on top.


I suggest deleting the first paragraph and starting with the second paragraph, which has a strong opening sentence: “Everybody else in my Dead Boys Club had somebody to greet them—me.” The first paragraph, in addition to feeling unnecessary, is also unclear. Why wouldn’t the narrator be fixated on the newly dead? Why wouldn’t they all be? Why wouldn’t they all greet the newly dead? In the second paragraph, what is the Dead Boys Club? Is it the “other boys” or the sparklers? In the last paragraph, the reader probably won’t know what the Lusitania is. As a general comment, I wonder if you can’t find a more interesting word than “Limbo,” which feels a bit trite because it is such a common word in our vocabulary. But in general, this feels like a strong first page.


Diana Patton
Wallace Wiggens, Frog Extraordinaire
Picture book

Wallace Wiggens could only glimpse the Mystery Pond if a breeze blew aside the hollyhocks. Who lived in that deep blue water? Was the algae super tasty? The water lilies fantastic colors? The young frog just had to find out.

“Mom,” Wallace said. “I wanna’ go to Mystery Pond.”

“How? You’re too little and that pond is too big,” his mother said.

“Maybe Shiny Stream will take me there.”

“Wallace, most frogs are content to live in a small safe pond,” his mother said.

“I’m not most frogs, Mom,” Wallace croaked loudly.

Wallace asked Cousin McClellan, “Want to help me get to Mystery Pond?”

McClellan scarfed down a huge mosquito. Wallace saw his throat wiggling as the wings went down.

“Gross!” Wallace said.  Wallace only ate algae and fish food flakes.

“No, Wallace, I’ve got all I want right here in Little Pond.” McClellan gulped and swallowed a few times, grinned, and burped.  “Delicious!” he croaked.

Mosquito wings flapping against his tongue?  Yeccccch!  Wallace thought. Flies?  Who knew where they’d been before his mouth? Wallace choked on crickets, gagged on grasshoppers, and barfed up beetles.

Wallace sat on his special moss-covered rock, and thought about Mystery Pond.

His friend Petite Verte sat on a lily pad. “I love this wobbly lily pad. It’s my trampoline.”

“I don’t like lily pads,” said Wallace. “I can’t think while wobbling.”

A breeze carried a new scent to Wallace. Sweet! Could it be Mystery Pond flowers?

Wallace followed the new scent to the stream entering Little Pond. The water made a glistening pathway to Mystery Pond.

HERE ARE ANNA’s Thoughts on Wallace Wiggens, Frog Extraordinaire

I’m finding this first page slow, partly because of the use of “telling” rather than “showing,” such as: “‘Wallace, most frogs are content to live in a small safe pond,’ his mother said. ‘I’m not most frogs, Mom,’ Wallace croaked loudly.” The story would be stronger if the reader experienced this information through a scene, rather than to be told that Wallace is different. It’s not clear why Wallace eats only algae and fish food flakes, or why fish flakes would be more palatable to him than crickets, grasshoppers, or beetles (aren’t they all “animal” food?). By the end of the page, I’m left wondering when this story is going to start. Is Wallace going to risk visiting Mystery Pond? I think you need an inciting incident, something that happens to make the protagonist want something.


Lena Shiffman
Sara Saves Sankta Lucia Day
picture book

“It’s not fair!” Sara exclaimed when she came home from school.

“Cecilia was chosen to be Lucia for the Sankta Lucia celebration tomorrow. She gets picked for everything.”

“I’m sure there is a good reason the teacher chose Cecilia,” Mom said, giving Sara a hug. Maybe she was picked because of her beautiful voice. She does sing like an angel.”

“I think she sings like a cow!” yelled Sara as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Oh, Sara, you’re still part of the celebration,” said Mom.

“Being a Lucia maiden is just as important. The festival of light wouldn’t be the same without them or the Star boys.”

“I think it stinks!” cried Sara as she ran to her room. “Sankta Lucia Day is stupid and so is Cecilia!”

That night after dinner Sara forgot about being mad.

She was busy baking “lussekatter,” saffron flavored buns, with her family. They baked them every year for Lucia day morning.

“I love making lussekatter,” said Sara, concentrating on rolling out the dough. The dough felt smooth and warm in her hands.

“And, I love eating them!” Dad teased.

“Can I bring some to school tomorrow?” Sara asked, twisting the dough into S shapes and pressing two raisins into each one. It made them look like cat’s eyes.

“If there are any left after I’m finished,” laughed Dad.

He put the buns into the hot oven to bake. The smell of sweet saffron filled the house.

Baking was hard work and Sara fell fast asleep as soon as her head hit her pillow that night.


I’m seeing some “overwriting” on this page (using “exclaimed” instead of the simple “said,” for example, and the phrase “sing like an angel,” which feels over the top for the mother to say), but I like that we get a sense right away of what this book is going to be about: Sara’s growth as she discovers her own importance to the celebration. Near the end of the page, the phrase “Lucia day morning” isn’t clear, and the next couple of sentences feel extraneous, if not irrelevant: “‘I love making lussekatter,’ said Sara, concentrating on rolling out the dough. The dough felt smooth and warm in her hands. ‘And I love eating them!’ Dad teased.” A picture book is short, and every scene should contribute to narrative arc, in this case, what the protagonist (Sara) wants and what she does to get what she wants.


Talk tomorrow,


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