Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 31, 2019

Agent of the Month – First Page Results

Adriann Ranta Zurhellen at
Foundry Literary + Media May’s Agent of the Month.

Adriann Ranta Zurhellen is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media. She represents New York Times bestselling, award-winning authors, journalists, illustrators and graphic novelists, as well as many other pioneering creative thinkers and leaders in their fields. She is actively acquiring all genres for all age groups with a penchant for unusual voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin. She loves gritty, realistic, true-to-life stories with conflicts based in the real world; women’s literary fiction and nonfiction; accessible, pop nonfiction in science, history, and craft; and smart, fresh, genre-bending works for children. She specializes in books about “cool women doing badass things.”

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona, Adriann’s first introduction to publishing was at The Editorial Department, a freelance editorial firm based in Tucson, AZ. After making the move to New York, Adriann spent two years at Anderson Literary Management and six years at Wolf Literary Services before moving to Foundry in 2015.

Adriann Ranta Zurhellen only accepts submissions by email. Please send all queries for Adriann to For more information on submitting your project, please see the Foundry Submissions page.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Crime, Family Saga, General, Graphic Novel, Historical, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Picture Books, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult

Non-Fiction: Crafts/DIY, History, Humor, Illustrated, Journalism, Memoir, Pop Culture, Psychology, Science, True Crime

Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary YA, Domestic Suspense, Fantasy YA, Feminism, Literary Middle Grade, Psychological Thrillers, Speculative Fiction, diverse voices, narrative non-fiction, upmarket genre fiction.


Picture Book: TAM THE TERRIBLE, MAMMOTH TAMER by Barbara Jean Hicks

[NOTE: Illustrations show two very different realities: Tam interacting with a woolly mammoth that no one else can see and her grownups reacting to Tam’s shenanigans]

They call me “Tam the Terrible” and I don’t mind a bit. You see, I’m awfully, terribly smart—and here’s the proof of it: I know things that my grownups don’t.

WHOOP! WHUP! WHEE! [Woolly mammoth squeezes through door, suitcase in trunk]

A woolly mammoth’s moving in, and no one knows but me!

My grownups say there’s something here that didn’t used to be, but the something that they’re seeing isn’t anything I see.

My dad says it’s a chatterbox. I have to disagree. It’s louder than a billion boxes ever hoped to be. No way is it some talking box—


Don’t bother me with boxes when it’s swinging from the door!

My mom says it’s a jumping bean. You’d think a mom would know—but it’s hugely more humongous than a bean could ever grow. A bean is teeny. This is NOT.


Don’t bother me with bouncing beans—it’s gobbling down my snack!

My grampa says it’s lazy bones. Does that make sense to you? It’s chasing me around the house like bones would never do. No chance that it’s a bunch of bones—


Don’t bother me with bones when there’s a mammoth tickling me!

My auntsays  it’s a clutter-bug. I know that isn’t true. It makes a bigger mess by miles than any bug could do. It isn’t any scruffy bug—


ARZ: This is a sweet, fun concept with a nice rhythm, and I love the energy and sense of play, especially with the all-caps parts that will be fun for a parent to read aloud. However, I found this text a little hard to follow. Maybe the author could add more illustrator notes so the reader can visualize what’s happening? What are the parents seeing that make them describe a chatterbox, jumping bean, and lazy bones? I assume they’re describing their child, but what is the mammoth doing that Tam sees? It’s this disconnect that made me read through this page a number of times to track the plot, and clarity would help make this text really strong.


Young Adult Novel: Half-Truths by Carol Baldwin

Mack opens the door to Reid’s Soda Shop and, except for the jangling bell, I don’t hear a sound. No kids pushing to find a spot on the tiny space that Mr. Reid brags is the best dance floor in Crossroads.


I turn to Mack. “I thought you said the club was coming to celebrate!”

Mack shrugs. “Guess they had better things to do, Kate.”

“Their loss,” I muster a smile. “Now that I’m president of 4-H things are gonna start hopping.”

“Maybe they had second thoughts ‘bout not electing me another year.” Mack hooks his thumbs through his belt loops.

I feel like turning around and walking out, but his twinkling eyes tell me he’s hiding something.

“Surprise!” Lola Mae and Josh pop up from behind the soda fountain. Lola Mae is holding a poster that has CONGRATULATIONS, KATE! 4-H CROSSROADS PRESIDENT, 1952 scrawled in big red letters. Other club members come out from behind the counter and bombard me with hugs.

A coin falls in the juke box, a record drops, and Bill Haley belts out “Rock This Joint,” my favorite song.

I punch Mack in the arm. “You were fooling me the whole time!”

“Ow!” he rubs his arm, pretending to be hurt. “You’re awfully strong—for a girl, that is.”

I punch him again.


ARZ: I’m intrigued by the 4-H element, which feels like a refreshing shift from more urban settings, but I’d love to see a bit more voice and personality on this opening page. It’s a bit too wholesome and familiar—where are the first hints of conflict? How are these characters unique and flawed and interesting? What does the room look like? What are these characters thinking and feeling? Little hints at answers to these questions will liven up this introduction and make the characters, tension, and conflict rise off the page and keep readers wondering about what will come next.

I’m also a little concerned that it reads a bit young for a young adult audience. Is middle grade perhaps a better fit?


Historical Fiction: A Life Interrupted by Margaret Clements Anderson 

Dave Johnson. I’ll never get used to that name. I guess it’s kind of like Dunham Jackson, but it doesn’t seem to be … me.

I’m fidgeting in the customs line in Santos, Brazil, having just stepped off the ship with the other passengers into my river of fate.

My eyes drift over to some wanted posters on the wall. All of them are in Portuguese, but at least my picture isn’t among them.

What if they have wanted posters here in Brazil for Texas? What if someone recognizes me from one? What if my letter from Dobie isn’t enough to establish my new name?

Sighing, I focus on passengers rather than wanted posters to calm my nerves.

As soon as it’s my turn, I plop my saddle at my feet, searching through my saddle bags for Dobie’s letter of reference and job offer and shakily present them to the customs agent.


Shaking my head, I reply, “I don’t have one. Just this letter saying who I am.”

“Jo…John…Johnson? J-O-H-N-S-O-N. Bom?”

I struggle to hear each letter in Portuguese as he spells my name out. “Yes, sir. That’s right. Bom? OK?” I query, guessing at the meaning.

“Da…Dav…Davie? D-A-V-E? Bom?”

“Yes, sir. Bom. Just Dave. Named after my grandpa.”

Ha! This isn’t my grandpa’s name. Just the first of many lies.

Leaning forward, I stretch up a bit taller to fit my new moniker, watching as this strange name is officially recorded in the leather-bound book. Signing in next to the registration dated 9/8/13, I feel a bit like I am leaving my family and my boyhood behind and becoming a man with that simple action. Trembling, I dip the pen into the inkwell, and for the first time in my


ARZ: I’m intrigued by this exotic historical setting, but the writing seems a bit clunky for what should be a polished, zippy, tight introduction to a novel. I’d love to see this setting a bit more instead of a cursory mention of a ship and customs line—what are the smells, sounds, and textures? What wall are the wanted posters on, what do they look like? Who else is in line? Can the writer show this character’s nervousness and newfound sense of maturity a bit more, so it feels more emotional and raw? There are so many rich opportunities for setting and characterization here, and I’d encourage the writer to take advantage of them, then work toward editing a clean, exciting first page.


Middle Grade: I’m Counting On You by Patrick Thornton   

I’m sitting on my front porch watching Stan, my best friend since kindergarten, toss a baseball in the air and snag it with his glove.

“Looks like you’re going to be man of the house,” he says with his usual goofy expression.

“Very funny.” Kind of funny, since I’m a girl. Maybe not funny because I get teased for being a tomboy when most of the girls in the seventh grade are into makeup and boys. I know Stan is only trying to cheer me up but that’s not happening; Dad leaves today.

I get to my feet. “I gotta go. Thanks for hanging.”

Stan 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 wish knew that to be true.

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

Tomorrow I say to myself on my way up to my room. I sit on the edge of my bed and try not to think about what life will be like tomorrow.

The chart I made matching up the two time zones—here in Virginia and 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,


ARZ: This is wonderful. Really easy, clean sense of pacing and humor, perfect for this age group. I love the light frission between these two characters who obviously know each other so well—well enough to hear jokes and not laugh at them—which is a refreshing way to see their friendship in addition to being told about it. The pacing is perfect from the light sense of foreboding that something is about to change with her father to being told that he’s leaving for Afghanistan.

My only note is wishing for a few little pieces of specificity in the setting so we can get a better sense of when and where we are, since playing with a baseball in the yard could be anywhere, despite Afghanistan probably setting us in time.

There’s a missing word in the line “I wish knew that to be true.”


Thank you Adriann for sharing your time and expertise with us. This helps a lot of writers. Good job.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. *Applause* all around! And great feedback. Just a quick observation…I can be a real picky-pants when it come to historical fiction. I’d recommend being really careful with details like 9/8/13 …is this 1913,1813 (no passports)? As far as I know, the full date was always written out in ledgers, or on official documents, etc. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and realized things like they didn’t use forks in 1250. The devil is in the details… but this might be just me. Good luck and write on!


  2. Thanks again, for this wonderful feature on your blog, Kathleen. I learn each time I read these!


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