Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 30, 2019

August Agent of the Month – First Page Results

Danielle Burby, agent at Nelson Literary Agency is August’s Agent of the Month, Danielle is attending the Fall Avalon Retreat in September 2020. First page results.

Agent Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary Agency

Based in New York City, Danielle became an agent at Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a NYC-based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies.

Danielle represents all genres of YA and MG along with picture books and select passion projects in women’s fiction. She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels. Danielle also looks for a strong narrative voice and characters she wants to spend time with. For more information about her wishlist, check out NLA’s Submission Guidelines page.

Daneille says, “I’m the kind of nerd who always has the book I’m reading in my bag plus a backup book plus my Kindle just in case. Growing up, I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter (Fun fact: I would fluff my hair so I could look like Hermione). I also ravenously devoured anything Tamora Pierce, Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen are her best novels and I will fight you about it), Robin McKinley, Gareth Nix, Diana Wynne Jones, Judy Blume, Jane Austen…you get the picture. I have a Virginia Woolf quote tattooed on my shoulder blade. Authors have always been my biggest stars. In fact, one of my most exciting high school moments was when Newsday hired me to review the Ella Enchanted movie and then gave me a choice between interviewing Anne Hathaway and Gail Carson Levine–I chose Gail Carson Levine. My job gives me the excuse to professionally fangirl on a daily basis.

“I double majored in creative writing and women’s studies at Hamilton College (both “impractical majors” that have been incredibly practical for me) and figured out that creative writing classes do a really great job of honing your editing and critiquing skills. After internships at several top literary agencies and publishers, I spent four years at New York agency and began building a client list before moving to NLA in January 2017. Now, I work out of my NYC apartment where my office cat likes to remind me that she is boss.”

Danielle is seeking:

Middle grade and young adult (all genres)
Select passion projects in women’s fiction

A strong voice, nuanced writing, plots with unexpected twists, high concept, complex female characters, quirky adventures, complicated family dynamics, romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative but don’t dominate it, seaside novels, girls with swords, stories that take place in the aftermath of disaster (whether personal such as the death of a loved one or bigger picture such as a revolution), magical realism, YA psychological thrillers, sister stories, social justice themes, own voices authors, a special interest in LGBTQ+ stories.

Recent reads I have loved include (in no particular order) The Thing About Jellyfish, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, We Are Okay, Landline, The Sun Is Also a Star, Uprooted, Salt to the Sea, We Were Liars, A Spool of Blue Thread, When Dimple Met Rishi, Six of Crows, anything Liane Moriarty, anything Kristin Cashore, anything Sarah Dessen

She gravitates toward stories with a high concept and strong voice. She particularly enjoy complex female characters, quirky/humorous adventures, narratives that explore social justice issues, stories with a sense of wonder, complicated family dynamics, girls with swords, seaside narratives, and #ownvoices narratives. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plot-lines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it. Mainly, she’s looking to represent novels that keep her spellbound, no matter the genre.

You can find details about her recent sales on Publishers Marketplace.

USE THIS LINK TO QUERY DANIELLE: https://querymanager.com/query/1352

*******

BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES WITH DANIELLE’S COMMENTS:

ALMOST FLYING by Jake Arlow – MG Contemporary

CHAPTER ONE

This is it. I’m finally gonna ride Mega Drop: Unhinged (“If You Don’t Puke We’re Not Doing our Job!”).

The ride operator’s voice crackles over the loudspeaker. “Keep your arms and legs inside the coaster at all times.” The ride groans, releasing a burst of air. “Now, sit back, relax, and try not to think about that Mega Drop.”

And off we go.

The roller coaster rumbles and creaks, and we start climbing. It’s a cloudless day and the way we’re tilted back makes it feel like we’re just gonna keep riding up into the sky forever.

But then we get to the top. I’m sitting up front, and there’s a few seconds where I can’t see the track in front of me and I can’t see anything below me and it’s just blue going on and on and on and there’s no horizon and maybe this is how astronauts feel when they’re going on a space walk. Like there’s no one else in the whole universe. And I think about how it might be nice to just stay here.

So I pause the video.

Okay, so I guess this is where I have to tell you that I’m not actually on a roller coaster. It’s just a roller coaster POV video. It’s called “POV” because that stands for point of view, so, like, the view you’re getting is the one from the very first seat of the roller coaster.

I sort of always like to think about the person who filmed the video, because they had to sit up front on the coaster and just hold a camera. Which means they couldn’t even put their hands up, because they were probably clutching their camera. And that sucks, because putting your hands up is the best part of riding a roller coaster.

I think it’s the best part of riding a roller coaster. I mean, I’ve never actually ridden one.

I know that’s super weird, that I watch these videos but I’ve never been on a roller coaster. I first found the POV videos when I was trying to convince my dad to take me to Six Flags, but that was like a year ago and we still haven’t gone. And I get it, because he works a lot.

HERE’S DANIELLE:

I think this is a really nice opening! You do a great job of really putting the reader on the roller coaster and building up that excitement of the climb. And I absolutely love that you then pull out the rug from under us by having your character pause the video. You’ve really hit most of the points you want to hit for a compelling first page—there’s a strong MG voice, an interesting setting, a twist, and the introduction of conflict. This is a very strong first page. Keep going!

*******

DISPEL by B. Doherty  –  YA

1 – blood and honey

The witching hour, so aptly named as I could hear my aunts walking around on the lower floor, had arrived.

Despite kicking my blankets free, I could feel the sweat at my temples. I hadn’t grown used to the Brisbane warmth, but who could in a mere month?

I stared at my phone in hand, willing it to glow with an incoming message from Mel, or any of my old friends I’d abandoned in Melbourne.

Beyond my closed door, padding up and down the hallway, was Archimedes. At least, I hoped that’s who the gentle footfalls belonged to. He kept an eye on me most nights since I’d moved here, which I found to be very odd behavior for a cat.

The voice began so quietly I thought it was a fly buzzing against the window – tapping against the stained glass like wandering fingertips, until I made out the soft words.

‘Don’t go to her, Flora,’ it said.

I glanced up from my phone and peered around my darkened room. I could see the silhouettes of my aunts’ old books on the shelves and my schoolbag against the dresser. Even the lime-coloured birds on the wallpaper had a little shape, but no words to whisper in my ear.

I raised my phone, torch scouring the room like a red-striped lighthouse. Only the curtain shifted as the night breeze came in through a crack in the pane.

The voice trickled into my ear like molten honey – unpleasant, too warm, and too sweet.

‘Flora don’t go outside,’ it pressed.

‘Why on earth would I go outside?’ I snapped.

The golden voice didn’t reply.

I awoke to a wailing that made my hairs stand on end.

HERE’S DANIELLE:

I really like the creepy, menacing atmosphere you’re creating here. The chapter title is immediately compelling, and I am definitely curious about what is happening with Flora and her aunts. I do think you are going to want to pay extra attention to your writing on the sentence level. There are times when Flora doesn’t sound like a teen linguistically (phrases like “aptly named” “mere month” “why on earth”), which pulls me out of the narration. I think reading aloud can be a helpful editing tool in these cases. I would also just generally caution against an opening page that involves dreaming/a character waking up. It is an opening I see a lot on my inbox and there are more creative ways to begin a novel. I do love witch stories—this seems like it will be fun!

*******

UNDER THE RADAR by Kerry Hansen – Middle Grade

Chapter 1: Normal-People Rules

Kira dangles a thong in my face. “Lulu, let’s talk underwear.”

Cringing, I tighten my bathrobe. The back of the thong is a skinny string of fabric, like somebody cut out the butt cheeks as a joke. “That’s not underwear. Half of it’s missing.”

She shoots me a look, the same one she gets before serving a volleyball. Usually, I have trouble reading people’s facial expressions, but I know when my sister’s determined to win.

“You can’t wear regular underwear with leggings. You’ll get panty lines.” Kira swings the thong back and forth, like she’s trying to hypnotize me into wearing it. Her vanilla-pine body spray lingers under my nose and reminds me of Christmas vacation, when nobody complained about what I wore.

“Why are panty lines bad?”

She rolls her eyes toward the ceiling, as if asking it for patience. “They’re embarrassing, like when your fly’s open.”

I sigh. Normal-people rules are stupid, but I follow them anyway. At least, I try. I have to so people won’t notice I’m not like them. That means no hand-flapping, covering my ears, correcting my teachers, or, apparently, wearing regular underwear.

This rule is especially stupid. “Why would I wear something that goes up my butt on purpose?” My therapist tells me that crossing my arms in front of my chest makes me look angry, so that’s exactly what I do.

“Lulu, just trust me on this.” Kira stands with her fists on her hips, like a red-headed Wonder Woman saving me from fashion disgrace. Our last name is Fox, and for her, that name states the obvious. For me, it’s a contradiction. Next to Kira (next to anyone, really), I’m the forgettable sidekick.

HERE’S DANIELLE:

I think representation is very important so I really do love that you’re tackling a narrative about a girl with autism. That said, I’m seeing several potential sensitivity issues here. The title of the first chapter itself raises some red flags for me. You’re going to want to avoid saying things like “normal people” and, instead, opt for something like “typical people.” Lulu’s self-deprecation and the way she puts herself down also concerns me. I’d prefer to see a narrative that shows us the world through her unique perspective and celebrates Lulu and her POV rather than contrasting her with the typical world so pointedly. Also worth noting—the characteristics you describe (hand-flapping, covering ears, etc.) would be rare in a person with autism who is as high functioning Lulu appears to be based on her conversation with Kira. I think this is an important perspective to share with the world, but you’re definitely going to want to work with a sensitivity reader before you start querying. Good luck!

*******

Henry From Now On by Wendy C Kasten  MG Historical fiction

Chapter 1 – Bad News

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

April 6, 1923

I run as fast as I can, clutching my school rucksack, cousin Hero just ahead of me. I jump over wandering pigeons, cross the road, leap over horse poo, and head up the walkway along the canal.  Hero arrives first onto the stone bridge and stops. I come in second. We are huffing.

“Just in time,” Hero begins.

“There,” I say, pointing to the barge. The one with the friendly man, and the beautiful, fluffy dog. They come closer, and we both wave like crazy.

The man working the net scooping up garbage stops and tips his cap to us. The dog smiles and barks to us.

“Look how beautiful that dog is,” I say to my cousin. “How I wish I could have a dog.”

“You and your dogs,” Hero shakes his head.  We are still catching our breath, leaning on the old brick wall when this boy we know named Jorge gets to the top of the bridge. He’s with an older boy.    “Hendrik, what’s your family going to do if the carpenters strike?” Jorge yells to us.  “What are you going to do?”

I have never seen Jorge so serious. What’s going on? I look at Hero who shrugs his shoulders. Just then the older boy tells Jorge to hush and pulls him along by his arm. We go back to enjoying the barge, which is passing under the bridge and out of sight.

HERE’S DANIELLE:

It is always fun to read a historical story! I see what you’re doing here by seeding in the information about the possible carpenter’s strike and, because I don’t know much about strikes in the Netherlands in the 20’s, I’m definitely curious. (I also love Billy Elliot so I know a strike story through the eyes of a child has the potential to be very strong.) Your opening paragraph is also a strong one. I’m immediately in this race leaping over horse poo and feeling short of breath. That said, there were a couple of things that pulled me out of the narration. The dialogue feels stiff and a little bit unnatural. Dialogue is one of the most difficult things to pull off in a historical novel because it needs to be believable as, in this case, a conversation in 1923, but it also needs to ring true to the ears of your readers in 2019. It is a hard balance! I think there is room to keep tinkering here. I also don’t fully understand why they were running—to see the dog? It sounds like Hero doesn’t care about the dog, though, so why is he running too? (A little thing, but it sounds cartoonish to describe the dog as smiling. It pulled me out a bit.) And, finally, I know that your protagonist is young, but I wonder if it might be a stronger choice to give him some level of awareness about this impending strike. I think it gives you a little more room to play with tension and to bring the reader in. I also think it is realistic that he would have heard whispers, etc. Very cool start!

*******

Thank you Danielle for sharing your time and expertise with us. We can all learn a lot from reading your thoughts on this months four first pages. Can’t wait to spend time with you next September in Avalon.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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