Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 10, 2019

AGENT Jessica Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer at Context Literary

Manuscript Wish List Favorites 

I’m officially open to all genres–I know how that sounds, and yes, I know, YIKES, I’ll be getting a lot of mail–but I’m particularly interested right now in the following:

Whatever the age group, I tend to love contrast–highbrow sentences and lowbrow content, beautiful settings and ugly motives–the books that are beautiful and scary, heartbreaking and hilarious. I love secrets, scheming, revenge, plotting–and stories that have to be written forward and backward to make sense (I LOVE discovering a very cleverly planted clue that makes sense in retrospect). I love watching powerful people navigate their public and private lives. As you can probably imagine, I’m totally addicted to House of Cards (I love that Frank is both warm AND evil), Scandal, Revenge, and Pretty Little Liars. And also The Avengers from 1965 onward. Everyone should watch that show.

More underrepresented characters, please–especially those with power, agency, and happy endings. Wish fulfillment, romance, specialized skills (especially tech), taking over the world. We need to see more of that.

Upmarket genre fiction (whether for YA or adult) usually works for me.

For YA: Any subgenre. I’m serious.

I’m into the books that are mostly in our world–but then that veer slightly into surrealism (like Aimee Bender) or genre fiction–that really works for me.

But if the voice is wonderful, I can love just about anything.

I have a particular interest in retellings (of classic movies–I’d LOVE a book version of, say, Arsenic and Old Lace or, better yet, Gaslight–or fairytales), and characters who are genuinely flawed but (usually) well-meaning.

Also welcome: fictionalizations of historical events. I’d love to read about, say, John Snow and The Broad Street Pump.

And new twists on familiar stories. A female James Bond, for example.

I also love characters in love–who try to deal with it all intellectually (like The Rosie Project, Kurt in The Truth About Alice–and one of my books, Love And Other Unknown Variables). I really hope someone writes a book version of the movie Her. Similarly, I loved The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. 

I love the sort of mischief that appears in Paper Towns, too. (That poor smashed fish!) Also good: I Love You Beth Cooper. I admit I have a soft spot for boy humor, if it ultimately comes from a good place.

I’d love a lot more humor in general in my inbox. To give you a sense of my humor–I think My Drunk Kitchen, Broad City–someone should write a NA version!, and Mindy Kaling are hilarious. Speaking of, I’d love something like Late Night in women’s fiction.

Just about anything with food is welcome. I think someone should go around to all of the world’s seasonal festivals (the tapping of maples in Vermont, the asparagus/Father’s Day festival in the Netherlands, the releasing of the Beaujolais, the Gilroy garlic festival, the mushroom hunts in Italy) and write about it. Mostly because I want to do that, and don’t have my own personal Eat, Pray, Love budget, so I want to read about it.

For pop culture–I’d love another How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken. Smart writing on something familiar. I’d also rather enjoy a smart retelling of, say, The Bachelor.

I’d love more books about business and psychology (perhaps with a hint of politics) like Lean InWhat Works for Women at WorkLove Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, and Babygate: How to Survive Pregnancy and Parenting in the Workplace. Or a book version of this article on The Confidence Gap: I love their tone, too.

Books at the intersection of psychology and self-help like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Dr. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly–and also books like The Power of Habit, The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, and  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Books having to do with an addiction or mental illness. I loved reading Dry by Augusten Burroughs, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeOCD Love Story, Appetites: Why Women Want and Drinking: A Love Story. I wish someone would write about someone with The Truman Show Delusion (yes, it’s real!).

I’d love more works on love and relationships–but that have a new take on perennial topics. Same with health/diet books.

I’m interested in evolutionary psychology–but more books like Sex at Dawn than books about how our biology says we’re basically doomed as a species (or doomed to hurt each other). I need each book I read to have some, well, hope.

Narrative nonfiction is particularly welcome.

Biographies on literary people are always welcome. I loved Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953. And I fully intend to track down the lipsticks mentioned in the book. (Also, on the fictional side, I loved Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath.) Also great: Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners and Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee. Would also love something like Max Perkins: Editor of Genius or Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. And also MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. 

I also love books at the intersection of food, science, and environment–like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

Also, pandemics. I want to read about pandemics.

In general, I’m really interested in books that deal with the small details of how the world works–and how we perceive it.

I also love history (especially single subject) and straight-up popular science. I spend far too much time watching Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Cosmos (made my whole book group watch it once), and James Burke’s Connections. If they’d show it in school as an educational video, I’d probably like it.

Fun facts about me:

Ravenous reader, lazy gourmet, literary agent + cheese-obsessed human. Co-creator of #PubTalkTV#MSWL and Manuscript Wish List®!

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Query letter and first 10 pages pasted in body of email to QueryJessica at ContextLit dot com, please.

Talk tomorrow,


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