Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 1, 2019

October First Page Results with Charlotte Wenger

AGENT CHARLOTTE WENGER AT PROSPECT AGENCY IS

OCTOBER’S AGENT OF THE MONTH!

Born and raised in Pennsylvania and Virginia, Charlotte grew up with a bookish, editorial mind but was first drawn to publishing work in college. She then worked for a publishing services company in Philadelphia until shipping up to Boston to earn her MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons. Prior to joining Prospect Agency, she was an associate editor for just over two years with Page Street Kids, where she acquired and edited more than twenty picture books and grew relationships with authors, illustrators, agents, and other editors.

As an agent, she loves working with debut talent and building relationships with the authors and illustrators she represents and the industry professionals she works with. She has mentored Simmons MFA students and also serves on the national advisory board of the Mazza Museum, the world’s largest collection of original children’s book art, in Findlay, Ohio.

She is interested in working with authors and illustrators of children’s books—board books through YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs. She brings the same mindset to agenting that she did as an editor, valuing the developmental and relational work that goes into creating successful stories and fostering long-lasting collaborations.

Charlotte’s open to representing writers and illustrators of children’s books—board books through graphic novels and YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs.

Picture books:

Biographies
Sports narratives
Global stories
Performing arts
Social awareness and justice
Informational fiction

She is looking for authors and author-illustrators with strong writing skills and distinct art styles. In narrative picture books (fiction and nonfiction), she looks for well-developed characters with distinct voices; a strong plot with an earned resolution; and a clever, unexpected, yet satisfying ending. She is always open to stories that break formula and just work – that have that special something that you can’t quite put your finger on – either in the art or the words. She likes both prose and poetry, but she is typically not a fan of rhyme unless it feels authentic to the tone of the story.

Middle-Grade:

Sibling and family stories, especially those with nontraditional or underrepresented family structures
Magical realism and contemporary fantasy
Historical fiction

Young Adult:

Contemporary with strong female characters, complex relationships
Fantasy
Mystery
Novels in verse

She is always on the lookout for what hasn’t been done yet – stories that haven’t been told and voices that haven’t been heard.

She’s NOT the best fit for:

Horror
Military/war nonfiction
Saccharine

BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGE THAT CHARLOTTE CRITIQUED AND HER THOUGHTS:

LITTLE BEAU SHEEP CAN’T FALL ASLEEP by Patricia Nozell – PB

Little Beau counted Mama’s heartbeats through her warm fleece. “I wish we could stay together every night,” he yawned.

But the next night, Mama stretched, flexed and put on her numbered jersey. “Straight to bed, Beau,” she said. “I’ll be back after work.”

Little Beau tossed and turned. He tried to fall asleep, but he couldn’t get comfortable. He rustled the hay, scratched at the floor, and rattled the railings of his stall.

“Who-who’s making that noise?” hooted Ella.

Poor Little Beau Sheep! He can’t fall asleep without Mama by his side.

“I want Maaa, Maaa,” he cried.

“Shhh,” yawned the other animals. “You’re keeping us awake, Beau.”

“Who-who can help Beau fall asleep?” hooted Ella.

“Try a warm mud bath,” snorted Penelope Pig.

“Baaaad idea,” retorted Little Beau.

“A bedtime story helps me fall asleep,” barked Bella. “Once there was a tiny mouse and a lion that…”

“Snored,” sighed Little Beau.

Bessy offered warm milk. “It’s udderly divine.”

“For a bovine,” bleated Little Beau. “Besides, I’m NOT thirsty.”

Poor Little Beau Sheep! He can’t fall asleep without Mama by his side.

“I want Maaa, Maaa” he cried.

“Who-who has any other ideas?” hooted Ella.

“I’ll sing a lullaby,” brayed Billy. “Rock-a-bye Beau, Beau…”

“That’s not how Mama sings it,” replied Little Beau.

HERE IS CHARLOTTE:

LITTLE BEAU SHEEP CAN’T FALL ASLEEP

The first thing that stood out to me about this story was that it incorporates a working mom in a service job in a relatable way for kids, which is great. I also like the hint at what Mama’s work is without explicitly giving it away that she’s a counting sheep. I do wonder how old Beau is, as I think his voice could sound younger linguistically. And I’d encourage you to try reworking the repeated line of “Poor Little Beau Sheep!…,” as it came across somewhat patronizing. A farm is a timeless, well-loved setting for picture books, though, and I’m curious how Beau’s sleeping problem might be solved with Mama’s work, which makes me want to keep reading.

*******

THE POOKALAM FOREST by June Sullivan – MG (9+)

IT HURT TINA to be a disappointment. To see disapproval in her mother’s eyes. And it wasn’t just her mother, Queen Alberta, who disapproved of her “foolish doings.” Many in her monkey troop regularly broke eye contact and whispered criticisms loud enough so she could hear.

It was a bad time for a royal like Princess Tina to have become the black sheep of her 90-strong Rhesus macaque troop. So far, there hadn’t been any talk of removing her from the line of succession. But their 600-acre wildwood kingdom had recently begun sagging under a monstrous heatwave. And with reports of water shortages stirring up anxiety, her mother worried a tipping point was near.

Despite her mother’s worries, as Tina approached 12 in human years, her fascination with other forest creatures — considered well beneath her notice — was so deep, so essential to her being, it was not a matter of “if” she’d offend troop members each day, it was “how.”

Make no mistake. Tina wanted to be liked. She decided she’d get less attention if she headed out on her escapades before daybreak. On this morning, she sneaked away with the minimum entourage her mother would permit her to travel with, two scouts and two guards.

She was about 10 tree jumps (if she were willing to travel that way) west of her troop’s camp center. After her scouts had checked the sector’s permitter and called the “all clear,” she perched on the lowest branch of a massive cinnamon tree.

As she waited for some enthralling creature to come by, Tina mindlessly picked off a piece of bark. After sniffing and licking it, she spit it out with purpose. I never learn, she laughed. I don’t like spicy heat. It makes my tongue numb.

Tina turned to her retinue, hoping for a smile, to find three of them scowling at her. They hate that I care about lost animals. They think I dishonor our past and my great ancestor, King Albert, by caring about other speciesOoh wait…what’s that?

HERE IS CHARLOTTE:

THE POOKALAM FOREST

You packed a lot into one page – setting up Tina as a character and the setting of her world nicely. The voice, however, didn’t really read as middle-grade to me, and phrases like “12 in human years,” “minimum entourage,” and “some enthralling creature” took me out of the moment because they felt linguistically inauthentic to the story. Although Tina didn’t like being a disappointment, it seems she keeps doing what her troop disapproves of despite that. To me, that take some pluck that I’d love to get a better sense of from her character development.

*******

Dreaming of Numbers: The Childhood of Sonya Kovalevskaya By Cecile Mazzucco-Than

Deep in the Russian winter, Father Frost pulled a thick blanket of snow up to the window sills of rich and poor alike. Nanyushkas tucked the children they cared for into feather beds. Sprites danced in the woods of their dreams like the flames in the fireplaces that warmed their rooms. In the nursery at Palibino, her father’s country estate, Sonya slept and dreamed of numbers.

In her dreams, she flew like a fairy into the number sentences on the wallpaper of her room. Sonya chased one, two, three, and four balanced between brackets as if they were riding into the sky on the wings of doves. She sat on the lap of a “b” and glided down a curve like a tall child’s slide landing beside an “a” waiting at the bottom.

In daylight, Sonya traced the chain of numbers with her fingers. It reminded her of a line of peasant children whipping around the frozen pond in a game of snake. She was never sure where each sentence began and ended. Some even looked upside down.

Sonya drew this playground of numbers for the British governess who taught her and her older sister, Anyuta, how to speak English and French, play the piano, and behave.

“A waste of time for a girl,” Miss Smith scolded. “Dreaming of numbers.”

“I want to know how to read my dreams.” Sonya replied.

“Numbers are ideas for your brother, Fedya, when he prepares for university,” Miss Smith sniffed. “A lady should know just enough about numbers to count her silver teaspoons and the partners on her dance cards.”

Anyuta groaned. “’No,’ makes Sonechka twice as determined.”

HERE IS CHARLOTTE:

DREAMING OF NUMBERS

The fantastical opening drew me in! However, as I continued reading, I found it a bit disconnected from the nonfiction biography narrative. I wonder if introducing Sonya before delving into her dreams might help this? It also seemed potentially confusing that she dreamed of number sentences but the specific ones mentioned – “a” and “b” – are letters, not numbers, when read on their own outside of equations. Also, Sonya’s dreamy passion for numbers is great, but her apparent privilege, with a country estate and reference to “peasant children,” could be distancing for some readers, so I’d encourage you to focus on what makes Sonya more universally relatable: her love of math and her determination. Those topics help it work well with the market’s interest in stories about women in STEM.

*******

HILDI by Rachel Haynes – Picture Book

Hildegard Hazelburg wrenched on her black dress. She yanked on her black socks. She squashed on her black hat and snatched on her black cloak. She jammed on her black shoes.

Then she frowned in the mirror.

“Why do witches have to wear black?” she asked her sister Sophronia.

“It’s just what we do,” said Sophronia. “Could you hand me some mugwort?”

“Black clothes are so boring.”

“Don’t be dramatic, Hildi,” said Sophronia. “You have lots of choices. Cloaks also come in Dark Charcoal, Midnight, and Deep Onyx.”

But Hildi still wasn’t satisfied.

“Come on, Zink,” she said to her bat. “Let’s go to Violet’s house.” [Violet is not a witch.]

Violet and Hildi liked to play dress up. They tried on costume after costume.

Finally Hildi asked, “What if I dressed up as you?”

“Let’s dress up as each other!” agreed Violet. “I want to try on your hat!”

Violet swished and swooped. “Your cloak is so fun!”

Hildi flapped her arms, but Violet’s t-shirt didn’t swish or swoop.

Violet filled the pockets on Hildi’s dress with shiny rocks, a piece of chalk, a ladybug, two pinecones, a piece of string, and a nickel. She still had room for a box of crayons and some jelly beans. Hildi tried to collect dandelions, but Violet’s pockets were too small. They couldn’t fit myrtle or bat snacks or even snail slime. How could she get through the day without snail slime?

And poor Zink had nowhere to sleep. [Zink usually sleeps on Hildi’s hat. He is trying unsuccessfully to find a place to sleep on her while she is wearing Violet’s clothes.]

Hildi missed her boring witch clothes.

HERE IS CHARLOTTE:

HILDI

It was fun to read this on Halloween, as it has great seasonal appeal! This first page does a nice job of developing Hildi as a character. It also successfully creates intrigue that makes me want to keep reading: If Violet’s not a witch, what is she? (Possible fun art potential?) How will Hildi solve her clothing discontent? I sense some sort of twist coming, but can’t figure out what it might be – which is great! This is a strong example of a successful first page.

Happy Halloween!

*******

Charlotte, Thank you for taking the time reading the first pages and sharing your expertise. We enjoyed getting to know you through this and the interviews. Please feel free to let us know when good thing happen on your end.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Nice work! I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks to all!

    Like

  2. I’m so excited to see my page (Hildi) in your critique! I’ll be sending a query to you soon, Charlotte. Thanks for sharing your time & insight!

    Like

  3. Thank you Charlotte & Kathy! This feedback is so helpful!

    Like

  4. Really interesting to read both the pages and the feedback. Great post.

    Like

  5. Love reading the first pages and the feedback…so helpful!

    Like


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