Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 31, 2020

January Agent of the Month – First Page Results

I am very happy to announce that Chelsea Eberly is kicking off 2020 by being our Agent of the Month. Scroll to bottom for how to submit a first page and maybe win a critique with Chelsea.

Chelsea Eberly began her publishing career as an editor of Kindergarten and Pre-K reading textbooks at McGraw-Hill, which gave her a solid respect for everything the School/Library market does, but she always knew that children’s book publishing was her true passion. After attending the Columbia Publishing Course, she joined Random House Books for Young Readers, where she rose to become a Senior Editor. she’s had the pleasure of publishing multiple award-winning and New York Times bestselling books, editing authors such as Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Matt de la Peña, Mark Siegel, Julia Walton, and Jessica Cluess to name only a few.

Now as an agent with Greenhouse, she brings her deep understanding of how publishers think and vast editorial experience to my role as an expert advocate for my clients. She loves to help her clients think Big Picture about their career goals, and then work with them to develop the strategy that will allow them to achieve their dreams. Basically, she loves books and the people who make them. Chelsea says, “There’s nothing better than falling in love with a story and then telling everyone you know that they HAVE to read this book! If I love something, you will hear about it, and I bring that energy and enthusiasm to my clients’ work on a daily basis.”

“My taste is upmarket and decidedly commercial. Bring on multiple hooks and best-in-class storytelling!”

Chelsea represents authors of middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and women’s fiction, as well as writer-illustrators of picture books. As a former Senior Editor at Penguin Random House, she edited award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors such as Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Matt de la Peña, Mark Siegel, Julia Walton, and Jessica Cluess to name only a few. She has a deep understanding of how publishers think and is an expert advocate for her clients. Chelsea is also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree, which recognizes “the rising stars of the US publishing industry.”

A Midwesterner turned New Yorker, Chelsea regularly presents at writing conferences across the country and enjoys teaching craft. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseberly and discover more about her taste on her Publishers Marketplace page.

What Chelsea is seeking: High-concept, commercial reads that will stand out in the crowded US market with depth and heart. She is actively building her list and is primarily interested in fantasy, magical realism, contemporary fiction (particularly romance, thrillers, and humor), and graphic novels—though please surprise her with an excellent read that she didn’t know she needed. She has a soft spot for literary when there’s a strong plot propelling the reader forward. Chelsea would love to see projects from underrepresented voices. She is also interested in reads that thoughtfully address mental health and learning disabilities as part of the story but not necessarily the main focus. She is open to non-fiction with a unique point of view and/or a platform-driven project.

In MG, she is eager to represent: An unforgettable voice and an uplifting take on the problems that middle-school readers face, especially if the story is told from a specific point of view that can act as a mirror, window, or sliding glass door into diverse experiences. She loves when authors tackle Big Truths in a heartfelt way. She is also on the lookout for memorable characters in action-packed fantasy adventures and humorous voices that can grow to become series juggernauts.

In YA, she would love to find: A great love story, a unique fantasy world, and a heart-pounding mystery/thriller. She loves when authors are thoughtful about structure and voice; e.g. a ticking-clock timeline, a closed setting, a journal-entry format, Death as a unique narrator, and so forth. Ambitious projects with multiple commercial hooks and an empowering sensibility with feminist and social justice angles are a plus. She falls head over heels for any story that can surprise her.

In the Graphic Novel medium, she looks for: Middle Grade and YA contemporary, fantasy, fractured fairy tales, unique retellings, and select historical/non-fiction projects if they have clear hooks. She loves when authors are mining their own experiences in an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical way. Hit her with side-busting humor or box-of-tissues feels. She has a soft spot for cats.

In Picture Books, she is highly selective, looking for writer-illustrators who can create a strong character, a clear conflict, and write with a humorous voice and/or a surprising twist at the end. Chelsea loves creators who understand the sense of community that being read a book aloud delivers. She is open to non-fiction if the story has multiple hooks and an evergreen, contemporary delivery.

In adult women’s fiction, Chelsea is extremely picky. She loves upmarket contemporary fiction with a feminist angle, a strong romantic thread, and/or a domestic thriller/mystery. Think QUEENIE, ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, AYESHA AT LAST, BIG LITTLE LIES, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING as examples of her taste.

HERE ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGE RESULTS:

MARTY’S CHOICE by Teresa Schultz – MG

Even from his position in deep left field, Marty could tell the batter was a giant. The biggest twelve-year-old he’d ever seen. Marty crouched, weight forward, and waited. Sweat trickled down his face and a fly buzzed around his head, but he kept his eyes focused on Samantha, the Mud Hens’ pitcher. As she went into her windup, he imagined a strand of long brown hair escaping from her cap, the gentle breeze brushing the curl against her face. The sound of the bat striking the ball brought him back to reality and he took off.

Just in time, he flung his body forward, Superman-style, and made the catch. He landed with a thud and his hat popped off his head, but he managed to hold onto the ball. He breathed in the smell of freshly cut grass, rolled over onto his back, and smiled as his teammates chanted, “Mar—ty. Mar—ty.”

“Okay, everybody,” shouted Coach. “Hustle in.”

A shadow shielded Marty’s eyes from the sun. His best friend Ben offered a hand to help him up. “Trying to get yourself killed before the season even starts?”

“That’s how I play the game,” said Marty. “All or nothing.”

The boys jogged back to the dugout and listened to Coach Gary’s pep talk while they exchanged their cleats for tennis shoes.

“This is shaping up to be a great season,” said Coach. “We’re strong at the plate and on the field, and our pitching is the best in the league. I’m not kidding you guys. We could win the championship this year.”

HERE’S CHELSEA:

A nicely done scene with strong details. I especially liked that Marty dove for the ball “Superman-style” which is wonderfully visual and how a kid like Marty would realistically describe it. Nice job. Early on, it seems like this is a real game, but it’s only a practice. Avoid lying to the reader. There’s no compelling reason to create that dynamic except perhaps you also sense that the conflict isn’t quite here yet. Perhaps you’re unsure how to hook readers without this “game” setup? Understandable, but try creating conflict for Marty in a way that introduces voice and character. Readers don’t have a reason—yet!—to care if Marty catches the ball. Being the main character isn’t enough. Think on how to bring the conflict forward so that readers actually do care if Marty is successful. What’s his deeper concern beyond baseball? It feels like you’re hinting that he wants to impress Samantha, but that point needs clarity if it’s truly your intent. (PS I’m from Toledo, so seeing the Mud Hens here made me smile!)

*******

Evil Didn’t Knock by Yettee Girard   – Middle Grade

The sun’s pink streaks of light chased the night sky away. Katherine studied the emerald valley, desperate to see a sign of her father herding the flock homeward. Father had never been gone this long.

With a deep sigh, she walked to the sheep pen with an armload of hay.

“Good morning,” Katherine greeted the pregnant ewes father had left behind.

Her eyes lifted to a murder of chattering crows flying past, drowning out the sweet solo of a brown thrush. What had disturbed the crows, she wondered.

She smiled at the dashing hens pecking at any little seed or bug. Gathering their eggs in spring was a treasure hunt among the tufts of grass.

“Did you see any sign of Father?” Isabelle stood in the doorway of the thatched stone cottage, tucked against a knoll and the shade of three growing chestnut trees.

“Morning, Isabelle,” Katherine greeted her younger sister. “I’m sure he’ll be home soon,”

Katherine set the basket of eggs near the hearth.

“Morning, daughters.” Mother stood at the head of the wooden-planked table with a cauldron of steaming porridge. She filled three wooden bowls and placed them on the table.

The sisters sat across from each other on the benches.

“He’ll be home soon. Not to worry.” Mother reassured.

Isabella gnawed on her bottom lip. “What about…”

Loud sounds of neighing horses and stomping hooves as the door whipped open.

Isabelle screeched.

Mother dropped the spoon.

Filling the doorway stood Frederyk.

HERE IS CHELSEA:

I was immediately pulled in by the way Katherine is shown desperately trying to spot her father and thinking that he’s been gone an usual amount of time. Nice job setting up the conflict and the high stakes here. I wonder if those crows might be the reason she looks up at the sky in the first place and notices that her father has been gone for too long; consider moving that part up to the opening so that she connects these two ideas? Also, make sure you show your characters moving through the scene. Katherine arrives in the cottage with a basket of eggs, but she never set down her armful of hay, picked up a basket, filled it with eggs, or entered the cottage. The metaphor of a treasure hunt for eggs is wonderful, but clarify that she’s doing the treasure hunt now rather than thinking that in spring it will be like a treasure hunt. It’s nice that there’s a dramatic moment here at the end. Remember to think about what has (or has not) been placed in the scene. For example, “Mother dropped the spoon,” but she was never holding a spoon. Either change this to “a spoon” or place that detail in the story earlier so it can be part of this moment. Hopefully right after the text is cut off we get Katherine’s emotional and physical reaction here as well, which will further connect readers with Katherine as the main character.

*******

MUTANT By Kathleen Dougherty—YA

Fifteen Days

Maybe the sky was the reason we never saw it coming. It was an innocent blue that day, stretching pale and hopeful across the desert, reeling away in long spools of forever that promised a future very similar to the past. The sky is a liar.

I leaned forward, clutching the seat in front of me and watched a hawk circle, feathers flashing in the sun, sharp beak pointed down as it searched. Something was going to die today. Some small rodent or lizard would scurry across the sand and the last thing it would remember would be the clutch of talons and the dizzying feel of being lifted and carried into the air. Would it be able to ignore the agony of claws piercing its body? Would it appreciate its first flight? Or would pain absorb all of the beauty of those last precious moments?

The hawk folded its wings and dove toward the rocky ground.

Something was going to die.

Our old Volvo chugged up a short rise, its engine vibrating through the floor as we headed across the dessert toward Muddy Springs. Muddy Springs, the town where nothing ever happened and nothing ever changed. I gripped my hands together, watching my knuckles whiten. I’d had plans. None of those plans involved a miniscule town in the middle of nowhere.

It never occurred to me that towns could die, too—that no more babies would be born, no more family picnics or softball games would take place on the Muddy Springs Municipal Ball Field. As it winds up, a small town could die and the rest of the world would barely notice it was gone. Maybe they wouldn’t notice at all.

The hawk soared back into the air, a mouse hanging, limp from its claws. I loosened my hands’ grip on each other and straightened my spine. “I want to drive,” I announced.

HERE IS CHELSEA:

I was immediately pulled in to this story. There’s a nice sense of urgency here, clearly the stakes are high. Both “The sky is a liar.” and “Something was going to die today.” are good lines. I also like the way the mouse’s death is part of the foreshadowing of the town’s impending death. Take a look at the main character and see if there are opportunities for more specificity about who this person is? Right now it could be anyone, but perhaps sharing more details about those plans that are alluded to and/or showing the reader who is driving and, more importantly, how the main character feels about the driver will help readers connect with whoever is telling the story, especially since it is told in first person. Nice job overall. This is a good example of a successful opening page.

*******

Henry From Now On by Wendy C Kasten – MG Historical fiction

Chapter 1 Bad News

April 6, 1923   Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Until dinnertime, my day had been perfect. In fact, until today, my life had been perfect – almost – it would be better if I could have a dog.  But life was good. Until Pappa got home with the bad news. Here’s what happened.

We were coming home from school, as usual. Me and Hero – he’s my cousin and best friend. Running, because we always run, because we race to the center of the bridge over the canal, jumping over pigeons and horse poop on our way. We plop our rucksacks on the ground, and we stand on tiptoes, resting our elbows on the scratchy stone wall, and wait for our favorite barge to appear. Why? For Hero, he just likes anything that moves.  Me, I want to see the fluffy brown and black dog who is always there. This dog is so beautiful. I wish I could hug him.

So, we’re waiting, catching our breath. When I hear someone behind me yelling. I turn around. This boy Jorge from school –  in a grade higher than me – is walking towards me, yelling at me. I turn around.

“Hendrik, what are you going to do if the carpenter’s go on strike? What will your family do? My Pappa says your Pappa is a rabble-rouser! A troublemaker!” But the other boy with him pulls Jorge by sleeve of his brown jacket and makes him keep walking, down the side and off the bridge.

“Do you know what’s he’s talking about?” I nudge Hero, who has turned around to see what’s going on. He shakes his head and turns back towards the canal.

HERE IS CHELSEA:

I like that the main character acknowledges life has been perfect except he could use a dog, which is a cute, voice-y detail. Since this story opens saying that things were perfect until dinnertime when Pappa got home with the bad news. readers think were going to start the book at dinnertime and see Pappa come home with the bad news, but instead it begins right after school and were meeting Jorge. Think on this? The timeline logic doesnt quite flow, and the reader is getting lost. How does Henrik feel about what Jorge says about his father and the carpenters strike? Right now it seems as though were getting interesting facts but not emotions. Also, take a close look at Jorges dialogue, it feels forced, like its trying to share information with the reader more than with Henrik. The content is interesting, but think on how to make it feel more natural? The world of 1920s Amsterdam is an intriguing choice for a historical middle grade. Its certainly not a setting that we read about often, which is great to see! As with any historical middle grade fiction, the big picture challenge will be to make sure that strong hooks and universal emotional touchstones are present to interest kids, especially when gatekeepers are thinking of how to handsell the book to young readers.

*******

Chelsea, thank you for taking the time to read the first pages and sharing your expertise with us. We enjoyed getting to know you through this and the interviews. Please feel free to let us know when good things happen on your end.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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