Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 21, 2020

Virtual Writer’s Retreat


September’s Full Manuscript Virtual Writers Retreat was such a success, I am running another one this winter.

When I was Regional Advsior of the New Jersey SCBWI, I had a number of editors and agents tell me after reading the first 15 pages they would ask for the writer to send them their full manuscript. When they received it, the story and writing would fall apart after those first few pages.  I said, “Of course, they keep getting the first 15 pages critiqued and critiqued and they keep polishing the beginning chapter until it is perfect.” That’s when I realized the importance of having an industry professional read and critique you full manuscript. When I stepped down as RA, I started putting together the Avalon Full Novel Manuscript Critique Writer’s Retreat. Writer’s loved it and it made a big difference in their writing careers. The value of that feedback is priceless. Add in getting a full hour to go over your book, pick their brains and get all your questions answered is like finding gold.

I could see how hard it is to choose which agent or editor you want to work with and writer’s always second guessed their choice, so to help I added giving each writer a 25 page, 30 minute critique with a second industry professional. That way they would at least get a chance to know another agent and get a foot in the door.

As RA I also heard from writers wanting to work with other writers to work with other writers to improve their stories and manuscripts. So, I added group critiques where everyone who signs up is assigned a critique group where other writers read each other’s manuscript and provide feedback. Over the years while participating in these groups, I have discovered some of the best new ideas have come from other writers. Amazing how a small nugget of an idea can grow into a perfect scene, new thread, or character flaw, etc.

Since reading a full manuscript takes a lot of time, I limit the number in a critique group to four, so the most a group member needs to read is three. Each writer in the group will be scheduled for a full hour with their group to listen to what the other members thought worked and what they thought could be improved, etc.

There will be MG and YA groups. Every year we get a few people who are picture book writers. While looking over the agents listed below you will notice there are agents that are interested in picture book writers, illustrators, and writer/illustrators. Illustrators are welcome to join us and show their book dummies.

The groups will meet via Zoom or email to figure out how and when they want to work together. We have the holidays to work around, so the sooner we can start the better, Manuscript will need to be sent to me by January 22nd. Groups can decide to meet afterwards to discuss the agent’s feedback with their group.

A first page session will be scheduled on March 7th.

Below is the cost and what you would get for that price:


For Novel Writers: One full, one hour manuscript novel critique up to 72,000 words – Plus, one 25 page – 30 minute critique with a second agent – Also, an hour to discuss your manuscript with the other writers in your assigned group – $700.

For PB Writers &/or Illustrators: One hour, four picture books critiques not over 25 pages total – Plus, one 30 minute picture book critique with a second agent – Also, an hour group critique session to discuss your manuscript with the other writers in your assigned group – $600


KATHERINE WESSBECHER – Bradford Literary Agency

Looking for children’s books (picture books through YA), upmarket adult fiction, and narrative nonfiction for all ages.

PB: Her favorite picture books are the kind that make both kids and grown-ups laugh. Inventive premises, twist endings, and quirky characters are all good ways to pique her interest.

MG and YA: Contemporary stories with fresh voices that don’t shy away from weightier themes – Historical fiction—particularly from settings and perspectives we don’t often read.

Fantasy – Science Fiction and fantasy, grounded and high, as long as worldbuilding doesn’t get in the way of the characters – Humorous voices – Epistolary novels and other unexpected storytelling techniques.

Adult Fiction: Upmarket adult fiction that straddles the literary and commercial. Unexpected takes on familiar stories with flawed yet endearing characters.

NF: Actively seeking adult and juvenile narrative nonfiction—particularly projects that highlight stories the history textbooks left out. She’d love to work with nonfiction graphic novel projects like John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy.

CHARLOTTE WENGER – Prospect Literary Agency 

Interested in authors and illustrators of children’s books—board books through YA. 

Picture books: Biographies – Sports narratives – Global stories – Performing arts – Social awareness and justice – Informational fiction – Writers and Writer/illustrators.

Middle-Grade: Sibling and family stories, especially those with nontraditional or underrepresented family structures – Magical realism – Contemporary – Fantasy – Historical fiction

Young Adult: Contemporary with strong female characters, complex relationships – Fantasy – Mystery – Novels in verse.

ABIGAIL FRANK – Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

Loves picture books, middle grade, and YA equally.

Picture books:, she gravitates towards the quirky and unexpected.

Middle-Grade, she is most excited about hilarious chapter books and older stories that tackle profound questions, new independence and identities, and/or notions of manhood and masculinity.

Young Adult: Contemporary – A swoon-worthy romance – A story with a fresh premise – contemplative – poetic – slightly magical or set in the not-so-distant future – Diverse and inclusive books – Stories that grabbles with ideas of masculinity.

Adult Fiction: Contemporary commercial fiction written for and about people in their 20’s – campus life – cultural criticism .

JENNIFER MATTSON – Andrea Brown Literary Agency 

Picture books through Young Adult, and author-illustrators.

PB:  Authors, Illustrators, or Author/illustrators

MG: Contemporary, realistic – mind-bending fantasies – fantasy adventures – survival stories – sprawling, atmospheric tales with Dickensian twists – Stories with resilient kids sorting out the messiness of life.

YA: Contemporary, realistic – mind-bending fantasies that depart from typical quests (portals entered by protagonists who fulfill prophecies not for her) – Stories with twists – Adventures – Survival stories

Fiction that Jennifer represents includes: Katy Loutzenhiser’s contemporary-realistic YA debut, IF YOU’RE OUT THERE (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins) and Kate Hannigan’s historical middle grade novel, THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT (Little, Brown/Hachette), which won the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction, received two starred reviews, was a Booklist Editor’s Choice, and appeared on the 2016 Amelia Bloomer List. Picture books she represents include noted poet Linda Ashman’s lyrical ode to the rhythms of the natural world, ALL WE KNOW (HarperCollins), and her nearly wordless celebration of optimism, RAIN! (Houghton/HMH); and Kim Norman’s three Arctic Companion books that cleverly spin off favorite preschool songs, TEN ON THE SLED, IF IT’S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW IT, and SHE’LL BE COMIN’ UP THE MOUNTAIN (all Sterling). Artists she represents include Geisel Honor winning author-illustrator Paul Meisel, who has illustrated or written a total of more than 70 books for young readers; J.R. Krause, author-illustrator of DRAGON NIGHT (Putnam), an Indie Next selection; Rob Polivka, illustrator of GOD BLESS AMERICA (Hyperion) and co-author and illustrator of A DREAM OF FLIGHT: ALBERTO SANTOS-DUMONT’S RACE AROUND THE EIFFEL TOWER (FSG/Macmillan); and former Google doodler Katy Wu, illustrator of several picture book biographies, including Laurie Wallmark’s GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE and HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE (both Sterling).


FICTION: Commercial – Literary – Romance (all genres including SFF) – Women’s Fiction – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller – Middle Grade – Young Adult – Graphic Novels

MG: Contemporary stories that deal with tough and realistic issues kids are facing today – Stories that feature humor and adventure – Paranormal -fantasy (except high fantasy) – Mystery – Horror – Graphic novels – Light and funny stories.

YA: Commercial – Literary – Feel-good contemporary and contemporary romance – Paranormals with strong world building and an interesting twist in vamps, wolves, or witches – Romantic comedy – Mystery series featuring a YA detective – Sci-fi, fantasy (except high fantasy) – Suspense – Horror – Graphic novels – Lighter stories with funny and heart-warming elements.

Adult: Romance with a fresh twist on trope-driven plots includes best friend’s little sister/brother, enemies to lovers, friends to lover, etc. I like sweet to spicy – A strong sports romance (would love a heroine athlete!) or a sexy cowboy – Dark paranormal romances with gritty vamps, wolves, or witches. Think outside the box for world building – Romantic comedy with snarky protagonists and hilarious plot lines – Romantic suspense with equal parts steamy as action – Mysteries –  thrillers – suspense – Sci-fi and fantasy with romance threads.

JOHN RUDOLPH – Dystel, Goderich & Bourret 

MG and YA fiction: High Concept Stories – Realistic Contemporary – Sci-Fi – Literary – Historical – Humor – LGBTQ – Mystery – Thriller, Suspense – Authentic kids’ voices and rousing – A good “what-if” scenario.

PB: Illustrators who can also write.

Adult Narrative Nonfiction: – music, sports, history, popular science, health, business, military history, and memoir. Commercial and literary fiction, particularly anything plot-driven and fast-paced.

WENDI GU – Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

PB: Puns, Quirky humor, Girl power, and Cute animals

MG: Family Saga, Historical, Humor, LGBTQ, Literary, Mystery

YA: Literary – Commercial – Contemporary – Literary – Lyrical – Heartwarming – Historical – Humorous – Witty – Deadpan – LGBTQ – Mystery – Thriller – Girl power – Family relationships – Immigrant experience – Underdog.

Women’s Fiction: Contemporary – Literary – Historical – Humor – LGBTQ – Mystery – Thriller,

Non-Fiction: Biography, Humor, Memoir, Pop Culture

Leslie Zampetti – Dunham Literary

PB, Chapter Books, MG, YA, and Adult (Mysteries, Romance, and Women’s Fiction)

PB: Unusual true tales – biographies of unsung heroes and heroines – Stories that show everyday diversity to mirror under-represented readers and open windows to others.

MG: Mystery – Contemporary – Historical fiction set in the recent past – novels in verse – Off-the-beaten path romances

YA: Contemporary – Historical – Romance – Novels in verse – Adventure – Suspense –

Adult: Literary mysteries – Upmarket romance – Women’s fiction – Historical fiction from lesser-known eras and places.

Nonfiction: Narrative nonfiction that straddles the boundaries between: Crime – Memoir – Adventure – and literature.


CLAIRE FRIEDMAN – AGENT Inkwell Management.

Picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, and narrative non-fiction.

PB: Puns – Quirky humor – Girl power – Cute animals – Biographies – Sports narratives – Global stories – Performing arts – Social awareness and justice – Informational fiction – twist endings – quirky characters

MG: Literary – Contemporary – Adventure – Fantasy – Sci-fi – Historical Fiction – Mystery – Flawed Family situations – Coming of age – Humorous – Witty, Unexpected books in the vein of Pseudonymous Bosch or Lemony Snickett.

YA: Literary – Contemporary – Smart – Edgy – A little Dark – A little edgy – A little Weird – With a bite.  – Fantasy – Sci-fi – Mystery – Thriller – Suspense – Historical – Contemporary with strong voice, the genre doesn’t matter.


These spots a limited. Some agents are only doing one critique, so if you see someone you want, please email me as soon as you can to snag the spot. Kathy.temean (at)

Please tell me what you write and what you plan to submit – a little blurb and I will get back to you. Please note: You can submit something different for the 25 pages.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:


  2. This looks great! Thanks, Kathy! Is the entire conference on March 7 or just the first-page critique session? (I probably missed that info and it’s right in front of my nose!)


    • Paulette,

      The Zoom one-on-one critiques with the agents will be on March 6th and 7th. The first page session will be the last thing on the schedule.

      The groups will start meeting prior to January 22nd. Once they are formed, the groups will decide how they want their group to work and when to meet to work on reading each other’s manuscript and working to together to polish up the manuscript before submitting.

      The only other thing, which I didn’t mention is if for some reason someone can’t make the Saturday and Sunday for the agent critique, I will work with the agent to find a time where the two of you can meet.

      Does that answer your question?



  3. Perfectly clear! Thank you, Kathy!!


  4. Kathy, anything you organize turns to gold and this is yet another WONderful retreat. I’ll be sharing! 😀


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