Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 29, 2021

January Agent of the Month: Jim McCarthy – First Page Results

Jim McCarthy

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Jim McCarthy interned for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret while studying urban design at New York University. Upon graduating, Jim realized he would much rather continue working with books than make the jump (as he had originally intended) to the field of city planning. Eighteen years later, he remains at DG&B as a VP and agent.

Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Family Saga, Fantasy, General, Historical, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult.

Non-Fiction: Biography, History, Journalism, LGBTQ, Memoir, Pop Culture

As an avid fiction reader, his interests encompass both literary and commercial works in the adult, young adult, and middle grade categories. He is particularly interested in literary fiction, underrepresented voices, fantasy, mysteries, romance, anything unusual or unexpected, and any book that makes him cry or laugh out loud. In addition to fiction he is also interested in narrative nonfiction whether it be memoir, historical, science, pop culture, or just a darn good polemic.

I’m always looking for fresh voices–whether that means authors from underrepresented communities, new takes on old tropes, something that hasn’t been seen before, or all of the above. I love a great humorous novel, but I’m also not afraid of anything that’s extremely dark. I’m always on the lookout for great fiction of any stripe but do gravitate towards YA and the fantastical–still, that doesn’t mean I’m not very open to realistic adult fiction and anything in between.

At this exact moment, I would particularly love to find fantasy or sci-fi in non-Western settings, sagas of family or friendship in the vein of Mary McCarthy’s THE GROUP or J. Courtney Sullivan’s MAINE, queer stories of any kind (particularly if yours has an asexual, non-binary, or intersex lead), and a super fun mystery.

Jim wants to see more

Children’s nonfiction

I’m probably NOT+ your go-to for political or medical thrillers or police procedurals or stories involving time travel (with very rare exceptions). And while I love YA fantasy, I have a strange aversion to stories about fae/faeries.

Fun facts about me:I’m a giant theater geek, so if there are any other nerds out there that these names mean anything to, these are the current playwrights whose work is, for me, unmissable: Lynn Nottage, Annie Baker, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Amy Herzog, Stephen Karam, Suzan-Lori Parks, Samuel Hunter. If you can compare anything you do to anything they’ve done? Please send my way.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Please send your query in the body of an email along with the first 25 pages of your project (either in the body or as a Word attachment).

Guidelines & Details



A RIPPLE IN THE WOODS by K. Mullane, MG Contemporary Fantasy

I crept down Blazing Lane, which edged my neighborhood. People said the twisty, bumpy, dirt road had fit the Blaze family perfectly. The leftover farmhouse and barn at the end were no different. They sagged, like they missed their family. This is less dynamic than the next sentence. It gives us some hints at theme, but there isn’t action or tension. But if you started right away with Lavinia perking things up by returning…that’s an intriguing start. But now that Lavinia Blaze had moved back with her horse trailer in tow, things were sure to perk up.

Workers had been there for two days fixing up the place, so I was making sure the coast was clear. I’d convinced my best friend Oliver to check it out, because I couldn’t believe my luck. The whole twelve years I’d been alive, that barn had stood empty, until now. Well, stood is being generous. It leaned a little to the left actually, without ever a horse or a goat, not even a chicken in it. I’d sneaked in a couple times. Inside, an old saddle turning to rot had perched on a sawhorse, and I’d pictured myself mounted on it, galloping over fields.

Now my dream of the paddock filled with bays and chestnuts and palominos might come true, stamping their hooves, flicking their heads. Their glossy manes flowing back and forth. Lavinia Blaze had brought horses with her and that was beyond exciting, it was magic. The lines about Lavinia pop with so much energy. She’s livening this place up! She’s bringing back horses! Could you let those lines lead a bit before easing us into Rinn’s daily life?

A last quick surveillance showed all looked quiet, so I headed to pick up Oliver.

I hit send on my text. Let’s go!

Calm down. I’m coming.

Oliver wasn’t as excited as me. He kept saying, “Rinn, I’m not horse crazy like you.” But he’d agreed to come with me anyway. It was amazing to me that anyone could claim to not love horses. They seemed left over from a time when all kinds of spells and enchantments were around. My favorite stories were about Merlin and Camelot, and they rode all the time. If I had a trusty steed, like they called them in those books, I could ride away into a more exciting story of my own.


This is entirely charming, but I do think there’s a more energetic way to tear into it. Rinn is EXCITED, and I think you’re capturing that, but you’re doing it on the back half of these paragraphs that otherwise feel a touch more observational. That’s not a problem, necessarily, but I did find myself wanting you to rope Rinn’s enthusiasm and let it be the guiding force of the page, if that makes sense.


DOES THE OCEAN EVER SLEEP? by Colleen Owen Murphy

We know the ocean ebbs and flows;

it washes sand between our toes,

but does the ocean ever sleep?


The ocean carries cargo ships;

it ferries people taking trips.


The ocean gives us half our share

of oxygen to fill the air,

but does the ocean ever sleep?


The ocean is the host of hosts

inviting strangers to its coasts


each day providing guests, for free,

a dose of motion therapy,

but does the ocean ever sleep?


The ocean forms a water gym Unusual phrasing. I see what you’re going for, but I’m not sure this word choice is working.

where whales and dolphins play and swim


Where we can kayak, surf and soar –

there’s so much ocean to explore!

But does the ocean ever sleep?


An ecosystem fueled by krill

where many creatures eat their fill.


It mass produces shrimp and fish

and seaweed for your sushi dish

but does the ocean ever sleep?


A conduit for cold and hot,

it transfers heat to where it’s not.


It works with us in tandem too

to help create more revenue, This feels like a really big idea about the ocean’s interplay with the human economics, and I wonder if you’re giving it short shrift by moving past it so quickly?

but does the ocean ever sleep?


With all it has to do it seems,

the ocean has no time for dreams.

Do you know if it ever sleeps?


This is charming and inviting. It’s a bit all-encompassing. It reads as though this is a stand-alone piece but feels like it’s trying to tackle this enormous subject from more angles than necessarily fit in one poem. To be fair, I don’t know where you go from here, but reading this page out of context, my concern is whether you’re biting off more than you can chew in this limited space. Could the focus stay on the breadth of activity within the ocean while pulling perhaps a touch away from the question of whether the ocean sleeps? That’s the central conceit here, but personally, it didn’t feel like the strongest element of the writing. I enjoyed the question but don’t know if it held up to the repetition.


MY BROTHER’S SCIENCE PROJECT Margaret Pearce – Chapter book

                                        The science experiment is named

Gordon Jones is a wuss, a weirdo, a nerd, a ratbag, a dag, a dork and a retard. This will get you turned down very quickly. Be very careful about using slurs, even when they’re realistic to the characters. People will be upset, especially if it’s in the first line. You name it, and he’s it. He’s also supposed to be a brain. He’s also my twin brother.

Fortunately, we are in different classes, otherwise I would be into twinacide.

“Guess what!” my best friend Barbie said one Monday after school.

She’s in Gordon’s class and can’t wait to tell me what is going on all the time.

“I don’t want to know.”

“He’s got this new science project going, and old Nutcase These kids are coming across particularly cruel is egging him on.”

“Don’t tell me.”

“He’s going to do his science project on plant intelligence. He’s got this weird cactus.”

“Yeah. He got it at the church fete for twenty cents. It looks just like him.”

Gordon has bright pink cheeks, soft limp hair that flops over his face like Cousin It and horn-rimmed glasses.  The cactus was bright pink, with soft floppy fuzz all over it. Once he stuck the miniature horn-rimmed glasses stuck across the top it looked exactly like Gordon.

“He said he’d been reading this book about how plants can think and have feelings, and he is going to prove the cactus is sensitive, sentient and able to reason, for his project,” Barbie explained.

So that’s how it all started.

That evening, I was tucked away quietly in my bedroom doing homework.  Gordon burst in and pulled the plug on my tape deck.

“Out of my bedroom,” I screamed as I shoved the plug back in.


This is tricky because I think the writing you’re doing is likely accurate to how the characters you’ve created would use language, but at the same time, there’s this caustic feeling emanating from the first page that I worry would really hold readers at an arm’s length and get you off on the wrong foot. Is there a way to inject a sense of humor into their strong dislike of their twin so that the humor disarms the reader and doesn’t make them focus on the meanness? 


Burn With Me by Susanna Wesenfeld – YA


It’s the perfect night for arson . The air is dry, like wood ready for flame.

This house is done. Over. Clarify? You mean the house is as good as burnt, yes? Because it’s only waiting for the spark? It gleams in the dark, all the lights on because I turned them on when I stuffed it with tinder, doused it with gasoline. It’s waiting for my boyfriend’s lighter. Dead boyfriend.

I’ve been stockpiling the gasoline for weeks.

Burn it, Kendra. In first person narration, I tend to caution against breaking into italics to show thoughts. We’re already in this character’s head. We probably don’t need this extra layer of remove. 

It’s bald with light, every nick and flaw exposed. Ugly peeling paint. Blood on the open garage’s concrete.

Just get it over with. Burn the damn thing. It’s not going to tell you anything.

It hasn’t rained in almost a year. The insects are smart, long gone as if they already feel the fire. Right, fire. Pull out the phone. I don’t want to burn everyone out.

Jenna — it’s a small town — answers in her professional 911 dispatcher voice. I’ve dreamed her voice a hundred times since, well — hers was the voice on the line when I called 911 the first time.

I shake off the flickers of that day. I’m so sure of this. I give her the address and say fire.


Too freaking early for Shakespeare. Sky’s barely blue. The cold’s rubbing me the wrong way and I’m the last one to the bus. I win.

My brain and body are at odds: one wants to bounce off the cold and the other just wants to give up and die, but bounce up the bus steps I do, day bag kicking my shins. Not dying today, thank you very much.


My one concern here is that the opening section is SO short. I get that it’s only a teaser, and I like it! I do. I just wondered if it needed a liiiiiiittle more context, even if that context was still mysterious. Could you be a little more direct in explaining how they’ve been waiting to hear Jenna’s voice over 911 again while still holding back the details about what you mean by “the first time?” You’re doing a good job of withholding information to intrigue us. I think there might be a tiny bit of room to perfect the balance, though, which would involve sharing a TOUCH more detail while still not giving us answers!


Jim, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. We realize how much they can learn from you. We all appreciate your thoughts. 

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks Kathy, and Jim, so appreciate your time and feedback!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Jim for critiquing my first page, which happened to be the entire MS. LOL. I agree with your assessment of the refrain. The question, “Does the ocean ever sleep?” was what prompted the story, but I haven’t found a satisfactory balance. The breadth of activity begets the question, so I did want to convey all that the ocean does to make it seem alive.

    Thank you again! It is helpful to have your feedback!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim, thank you so much for your feedback!

    Liked by 1 person

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