Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 29, 2022

August Agent of the Month – Kelly Van Sant – First Page Results

JULY’S AGENT OF THE MONTH

KELLY VAN SANT AT KT LITERARY

Kelly Van Sant has nearly a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She cut her teeth in New York working at esteemed literary agencies such as Writers House and Harold Ober Associates, where she developed an eye for compelling, emotionally resonant stories, honed her editorial skills, and soon grew adept at contract vetting. She quickly gained expertise in subsidiary rights management, with focuses on audio rights, foreign rights, and permissions.

After relocating to Minnesota, Kelly joined Llewellyn Worldwide as their Contracts Manager across all three imprints and then moved to Quarto Publishing Group USA where she led the contract department. She has worked as a freelance editor with various publishers and is a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center.  She also blogged about writing and the publishing industry at Pub(lishing) Crawl and co-hosted the their weekly podcast. 

Kelly’s career came full circle when she realized her true passions was advocating for authors. She is now a literary agent at KT Literary and is actively building a client list.

Kelly is seeking primarily Middle GradeYoung Adult, and limited non-fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. She loves character-driven stories with intricate plots, and is always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. She is especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives and working with creators who are from traditionally marginalized communities, including but not limited to Indigenous, Black, POC, LGBTQIA+ folx and any and all intersections thereof.

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BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES KELLY CRITIQUED. 

Kelly’s comments are in bold black. The red text indicates what Kelly is commenting on.

Erica Dimka        UNDERCOVER PRINCE     YA Fantasy

The road between Tevin Hall and the castle stretched ahead, familiar and inviting, but all Orin could see was the corpse. (KVS – On my first read I thought there was little corpse in the middle of the road. It took a little while before I understood that he was flashing back to something he’d seen earlier.)

The sunlight filtering through the tall trees faded into flickering torchlight, and the forest surrounding him morphed into the cold stone walls of the catacombs.

Had it only been a handful of days since Darius’s murder?

For a moment, Orin smelled the metallic blood, and his stomach turned. Tears stung, threatening to spill over yet again. He squeezed his eyes shut and gripped the reins, inhaling the dust of the road, the worn leather of his saddle, the sun-kissed solidness of horse — definitely not the scents of blood and death and grief. (KVS – It’s hard for the reader to really feel the impact of this immediate grief, because we don’t really have context. We didn’t know Darius and don’t know the circumstances of his murder, we barely know Orin. As readers, we’re left feeling a bit distanced, on the outside looking in, which isn’t what you want on the first page.)

He opened his eyes again, back in the present. Darius was gone, but the traitor who killed him remained unpunished. It was time to stop wallowing and start avenging his mentor. (KVS – I expected this to be followed with some kind of decisive action, but instead he just banters with his sister and flirts with her lady in waiting.)

Shifting in the saddle, he reached forward to pat Enigma’s strong neck, and the horse tossed his shiny black mane. Orin spurred him forward to join Kalea at the head of the procession. Trotting with precise, almost strutting steps, Enigma drew her mare’s attention.

Orin rolled his eyes at his horse and grinned. “Such a show-off!” he said, allowing a moment of levity before the lies. (KVS – The tonal shift here is odd. We don’t know what lies he’s referring to, or why they’re imminent, but we did just witness Orin in a moment of profound grief and reliving the trauma of his mentor’s death, so it feels very jarring to go from that to this sort of playful banter.)

His sister chuckled. “Must take after his rider.”

“What can I say?” Squaring his broad shoulders, Orin adopted an overly smug tone. “We can’t help if the maidens like us.”

Kalea scoffed while Orin risked a glance back at her lady-in-waiting. He met Miriam’s crystal blue, much too perceptive eyes and jerked his head forward, ignoring the pounding of his heart.

*******

BERTI REY AND THE MARS BAZAAR By Diane Bradley – Middle grade, fantasy

Chapter 1 Lies, lies, lies

We were the only humans left in the town of Dry Vista, Arizona. (KVS – This is a very intriguing opening line!)

The sour air of the Cosmic Pet Shop’s backroom smelled of cockroaches, Martian spiders, and Venusian poisonous vipers. My little brother hunched over one of the many terrariums lined up on tables around the room. He sang-hummed a nursery rhyme as he separated the latest arrival of Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The large ones would be sold (KVS- Sold to whom? They’re the only humans in town. Also—Sold for what purpose? Why are people buying cockroaches?) and the little ones would be lizard treats.

“Mick, folks will say anything to get a lower price. Lucky for us, I’m a master at detecting lies.” I wiggled my fingers in big hocus pocus circles in front of him. “Almost like I’ve got magical powers.”

Mick stopped poking the cockroaches. “Okay, Berti.”

Definitely not impressed with my powers.

Bill, the battered possum, hung by its tail off his arm. The doll flashed his one remaining eye. Stuffing floated out of his belly to the floor. I needed to sew that thing up before it fell apart and Mick would have a meltdown. (KVS – This is a nice detail. We can tell that these two kids are on their own, just from this little description. The narrator knows that they need to sew up the stuffed toy—they aren’t relying on an adult to take care of it for them.)

“How’s Bill today?” I asked.

Mick flipped him up into his hand and rubbed the possum’s nose with his own. “Good. He’s the best listener in the whole universe.” He lifted his eyes to meet mine. “Can I try again?”

I bit my lip to keep from smiling. “Give it another go.”

Mick cleared his throat. “You don’t want those Madagascar cockroaches They’re kinda boring. The Juniper Io frogs are pretty and nobody will steal them. Touch’em, you die.” He scratched his chin and curled his toes over his sandals. “They only cost a bit more.” (KVS – I get the upsell here—frogs are more expensive than the cockroaches. But it still doesn’t seem like a good idea to trash your own product in your sales pitch? And, again, would love some context as to why they’re selling cockroaches and frogs, and who they are selling them to.)

*******

Alexis Anderson, Hallowere Hall, YA Fantasy Adventure Found Family (KVS – I do love the tone and voice we’re getting here; it’s reminiscent of classic fairytales, which really seems to align with the story.

This first page does have the feel of a prologue, in that this feels a lot like backstory or setting the stage before the novel begins in earnest.

We don’t get many details at all about Diane, Ruth, and Callie, and so I have no sense of their character. If these are our protagonists, then I do feel that we need to get a sense of who they are on this first page. And if they aren’t our protagonists, I am left to wonder why we are starting with them?)

Once in time (KVS- Once IN time is an unusual twist on “once upon a time.” This immediately puts me on the lookout for other twisty, unexpected things.)

there were three sisters, each of whom came from the same secluded home (KVS – The normal assumption would be that they do live together in the same house, so it seems slightly odd to phrase it this way?) in the mountains of a nameless province. Diane, Ruth, and Callie.

Their parents, rather some nameless folk (KVS – So we have a nameless province and nameless parents? Why are so many things nameless?) of a wealthy background, had long been abroad and away from their daughters.

Within their enormous estate, each of the ladies was raised with a soft education in reading and mathematics. Outside of those studies, they were left to pursue their own fantasies within the tall walls of their home.

Indeed. They have (KVS – The tense is off here; I believe this should be “had” to match with the rest of the past tense text.) only known the world within their small sphere.

They were raised by two different crews of staff, and each crew cycled in and out of use every six months. These individuals were never allowed to disclose their real names, (KVS – At this point the lack of names has become distracting, and I am beginning to fixate on why. WHY is no one and no place named except for the sisters? Why are the servant forbidden from disclosing their names?)

At this point the lack of names has become distracting, and I am beginning to fixate on why. WHY is no one and no place named except for the sisters? Why are the servant forbidden from disclosing their names?

so the girls only knew to cling to one another for guidance.

Still, the girls named the staff. There was Rosie, Joe, Tayler, Sonnet, and Elain. The names held little weight, but they kept the girls steady as they grew and showed off their newfound skills and adventures through the halls and garden walls. (KVS – Do those five names cover both crews of servants? Or just one? Why name them at all? How does naming the servants “keep the girls steady?” Do the servants answer to these false names?)

Some adventures even took them onto the rooftops, where the girls raised their hands for the stars and asked for their parents to grant them a journey beyond their little estate.

Well, such desires were only made during childhood.

Beyond their adolescence, when Diane was 22, Ruth 20, and Callie 19, (KVS – These girls are older than the typical YA heroine, which may become an issue depending on how the story unfolds.) their unanswered wishes led them to polish the skills they had chosen to pursue: music, archery, drawing.

Such skills would seem inconsequential, until there came a day when there was a knock upon their front door. The women ardently watched the staff allow a strange man into their home—a man who demanded the three leave immediately.

*******

TILDA AND THE MISSING SPARK by Melissa Bergum (KVSThis reads like a Middle Grade, so I’m hoping that’s the correct genre!)

Warm summer winds tugged at Tilda’s black unruly curls and bowed the heads of wildflowers surrounding her. Those flowers weren’t picking themselves, and she had to finish before the sun went down. Not much time left.

She hummed while she snipped stem after stem. Twenty-one tingle blossoms— those were the last ingredients she needed for the spell. (KVSI wish we knew more about why she was casting this spell in the first place. I almost feel like we’ve opened in the wrong place, like we’ve missed some context.)

Tonight she was going to cast the most amazing spell that ever was and prove to those ruddy kids at the academy (KVS – Does she also attend the academy?) she was just as good as them, better even. It didn’t matter that she was younger. (KVS – How much younger? How old is she?) Tonight she was casting a spell she’d made all on her own. (KVS – What does the spell do?)

With the last flower picked, Tilda scurried up the hillside, the long grasses swishing round her as she went.

Tilda burst through the door and grinned at Bluey, the little blue flame Spark that lived with her. He lit the one-room house, welcoming her back from her scavenge, popping away happily in the hearth.

“Hey Bluey, I found ‘em. Gonna do it tonight. It’s a perfectly clear, too!” (KVS – A perfectly clear what?)

Her trusty and rather spunk-filled broom, danced away in the corner beside the door. She’d to keep it inside—it had a bit of a wandering problem if left alone outside. Once it’d gone off and played in forest, silly thing it was. Took a good long while to find it again, too.

She plopped the flowers on the table that served as her dining table, her desk, and most importantly her brewing area. No need for her floppy over-sized hat anymore what with night coming—she tossed her hat on the bed.

Bluey hiss-popped at her happily and the tips of his flames glowed purple.

“Don’t worry, I’ll bring you out in the lantern so you can see it too.” (KVS – This is a sweet detail) She grabbed a twig from a pocket in her robes—an extra dry one, Bluey’s favorite—and tossed it his way.

*******

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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