Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 27, 2023

January Agent of the Month: Leslie Zampetti – First Page Results


A former librarian with over 20 years’ experience in special, public, and school libraries, Leslie’s focus was on the reader, giving them the right book at the right time – which works for matching client work to editors too. Having negotiated with organizations from Lexis-Nexis to the elementary school PTA, she is able to come to terms that favor her clients while building satisfying relationships with publishers. And after cataloging rocket launch videos for NASA and model rocket ships for an elementary school, Leslie welcomes working with the unexpected challenges that pop up in publishing.

Leslie joined Odom Media Management in 2022. Previously, she was an intern for The Bent Agency and an agent with Dunham Literary.

A writer herself, Leslie is very familiar with querying from both sides of the desk.

LESLIE is looking for:

  • Fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Leslie seeks middle grade and young adult novels, especially mysteries and contemporary fiction. Historical fiction with a specific hook to the time and place, novels in verse, and off-the-beaten-path romances are on her wish list.

  • Picture book authors and author-illustrators. Leslie prefers nonfiction that tells a story almost too good to be true, witty wordplay, and dry, sly humor, both fiction and nonfiction

  • Verse novels and novels-in-stories for both children and adults

  • Fiction for adults in the following genres: Leslie is interested in literary mysteries, upmarket romance with interfaith or marginalized couples, and historical fiction set in regions other than Europe and North America. Literary mystery | Upmarket romance and women’s fiction | Historical fiction

  • Nonfiction for adults in the following categories: Science | Memoir | Narrative | True crime. For nonfiction, Leslie finds narrative nonfiction that straddles the boundaries between crime, memoir, and literature especially appealing.

  • Leslie does not represent science fiction, fantasy, horror, political thrillers, collections of poetry or short stories, or Christian fiction & nonfiction. Though she reads widely, she’s not a fit for political thrillers, high fantasy, inspirational or Christian fiction, memoirs about violence against women, or hard sci-fi.

For both children’s and adult books, Leslie seeks work by under-represented creators, particularly disabled writers. She is most interested in stories that show everyday representation and the full experiences of life, especially joy.

How to Submit to Leslie

Leslie will be opening to queries at the end of February. OMM is still making changes to our website, etc., but folks should look for her submission guidelines to be updated soon. (I’ll be taking queries at

Please visit

Leslie requests a query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript within this form. Leslie reviews all queries within four to six weeks, and she will respond if interested in seeing more.



Carol Baldwin – Half-Truths – Middle-Grade/Historical 

I shove my broom under the display case so hard the glass shelves rattle. [1]  Daddy gives me a stern look, but I send him what he calls a Katie-wraps-me-around-my-finger smile. He knows I’d rather be shag dancing at Reid’s Soda Shop than sweeping floors or refilling nail bins. [2] 

But by working each week, I’ll add a few dimes to Mama’s Mason jar hidden in the back of my closet. It’s going to take a lot of Saturdays helping Daddy close up Smith’s Hardware to fill that jar. Plopping it down in front of Mama and Daddy and telling them I’m ready to start a bank account is worth the wait. Maybe then they’ll believe I’m serious about heading to college in a few years.[3]

The shop bell jangles and I glance at the clock. Ten minutes to nine. Last-minute customers will push back closing time.

Earnestine Jackson, her mother, and her younger sister Ruth stand at the door. I swallow my irritation. Other stores in town won’t serve them, but somehow Daddy persuaded Mr. Smith that it was the right thing to do. I’m glad, but this late? Really?

Earnestine’s eyes dart around the store like she’s afraid something bad might happen. I know because I’ve seen that look on her before. We were little—maybe seven or so—making mud pies outside her house when two trucks drove up and four angry-looking men got out. Earnestine ran inside. I never found out what those men were doing at the Jackson place.[4]  When I told Daddy about it, his jaw clenched tight and he said people should mind their own business. I guess Earnestine is afraid they’ll get in trouble for shopping here.

“Hello, Odessa.” Daddy stands up from arranging some buckets by the garden tools. “What can I help you find?”


1. Great first line! We’re engaged right away.

2. Good sense of character. Nice hints as to time and place, but middle grade readers might not grasp those as easily as adults. Maybe add a header with year and location?

3. The promise of conflict! We have a good sense of what Katie wants.

4. Again, the reader is immediately engaged. Why is Earnestine afraid? What happened back then?

Overall comments:

This is a strong and engaging opening. I’d like some more context as to time and place for young readers – either through a chapter heading or a few specific details worked in. Chapter headings may seem like a crutch, but they’re an efficient and effective way to let your audience know the setting, especially for historical fiction.

The active verbs and distinct voice are positives, and the prose is robust, using sentence structure to create rhythm. The mix of dialogue, detail, and action is good, with each component adding to the story.

My impression is that racism will be part of the conflict, and Katie will have some hard choices. If this is true, perhaps adding a detail or two of Katie and Earnestine’s appearances will help ground the reader. Or that may come in the next pages…

Overall, a great first page. As an agent, I’d be looking to see that the execution of the rest of the story measures up to the promise.


Cecile Mazzucco-Than – Six Brothers, Two Lions, and One Gigantic President: The Piccirillis Carve America –  PB nonfiction

In 1888 six brothers came to America from Italy. [1] 

In 1888, six brothers named Piccirilli came to America from Italy. They worked all day carving gravestones.”

Their last name was Piccirilli, and they worked all day carving gravestones. Names and dates, nomi e date,  little angels and fruit, putti i frutti, [2] every day over and over.

You could use the Italian only, with the translation as an illustration note. This is an opportunity for the illustrations to do some heavy lifting. 😉

The Italian gives rhythm to the prose. Will you have a pronunciation guide in the back matter?

every day over and over.

Ferruccio picked up his chisel and groaned.

Attilio measured a pomegranite with his calipers and cried. [3]

Furio shaped a bunch of grapes with his rasp and moaned.

Masaniello swirled the tiny tendrils on the grapevine with his riffler and sighed.

Orazio swept away crumbs of marble with his brush, and his tears wet the grape leaves.

Getullio polished the fruits with his sandpaper and smiled.

“Cheer up!” He said. “At least we’re working all together. Ogni Piccirilli per tutti!”

The Piccirilli brothers always worked together. Carving gravestones was their first job in America, and it was important. People needed to be remembered. [4]  But why did gravestones have to be so boring? In Italy, in their father’s studio, they carved something different every day. Marble faces that looked like they cried wet tears, or marble figures that looked like they could dance away in the moonlight.  On his lunch break, Attilio carved a scrap of marble to look like their little sister, Iole. Every curl in place and a smile on her lips.  [5]

Then, he had an idea.

Everywhere in America sculptors were busy shaping clay and plaster into lifelike faces and figures to remember brave people, tragic events, epic battles, and noble ideals in the history of the country. But the sculptors needed stone carvers to cut their creations into granite or marble that wouldn’t be harmed by the rain and snow, sun and wind.  Most of the stone carvers lived in Italy, and sculptors had to wait months, even years, for their creations to travel across the ocean and back, but the Piccirilli brothers lived in New York City.

“Let’s start our own business,” Attilio said to his  .


1. The first sentence could be stronger. Maybe combine this and the second sentence? “In 1888, six brothers named Piccirilli came to America from Italy. They worked all day carving gravestones.”

2. You could use the Italian only, with the translation as an illustration note. This is an opportunity for the illustrations to do some heavy lifting. 😉

The Italian gives rhythm to the prose. Will you have a pronunciation guide in the back matter?

3. pomegranate

4. Hmm, I wonder if this would make the opening lines stronger?

5. This block of text feels more appropriate to a magazine story than a picture book. Perhaps it was edited to fit the single page requirements of this critique?

Overall comments:

The brothers are appealing characters here, and there’s lots of opportunity for illustration, which is vital to a picture book.

The author may have already done this, but storyboarding or creating a very rough dummy to get a sense of pagination and the spreads (28 pages of text, 14 two page spreads.) is useful. No artistic talent required – stick figures or even just words will do – but this helps envision the opportunities for illustration and the page turns.

Picture book biographies are always needed, and the best ones are appealing to both parents and educators as well as children. As an agent, when I consider them, the first questions I ask myself are “Why this person or these people? Why should young children know about them? Does this story fit into curriculum, or would it be appealing to a specific organization or audience?”

Giving some sense of that in the query and/or back matter – if not the opening – is always helpful.


Dedra Davis        CHASING A GHOST                       YA Contemporary Romance

I died a year ago today.[1] 

The four of us piled in his truck and left Benson’s field in a hurry. Cooper wasn’t too happy, but Mel seemed relieved. I remember staring at the moon’s thumbnail and laughing because my singing bumped as we flew through the pasture. Joe let me pick the music, and I chose Taylor’s version of Red. I never tired of it. I wanted our little party to continue and didn’t want to go home, but my curfew loomed. My parents warned me repeatedly about being late, but being with Joe was my life, so I gambled with time. And that time, I lost.[2]

We had ten minutes to get home, but we needed twenty. We were going way too fast, especially on that country road. Garrett Lane is a two-lane, tree-lined, bumpy road with many curves. The type of road where you rarely pass another car. The type of road you should take slowly.[3]

My favorite song on Red was blaring, and [3] Melanie and I belted out the words, feeling ALL TOO WELL. We rolled the windows down to feel the fall air. In the front seat, Joe and I spoke through our eyes [4]. He stared at me as if he were painting a picture. I wanted to get home so I could kiss my painter on my porch.

My left hand intertwined with his right. I loved Joe’s hands—long fingers, big enough to palm a ball but soft and gentle enough to make me feel loved. I rubbed his hand with my finger. I knew what this did to him; there was purpose in the motion. He looked at me with his wide blue-greyish[5] eyes and that smile that I loved, and I whispered to him, “Hurry, Joe.”

1. Very dramatic, but can feel gimmicky.

2. This paragraph is a stronger opening. I love the last line, perhaps even as a chapter ending? We have a nice sense of characters through small details and a hint as to coming conflict. Maybe draw out that suspense a bit?

3. These restate what the reader already knows. I’d delete and use the space for something more important.

4. With our eyes? Even then, awkward.

5. Better to pick a specific color. Slate, gunmetal, iceberg, bluebell, thundercloud, ocean.. you get the idea.

Overall comments:

The details of this opening are lovely: the music, the specifics of the narrator’s attraction to her boyfriend, the nuances of the road.

But though the voice feels authentic, it’s not quite individual enough, and I’m looking for conflict, tension, a reason to turn the page. Knowing that she died right from the first sentence steps on that tension.

I feel this isn’t adding much. I’m looking for hints of conflict, the promise of the story to come.


Lou Ann Gurney  133.1 GHOSTS  Middle Grade [1].

Chapter 1 The Interview

“Ghost beware!” Barry Grant called into the emptiness like he visited haunted school libraries every Monday morning[2]

He wasn’t really that anxious to meet a ghost in person, so he took one small step inside and scanned the room[3]. The library with nobody in it felt stuffy. The stale smell of musty books hung in the air. At least it wasn’t all spooky dark in there. The bright Southern California sun shone in through the high windows, and bits of dust sparkled in the light.

Barry had the best school job ever: Chief of Sixth Grade Media Production. The librarian had invited him to interview her for the next broadcast of King Middle School News. Mrs. Taylor thought there was a ghost in the library, and she wanted to tell everyone not to worry[4]. Ghost rumors were flying around, and she thought the truth would put the brakes on any potential hysteria. Barry wasn’t so sure about that.

His cameraman and best bud Breezebrain barged into the library right behind him with the media class camera rolling. “Show me the ghost,” he said. “Gimme some drama.”

“Quiet down,” Barry said. “You’ll scare it away.”

“So you believe there’s a ghost in here?”

“Mrs. Taylor says so. Maybe one’s hiding between those book cases. Or sitting at one of these computers.”

“Whoa! There’s one right now. It’s tap dancing on that study table.” Breezebrain danced on the carpet in his high tops. His super curly blond hair jiggled. “Hey ghostie, smile for the camera.”

He looked so funny. Barry could always depend on Breezebrain to make him laugh.


1. Always good to add the genre. Horror, mystery, contemporary?

2. This steps on your tension a bit.

3. Awkward

4. OK, now this is great! Might need to put this up earlier.

Overall comments:

Ghosts are always popular with middle grade readers – they love a spooky story!

There’s a good use of dialogue to show character. The prose could be more polished – I feel the elements are there, but maybe not in the most effective order? Opening with Barry peering in is good, but knowing that the librarian feels there’s a ghost? That’s unique and fun.

The voice feels authentic and commercial. Maybe a few more hints as to the conflict to come? IS the story about finding the ghost? Or about something else?


Leslie, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. I am sure many writer’s will use your comments to improve their own writing. I’m so glad everyone got a chance to know you this month.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you, Kathy, for hosting these first-page critiques. And thank you, Leslie, for your positive comments on mine! I’ll be in your inbox as soon as you’re open to submissions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this opportunity, Kathy! And thank you, Leslie, for reading and commenting. This is so helpful. I’m going to revise now…


  3. Good luck, Dedre!


  4. Awesome! Thank you, Leslie and Kathy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: