Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 31, 2023

March Agent of the Month: Adria Goetz – First Page Results

I look for books that delight readers, that help readers escape, that make readers feel seen, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that comfort readers and make them feel safe, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  4. Adult Fiction

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!




Kerry Hansen, THE BAD FEELING – MG Contemporary Ghost Story

The second our tires crunch up the gravel driveway, my stomach drops through the floorboard of the car. I want to yell, “TURN THE CAR AROUND!” but my voice dries up in my throat.

Dad parks, grinning like he’s five instead of fifty-five. “We’re here, Son!”

I stare out the windshield, and now my stomach feels like Dad drove over it. In front of us, surrounded by weeds taller than my knees, looms our new house. And by new, I mean reeeeeally old. Like horse-and-buggy old.

My eyes scan the crumbly tan bricks, cracked front windows, and dark-green roof, missing so many tiles it looks like a jack-o’-lantern’s mouth. [AG] Great description. Black mold creeps up the corners by the rusty drain spouts, and the wrap-around porch is doing more collapsing than wrapping. [AG] Great line! Even the driveway is so full of potholes it reminds me of the surface of the moon. I like this imagery but it feels more whimsical than grim/haunted to me. It’s OK if the story has a whimsical feeling to it, but I thought I’d flag this line in case whimsy is not what you were trying to achieve.

We left Chicago for this? [AG]Perhaps he could wax poetic for a sentence or two describing some of the things he particularly loved about Chicago?

My heart twinges, missing my old room, where some new kid is probably playing video games right now.

When we get out of the car, my parents close their eyes and inhale, as if they’re absorbing a[AG]I’d add “steaming” here to add a bit more atmosphere mocha latte through their pores. Never mind that I haven’t seen a Starbucks for miles. Our closest neighbors are barns, corn stalks, and broken-down tractors.

“Smell that fresh country air,” Mom says. “Brings back memories.”

Neither of them mentions that the fresh country air is less fresh and all country—as in, manure. [AG] I love the moments of humor you have sprinkled in to your writing! Their happy memories of growing up in Wisconsin must be clouding their sense of smell.

“Retirement looks good on you,” Dad says, draping an arm around Mom. 

“You too, Mr. Silver Fox.” She runs her fingers through the gray hairs above his ears. [AG] I love seeing happy parents in middle grade 🙂

“I’m right here.” I groan. [AG] Sometimes it’s hard to weigh in on things based off only the first page, but I want to know what makes this haunted house story unique! What’s the hook/defining plot point that sets it apart?


Ghostless by Mark Kennedy – MG – Contemporary

Chapter One

“I need you to haunt my house.” [AG] Ha! Fun first line. 🙂 Yeah, that definitely sounds way more insane when I say it out loud, even though I knew it was a little (okay, a lot) crazy when the idea first popped into my head. But the yelling, or as my parents say disagreeing, is still at full blast at my house, so it’s time to take drastic action. And if there is anyone who can help me, it’s my best only friend Hunter.

As I blow by Hunter and walk into his family room, he gives me a raised eyebrow that almost touches the bottom of his backward Phillies hat. “Uhm, what?”

We have to sell the house! But this is our home! [AG] If he is still literally hearing these things (rather than hearing them in his mind) then I would probably put these lines in quotation marks.

I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super-thin walls when I come next door. [AG] I would tweak this slightly to be “Even when I come next door, I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super thin walls.” Or “I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super-thin walls, even when I come next door.” It’s been non-stop all week and if tonight is anything like the last few days, there are probably a few hours of this to go. And every time it gets quiet for a few minutes and I think it’s going to end…

We don’t have a choice, we can’t afford it!

I can’t take it anymore. Nothing helps. Not blasting music in my earbuds, not burying my head in the pillow, not playing Ghost Recon with my headphones on. [AG] Poor guy! They have to know I can hear them when I’m up in my room, right? But whenever I go downstairs they act like nothing is wrong. Seriously?! [AG] This is nitpicky, but I’d snip this.

I planned on heading over to Hunter’s and telling him I needed help with our science homework or something. Hang there until things cooled off. His parents aren’t home a lot at night since his parents are semi-famous paranormal investigators. [AG] Maybe this isn’t a question that needs to be answered on the first page, but my knee-jerk question here was, “What does semi-famous mean? Do they have a TV show? Or are they just local legends?” They’re always helping people get rid of ghosts so they aren’t scared in their own homes. Wishing that was my problem. And that’s when it hit me. Maybe it can be my problem. [AG] I love where this story is heading!


 PIPPA PARKER, PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER by Elizabeth James– Chapter Book

I hunched over my paper, while Miss Jones read questions to the class. I was busy [AG]I might reframe this, like “while Miss Jones quizzed the class with questions” or “while Miss Jones asked the class trivia questions.” Something about the use of past tense here sort of didn’t work for me. I tend to think of present tense working best for chapter books, but maybe this was an intentional decision, and maybe this is a subjective preference for me personally.  drawing clusters of crystals on the blank side of a worksheet when Miss Jones pulled a new card from the stack.

“What do you call a scientist who studies rocks?”

I sucked in my breath and looked up.

A geologist! That was too easy! Of course, [AG]I would tweak this sentence to something like “Of course, it helped that I’d been collecting all kinds of rocks since I was little.” Also, I’d love there to be a sentence that follows this where she talks about some of her favorite rocks in her collection. And maybe something about where she stores her rocks—does she have a special spot in her room where she can display them? I’d been collecting all kinds of rocks since I was little. I used to keep so many in my pockets that I even broke our washing machine once. (Oops!)

Mom never forgot to check my pockets again. Until now because she doesn’t do our laundry anymore. Now, a whole team of housekeepers takes care of it instead. [AG] Ooh intriguing! [AG] I’m being nitpicky here but I would tweak these lines to something like, “Until recently, because she obviously doesn’t do our laundry anymore. We have a whole team of housekeepers that takes care of it instead.”

Miss Jones continued, reading multiple-choice [AG] Should this be hyphenated? answers from the card. “Is it: An astronomer? A biologist? A rock star? Or, a geologist?”

I looked down at my paper, where crystal spikes and spines [AG] I’m not really sure what spines is in reference to here, since she’s looking at her doodles. Do rocks/crystals have spines? laced its edges, and squirmed in my seat. Of course, I knew the answer was a geologist. I bet I knew that answer back in preschool!

The problem was that I didn’t know how to answer it. I mean, some people don’t think twice about raising their hands in class. But some people do. And I’m one of those people.

I took a deep breath. I wanted to raise my hand. I wanted to show Miss Jones and everyone else in my class at Capitol Academy—especially Cooper and Dylan—that I knew more than just who the President was and what she had last night for dinner.[AG] I jumped into reading this before looking at the title! Fun premise! (Although, lately, it seemed like I didn’t even know that anymore.)

My best friend, Talia, turned in her seat and gave me a knowing smile. [AG] It’s really impressive how much you’ve already set the scene for this character in just this first page. We know she’s the President’s daughter, we know that it’s made school a mental minefield for her, we know that she’s having extra trouble with two classmates in particular, and we know that she misses quality time with her mom and feeling like a normal kid. And you accomplish all of that in about 300 words without it being an info dump. Nice work!  [AG] Yay for supportive best friend characters! 🙂 I took a deep breath. Then, I raised my hand…but not to answer the question. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t.


 Half-Truths by Carol Baldwin  –  Middle Grade Historical Fiction

I shove my broom under the display case so hard the glass shelves rattle. Daddy gives me a stern look, but I send him what he calls a Katie-wraps-me-around-my-finger smile.[AG]I might word this as “Kate-has-me-wrapped-around-her-finger smile” He knows I’d rather be shag dancing at Reid’s Soda Shop than sweeping floors or refilling nail bins.[AG] I think I’d add “at Smith’s Hardware” here to immediately ground the reader. My brain immediately went to “Oh, it’s a nail salon!” Ha 🙂

Each week I 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 [AG] And then I’d swap this out with “the hardware store” 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. [AG] I might reword this to something like “Once the jar is filled to the brim, I’m going to plop it down in from of Mama and Daddy and tell them that I’m ready to start a bank account.” Maybe then they’ll believe I’m serious about heading to college in a few years.

The shop bell jangles and I glance at the clock. Ten minutes to nine. Last-minute customers will push back closing time. [AG] I might simplify this to something like “It’s ten minutes to closing time.”

Earnestine Jackson, her mother,[AG] I would mention her first name Odessa here and her younger sister Ruth stand at the door. I swallow my irritation. Other stores in town won’t serve colored folk, 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 face[AG]I might swap this out with “in her eyes” 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 there. 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. [AG]I think an additional line here would be helpful to help us understand what her current relationship with Earnestine is like. Are they still good friends or not anymore?

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

Odessa takes out a piece of paper and hands it to Daddy. “Moses thought Mr. Smith would carry a gate strap that looks like this. He’s finishing up the fence and wants this kinda hinge. [AG] You’ve accomplished a lot in this first page!


Adria, great job! Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is much appreciated. I am sure many writer’s will use your comments to improve their own writing. I’m so glad everyone had a chance to know you this month.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks, Adria, for your comments on my first page. I’m off to tweaking! And thanks, Kathy, for hosting these informative interviews and first page critiques.


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