THE OLD WINNERS:
Before we do anything else today, we need to announce the winners to GotYA's innaugural fake bio contest!
Third place added prize ($15 gift card): Laura McMeeking
Second place ( $15 gift card and a copy of Beautiful Creatures): Heather Dougherty
First place ($75 gift card): Margay
YAY WINNERS!! Please, email me at houndrat at yahoo dot com so I can send you your goodies!
Now, before we get to our next contest, I'm incredibly excited to share my Interview with Taylor Martindale! For those of you who don’t know, Taylor is an AWESOME new agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. If you’re looking for an agent who communicates regularly, is super enthusiastic, hands-on with editorial, will totally have coffee and dinner with you if you live nearby, and, most importantly, won’t think you’re a nutter if you email her with your neuroses on a weekly basis—then you should SO query her. (Neurotic writer? Where? Where? Wait a second…who put that mirror there? Very funny!) In fact, she’s so full of awesomesauce, you can’t even hate on her for being so adorable:
Read the interview, then read below to find out how you can WIN the manuscript critique in a contest judged by AW’s own resident badass, HANNAH MOSKOWITZ!
And now, for our TAYLOR MARTINDALE INTERVIEW!!!!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a literary agent?
First of all, I want to thank you for interviewing me! I’m so excited to be making an appearance on this fabulous blog, and for the opportunity to speak to such a great community of writers. Loving the new GotYA site, too ! :)
I’ve always known I wanted to work in publishing. Even as a little girl, I just couldn’t imagine a career that didn’t involve books. I was lucky that I knew so young what I wanted my future to look like, and it helped me structure my academic goals and extracurricular activities to that end. The funny thing was that I had always pictured myself as an editor. The first time I thought seriously about agenting, however, was during a publishing seminar put on by my college. The career center would invite authors and a range of publishing professionals to speak about their experiences and the industry itself. Something they stressed was figuring out where your passions would lead you in publishing, and that there were so many careers from which to choose.
It was then that agenting really popped up on my radar. I loved the idea that I could be a part of authors’ first steps into publishing, helping build their careers; that I could be so involved in the development stage of their work; that I could be their advocates in the industry. I love working with authors and the early drafts of their “babies.” I find being a part of that creative process inspiring.
What steps did you take to make that goal a reality?
I was blessed with some awesome opportunities as I got into publishing. During school, I worked at Bliss Literary Agency, with Jenoyne Adams, for a year as an intern and then as the Submissions Coordinator. Like I mentioned above, I also went to as many seminars, talks, etc. about publishing that I could find. Then, after school, I chased the best combo for job-searching graduates: informational interviews and more internships. Being a native Southern California girl, I was determined to find the publishing niche out here. The incredible Kate Gale of Red Hen Press took a chance on me—after my random email that somehow made it to her—giving me both an informational interview and Elise Capron’s information at SDLA. Elise was also kind enough to meet me for an informational interview, and an internship spot opened up a week later. I’ve been there ever since, and am so thrilled to be a part of the SDLA team.
What kind of material are you especially interested in right now?
O wow, I am interested in so much! Where do I start? Before I dive into all the genres I’m looking for, I have to say that what I am particularly looking for are characters. Engaging, deep characters whose voices light up the page and stick in your head even when you’re not reading. Those characters who make the plot captivating because of who they are, not what is going on around them. The relationships that make you laugh and cry and long to touch some part of the world around you…
That being said, I’m interested in a wide range of genres. I’m particularly looking for YA titles: contemporary, urban fantasy, literary fiction, historical fiction, etc. I would also love to find commercial fiction, women’s fiction, and multi-cultural fiction. I’m not currently working with non-fiction, but am definitely keeping my eye out for that project that inspires me—cultural studies or literary criticism, possibly.
Overall, though, I’m looking to fall in love with a project, whether it matches my stated interests or not. A lot of publishing is highly subjective, so I’m looking for the authors and books that fit me, and vice versa. I keep my eyes open for them.
I know you were reading slush long before you started at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. If you could tell writers to concentrate on one thing to get pulled from the pile, what would it be?
I’ve found that the best thing an author can do is not get swept up in the bells and whistles of querying. The most important part of your query is simple: your writing. Before you submit, ask yourself if your query letter and sample pages really show off your strength as a writer. Don’t worry about putting your submission in a bright pink envelope with confetti (so hard to clean up!). Focus on being strong, not fancy or flashy. Believe me, it shows!
A few quick tips:
1. Have a solid title and show it off. Titles in a query are like book covers in the bookstore; they catch your eye and make you read the summary. Don’t bury your title in the postscript of your query. Place it where it makes sense for your letter, and have it act as the extra punch to your already awesome pitch. If it’s an email query, put your book’s title and genre in the subject line (per that agency’s guidelines, of course). It stands out from the hundreds simply labeled “Query.”
2. Don’t start off with a rhetorical question. They will never be answered the way you hoped when you wrote it! It only ends up sounding cliché and vague.
3. Do your research before you submit. Show that agent you know a little bit about who they are and what they are interested in representing. Mention where you found them, the more specific the better.
4. When you are querying, know that everything is a process and we’re all in this together. If you’re rejected, don’t be intimidated. Pay attention to the feedback you get and use it to make your project and your writing stronger. A positive, collaborative outlook will get you far.
Now, for the really crucial stuff. Tell us the three songs that currently get the most play on your iPod.
Oh, dear. “Beast of Burden” by Lee DeWyze. Yep, the “American Idol” contestant. He’s my favorite and I’m not ashamed to have already bought a few songs, haha. “Turn It Off” by Paramore. It’s from their newest album, which I only just got (I know, pathetic), and I love it. Hayley Williams is so awesome! Finally, “In Your Atmosphere” by John Mayer, because it gets to me every time.
Salty foods or sweet?
Salty, no contest. It’s bad. I’m currently battling a huge craving for French fries, and resisting is taking Herculean effort. No, seriously. Herculean.
(Deb’s note: Hmmmm, I will definitely have to talk to her about this. It’s common knowledge that sugar kicks salt’s un-sweet tushy all over the grocery store.)
Which YA book have you read recently that you really wish you’d represented?
I was extremely impressed with Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER. I loved what she did with a theme that’s feeling tired and overdone these days, and with the characters who drove the story throughout.
I know working in that ocean-view office must be rough, but if you HAD to choose a different career, what could you see yourself doing?
Haha, I know, I drew the short straw on that one, huh?
If I were to choose a different career, I think I would like to teach literature and literary theory at the college level. Those classes and those professors were hugely formative and influential for me and changed the way I thought about literature. Teaching new ways to think about and write about literature seems like an incredible thing to do each day.
I have to say, though, that I’m already in the profession I was born to pursue, and I’m not going anywhere. Helping authors take their work from a new manuscript to a finished book… What better job is there?
And there you have it! THANK YOU Taylor, for both the interview and the very generous donation of a manuscript critique! If you want to query Taylor (trust me—you do!) her submission guidelines are as follows.
Send a query letter, synopsis, and the first 50 pages to:
Sandra Dijkstra Literary AgencyPMB 515
1155 Camino del Mar, PMB 515
Del Mar, CA 92014
E-query by referral only.
THE NEW CONTEST!
The Prize: A 30-page manuscript critique by Taylor
The Judge: Hannah Moskowitz, author of Break (wait, you haven't read BREAK? What are you waiting for?) and the upcoming Invincible Summer, will be judging (which is kind of perfect, since Taylor and Hannah have worked together before).
The Rules: Since both Taylor and Hannah are all about voice, we thought it only apropos the contest be about voice, too. Enter up to 200 words of your manuscript that best highlights your character’s unique voice in the comments section. Hannah will read all the entries and chose one winner, based on which entry's voice grabs her the most and makes her want to read more.
The Deadline: You have until Friday, 11:59 EST to enter.
Go! Enter! Win!