Welcome!

Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting, and please let me know how this blog served you.
Cheers,
Kim Tomsic

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Interview with Literary Agent Shannon Hassan

Hello, Readers!

Today on the blog we have agent Shannon Hassan from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Prior to this interview, Shannon and I sat down for coffee, so I can tell you from my face-to-face encounter, Shannon is personable, smart, and funny. The whole package!

Shannon has been an agent for three years, which is good news for writers seeking an agent, because she is currently growing her client list. Please know, her short time as an agent does not mean she is a “newbie” to the field of literature or contracts—she has years of experience as an acquisitions editor at Fulcrum Publishing and also years as a corporate attorney.

KT: Hi, Shannon! Thank you for meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five” questions. 
SH: Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, and for your kind words! So Marnice to meet you and have you as my neighbor. J

KT: ICE BREAKER: You’re clearly one smart cookie! You earned a BA in Journalism and Economics at George Washington University, a JD at Harvard Law (Harvard!), and then you worked as a corporate attorney at a Park Avenue law firm—so please settle my burning questions. Which is better—cats or dogs? Dogs Pasta or sushi? Pasta Subway or bike? Bike!

1.  KT: Imagine we could strap into a time machine (ours can be a Tesla instead of a DeLorean) and travel back to your middle school and high school days—what books would we see on your night stand (and what else might be there)? 

SH: Well that would send me back to Texas in the 80’s, when I had big bangs, ha! The first book I fell in love with was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Another favorite was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I also read a lot of Stephen King—I’ve always been an eclectic reader.

KT: Also I know you have twelve-year-old twins—what are some of their current favorite titles?

SH: All Four Stars, Pax, When You Reach Me, The Land of Stories, The Crossover, and Book Scavenger. I enjoyed those too!

2.      KT: Some writers spend hours crafting their query letter (and they should!); others simply whip something together (yikes). I’m sure you can tell the difference. What are three tips you can give writers on query do’s and three tips
on query don’t’s?

Do’s:

·        Ask your critique group to give you feedback—it is impossible to have perspective on your own query letter after you’ve immersed yourself in writing the novel for so long.
·        Mention one or two “comp” titles—books that have been published recently (in the past couple of years) that show the type of audience you are hoping to reach.
·        Show your voice. I don’t mean write the letter in one of your character’s voices (that never works!). But do give a taste of what the voice of the story will be. For example: if your story is humorous, then get that humor across in the query.

Don’ts:
·        Don’t write a long lead-in about yourself or why you wrote the book, etc.—just get right to the hook.
·        Don’t tell us every minor plot point—your query should be a concise, engaging blurb like you would see on a book jacket, not a synopsis.
·        Don’t forget to proofread. First impressions matter!

3.      KT: Taste is subjective, but great writing trumps all. For example, I would have said I’m not a fan of dystopian, but then I read (and loved) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (and of course I love the obvious dystopian leaders, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, etc.).  What are your favorite genres?

I love a range of genres, and my list for MG and YA includes everything from contemporary realistic, to humorous, to historical, to suspense, to romantic, to adventure and fantasy. See part two below on what these stories have in common….

KT: And part two—the important question (drumroll please)—what hooks you when reading a manuscript?

SH:  A fresh voice and compelling, authentic characters!  If you give me amazing characters that leap off the page and into my heart, then I will pretty much read about them doing anything.

A couple of my recent wish-list items include a page-turning historical in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson or Ruta Sepetys, something that plays with narrative structure in the vein of Challenger Deep, and quirky stories with humor and heart.

4.      KT: Your bio shows that you represent authors who write middle grade and
young adult, but not authors who write picture books. If you sign an author based on a middle grade project, and they also write picture books, would you represent their picture books, too, or would they need to find a second agent?  Also, do you represent chapter books (i.e. similar to Junie B. Jones, Clementine, etc.)?  Lastly, please tell us about the nonfiction you are interested in.

     SH: I am not actively acquiring picture books or chapter books, but when I have existing clients who want to work on those things, I will represent them. But if you are looking to make your debut with a picture book, then I am probably not the right agent for you. For nonfiction, I am interested in narrative nonfiction and memoir from authors with strong platforms. 

5.      KT: Writers love to feel like they have the inside scoop—like they know you. Please tell us a little known fact about you (other than the fact that you ride an adorable purple cruiser with basket and all). 

      Well let’s see…I love to travel. Since our twins were barely out of diapers our family has been to some far-flung places like Easter Island, the Galapagos, and Iceland. 

      Thank you, Shannon! It is a pleasure getting to know you! Please provide your query instructions below:

      I look forward to receiving your queries at shannon@marsallyonliteraryagency.com. Please email a query letter + 10 pages.

Thank you again Kim. It was my pleasure!

Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, has worked in publishing and law for more than a decade.  She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select nonfiction.  On the kid-lit side, she is looking for fresh MG and YA, and is open to a range of stories as long as they have authentic, memorable characters: contemporary stories with humor and heart, adventures, thrillers, and mysteries, original fantasies (with one foot grounded in reality), page-turning historicals, as well as nonfiction from authors with a strong platform.

A few of Shannon’s recent or soon to be published YA and MG books include THE WORLD’S GREATEST ADVENTURE MACHINE, a middle-grade adventure by Frank L. Cole (Delacorte/Penguin Random House), DIE YOUNG WITH ME, an adult/YA crossover memoir by Rob Rufus of the Blacklist Royals (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), DIAL EM FOR MURDER, a YA suspense novel by Marni Bates (Merit Press/F+W), IN 27 DAYS, a speculative YA novel by Alison Gervais (Blink/Harper Collins), and a quirky, realistic middle-grade novel (working on the title!) by Dusti Bowling (Sterling Kids).

Before becoming an agent, Shannon was the Acquisitions Editor at Fulcrum Publishing, and prior to that, a corporate attorney at Arnold & Porter in New York. She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from George Washington University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Twitter: @ShannonHassan




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SCBWI Unofficial Scavenger Hunt

Unofficial SCBWI Scavenger Hunt!


How would you like to show up to LA16SCBWI and and win cocktails, conversation, and a critique with Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove? In 2011, I attend the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles and noticed an underground scavenger hunt in the works—it was to take place during the Saturday night gala. I quickly formed a team made up of strangers (which ended up being a fast and fun way to make friends). We had a blast working the scavenger hunt, but the best part was winning—we earned a private cocktail party and pitch session with Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove. In that hour and a half of sipping lemon drop martinis, Melissa generously shared her knowledge and offered constructive feedback. I learned more about my story and writing than I'd ever understood before. Now I can proudly announce I have two picture book deals with Melissa and Chronicle Books and also...oh, I can't tell you the "also" right now, but here's what you need to know—I am certain that the scavenger hunt was the spark that ignited my writing career. 

It is with great enthusiasm that I say YOU can have the exact same opportunity if you are attending this year’s SCBWI sold-out conference taking place this month in Los Angeles, July 2016.


WHAT:
Unofficial SCBWI Scavenger Hunt! #SCBWIscavenger  (tweet with hashtag #SCBWIscavenger) and/or #LA16SCBWI 

HOW:
On Saturday by 4:30pm, the following will be hidden around the hotel:
a.      small plastic eggs containing scrabble titles
b.      a selection of unusual objects
c.      the indubitable Martha Flynn, who will be the keeper of four blank scrabble tiles (first four teams to find Martha secure a coveted blank tile!)

Please see Melissa Manlove’s Instagram account for photos of the unusual objects and Martha Flynn—the photos will all be posted at 4:30 pm on Saturday. Between that time and 12:00 noon on Sunday, teams will find all they can, and then spell the best word or phrase possible with the scrabble tiles they’ve collected. Post a photo of your team’s word plus any of the unusual objects you find to Instagram and tag Melissa Manlove—you must post your photo to Instagram by 12:00 noon on Sunday and remember to tag to Melissa Manlove!

Important Note: The eggs and objects will be hidden in plain sight, in public areas of the hotel. It will not be necessary to move hotel furniture or decorations to find them, or to step into areas not meant for foot traffic. Please stay respectful of the hotel’s property and tidiness while searching for them.

WHO:
Anyone attending SCBWI LA16. You may form teams with a group size of 6 or fewer people.

WHERE:
The Biltmore Hotel—particularly (but not limited to) the Red Carpet Ball

WHEN:
4:30 pm Saturday July 30th – 12:00 noon Sunday July 31st

Is it worth it...oh yes!!!!!!!!!!! 
THE WINNING TEAM:
Melissa will post the results on instagram.
"The winner will be determined by an utterly subjective and seat-of-my-pants assessment of the team submissions. Having collected objects will likely tip the scales if I am torn between two words/phrases, but the words/phrases themselves, as exhibiting the team’s creativity, will be the primary point of judgement."

**Each team should share this post to their social media to be considered good sportsman**.

PRIZE:
Winners will meet in the bar on Sunday at 4:30 pm for cocktails with Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove (!!!!!!). The winning team has the option to make the cocktail hour into an impromptu critique group with feedback from Melissa—if your team chooses this, each team member should bring up to 5 pages of a work, and enough copies for everyone.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top Five Reasons Reading Prepares you for a Rich Conference Experience


Top Five Reasons Reading Prepares you for a Rich Conference Experience
by Kim Tomsic


If you’re planning to attend a local event, regional gathering, or even the yearly international conference, I strongly urge you to READ! If you read the faculty members’ books prior to the event, I PROMISE—you’ll get more bang for your buck!

Reading books in advance is a great way to connect with keynote speeches, breakout sessions and fellow attendees. Read as much as possible—this means the books you read shouldn’t be limited to those written by the authors on the faculty—you should read agent-client books, too. These are books written by authors who are represented by agents at the conference. This is a great vetting practice, especially if you think you would like that agent to represent you. Furthermore, read books the editors on the faculty have worked on; then when you land in an elevator or at the cocktail party with said editor, you have an authentic conversation opener.

I’ve been to three regional conferences, two Big Sur events, and five international conferences. Every year, I’m thankful I did my self-imposed homework—it's worth the effort. 



Here are the top five reasons reading books written/edited/or agented by conference faculty will give you a RICHER, MORE TEXTURED conference experience:

Mem Fox reading to the audience! 
1.      You enjoy keynotes on a deeper level, because you’ve already crawled inside the author’s
head. Instead of looking at a stranger at the podium, you’ll feel like you’re listening to a friend. When a speaker refers to their book in a keynote or break-out session, you’ll be connected and understand the “inside” jokes and references. Do you have to read books before coming—No. Do the speeches feel more engaging and meaningful if you do—Absolutely, Yes!

2.      You have conversation starters and a better opportunity to connect with the faculty, not to mention connecting with fellow attendees. I can't tell you how many times I've turned a stranger into a friend, sharing the mutual excitement of discussing who’s speaking next and his/her amazing book or illustrations.
Reading your way to lasting friendships!
3.      You look like a professional. Reading the work of relevant speakers shows that you care about what’s happening in the publishing industry. Furthermore, it’s a great way to vet which publishing professionals are a good fit for you.

4.      You get exposed to books and genres you may not have considered—this helps rev-up the creative juices, and perhaps your own work will benefit.

5.      And finally, great writers are readers first!

BIO
Kim with her agent Jen Rofe
Kim Tomsic is a reader and writer of children’s literature. She practices what she preaches—prior to querying Jen Rofé of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Kim first read books by Jen’s clients: Crystal Allen, Kathryn Fitzmaurice and Meg Medina to name a few. Kim’s debut book THE ELEPHANTS CAME comes out with Chronicle Books (editor Melissa Manlove) in 2018. Her next book GUITAR HERO (Chronicle Books) releases in spring 2019.
landing her fabulous agent,

***Bonus update: Would you like to sit down for cocktails, conversation and a critique with Chronicle Books editor, Melissa Manlove at this year's LA16SCBWI?  Following this link to learn how: Click Here