Sunday, June 22, 2014

Susan's 2014 Wish List Updated

Last Friday, I attended my son’s fifth grade graduation (how do I suddenly have a 10 year old son?), and I realized that we’re here at the mid-point of the year!  High time for an update to my 2014 wish list.  I took at look at the list I posted in January to see what has changed, and here’s the very latest.

So far this year, I’ve taken on 5 new clients, and I couldn’t be more excited about their work.  I’ll share a bit about their projects, because more than anything, this may give you a sense of the kind of project I’m drawn to.  They are:

Paul Acampora – Paul is the author of I Kill the Mockingbird, out just last month from Roaring Brook Press.  He’s also the author of Defining Dulcie and Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face, all middle grade novels.  His newest project is tentatively called Chasing the Gramosaurus, and is about a 7th grader and his grandmother, who hit the road in an attempt to visit every dinosaur site in the US – hysterical and heartbreaking!  I fell in love with Paul’s truly laugh out loud writing – it’s no easy feat to write funny – and the heart that his stories have.

Dana Middleton – Dana is a debut author of a middle-grade project called The Infinity Year of Avalon James.  Avalon is a 5th grader who, with her best friend Atticus, believes that this year, their tenth, will be a magical one.  Literally.  Avalon and Atticus are waiting for their own special magical gifts to arrive, all the while contending with mean girls, the spelling bee, and a secret that a best friend should never betray.  But does.  Avalon James is a character that stays with me – she’s smart, funny, and tough.  She doesn’t always make it easy for herself, and I love the way Dana doesn’t shy from the truth of her character.

Angie Smibert – Angie is the author of the Memento Nora series, published in 2011.  Her new novel, Big Vein, is also a middle grade novel, set in a coal mining town in SW Virginia, 1942.  The main character, Bone, can see the stories in everyday objects, a gift she doesn’t like much as some of those stories are sad, or upsetting.  Bone’s gift is related to the one her mother had, and that probably killed her 10 years ago.  The mystery of her mother's death can be unlocked if Bone uses her gift, the thing she hates to do.  I love historical fiction and am always on the lookout for something that brings a place and time to life as fully as this does.  But Bone is just as compelling as the setting.  This is a hauntingly beautiful book.

Ruth Spiro – Ruth is a picture book writer.  She sent me a picture book series concept, and three texts that distill scientific concepts in such a clever way – and the science is solid, no easy feat!  They’re funny too.  I love how these books work so well in the classroom, where teachers are always looking for new STEM related material.  Parents and kids will love them just as well at home. 

Sarah Tolcer – Sarah sent me a YA fantasy called Riverborn that is the most delicious thing ever!  Set in a world that feels a bit like Greece, it tells the story of Caro, the daughter of a riverboat captain.  She’s grown up on the boat, and wants nothing more than to live there her whole life. Not to get caught up in political intrigue.  Not to find herself forced to deliver an enchanted box which contains the teenaged heir of a neighboring nation, on the run from his murderous uncle.  Not to find herself falling for this teenaged Emparch.  But, of course…This is a rich, compelling fantasy, that features a true kick-ass heroine, a ton of adventure, and pirates!

So, where does all that leave my wish list for 2014?  Well, I’m still looking for both middle-grade and YA writers.  I’d also love to take on a new author-illustrator.

At the top of my list in January was a fantasy.  I’m always open to fantasy, but with Riverborn on my list, what I’d love now is to find a Contemporary YA, which I mentioned before: Give me a great romance, but don’t stop there – add family dynamics, or a mother-daughter thread, shifting friendships, big stakes.  I love layered stories.  My client Rachael Allen’s book 17 FIRST KISSES is a great example of a book like this (just out last week!).  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is another favorite contemporary YA, with very strong voice; add to that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, which I also just finished and loved.

I’d also still love to see YA with a unique story-telling device.  Think WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? for teens – a story that incorporates  a mix of emails, letters, diary entries etc to form the narrative.  Or something like THE 19TH WIFE, that combines a present-day story and mirrors that to a historical one.  I also like multiple points of view.

I adore middle-grade, as you can see from my list above, and I’m drawn to literary, character-driven stories with a twist.  Think BREADCRUMBS or BECAUSE OF MR TERUPT.  I’m a sucker for bittersweet.

MG novel in verse.  Jackie Woodson’s LOCOMOTION is a favorite, and I’d love to find an emotional verse novel.  Or one that’s really funny and makes me laugh really hard.

MG novels often feature sibling dynamics, and it would be great to see siblings whose relationship isn’t solely defined by arguing or sniping.  This is often a part of things, but I’d love to see a book that’s about siblings who also have an interesting, complex, and positive relationship.

A fantastical MG in the vein of Joan Aiken’s WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE -- something gothic, Dickensian, historical or an alternate history.

I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings, for both MG and YA, especially ones that use a lesser known tale, and make use of the darker threads in these stories.  Some favorite fairy tales are Tam Lin, the Six Swans, and Goose Girl, and my all time favorite example of this kind of book is THE PERILOUS GARD.

And in general, here’s what I look for in a book for any age reader:
Powerful, original voice
A great hook and strong plot
Real, textured, imperfect characters.  I love quirky, but not for its own sake; quirkiness that feels true and fully integrated to its character.
Writing with literary quality, that’s commercial too
Heart.  I want to be emotionally invested in a book
And humor is key; even if the book is dark, or fairly serious, I want some humor.  Because life is like that.
Blow me away!  I want to read something that feels different.

Thanks for reading this list, and not to worry if your book doesn’t neatly match something I’ve described here.  What I really want is great writing and a great read.

I can’t wait to see your projects, thank you for sending them my way!

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