Friday, October 3, 2014

Gemma's Updated Wish List

This month I have been having ALL the meetings — I’m over in NYC catching up with lots of my favourite editors and meeting some lovely new ones. I’ve been having a ball! 

This month was also my second anniversary of joining TBA, so I thought it was well worth updating my wish list with projects I’m looking for that also seem to be in line with what editors are on the hunt for. I represent everything from picture books to young adult, and would love to add more US authors to my stable. 

WARNING: this list may contain lots of old movie, TV and song references.

Across all ages

A period of history or setting that I know nothing about — for example, GOLDEN BOY, which is about the murder and hunting of Tanzania’s albinos. Horrifying, gripping and something I had never heard about until reading the book.

Diverse characters — I would love more diversity across my list, but particularly on the younger end – bilingual picture books, a diverse IVY AND BEAN. For MG and YA, I want something like the Estelle song “1980” —a fantastic voice and a story told with a strong sense of time and place.

Meta books — books that break the fourth wall, a book within a book, books with in-jokes, books that reference themselves. Ideally, something that doesn’t take itself too seriously — think the type of humour in Community.

Author/illustrators writing for any age will get my immediate attention.

I have a twin brother, and he is my favourite person in the world, so I’d love more books that explore sibling relationships and how these change over the years.


I like an outsider for YA, and would love a YA novel like the movie Pump Up The Volume – a character who is really shy but also has a hidden personality….maybe he’s a gamer or is involved in some other social group outside of school.

I often quote Heathers as one of my favourite movies, and this isn’t just because of my teenage crush on Christian Slater. I love that Heathers spotlights the complicated and often toxic friendships between teens. Think Mean Girls as well, so less about boys, more about friendship dynamics.

I love love! I never get tired of reading about characters falling in love. My favourite part is the flirting and the teasing and the almost-kisses. It’s hard to standout in this area, so ideally this project will have a unique way of telling the story. For example, my client Katy Cannon’s book LOVE, LIES AND LEMON PIES is framed around a different recipe in each chapter. Or perhaps it will have dual POVs. I adore the way Rainbow Rowell writes about love, so she is a good indicator of my taste in this area.

I am very fussy about high fantasy, but I do love the romance and glamour that come with these types of books, so if your fantasy is more focused on that, and not so much the world-building (which still needs to be strong) then I’m your person!

I want an X-Files Mulder and Scully relationship. Maybe in a mystery, or thriller. That ‘will they, won’t they, they probably shouldn’t but wouldn’t they be great together’ type thing.

Power in an interesting concept to me — be that in romantic relationships, family dynamics or in more sinister environments like cults. I would like something that explores the control that one person can have over someone else, and how they can influence their decisions.

I am always nostalgic for extreme weather —so I love summer books and books set on islands or by the sea. I also love wintry, snowy books, or books set at Christmas. So can someone please send me my DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES or my THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY!

Finally, ripped-from-the-headlines stories. A book I just love is PRETTY GIRL 13, so something in that vein—how does a character recover after a big traumatic event, or how do the survivors cope.


Adventures are big for me in MG, be they contemporary or fantasy. I’d love something Goonies-inspired or a coming-of-age adventure like Stand by Me, where characters set off on an adventure and come back irrevocably changed having learnt something important about themselves. I’d also love a survival book like INTO THAT FOREST.

I devour all the old murder/mystery shows and have a borderline obsession with Murder She Wrote. I would be over the moon if someone sent me a small-town cosy mystery series in this vein. 

Contemporary with a magical or paranormal or sci-fi twist — think WHEN YOU REACH ME or SAVVY. Something that blends the genres together but the book still feels contemporary. Also, a ghost story would be great.

Realistic, domestic with some humour, perhaps set in a school and packed with voice. Think Ramona or a young Georgia Nicolson. Or a new spin on THE BABYSITTERS CLUB.

A new way of doing fiction for 8+ boys – what comes after WIMPY KID, TOM GATES, TIMMY FAILURE...? Maybe something involving video game culture.

For MG and Chapter Books: Animals and anthropomorphic characters  – I love stories with animals either as the main character, or animals with a close bond with a child. Examples: CHARLOTTE’S WEB, A DOG CALLED HOMELESS, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. For years I’ve also been asking for an updated version of HOMEWARD BOUND. Or what about historical fiction seen through the eyes of an animal – major events in history with a dog or cat or pig or...etc. narrator?

Chapter books

I’m very selective about these, but I still want to add more funny (and diverse) chapter books to my list. Voice is so important in chapter books, and a good hook. I am a big fan of titles that explain exactly what the book is about, for example my clients Mo O’Hara’s MY BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH. I would love to have a girly chapter book – an IVY AND BEAN with a paranormal twist, perhaps, or animal-based. Or a hook that makes the series super-collectible. 

I love the humour of Phineas & Ferb, and older cartoons like Dangermouse and Ren & Stimpy. Plus I am devouring the MY LITTLE PONY graphic novels as the writing has such wit, and works on so many different levels. Chapter books that take on board all these would be great!

Early reader series

I am open to looking at early reader series – books from 2000-5000 words. These must have clear series potential and collectibility, plus they need to stand out from similar books in the market. These are hard to launch and hard to write, but when done well, they can really make an impression on kids moving from picture books to fiction. Books I love for this age are the CLAUDE series, LOTUS LANE and NOTEBOOK OF DOOM.

Picture Books

I recently fell in love with a fantastic new picture book called THIS BOOK ATE MY DOG and I would love something smart like this – making use of the page and breaking the fourth wall. I would also love a new spin on PRESS HERE.

I prefer short texts that don't take themselves too seriously, and high-concept ideas that can be sold on the title alone.

I would like some classic texts that could become gift books for the various holidays (Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, Halloween etc.).

If you think you might have something that fits my wish list, or feel like I might be the agent for you, then please get in touch with your full picture book text or first 10 pages of your book pasted into an email with a query letter telling me more about the project. Send your submission to

Ultimately, I am always after a character with a unique way of looking at the world. I’m itching to sign some new projects, so I look forward to hearing from you!

1 comment:

  1. So admittedly I don't have anything ready to pitch that would fit your WL (yet). But I had to just say - Pump Up the Volume is possibly one of my favorite movies of all time. Who DIDN'T have a teenage crush on Christian Slater? :)