IN PURSUIT OF DELIGHT
My mission statement, which you can read at the top of my Manuscript Wish List post, specifies that I look for books that delight readers.
On my introductory phone calls with writers, I always read this mission statement so they can get a sense for who I am as a person, agent, and reader. And so they can see why I gravitated toward their work.
On a phone call with a writer recently, I mentioned that I found her work particularly delightful, and I thought readers would too. “Delightful projects are tough to find,” I explained.
“Really?” she asked in disbelief.
It seems that most of the picture book submissions that cross my desk are either too serious, or too didactic. They’re out to teach, inform, or carry out their agenda, and the story gets lost in the lesson. They lack delight. If you’re not sure what delight looks like, it looks like this: kids giggling, cackling at times, kids gasping, kids cheering as the story is being read aloud to them. Delight is NOT watered down commercialism-fueled projects with no substance, or a trend-chasing concept. It’s a story filled with twists and turns and all the good stuff.
I particularly love working with librarians and teachers, because I feel like they have their fingers on the pulse of what kids find delightful. They’re surrounded by kids so they can’t forget what it is that kids like. When they write, they’re not writing with a hypothetical child in mind. They’re writing with specific names and faces in mind. Real life wiggly kids with sticky hands who want to be delighted by stories, rather than scolded by them.
I’m hoping to spend the rest of my career in pursuit of delight.
I went to Baltimore for the first time a couple weeks ago because my dad was having a rare heart surgery at Johns Hopkins hospital. We had the weekend before the surgery to wine, dine, and explore the city. And folks? It was glorious. Brick buildings, gorgeous churches, cobblestone roads, amazing restaurants, and the kindest people.
But the most glorious part of Baltimore had to do with books. I mean…
Exhibit A: This Barnes & Noble just a few blocks from out hotel. Amazing. I bought two creepy YA books that I can’t wait to read.
Exhibit B: George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University. Pinch me.
There’s a lot that goes into reading and evaluating a project that shows up in my inbox. One of the tools I utilize is called a “5 in 5 Rule.” This is a tool I use when approaching novel submissions in particular.
My 5 in 5 Rule: if I can’t instantly think of 5 specific names of editors I’d send a project to within reading 5 chapters of a manuscript, I pass.
There’s so much throwing-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-seeing-what-sticks in publishing. And though I’m guilty of spastically throwing just as much spaghetti as the next agent, I’m striving to—more and more—send out tighter submission lists that are as personal and specific as possible. I want to find the right wall and the right spaghetti. Some editors are brick walls, some are paneled walls, some like whole grain spaghetti, some like gluten free. Okay, this analogy is falling apart. But you know what I mean—hopefully. (Also, going to Olive Garden to carboload real quick. BRB.)
I also use this 5 in R Rule because I only want to take on projects if I think I can be the best advocate possible for a writer. And sometimes, this means I pass on great writing. I did recently, in fact. And, likely, I will again soon. But if I don’t have the right set of contacts for a project, I could be setting up the writer—and myself—for failure or disappointment.
So while I know that a pass from an agent can feel like the worst rejection ever that stings, remember that these is nuance to these decisions. And when one agent comes up empty, there’s another one out there brimming with ideas.
My client Bailey Welch wrote a really insightful piece on how the Proverbs 31 woman is preached, versus how real women of the Bible were utilized for God’s purposes. It was published with RELEVANT Magazine last week.
Read it here.
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My husband Alex and I had the best time at Erin James’ Tasting Cider book launch party at The Woods in Seattle. We did a tasting of some of the most delicious, autumnal ciders from The Seattle Cider Co.
I forgot how amazing craft cider can be. Especially compared to the makes-my-teeth-feel-grimey sugariness of Angry Orchard.
Tasting Cider: The Cider Craft Guide is out now, represented by my colleague Clelia Gore.
The Green Burial Guidebook by Elizabeth Fournier
Release Date: March 15, 2018
Publisher: New World Library
Despite the widespread attention garnered by Jessica Mitford’s 1963 exposé of the funeral industry, The American Way of Death, the American way of death still includes average funeral expenses of between $8,000 and $12,000. What’s more, every year conventional burials in the U.S. bury 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, containing carcinogenic formaldehyde; hundreds of thousands of tons of wood, steel, copper, and bronze caskets; and millions of tons of concrete vaults. There is a better way and Fournier, affectionately dubbed the “Green Reaper,” walks readers through it, step-by-step. With green burial and home funeral basics to legal how and what’s; choices in practices (at home, at sea, etc.); and even detours into examples of celebrity green burials; this is comprehensive and compassionate guidance. The idea of a “good death” has been much discussed. Fournier points the way to good post-deaths, ones that consider the environmental well-being of the planet and the economic well-being of loved ones.
Preorder this fascinating book on Amazon now!
Martin Literary’s newest editorial intern joined us yesterday for her training day. I met Madi at the Seattle Writing Workshop and was instantly impressed by her smarts and go-getter attitude. I’m so happy to have her on board for this school year.
Madi will be helping me respond to submissions, evaluate manuscripts, edit actual client manuscripts, research, and so forth.
She’s pictured here, double-fisting my two kittens, Maple and Mulberry.
You can follow her on Twitter at @madeline_seaman
I look for books that delight readers, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that foster deep empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, that provide rich character representation of marginalized people groups, that explore issues of faith and how to apply Christ’s teachings to our own life, that celebrate women and the female experience, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that make readers pee their pants laughing, 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.
2018 Conferences, Workshops & Events:
- Mount Herman Christian Writers Conference. Will take meetings, host meal tables, and teach a workshop called The Art of the Query Letter. Mount Herman, CA. March 2018.
- Seattle Writing Workshop. Will take pitch sessions, sit on panel. Seattle, WA. April 2018.
- SCBWI Agent Day. St. Louis, MO. April 2018.
- Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference. Bellevue, WA. June 2018.
- SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. La Mirada, CA. June 2018.
- PNWA Writers Conference. Seattle, WA. September 2018.
- SCBWI-Oregon Fall Retreat. Salem, OR. September 2018.
- Taking meetings in New York. October 2018.
2017 Conferences, Workshops & Events:
Adria accepts queries for picture books, middle grade, young adult, as well as Lifestyle books, quirky gift books, Christian Living titles, devotionals, and everything else under the Christian umbrella.
Please send your queries to Adria@MartinLiteraryManagement.com
I am looking for work featuring diverse characters, nontraditional family structures, and character-driven narratives.
I am looking for Lifestyle books that feature accessible recipes, craft tutorials, gardening basics, with quirky lists or other interactive elements.
For fiction queries, please include a query letter and the text of the first ten pages of your manuscript pasted in the body of your email. Also, please include a link to your Twitter account, if you have one.
For nonfiction queries, such as Lifestyle or Christian Living titles, please include a query letter and the proposal attached as a PDF or Word doc to the email.