Today I’m thrilled to introduce Mixed-Up Files readers to the incredibly productive and wonderfully enthusiastic agent and author, Kaitlyn Sanchez. Kaitlyn is an agent at Context Literary Agency and is a familiar presence online as co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest and creator and co-host of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest. (See below for more information on those contests and more.)
While Kaitlyn isn’t open to queries, she has generously offered middle-grade writers an incredible opportunity to pitch their books in the comments section below. Writers will have until Wednesday, September 1 at 11:59 PM (EST) to post their pitches. (Anything after that will be eliminated.) Kaitlyn will comment on the pitches she would like to see. If you receive a comment, Dorian will contact you with submission information.
Rules for the Pitch Opportunity
- The pitch must be for a middle-grade manuscript or graphic novel.
- The work must be complete.
- The pitch must be 60 words or less.
- The pitch must be posted before Wednesday, September 1 at 11:59 PM (EST).
- Please remember, only the pitches that Kaitlyn comments on should be sent to her. Let’s be respectful of her time and the fact that she’s doing a special event just for us, even though she’s closed to queries.
- If you choose to pitch, be sure and click the “Notify Me Of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box so you’ll know if you received a response from Kaitlyn.
And now on to the interview!
Dorian: It’s great to have you here Kaitlyn! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in children’s literature?
Kaitlyn: Hi, Dorian, it’s so wonderful to be here. I’m a long-time subscriber of this fantastic blog and love all the book and industry people you highlight! I, myself, like many kidlit authors first got into this industry when I decided to write children’s books because I was reading them with my daughter. My mom had also always told me I should be a children’s book writer. Then a friend from college began writing picture books and asked friends on Facebook to edit them. This trifecta of writing events eventually led me here!
Dorian: What made you decide to become an agent? And can you tell us about Context Literary Agency?
Kaitlyn: Thanks for asking, Dorian! My road to becoming an agent is definitely a different one. I was in many picture book critique groups at one time (nine, I think) because I just loved helping people edit their books. At the same time, I accidentally stumbled, with my critique partner Ciara O’Neal, into running blog contests for picture book writers. My favorite part was connecting the winners to industry professionals, and because I was lucky enough to be in critique groups with friends who were interning with agencies, I realized, Ohh, this is what agents do. They help edit books and connect the authors to professionals in the industry who help get them published. So I posted a tweet that said I wanted to become an agent, and not long after, I was interning with the very talented Anna Olswanger.
Context Literary Agency is such a dream team! Tamar Rydzinski, our fearless leader and stellar agent, has brought together an amazing group including herself, co-founder of Manuscript Academy, Jessica Sinsheimer, and incredibly insightful Crystal Orazu. I am so happy to have the support of this team and love all the fun we have together, too!
Dorian: Sounds like a great group! What aspect of agenting do you enjoy the most?
Kaitlyn: Such a wonderful group! And, oh, Dorian, that’s a toughy! There are so many wonderful things about agenting, from reading a client’s awesome new idea, to strategizing about submissions lists, to getting an offer and getting to tell the client, to seeing the first sketches and covers, and eventually (we’re getting there next year!) getting to hold the beautiful book that I had a small part of bringing into the world in my own hands. So…uh…which do I like the best? Can I say all of these above?
Dorian: Certainly! What books inspired you as a child to want to read and write?
Kaitlyn: Yay! So glad I got to say them all! And, love this next question, Dorian. I was on and off with books as a kid. I Iove love loved them as a child, especially The Rainbow Fish and Clifford. In fact, my parents told me I read a book for show-and-tell in kindergarten (and apparently it was upside down the whole time, ha!). Then in middle school, I discovered the magical world of binge watching TV—yup, I was an original binger before streaming services—and books fell by the wayside. But we had to do Accelerated Reader for school, so I had to find a book. One day, I was walking around the library and saw this beautiful blue spine on the shelf with gold lettering, so obviously, I had to pick it up. It was The Red Badge of Courage, and I just loved it. Luckily, my godfather was an English teacher and gave me Black Boy as a follow up. I’ve been in love with historical books and historical fiction in particular ever since I read these incredibly powerful books. Also, Harry Potter was a pillar series from my childhood, especially because Harry grew up with us (I was about the same age as he was for most books) and for the seventh one, in college, my now-husband read the whole book aloud to me; it was epic! Finally, another amazing historical fiction from my childhood that I hope more people read is Thursday’s Child. There are many many more, but I’ll stop there. Feel free to check out my Manuscript Wish List for more: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kaitlyn-sanchez/
Dorian: While you’re closed to queries right now, what type of stories do you wish would land in your inbox in the future? And what type of pitches would you be excited about in the comments section?
Kaitlyn: Ohhh, goody goody gumdrops! This is super fun. I’ll focus on middle grade here. I love love love coming-of-age novels. Although some of the books I listed above are historical fiction, they’re also coming-of-age novels, too. I love friendship stories, comedy, mysteries, magical realism (but I typically shy away from full blown fantasies). For topics, I love sports, especially soccer, and math or science. I love seeing internal battles and joining characters as they deal with emotional aspects of life, and I love fun. Good ol’ fun! I would be super interested in working on a horror that’s not too scary or gruesome, too! I am always interested in learning new things (in a non-didactic way, of course), and I am a huge proponent of kids seeing themselves in stories, so please pitch me diverse stories – LGBTQ+, BIPOC, neurodiverse, and more.
Tips on Pitching and Querying
Dorian: What tips for writing a successful pitch can you give writers?
Kaitlyn: Wow, that’s a toughy. For novels, it’s important to give a good idea without giving too much away—easy right? Ha, no way! But I would much prefer clarity over intrigue, so I know what to expect. I hope writers always remember, pitches are much different than writing itself and take a whole different skill set, so practice, practice, practice!
Dorian: Great advice! What tips do you have for writers in the querying stage?
Kaitlyn: *Blows raspberry* Well, for querying writers, I really like the term “query trenches” because it really depicts the emotional state you’re in at that time—there are many unknowns underneath all the pressure. And that feeling can still apply when you get an agent and you’re on submission to editors, so it never fully goes away for most of us. (For those of you who are like, What is she talking about? This is all a breeze. Please teach the rest of us your ways! Pretty please, with a cherry on top!) Though once you have an agent, you have someone in your corner interpreting and guiding and supporting you during passes, so my best advice is to get a great writer’s support team. Sometimes you need a hug (even if it’s virtual), sometimes you need help interpreting, sometimes you need people to celebrate with who truly understand. But most of all, from an agent perspective, I can tell you, if an agent says the story isn’t a fit for their list, that doesn’t mean your story isn’t good. It usually means you’ll find someone else who is better to represent it. Though editing is always an option, don’t think that one pass means it’s time to edit. Also, from me as a writer, don’t use red for the passes on the form where you keep track of your queries. For me it was too harsh, and I may have ended up hating red for a bit. Consider orange, it’s a bit softer on the eyes. 😉
Dorian: Please tell us more about the contests you run as well as any other social media projects you’re involved with.
Kaitlyn: Of course! I love talking about these wonderful opportunities!
Spring Fling Kidlit, which I co-host with Ciara O’Neal, was the first contest created and is a blog contest for picture book writers to stretch their skills, create a community, and connect with industry professionals.
Fall Writing Frenzy, which I co-host with Lydia Lukidis, is similar but it’s open to all Kidlit writers (PB-YA) and instead of a hierarchy of winners, it’s a contest where each writer selected as a winner gets paired up with someone in the industry we hope they will work well with.
And surprise! There’s another I help run that just completed its second year; Kidlit Zombie Week. This is a revision week and pitch contest where you can work on manuscripts with tips and support of a wonderful community. It’s mainly for picture book writers because the hosts, which are actually a wonderful critique group I’m part of—six Ladies and a MANuscript—are picture book writers, but any Kidlit writer can participate. More info here: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/contests/
Dorian: Those are some great opportunities! One last question: Can you tell us about a special interest, hobby, or obsession that you have that isn’t mentioned in your bio?
Kaitlyn: Of course, Dorian! What a fun question. One of my favorite obsessions is soccer. I’ve always loved playing and still do. When I’m out on the field, nothing else matters—the rest of the world falls away. It’s part of who I am and where I feel a huge sense of belonging as well as incredibly free. I hope that everyone has a hobby that allows them to feel this way every now and then.
Thanks so much, Kaitlyn, for taking the time to answer these questions. For more about Kaitlyn, here’s how to connect with her on social media:
Twitter: @KaitlynLeann17 https://twitter.com/KaitlynLeann17?s=09
And here’s how to follow her wonderful clients: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/literary-clients/
For those of you who are interested in pitching your middle-grade book to Kaitlyn, follow the guidelines above and go for it! Good luck!!