Hello Mixed-Up Filers! Are we in for a treat today! Years ago, I was fortunate enough to take a workshop with Tina Dubois, literary agent with ICM Partners. Besides running a great workshop, she couldn’t have been nicer! So, I’m pleased to let all of you get a chance to meet her here at Mixed-Up Files.
JR: Hi Tina, thanks for joining us today!
TD: Thanks so much for having me and for your kind introduction! I’m glad our paths continue to cross.
JR: To start, I see you live in Brooklyn. I’m a Brooklyn boy, myself. Sheepshead Bay/Gravesend area. What is it about the city that appeals to you?
TD: The energy, the pace, the people!
JR: I agree with that. You also lived in London, one of my favorite places. How has living in different areas helped influence your tastes?
TD: I want my list to reflect a far greater swath of experiences and points of view than my own. Moving from a small town in New England to study in London surely helped shape that.
JR: Could you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an agent and also about ICM?
TD: Shortly after receiving my MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, I got a job as an assistant to two amazing agents at a boutique literary agency. They taught me every aspect of the business, from pitch letters to contract language to foreign rights. I moved to ICM a few years later and began building my own list under the mentorship of another amazing woman.
ICM Partners is one of the oldest and largest agencies in the world, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and London. I’m very fortunate to work with such incredible colleagues representing the most talented people across so many disciplines: music, comedy, theater, broadcasting, television, film, podcasting, speakers, publishing, you name it!
JR: What was the first book you sold?
TD: Anne Ursu’s middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Cronus Chronicles. It set a high bar, and I’m so grateful to Anne for trusting me with those books—with all of her children’s books!
JR: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
TD: I love working with my authors. They are so talented: creative and smart and funny. And hardworking!
JR: What sort of books do you look for?
TD: I’m looking for middle-grade and YA fiction across all genres. I’m also interested in middle-grade and YA nonfiction, specifically memoir (including graphic memoirs), history/biography, pop culture, and social issues. I want diverse voices/#ownvoices. I want books with something important to say about the world we live in and that challenge the status quo. I have a soft spot for unpredictable magic and characters facing impossible choices. I love books that make me laugh and cry in equal measure.
JR: Are you very hands-on with your authors?
TD: Yes. I like to be involved with every aspect of the publishing process. It’s really a collaboration with my authors—from the submission strategy to the editorial vision to the cover design to the marketing and publicity plan. The focus is always on creating the best book, considering the market it’s being published into, and anticipating how the author’s career is being shaped with each book being published. I’m also an editorial agent, so it’s not unusual for me to do a round (or two) of edits before going out with a project.
JR: With everything that’s going on, what’s the state of publishing right now?
TD: My answer to this question changes moment to moment. There are terrible, impossible losses—book sales, jobs, lives. There are also heartwarming acts of generosity and kindness—established authors using their robust platforms to support debuts; booksellers and libraries serving their communities with remote events. None of these things erase the very real hardships facing us right now, and I can’t pretend to know what’s to come. But I am grateful for the publishing people who are working hard to give us stories to help make sense of our world–and real facts for when certain voices in that world speak nonsense.
JR: What advice can you give to authors?
TD: Write from your most empathic, beautiful self, pursue whatever fascinates and scares you, and read widely.
JR: That’s great advice. I always like to ask, what was your favorite book as a child?
TD: I don’t know that I had a favorite—or rather, my favorite was always whatever book I was currently reading—but I know Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson resonated deeply with me.
JR: What’s one thing from your childhood that you wish could come back?
TD: The raucous family gatherings we used to have when my mémère was alive. All the aunts and uncles and cousins still get together, but it’s not the same without my mémère’s cooking and her smile. She was full of mischief, and she loved us grandkids. My sons would’ve adored her.
JR: Very sweet. One of my grandmothers never got to meet my kids and I always wish she had. How can people follow you on social media?
JR: Okay, before I let you go, a few months ago, you posted a photo of you holding a duck, and made it seem like it’s a ritual. I need to hear the story behind that.
TD: Oh, jeez, how do I explain this? Several years ago when I was home for the holidays, my oldest childhood friend took a photo of me with one of her chickens perched on my head. The following year, it was two chickens. Then three. Then four. This past year, she added ducks to the mix. Every year I insist it’ll be the last (because claws and beaks and dignity), but you will not find two people laughing harder, and so the tradition continues.
JR: It did look like you were having a lot of fun, but I suggest you quit before it reaches vultures! I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to speak to us today!
TD: Thanks so much for having me! It was a pleasure getting to chat books–and birds!—with you, Jonathan.
What a fun interview; thanks so much to Tina and Jonathan!
Loved this interview, especially: “Write from your most empathic, beautiful self.”
What a great chat, Jonathan and Tina!
What a fabulous interview! Favorite part? “because claws and beaks and dignity” Thanks so much, Tina and Jonathan for providing much-needed joy this morning.