Author Interviews

Agent Spotlight with Ann Rose of the Prospect Agency!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers! Are we in for a treat today! For my last post of the year, I’m pleased to welcome Ann Rose, who besides being a really great author, is also an agent with the Prospect Agency!

JR: Hi Ann, thanks for joining us today!

AR: Thanks for having me.

JR: To start, could you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an agent and also about the Prospect Agency?

AR: Absolutely. A million years ago (okay, maybe not that long) my niece had asked me to read some books with her. She was a vivacious reader and her friends really weren’t but she wanted someone to fangirl with over books. So I told her to tell me what to buy, and we started our own little book club. After one of her favorite characters died, and she called me sobbing, I told her I’d write her a book and this is were my story truly begins. As a girl who has never liked to do anything halfway, I decided if I was going to write her a book I was going to learn everything there was to know about the publishing industry which included getting an internship at an agency on top of my forty hour(+) a week job managing a portfolio of applications for all of America and part of Latin America.

I found agenting to be fascinating, and I loved how each day brought different challenges to conquer, so after a few years, and my day job being eliminated (thanks corporate America) I took to agenting full time and found a home with Prospect Agency. I call it serendipity because really all the stars aligned to make it happen, and I haven’t regretted it a day since.

JR: That’s a great story. I hope you’ve found some books for her that don’t make her sob now! 🙂 How did you get your first client?

AR: I met my soon to be client at a SCBWI conference here in Houston. She had requested a manuscript critique and from the very first sentence of her story I knew I found something and someone special. I requested the full manuscript. Her book then went on to be sold to Macmillan and comes out next Spring. We are already talking about next projects one of which is a Graphic Novel that I’m super excited about and can’t wait until it’s finished.

JR: You must be very excited about that. What’s changed in publishing between the time you started and now?

AR: Publishing is always changing in some way or another which is why I really like this industry; nothing is ever boring or stagnant. Editors come and go, and they move around—which is always interesting to try to keep track of. I’m excited to say that the amount of diverse books written by diverse authors seem to be getting more attention in the market which is awesome and something I’m always on the lookout for.

JR: What do you enjoy the most about your job?

AR: I love working with my clients. I love helping them bring their manuscripts to another level. I love challenging their abilities and constantly watching them grow as writers. I love texting them and telling them how a particular part of their story made me laugh or cry. And once their books get out in the world I know I’m going to love how readers love their books as much as I do.

JR: Your clients must love having you in their corners like that.

Like me, I see that you’ve moved around a lot. Funny that I almost moved to Texas from New York, but wound up in Florida, and you moved from Florida to Texas. Do you think that living in different places has helped influence your taste in books?

AR: I don’t think the places I’ve lived affects my taste as much as the people I meet. But I will say that my move to Texas (and since I didn’t know very many people here) gave me more than enough opportunities to read lots of books.  Now the longer I’m here and the more people I meet and the more integrated my family gets into the community does take some of that pleasure reading time away.

JR: Your friends will just have to understand that you have books to read! 🙂 What sort of books do you look for?

AR: I look for books that make me want to keep reading. I know super specific, right? But really, it’s the voice and heart of a story from the very first line that helps pull me through. I’m always looking for books to take me to new places and that allow me to experience new cultures and worlds. I may have moved a few times, but I haven’t traveled nearly as much as I’ve wanted so anything that can show me something different than I’ve seen before. So, I’d love more diverse books written by diverse authors in my inbox please. (Of all age groups MG-Adult. If it sounds like I could like it send it my way.)

That said, I’d love to see some more middle grade of all genres in my inbox. As well as more adult stories. Rom-coms – historicals with a strong feminist twist (that do or do not have romance) LGBTQIA+ stories. I’m also hoping to open up to graphic novels in the near future.

For a comprehensive list please visit my MSWL page at Ann Rose Manuscript Wishlist

I do try to keep this updated.

JR: That’s great that you represent a wide variety of books and genres. What do you want in an author/agent relationship?

AR: I’m looking for a long-term monogamous relationship. This sounds like a dating service listening doesn’t it, LOL. But seriously, I’m looking to help authors grow their careers. So while it would be great to find that one “Harry Potter” in the bunch, I really want people that I can work with for a long time, because while those big breakout books do happen they are more the exception than the rule. My authors are like my family—we call ourselves the Rosebuds, and I love it.

JR: I LOVE that name! Except now, I’ll probably start thinking of you as the Citizen Kane agent!

You’re also an author of your own books, Road to Eugenica and Breakout. Can you tell us a little bit about them, and also, do you think it helps you to look at your own work through an agent’s eye, or do you sometimes get too critical of yourself?

AR: Sure.

Road to Eugenica came out in 2018 and basically it is about a girl with superhuman abilities from another dimension on Earth—who is being hunted for those abilities. This is actually the book I wrote for my niece all those years ago (and rewrote a number of times).

Breakout is about a group of teens who are forced to work together to escape and AI enforced prison, except, who do you trust when everyone is guilty?

As for looking at my work through an agent’s eyes, I don’t really do that. I mean it would make sense to, I guess, but it’s still an artform, and so I have to write what my heart wants me to. Whether that’s what’s “hot or not” really doesn’t matter to me as a writer. While sure I’d love to sell all the things I write, it’s a journey and with each book I learn something new along the way.

JR: Your books sound really good. Love Sci/Fi and going to have to pick them up! What advice can you give to authors?

AR: Keep writing. If it’s in your heart and something you can’t not do than keep doing it. If you are writing just because you think your book is the next Harry Potter and you will never have to work another day in your life than maybe it’s time to quit while you’re ahead. Publishing/Writing in general is not for the weak of heart. It’s not easy or simple, and the people who love it and stick with it are the ones that will see their time (eventually). It’s not the newest get rich quick scheme. It takes a lot of sweat (and tears) and determination but if you can handle a lot of “no’s” and there will be lots of them. It will make the “yes’s” all that much sweeter.

JR: I can vouch for the seat and tears part! What was your favorite book as a child?

AR: I used to love those choose your own adventure stories. I remember sitting at my friend’s house for sleepovers and staying up way too late deciding if the character should take a ride in the gondola or not. Which I guess it makes sense why I’m a writer now, because I like being the one to make those decisions.

JR: I think I might’ve gasped when you answered! The CYOA books were among my favorites as a kid. My dad always used to get me one whenever we went to the bookstore. And speaking of being a kid, what’s one thing from your childhood that you miss and wish could come back?

AR: Do kids do lip-sync contests anymore? Because if not that should definitely be a thing. I remember going all out having contests and choreographing for lip sync contests as a kid. Those were the days.

JR: Going to have to find out which song was your go-to for lip-syncing. Before we go, I have to ask, I read that you trampoline enthusiast? I’m afraid of even doing standard jumps, so like how good are we talking?

AR: Good? No, I’m horrible. I just think they are lots of fun.

JR: Where can we find you on Social Media?

AR: You can find me of course on Prospect Agency’s website – www.prospectagency.com

On Twitter I’m @annmrose – Twitter

On Instagram I’m @totally_anntastic – Instagram

For my author page, you can find me at Facebook

JR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today!

AR: Thanks again for having me. This was such a blast.

 

Well, that’s it for this month, Mixed-Up Filers! I’d like to once again thank Ann Rose for joining us. You can check out her books over at Indiebound

I’d love to stay and chat more, but Dorian Cirrone is having me scrub the ballroom floor for our big Mixed-Up Files New Year’s bash!

To the rest of you, Happy New Year from your Mixed-Up Files team!

Jonathan

STEM Tuesday–A Partridge in a Pear Tree and other Birds this Holiday Season– Interview with Author Jennifer Ward

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Jennifer Ward, author of I LOVE BIRDS! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander & Explore Birds with Kids. It’s part journal and part field guide full of amazing activities for readers to explore. The St. Louis Audobon Society said “It’s a perfect fit for parents and teachers looking for ways to engage children in STEM activities.

Christine Taylor-Butler: Jennifer, you began your career as an elementary educator and now have more than 20 widely acclaimed books for children. How hard was it to make the switch to writing full-time?

Jennifer Ward: It was both scary (financially) and bittersweet to resign from teaching to pursue writing full-time – giving up a job I was passionate about in addition to a regular paycheck/benefits. I definitely took a leap of faith!

CTB: What a leap! Do you miss teaching?

Jennifer: I do miss teaching, having my own classroom/students and school- community camaraderie. However, as an author, I’m a “nomadic-educator”, traveling and speaking in schools and at conferences. It also brings me great joy to know educators use my books with their curriculum.

CTB: In the book, you talk about the magical moment when, as a young child, you first heard a bird call pierce the quiet. Have there been other magical moments that inform your work?

Jennifer: Each book I’ve written has had that magical “aha” moment- a trigger, an experience that surfaces with story potential. I bank on those moments, wondering when the next one will present itself. Having been writing professionally for more than 20 years now, I’ve learned to trust the process and know that science and nature will never cease to fuel my creativity.

CTB: You write about a nature deficit, especially for families living in a city with busy lives. How hard was it to come up with 52 unique sensory explorations a parent and child could accomplish together.

Jennifer: Sadly, nature deficit is a real thing today. It wasn’t difficult to create sensory experiences in urban spaces because I drew from personal experiences. “I Love Birds!” focuses on birds and many species of birds have adapted well to living in cities. Sensory explorations take little time, are free of cost, great for the soul and rely on simply being “present”, even if it’s just for a few seconds. We, kids and adults alike, need to practice putting down the screen and connecting to the environment around us. It’s so easy to not be present today.

CTB: Although I LOVE BIRDS is about observing and appreciating birds and their behavior, you incorporate other elements in these tasks. For example, going outside and taking the time to feel the air on your skin and the ground beneath your feet. It made me want to try them all myself. Are the book’s activities also a form of meditation for families with busy lives?

Jennifer: I hope you do go out and try them yourself! Indeed, “I Love Birds!” encourages families to meditate in nature – even if it’s indoors and spending a moment to enjoy the warmth of sun seeping through a window or making time to observe what is going on outside of a window. It’s the art of slowing down for just a few seconds and re-connecting with this amazing planet of ours.

And

Jennifer Ward is the author of more than 25 nonfiction, fiction and nature-activity books. Recent books include Mamma Dug A Little Den, and Feathers and Hair: What Animals Wear. She’s received numerous awards including New York Public Library’s Best Informational Book of the Year, ALA Notable recognition, the International Literacy Association/Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice Award, the Giverny Award for Best Nonfiction Picture Book and more. To learn more visit Jennifer on Twitter at @jenwardbooks or her website: www.jenniferwardbooks.com

CTB: Now I’m curious. What has been your most unusual experience when observing birds?

Jennifer: Oooh. Good question! Hmmm…this could be another book, lol. One experience this year – there’s a knot in a tree in my backyard – one of many knots among many trees. But THIS knot is a hot spot for some reason? There’s something within it that draws every species of bird to it. Sap? Pooled water? Cached nuts and seeds? I’m not sure. But I am sure all the birds love this one, particular knot.

CTB: If you could choose one quick STEM based activity for readers to try, what would it be?

Jennifer: I challenge readers to engineer a bird nest using materials found in nature. Then, experiment to see if the nest is sturdy enough to protect a fragile egg. The experimental egg could be a mini-marshmallow, or if the nest is large enough, an actual chicken egg. Can the nest support the egg, protect the egg from elements such as wind, and offer adequate protection/shelter for the egg? Consider the nests you can see in “naked” trees during the winter months when trees are bare. Those nests often withstand season after season of weather extremes. Pretty amazing considering birds build without the use of opposable thumbs!

CTB: You call yourself a “bird nerd.” So I was wondering, beyond science and nature, do you have other hobbies or passions you would love to write about?

Jennifer: I am such a bird nerd, my life orbits around the lives of birds every single day. BUT, I do have other hobbies and passions: my family, my dogs, photography (primarily birds), painting, drawing, camping and gardening.

CTB: So what’s up next? Are there any new books coming out that we should keep our eyes out for?

Jennifer: Thank you for asking! I do, three to be exact! Fall 2020 – a picture book called, “How to Find a Bird” (S&S/Beach Lane Books) illustrated by Diana Sudyka. It is gorgeous! And I love that Diana implemented the two main characters (kids) as POC. Birding has often been characterized as a hobby for retired Caucasian people. That needs to change; the future of our planet and birds depends on it – Jason Ward @JasonWardNY is making great strides with this. 
Also next fall – a picture book called, “Round” (S&S/Beach Lane Books) illustrated by Lisa Congdon. It’s premise is everything round in nature, from objects to elements to seasons and beyond.
And 2021 or ’22 – a picture book called, “Just You and Me” (S&S/Beach Lane), with illustrations by Alexander Vidal. Alexander also illustrated “I Love Birds!”

Win a FREE copy of I LOVE BIRDS! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander & Explore Birds with Kids

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

 

Christine Taylor-ButlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. @ChristineTB

 

Interview with Chris & J.J. Grabenstein, co-authors of SHINE!

Today at MUF we’re talking with Chris & J.J. Grabenstein, co-authors of the middle-grade novel, SHINE! (Random House Children’s Books), which James Patterson says is, “Inspirational, commonsensical, and a whole lot of fun.” We got the writing partners — and life partners! — to tell us about their new book, how they work together, and what’s next for them.

 

Shine!

Mixed-Up Files: J.J., we understand the idea behind SHINE! was yours. Can you talk about what sparked the idea? What made this the story you decided had to get written?

J.J.: I guess living in New York City has made me hyper aware of how hard everybody here strives to get ahead. What pre-K your child gets into, theoretically, will help determine whether they get into Harvard. Growing up in an environment where accomplishments and awards were highly prized, I wish I had read a book that said who you are as a person is even more important than landing on the honor roll or winning the lead role in the school musical.

We know that J.J. has helped behind the scenes on many of Chris’ other books, but how was the process here different than in the past?

CHRIS: In the past, J.J. has been my first editor. She reads everything before anyone else and encourages me to cut out the boring parts. She also lets me know if anything takes her out of the story. An odd word or phrase. An illogical leap. Confusion of any kind. But, in the end, those books are my books and I get the final say (even though I typically take all J.J.’s notes and make all her suggested changes).

On SHINE! we were equals. Both our names would be going on the cover. We both had to be happy with every word.

MUF: What did your collaboration look like?

CHRIS: Well, first we spent months blocking out a very detailed outline. VERY detailed.

That’s a technique I learned from James Patterson. When I work on a project with him, he creates an extremely detailed outline with all the twists and turns plotted out. I execute a first draft from that outline and check in with him every month with new pages.

With J.J., we checked in every day.

We also discovered that we have extremely different writing techniques.

In college, I majored in Communications at the University of Tennessee. J.J. studied music and theater at Northwestern (yep, that’s why the hero of our book’s father is a music teacher). At the end of my freshman year at UT, I took a typing test. We needed to do 30 words a minute before we could take any sophomore level courses. From then on, every assignment we turned in had to be type written.

When I graduated, I could type over one hundred words a minute. In fact, working as a temporary typist was how I supported myself when I first moved to New York City to pursue a writing and comedy career.

So now, when I write, I think through my fingertips.

J.J., on the other hand, has a theatrical background. For years, she toured the country doing musicals. She also appeared Off Broadway in the long-running hit NUNSENSE. Today, she works as a voice actor, creating lots of different characters. (She narrated my HAUNTED MYSTERY series from Random House.)

When J.J. writes, she wants to act out all the scenes. And play all the characters. Something I was doing in my head and sending down to my keyboard (and she thought I was just typing). This led to some very interesting scenes in the writing room.

Chris and JJ Grabenstein

MUF: Did you ever disagree at points on what direction the book should go? If so, how did you resolve that?

J.J.: Not on the overall direction. On individual scenes? Yes. If neither one of us could convince the other to see it our way, then we realized there was something fundamentally wrong with both approaches. So, we’d chuck whatever we were championing and work out a solution that made both of us happy.

MUF: Do you find collaborating on a book with someone else harder or easier than doing it solo?

CHRIS: In a lot of ways, it’s much easier. Someone else is helping you map out the journey and make decisions along the way. Then, if you take a wrong turn, it’s not entirely your fault!

MUF: What’s it like when you get editorial notes back? How did you decide to tackle those edits? What was the division of labor there?

J.J.: We were very fortunate to have Chris’s longtime Random House editor Shana Corey working with us on SHINE! In fact, we often say, her name should be on the cover, too. She was a true third partner throughout the whole two-years and six drafts it took to get the book right.

Like I’ve seen Chris do (from time to time), I’d whine a little about the editorial letters and all the notes. After all, what we had turned in was perfect, right? But then, the next day, I’d also do what I’ve seen Chris do countless times: Realize Shana was right. And the book would be better if we made her suggested changes, cuts, or additions.

MUF: What projects are next for you both?

CHRIS: Well, let’s see…my first picture book, NO MORE NAPS, from Random House will be coming out in February. There will be a fifth Lemoncello book, MR. LEMONCELLO AND THE TITANIUM TICKET, coming in late summer, 2020 to be followed by the first book in what we hope is a new Middle Grades series. I also edited and contributed to a collection of short stories for the Mystery Writers of America that will be out in June. James Patterson and I will have, I think, three books coming out in 2020, including the 7th in the popular TREASURE HUNTERS series. And, I am doing a new Audible Original entitled STUCK, where I get to make a cameo appearance.

J.J.: Well, after reading Chris’s list, it looks like I have a lot of first editing to do! I’ll also be heading back to the sound booth to record books and voice overs for all sorts of clients. I’m also happy to report that I will be appearing in the Audible Original STUCK. Chris and I play goofy cartoon characters at a game-arcade/restaurant called Chuck and Ernie’s.

MUF: Do you both read quite a bit of middle grade? What are some of your favorite recent MG titles? Any recs for us?

CHRIS: I do read (and listen) to a lot of Middle Grade stories. My recent faves include Steve Sheinken’s BORN TO FLY, R.J. Palacio’s WHITE BIRD, Stuart Gibbs’ CHARLIE THORNE, and Jerry Craft’s NEW KID.

J.J.: I read a ton of Middle Grade books. Because Chris writes a ton of ’em every year.

MUF: Tell us a little bit about SHINE! for our readers. 

CHRIS: Well, the gang at Random House always knows how to summarize a book better than me! Here’s what they say:

“Who do you want to be?” asks Mr. Van Deusen. “And not when you grow up. Right here, right now.”

Shine on! might be the catchphrase of twelve-year-old Piper’s hero–astronaut, astronomer, and television host Nellie Dumont Frisse–but Piper knows the truth: some people are born to shine, and she’s just not one of them. That fact has never been clearer than now, since her dad’s new job has landed them both at Chumley Prep, a posh private school where everyone seems to be the best at something and where Piper definitely doesn’t fit in.

Bursting with humor, heart, science, possibilities, and big questions, Shine! is a story about finding your place in the universe–a story about figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

MUF: If you have anything else to add, please feel free!

We’re excited to see the numerous ways teachers and librarians have already brought SHINE! to life in their schools. We’re also thrilled that the folks at Random House put together such a fantastic Educators’ Guide for the book. (Click here for the Educators’ Guide to SHINE!)