Hello Mixed-Up Filers! Are we in for a treat today! I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Tracey Adams, co-founder of Adams Literary several times, as well as take workshops given by her. I have to say, 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 Tracey, thanks for joining us today!
TA: Thanks for having me, Jonathan!
JR: To start, could you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an agent and also about Adams Literary?
TA: Ok, so waaaay back (promise I’ll make this short!) my family owned a printing company in New York City which was founded in 1837. It started in Brooklyn and ended up in Tribeca, which was a neighborhood of printers in Manhattan. I grew up visiting the printing presses in that basement, and with huge reams of paper in the house for creative projects. We say we have ink in our veins. In college, I learned of a publishing internship, and I figured it was something like printing but with reading for work! And it was. I interned throughout college and then worked in marketing and editorial. My dream was to have my own children’s imprint. But publishing was becoming increasingly corporate in the 90s, and I decided to see what it was like to work at a literary agency. I discovered much more flexibility for working mothers, along with what I loved most – working with authors and being a part of the book-making process. That’s how I became an agent. After my husband, Josh, graduated business school with a specialty in marketing, we went into business together and founded Adams Literary. It’s our middle child, and will be sweet 16 in April!
JR: That’s amazing. Incredible to have a company founded in 1837. I’m glad I asked to interview you, and learn something new! What was the first book you sold?
TA: At Adams Lit—oh, I don’t even have to think. On our first day in business, my dear friend Deborah Brodie at Roaring Brook Press made us two offers: one for Kathleen Johnson’s DUMB LOVE and one for Charlie Price’s DEAD CONNECTION. She meant the world to me, and I miss her.
JR: One of the things I really respect about you, is you’ve used your social media to call out antisemitism. I know I’ve spoken to many Jewish authors who have been frustrated in the past by a pushback against Jewish-themed books. Been told there’s no market for it. I’ve also been told by people to make things “Less Jewish”. Have you noticed any change in that recently?
TA: Fistbump, Jonathan. Thank you, too, for calling out antisemitism. Honestly, I get more of a pushback regarding texts being “too religious” for mainstream houses, regardless of faith. We know smaller houses which specialize in Jewish and Christian themes. But we also know many editors at the large houses who don’t shy away from Jewish content. I’m proud we just sold a picture book about Shabbat, and please check out Anne Blankman’s just-released THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS.
JR: I definitely will, and am also looking forward to the picture book about Shabbat. What do you enjoy the most about your job?
TA: It is very rewarding when I’m able to tell a debut author they have their first offer. That moment means so much, and to deliver that news is a tremendous honor. The other part that helps me through administrative stuff is the fan letters from young readers. That’s why we’re all doing this, right? For me, it’s all about the kids and reaching them in some way.
JR: I agree. There’s an incredibly warm and satisfying feeling to hear from kids, the actual readers, who tell you they loved your book. And speaking of books, what sort of books do you look for?
TA: We like to say “timely and timeless.” Marketing guru husband came up with that one, and I’m sticking with it. I’ve always said that if a book makes me laugh, cry, or dream about it, I’m all in. That’s my bar. Also: unputdownable. And writing that is so gorgeous that I must read it slowly, to savor the words.
JR: Are you very hands-on with your authors?
TA: It’s really important for me to be in the loop, to know what’s going on, even (especially) once my authors are communicating with their editors, publicists, etc. This is because international publishers and Hollywood are always checking in, and I need to know where we are. So I’m always copied on correspondence, even if it’s just me chiming in with a “Go, team!” reply. But when my authors are writing, I let them be and eagerly await what’s to come.
JR: What’s going on in Middle Grade?
TA: Editors are very eager for middle grade! And of course there’s a huge boom in the graphic format right now—kids can’t get enough (I’ve got one of these kids).
JR: I’ve got one as well. What advice can you give to authors?
TA: Read a ton in your genre. Attend as many SCBWI events as you can. Find a really great critique group (this is easier said than done—but so important). And persevere in honing your craft!
JR: Great advice. Critique groups can be really helpful. What was your favorite book as a child?
TA: As a picture book reader, I was obsessed with Richard Scarry books, the Hoban’s FRANCES books, P.D. Eastman’s BIG DOG, LITTLE DOG, and Little Golden Books like SCUFFY THE TUGBOAT and THE LITTLE RED CABOOSE. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking. And my dad read the Pooh books to me. As a middle grade reader, Katherine Paterson’s BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA made me a lifelong reader. I was a huge LITTLE HOUSE fan, and then of course everything Judy Blume and Paula Danziger.
JR: I LOVED Richard Scarry books! Read them over and over again. Favorite movie?
TA: As a kid, I loved movies like Escape to Witch Mountain, The Dark Crystal, The Secret of NIMH. As a teen (and forever), anything John Hughes. An all-time favorite is Almost Famous. I’m a sucker for anything coming-of-age.
JR: You named soooo many of my favorites! I recently rewatched Escape to Witch Mountain, and it brought me right back to childhood. What’s one thing from your childhood that you wish could come back?
TA: Playing outside. But you know what? It’s March 2020, and we’re all playing outside.
JR: Good point. Important question, you’re a big Carolina Panthers fan, so what’s your prediction for them this year?
TA: Oh, Jonathan. I don’t know this team at the moment. I’m still bitter about losing Cam, but I’ll rally. 8-8? RUN CMC! Keep Pounding! (That is also my heartfelt answer to the question above about advice to authors.)
JR: Also good advice. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m a Jets fan, so I never expect any success at all. How can people follow you on social media?
JR: Tracey, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today!
TA: Jonathan, you made me laugh and you also got me out of thinking about * everything else * happening in the world right now. Thank you. Everyone be safe and well!