Editor / Agent Spotlight

Agent Spotlight: Lynnette Novak

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome agent Lynnette Novak from The Seymour Agency to The Mixed-Up Files. We had a great talk about publishing and middle grade books. You can learn more about Lynnette and what types of manuscripts she’s looking for here. In the meantime, take a look at the interview to get to know her even better.


Dorian: Welcome to The Mixed-Up Files! Can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming a literary agent and about The Seymour Agency?

Lynnette: In Canada, I was a teacher and a writer, then I added freelance editor to my titles. When I moved to the U.S. to be with my husband, I continued writing romantic suspense manuscripts and started to final and WIN contests, including becoming a Golden Heart Finalist (RWA) and having two manuscripts final in the Daphne (as well as other contests). I grew my editorial business online and was a mentor in Pitch Wars for two years. That’s what put the “agenting bug” into my system. I loved going through my slush pile, choosing which project to work on, and seeing it go somewhere. Both of my mentees acquired agents and one is now published! My writing career was starting to take off, but I was really drawn to agenting, so that’s the path I decided to follow. I’m so happy I did. I LOVE THIS JOB!!!


Dorian: How wonderful to be involved in so many facets of the book industry. What middle-grade books inspired you as you were growing up?

Lynnette: I loved Judy Blume, as well as many other authors, but she was my go-to.


Dorian: What are some of your favorite recent middle-grade books?

Lynnette: Too many to list! LOL It also depends on my mood. Sometimes, I want to read MG horror. Other times, I’m more in the mood for something contemporary, especially from a diverse author who can offer an authentic voice. I also like cute and funny as well as cool worlds in fantasy and sci-fi. Plus, I’ve recently fallen in love with novels-in-verse and graphic novels.


Dorian: What genres, subjects, or themes would you be thrilled to receive when you open your in-box?

Lynnette: See previous answer. LOL I’m really drawn to an author’s voice above all. Hook me with that, add a unique premise (or a twist to something that’s been done), and I’ll be thrilled!


Dorian: What do you wish writers who query you knew about the publishing industry?

Lynnette: I wish more authors would do their homework before querying. I receive too many queries with word counts that are way under or over the industry standard, which is usually an instant rejection.


Dorian: Good advice! What are some of your hobbies or special interests that aren’t necessarily obvious through your agent profile?

Lynnette: I’m a crafter. I do all kinds of crafts like: cross-stitching, building miniature houses, painting sculptures, diamond painting, scrapbooking, Rainbow Looming, needle felting, crocheting, and more!!! I’m also obsessed with animals and nature!


Dorian: Do you see any changes coming up for middle-grade books in 2022?

Lynnette: Oh, if only I had a crystal ball! LOL


Dorian: I guess that’s what we all want LOL. You mention that before you were an agent, you were an editor. What craft tips do you have for our readers who are also writers?

Lynnette: Learn about GMCs (goals, motivations, conflicts – both internal AND external—and what’s at stake), show/don’t tell, POV slips, talking heads, backstory dumps, pacing, and authentic dialogue.


Dorian: Great tips! Would you like to tell us about any middle-grade books coming out this year from The Seymour Agency?

Lynnette: Marzieh Abbas has a six-book early chapter book series, starring Muslim-American sibling Nadia and Nadir, coming out in the fall of 2022.

Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz’s COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES, a middle-grade anthology including 13 stories about the Jewish rite of passage by: NYT bestselling author Barbara Bottner, NYT bestselling author Nancy Krulik, NYT bestselling author Stacia Deutsch, award-winning author Alan Katz, award-winning author Laura Shovan, award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin, Sarah Aronson, Debbie Reed Fischer, Debra Green, Henry Herz, Jonathan Rosen, Melissa Roske, and Stacie Ramey is coming out in March 2022.

I can’t talk about the other MG deals yet because they haven’t been announced, but for the most part, those will come out in 2023.


Dorian: How can readers and writers follow you on social media?

Lynnette: @Lynnette_Novak on Twitter


Dorian: Thanks so much, Lynnette, for taking the time to talk to us!

Lynnette: Thanks so much for having me! I had a blast!!!




Are you ready to hone your skills in Ready Chapter 1??

Hello Mixed-up Files! Today, I’m sharing with you an incredible opportunity for your writing journey that is taking the craft world by storm (not a stormy night) called Ready Chapter 1.

Ready Chapter 1 begins its inaugural year-long workshop dedicated to propelling writers into publishing in February.

The faculty is an All-star group of writers, agents and editors, including middle grade gurus Jonathan Maberry, Greg Neri, and Henry Neff.

Writer/illustrator Fred Koehler, who facilitates the first class on “Story Ideas the Sell”, is the mastermind behind this new and innovative project.

Here are some thoughts from Fred on the website, www.readychapter1.com, as they prepare to launch:

Writers are the nicest people you will ever meet. There is nothing quite as refreshing as finding yourself surrounded by fellow creatives who are passionate about the same things that ignite your spirit. Any place you find community within the writing world will become a refuge for you, especially as you deepen your roots. Because in those communities of like minded creatives, you discover that you are not alone. Others share your brand of weirdness. And every time you return to your normal life after hanging out with fellow writers will leave you feeling wistful. Like making friends at camp and then having to say goodbye till next summer. 

There are two writers inside each of us, and success requires both of them. The first writer, and the one that comes most naturally, is the pure creative. It’s the one that revels in the descent of the muses. The one that finds joy in the perfect turn of phrase or the plot twist that not even they saw coming. The second writer is the public persona of an author. It dresses up. Pushes past insecurities. Delivers the keynote. Invites others into the circle. Without the first writer, the writing itself will be transparent and shallow. Without the second, your stories may never see the light of day.

You can’t make Luck, but Luck can make you. I have had several serendipitous moments in my writing career to which I can attribute no amount of effort or talent on my own part. There was the TV station manager I met in line at the coffee shop. A month later I was on the CBS morning show. And then there’s the editor who thinks I bear an uncanny resemblance to their firstborn son. That editor always responds to my submissions. The more time you spend putting yourself out into the world, the more chances you will have to cross paths with Luck. And if you have a great manuscript ready when Luck comes knocking–that’s when the real magic happens.

Getting discovered is a dream come true for more than you. Yes, I realize that sounds a little bit like Dr. Seuss but we’re going to run with it. Everyone gets excited about the buzz of a shiny new talent. Publishers love to debut their latest rockstar, fingers crossed for chart-topping sales. Editors and agents build reputations on bringing brilliant books to life from previously unknown voices. And let’s not forget about all of your writing friends who get to dress up for the launch party. When and if it happens, embrace it. You only debut once so enjoy the ride!

Publishing takes its own sweet time. The publishing industry is the grocery store equivalent of that person who gets in the ten items or less lane with 25 items, asks for three price checks, tries to use expired coupons, and then insists on paying with a personal check for the part that the gift card doesn’t cover. Put otherwise, publishing is slow. If you write a story about the latest greatest pop culture moment of today, it will be forgotten by the time your book comes out. So write to trends instead of fads. Better yet, write from your source and ignore everything that is currently popular.

The book is never done until the publisher sends it to print. There are so many times I have thought that a story was (mostly) perfect just the way I wrote it and nobody else better say otherwise thank you very much. The crit group loved it. The agent said it was ready for submission. Editors who got a chapter asked to read the full. The story never would have gotten that far unless it was good. But good isn’t good enough for a publishing deal, much less a publishing success. Be prepared to trust your editor when they say that it needs a lot of work. Perhaps even a substantial revision. Fight for what matters in your story. Rewrite the rest.

If you’re not careful, you can forget why you’re here. If it’s money and fame you’re after, you will never be happy no matter how much money or fame comes your way. But if you create for the simple delight of exploration, letting your curiosity roam free until it hooks on an idea you can elevate to art–you have a lifetime of joy ahead. Everything else is gravy.

In addition to Koehler, Maberry, Neff and Neri, the award-winning faculty contains authors Janice Hard, Lisa Cline Ransome, agents Michaela Whatnall and Joyce Sweeney, and editor Lorin Oberweger and Harold Underdown.

Sweeney, also an author of 14 YA novels, represents a plethora of middle grade authors and will deliver the August workshop on Stakes and Tension for Ready Chapter 1.

Here are some of her thoughts on the website:

For RC1 Academy, you will be teaching Stakes and Tension in August. Can you give us one example of who has done this brilliantly in a book?The last thing I read like that was a graphic novel. THIS WAS OUR PACT by Ryan Andrews. It was non-stop surprises, yet every plot turn was satisfying. In recent picture books, I felt it in DRAWN TOGETHER by Minh Le and Dan Santat. In middle grade, Christina Diaz Gonzalez would get the prize from me.

Describe the perfect client. No wait. Describe an imperfect client that you are willing to invest in. Perfect client participates in the process, wants to be an equal partner with me, trusts my business judgment but also holds to their own creative vision, is willing to pivot, revise or do whatever it takes to get to the goal. Is fun to talk to. The imperfect client has all the same traits, but perhaps projects that are harder to sell.

If your goal for 2022 was to finish drafting or revising a novel with a community like Ready Chapter 1, how would you prepare? I would pick a project that I know has a good hook and could sell, regardless of how much work I feel it needs. RC1 is the place to do that work. And I would write down every question I could think of to ask this amazing assembledge of teachers.


Hope this information on Ready Chapter 1 was helpful. To register, visit the website  www.readychapter1.com/ The first class starts Feb. 1 and there are still some spots available.

Agent Spotlight: Ameerah Holliday of Serendipity Literary Agency

For our final post of 2021, I’m delighted to introduce readers to Agent Ameerah Holliday from Serendipity Literary Agency.

Ameerah is a dancer and self-proclaimed poetess from San Diego, California. She received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from San Diego State University and is a former editorial assistant intern for Poetry International. She currently serves as editorial director for the San Diego Poetry Annual and editor for Kids! San Diego Poetry Annual.

Here’s more about Serendipity, Ameerah, and what she’s looking for in the way of submissions.

Dorian: Welcome, Ameerah, to The Mixed-Up Files! Can you tell us a little bit about Serendipity Literary Agency and your role there?

Ameerah: Thanks so much for having me! Serendipity is a Black-owned literary agency with over 21 years in the industry. We represent everything from illustrators and board books up through adult nonfiction. Our president and lead agent Regina Brooks, is a phenomenon! She’s an author, an engineer, Vice President of the board of AALA (Association of American Literary Agents) . . . basically, she’s someone you want to know! Our team is very collaborative. We are constantly working together to make sure our clients receive our very best.


Dorian: Sounds fabulous! How have your experiences in dance and poetry influenced you and your desire to work in the publishing industry?

Ameerah: I love being involved in the arts! I’m the youngest in a large family and that tended to make me a pretty quiet kid, so I had to find new ways of expressing myself. Both dance and poetry helped me do that. One of the best things being a dancer taught me was how to take rejection and keep going. So often in performing you’re auditioning for a million things: companies, roles, solos, and so being told “no” just becomes a part of the game. The same thing can be said about publishing. Whether you’re querying or trying to sell a project you learn to just take the feedback and keep going. In working in publishing, one of my motivators has always been to look for stories or writers that may feel unseen and give them the spotlight. I’ve been a part of many ensembles in the past so I know how important everyone in the scene can be.


Dorian: Great insights! What middle-grade books inspired you as you were growing up?

Ameerah: My friends in school were really big readers, and it took me a while to warm up to books. Every now and then a teacher or a friend would recommend something to me and it would convince me that maybe they were on to something when it came to reading. My Granny gave me a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume the moment I started middle school, which immediately taught me that I could learn through fiction. I read The Cheetah Girls by Deborah Gregory right before the movie came out, and I was obsessed! However, if I had to choose one that really sparked an interest in what books could do, it would probably be Holes by Louis Sachar. I read it for class one year, and I distinctly remember every day being extremely thirsty by the time I put it down. It was my first real experience of having a story really pull me into the experience of someone different from me.











Dorian: What are some of your favorite middle-grade books now?

Ameerah: There are so many amazing books out or getting ready to come out! I never tire of going to the library to pick things up. The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera was such an amazing take on sci-fi/fantasy with elements of culture and storytelling that I loved. Love Double Dutch by Doren Spicer-Dannelly had me regretting the fact that I never learned to double dutch growing up. Fast Pitch by Nic Stone is great. I love a story about kids taking charge and shaking the table. Also, JD and the Great Barber Battle by J. Dillard because who doesn’t love a young entrepreneur!









Dorian: What genres, subjects, or themes would you be thrilled to receive?

Ameerah: I’m always open to taking a look at a story regardless of the genre. I am typically drawn in by intersectional and diverse experience or slice of life narratives. I’d love to see stories that highlight the trans and nonbinary experiences without being stemmed in trauma. In general, I love a good friendship story —  stories where a group of friends lean on each other to take on their worlds. I’m also a huge fan of the new Baby Sitters Club series on Netflix, diverse experiences of friends, and growing pains. I’d also love to see more about the awkward phase that comes with being a preteen, losing friends, changing schools, or simply that time of struggling to embrace the discomfort.


Dorian: Do you have any hobbies or special interests that you’d love to read about?

Ameerah: I’m always open to seeing stories that involve performing arts of any kind. I’m also big on community and cultural pride so, anything that gives you that feeling of a peek into someone’s life in their neighborhood or family.


Dorian: What changes do you think 2022 will bring in the way of children’s books?

Ameerah: What I love about the publishing community is that there is such a strong desire to expand our world and our understanding of who we are. Diversity comes in a range of topics now, and so many of them involve the celebration of being different. I think the children’s book space is a place where all of these ideas are still growing and evolving. I imagine 2022 will bring more BIPOC kids at the center of fantasy, neurodiversity in the experiences of characters (and authors), and joy, which we can always use more of.


Dorian: What tips do you have for writers ready to query an agent?

Ameerah: Make sure that your manuscript is the best it can be before you start to send it out. If that means taking a step back from it or calling on your friends and cousins for second reads then that’s okay. There’s never a rush when it comes to making sure you’re as confident as you can be in your work. Also, these things take time. If an agent doesn’t get back to you right away, it doesn’t automatically mean they aren’t interested. Publishing can be a waiting game sometimes so try to stay positive. You’ve got this!


Dorian: Great advice! Lastly, how can people follow you on social media and/or query you?

Ameerah: Our submissions portals are available through our website SerendipityLit.com. All of our agents are phenomenal but if you’re interested in submitting to someone specific just mention them in your query letter and it’s sure to get to the right person. You can follow us on all platforms @SerendipityLit.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Ameerah. Wishing you lots of joy and good books in 2022!