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!