Posts Tagged Agent Interview

Adria Goetz – Editor/Agent Spotlight & Giveaway!

I’ve been a huge fan of Adria Goetz, a senior agent at P.S. Literary Agency, since meeting her online years ago. Adria is kind, supportive, and her enthusiasm for great books and her talented clients shines through. After reading this on her Manuscript Wish List, how could an unagented writer resist submitting to her?

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!

Here’s Adria’s bio: Adria Goetz is a senior literary agent at PSLA representing picture books, middle grade, adult fiction, and graphic novels. She specializes in picture books by author/illustrators. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, as well as the Columbia Publishing Course. In 2019, she was selected as a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. Adria has eclectic taste but particularly enjoys projects that are tinged with magic, have so much heart you can practically hear their heartbeat, and have a compelling, commercial hook. She was recently proud to represent THE OCEAN CALLS by Tina Cho, THE WHATIFS by Emily Kilgore, THE UGLY DOODLES by Valeria Wicker, NO ORDINARY THING by G.Z. Schmidt, HALAL HOT DOGS by Susannah Aziz, and BATTER ROYALE by Leisl Adams, and dozens of others. Adria lives in an old Victorian farmhouse in Washington state with her husband and their two darling cats, Maple and Mulberry. You can find her detailed manuscript wishlist on her website, her MSWL Pinterest board, and you can find Adria on Twitter and Instagram.


Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Adria! We’re thrilled to have you here. Can you share how you became an agent…and the best parts of your job?

Sure! I started off with an internship at Martin Literary when I was in college. I interned for two years, then became a part-time assistant there. I attended the Columbia Publishing Course, which is a summer intensive where you learn about all the ins and outs of the publishing industry. When I returned from that, I officially joined the Martin Literary team as an associate literary agent in 2016. I switched over to P.S. Literary in 2022. The best part of my job is the wonderful, creative people I get to work with—so many of my clients feel like kindred spirits to me. I’ll also always love getting to feel like a bookish fairy godmother—becoming an author is often a lifelong dream that people have had since they were kids, so the fact that I get to come alongside people and help make that dream come true is really special and exciting to me.


You definitely are a bookish fairy godmother–helping dreams come true. What do you love most about middle-grade novels?

I think the thing I love about middle grade most is how much room there is for whimsy. But it also takes me back to such a special and vivid time of reading for me growing up. I’ll never forget being captivated by A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and fretting about Count Olaf and the creepy eye tattoo on his ankle, or reading THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS and having to close the book and take a deep breath because I was so frightened. Or feeling like I was actually traveling through time with THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE chapter books, or actually running around Chicago with Esperanza in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. I remember desperately hoping with all my heart that Winnie Foster would drink the water in TUCK EVERLASTING. Those books are all so vivid to me in ways that books I’ve read as an adult or young adult just aren’t for some reason. Can we dial up a lovely neuroscientist to explain why that is? I’m sure they would know!


What are some of the top reasons you pass on submissions?

The top reason I pass on things is just because of the volume of submissions I receive. I usually receive somewhere between 4500-5500 submissions per year, and I only sign a couple of clients from that stack. The second most common reason I pass on things is based on the concept of the book, rather than the writing. I’ll read a query and if I don’t feel like it has a strong hook, then I pass at that point. I think when writers receive passes they think, “Oh no! They didn’t like my writing!” But for me it’s usually more about the idea. That’s why whenever I have appointments with writers at conferences, I always like to ask about what other projects they’re working on, so if I hear an idea that sounds particularly interesting, I can say, “Ooh! That’s a good one. Follow that rabbit.”


What do you wish people knew about the life of an agent?

I wish people knew how much we hate rejecting people! It’s truly the worst part of the job. Every time I pass on a project I think, “I hope I didn’t ruin this person’s day.” I know how emotional it is to put yourself out there. Querying takes guts.


We’d love to hear what your favorite middle-grade novels are…and why you love them so much.

I recently read THE ELEPHANT’S GIRL by Celesta Remington—actually, I don’t think I read it, I think I inhaled it. There’s so much heart in that story, and I loved the magical realism elements. I loved CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley—it’s magical, and I always love a dual timeline.

I love novels that reflect specific moments in history the way BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson explores the Great Migration or the way SHIP OF DOLLS by Shirley Parenteau highlights the 1926 exchange of Friendship Dolls. I also loved INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing Mcmanis and Traci Sorrell.

Ooh, and I adore anything Brian Selznick creates—especially THE INVENTIONS OF HUGO CABRET and THE MARVELS.


What exciting projects have your clients published (or will publish soon)? What drew you to these manuscripts the most?

One of my favorite middle grade novels I’ve had the chance to represent is NO ORDINARY THING by G.Z. Schmidt which is a magical story about a snow globe that travels you through time when you shake it. The mysterious tone of those opening pages was such a love at first read moment for me, I’ll never forget it. G.Z. Schmidt also has THE DREAMWEAVERS which is a fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology and is very atmospheric—it’s about mooncakes whose secret ingredients are dreams. I’m excited for her next novel, THE CURIOUS VANISHING OF BEATRICE WILLOUGHBY, which publishes this fall. I also adore the first middle grade novels I ever sold—a whimsical fantasy trilogy by Jon Etter whose series title is “Those Dreadful Fairy Books” by Jon Etter. It’s a really funny series about a cranky fairy who very reluctantly goes on magical adventures. The books are narrated by Quentin Q. Quacksworth who is a Lemony Snicket-esque narrator of fairytales who actively judges the reader for bothering to read the dreadful books. That cheeky voice instantly drew me in. I loved working on HOUSE WITHOUT WALLS by Ching Yeung Russell which is a beautiful novel-in-verse about the Vietnam Boat People Exodus of 1979—the lyrical writing hooked me and all of the details make you feel like you’re a fly on the wall witnessing a harrowing refugee experience.

I’m also really excited for the middle grade graphic novel-in-verse THE OTHER SIDE OF TOMORROW, written by Tina Cho, which publishes next year with HarperAlley and is being beautifully illustrated by Deborah Lee. It’s about North Koreans leaving the country through a network of safehouses referred to as the Asian Underground Railroad.

Thanks for sharing, Adria. Those sound amazing! I just added so many wonderful books to my must-read list and have a feeling our readers did, too.

What about chapter books? Have you represented anything in that area?

I have! I represented an 8-book chapter book series called HELPER HOUNDS by Caryn Rivadeneira. Each book in the series follows an emotional support dog and shows how they help kids navigate different emotional challenges.


That sounds incredible! I love animals and can’t wait to read the HELPER HOUNDS series.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?  

Can I do a quick plug for some events I’ll be at this year? I’m teaching a workshop in Tuscany, Italy this summer called The Art of Picture Book Writing and it’s going to be a really fun week filled with writing, learning, and exploring Tuscany. I’m also going to be on faculty at a writers retreat in the Catskills this fall. Anyone who is interested in either event can visit my website for more details!


Thank you so much for joining us at the Mixed-Up Files, Adria! It’s been wonderful chatting with you. 😊

Adria generously donated a query critique! 

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win it.

The winner will be announced here and contacted via e-mail on Saturday, April 8. Good luck!

Edited to add…congrats to the lucky winner…

Julie Hauswirth

I’ll e-mail you about your prize!

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Agent Spotlight: Jonathan Rosen at The Seymour Agency

Hi Jonathan, I’m so excited to interview you for our Agent Spotlight here on the Mixed Up Files, the blog you yourself started and have watched go from success to success over the last 10 or so years. You recently made the jump to agenting as well, joining The Seymour Agency, so now we get to tap your brain from the “other side!”

Jonathan Rosen, literary agent at The Seymour Agency

Can you tell us a little about your path to becoming a literary agent?

Jonathan:  Hi Meira,

Thanks for asking me!

Being an agent is something that I had thought about doing for a while. So, at the end of 2021, I spoke to my agent, Nicole Resciniti about it, and she thought it was a good idea. So, mid-year of 2022, I started learning the ropes and announced shortly afterwards.

People who follow you on social media will quickly see your sense of humor. Is that something you look for in authors to represent?

Jonathan: I’ll always have a soft spot for humor in anything, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a humorous story in order for me to be interested in it.

People will also see how much a fan you are of retro popular culture. Do you bring that to the table as an agent?

Jonathan: I will say that I’m very interested in anything pop culture related. I handle a lot of nonfiction as well, and a lot of it is grounded in the pop culture realm.

What most struck you when you made the jump from author to author AND agent?

Jonathan: A few things. Not that I didn’t know it, but I got to see for myself just how busy agents are. It really is a lot of work. A lot of reading, research, and working on things for clients. It really keeps you busy. Another thing that struck me is just seeing things from the other side. Learned a lot of things.

Knowing what you know now as an agent, what do you wish you would have known when you yourself were querying, and then as a pre-published author on submission, and then as a published author?

Jonathan: Proper submission format or etiquette. You’d be surprised at how many generic queries you get. Even with addressing it as Dear Agent. Just making sure everything is done right. Your query, your submission should be in great shape as well. Have even received queries, that say, It really starts getting good on page 6. Then, why doesn’t it start there? Don’t sabotage yourself.

What MG books influenced as a child and what are you loving that’s out there now?

Jonathan: My favorite books as a child were the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I just devoured them. As far as what’s out there now, there are so many that I do love. Won’t name specifics, but there are many that I read and admire.

Photo via empireonline

As much as it’s important not to “write to trends” it’s interesting to see what trends or themes emerge in publishing. What trends are you seeing in children’s publishing: is anything over the hill now and what do you think might be on the horizon?

Jonathan: I don’t speak of trends. I am a firm believer that you should just write what you want and if it’s good, a home will be found for it.

Can you tell us a little about your own MG work?

Jonathan: I still am writing MG, and have several stories planned, but currently have been working on an adult book. Have other stories that I want to tell.

What’s the best way for people to find out more about you as an author and what you’re looking for as an agent?

Jonathan: As an agent, you can check my bio on, my MSWL wishlist, or just query me. I really do have a variety of tastes. I’m interested in so many different types of things, so take a chance.

As far as my work as an author, besides my website,, I guess we’ll find out more about my work when my own agent submits it to editors. Have a few things in the pipeline that I’m excited about. 😊

Jonathan, it was so great to speak with you and get your insights–thank you!

Jonathan can be found on Twitter at @houseofrosen



New Middle Grade Animal Book Series by PJ Gardner, HORACE & BUNWINKLE! Special visitor, Agent Kari Sutherland!

Young readers love stories driven by animal main characters. There’s something relatable about animals and their humble relationship to nature and the humans around them.  And usually lots of humor. Like this next book I have to share with you!


HORACE & BUNWINKLE!The first in a young middle grade animal series in which an anxious Boston Terrier and an exuberant potbellied pig team up to solve crimes in their barnyard—from debut author PJ Gardner, with illustrations by David Mottram.

Perfect for fans of the Mercy Watson series, The Trouble with Chickens, and A Boy Called Bat.

Horace Homer Higgins III despises dirt. And the outdoors. And ducks. But when his person, Eleanor, moves to a farm called the Homestead, the anxious Boston Terrier is forced to adapt. As if that isn’t enough to strain his nerves, Ellie adopts a perpetually cheerful potbellied pig named Bunwinkle to be his baby sister.

Bunwinkle is delighted to be on the farm despite the stuffy demeanor of her new canine brother. She’s sure she’ll crack his shell eventually—no one can resist her cuteness for long—especially once they bond over watching a TV pet-tective show.

When the duo discovers that neighborhood animals have been disappearing, they decide to use their new detective skills to team up to solve this barnyard mystery. Is it a mountain lion? Or their suspiciously shot-loving veterinarians?

Only one thing seems certain: if they don’t figure it out soon, one of them might be next!


*Special Surprise For Readers About HORACE & BUNWINKLE*

After you share in our chat with Author PJ and Agent Kari, make sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom for your chance to WIN a copy of HORACE & BUNWINKLE Signed by Author PJ Gardner!

Chat with Author and Agent

Welcome PJ & Kari! These two characters are simply adorable! I knew the moment I met them that our MUF family just had to invite you both for a visit.

Let me start with you, PJ:

Have you always wanted to write animal characters or did Horace and Bunwinkle start out as human characters? Or maybe something else?

Animals have so much personality. They’re as individual and quirky as any human. So, it’s always seemed natural to me that they have their own stories. And I was raised on those stories. The first books I remember reading were Little Bear and Frog and Toad. Charlotte’s Web had a huge impact on me, too. I have the clearest memories of sitting in Mrs. Hill’s third grade classroom with my book on my desk, as she read to us. Oh my gosh, I can still remember sobbing like mad at the end.

Charlotte’s Web . . . yes, me too!🕸️🐷🕸️

Horace and Bunwinkle were always animals, but their names were originally Quincy and Queenie. My youngest son who was about seven at the time, got really into Rocky and Bullwinkle and Claymation movies. One day he wanted to watch Wallace and Gromit, but he couldn’t remember their names. He asked me to put on Horace and Bunwinkle. Changing the names inspired me to actually write the story.

Middle grade readers love mysteries, following the clues and oh, the suspense! What makes this mystery unique?

The mystery is unique because the investigators are unique. A stuffy, rule abiding Boston Terrier and a precocious, freewheeling piglet make for unusual detectives. But they are real detectives. (They call themselves pet-tectives, by the way.) They use real investigative methods, often to humorous effect, and the stakes are real.

Love pet-tectives!💚

Let me turn to Kari for a moment. Before I ask you about PJ’s work, I’m sure readers would like to know what you look for first in a submission.

The first thing that will draw me to a query is the voice. Is it compelling and engaging? Plot is something that can be reworked, but voice is integral to capturing me as a reader and agent.

I think I know the answer now, but I still have to ask – what drew you to request P.J.’s work?

See above. 😊 P.J.’s voice leapt off the page and pulled me in. The first thing she queried me with was a very serious YA, so the tone was completely different from Horace & Bunwinkle, which wasn’t something I saw until we were already working together. It was a project she’d set aside, then sent to me when we were talking about middle grade ideas. Everything PJ sends me is infused with its own, distinctive, voice and Horace & Bunwinkle actually has two– Horace, the anxious, proper Boston Terrier, and Bunwinkle, the confident, cheerful pot-bellied pig. I love them both!

I’m sure readers are going to agree with you.

PJ: Horace and Bunwinkle is the first in this book series. Did you intend on writing a series?

In my mind Horace & Bunwinkle was always a series. I had five or six ideas for future stories with these characters when we went on submission. In fact, Book 2 is has gone to copy edits, and I’ve started working on the outline for Book 3.

This is exciting! Congratulations on completing book 2.

Horace and Bunwinkle has been offered as a comparison to series, The Trouble with Chickens, and A Boy Called Bat. Is there a book from your childhood that reminds you of H&B, a book or character(s) that was dear to your heart?

The comparison I’ve always thought of is There’s a similar quirkiness and humor, plus a fun mystery. And I love that both break the “dumb dog” stereotype. I’m so excited it’s being made into a graphic novel!

Kari: From your agent’s eye, how is this animal story different from others?

It combines a lot of appealing elements including a hilarious cast of critters with unique personas, a bucolic setting, and a fun mystery, but at its heart it is about two individuals learning to love each other despite their flaws and working together to crack the case. I think the dynamic between Horace and Bunwinkle really makes this stand out!

PJ: Humor is a great draw for MG readers. Would you give an example (maybe even a brief description of a scene) of how you used humor in this book?

I’m a huge fan of quirky characters and the humor that comes from their interactions. I do this a lot in Horace & Bunwinkle. Take Smith and Jones, two very old horses who live on the Homestead. Smith is extremely hard of hearing and Jones is a conspiracy theorist. He believes ghosts are stealing the animals. Later, he realizes it’s really aliens. They’re witnesses to several of the pet-nappings but getting good information out of them is a humorous mess.

Why will readers like Horace and Bunwinkle as characters?

Even though Horace and Bunwinkle are animals they’re totally relatable. They’re weird and silly, they get grumpy and anxious. Specifically, I think they’ll like that Horace has a gruff exterior, but a kind heart, that he changes over the course of the book. And Bunwinkle is pure fun, excited about everything, and full of life.

What do you hope readers take with them once they’ve finished the book?

I hope that readers see themselves in the characters. I hope they feel inspired to be curious, but also take care of their community. That probably seems silly from a lighthearted mystery in animal point of view, but Horace and Bunwinkle also deal with real things like adoption, moving, and anxiety.

Fun Tidbits For PJ

You’re walking into a library. Which section do you go to first and why? I would go to either the mystery or the manga sections. I adore a twisty-turny tale of suspense, especially if there’s a supernatural element. I was introduced to manga a few years ago and really got into it. I’m partial to shojo.

Favorite writing snack or drink? Cinnamon bears and/or Nearly Naked popcorn.

Time to write? I have 3 kids and 2 dogs, I write when I get the chance.

Book? The Life of Pi.

You’re stuck in a dream and the only way to escape is to write your way out. What would be your first sentence? Wake myself from a dream sentence: The spiders are coming.

I am right behind you!

Questions About Writing📝

PJ: For our writing readers, would you briefly share your writing process.

Have a great idea. Brainstorm endlessly. Talk myself out of writing. Get 700 more great ideas. Watch K-Dramas. Ride a guilt wave. Organize thoughts. Start writing. Force myself to write through the “This is garbage” phase. Eat a dozen bags of Cinnamon Bears. Finish a draft. Let it sit. Watch more K-Dramas. Organize thoughts again. Force myself to edit.

Kari: Are you an editorial agent? How did you and P.J. work together on this project?

Yes, I’m definitely an editorial agent (having worked as an editor for many years, I can’t help it!). The main things we focused on before submitting it were bringing the mystery forward in the arc, spinning out more suspects/clues along the way, and fine tuning of the emotional arcs for each character. I’d point out questions I had or places it was bumpy and PJ worked her magic.

And lastly, Kari . . . Mind sharing some advice for our reading writers out there.

Write the story that comes from your heart—don’t write to a trend. Read across a wide range of genres and tastes as that helps you study character, plot, pacing, and language style. Remember that nobody’s first draft is perfect and even if you have to set aside a project (or two), they were all steps along your journey as you hone your craft and were important even if nobody else ever reads them.

Thank you for sharing Horace & Bunwinkle with us! All the best to you both. We can’t wait to see more of Horace and Bunwinkle in the future.

About The Author

When PJ Gardner was a little girl growing up in Colorado she dreamt of being an actress or a dental hygienist or even Mrs. John Travolta. It Author PJ Switzerdidn’t occur to her that she could be a writer until she was a grown up. Now her debut middle grade novel, Horace & Bunwinkle, is being published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, and she’s thrilled.

PJ lives in the scorching heat of the Arizona desert with her husband, sons, and Boston Terriers, Rosie and Rocky. She doesn’t own a pig because her husband says she’s not allowed to. INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | WEBSITE

About The Agent

Agent Kari SutherlandKari Sutherland joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2017 after a decade of experience in publishing from the editorial side. Previously a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, she has worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors on projects such as the #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. With her editorial insight and experience with the entire publishing process, Kari is passionate about helping to polish each manuscript and equip her clients for success. Find out more about her at or follow her on Twitter: @KariSutherland.

Love Animal Tales? Check out a STEM collection we’ve gathered HERE!


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