Posts Tagged Agent spotlight

Editor and Agent Spotlights

We love spotlighting agents and editors every month! There’s so much you can learn from their interviews.

Are there any MG agents or editors you hope we’ll spotlight soon?

If so, please let us know in the comments.

Any MG agents or editors who would like to be interviewed—please tell us and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Just in case you’ve missed some of these interviews, here’s a list of them to check out. Happy reading!

*Things may have changed with some of agents and editors from older interviews. The best thing to do is check for agents at for updated information and helpful links. You can also check out the Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) for agents and editors.



Michaela Whatnall

Kaitlyn Sanchez

Leslie Zampetti

Dani Segelbaum

Ali Herring

Christie MeGill

Victoria Doherty-Munro

Molly Ker Hawn

Adria Goetz

James McGowan

Kristin Ostby

Sarah N. Fisk

Lynnette Novak

Ameerah Holliday

Jacqui Lipton

Tina Dubois

Joyce Sweeney

Tracey Adams



Rachel Stark/Disney-Hyperion

Elizabeth Law/Holiday House

Alison S. Weiss/Pixel+Ink

Chris Krones/Clarion

Thalia Leaf/Calkins Creek

Carol Hinz/Millbrook Press & Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing

Karen Chaplin/Quill Tree Books/Harper Children’s/Teen


We can’t wait to share more spotlights for amazing agents and editors soon!

Editor/Agent Spotlight: Agent Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates

Hi Ali, I’m so excited to welcome you to our Editor/Agent Spotlight here on the Mixed Up Files, thanks so much for joining us!

Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates Literary Agency

Thank you for having me on the Mixed Up Files blog! I’m excited to have a chat with you and your readers.

What was your path to becoming an agent? Did you always represent children’s books?

My path to becoming an agent started when I won a writing contest in first grade, which gave me that write-and-read bug that sometimes bites us early. I confess to many nights spent reading with a flashlight under my covers where my mom would enter and slowly tiptoe her retreat. After all, if the most terrible thing I was doing was defying bedtime for Little Women, things were going alright. This led me to a journalism degree in college and a job in communications for a small non-profit in Atlanta where I served as a trade magazine editor, among other in-house communications roles. Fast forward to a move to New York, then Connecticut, a set of twins and a third baby later, and I found myself a stay-at-home mom for ten years who read voraciously in her free time and fell in love with a book called The Lightening Thief. This led me to an attempt at writing a book, where I realized I was a better editor than writer. Landing an internship at an agency in CT was the key that opened my door to agenting when I decided to go back to work. And, yes, Rick Riordan’s voicey, funny adventurous worlds made me fall in love with kidlit, so children’s books have always been my passion.


What were some of your favourite middle grade books to read when you were growing up? Would you say that has influenced what you look for in terms of representing MG books?

My favorite middle grade books were Hatchet and Box Car Children. I loved the adventure and seeing kids surviving on their own.
Reading these books made me feel a sense of safety, that even in dire circumstances with enough willpower and ingenuity, you could overcome something bad, even young. I also loved Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia. Charlotte’s Web, in particular, was the book that taught me that not every story has to end happily or how you want it to for it to mean something. That sometimes the ones that hurt are the ones that stay with you, and mean something more.  Last one, The City of Ember was my descent into dystopian fiction.


Would you say there is any common denominator among all the authors and books you represent? Either within children’s books or across all the genres you represent?

I think most of my books are what I’d call “upmarket” though I do have some very commercial or very literary (on the adult side) titles on my list too. Upmarket to me means a very commercial concept, a fairly fast-moving plot, but an emotional heart with something to say. For instance, my client Lora Senf’s The Clackity is a middle grade book in which a pre-teen living in a haunted town with mostly friendly ghosts goes to an otherworld haunted by an evil ghost to save the last adult left in her life, her aunt. But she suffers from anxiety because of the loss of her parents, so the book is a lot about overcoming and finding hope in darkness. I love that horror teaches kids how to be brave! Another client title, is an upcoming YA “toxic friendship” novel called Dead Girls Don’t Say Sorry by Alex Ritany that asks the question, “What does it mean when your best friend dies and your reaction is relief?” It’s told in alternating timelines, unfolding a tale of layered deceptions culminating in her best friend’s death. On first read, it feels a bit like a thriller, but it’s ultimately about finding yourself and loving yourself and others after being subjected to an unhealthy friendship.


Do you ever ask authors for a revise and resubmit? If you do, what is the difference for you between offering representation knowing that you’ll want to make editorial changes before going on submission, and asking for a revise and resubmit?

I have offered Revise and Resubmits, though fairly rarely. R&R’s typically require a far more in-depth revision than what would happen editorially before one of my signed authors go on submission. There’s usually something more major wrong, and I need to see if the author can pull off a good solution.


Have you seen a difference in what kind of queries and material you are getting since Covid—whether that’s topic, theme, volume, polish…?

I just see a lot more queries flying into my inbox in huge batches as soon as I reopen. I think I had 644 after three weeks this time. Maybe it’s that agents are closing and opening more frequently, and people are waiting and ready when we reopen so it’s an influx. I typically see people following hot trends, so I’m getting way more middle grade horror in my inbox than I used to and far less YA fantasy. As to level of polish across the board, that’s fairly similar to year’s past.


How important is the query for you? Is there anything in a query that makes it an automatic “no” for you? Do you generally look at sample pages regardless of the query?

The query is initially far less important to me than the sample pages. Your writing is the most important! If your writing isn’t up to par, then the concept, even a brilliant concept, won’t get you a request. I used to read part of the sample first, and if that was engaging, I’d go back to the query to read. These days, on my Query Manager form, I ask for a high-concept pitch of a few sentences. I read that first now because it’s time-saving for me and it shows me if you understand what a good concept, hook, quick plot summary and stakes are. I’m also better oriented after reading it, so then I read the sample. I’ll go back to the query if the sample is good. You might get an automatic no if you send me something I don’t represent or if your word count is so far outside genre conventions, it will never work.


What are some of your current favourite MG novels, either from clients or non-clients?

Client books, you say? I mean, I’m super, super biased, but I think The Clackity is brilliant; it’s Bram-Stoker nominated. But I also happen to have read book two of that series, The Nighthouse Keeper, which comes out in October, and Lora’s pulled some sort of magic move, because her sophomore novel might even be better. We’ll see what the readers think, but I’m just amazed at how much hope she packs into middle grade horror! Also, I’ve got a MG novel called Henry Higgs and the Tangle-Hedge on sub, and that’s more speculative fantasy with an autistic hero, and it’s both hilarious and darkly beautiful and so real, and I can’t wait for that one to find a home. Kurt Kirchmeier’s MG debut The Absence of Sparrows is beautiful and is my Charlotte’s Web in that it stays with you because of how real the ending is. And I’d be remiss not to mention Ally Malinenko’s middle grade horror work as well; Ally’s repped by Rena Rossner.


What are some of your current as well as all-time culture faves—TV shows, movies, music etc—that might give querying authors a sense of your overall aesthetic?

Oh gosh! Dateline NBC, The 100, Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, Virgin River, Castle, The Rookie. These sort of speak to some of the things I rep – thrillers and suspense, speculative fantasy, scifi, dystopian, romance, women’s fiction, stuff with humor or adventure. Stuff with high stakes. For books, I read a lot of SFF in my downtime. Recent favorites are Project Hail Mary and my most favorite this year, the Murderbot series. I’d love to rep something like Murderbot, humorous, smart scifi that deals with what it means to be human. I love Mainak Dhar’s SFF work. Tau Zero is awesome. Seveneves challenged me but was expansive and fantastic. Erin Craig’s work in YA horror is next-level and ignited something in me. In music, I’m a big fan of Imagine Dragons, REM, Evanescense and the Cranberries. And I have to add Big Bang Theory to the list of TV shows. That’s so random but it does say A LOT about me…



What are you loving about representing children’s book authors these days?

I love the idea that I might contribute to the canon of literature that touches and changes kid’s lives like those early books did for me.

And finally, where can people find out about what kind of projects you’re looking for and how to query you?

There’s a couple places to try: my agency’s website Look at my bio and the submissions page for wish list items. And of the submission page, you’ll find the link to my Query Manager page. This is the only way to query me, no emails please. On my personal website, I post a wish list under the #MSWL tab, and my deal announcements under the Deals tab, so authors can see what I’m placing: And I post a lot of #MSWLs on twitter. My handle is @HerringAli, where I remain active and uber chatty, so come say hi.

Ali, it’s been an absolute pleasure doing this spotlight with you and I can’t wait to check out some of the books you mention.

Thanks again for having me!

Interview & Critique Giveaway with Agent Christie MeGill

Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Christie! We’re thrilled to have you here. Can you share how you became an agent…and what a typical day is like for you? 

Hi Mindy! I’m so happy to be chatting with you.

My path to becoming an agent is a bit rambling, but I think that’s very common in book publishing! I started out in academic book publishing, but I changed course and became an elementary school teacher. Once I had been teaching for a few years, I returned to writing. I’ve been a writer since I was six years old (and I have the old school assignments to prove it!) but became discouraged during my college writing courses and so I stopped for quite some time. When I started writing for fun again, it was like a new chapter of my life had begun. I started reading contemporary middle grade books, and I knew these were the stories I wanted to create for today’s young readers.

When I found the children’s publishing and children’s writing communities, they made me feel like I’d finally found where I belonged. I stepped away from teaching to stay at home with my growing family, and in early 2020, the early days of the pandemic forced some deep introspection. It became necessary to return to the workforce for a variety of reasons, and when I considered where I’d been and where I wanted to go, children’s publishing was the only path that made sense to me. I was fortunate enough to intern with Writers House, then fill in as a temporary assistant to a kidlit agent, where I learned how much I love agenting. After a few remote internships and lots of searching, I met with Christy at The CAT Agency, and now I’m an Associate Agent who’s building my own list as I continue being mentored by the incredible agents at the Agency.

As for my workday, I’m sure it’s been said before, but there is no typical day! That’s one thing I love about the position. As both a literary and illustration agent for children’s books, I work with illustrators, author-illustrators, authors, and graphic novelists. On any given day, I could be doing an illustration portfolio review for a client, putting together new promotional emails, creating submission lists, sending out manuscripts to editors, communicating with clients, editing manuscripts, looking over contracts, talking with designers and art directors about projects, or collaborating with the CAT team on Agency matters. Our small company is fully remote, which I really appreciate. I try to meet up with the team whenever possible, especially as we travel together to conferences or book events. But we’re tight knit and supportive, which makes such a difference!


It definitely makes a difference. The CAT Agency (and you) are amazing. 😊

What do you love most about middle-grade novels?

Middle grade is magical. I particularly love the optimism. Middle grade novels rarely shy away from the hard realities about life, nor should they. But no matter what, there’s always some glimmer of hope. There’s the prospect of inner growth, or effecting real change in the world, or things generally just getting better. There’s possibility, which so many adults forget is real.

Maybe it’s because my entire world is children’s books, but I feel very connected to my inner child. Middle grade literature is a surprising, but potent, way to nurture and value that younger version of myself. It’s common for me to read a middle grade novel and come across a lesson or a statement that makes such an impact on me, I need to pause and take it in, because I desperately needed to hear it.


What are some of the biggest issues you’ve seen in middle grade manuscripts?

I think one issue is when a middle grade manuscript creates a world that an adult writer wishes were real. I don’t mean high fantasy, alternate worlds, or magic; but situations where there’s no conflict, where every character is nice and kind, and where there are no stakes. Young readers don’t want a sanitized or romanticized world where nothing is ever truly wrong, and they don’t want to be infantilized.

I realize this may seem contradictory to my previous answer, but there’s a difference between finding hope in complex and nuanced realities, versus never coming up against any difficulties.


Wow. I can’t imagine reading a middle grade novel without any conflict.

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

Agents want writers to succeed, and we want to help make books. There are always bad apples who make it seem otherwise, but the kidlit agents I know are passionate and are working hard to build strong relationships with writers and illustrators in order to support them in creating the best books possible for kids.


Since you’re also an author…what do you wish agents knew about authors?

It’s been interesting to watch my experience as an agent concurrently with my experience as an author. I’m very reflective of it, and I think it’s made me even more compassionate on both sides. One thing that I’m aware of is that there are so many intricacies and norms of the book publishing landscape, like the contracts process and what to expect while on submission, and so I do my best to communicate those quirks to creators. I hope it alleviates some anxiety and that feeling of being in the dark while trying to make it in the industry.


I’m sure it’s a huge help!

Can you share a great writing exercise for teachers to use with students?

I have so many! The most powerful thing that teachers can do for a student is to help them realize they have a story to tell. Everyone is a storyteller. No matter how naturally writing comes to a person, everyone has the capability to express themselves.

One great writing exercise that works especially well for the beginning of the school year is to guide students in finding inspiration in the everyday. Students should have a notebook they carry with them daily for a week, and their job is to notice what’s around them and write down anything that could be part of a story. It can be as minor or as major as they want, and it can come from everywhere: conversations, simple observations, books, articles, movies, homework assignments. Once they’ve begun gathering snippets of life, they can go over their list and consider what elements could be used for a story. Does anything stand out to them? Are there any emerging commonalities or themes? Is there room for metaphor or symbolism?

The students can then connect topics they’re interested in with elements from their list to find story seeds, then develop an outline, and finally, a story.

Of course, this writing exercise is great for authors of all ages!


Thanks for the amazing writing exercise! I’m sure teachers, students, and authors will love it. We enjoy posting helpful writing exercises—we’ll have to invite you back to share some more. 😊

What are your favorite middle-grade novels…and why do you love them so much?

Oh no, the impossible question! There are so, so many middle grade novels and authors I adore. Honestly, it makes me a little jealous of the tween readers today – I didn’t have this variety when I was growing up! But I’m so glad that I’m still a middle grade reader, and I’m thrilled that young reads have the reading options they do.

When I first decided to write middle grade, I went to my local bookstore and browsed the kid’s section. One title jumped out at me, and it’s the first middle grade book I read as an adult and MG writer: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz. Her books are still favorites of mine. I also love The Vanderbeekers series by Karina Yan Glaser, the Front Desk series by Kelly Yang, From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, and The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung. I’m drawn to these books because they’re masterfully constructed stories with tween characters who are so real, they could be kids in my own community.

I’m also a big fan of scary stories. I love Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie, Ghost Hunters by Ellen Oh, The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence, and Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko. These books are layered and deep, blending frights with heart in a way I aspire to achieve as an author.


These sound incredible! I need to add a bunch of them to my must-read list.

What do you look for in chapter books and graphic novels?

As a newer agent, I tend to be very selective in these areas. There are so many amazing books coming out in both of these formats, and so I’m looking for stories that will really stand out and do something new.

Chapter books have a big responsibility—they’re coming to kids during a foundational moment in their reading lives. I really like to see chapter books that are fun, engaging, and accessible to the age 6-8 age range.

As for graphic novels, I look for stories with strong character and plot arcs, and illustrations that understand how to tell a story. There’s a steadily growing market of nonfiction graphic novels, and I’d love to see more of these. I’m also interested in young graphic novels that are lively and sweet, with characters we haven’t seen before.

Additionally, I represent picture book authors and I’m always looking for stories with stand-out characters, sweet humor, and lots of heart. I always love to see author-illustrated dummies, too.


Thank you for sharing that with us! I have a feeling you’ll see some wonderful queries soon.

Can you tell us a bit about Middle Grade Book Village?

Middle Grade Book Village is a longstanding community of middle grade readers. It’s a website that features interviews with middle grade authors, reviews of middle grade books, cover reveals, and much more. It’s volunteer-run by some of the most amazing and enthusiastic book people I’ve ever met, and everyone’s appreciation for kidlit really comes through in everything we do.

The Village also hosts a weekly book chat on Twitter on Mondays at 9 pm EST using the #MGBookChat hashtag. Everyone is always welcome! Once a month, there’s an open chat with no specific theme, which is a great time to get to know the community of readers.

We also maintain and share a calendar of the middle grade books released every week, which can also be found on the website.

I’m absolutely honored to be a part of the MG Book Village team. It’s a welcoming, supportive, and warm place full of people who care deeply about middle grade books—very much like The Mixed-Up Files…of Middle Grade Authors!


Thanks, Christie. Middle grade books are so amazing, it’s wonderful to have groups like ours celebrate them and boost their visibility.

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

I’m currently working on revisions for a spooky middle grade novel of mine that I’m incredibly excited about—I hope I’ll get to share details soon! Most of my day is spent talking and thinking about kidlit, which I adore, but I also enjoy baking, taking nature walks, and horror movie marathons. I recently started rollerblading for the first time since I was a teenager, and now I’m telling everyone they should brainstorm their childhood hobbies and try them again just for fun. I’m from New England, and while I now split my time between New York and California, New York City is my forever home. I’m a cat person, and my kitty Juniper is the best assistant I could ask for.


She’s adorable. Furry assistants are the best! Fingers and toes crossed that your spooky middle grade novel quickly sells.

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

Thank you! You do so much for the middle grade community, and your efforts are very much seen and appreciated. It’s been fantastic to speak with you!

Aw, thanks for your sweet comment…and your generous giveaway.

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a
5 page MG critique or a picture book critique from Christie!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The lucky winner winner is: 

Mia Geiger!



Do you have a question for Christie? She’s a wealth of information.
Leave it in the comments, and she’ll pop by and respond. 🙂

To find out more about Christie, visit her website, The CAT Agency, Twitter, and Instagram