Let’s give a warm Mixed-Up Files welcome to Victoria Doherty-Munro! Torie is a junior agent at Writers House, where she represents middle grade, young adult, and adult authors. She started at Writers House as an intern in 2010 and, after graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in English, was hired as the assistant to senior agent Daniel Lazar in 2012. She began building her own list in 2015.
What a treat it’s been for me to interview Torie and learn about her enthusiasm for good books, her preferences as an agent, and her many and varied interests, from Central Park to soccer fields!
SK: Tell us about your path to becoming an agent.
VDM: I majored in English in college (to the surprise of exactly no one, as that had always been my favorite subject in school) and had no idea what I wanted to do with that degree until the end of my sophomore year – I was in my favorite bookstore and was suddenly hit by the realization that there were people involved behind the scenes in bringing books to the world. I’d just never thought about it before, somehow! I started researching the industry and was lucky enough to get an internship at Writers House the following summer; I fell in love with both agenting and the company itself, and I sort of just…refused to leave? (Not really, but I was hired to assist senior agent Dan Lazar a few months after I graduated from college and promoted to junior agent a few years later.)
SK: What are the best and worst parts of being an agent?
VDM: The best part is always the moment I get to tell a client that they’re going to be published! And I love the feeling I get when I’m reading a manuscript, either a new client project or a submission, and I can start to see things really coming together.
The worst part is rejections, for sure. It really is a privilege when authors choose to submit their work to me for consideration and having to pass is never a good feeling, but I try to keep in mind that they deserve an agent who is head-over-heels in love with their work and that if that isn’t me then I’m not the right fit. And on the flip side, it’s never fun to get a rejection from an editor on a project that I’ve submitted on behalf of a client – I love those books so much, too, that getting passes can sting a little!
SK: What do you look for in a query?
VDM: An interesting premise and something that grabs my attention in the opening pages.
SK: What are the top reasons you pass on a submission?
VDM: This is kind of hard to answer! Often there’s just something about a submission that doesn’t quite feel like a fit for me, or something that I know isn’t working but that I don’t feel I have the editorial vision to address.
I will say, though, that recently I’ve been passing a lot due to pacing issues – either the story starts off too fast and I can’t get oriented in it or it feels like it’s taking too long to get to the heart of the plot.
SK: What do you love most about middle-grade novels?
VDM: I love that they can tackle big topics with humor and heart, in a way that makes things accessible for kids as they figure out themselves and the world around them! I also think these books can be so special because they’re often the ones that make kids into readers – one of my closest friends teaches 6th grade Language Arts and I always love hearing stories about that moment when one of her students finds *the* book that opens up the whole world of reading to them.
SK: Which middle-grade book(s) influenced you most as a child?
VDM: How much time do you have?! I could list a million…but in the interest of brevity, I’ll say that The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was a constant favorite (so I got a kick out of the name of this website) as were Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and all its sequels by Mildred D. Taylor and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (I actually went to a book event of hers when I was in college and got her to sign my incredibly bedraggled 15-year-old copy). And my brothers and I still have several inside jokes stemming from our love of A Series of Unfortunate Events, though it’s been years since any of us have read those books.
I was also absolutely obsessed with Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix for years and almost lost my mind when I saw the news that she’d written a sequel!
SK: What are some of your favorite current middle-grade novels?
VDM: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston by Esme Symes-Smith, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, and The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste all come to mind! And obviously I will be reading Falling Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix as soon as possible.
SK: Which genres/themes/subjects are you drawn to?
VDM: I tend to be most drawn to contemporary, speculative, and fantasy – and am really loving that horror is having a moment in middle grade right now! And I’m particularly interested in seeing projects from marginalized authors whose voices and perspectives haven’t historically been represented in publishing.
SK: What advice do you have for authors who would like to send you a query?
VDM: I’m not sure I have any specific advice, other than…please do send me a query if you think we might be a good fit! I’m actively building my list of clients and would be thrilled to find another middle grade project (or two! or more!) to fall in love with.
SK: What are your favorite things to do that have nothing to do with being an agent?
VDM: I love soccer (playing it sometimes, watching it always), trying new recipes, going to the theater, and finding new corners of Central Park to explore. I’m also sort of getting into baking, though I’m still in the phase where it kind of stresses me out…but I’m getting better!
SK: Please tell us a little about your agency.
VDM: Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer’s career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients’ work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights.