Today, I’m thrilled to introduce our readers to agent Kristin Ostby from The Greenhouse Literary Agency. Now an agent, Kristin has been an editor, as well as a writer, of children’s books for many years. Check out the books she’s edited here and the books she’s written here.
Dorian: Welcome, Kristin!
Kristin: Thank you so much for having me at Mixed-Up Files! Middle-grade is the age category closest to my heart, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to introduce myself to your readership.
Dorian: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to becoming a literary agent?
Kristin: I spent many years as a children’s book editor, most notably at Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, and becoming a literary agent always seemed like an interesting opportunity. During my time as an editor, a couple of agents indicated there was a place for me should I be interested in the job, and a former boss encouraged agenting at one point as well. I spoke to agent friends and gathered information, but the right opportunity didn’t come my way until Greenhouse came calling and everything clicked into place.
Dorian: Please tell us a bit about The Greenhouse Literary Agency?
Kristin: Greenhouse is an editorial agency. It was founded by a former publisher and is led by another former editor—the phenomenal Chelsea Eberly—so it was a fantastic fit for me, not to mention a golden opportunity. Greenhouse’s sterling reputation and remarkable track record speak for themselves. It’s a fabulous place to be an agent, and I’m really looking forward to what’s to come.
Dorian: What middle-grade books inspired you as a child?
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is, for me, the gold standard, and I’ll always be looking for middle-grade novels that affect me the way that book did as a child. It’s lyrical, it’s off-beat, the voice jumps off the page, and the surprise ending sincerely pulled the rug out from underneath me when I first read it.
Because I was a voracious reader as a kid, it’s hard to narrow down the books that inspired me, but I remember being impacted by the honesty of Judy Blume, the whimsy and weirdness of Roald Dahl, the grounded friendships of the Babysitters Club, the devourable mysteries of Nancy Drew, the delightfully trippy qualities of A Wrinkle in Time, and the depth and nuance of Number the Stars.
Dorian: What are some of your favorite contemporary middle-grade novels?
Kristin: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, El Deafo by Cece Bell, and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Dorian: All great books! What genres, subjects, or themes do you wish to see in your inbox?
Kristin: I would love to see high concept stories with hooky premises, preferably by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled creators. I would particularly love to see more stories from Native American authors. I’m a sucker for observational humor and wit, and I would love to see clever humor in all stories including mysteries, contemporary literary fiction, speculative fiction, magical stories, supernatural stories, horror or spooky stories, and light fantasy and sci-fi with a focused set of characters and minimal world building.
Dorian: Do you have any hobbies or special interests that most people don’t know about?
Kristin: I love to downhill ski. My guilty pleasure is celebrity gossip. I religiously write in a journal. I also enjoy reading tarot!
Dorian: Interesting! What tips do you have for writers in the querying stages?
Kristin: If you’re reading Mixed-Up Files, there’s a good chance you’re doing your homework as far as nailing a query letter. But I would still emphasize being sure to hit agents at the top of your query letter with an impactful elevator pitch, including your comp titles. This is the most important part of your query letter, so don’t be afraid to get right to it. Agents get so many queries each day that it’s important to hook them as soon as you can, and to demonstrate your knowledge of the marketplace.
Beyond that, good luck! What you’re doing is really hard, and I wish you all the best finding a great advocate for your story.
Dorian: How can people follow you on social media or query you?
Kristin: You can occasionally find me on Twitter at @kristinostby. Learn more about me at kristinostby.com and about Greenhouse at greenhouseliterary.com.
Thanks so much, Kristin, for taking the time out to tell us about yourself and Greenhouse!