Posts Tagged Middle Grade Book Village

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