Tag Archives: agent

My Monday List

  1. Go to the doctor for blood work. See if the nurse can collapse another vein.
  2. Find mates to the gabillion socks that are lonely and waiting on my sofa. Hmmm. That sounds a little like me. Lonely and waiting on my sofa.
  3. Watch this again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nblf7Yw4jys   Hey, BTW, just want you to notice what my favorite singer/songwriter says about phones.
  4. Make copies of pages for the Stephen Fraser Workshop    http://www.wifyr.com/two-days-with-stephen-fraser/  There are still spots left if you want to just sit in and listen and observe.
  5. Pick a book to work on with Ann Dee from our three fantastic ideas. At least think about what we should do over the next week or two. Take a few notes. Dream up a character. Maybe?
  6. Gather tax stuff. I’m even going to make an appointment to see my tax guy THIS MONTH. THIS WEEK. TODAY, I will call and make an appointment with my great tax guy.
  7. Gather ex-husband stuff for lawyer (you don’t want to know). Or maybe, if you are anything like me, you DO want to know.
  8. Do twitter-ish stuff. One of my New Year’s goals is to learn how to use Twitter. I’m gonna do it! Have made one twit this morning. Will make another soon. Are two twits a day enough to make a twitter?
  9. Go to dinner with my youngest daughter.
  10. Buy fruits and vegetables and maybe make bread.
  11. Write toward my goal of 6,000 new words this week.
  12. Check in with my dear heart Debbie Nance. You can purchase her book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1523265965/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_oRLPwb1P7ZK2Z  My book arrives on Friday.

What are you gonna do?

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And Here He Is– Mr. John M. Cusick!


So last year we had a terrific agent at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. And yes, he’s coming back next year.  Those of you who came to the conference in 2012 had a chance to meet John. He’s an amazing fellow. Kyra, if you remember, had a terrible crush on John.

This morning I asked Caitlynne to help me save John’s picture so I could add it to this piece. “That’s John?” she said. “No wonder Kyra had a crush on him. He is very cute.”

So three Williams girls have given John the thumb’s up.

And here’s the interview, to boot.

John M. Cusick is an agent with Greenhouse Literary, representing middle-grade and young adult novels. He is the author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY (Candlewick Press), as well as managing fiction editor at Armchair/Shotgun, a literary magazine. He is a regular speaker at writers conferences, and keeps a blog at www.JohnMCusick.com. You can also find him on twitter: @johnmcusick. He lives in Brooklyn.

(Don’t worry, John. Brooklyn is a big place. I’m pretty sure the Williams girls won’t find you for several years.)

1. I know you are a published writer, John, as well as an agent. You’re totally immersed in books. How does agenting inspire, influence or maybe even take away from, your own writing time? And how do you give yourself the time you deserve to write on your own work?

 I put aside a little time everyday to write, always in the morning, before my agenting day begins. The two jobs don’t compete for time, but do occasionally compete for mental space. It’s the writing I have to make room for. Agenting is so big, brash, and dynamic, it often overshadows Writing, who’s the sensitive wallflower at the party. But for the most part they compliment each other. I mean, all day long I think about books, how to make them better, how to get people to love them. In that sense, agenting and writing are perfect compliments. Agenting is the body and writing is the brain— or perhaps, agenting is the brain and writing is the heart.

2. What are five words you would use to describe yourself as a writer?

 Persistent. Methodical. Contemplative. Expansive. Passionate.

3. As an agent?

 Dogged. Positive. Intensive. Engaged. Enraptured.

4. As a writer, how do you happen upon your novel ideas? (Ha! Happen upon!)

 I’m usually inspired by a moment or phrase that evolves into a theme. Before I began GIRL PARTS, I saw a video of a sixteen year old girl, born deaf, who was given the ability to hear, thanks to an operation. They turned on the machine and she immediately began to weep. Her boyfriend was there and asked her what was wrong, and she replied in sign language “I don’t want to hear myself cry.” Something about that moment evolved into Rose and her experiences in the novel.

 5. What are you working on now?

 I’m writing a young adult novel about a con-artist in training. If it works out, it will be my first novel in first-person, and with a sole male protagonist. Unlike GIRL PARTS or CHERRY MONEY BABY, I’m doing a good deal of outlining beforehand, mapping out all the plot’s twists and turns. It’s a totally new approach for me and so far I’m enjoying it.

6. What draws you, as an agent, to a novel and to, eventually, offer representation to a writer?
The story has to draw me in with mystery or excitement, so I’m eager to read on. The concept has to feel very fresh, like there’s nothing quite like it on the market. Then, if the author is a strong reviser, and excited to work, I’m in!

 7. You teach online courses. Can you tell us about those and how a person might find out when John Cusick is teaching?
I’ve done online courses with Writers Digest and plan to do more this year. I also go to a lot of conferences and give talks there. I always announce my classes on twitter (@johnmcusick) and on my blog (johnmcusick.com), which also features a list of my speaking engagements. I’m easy to find! Usually…

 8. If you could change two things about your own writing process, what would it be?
I keep a precise regimen: two hours in the morning, six days a week. I wish I wasn’t so uptight, though. I find it difficult to write in the afternoon or evening, or in longhand instead of on my laptop, or anywhere other than at my desk. The regimen is useful but now I’m a slave to it. When I hunker down to write a book or short story, I’m already thinking about who will read or publish it, and that’s just silly. I wish I were more casual, freewheeling. I’d probably get a lot more done.

 9. Finally, what is your best advice to writers wanting representation with you?
Read a ton of contemporary books in your genre, so you know what’s out there, and to help hone your craft. Avoid chasing trends, or generic story lines without fresh flourishes. Write something new and exciting, with an iconoclastic (read: stand out, not an everyman) protagonist. Then query me!


John M. Cusick

The Greenhouse Literary Agency


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Twitter:  @JohnMCusick – and follow our writing tips at #GHLtips


Filed under Agents, Interviews

Stephen Fraser–Project Writeway Agent!

Stephen Fraser joined the Jennifer De Chiara agency in January of 2005. Prior to this, he was an editor for Simon and Schuster and more recently the senior executive editor for HarperCollins. He is a graduate of Middleburry College in Vermont and received his Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston, MA. During his time as an editor he worked with a large variety of creative talents and continues to do so now as a literary agent. He has written many children’s book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor, Five Owls, and Publishers Weekly, and is a popular speaker at conferences.

What a client or two has to say about Steve!

What J.H. Trumble (www.jhtrumble.com) has to say about Steve: I freely admit that I’m a little fangirly when it comes to Steve. He’s everything I could want in an agent and so much more–professional, experienced and insightful, respectful of his clients as artists, gentle with his criticisms, generous with his praise, and funny as hell. 
He probably has no idea how much I hang on his every word. For example, he once told me that I had a tendency to slip into the banal. I had no idea what he meant, but once I finally got it, that one comment completely transformed my writing. When I was freaking out during the final line editing phase of Don’t Let Me Go (so many things I wanted to rewrite!),  he told me to relax, I was going to be a hero to a lot of young people. And then as I held my breath as he read the manuscript for Where You Are, he emailed to say, “Oh my.” 

I remember each of those moments so well because they were each transformational for me. I’ve learned so much from him, including these little gems–we should embrace and acknowledge our talents, and small advances can be a good thing! I feel very very fortunate to have found him. Is it silly that I want to make him proud?

Then in another email Janet continues–One of the things I really love about Steve is that he doesn’t try to take over your work. He may tell me what’s not working well, but he leaves it to me to figure out how to make it work. And I love the way he phrases things. I have to admit I’ve taken a few comments right out of his emails and used them in a novel 🙂
Then, in yet another email, Janet says this: Another thing I adore about Steve. I know he must be quite busy. But he ALWAYS responds to my emails within hours, if not minutes, and often on the weekend. And he never makes me feel like a pest. And he says sweet things when I get insecure, like “I can recognize a natural storyteller a mile away, and you are a natural storyteller.”

Ann Bowan (annebowenbooks.com) said this about Steve:
Supportive and encouraging are the words that come to mind when I think of Steve.  It’s been a frustrating year with the picture book market and yet Steve continues to remind me that I do know how to write!  His responses to my new manuscripts are positive and genuine.   He also supports my desire to venture into other genres like the YA novel I’m working on right now.  I even received encouragement from him while in Vermont for VFCA.
I like the man.

Here’s what Kyra says about Steve: Steve Fraser is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The second time I went to NYC with mom he brought us flowers for our hotel room, he took us to lunch at the raddest place ever {Can’t remember the name…} and then we went shopping! It was a lot of fun.I loved doing this interview with him! I hope you guys all enjoy, because there is a lot to learn just from reading this.

And here’s an interview!

I know that you used to be an editor–how did you wind up at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency? What was your path?
 I was an editor for years, most recently at Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins. Some of the authors I worked with were Gregory Maguire, Brent Hartinger, Daniel Pinkwater, Mary Engelbreit, and Ann Rinaldi. As you can see, I liked working on a variety of books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult. I get bored otherwise!
When literary agent Jennifer De Chiara started her own agency, I was her first client, buying the landmark y. a. novel Geography Club from her. When I left HarperCollins, she asked if I’d like to join her. We are dear friends, so it seemed like just the perfect opportunity. As it turns out, my back-ground in publishing, from children’s magazines, book clubs, paperback, and then hardcover books, was perfect training for an agent.

What kind of books do you look for when you’re reading through the submissions pile?
 I am never looking for anything specific, but I am looking to be dazzled. Good use of language always gets my attention. I have to say, I don’t like books that are too dark. I like imagination, a sense of fun, real drama. And most of all, a fresh voice. Even Cinderella, of which there are more than seven hundred versions worldwide, can be told again in a writer’s fresh voice. I mostly look for children’s books but sometimes I represent an adult novel. I agented a book of photographs this past fall which I was quite taken with.

What’s your favorite part of being an agent?
 Calling an author and telling them I have an offer from a publisher – the author, of course, always has to say yes before we accept the offer – is the best part of being an agent. Second best is reading a wonderful manuscript by someone new and starting them on the path to publication. To feel you have some small part in literature making it out to the world is such a joy.

What’s the hardest part of being an agent?
 Dealing with money is the hard part for me. Certainly, there is a fair price for each book. One doesn’t want to be greedy, but an agent wants to do what’s best for the writer. Plus, most people don’t know it, but an agent isn’t paid any kind of salary, so when an agent signs someone up as a client, it is done entirely on the agent’s own time and energy and love. I think if people knew that, they might be nicer to agents!

What’s something someone should never do when looking for an agent? 
Being overly intrusive is a no-no. For instance, sending a whole manuscript without any kind of query letter is annoying. Or sending along a manuscript by special delivery when I haven’t even heard of the person before is also bad. Simple courtesy is always best. And if an agent politely says no, they usually mean no.

Why have an agent?
 No one strictly needs an agent. Sending manuscripts to editors is not that hard a job. However, as some editors only want manuscripts already screened by a professional agent, that is where the need comes in. And it does take time to broker one’s own work. An agent can take care of all the business aspects of a writer’s career so that the writer can spend his or her time writing. Isn’t that nice?
An agent takes on other roles, too. For instance, since my background is editorial, I can often given editorial guidance on a manuscript or even a sample chapter if a writer seeks help. As an agent, sometimes I am a cheerleader, counselor, therapist, minister, friend – all wrapped into one.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading on your own time? Or do you have free time?
 I make myself read at least half an hour every night. I love good nonfiction, like that wonderful two-part biography of Henri Matisse by Hilary Spurling (Knopf). And I usually read a second book at the same time – again, I get bored – so I’ll read a novel like the recent National Book Award Winner, Let the Great World Spin by Colin McCann (Random House). One of my worst habits is reading a line or two aloud, if I really love the language. Some of favorite writers are Ethan Canin, Anne Tyler, Julia Glass, anything by Virginia Woolf, and Colm Tobim.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
 I am a movie fiend. I try to see two or three movies each week. Living in New York, I am spoiled and I try to see movies the day they open. My favorite movie of the past year was Jane Campion’ Bright Star about the poet John Keats. I saw it three times.

What the best advice you could give a first time writer?
 Never be apologetic or falsely humble. Respect your talent. Think of yourself as a professional writer already. Make sure you always act professionally, when you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or an editor, when you are working on a revision. If you act professionally, you will find yourself becoming a true professional writer.


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Project Writeway . . .

On Monday everyone will be posting goals.

On Tuesday, Project Writeway will begin. This competition is similar to Project Runway (one of my favorite reality shows) except our competition will be more professional and the prize will be much more fantabulous (hahahahhahahahahah).

It will go like this: the first week will be a first line contest. Turn in your best first line ever. I’ll post the email address that you’ll send it to and then I’ll post them all together on Wednesday or Thursday–we’re still getting the timeline worked out. We want a lot of entries for this so tell your friends. By the end of the week, we’ll have guest judges pick the top twelve first lines. This will be anonymous so with your entry you’ll need a pen name (so fun).

The top twelve will be our contestants on Project Writeway. Each week we’ll have a different challenge. I’ll post the entries on the blog and they will be judged based on both a popular vote (people can send in emails telling us their favorites) and the guest judges vote.

Week by week, we’ll get smaller and smaller and eventually we’ll have a winner! The winner will get some signed books (details soon) AND a ten page critique from a New York Fabulous agent!!! This is a great opportunity to get your work in the hands of a mover and shaker, people!

The competition will only work if we get entries and if we get people voting. If we don’t get enough people doing it, we’ll have BLAH cancel the whole thing. So please please please tell all your writer friends to polish those first lines and get ready to enter next week. We’ll have more specific details next week. All you need to know now is this:

1. First line.

2. Tell your friends.

3. You could win big.

4. Starts next week.

5. You can do this!

I think that’s all. I’m off to try to make dragon birthday decorations. December is a big month for us.

SPREAD THE WORD and let us know if you have questions.


Filed under Ann Dee