Susan Opening to Queries & an Updated Wishlist
October 6, 2020

I'm happy to say that I'm opening to queries today! It's been awhile since I've been open and I'm hungry for new things. What kind of new things, you ask? Please take a look at my updated wishlist, below:Starting with the big picture: I represent work for children and teens only—picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult, along with some non-fiction for young readers. I don’t represent adult projects.I believe books can change lives — inspire a passion for reading and story; unlock imagination and empathy; move readers to feel, think, wonder, examine, explore, to laugh really hard. Books invite joy. This belief underscores my work as an agent, and especially influences which books I offer rep on.Books that tell the stories of people, places, and cultures that have been overlooked and ignored for too long are at the top of my list.I’m drawn to projects that are character-driven, tightly plotted, and have a singular, specific voice; always on the hunt for:

  • Layered, flawed, completely human characters.
  • Writing that’s confident, vivid, addictive; work that’s both ambitious and wise.
  • Humor is important, even in a narrative that’s dark or sad or edgy.
  • Sense of place matters—precise, expressive settings delight me.
  • Both literary and commercial work. Send me your high-concept and hooky; your award-winners; the books that will become backlist gold.
  • I want to be surprised—there’s nothing like the feeling that you’re reading something entirely new.

I look for projects that know kids are smart and perceptive and feeling deeply; that make the reader feel seen. If you’re creating work that could be described as generous, nuanced, and at ease with complexity, I hope you’ll invite me to read it.When it comes to genre, I’m omnivorous. Right now, in MG and YA, I’m hungry for:

  • High-concept genre elements combined with literary writing and an exploration of timeless themes.
  • Genre mash-ups. Give me that historical with elements of magical realism, that comedic sci-fi mystery. If your pitch is Anne of Green Gables meets the Wizard of Oz or The Westing Game meets Little Women, or any other smart and unexpected pairing—I want to see it!
  • I adore historical fiction and want more on my list. I’m looking for:
  • Stories that center perspectives we don’t typically read in historical fiction.
  • Work that’s immersive, thrilling, and steeped in the world view of its time and place.
  • The immigrant experience—if you’re writing anything like PACHINKO for YA or MG, please send.
  • I’m most interested in 20th century history, especially the period 1950-2000, both Western and Non-Western.
  • I don’t see many projects set in the Caribbean, Central and South America, South and Southeast Asia, or in African nations, and would love to.
  • I’m a big fan of historical mysteries, historical with a speculative or magical realism element, and alternate history.
  • If you’re writing about a time or place I haven’t mentioned, please try me anyway, there’s so much I’m fascinated by.
  • I’m also partial to a great mystery and want to see:
  • Narratives that center diverse viewpoints.
  • Layered, complex characters; twisty, intricate plots; and emotional heft.
  • All the sub-genres of mystery: thriller, (amateur) detective, cozy, procedural, caper, espionage, noir, suspense, and romantic suspense.
  • I’m also interested in chapter book mysteries, again with a diverse perspective.
  • I enjoy non-fiction in every category, picture book through YA, and gravitate to:
  • The subjects that teens and tweens are most passionate about and that impact them daily, such as current events.
  • Non-fiction picture books that pair informational text with lyrical voice.
  • In Graphic Novel form! Again, for all ages.

In terms of categories, here are some key points for each.I’m adding more Graphic Novel creators to my list and looking for:

  • Chapter book through YA, with a focus on MG.
  • Space Opera—think Star Wars for a new generation, in GN form.
  • Classics re-imagined and moved to GN—Great Expectations, 1984, Gilgamesh—yes, please!
  • A big, sweeping YA love story told from a diverse point of view.
  • GNs with a strong social justice theme, both fiction and non-fiction.
  • Of course, I’d be delighted to read mystery and historical fiction GNs.

In Middle Grade, I’m keen to find:

  • Stories that feel joyous and could be described as ebullient. I also love those with a slower rhythm, rich themes and gorgeous language that must be savored.
  • Literary, character-driven MG with a hook and real stakes. If your goal is a Newbery, I’d like to see it.
  • Commercial projects—high-concept, ambitious, big-hearted books.
  • Stories that explore identity and a kid’s first steps towards understanding themselves more deeply.
  • Illustrated MG and graphic novel hybrids.
  • I’ve always been a big reader of MG Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Bring on the imaginative ideas and inventive storytelling! Send me:
  • Work that takes inspiration from non-Western sources, particularly Native American and Central and South American legend or mythology.
  • Jewish content and themes in a fantasy setting are also an interest.
  • I enjoy adventure and action, a good quest, when accompanied by a certain depth—a novel that will thrill and then stay with the reader for a long time.
  • Spooky stories, horror manuscripts, and ghostly tales! Gore isn’t for me, but something quite creepy is right up my alley.

In Young Adult I look for:

  • A strong hook, an arresting, distinctive voice and layered, complex characters.
  • Romance or a romantic element, if I can feel the spell of love and attraction as deeply as your characters do. I’m a sucker for the enemies-to-friends trope.
  • Literary horror that celebrates body diversity; a complex intersectional feminist fantasy; a sex positive mystery. In other words, I want the themes and ideas I’m passionate about to come alive within a twisty, fast-paced plot.
  • Near-future sci-fi. If you’re imagining how genetic manipulation or nanotechnology may change the world in our lifetimes, I’m here for it.
  • Narratives set in small communities with their own, peculiar culture, think sports team, boarding school, religious community, or other closed groups.

For Picture Books, I tend towards:

  • Author-illustrators! If you’re an artist with tales to tell, I’d like to hear from you.
  • Indelible characters and succinct, expressive texts that tell a real story, paired with emotionally resonant illustration.
  • Humor is key: sly, silly, bonkers, witty, subversive, I love it all—especially something as funny as it is wise (oh, William Steig!).
  • I adore the great friendships of classic kid’s lit and couldn’t say no to a new duo, so affectionate and quirky they can carry a series—think George & Martha, Frog & Toad, Elephant & Piggie.
  • Some of my favorite (non-client) illustrators are Abhi Alwar, Carlos Aponte, Christian Robinson, Dan Santat, Elise Gravel, Hyewon Yum, Jillian Tamaki, Kadir Nelson, Kate Beaton, Laurie Keller, Loveis Wise, Maria Kalman, Phoebe Wahl, Raúl the Third, and Sophie Blackall.
  • In the best picture books, art and text are deeply intertwined, both enriching the other, and it’s that marriage that evokes a strong emotional reaction in the reader. Think of those books that make you feel, as the last page is turned, that your heart has just expanded, that something missing is now restored—that’s what I’m looking for.

Chapter Book wants:

  • Diversity—something sorely lacking in this category, and particularly important as these are often the first lengthier titles kids select and read for themselves. When it comes to books acting as mirrors, windows and doors, chapter books are crucial.
  • Again, humor is important—something funny will always win over kid readers.
  • Something tonally different than what’s already out there—something quieter, more contemplative, interior, or moody. I see a lot of bouncy, exuberant stories, and enjoy them, but that’s not the only emotional place emergent readers inhabit.
  • I can’t talk about chapter books without talking about Amy Hanlon’s utterly delicious DORY FANTASMAGORY series. These are some of my most favorite books, across every category including adult – they are SO funny, wildly imaginative, and absolutely true.

Finally, a grab-bag of other interests:

  • Classics re-told thru the eyes of a secondary character.
  • Epistolary novels, a story-within-a-story, journal format, secret letters, found documents, and other unique framing or structural devices.
  • Narratives that explore the importance and role of storytelling, including oral storytelling, in our culture.
  • Environmental themes, when they aren’t on-the-nose.
  • Textile and fiber arts, i.e. sewing, embroidery, quilting—often, the work women did at home and only recently recognized as Art.
  • American tall tales (John Henry, Sally Ann Thunder Whirlwind, Johnny Appleseed, etc), tarot, cloning, hedge-witches, Appalachia, pie!, architectural history – all intrigue me.
  • I grew up in Washington, DC and lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year in my early 20s, so am drawn to these cities as settings.
  • I was a Comparative Religion major in college and am interested in explorations of faith and belief, that don’t proselytize.
  • As a former children's librarian, I'm always open to books set in or about libraries and librarians—the fiercer, the better.