A podcast about reading and writing middle grade novels utilizing ninja stealth and skill. Rob Kent interviews fellow authors and various publishing professionals to discuss the craft and business of producing middle grade and young adult novels. Episodes are also available as videos. Learn more at MiddleGradeNinja.com.
Rob Kent is the author of BANNEKER BONES AND THE GIANT ROBOT BEES.
Episode 93 Editor Elizabeth Law
What don’t legendary editor Elizabeth Law and I chat about in this far-ranging conversation that only begins to scratch at the surface of her vast publishing knowledge? We discuss her interactions with literary agents, working with Stephen King, her “cameo” in GERALD’S GAME, her work for Roald Dahl, the origin story of previous guest, Dan Gutman, lessons learned from Robert McKee, and a kiss with Hamilton’s Jonathan Groff. Elizabeth Law shares incredible insights on writing dialogue, description, characterization, theme, and an overview of so much of what’s she’s learned during her distinguished career. Hear her blow my mind by telling me word count isn’t nearly as important as I think it is, and then she shares the secret of what every publisher is looking for.
Elizabeth Law is a children’s and young adult publisher and editor with over three decades of experience. In her own words: "I worked at Viking Penguin, and at Penguin’s divisions Puffin Books and Frederick Warne and Co, for 18 years, leaving to become Associate Publisher of Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. And in 2007 I left there and became the first publisher of Egmont USA. At Egmont I got to help create a company from the ground up, which taught me, among other things, to think creatively about ways to get attention for books when you’re competing against other books' huge marketing budgets. From 2013-2017 I worked as a consultant, with writers and artists and people who just love children’s books as much as I do. I’ve kept that work up as I took a role at Holiday House Books for Young Readers as their backlist and special projects editor. I continue to acquire and work on terrific books, including the recent debut title Itch by Polly Farquhar, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist."
Episode 92 Author Marcella Pixley
Marcella Pixley and I talk about her new novel TROWBRIDGE ROAD, currently on the long list for the National Book Award. We discuss the many parallels between that story set in 1983 (now considered historical fiction!), her own similar childhood and how she separated the two to create a “soul book” We also chat about editing, teaching 8th grade language arts during the time of COVID-19, launching books virtually, being visited in your dreams by the dead, flying saucers, simulation theory, and so much more.
Marcella Pixley teaches eighth grade Language Arts at the Carlisle Public Schools. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Feminist Studies, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Poet Lore, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Pixley has written three acclaimed young adult novels: Freak, Without Tess, Ready To Fall. and most recently, Trowbridge Road. Freak received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, Without Tess was a Junior Library Guild Selection, Ready to Fall was named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. Her forthcoming novel, Trowbridge Road is a Junior Library Guild Selection and has been named a Best Book of the Year by Prenille Ripp.
Ms. Pixley lives in an antique farmhouse in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She is a graduate of Vassar College, University of Tennessee and Bread Loaf School of English.
Episode 91 Author Hayley Chewins
Hayley Chewins and I discuss her newest novel, THE SISTERS OF STRAYGARDEN PLACE, and our mutual love for the greatest singer, composer, and writing muse extraordinaire, Tori Amos. We also talk about writing intuitively, the joy of language, motivations to write, fixing common plot problems, working with her literary agent, Patricia Nelson, revising without removing your story’s heart, making writing a priority, writing what you love, and so much more.
Hayley Chewins writes books about magical girls with secrets. Her debut, The Turnaway Girls (Candlewick Press, 2018) was a Kirkus Best Book and made the 2019 Amelia Bloomer Book List. Her second novel, The Sisters of Straygarden Place, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in September2020. Hayley lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and a very small poodle. She is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Episode 90 Author Margi Preus
Margie Preus and I chat about the path to publishing HEART OF THE SAMURAI and being a Newberry Honor as well as the final book in her ENCHANTMENT LAKE series, THE SILVER BOX. She shares some lessons she learned from legendary writing instructor, John Gardner, and how she overcame the success of her first novel to complete SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN. We also talk about writing and producing children’s theater, rules for writing historical fiction, why some triumph over adversity when others are crushed by it, having a separate writing house, meeting Joe Biden, sharing a bed with a ghost, horse breaking, and so much more.
Margi Preus enjoys traveling, speaking, and visiting schools all over the world. Her books for young readers have won multiple awards, including a Newbery Honor, landed on the New York Times bestseller list, been honored as ALA/ALSC Notables, selected as an NPR Backseat Book Club pick, chosen for community reads, and translated into many languages. When not writing, she likes to ski, hike, paddle, or sit quietly with a book in her lap.
Episode 89 Editor Mari Kesselring And Author Patrick Hueller
Editor Mari Kesselring and author Patrick Hueller share with me the story of how they met, each a set of identical twins with a love of literature, and how they work together now as writers, parents, and spouses. Mari tells me about her publisher, North Star Editions, and Patrick tells me about his newest book, READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL. We also talk author submissions, editorial styles, launching books in the time of COVID-19, reaching reluctant readers, how pantsers and plotters can apparently learn to love one another, and so much more.
Mari Kesselring is an editor with experience working on many fiction and nonfiction books aimed at children and young adults. Some fiction books she’s edited have earned the following honors: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Junior Library Guild Selection, and ALA Rainbow List. She enjoys YA novels with compelling narratives and distinct, diverse voices. Mari is also the author of several books, including the middle-grade series, Bridget Gadget.
Patrick Hueller has an MFA from the University of Minnesota. Through various pen names, he has written several YA and MG novels. Foul, a sports-horror story written under the name Paul Hoblin, was described by Booklist as “the strongest entry yet in the Night Fall collection” and “unbearably tense.” The Beast (also as Paul Hoblin) was a School Library Journal selection. Wolf High and The Wish (as P.W. Hueller) both made SLJ’s list of “Accessible Reads for Struggling Reluctant Readers.” As himself, Patrick is the author of the STU STORIES series, which, according to award-winning author Geoff Herbach "hits on pretty much every topic I cared about when I was a kid (love, Jedis, severed legs, etc.). National Book Award finalist Charles Baxter described KIRSTEN HOWARD'S BIGGEST FAN as "beautifully written, with a concert-hall perfect pitch for adolescent speech and idiom and ways of feeling."
Episode 88 Literary Agent Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy and I discuss how he became a literary agent and his career in publishing so far. We chat about COVID-19 and its impact on the industry, the excitement he felt when his first client’s book took off, how he falls in love with a submission, the sorts of projects he’s interested in, how he woos a potential client, what a writer can expect when they sign with Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC, a haunted apartment, finding an agent that’s worthy of you, and so much more.
Jim McCarthy interned for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret while studying urban design at New York University. Upon graduating, Jim realized he would much rather continue working with books than make the jump (as he had originally intended) to the field of city planning. Eighteen years later, he remains at DG &B as a VP and agent. As an avid fiction reader, his interests encompass both literary and commercial works in the adult, young adult, and middle grade categories. He is particularly interested in literary fiction, underrepresented voices, fantasy, mysteries, romance, anything unusual or unexpected, and any book that makes him cry or laugh out loud. In addition to fiction he is also interested in narrative nonfiction whether it be memoir, historical, science, pop culture, or just a darn good polemic.