I just had so much fun this weekend presenting on “What I Like and Why” for PBPalooza created by wonderful picture book whisperer, Mira Reisberg. And I promised I’d share at least some parts of my presentation here (I saved some just for those who paid for scholarships ;)). If you’re popping by after, thanks again for attending. If you’re popping in to find out more about me to query me, welcome and if you work on picture books and need more help and support, definitely consider picture book courses for writers and illustrators by the Children’s Book Academy!
Things I Like (as an Agent) Based on my Personality
I am a very empathetic, fiery, excitable person (I know this is shocking news to many of you–I can hear your gasps of shock and awe).
I also have a lot of quirkiness and love to have fun, laugh, and learn and grow, so those are all things I’m really attracted to in stories as well.
So I often look for an emotional connection, learning about other cultures and ways of life, ways of cultivating empathy and understanding, and of course, fun quirky, unique things as well.
I connect with each client in a slightly different way, but they all have parts of their personalities that align with part of mine.
So in general, get to know who you’re submitting to if you can. Ie. I’m a teacher, but just like my students, I don’t want my books to be a lesson–that’s for school. In the books I read, I want the message hidden and I get to discover it through the fun of reading (does that mean there’s no room for didactic, definitely not, many concept books are didactic but that’s a topic for another time).
Books I LOVE that Help Make Up What I Like to Take on as an Agent
I read and love various styles so I appreciate them. I could go on for DAYS about the books I love. Here’s just a small, small sample with some of my picture book favorites:
Fry Bread (Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal) to Magic Ramen (Andrea Want and Kana Urbanowicz),
from I Will Be Fierce (Bea Birdsong and Nidhi Chanani) to The King of Kindergarten (Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton)
from The Dot (Peter H. Reynolds) to My Papi Has a Motorcycle (Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña)
from Ned the Knitting Pirate (Diana Murray and Leslie Lammle) to I’m Sad (Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi)
from Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies (Megan and Jorge Lacera) to The Bad Seed (Jory John and Pete Olswald)
from When Aiden Became a Brother (Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita) to The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh (Supriya Kelkar and Alea Marley)
from Doodle Day (Ross Collins) to Saturday (Oge Mora)
from How to Give Your Cat a Bath in 5 Easy Steps (Nicola Winstanley and John Martz) to Madam President (Lane Smith)
from The Upper Case (Tara Lazar and Ross MacDonald) to The Stuff of Stars (Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes)
from Queen of Physics (Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang) to The Undefeated (Kwame Alexander and Ladies Nelson)
from Just Ask! (Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael López) to Planting Stories (Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar)
from Lovely (Jess Hong) to The Stone Sat Still (Brendan Wenzel)
from The Little Blue Cottage (Kelly Jordan and Jessica Courtney-Tickle) to My Shape is Sam (Amanda Jackson and Lydia Nichols)
from Zero (Kathryn Otoshi) to Twinderella (Corey Rosen Schwartz and Deborah Marcero).
from Nothing Stopped Sophie (Cheryl Bardoe and Barbara Mcclintock) to Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen)
from Rain! (Linda Ashman) to Giraffe Problems (Jory John and Lane Smith)
from Bloom Boom! (April Pulley-Sayer) to All the World (Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee)
from One Dark Bird (Liz Garton Scanlon and Frann Preston-Gannon) to I’m Trying to Love Math (Bethany Barton)
The books you read and appreciate are part of you and help provide what you’re attracted to so I try to read very widely to keep my eyes open.
I am not a fan of didactic usually, but there are exceptions to every rule. I do want to clarify something that came up in our critique group recently, the lack of didactic is usually for character driven stories in pb, there are gorgeous stories that are concept driven like I Will Be Fierce! that are meant to encourage and be didactic.
I tend to really love quirk, humor, puns, and always love heart but not too saccharine, like I LOVE In My Heart (Jo Witek) and Truman (Jean Reidy and Lucy Ruth Cummins) and My Heart (Corrina Luyken) and Because by Mo Willems which are full of heart but not too sweet.
I love lyrical too but must be well done. I fell in love with The Stuff of Stars so love that type of writing and I would love more funny and well done nonfiction, I can’t wait for Funky Fish ( Debra Shumaker and Claire Powell) and Battle of the Butts ( Jocelyn Rish and David Creighton), I loved Carl and the Meaning of Life (Deborah Freedman).
I love Fry Bread, Papi Has a Motorcycle, I’m Trying to Love Math. They’re not a traditional pb structure but they are so beautiful and needed.
I love empowering texts like The Proudest Blue (Ibtihaj Muhammad and Hatem Aly) and Parker Looks Up (Parker Curry, Jessica Curry, Brittanh Jackson).
I adore meta, it could be going out of style some say, but I love it!
I love Ned the Knitting Pirate but please don’t send me rhyme unless you’ve actually studied rhythm, check out my resources page for rhyme help.
Megan and Jorge Lacera’s Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies, omg please send me your original, nondidactic lesson stories with another language embedded!
Harold Loves His Wooly Hat (Vern Kousky) omg this story still blows my mind with that ending and Truman, so sweet and adventurous!
Other Hot TIPS
Another hot tip for finding an agent you connect with is read their blog (or for James watch his Youtube channel) because we share stuff all the time that shows what we love, ie right now we’re analyzing the winning entries from the fall writing frenzy on my blog and in the comments you can see what I thought and felt about these amazing stories. I also do author and illustrator interviews where I review their books as well so you can see what I think of those as well 🙂
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Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez