Happy Day After Christmas!

Monday, December 26, 2016



Wrapping Up the Year

Monday, December 19, 2016

This is going to be my last real blog post of the year, so I wanted to take the time to reflect on 2016 in my favorite way...with lists!!

  

This has been a pretty awesome agenting year for me.  Each year has been stronger than the last, and I am THRILLED to say that this year was the best yet, with deals for:
:
·         Kristin Lenz for THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO (Elephant Rock Press) and the audio book (Audible)
·         Erin Peabody for Books 1-6 of her nonfiction Creatures of Legend series (Little Bee)
·         Meghan Masterson for THE WARDROBE MISTRESS (St Martins)
·         Suzanne Kamata for THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN (Wyatt-MacKenzie)
·         Alana Delacroix for her Shifting Love series (Kensington Lyrical)
·         Dorcas Cheng-Tozun for START, LOVE, REPEAT (Hachette Center Street)
·         Charles Maynard for his MG adaptation of I AM A SECRET SERVICE AGENT (St Martins)
·         Rie Neal for her IP project about a group of elementary-school-aged girls who start a band (Little Bee)
·         Lauren Smith for audio books for the next two books in her Wicked Rivals series, as well as the first two novellas in her The Seduction Series (Tantor)
·         Lauren Smith again for her three book dragon shifter series (St Martins)

Way to go, Team Carrie!!! 

We also saw lots of releases in 2016: 

·         THE ART OF HOLDING ONAND LETTING GO by Kristin Lenz
·         VENGEANCE by Shana Figueroa
·         CHARACTERS ON THECOUCH by Dean Haycock
·         The audio book ofMURDEROUS MINDS by Dean Haycock
·         THE CLEARING by Dan Newman
·         THE LINGERING GRACE by Jessica Arnold
·         THE WRECKING CREW by Taylor Zajonc
·         A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY by Erin Peabody
·         THE SECRET TO LETTING GO by Katherine Fleet
·         FANTASTIC FUGITIVES by Brianna DuMont
·         The Italian version of GOOD CHINESE WIFE by Susan Blumberg Kason

So many wonderful books, reviews, and other great things happened this year.  Can't wait to see what 2017 will bring!

Query Critique Winner

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hi guys!  The query critique winner this time around is Mariah Rose Cota.  Congrats, Mariah!  Here is her original pitch:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 
 
I am seeking representation for my novel, NIGHTMARE BEAUTY. It is YA Paranormal Romance. It is complete at 82,000 words.

Teenager Rachel Summers wants to sleep peacefully. But the nightmares are growing stronger. Suddenly, she finds love with an extraordinary boy. If Rachel is unable to defeat the nightmares, they will hunt for more victims.

Rachel Summers was only five years old when the nightmares chose her. After being reassured by her parents that nightmares aren’t real. They soon realized how wrong they are. As the nightmares have now tormented Rachel for years. The nightmares have stolen a vast amount sleep from Rachel. And she begins to struggle with functioning from day to day life. The schools were always concerned about what was happening at home. Years later, the Summers family seek outside help from Dr. Jefferson’s Mind Management Laboratory. As an elderly witch visits Rachel. She can’t help but sense that witch and her warnings are real. Despite her constant secret keeping in an effort to protect her friends. Rachel relies on her loved ones for a sense of normalcy. As the nightmares slowly begin to appear in public in the daytime. She learns she is not the only one that can see them.

Rachel discovers an extraordinary connection when she meets fellow teenager Aaron Winters. Suddenly, Aaron surprises Rachel as a tremendous shift in their relationship occurs. Now, they must work together to uncover the truth behind the nightmares. But, they will soon realize that the nightmares are not their only adversary.

I am a student at Allan Hancock College and I am currently working toward my Associate degree in English.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you. 
Sincerely, 
Mariah Rose Cota


And here is my critique!


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 
 
I am seeking representation for my novel, NIGHTMARE BEAUTY. It is YA Paranormal Romance. It is complete at 82,000 words.
 
 

Teenager Rachel Summers wants to sleep peacefully. But the nightmares are growing stronger. Suddenly, she finds love with an extraordinary boy. If Rachel is unable to defeat the nightmares, they will hunt for more victims. [I would suggest cutting this paragraph, otherwise the following information seems redundant.]
 

Rachel Summers was only five years old when the nightmares chose herAfter being reassured by her parents that nightmares aren’t real. They soon realized how wrong they are. As the nightmares have now tormented Rachel for years. The nightmares have stolen a vast amount sleep from Rachel. And she begins to struggle with functioning from day to day life. The schools were always concerned about what was happening at home. [The information in this section is good, but the writing is very choppy and you're misusing punctuation your periods, which break up the sentences incorrectly.]  At first, her parents insisted they were nothing more than bad dreams, but after years of being unable to sleep and a steady decrease in her ability to function normally, everyone is concerned.  Rachel does her best, though, to keep the scariest aspect of the nightmares a secret:  the things she dreams seem like warnings of horrible things to come and that they are specific premonitions meant for her.  [I'm not sure if the part about premonitions are true or not, but either way, you need to give us more information here about the nightmares and also make the paranormal elements of the story stronger/clearer.] Years later, the Summers family seek outside help from Dr. Jefferson’s Mind Management Laboratory. As an elderly witch visits Rachel. She can’t help but sense that witch and her warnings are real. [The casual mention of a witch here confuses me.  Are magical people accepted and normal members of society, or is the fact that she is a witch a surprise?  Also, who is this witch?  Does she work at the lab?  How does she know to approach Rachel and what knowledge does she have about Rachel's nightmares?  Expand on this.] Despite her constant secret keeping in an effort to protect her friends. Rachel relies on her loved ones for a sense of normalcy. As the nightmares slowly begin to appear in public in the daytime. She learns she is not the only one that can see them.  Although she continues to shield her loved ones from the more disturbing elements of her dreams, it becomes clear that she won't be able to keep her secret much longer.  Her nightmares start acting themselves out in reality during the day and Rachel discovers she is not the only one who can see what is happening. 
 

Rachel discovers an extraordinary connection when she meets fellow teenager Aaron Winters. Suddenly, Aaron surprises Rachel as a tremendous shift in their relationship occurs. Aaron Winters has also been plagued by nightmares and once he and Rachel meet they realized Now, they must work together to uncover the truth behind the nightmares and who is causing them while also fighting their growing attraction to one anotherBut, they will soon realize that the nightmares are not their only adversary.
 

I am a student at Allan Hancock College and I am currently working toward my Associate degree in English. 
 

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
 
 
Sincerely, 
Mariah Rose Cota



This query has a good start on its hook--drawing people in with the question of what these nightmares mean--but the execution still needs some finessing.  As I mention above, thought, the language is very choppy and there are a lot of gray areas that need to be filled in.  Mariah, I hope you find my edits and comments helpful in revising those things.

Everyone else, chime in with your comments below!

Energy!

Monday, December 5, 2016

I am feeling so energized!!  It's very welcome after a few weeks of just wanting to hit snooze over and over, so to celebrate I've started my annual strategy sessions with my authors, phone calls I do every year to talk about plans, goals, etc. for the year ahead!  

I normally wait to start them after the holidays, but I wanted to take advantage of my alertness and also now that I'm balancing two full-time gigs, I wanted to get a head start since I have a feeling it's going to take longer to get them done than it has in the past.

Thanks to all the Excel training I've been getting at Cambridge, I was able to pump things up this year with a fancy Google Excel calendar to book everything.  Look at it!  Isn't it so cool?



On top of that, I got all my shopping done during Black Friday, so I am finishing 2016 with a extra-productive bang!  Now I just need to finish up all my contest reading and I can head into the unknown that is turning 30 years old with a light heart.

Cheers to Tryptophan!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  I felt like a kid with a school vacation last week.  Cambridge had a half day last Wednesday and then I had the following four days off!!!

I don't think I've had that long a holiday break since I was in college, so I was very excited.  I was planning on spending the whole time at in CT with my parents, but even though it's scary, Black Friday in the city is one of my favorite things.

Also I have to admit, I really liked the idea of just being alone in the apartment with the kittens and cleaning while binge watching shows on Netflix.  I love wrapping gifts right away, too, so I get it out of the way.  Probably not what a kid on school vacation would have done, but ehh...



It's weird that as I grow older, my idea of fun shifts more and more to include the words "alone" and "napping."  I was talking to someone at Cambridge last week and told him that when I first moved to New York, I went out almost every night, and his response was, "Really?  You?" because all I talk about there are my cats, how much I love my duvet, and how what they are saying relates to something I just read (which is probably annoying because the majority of what I'm reading are books that they could never have heard of because they're manuscripts).

Anyways, cheers to tryptophan!  What did you do for the holiday?

Query Critique

Monday, November 21, 2016

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)



If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

George Orwell's 2017?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Instead of talking about what's going on in my corner of the world this week, I want to share an excerpt from my client Brian Zepka's YA manuscript, GETTING ACROSS.  Here is a brief blurb about the project:

Parker Hernandez has a secret.  In a near future America, a wall has been built across the border, shutting out illegal immigrants and housing the military personnel and families needed to maintain order.  Adopted from Mexico before the shutdown, Parker lives on the Wall with his family and best friend Crew.  Although he goes to school and is preparing for his ascension to the cadet ranks of the Border Task Force, at night, he sneaks under the Wall to help children like himself cross into Texas.
 
Fueled by the desire to find a friend he left behind, Parker finds solace helping others and clings to his hope that someday it will be his friend Gabby he helps cross.  But when he finally gets a clue about her whereabouts from one of the people he helps, it is just as new security measures are enacted at the Wall, forcing him to go farther into Mexico than he ever has before to retrieve the next group for crossing and find out more about where Gabby is.
 
With help from Crew, he makes to his destination, but this crossing will prove to be the most elaborate and dangerous one he has ever done...and there are no guarantees he will make it back.

And here is the excerpt:

“Names and IDs please,” one says.

“Are you kidding? We live here,” Crew responds, irritated. He attempts to walk through them but one guard puts his hand on Crew’s chest and pushes him back. Crew shoots me a look of disbelief.  
 
“Sorry, son. Increased security measures due to the president’s expected arrival.”
 
We concede and hand over our IDs.
 
The U.S. Border Task Force operates the border wall system along the U.S. –  Mexican border and are responsible for keeping the millions of migrants in the adjacent regions from spilling into the United States. They also help guard the Isthmus of Panama Wall.

After the migrant crisis was left unsolved in the 21st century and conflict continued to escalate across the world, millions of people were displaced in their own countries and began fleeing to other areas. Destination countries tried to deal with the massive influxes of people, but at some point it became too much of a burden. It was too late. The government systems were overwhelmed. The United States shut down their Citizen and Immigration Services and stopped accepting any kind of humanitarian visas—no refugees, no asylum seekers, no one.
 
Other developed nations followed suit and groups of countries partnered together and constructed walls along their borders to keep the migrants out.
 
The walls kept the people out but they also created confined regions where large numbers of people became trapped with nowhere to go. There were eight walls built in total over a period of fifty years that literally divided the world.      
 

In America, small towns were built into the sides of the Wall around each of the Border Towers to house the workers and their families, which is why I, Crew, Hawi, and many others live here. Everyone who lives on the Wall works for the Wall. Including my dad, who’s Head of the Border Task Force for the Texas Region of the Mexican Border. He works to keep the people out. And I bring them in. But he doesn’t know that.  

This manuscript was written before Trump even announced he was running.  It stuns me that we are now living in a YA post-apocalyptic novel.   


Pop the Champagne

Monday, November 7, 2016

Last week was full of deal-filled fun, so...champagne for everyone!



Super excited to report a four-book audio deal for Lauren Smith with Tantor!  Lauren has a lot of fans who are audio listeners, so I'm so happy that we will have these books in audio book form and that I'll get to work with Tantor for the first time!

Another audio deal is also in the works for Kristin Lenz for THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO with Audible!  Although I worked with Audible on deals for Prospect, this is the first time I'll be working with them on one of my own projects, as well, so I'm very thrilled about this deal, too!

Also, these deals aren't reported in PM, but I decided to announce them here:

Rie Neal is going to be working on an IP project for Little Bee that is set to be a four-book series.  Rock on, Rie!

Charles Maynard is working on adapting Dan Emmett's I AM A SECRET SERVICE AGENT to be a middle grade book for St. Martin's Press!  

Team Carrie is killing it 

Query Critique Winner

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween, everyone!  This month's query critique winner is Ellery Krueger.  Yay, Ellery!  Also, awesome name 

Here is her critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible.
 

Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited the local museum of fine art one day and fell asleep. When he woke up Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. 
 

Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream. All he knows is the plain, dismal life his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 
The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist. The work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches. 
 

That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. 
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


And here is my critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited visits the local museum of fine art one day and fell falls asleep. When he woke wakes up, he is shocked when the young boy in the painting in front of him asks him why he is sleeping in the museum.  He learns that his name is Ayden Fragonard and that he has been trapped in the painting for 500 years. Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. [First: be careful with your tenses.  I noticed you switch to present tense in later paragraphs, but this section is the one that should be in the present tense and the others in past.  Second: the way this paragraph was formerly written makes it sound like Stefan isn't at all fazed by being spoken to by a boy in a painting, which either means we are in a world where magic is out in the open or Stefan is WAY under-reacting!  Either way, this needs to be adjusted to something along the lines of what I have above in blue.] Before this, Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream was a farmer with nothing magical about him. All he knows is knew was the plain, dismal life of working his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit visited his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets was Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 

The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents [The fact that Botticelli has magical powers is so casually mentioned here, I didn't notice it on the first read. You should explain this more,] takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist decides to become his apprenticeHowever, The the work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter that Ayden give up his apprenticeship and tell Botticelli to leave. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches [This needs some more description so that we really understand what is going on here and how Botticelli "paints" things a certain way] That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. [This entire paragraph is very confusing.  Why is a world void of color and depth perfect for a lazy artist?  Why is Botticelli described as lazy--we see no indicator of it anywhere before this.  Does Ayden need to step out of his father's shadow or is it that he needs to be brave enough to do disobey him in some way?  Also, why does he need to battle for control of the magic paintbrush with the help of painters throughout time?  Do they all also have magic?  And finally, WHERE does Stefan come into any of this?  We never heard about him again.  Is Ayden telling Stefan this story the whole time?]
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


Although I liked the way this query opened and the idea behind it, there needs to be a lot of ironing out done here before it makes sense to readers.  One of the thing that threw me the most was the way things were organized here: as you can see by all the questions at the end of the query, a lot of questions came up from the fact that things were explained or were brought up at random times.  When writing your story, the advice that I always give (and I think I've given it here before!), is to think about it as if it is back cover copy and you need to succinctly and compelling let readers know what the story is about and also give a snapshot of its voice.  I hope that's helpful, Ellery and everyone else working on their own pitches, and thanks so much for entering!

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below!

Warp Speed

Monday, October 24, 2016

Does anyone else feel CRAZY this week?  I can't tell if it's just that I'm super busy or if there something wacky going on with my brain, but I feel like everything around me is going at warp speed and I'm sort of looking around at the cosmic, speed trails of to-do items flying by.




I'm so happy I have another intern to help with the reading load, and hoping to have follow-up things for submissions smoothed out in time for my one-year anniversary at the end of the month!  

It's so weird to think that I've been married for a year.  Because I still use my maiden name professionally, I rarely ever think of myself as Mrs. Houlihan, but, you know, I am!  


Okay, that's all my brain can handle talking about for now.  Query critique winner next week!

Nebraska + New Deal!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hi everyone!  I'm getting myself settled in after a weekend at the Nebraska Writers Guild workshop, which was a lot of fun.  I prepared a talk about what authors should do to market themselves before having a book deal, or even an agent, and I think it went really well!  Also, I am so proud of myself for making this awesome worksheet on Canva for my presentation.




Other than that, now that I've acclimated myself to my new second job at Cambridge, I'm working hard to catch up on all my submissions and requested manuscripts before the holiday season starts.  I'm so lucky to have another new intern to help me with this: the wonderful Caitlan McCollum.  Yay, interns!  Mine are the best! 

Finally, I am soooo excited to announce Dorcas Cheng-Tozun's deal for her nonfiction project, START, LOVE, REPEAT, a relationship book for partners and spouses of entrepreneur that is filled with interviews and advice from entrepreneurs, executive coaches, marriage family therapists, venture capitalists, and startup authorities, as well as anecdotes from Dorcas's own marriage to one of the creators of d.light design.  This is a project we have been working on for awhile and I couldn't be happier that it is making its home at Center Street!!  


Query Critique

Monday, October 10, 2016

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)





If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

I Heart Cambridge

Monday, October 3, 2016

Congratulations to BookaholicNL who won the giveaway last week!  I'll be in touch shortly to figure out where to send your books!  Happy reading 邏

Before I do that, though, I want to share that last week was the first week of my new day job: working in the library sales department of Cambridge University Press!  It was hard to make the move after working at the restaurant for such a long time, but I'm really happy with my new digs and doing something that dovetails a bit more with agenting and the publishing world.  Also, Cambridge's offices are perhaps the swankiest I've ever seen.  Everything is new and beautiful, and they have a common area with stadium rows of cushions.

The foyer/common room area when you first enter!

I'm working super downtown in the World Trade Center/Wall Street area and it has been such an interesting transplant.  I've always kind of avoided that area because the streets are so winding and have names instead of numbers, so navigating isn't as cut and dry as it is when you're farther uptown, but I really like it!  It makes me feel like I'm in Boston or a future, more crowded version of Hartford, near my hometown in Connecticut.

A pretty park near CUP.

With getting acclimated there, catching up on my #PitMad and Pitch Slam requests (not to mention all my other reading), I'm going to be backed up for a little bit, so if you've submitted a query to me recently, don't freak out if it takes longer than usual for me to get back to you!  I'm looking forward to getting acclimated at Cambridge and then hopefully returning to my usual agenting speed!

Book Giveaway!

Monday, September 26, 2016

So because I got the query critique all screwed up the past couple months, I wanted to reward you guys with another contest to make up for it!  Also, I'm clearing out my bookshelves. 



Everyone who subscribes to my blog this week by inputting their email in the subscription box on the right side panel will be entered to win a giveaway of 5 of the books I represent!  If you already subscribe to my blog, then you're already entered.
  1. Jessica Arnold, THE LOOKING GLASS
  2. Suzanna Kamata, THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN (ARC)
  3. Erin Peabody, A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY
  4. Brianna DuMont, FANTASTIC FUGITIVES
  5. Kristin Bartley Lenz, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO
Have fun entering!
 
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