KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?
JE: I started at Liza Dawson Associates two years ago, but I first heard about literary agenting as a sophomore in college when I was looking for editorial internships. Until then, I had no idea such an awesome job even existed. Once I found out, I was hooked and I interned throughout college, holding positions at Random House and various literary agencies. As soon as I graduated, I joined LDA full-time.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
JE: I'd like to reference Avatar, if I may. When an author and agent decide to work together, I like to think of it as forming a bond of tsaheylu. I sign only those authors whose projects I absolutely adore, and inevitably, we hit it off right away. We discover we're on the same wavelength; we share the same vision for the project; we "get" it. We're a team now and both parties are going to do whatever it takes to get the work published and help him or her grow as an author. So yeah, tsaheylu. I'm the six-legged horse to your blue giant.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
JE: I'm looking for literary fiction, thrillers, urban fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and the whole gamut of YA, from sci-fi to contemporary. I'm also interested in middle grades with heart and perhaps just a touch of magic, like WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead.
Right now, I'm not actively seeking nonfiction projects, though that could change...
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
JE: The only pet peeve that comes to mind is when a query starts off with a question like, "Have you ever wondered what would happen if ___?" The plot could be brilliant, but for some reason, phrasing it in a rhetorical question makes it sound oversimplified and silly.
KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?
JE: Neither. I just assume it means the author didn't check our website guidelines. It doesn't really bother me, though. I'll give it a quick look-see if you insist!
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?
JE: If I had a genie, I'd probably use up a wish to get a snappy, witty manuscript with a bullet-fast plot, something like Josh Bazell's BEAT THE REAPER. In literary fiction, the plot doesn't have to move at breakneck speeds, but there should definitely still be a plot and a fresh voice, like
I'd also love a middle grade that isn't afraid to delve into the issues of death, divorce, abandonment, sickness, or racism. I know that sounds awfully morbid, but there's a way to address these topics without being too depressing. I already mentioned WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, but other titles that tackle those issues poignantly are DEAR GEORGE CLOONEY, PLEASE MARRY MY MOM by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund, the classic WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech, and my childhood favorite MAMA LET'S DANCE by Patricia Hermes. They're humorous and have a whole lot of heart.
As for what type of story I'm shying away from, I don't think purely fantasy or adventure middle grades are my cup of tea.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
JE: Shoot me an e-mail at queryJudith@lizadawsonassociates.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!
And we’re looking forward to hearing from you, too, blog readers! If you have a question for Ms. Engracia, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll drop in later this evening or sometime tomorrow to answer any questions she finds down there, leaving her answers in the comments, too.
You have until midnight tonight to leave your questions, so until then, ask away!
P.S. Don’t forget to wish Ms. Engracia a happy birthday. And Ms. Engracia, extra special thanks to you for spending your big day with us:)