Author: johnmcusick

Agent with Folio Jr., representing picture books, middle grade, young adult, and everything in between. Author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY. Mostly harmless.


Paula Garner’s second YA RELATIVE STRANGERS is coming from Candlewick Press this April– check out the gorgeous cover!


Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.

Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.

You can check out RELATIVE STRANGERS on Goodreads, and order Paula’s debut PHANTOM LIMBS on Amazon, B&N, and Indie Bound!


Exclusive PUDDIN’ Cover Reveal

It’s here it’s here it’s here! The gorgeous cover of Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’ companion novel, PUDDIN’! Click through to see the full cover on BNTeen:

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In case you’ve missed the news, DUMPLIN’ is going to be a major motion picture. Julie was just on set last week to meet the cast, which includes Jennifer Anniston, Danielle Macdonald, and Dove Cameron.



ALSO also, you can read all about how DOLLY PARTON (yes, for real) is writing original music for the soundtrack right herers_1024x759-170928120823-1024-jennifer-aniston-dolly-parton.












Pre-order PUDDIN’ on Barnes & Noble & Amazon, or read DUMPLIN‘ before you see the film!






On the Passing of Kit Reed

reedOne of my earliest writing mentors, Kit Reed, passed away recently. If you don’t know her work, I highly recommend you check it out.

I first knew Kit as RedWriter in our online writing class. Later, when she offered to tutor me one-on-one, we would sit in her warm kitchen and eat wafer cookies or pizza bagels, and she would offer her critiques on my work, and advice on the writing life. When my other classes or personal life became overwhelming (which they did, often), Kit would shake her head and say, “Triage.” She meant: set aside everything that’s less important than your writing. Do what you have to in order to prioritize your art. Even at a sprightly 75 years of age, she got up every morning to work. To craft whatever strange and heartbreaking new novel was currently thudding in her veins.

Kit was a fan of a process I termed the “Brick Shithouse” method of writing (at least I think I termed it– it may have been one of her own foul-mouthed inventions). She would write one page at a time, finishing that 500 words or so, then start over and rewrite it. Again and again she’d rewrite a single page until it was right, only then moving on to the next page, building her novel brick by solid brick. “You learn what you’re trying to say as you say it,” she’d tell me. She was the first person to introduce me to this deliberate, sometimes plodding, language-first style of storytelling. And for a sloppy speed-demon like myself, it was the best advice.

One afternoon I turned in a draft that was riddled with typos. The story was there, I figured. I could fix the tiny mistakes later. When we sat down at the kitchen table, Kit handed the half-read manuscript to me and said, “Don’t ever waste my time like this again.” There would be no class that day. I was to go home and fix my shit. If I expected respectful critiques, I better damn well respect my reader enough to deliver a clean draft. Today, I still call myself the King of Typos, but I reread everything I send or post again and again; errors do slip by, but never from laziness. Today, I return sample pages that aren’t numbered, or don’t include the author’s name. My feedback is a bit softer in tone, but the message is the same. Respect your reader. Don’t waste my time with this shit.

Kit never minced words. As such, our sessions weren’t always comfortable. But I learned more from her than anyone. I learned to treasure the gift of being a writer. The tools it gave me for navigating the world. When I was in pain (which was often, those years), she told me, “It’s all copy.” And she was right. Nothing in life is wasted. It all comes out in the work.

Kit Reed was brilliant and fearless. She told me to always put “…and is currently working on a novel” at the end of every ‘about me’ or bio. “Even if you aren’t,” she’d say. “Someday some publisher might read that byline and ask to read your book.” After all, that’s how she got her first book deal. “Don’t get a day job that involves writing,” she also told me. “Or it will burn you out for your own stuff.” Yet more invaluable advice.

I came to Kit’s kitchen at a time when my life was changing. I was giving up on a lot of things— a relationship, some friendships, some old ways of thinking, and old notions of who I was and what I wanted. It was a difficult period for me, with much uncertainty, but the rules were never clearer than sitting at Kit’s kitchen table. Don’t get it right, get it written. Respect your reader. Triage. It’s all copy.

My relationship to writing has changed a lot since then, but few things were more formative to who I am than my time with Kit Reed. She gave a shit, she gave me her time and attention and wisdom. She was never soft, always giving. She was brilliant, and her work remains so.

I have other stories about Kit, like the time I had to break into her house via a second-story porch, because I’d agreed to watch her dogs and locked the keys in the house (I never told her, not even when she wondered aloud how her trellis got chipped). Or the last time I saw her, meeting at her club in New York, and being so late she just shook her head and said, “Well there’s no time for a coke now. Your loss.” She rarely saw me at my best, but she was always so giving of herself anyway. I’ll be forever grateful.

So long, RedWriter. Thank you. You were a teacher and friend to so many, and we will miss you.

Congrats to Jordan Reeves on Her Book Deal!

I am so excited to be working with the phenomenal Jordan Reeves. At eleven, she’s more poised and mature than I’ll ever be– not to mention a brilliant designer and total firecracker. She built her own glitter-shooting prosthetic attachment called Project Unicorn, she, advocates for science, education, awareness, and gives back to her community. ALSO, she’s appeared on Shark Tank, the Rachel Ray Show, done her own TED talks, and been written about everywhere from CNN to The Nerdist.

Today she adds another entry to her list of accomplishments– published author! I’m so pleased to share the news of her book deal with Aladdin / Jeter Publishing. BORN JUST RIGHT is going to be such an important read, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

From Publishers Weekly:

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Congrats to Jordan and her amazing mom, Jen!

#DVPitLive Video: On Pitches, Rep, and #OwnVoices

Last night I got to participate in this live stream for #DVPit along with Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books, and fellow-agent Quressa Robinson, hosted by the brilliant author Claribel Ortega. We answer questions about pitches, representation, #ownvoices, and all sorts of cool publishing stuff.

As you watch, appreciate the fact that my cat is just off-screen trying to climb in my lap, and my awesome wife is ten feet away making a dinner that smells so good you can practically see me drooling. Thanks to Beth Phelan and the #DVPit crew for having me!

Congrats to David Spencer on His Debut Picture Book Deal!

I’m so excited that the phenomenally talented David Spencer will be illustrating the new picture book by Drew Daywalt (who also wrote the The Day the Crayon’s Quit).

From Publishers Weekly:

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This a rockstar pair-up, and I can’t wait to see this one on bookshelves. Congrats Drew and David!

Check out more of David Spencer’s art here:



Happy Book Birthday to JENNY AND THE ALIENS!

A huge and happy Book Birthday to Ryan Gebhart and OF JENNY AND THE ALIENS!


When boy meets girl meets alien, the angst of first love gets an extraterrestrial intervention in a tale both outrageously funny and full of heart.

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached our radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invites him to play beer pong. And things . . . progress from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all—marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. Jenny is The One.

But Jenny has other plans, and they may or may not include Derek. He’ll try anything to win her—even soliciting advice from the alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien might just be the answer to Derek’s problem. But is Derek willing to risk starting an interstellar war just to get the girl? And just how far will he travel to discover the mysteries of the universe—and love?

This perfectly off-kilter love story is ideal for jaded, philosophically minded teens as well as those who would appreciate the madcap genius of stealing shopping carts to turn them into gaming chairs.
—Booklist (starred review)

Original and witty.
—Kirkus Reviews

Find JENNY on Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, and Goodreads.

You can also check out Ryan’s incredibly funny middle-grade THERE WILL BE BEARS, and find Ryan on twitter.

Congrats Ryan!

Welcome Laura Sebastian!

Guys I’ve got some wonderful news– I am now representing the brilliant Laura Sebastian!

oZf_749v_400x400You may already know about Laura’s ASH PRINCESS. The series follows a girl who learns to survive at court after her country is invaded– but when magically-gifted rebels infiltrate, she bands with them to seduce and murder the prince to save her people (!!!) This is one of my favorite reads this year, and I can’t wait for you all to experience it when Delacorte releases book 1 next spring!

Laura is incredibly gifted, not to mention a delightful human being, and I’m so psyched to be working with her.

You can find Laura on twitter at @sebastian_lk and follow ASH PRINCESS on Goodreads.

Welcome Laura!


Happy Pub Day to Ann Dee Ellis and YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER!

Happy Pub Day Ann Dee!

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Have I told you how much I love Ann Dee’s writing? I was a super fan long before we started working together, and now I’m so excited about her latest middle-grade, YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER.

Here’s what people are saying about it:

“When I closed the last page I wanted to jump on Olivia’s tramp, just to celebrate her resounding resilience. This book is a love story for all those kids who have had to grow up way too soon, but who also face life with commitment, fortitude and above all, dedication.”—KATHI APPELT, author of the Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist THE UNDERNEATH

“Olivia’s voice captured me from the first line, but it was her bravery and devotion to her family that kept me reading to the end. The only thing stronger than her imagination is her heart, and my own broke for her as I read. Unforgettable.”—CASSIE BEASLEY, author of the New York Times bestseller CIRCUS MIRANDUS

“I felt like I hit the jackpot when I read this book. Olivia’s story is lively, full of heart, and a must-read for anyone who knows what it feels like to hope and dream big.”—ALLY CONDIE, author of New York Times bestseller MATCHED and SUMMERLOST

“Distinct, colorful, richly imaginative, thoroughly authentic, often hilarious, and frequently heartbreaking…Readers of this memorable novel will feel like winners, too.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Olivia’s first-person narrative fills brief,expressive chapters where she mixes fantasy and real life at will, all in a lyrical, poetic voice. Ellisrealistically taps into the kind of magical thinking so typical of kids trying to solve big problems, andplenty of readers might recognize themselves in the appealingly optimistic, daydreaming Olivia.”—Booklist

For fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Katherine Applegate’s Crenshawcomes the humorous and heart aching story of one girl’s struggle to keep hope alive for her and her younger sister in Sunny Pines Trailer Park.

I highly recommend you order this book immediately. 

You can also find Ann Dee on her website (where she does awesome writer prompts) and twitter.


DUMPLIN’ Film Finds Its Star!

Literally got chills from this news. Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’ has founds its lead, Willowdean, in the fabulous Danielle Macdonald!

Check out the full article in the Hollywood Reporter. 

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More DUMPLIN’ Film News:

DUMPLIN’ a buzz project for Cannes Film Festival


And check out Julie’s latest book, the absolutely stunning RAMONA BLUE.

Go Julie go!