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.

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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: http://mischief-factory.com

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to JENNY AND THE ALIENS!

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

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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

JENNIFER ANISTON to Star in Teen Comedy DUMPLIN’

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

Go Julie go!

Happy Pub Day to Saints and Misfits!

Happiest of Pub Days to the phenomenal S.K. Ali, and SAINTS AND MISFITS! S.K. Ali’s debut novel is also the first young adult from Simon & Schuster’s Muslim Voices imprint Salaam Reads.

Order right now on Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound.

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Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

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Follow S.K. Ali on twitter at @sajidahwrites, and check out her piece on her quest to find an agent.

 

Congrats to Ashok Banker on Y.A. Deal with Delacorte!

In case you missed it on twitter last week, we are popping all the champagne over here for Ashok Banker and THE RISE TRILOGY.

Check out the announcement from Publishers Weekly:

Ashok Banker picKrista Marino at Delacorte has acquired, in a seven-figure preempt, author Ashok Banker‘s The Rise Trilogy, pitched as Six of Crows meets An Ember in the Ashes, with a cast featuring LGBTQIA, PoC, and differently abled protagonists. The #ownvoices series follows a young thief and her gang as they battle to overthrow a brutal tyrant and stay a demon invasion. Publication of the first book is planned for fall 2018; John Cusick at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal for North American English rights.

Ashok reached out to me earlier this year, and I was immediately grabbed by this strange and wonderful universe he’d created. I don’t want to give too much away, but right there in the first chapters I found monsters rising up out of the floor to eat someone’s mother, a multi-faceted heist, and a roof top chase involving magic and flying police wagons. It was weird and wonderful and breathtaking, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. We found the perfect editor in Krista, who edits so many star fantasy writers and loved RISE as much as we do.

I knew I wanted to represent this story, but it wasn’t until Ashok and I got on the phone that I discovered what a warm, wise, and engaged person he is. Ashok is also incredibly humble, which is amazing given how much he’s achieved.

Ashok’s 54 books have sold over 3 million copies, been translated in eighteen languages, and sold in fifty-eight countries. If that weren’t enough, he’s also the pioneer of genre fiction in India; his internationally acclaimed Ramayana Series revolutionized Indian publishing, creating a genre called “Mytho”, now the biggest in the country. He is also the creator and screenwriter of the first Indian TV series in English, and co-creator and screenwriter of the first Malaysian TV series in English, the most watched “Mytho” TV series in India.

 

So yeah, the guy basically invented a genre.

You should follow Ashok on twitter for book news, and also his passionate advocacy for social justice and diversity in publishing: https://twitter.com/ashokkbanker

And more RISE news to come! Congrats Ashok!