Greenhouse Literary

Welcome New Client Dannie Morin!

Today we’re welcoming Dannie Morin to the Greenhouse family! I’m thrilled to be working with Dannie on her debut y.a. ARROW & NIGHT, a rad, gender-flipped contemporary retelling of Robin Hood set on the U.S. / Mexican border.

Yeah. I KNOW.

Dannie is an addictions therapist by day, as well as a freelance editor, book blogger, and regular mentor/co-host in Brenda Drake‘s pitch contests. You can check out Dannie’s blog here, and follow her on twitter.

Dannie MorinWhen and how did you start writing?

Dannie: I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In early elementary school I won some sort of writing contest and had my epic ten-sentence story “How the Dog Got His Tail” published in the school anthology (complete with illustrations of tailless, stick-figure dogs). I wrote my first novel–an unabashedly shameless boy band fan fiction–in fifth grade. It was a big hit with my best friend and about five girls in my homeroom class. All through school I was involved in writing—the first writer on my middle school newspaper staff to ever have an article banned by school administration, editor for my high school’s literary magazine, and that token obnoxious freshman in my upper-level creative writing classes in college. It wasn’t until I married my husband that he suggested I was serious about it. So I got serious about it.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

The first book I remember connecting with was THE UGLY DUCKLING. And it’s sort of a perfect metaphor for writing, isn’t it? When we start writing we have no idea where we belong, what we’re doing, who we are. And once we figure it out, writing life is pretty awesomesauce.

When I was a little older, I had this amazing teacher, Mrs. Altenburg, who read books aloud to us that were way too advanced for our reading level. We would lie around on the floor in her classroom and listen to her read and it was absolutely my favorite thing about school. So I got really into THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA in third or fourth grade. I was convinced there was a world hidden inside my closet. It turns out it was just a bunch of old dance recital costumes and broken tap shoes. But I loved C.S. Lewis’ world-building.

Can you talk us through the writing of ARROW & NIGHT? What were the key moments?

I’d wanted to write a reimagining for a while but I also wanted to stay true to who I am as a writer—gritty contemporary and maybe a little controversial. I was at SCBWI Carolinas about a year ago when the idea of a Robin Hood retelling set at the US/Mexico border popped into my head, fully-formed. I spent October 2013 plotting and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo. That was as exhausting as it sounds, so I put it away for about four months before I started revising. I started querying in August and here we are.

 Was it hard to get an agent?

I actually wish there was less focus on that phrase in our community—“get an agent.” It’s more important that you find the right agent for you, who can champion your career and not just one book. Not any agent can do that. The harder parts of this journey have been finding the right agent who not only falls in love with the book I’m pitching, but gets me as a writer. Someone I can see myself building a career with, a partnership that’s going to last for a long time. And I am so stoked to have found that in John Cusick. But it wasn’t easy. Finding the right agent is something entirely different from writing itself, and for me it took a sort of bravery that was definitely outside my comfort zone. And maybe a little magic and fate and higher powers and whatnot, too.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time?

My writing time fluctuates. I work a full-time job ten months a year. I also have a two-year-old and I do some freelance writing and editing as well. Basically I don’t sleep. Seriously though, I write when I can. I think the biggest advantage to being a plotter is that I can write a story completely out of order as the mood strikes, and it makes sense when I put the puzzle pieces together at the end of the draft. So if I please the traffic gods and make it to a meeting 20 minutes early, I’m on my phone dictating narrative into Evernote or frantically typing an email to myself before I forget a bit of dialogue that struck me. Probably 25 percent of ARROW AND NIGHT was written on my phone in spare moments. And I’ve been known to roll over in the middle of the night, draft a scene, and not remember doing it when I wake up in the morning. But I’m also blessed to have the most amazing husband who supports my writing 500%. He takes our daughter out every Sunday, and I get a couple hours of solid writing time. And my kid is pretty awesome, too. She’s a great sleeper, so I have some time between her bedtime and my bedtime most nights. But I have to be the one to dedicate that time for writing.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

Don’t worry about what other writers are doing. Your journey is yours. Keep writing. Keep reading. And when it comes to querying–do it scared.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Plot structure–Before I started taking publishing seriously, I thought a needed a beginning and an end and what happened in the middle was pretty much anything goes. A few years ago I discovered Larry Brooks’ series on story architecture and it has truly changed the way I think about plot. It was a lot to process and digest but my writing is ten thousand times stronger for it.

Voice–I’ve read in a few places that voice is something that can’t be taught, but I disagree. Or at least I think it can be learned. One of the things I hear from my CPs is that I have great voice, but that definitely was not always the case. I used to think voice was something that characters had, the ways they spoke in dialogue, but not something that was important in narration. I think becoming a more intentional consumer of kidlit really helped me in that respect.

Balancing backstory and forward momentum–One thing I still struggle with is remembering that the reader doesn’t need to know everything I know about a character. I make a lot of notes on characterization before I start writing. And I used to try to incorporate as many of those notes as possible into the story itself, which leads to mass quantities of infodump and unnecessary backstory. I was reading an interview JK Rowling gave and she was talking about Dean Thomas’ parents, whom you never really hear about in the books. But not knowing those things didn’t negatively impact Rowling’s storytelling. It just gave her something interesting to talk about in interviews.

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I would love to have dinner with Matthew Quick. He has the most fantastic characterization and voice skills and he gives voice to people who need more heroes like themselves in books. I think dinner with Rae Carson would be a blast. She’s so funny and personable and I love, love, love her world-building skills. It would be fun to have dinner with John Green, too, because we both ‘did time’ in Winter Park, Florida growing up, and because his deep empathy and understanding of adolescents is so apparent in his writing.

As for a character I wish I’d invented, the storyteller is as important to making the character unique as the character’s personality and quirks and motivations. If anyone but Veronica Roth wrote Tris Prior, she wouldn’t be Tris Prior. But if I had to pick, I would probably choose Dolores Umbridge. She is so wonderfully obnoxious—the sort of antagonist you love to hate—and I really think it would be fun to plug her into various scenarios and torture her to the delight of readers.

 

 

 

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Welcome Julie Olson!

JulieOlsonHeadshotI’m delighted to welcome veteran artist and author/illustrator Julie Olson to Greenhouse! Julie and I met in 2012 at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah (which I highly recommend), where Julie was teaching a class on illustrating picture books. Though I’d worked with picture book authors before, this was my first experience addressing a room full of illustrators. Throughout my talk Julie stood off to the side, and whenever I was a bit uncertain she’d shoot me an encouraging thumbs up. For the rest of the conference Julie was my sometime driver, showing me the sights of beautiful Provo and also ensuring I visited Starbucks at least twice a day. Julie kept me sane, punctual, and caffeinated all week.

So it was a delight to see her this year when I returned to WIFYR. Julie was hosting an author shindig at Salt Lake’s legendary independent bookstore, King’s English. We caught up over stuffed peppers and pigs-in-blankets, and she told me about her latest book, Discover America. We discussed the picture book world, the commercial art world, and I mentioned I thought artists ought to have a dedicated illustration agent, as separate from their commercial artwork representation, as the markets are so different.

Julie considered this, and sipped her sparkling apple cider.

Now, lo, it’s a few months later, and Julie and I are going to be working together, which makes me deliriously happy. Whenever a new client joins the agency, we ask them a few questions about their work, their process, etc. Julie’s answers are fabulous. Check it out:

When and how did you start writing and/or illustrating?

Well apparently my artistic history goes all the way back to my toddler days. Apparently, my mom would often turn around from her task at hand to find me quietly drawing tiny circles in ballpoint pen all along the baseboards of her white walls. Being the patient woman she was, she simply shook her head in amazement at my finger dexterity and provided plenty of paper and art supplies from then on. As I grew older, I checked out “how-to-draw” books from the local library and even set the old VCR to record Bob Ross and other PBS painting shows. I asked Santa for my first set of real artist paints at the age of 11 and from then on I’d get home from school and try copying the PBS masters’ paintings. In the meantime, my love of the written word developed as well. My favorite times were when my busy dad would spend time reading Mark Twain stories in all the voices or when my sister and would stay up late telling each other stories of “Marshmallow Pie Bar Mysteries.”

IMG_7816Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

We loved books in my house so it’s hard to pin down only one book. My siblings and I even set up a neighborhood library for the kids on our street. Complete with card pockets on the inside of every book cover. Mostly we just liked to stamp the card and check out the books to ourselves, but we had a grand time with it. Some of my early favorite books included Lillian Holban’s Frances series, “The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes,” and Nora Smaridge’s “The Big Tidy Up.” I also always loved to read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippy Longstocking and Judy Blume books, along with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”  And of course, a soft spot for Mark Twain (in my dad’s voice).

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I had been illustrating books for about 9 years as well as attending conferences, meeting with writers, and studying the art of writing all along. Finally, I decided to really give it a go. I had just spent the weekend hosting author/illustrator Janet Stevens at a book conference and she and I had had some great discussions. After dropping her off at the airport, I was stuck in traffic and a little idea started. I grabbed the back of my name tag and a ballpoint pen from the dash and scribbled a few words down on the back (don’t worry…traffic was completely at a stand still). The words I wrote were, “Groundhog. Scratch my back. Tickle. Tingle. Twitch. Itch. Porcupine. Alligator. Thistle.” From those few words came my first book, “Tickle, Tickle! Itch, Twitch!” Of course I say that like it was simple, when it wasn’t. But it all began there.

groundhog idea

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I actually went out on my own without an agent for the first 9 years of my career. Since I was an illustrator and a mom to young kids, I took the route of finding my own work and managing the flow of it without the worry of disappointing an agent when I needed to turn a job down to spend time with my little ones. However, I finally came to the realization that an agent could actually HELP me spend more time with my family by taking all of the busy work off my plate. Then I could focus on my art. I began with an art rep who illustrator friends of mine used instead of a literary agent because at the time I wasn’t as focused on the writing aspect of picture books. I submitted my work to them and they took me in as one of their own. I was able to work on books but a lot of other interesting projects for various industries as well. However, after 5 more years in the industry and one book authored under my belt, I finally realized that creating an entire book is what I NEEDED to keep doing. My art rep was having a bit of a hard time helping me in that goal since their focus was primarily on the art and not the writing. I was explaining this to a literary agent, who I’d met a year previously at a conference, while we chatted at another event. After our talk that night, I realized that it was time to make a change in my focus and in my career. It was very scary for me to give up my art rep who I got along well with and move to a literary rep, but I knew it was the right thing to do. That literary agent I chatted with and subsequently signed on with was John Cusick, of Greenhouse Literary Agency. I am so excited to work with him and the Greenhouse team and take the leap of faith into my dreams.

p12-1Describe your writing/illustrating day. Where do you work? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

As a mom, and an artist, it’s hard for me to keep set hours. I work when the kids sleep. I work when the kids are at school. I work when I’m at the dentist. I work while I’m at the park. I even work while I’m in the car. Whenever I find a free and quiet moment, I think books. I think art. I think stories. However, when I’m on a deadline, I work out some childcare help to get some good solid painting time in. I’m lucky that both of my kids’ grandmothers live close enough to help out when I’m in a pinch. But truthfully, a lot of my work happens with kids in my office painting at their little mini desk, banging on the piano or electric guitars upstairs and downstairs, or not so quietly reminding me they need to be fed. I am lucky to have an art studio in my home so I don’t have to go far. And I think growing up in a big family (9 kids and two parents) allowed me to be able to work amongst noise and craziness when I need to. Honestly, I think these kids are my greatest inspiration…life with them provides all sorts of ideas.

Can you tell us about your next book?

I currently have two books I’m working on. One is silly and the other is completely the opposite, serious and emotional. Both are picture books. I really hope they find a home and get to provide more laughter and love in the world.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers/illustrators who are looking to get published?

The best advice I have is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your craft. Go to writing and illustrating workshops and conferences. Learn from professionals in the industry. Network there. READ  A LOT OF BOOKS in the genre you are interested in and then lots of books in general. Overall, take the advice, constructive criticism and tips you receive from editors and professionals and put them to use. Let them build your work into something better instead of allowing it to tear you down personally.

Which favorite authors/illustrators would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (because I would love to witness and learn from their friendship), David Small and Sarah Stewart (because they are one of the sweetest couples I know…true opposites attracting), and Aaron Becker, Dan Santat, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (to keep the blood young, hip and hilarious) — The whole dinner I would soak up all I could from these amazing artist in word and sight

I wish I’d invented Eloise. Because she’s got such spunk and truly speaks to my own inner sassy know-it-all child. However, I don’t know that I was ever that spoiled (actually I know I wasn’t…there were 9 kids in my family, remember?)

Check out Julie’s picture books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound. You can also follow Julie, and add her work on Goodreads too!

BTW if you yourself are an author/illustrator or illustrator, I highly recommend you check out Julie’s blog for all kinds of great resources.

Greenhouse’s Adult Fiction Debut

It always sounds odd to me, saying so-and-so writes “adult” books, when I mean fiction for a general audience, not specifically the kids and teens market.** I much prefer the term “grown-up” books.

Actually, I don’t. Those both sound weird. In different ways.

ANYWAY, I’m excited to share some news from my colleague, fellow-agent, and president of Greenhouse (also my agent), Sarah Davies. As you may have read in Publishers Weekly, Sarah has sold Megan Miranda‘s*** debut adult novel – at auction no less – to Simon & Schuster for six figures. This is all kinds of great news on its own, but this is also the agency’s first deal for adult (there’s that word again) fiction.

As Sarah put it in her Facebook post, “We believe we can sell any great book clients bring us, whatever age group and genre.” I couldn’t agree more.

From PW:

10696403_10152854852518054_7810982730011210519_nYA author Megan Miranda (Fracture) sold her adult debut, Disappear, to Sarah Knight at Simon & Schuster for six figures. Sarah Davies, at Greenhouse Literary, represented the author, in her first adult deal at the agency; Knight took world rights to two books in the agreement. Disappear, Knight explained, is told in reverse and covers a period of two weeks. The story, Knight said, “unravels the mystery of two missing girls who vanished 10 years apart, and whose cases are linked by the same group of friends in a rural North Carolina town.” Miranda is an MIT graduate and former science teacher.

**At least I’m not alone in this. Client Rahul Kanakia agrees.

***Megan is the author of three amazing y.a. novels, FRACTURE, HYSTERIA, and VENGEANCE.

A Blog Post About Revamping a Blog

Morning, campers. You know, I think this internet thing’s going to be pretty big. I don’t care what they say. So with that in mind we’ve revamped this site. You can still check out interviews, news about my books, and where to find me (at conferences, readings, events, etc). There’s now a new page on how to query me at Greenhouse, and new pages dedicated to my awesome clients and recent deals.

Also, you’ll notice that posts are now categorized, so if you want to check out older ramblings about, say, clients, events, my teaching gigs, writing, or inspirational quotes, that’ll be much easier.

So take a stroll around. Check out the links, the pages, the new veranda. Happy to have you here.

– The Management

 

Tommy Wallach’s WE ALL LOOKED UP Optioned for Film

So in other *really really really* exciting news, Tommy Wallach‘s debut y.a. WE ALL LOOKED UP (Simon & Schuster, 2015 [so soon kids, so soon…]) has been optioned by Paramount Insurge! The announcement went up on Deadline Hollywood last week. You can see it here.

If’n you don’t know, WALU follows the lives of four teens several months before a meteor (read: Giant Kill Rock) will pass through earth’s orbit with a 66.6% chance of striking and annihilating all life on the planet.

It’s also that book with no title on the cover…

(!!!)

Adrian Garcia at Resolution was my co-agent on the deal. Adrian shopped the manuscript all over town and drummed up phenomenal interest. In the end, the book was scooped up by Davis Entertainment, the production company behind Chronicle, EragonBlacklist and a whole mess of other films and television shows.

You know what? Tommy does a much better job breaking down this process than I could. You can read all about it in his aptly titled “On My Novel Being Optioned For Film”.

You can also add WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads or pre-order it on Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound. Which you should do.

My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

Guys. I am the *worst* at this blog thing.

Apologies for the long radio silence. It’s been a busy few months! Over at the Greenhouse, there have been deals, new clients, release dates, and all manner of agent-y ass-kickery. Here at my writer’s desk…well, more on that below.

My pal and occasional short-fiction publisher, the fabulous Kerri Majors, “tagged” me in her Writing Process blog post a few days ago. Kerri is the founder of and editor-in-chief at YARN (Young Adult Review Network) and the author of THIS IS NOT A WRITING MANUAL (Writer’s Digest Books, 2013), a guide for young writers. I’m delighted to answer the tour’s four burning questions (and then I get to tag two bloggers much better at blogging than I.)

A’ight let’s do this.

1. What are you working on?

Right now I’m wrapping up the final section of a new young adult novel. It’s a large, sprawling “faux-historical” (which means, I wanted to write a historical but didn’t want to do any research…kidding…sort of). It takes place in a re-imagined turn-of-the-century Manhattan. It’s the story of a girl who rises from an ethnic ghetto to the glamorous rooftops of Central Park while becoming entangled with organized crime and terrorism. Think a steampunky Boardwalk Empire.

I like to explore themes of personhood, gender, and class in my novels (I didn’t know that starting out, I just look back and it seems those ideas keep cropping up), but unlike GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY, this new project is a bit more sprawling in scope. I wanted to write something epic and sweeping, about family and history and culture, like Jeffrey Eugenides’s MIDDLESEX. It’s more ambitious than anything I’ve ever done and I’m very excited about it.

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?

As far as the current WIP goes, it’s a “steampunk” novel, but not a swashbuckling adventure. This is a character-driven story, though it takes place in a newly-imagined world. There are life and death stakes, but no robots or coal-powered giant spiders.

Generally, I’m a devotee of unreliable narrators, and there are certainly a great host of those in young adult. I also like to write narrators who are unreliable to themselves, who have only so much self-awareness. My protagonists grapple with how society has defined them and how they’ve self-defined. In GIRL PARTS, Rose is built to love one boy, and must forge an identity of her own when he rejects her. In CHERRY, the title character has an image of herself as a small-town girl, and must question that self-image when faced with the opportunity to enter a more glamorous tier of society. The protagonist of this new project, whom we’ll call Vette (because that’s what she’s called), is an infamous historical persona in her world, like Annie Oakley or Patty Hearst. She has a public persona of cruelty and danger that’s separate from who she is, or feels she is.

So, I suppose that’s something unique about my work- the exploration of multiple identities within single characters, personas, self-image, and one’s “true self,” if such a thing exists.

Sorry. I haven’t had my coffee yet…

Okay! Let’s keep going!

3. Why do you write what you do?

I love young adult fiction. I love writing it. It’s honest, and unpretentious, and relies on great story and true characters. You can’t hide behind pretty prose or brilliant metaphors in y.a.; you’ve got to make the reader *feel* something. Though I read a lot across age groups, writing y.a., and exploring that particular formation of identity that happens between 13 and 18, is where my heart is.

I’ve made the switch with my current WIP from a contemporary realistic backdrop to something more fantastical. I’m a sci-fi fan at heart, and I wanted to exercise that part of my brain this go-round. It’s been beyond fun.

4. How does your writing process work?

I go by drafts. I start with an idea, usually a series of images, or a very vague plot arc, and after taking some rough notes, I start with Chapter One, Word One. From the there the story will usually develop away from my initial concept or outline. I sometimes jump around– I like to begin chapters in the middle and then fill in the edges– but I more or less write in chronological order. I’m pushing the protagonist forward, watching her strive for her goals, and at the same time figuring out what the book is *about* as I go. In a sense, I write plot first, theme second. It usually takes a draft or two before I can say, “Ah ha! So *this* is what I’m trying to say!” From there it’s a matter of shaping and developing.

If you enjoyed reading my pre-caffeinated ramblings, and would like more, even *better* ramblings, there shall be new posts on the tour every Monday.

Next week, head on over to Sharon Biggs Waller’s. Sharon is my client and the author of the amazing and critically acclaimed y.a. historical A MAD WICKED FOLLY (Viking, 2014). Sharon does great giveaways on her blog, plus occasionally posts pictures of her beautiful farm (my favorite). Summer Heacock, aka Fizzygrrl, is one of my favorite book-bloggers and posts some of the most insightful and touching stuff about this maddening thing we do. Check ’em out!

I’m Joining Greenhouse Literary!

ImageThat’s right. Beginning January 14th I am joining Greenhouse Literary as a full-time agent for middle-grade and young adult! I am thrilled to embark on this new adventure with Sarah Davies and the Greenhouse team. I will continue to represent my take-no-prisoners cadre of clients, as well as actively building my list.

I’ve enjoyed five superlative years at Scott Treimel NY, and it has been a privilege to collaborate with Scott and all the phenomenal STNY authors. I will miss them all, and look forward to seeing their work on bookshelves, e-readers, and billboards.

I highly recommend you check out Greenhouse’s website for more info about Sarah and Julia, Sarah’s blog, and submission guidelines.

What I’m Looking For: I’m especially eager for boy middle-grade (and yes, even boy y.a.!). Fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy, villains with vulnerability, bad decisions with best intentions, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, finely composed and choreographed scenes, characters with history, stories about siblings, stories about middle America, and did I mention middle-grade for boys?

In the meantime, stay tuned folks: there will be more conferences, classes, talks, books, posts, and shenanigans to come!

– John