Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rebecca Eskildsen of Writers House

Rebecca Eskildsen is a literary agent at Writers House.

“I am actively growing my list, with a particular interest in middle grade, YA, and adult fiction. Across the board, I’m looking to elevate LGBTQ+ and BIPOC voices, among other underrepresented narratives.

“In middle grade, I’m looking for a range of fiction, from fun adventure stories to contemporary books that make kids feel seen. Mostly I want to see fresh, engaging voices, particularly narratives with a sense of humor and a strong emotional core.

“For YA, I’m looking for some darker themes and twisty, gripping stories, but also some lighthearted fun! Give me your ambitious “unlikable” girls (ugh – I’ll like them) and your funny, slow-burn romances.

“I’m looking for a more limited variety of adult books. I’d love to have my inbox full of contemporary rom coms. I’m also looking for sagas about families and/or friends, of any age or topic, and I’m looking for 20-something coming-of-age stories.”

Middle Grade Wishlist Specifics:

— Voices full of humor, particularly in contemporary settings.

— Friendship stories! Elementary school and middle school is a weird time for friendships. There can be rivalries or shifting loyalties, and they can make you closer than ever, or pull you apart. Sometimes the end of a friendship is dramatic, sometimes it’s just what happens, but we’ve all had *feelings* about these friendship transitions.

— Kids grappling with shifts in their family, such as divorce or foster care. I’d really like to see more portrayal of divorce in MG, especially in the background of stories. My recent favorites that tackled these topics are FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Rebecca Stead’s THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE.

— Queer characters, especially trans and non-binary kids.

— Stories about immigrants and/or immigration, like FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang.

— Books that shine a light on mental health.

— Grounded, contemporary fantasy.

— Fun ghost stories, like CITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab or Eva Ibbotson’s DIAL-A-GHOST.

— Big adventure stories, like Gordon Korman’s MASTERMINDS series.

Young Adult Wishlist Specifics:

— Friendship stories, like UNPREGNANT or even CODE NAME VERITY, and friendship break-ups, such as WE USED TO BE FRIENDS and WHEN YOU WERE EVERYTHING.

— Explorations of toxic relationships, both among platonic friends, and romantic relationships, like GIRLS ON FIRE or BAD ROMANCE.

— Grounded fantasy/realism that is lyrical and heart-wrenching, like BLANCA & ROJA or THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS.

— Twisty, gripping stories, like THE CRUEL PRINCE or DEAD QUEENS CLUB – bonus points if they have the same level of relatable yet cutthroat ambition that Jude has in THE CRUEL PRINCE.

— I’m picky about high fantasy, but would love to see high fantasy that tells us truths about ourselves, a la SERAPHINA and TESS OF THE ROAD, or has a strong emotional core, like GRACELING and FIRE.

— Emotional character studies, such as WE ARE OKAY and EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED. Quiet books, basically, that may not have a lot of action but still grip the reader’s soul. Break my heart and put it back together again!

— Rom coms! I’m especially interested in slow burn romances and books that play with format by including texts, tweets, and chat rooms, like in EMERGENCY CONTACT and TWEET CUTE.

— Fun, high concept books, like YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN or THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE.

— Witch books! I devoured Cate Tiernan’s SWEEP series multiple times as a teen and felt the same joy reading THESE WITCHES WON’T BURN. I am absolutely here for the resurgence of witchy YA.

— Books that talk about mental health in a destigmatizing way, like LITTLE & LION.

— Clever, unexpected retellings, like MY LADY JANE or HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS or THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, or anything by Anna-Marie McLemore.

Adult fiction wishlist specifics:

— I’m hungry for fresh and hilarious rom coms, like RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE and THE EX TALK. As with YA, I’m interested in playing with format, like the romance that’s built upon post-it notes in THE FLATSHARE. I’d also love to see more queer rom coms!

— Young millennial/Gen Z stories about coming of age, like NORMAL PEOPLE and QUEENIE.

— Deconstructions and examinations of uncomfortable modern cultural dynamics, like in SUCH A FUN AGE or EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS.

— Grounded family sagas, like EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU and THE CARE AND FEEDING OF RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY GIRLS.

— Anything that can make mundane life feel exciting and fascinating, the way Liane Moriarty’s books feel.

Weirdly specific things I’d love to see in any age category:

— Something about crows? Crows are fascinating and loyal and also vengeful if you cross them. Bring me your contemporary or fantasy crow story!

— Seattle and/or Pacific Northwest settings.

— Forest magic!

— Something that feels like Crazy Ex Girlfriend season 3, with lots of hope and healing by the end.

— I binged all of Teen Wolf in the early days of lockdown, and I’d love to see a creative take on kitsunes or banshees.

— Something with the wit, humor, and emotional range of Veronica Mars (season 1 through the movie, we don’t talk about season 4).

— Something with the hilarity and incisive remarks of the first half of Swan Princess.

I am NOT looking for:

— Picture books

— Grimdark

— Nonfiction

— Graphic novels

— Military science fiction

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Rachelle Gardner of Gardner Literary

Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent and the founder of Gardner Literary.

As a literary agent since 2007, Rachelle has negotiated 300+ contracts with more than 20 publishers, and worked with more than 200 authors to bring their books to publication and build their careers.

She’s been in publishing since 1995, worked in-house at two publishing companies, and edited books published by Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and many more. Nowadays she feels lucky to work at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

When she’s not working, you can usually find her out hiking the local trails, riding her bike, haunting bookstores, or having coffee at Starbucks.

She is seeking:

“I represent NONFICTION books for the Christian market (CBA) as well as for the general market, and we are accepting queries for both.

“If you’re writing nonfiction, we can’t really sell it unless you have a sizable platform. If you don’t, you may want to pursue smaller publishers on your own — you don’t need an agent. Only pursue an agent if you have a platform and want to work the medium to large publishers.

“We’re interested in:

  • Next generation voices in the faith community
  • Books about the intersection of faith and culture
  • Deconstructing and reconstructing faith; asking hard questions about faith
  • Books by BIPOC authors; books that grapple with racial issues, LGBTQ+ issues, and all social issues
  • Deeper spirituality and prayer books
  • Books about animal conservation, animal sanctuaries, and animals that help people
  • Feminism and women’s issues
  • Memoirs about any of the above — must be well-written and the author should have a platform.
  • Family life — interested in really unique and/or extraordinary takes on parenting and family, whether it’s memoir or self-help
  • Devotionals with depth, originality, and a definable audience
  • Gift books: journals, guided journals, gifty devotionals; other gift-type books for occasions such as graduation

She is NOT seeking:

— Fiction
— Cookbooks
— Poetry
— Short stories
— Novellas
— Screenplays
— Graphic novels
— NO children’s, middle grade, or YA books

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Shauna Turnmore of Arthouse Literary

Shauna Turnmire is a literary agent with Arthouse Literary.

After graduating with her Masters in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago, Shauna moved to LA to pursue a career in the music industry. She quickly realized this particular avenue was not for her and decided to pursue her first and longest love, books. She is currently back home in Orlando and is excited to help authors develop their stories and be their biggest cheerleader. As an associate agent, Shauna is looking for New Adult fiction, YA Fantasy, and historical fiction – including a particular interest in books that give a glimpse into the Holocaust experience. She also has her own Booktube and Bookstagram accounts at “Shauna’s Book Journal.” When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she loves playing with dogs and relaxing with friends and family and a glass of wine.

She is seeking:

As an associate agent at ArtHouse, Shauna is often drawn to stories that are a little strange, and especially ones that use speculative or fantastic elements in beautiful, original ways. Across the board, she’s looking for an inclusive cast of characters, across gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, and mental health spectrums. Of course, if any manuscript that is submitted to Shauna makes her see the world through a new perspective (i.e. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi) then this is an extra plus plus!

Pitch her: Contemporary Romance, Upmarket Fiction, YA Fantasy, New Adult Fantasy, Thriller & Speculative Fiction

Shauna is mostly looking for YA and New Adult fantasy with major character development. She loves to see fantastical and unique worlds but needs to see the characters overcoming challenges and learning about themselves. If there is an epic or dark romance interspersed, even better! She loves reading about strong, badass women as well in all genres! Favorites in this genre: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Hibiscus Daughters Series by Lana Popovic

Shauna is also looking for contemporary or commercial romance. She is extremely interested in books that delve into complicated relationships and don’t have a pretty bowtie ending. Shauna has a background in the music industry and loves stories centered around bands writing music. Favorites in this genre: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Shauna is intrigued by historical fiction, preferably centered around the Holocaust and the French Revolution. Favorites in this genres: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

She would love to see anything centered around Irish or Celtic history and lore/mythology.

She does NOT want: Erotica, Westerns, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Middle Grade, Children’s books.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Kat Kerr of Donald Maass Literary

Kat Kerr is a literary agent with Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Kat joined Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2019. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelors in English in 2009 and is drawn to literary and commercial voices within the adult and YA markets, as well as adult nonfiction. Kat feels strongly about supporting programs like We Need Diverse Books and is passionate about creating space in this industry for those from historically marginalized communities. She is actively seeking to grow her client list and is particularly hungry for magical realism, literary leaning speculative and science fiction, women’s fiction, YA works with a lot of heart, and narrative nonfiction with something to say.

Submission Interests:

Literary and Upmarket Fiction:

Kat is drawn to strong, character-driven works with rich, literary prose. She loves books that make her think and have a strong emotional pull.

Contemporary
Women’s Fiction
Multicultural Lit
Speculative
Magical Realism
Family Sagas
YA

Favorite Books: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, About a Boy by Nick Hornby, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, The Leavers by Lisa Ko, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen, anything by Amy Tan

Commercial Fiction:

For the commercial market, Kat is looking for high concept, voice-driven works with a close POV and well-developed, distinct characters.

Select Science Fiction and Fantasy
Women’s Fiction and Rom-Coms
YA (all genres)

Favorite Books: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow, Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce, I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Nonfiction:

Narrative nonfiction and journalistic non-fiction tackling current affairs and social justice issues, particularly covering topics of racism, immigration, LGBTQIA+ rights, gender equality, and poverty
Select biographies and memoirs

Do NOT send:

– Plots/themes centering around unresolved trauma
– Previously published or self-published works
– MG, Chapter books, picture books
– Novellas, short stories, or poetry collections
– Military/war stories
– Westerns

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Abby Saul of The Lark Group

Abby Saul is a literary agent with The Lark Group.

Abby founded The Lark Group after a decade in publishing at John Wiley & Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne & Miller Literary Associates. She’s worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors as well as major brands. At each publishing group she’s been a part of, Abby also has helped to establish ebook standards, led company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and created and managed numerous digital initiatives.

A zealous reader who loves her iPad and the ebooks on it, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. Abby’s personal library of beloved titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics, to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, to dark and twisted thrillers. She’s looking for great and engrossing adult commercial and literary fiction and is a member of the AALA. A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband and son. Find her @BookySaul on Twitter.

She is seeking:

  • Adult literary fiction
  • Adult commercial fiction (including historical fiction, women’s fiction, mysteries, and thrillers)

She does NOT want:

— Science fiction, nonfiction, children’s books (including YA), or screenplays
— Unsolicited manuscripts sent without a query letter (we won’t read them)
— Queries for books that aren’t yet written
— Queries with attachments (we won’t open them)

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary

Michelle Richter is a Senior Literary Agent at Fuse Literary.

Michelle joined Fuse Literary in 2014 from St. Martin’s Press, where she worked on a variety of fiction and nonfiction including MELISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL by Melissa Joan Hart. She has a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University, where she is an adjunct lecturer. Michelle’s clients have won or been finalists for such awards as the Edgar, Mary Higgins Clark, Strand Critics, Anthony, Agatha, Lefty, ITW Thriller, Macavity, Barry, Derringer, IPPY, and International Book Award. She is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Michelle is seeking:
-suspense
-mystery
-psychological thrillers
-domestic suspense
-women’s fiction
-book club fiction
-YA mystery/thriller
-select contemporary YA

She’s especially eager to find suspense and psychological thrillers with complex lead characters. BIPOC, LGBTQ, and disabled voices in fiction always welcome. Michelle loves unreliable narrators, stories of family secrets, friendships, and sibling relationships. Her favorite writers include Colson Whitehead, Celeste Ng, Ruth Ware, Laura Lippman, Megan Miranda, Lori Rader-Day, Jennifer Hillier, and Tana French. She’d love to find the next BATH HAUS, SUCH A FUN AGE, WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING, THE LADY UPSTAIRS, LONG BRIGHT RIVER, THE DUTCH HOUSE, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, WINTER COUNTS, BLACKTOP WASTELAND, or BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Becky LeJeune of Bond Literary

Becky LeJeune is a literary agent with Bond Literary.

Becky met Sandra Bond at the Denver Publishing Institute when she was a student there in 2007. After DPI, she spent 2 years working as the managing editor for a cookbook imprint, and then 5 years as an acquisitions editor at The History Press before joining Sandra at BLA in 2014.

She is interested in adult and teen general fiction, horror, mystery/thriller, historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and cookbooks.