Friday, March 7, 2014

Dawn Frederick of RED SOFA LITERARY gets Middle Grade Minded!

Well, folks. First off I apologize for missing my last post. It's been a hectic 2014 so far in the 'ol Torre household and I'm running around playing catch up. So to make things up for you, I've dropped down on my hands and knees and begged one of the most kick arse agents around to sit down for an interview. Lo and behold, she agreed!

Now, who is it I am speaking of? Why it's the only agent who can say she kicked major arse as a Roller Derby Ref. That's right, I'm speaking of The One. The Only. The Superb. The Fantabulous....

Drum roll please......

Thank you, Animal.

DAWN FREDERICK of RED SOFA LITERARY! And I'm happy to say I'm one lucky author to call her my agent!

First off, thanks for joining us, Dawn! Before we get right into the nitty gritty of it, tell me, what made you decide that you wanted to be a Literary Agent?

I had gone from earning a M.L.S. (while working at a bookstore) to a publishing house. The transition, despite the excitement of it all, was odd. I really missed book “talk” with customers and my cohorts at the bookstore. I wanted to find a happy balance, one where I could still meet new faces, and still be a champion for writers. I realized being an agent was the best fit.  Instead of a finished idea, it would a new, raw ideas that were discussed. Additionally, I’d still be able to meet new people and talk books; it would only be in the background vs. on the frontlines of a bookstore. Through fate, I met Laurie Harper, and I was immediately on path.

What is your favorite part of being a Literary Agent?

Honestly what don’t I like?  Discussing new ideas, meeting so many creative wordsmiths and seeing them reach goals of being published = my favorite part of my job.

Now that you are building up your MG / YA client list, and being that we are so very “middle-grade-minded” here, what are you looking for in a MG Submission?

I’m always in search of fun, quirky MG fiction and nonfiction, with a focus on dark, engaging YA fiction.  It’s odd I’m a fan of light-hearted books in the MG category, yet the themes I prefer for YA fiction are the polar opposite.  It very much reflects how I was as a young reader.

Topics I dream of:
-Extreme Sports
-Magician themes
-Outlandish places (that really exist)
-Odd parents, non sci-fi adventures
-Funny (to the point your stomach hurts) stories
-Stories set in Germany and/or with a Black Forest theme

For YA, I’ll always avoid sappy, depressing, and/or overly sci-fi stories.  Otherwise, it’s a blank slate, I just need to love it….

Why do you think that MG seems to be one of the hardest “genres” to get right? Is it the voice? The characters? Overused plots? ALL OF THE ABOVE?!

I wouldn’t call it the hardest genre. It’s more of a result of many years of the industry focusing heavily on YA books.  Now we’re going in reverse and giving more attention to younger readers, as some YA titles obviously aren’t appropriate for some MG readers. 

Another common challenge is people writing down to their audience, or attempting to share a moral or value. Ursula Nordstrom often stated that her books were “Good books for bad kids.” That should be the protocol for any MG novel, as it’s important that we get children reading more than ever.

What are some qualities you look for in your ideal client?

I really love working with individuals who view our relationship as a team approach, as well as a willingness to work with me in ensuring all the necessary steps are taken (from edits, to preparing the materials, to revising along the way, etc.) 

I am very explicit that I will give my authors the room to be creative, and that all I ask is room to do my job too.

Most importantly, I always hope that we keep an communication open on new ideas and opportunities too.  Ask Stacey Graham, we’ve been through 4 book deals together, and I really enjoy our banter on new ideas, new things to do, etc.  All my authors do this thankfully. I’m extremely optimistic

What sort of project are you absolutely dying to receive a query about?

See my earlier response…and if I had to choose, a MG/YA Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  Something like the original books, with images on every page. A mash up of superheroes, adventure, and more.

What’s your biggest pet peeve or biggest mistake you see when receiving query letters?

When someone obviously has ignored my categories, and has gone as far to state it.  “I know you don’t represent __________ [insert category I don’t represent], but I thought you’d make an exception.” If I had a penny for every time this was put in query letter, I’d be able to buy a dream house with cash.

Any advice for writers that are about to get started on their submission process?

Please, please, please, please DO YOUR HOMEWORK in advance. Does the agent represent your category? Is the agent open to submissions? Did you write a good query letter and spend considerable time making sure it’s the best it can be?  Is your book finished and fully edited, and also the best it can be?  Do you have any readers? That’s nice too. 

And now that all the “agent” questions are out of the way, how ‘bout a few fun ones..

If you could have one super power, what would it be? 

Teleportation.  Less travel time = more time to sleep, read, and more.

Your top 3 favorite books and thinking! GO!

Toy Story
Il Postino

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

And this last one is a bit tricky. Would you rather be attacked by a dozen duck sized horses, or one horse sized duck?
A dozen duck-sized horses, I could at least get away fast. If I saw a horse-sized duck, I would fear for my life.  When my Dad had a hobby farm, my step-brother and I always tried to catch the baby ducks and geese. I can confirm that an angry goose or duck (after one has caught her baby) is not fun.  I know better than to do that now…lol

Thank you so much again, Dawn!

Hope you enjoyed the interview everyone, and if you are reading this and feel like she may be the right fit for you, stop by her website or check her out on twitter at @RedSofaLiterary


Robert Polk said...

Thanks for the fun and informative interview Tom and Dawn!

Jamie Krakover said...

Awesome interview! And I have to agree a dozen duck sized horses... Plus they'd be pretty cute!

Unknown said...

You are quite welcome, sir!

Unknown said...

Part of me wants the horse sized duck...BC it would be an epic battle lol

Daniel Kenney said...

Loved this. Thanks Tom and Dawn!

Leandra Wallace said...

Great interview! And now I can't stop imagining a herd of duck sized horses. Or would that be a flock...? =)