Location: Interrogation Room 4B
Subject: Interrogation of four Agents with regard to their involvement in the opening of new literary agency: Raven Quill Literary Agency, Agents were… uncooperative at best.
Name: Jacqui “Write on” Lipton
Location: An undisclosed location in the midwest
Specializes in: Young adult and middle grade fiction and non fiction with a particular love of romance and sci-fi and loves voice-y middle grade characters.
Favorite Dessert: Tiramisu, although crème brulee comes in a close second!
Name: Kortney Price
Location: Saint Louis, maybe Illinois… depends on the day
Specializes in: Picture book through young adult stories across genres
Favorite color: Green… or plum… or gray-blue…or maybe yellow…
Name: Kelly Dyksterhouse
Location: Charlotte-ish, NC
Specializes in: Picture Book through Young Adult, across all genres, but with a special love for stories that have characters and themes that pull a reader in and won’t let go.
Favorite color: I love all colors! Boring answer, I know. I want the dessert question! (Keylime Pie)
Name: Lori Steel
Location: DC area, on the side of the river where Old Bay goes on everything.
Specializes in: Any well-written story for young readers, except horror, tending to lean literary, lyrical and quirky. And I love a book that shakes up the establishment and pre-conceived notions.
Favorite color: Green, because trees and avocados. Also, mint chocolate chip ice cream!
Interviewer: What are you most excited about as Raven Quill opens its doors?
Agent Jacqui: Making connections with amazing authors and the editors who will bring their books to life in the “real” world.
Agent Kortney: The conferences we’ll attend, authors and editors we’ll get to work with, and the adventures to be had. The future looks bright
Agent Kelly: Working with authors to help them hone their manuscripts into beautiful books, and introducing them to editors who will love them and put them in children’s hands.
Agent Lori: Partnering with a nest of writers and agents to bring quality literature to young readers.
What made you decide to pursue agenting over other roles in the industry?
Agent Jacqui: Nobody would hire me! No, seriously, for me it’s the mix of my love of books/reading/editing and my background in business/law—agenting is the perfect balance of my skills and interests.
Agent Kortney: Wait… there are people who don’t want to be agents?
Agent Kelly: This was a long time coming, but it was the realization that I am a “connector.” I love introducing people to others who have shared experiences and interests. The idea that I could do the same thing with books (that I often love more than people) was a wonderful thing. The fact that I love reading and editing made it all feel like a perfect fit.
Agent Lori: Agenting is the ideal intersection of many years of working with books, writers, and young readers. I can’t imagine alighting anywhere else.
What drew you to children’s books?
Agent Jacqui: I’m a child at heart. What can I say? My children keep me young (and very, very busy)! -shrugs-
Agent Kortney: When the perfect story lands in a child’s hands at the perfect time, magic can happen. I want to be part of that magic.
Agent Kelly: Kids books don’t shy away from important and hard and dark things. They shouldn’t. But they do give hope. They should. I want to give hope.
Agent Lori: What stories have a special place in your heart? Chances are they’re books you read when young. Children’s books have lasting, far-reaching impact. They’re written for the most important audience. Why not children’s books?
What would you say is your agenting style?
Agent Jacqui: Fairly editorial, but not prescriptive; very transparent about all aspects of the editing and submissions process.
Agent Kortney: Collaborative, editorial, transparent
Agent Kelly: Collaborative, communicative, and as editorial as I need to be
Agent Lori: Ditto… with an eye to the long-view.
What’s a childhood story that is totally on brand with your agenting style?
Agent Jacqui: That’s a big PASS!!
Agent Kortney: When I was around 11 or 12 I was showing a cow at the county fair. This demon of a cow was not cooperating at all. As I was leading her back to the barn, someone honked their horn and she proceeded to lose her stinking mind. I ended up getting thrown down and she came down with both front hooves on my back. I never let go of the rope. (I was fine, btw)… basically, I’m not one for giving up.
Agent Kelly: Oh, wow. That’s a hard one. I had a friend who was just learning to swim, and somehow she ended up in the deep end next to me, flailing around. I remember grabbing the edge of the pool with one hand and grabbing onto her with the other and pulling her to the side. It was a bit terrifying, but she was fine. Writing can be terrifying and it can feel like you’re swimming in circles or sinking. I’d like to think that I can be a lifeline and then be able to direct my authors, and their work, in the direction they need to go. Is that cheesy enough?
Agent Lori: My mother always told me not to come home wet as I ran out the door. Inevitably I’d arrive home dripping, bloody, and limping after a day down at the creek building forts and biking around the neighborhood with friends. But that fort got built and I learned to ride hands-free, even over speed bumps. In other words, sometimes you have to get messy, break a few rules, and take some risks if you want to achieve your dreams—whether that’s building a secret tree fort or editing a client’s manuscript.
What is one (or more) book you read as a child that you still re-read as an adult?
Agent Jacqui: That’s a tough one. I grew up in Australia and the books I read there were so different to the ones I read in the U.S. I mean, we had to read Picnic at Hanging Rock over and over, but I haven’t looked at it since. Isn’t there a new TV series, though? Maybe I should check it out.
Agent Kortney: How much time do you have? -laughs-
Agent Kelly: There are two that immediately come to mind, and I discovered both in fifth grade. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, and Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Agent Lori: I consider Because of Winn-Dixie (the melancholy magic realism gets me every time) and Charlotte’s Web (is there a more perfect MG opening line?) as my touchstones. And, yes, Lord of the Rings!
What was your dream job growing up?
Agent Jacqui: I always wanted to be a teacher. Is that a horrible gender stereotype? Do all girls from my generation say teachers or nurses? All the guys in my class wanted to be soccer players. I wonder if any of them made it?
Agent Kortney: Archaeologist… Not Indiana Jones. Daniel Jackson is so much cooler.
Agent Kelly: Spy–and now I get to be an Agent! I have arrived.
Agent Lori: I was certain that I’d be the next Nadia Comaneci. Not sure what happened there…
Teacher tribute! What’s your story from school when a teacher helped to shape your life?
Agent Jacqui: One of my high middle grade English teachers encouraged me to write my own stories which she kindly offered to read. I don’t think she was expecting the 28 page sci-fi opus I presented.
Agent Kortney: I “accidentally” finished a novel study book after promising not to read ahead… My teacher had a copy of Down a Dark Hall waiting for me when I got to class. She told me it was one of her favorites and that I should check it out. That’s when my love of books really took hold.
Agent Kelly: Fifth grade was a big year for me. My English teacher, Mrs. Schafer, was a huge influence. I wrote a story in her class that won some big award. And even in fifth grade, she still read to us. Every Friday. The last book was Goodnight, Mr. Tom, and we did not finish by the end of the year, so on the last day of school my friends all gathered at my house and we finished the book by reading to each other.
Agent Lori: My elementary school PE teacher, Mr. White. His positive energy made every student feel like they could accomplish absolutely anything—even climbing the gymnasium rope and tagging the ceiling, which I did!
Tell us one insane story from your childhood. Something crazy you got away with or, ya know, almost got away with?
Agent Jacqui: -Sits back and folds arms- Hey, I’m a lawyer. I plead the fifth.
Agent Kortney: My brother and I accidentally went joy riding once… backwards… down a hill… toward a creek… the car was fine and so were we! We pulled it back into it’s spot and didn’t say a word! The neighbor narked on us the next afternoon.
Agent Kelly: I was pretty much a rule follower, so no huge crazy stories. But I did have one friend who shared my penchant for exploring places late at night. There were three times I am absolutely positive we had encounters with a ghost. Probably. (But I do love ghosts!)
Agent Lori: Remember the story about the creek? Well, I was pretty good at breaking rules, and getting in (and out) of the house on the down-low. Let’s leave it there…
What do you hope kids get from the books you work with?
Agent Jacqui: Is it pretentious to say entertainment and enlightenment? Probably. I guess I just want stories to enable younger readers to look at familiar issues, characters and settings in a new light, or to discover new people, places, and perspectives.
Agent Kortney: Whatever they need most
Agent Kelly: I love what Rudine Sims Bishop says about books: that they are windows, offering views to worlds belong; sliding glass doors, inviting readers to walk through to become part of the story; and when the light is just right, mirrors in which readers can see themselves. I would love for children to see themselves in the books they read–being brave, or kind, or resilient, or sad (because it’s okay to be sad), or hopeful, or just plain having fun.
Agent Lori: To see themselves, to develop a sense of empathy, to feel hope and the possibility of change. To laugh and to feel pain within the safety of the pages. To learn about life from authentic voices.
What was your favorite class in school?
Agent Jacqui: I’d love to say English, but actually it was French (which I can hardly speak anymore).
Agent Kortney: Chemistry, Geometry and A&P
Agent Kelly: History
Agent Lori: Hard choice, but probably Geography or French.
Where’d you grow up? Tell us about it
Agent Jacqui: Australia. Surrounded by kangaroos and wombats. Actually, that’s a lie—none of that cool wildlife in the cities there, but we did have some of the biggest and most ugly spiders in the world.
Agent Kortney: -Looks at Agent Jacqui- Yeah, I’m not gonna top that… Small midwestern town, friday night football, cows, corn. You get the gist of it.
Agent Kelly: On a farm outside Indianapolis during the school year, and in a small town on the lake in Northern Michigan any other time of the year.
Agent Lori: I moved around—a lot! Twelve schools in thirteen years. Mostly in the DC area, but also Appalachia, then to the UK starting in college. Growing up was an eclectic adventure!
Growing old isn’t optional, growing up is! What’s one way you’re still a kid at heart?
Agent Jacqui: All ways, always!!
Agent Kortney: -Was lost in thought and didn’t seem to hear the question-
Agent Kelly: Constantly daydreaming. Still have imaginary friends (some real ones, too.)
Agent Lori: Still love to ride on anything with wheels—the faster the better! And, of course, root beer floats.
What’s one book that helped to shape your life or got you through a tough situation?
Agent Jacqui: For me, it was theater, rather than books. Discovering Shakespeare really changed my life—the sense of connection of common themes between so many generations of humanity (and some less common themes too). That’s why I always love a good Shakespearean retelling.
Agent Kortney: Literally every book I read from ages 10-14. Middle school sucks. Books were my constant escape.
Agent Kelly: There’s a theme running through so many books and movies I loved as a kid, that of an unempowered/hurting child leaving the familiar and finding safety/agency/power with another family, home, or situation. I think these stories most definitely shaped my life by giving me a passion to both parent and advocate for foster children.
Agent Lori: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.
Who would you say encouraged you and fostered your love of reading growing up?
Agent Jacqui: Definitely my mother. Dad always thought I’d be a writer, but mom encouraged my love of reading widely and voraciously.
Agent Kortney: Believe it or not, not many people in my family read. I’m from a family of teachers, but the person who truly enjoys reading is my Aunt Deb. She always gave me books for Christmas and my birthday (still does). Most of the time they were books I hadn’t heard of, but I can’t think of a single time she gave me a book I didn’t love.
Agent Kelly: Teachers, my mom, and just the fact that I was an only child living out on a farm or away in a small town. Books were my company.
Agent Lori: Actually, it was music that fostered my first love of reading. Song lyrics became the stories I connected to most when I was young. Music continues to be an important inspiration when I approach story.