Can I answer your questions at the COSCBWI September 15 meeting?

Are you looking for a literary agent to represent you? The process can be confusing, laborious, and discouraging, but there are opportunities to consult with other writers who are willing to share their good and bad experiences. There’s no need to remain isolated.

Members of the Central & Southern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (COSCBWI) recognize the value of working with a writing critique group or partner, which gives them an advantage over many other writers. Aspiring authors who ask for critical feedback only from friends, family, or significant others who want to remain close to them will eventually learn that they’re only spinning their wheels. There’s really no substitute for serious criticism. The best writers learn to accept the feedback graciously, pay attention to what’s valuable, and dig into their manuscripts when revision is necessary.

I try to provide encouragement and praise as well as criticism when I reject a full manuscript that I’ve been given the opportunity to read, but in most cases, I won’t ask to see the work again. I know how many other good manuscripts are always waiting in my reading queue.

Susan Bradley, the regional advisor for COSCBWI, invited me to her group’s September 15, 2010, meeting at the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road, in Columbus, Ohio. At 7:00 that evening, I’ll be answering members’ questions about finding and working with a literary agent.

You might wonder (I did!) why children’s book authors would be interested in what I do. I’ve always accepted queries regarding young adult manuscripts written for older teenagers, and most of my clients write YA books in addition to adult fiction, but my experience is concentrated on adult fiction. Some aspects of literary representation will apply to all writers. However, to ensure I provide useful information to the group, I’m calling for questions now and during the thirty days leading up to the COSCBWI meeting.

If you’re planning to attend on September 15, 2010, please feel free to email your question to me at or simply post it in the comments section below. (I’ll try to provide a brief summary of my answers here a day or so after the meeting.)


How a Book Is Made, published in 1988, might be a bit out of date now, but it’s still a fun read.

How a Book Is Made, by Aliki


Questions? This is your chance to let me know what they are. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll do the research prior to the September COSCBWI meeting, so you’ll have the information you need.

6 Replies to “Can I answer your questions at the COSCBWI September 15 meeting?”

  1. No one’s asked me that till now, but it’s a good question. I’ll let you know on September 15, Susan. (My post-COSCBWI meeting blogpost/summary could get interesting.)

  2. I have been writing YA stories with protagonists who are Chinese American adoptees, in part because of my experience as the mother of such a girl. My writing partner and I have been discussing whether it is even my place, as a white woman, to be writing these experiences. What is your take on that, and in what ways might writing cross-culturally effect getting an agent or publisher? Thanks!

  3. We could spend hours discussing this very topic, Jill. I’ll give you my opinion, which is purely subjective, at the meeting on September 15. However, I’ll point out today that agents, acquisitions editors, publishers, and booksellers are as diverse as writers. The key is to find like-minded individuals with whom to collaborate, and it’s an agent’s job to match writers to appropriate publishers.

    For various opinions of writing in the voice of a person of another race or from another culture, take a look at the following. You might be familiar with some, and this is more information than I’ll have time to cover at next month’s meeting.

    Independent Online Booksellers Association: Interview with Chris Volk, Regarding Black Writers & Literature

    Justine Larbalestier: The Advantages of Being a White Writer

    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America: Transracial Writing for the Sincere by Nisi Shawl

    TED Talk by Elif Shafak: The Politics of Fiction
    “Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.”

    Ultimately, the stance you choose will become part of your brand—that is, your professional identity as a writer.

    Speaking of which, you might be interested in these publishers, publications, and organizations, though I’m not endorsing any by listing them:

    Adoption & Culture

    One World: Chinese Adoptee Links Blog

    Perspectives Press

    Tapestry Books

    United Planet

  4. Thank you so much for all the great resources on this question! I am looking forward to talking more at the meeting this month!

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