Friday, July 15, 2011

July Mystery Agent Revealed: Kathleen Rushall

Thank you, Kathleen Rushall!! 

Follow her on twitter
Kathleen Rushall is the newest member of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She started as an intern at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and then spent almost two years at Waterside Productions. Kathleen graduated from Seattle University with her bachelor’s degree in English and minor in fine arts. She moved back to her hometown of San Diego to earn her master’s degree in English, specializing in children’s literature, from San Diego State University. When she is not at her desk, Kathleen enjoys exploring new restaurants, dreaming of Ireland, and walking her Australian Shepherd, Finn.

Note to Participants:

There were a lot of amazing pitches here. This was a difficult decision. Please keep in mind how subjective this is – a lot of this has to do with my personal taste and what kind of projects I’m currently looking for (or already have in the works), and doesn’t mean that your pitch wasn’t fabulous. Please feel free to query me if you participated but didn’t make it to the final three.

Winners of Operation Awesome/ Kathleen Edition

First Place (and winner of the full manuscript request)
45) K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...
Genre: YA Fantasy

When Gracie Heart finds threatening notes hidden in her circus costume, she doesn’t realize she’s the one trying to warn herself: she’s next.

Reasoning: I have a soft spot for dual personalities, time travel, and mystery – the fact that Gracie is leaving notes for herself and doesn’t know it makes me think one of these elements is here. The mention of the circus intrigues me too – this sounds unique, and could also be historical fiction, which I love.


2) Becky Mahoney said...
Genre: YA Fantasy/Horror

When the population of a nearby city vanishes overnight, aspiring detective Kalinda joins the search party - but the city isn't empty.

Reasoning: I’m scared already. In one sentence, the author has set up many questions. Zombies? Ghosts? Aliens? I don’t even know who is posing the threat here, but I want to find out! I also like assertive protagonists and the ‘aspiring detective’ sounds interesting.

36) Sophia the Writer said...
Genre: YA Fantasy

Ambrosia Wyne: half-nymph, all-nerd…destroyer of Mount Olympus. It was a Really. Bad. Day.

Reasoning: I like how simple and effective that last sentence is, although untraditional. This is a creative pitch that accomplishes a lot – I know what the main character is, that she’s in big trouble, that it has to do with Greek mythology. I also see a good use of humor.

Yay! Congrats to the winners! 
And now let's get to know Kathleen with an awesome interview:

Katrina:  What's the most important thing you've learned as a literary agent about writing?

Kathleen: First, thank you so much for letting me participate in the Operation Awesome pitch contest! This was so much fun, and an amazing opportunity to see some truly creative work.

Since becoming an agent, I would say that I’ve learned how to properly explain writing I like, and what I’m looking for in a manuscript. I want to be as clear and helpful as I can with my clients and prospective authors, and learning how to clearly define things like “voice”, “high concept”, “interior dialogue”, “dramatic irony”, and “commercial vs. literary” became very important.

I think if you’re an avid reader, you have an innate sense of what makes good writing. But it’s the ability to clarify and decipher what elements make it that way that helps you to create it. A big part of being an agent is being able to give effective and helpful feedback. It’s like an art class I took as a kid where the teacher kept telling the students “do not say that it is a good painting because ‘I like it’!”. It’s about being able to interpret and articulate the details of what make it good.

Another tip is the importance of having someone completely outside of the realm of writing read your work. Critique partners and beta readers are essential, but good writing is something a reader won’t notice. Meaning, if there are no grammar mistakes and it flows well, etc. a reader won’t have to stop the story to ponder the writing quality. And sometimes it’s nice to have someone unlike us writers and agents (who are constantly examining writing elements) to give it a looksie. Especially during revisions, I go through many of these points with authors. The interesting thing about it is that it’s quite different from the academic way of “close reading” or evaluating writing. I’ve learned things as an agent that never came up in my English MA program, which I love.

Katrina:   Do you have any query pet peeves? How can someone really catch your eye in the old inbox? 

Kathleen: I think this is probably everyone’s pet peeve that receives queries, but please don’t send a mass query with no personalization. Or one that is outside of my scope of genres that I represent (no poetry, no adult novels, etc.). You can catch my eye in the inbox by showing that you’ve done a bit of research in your querying process. If you already know that I like psychological thrillers or Southern gothic novels, and that’s what you’re submitting – boom! Eye catch. If you’re a fan of this blog and frequently reading agent interviews, you are already ahead of the game of personalization and research!

Katrina:  What are your absolute favorite movies/TV shows? 

Kathleen: This is a terrific question! I often think that people’s movie and TV taste can reflect their literary hot spots. Lately, I have been absolutely loving HBO’s Game of Thrones series. This is based on a series of books that I read years ago and I was thrilled to hear they were making a show. I also love Dexter (gotta watch those psychological thrillers), True Blood, Arrested Development (my favorite comedy show I’ve seen), Gilmore Girls, and Rome (a phenomenal historical bromance). For movies I’d say Elizabeth, Bridget Jones Diary, The Skeleton Key, Parenthood, Bridesmaids, The Craft, How to Train Your Dragon, and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Katrina:   Apparently, your client, Angie Sandro, nearly ran her bike into a tree when she got THE CALL. I loved reading her how-I-got-my-agent story because it showed the great symbiosis that happens when a literary agent and author share the same vision for a novel. What is it about JUJU'S CHILD that made you think, I just have to represent this?

Kathleen: I love Angie’s bike ride story too – and am so glad she didn’t actually get hurt! She did have to call me right back, as I recall. J Well, for starters, Angie had a kick ass query letter. Angie did a guest post called The Anatomy of a Query Letter on one of her critique partner’s blogs, Reads, Reviews, Recommends where you can see her tips as well as her original letter. But there was a personalized part not included in that post that she also sent to me. She quoted something I had said in an interview:

Topics of particular interest to me include reincarnation, the occult, the supernatural (not in a zombie or vampire context, more psychic, or witchy, or fey), ghosts (a scary ghost story? yes, please), and psychology”

and pointed out the elements in her book that were a match. Actually, things I listed in that single interview matched elements in all of Angie’s manuscripts. This is fantastic because I like to view it as signing a writer, not just one book.

But matchmaking elements aside, it was the voice in JUJU’S CHILD that sealed the deal for me. You can even see a hint of it in Angie’s query letter – she’s incorporating some Louisiana slang in there, and her characters are larger than life. They jumped off the pages at me, and the first person narrative is so crisp. It made me want to turn on The Black Keys and eat some jambalaya! I was sold. 

Other fabulous interviews with Kathleen Rushall:

The official literary agency website:

Submission guidelines

A special thanks to our Mystery Agent and to all the amazing writers who participated! The July pitches rocked. You all continue to amaze me. 

Next Mystery Agent contest: August 1st. Get ready.


Angie Lockett said...

Congratulations to all the winners!!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Congrats to the winners and hello again to Kathleen!

Jenilyn Collings said...

Congratulations to the winners!! Thanks for the contest!

Becky Mahoney said...

Thank you so much, Kathleen! And thank you to all the Operation Awesome ladies, who totally helped me out yesterday. You guys rock!

Congrats to the other winners, and everyone else who entered a pitch!

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Congrats to the winners! Yay Sophia!

Sheila JG said...

Congratulations, winners! Those are some excellent pitches. Thank you Kathleen for offering up your time to judge, and thanks to you ladies at Operation Awesome for hosting the contest!

Kimberlee Turley said...

So excited to have been selected, and out of so many other great entries! A big thanks to the ladies at O.A. for hosting this.

Theresa Milstein said...

Congratulations to the winners. Thanks for another contest.