Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Mystery Agent and Winners Revealed!

Emily Keyes of L. Perkins Agency!

Not only did Emily choose a winner, she chose TWO! One Adult and one YA. Here are her choices:

 Genre: Adult fiction (women's fiction)

Beneath the ash trees on Johnson Street, just east of campus, Hourglass Vintage stood in a weathered brick building, wedged between a fair trade coffee shop and a bike repair business. Behind the boutique's windows, Violet Turner was buttoning a mannequin into a smocked sundress.

She sighed as undergraduates with bright scarves and red faces rushed by without glancing at her or the garments on display. Gray spring days like this one were all about hurrying and practicality, and Violet had never liked either concept. People in practical moods didn't wander into the shop to buy turn-of-the-century kid gloves or 1930s Bakelite jewelry.

Violet bent down to put espadrille sandals on the mannequin. When she stood up, a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. A girl, no older than twenty, stood inches from the window, clutching a 1950s wedding dress against her fleece jacket.

Violet remembered that the girl had come in just a few weeks earlier, trying on half a dozen gowns before selecting the full-skirted one she held now, which flapped in the wind like a surrender flag.

The girl came in and spread the dress on the register counter. “I need to return this."

As far as action goes, it wasn't the most exciting of the bunch. Nor was the first line the most interesting. But then when you read further down, there was something really haunting about the girl returning a wedding dress. How sad. I very much like idea of the main character disapproving of the concept of hurrying and practicality. I feel like I know who she is a little bit. 

GENRE: YA fantasy
TITLE: In The Between

I could always tell what kind of mood Momma was in by the type of cleaning she was doing. Cleaning out closets and drawers? Sad. Reorganizing every shelf in the house? Frustrated. Wiping down the walls and baseboards? Angry. Polishing the silver? Stressed. So the day I opened the front door to find a pile of clothes lying in front of the coat closet, a bucket filled with vinegar solution standing next to the wall, and the smell of ammonia hanging in the air, I pulled my phone from my purse and texted my brother immediately. “Get home quick. She’s Granny-cleaning.”

I was still standing in the doorway when Sam got there. I’d heard the loud thumping of the car stereo long before I heard the crunch of gravel beneath the jeep’s tires, but I decided to ignore it today. I hated sharing a car with him. He was going to blow our speakers, I just knew it. 

He stood behind me and peeked over my head. That’s another annoying thing about Sam- for a twin brother, he’s entirely too tall. “She ironed the sheets,” he said, nodding toward the ironing board in the hallway.

I'm not really sure what is going on between the main character and her brother about the car, but I like the line about him being entirely too tall. How dare he. And of course sending a text like "She's Granny-cleaning" (EMERGENCY) sounds very much like families and how they each have their own language. 

I'd like to see a partial manuscript of both of those.

Congratulations to Megan and Susan

Send an email to emily (at) lperkinsagency.com with the subject heading OA Mystery Agent Winner, and she will give you more details of what she exactly 
wants (number of pages, etc).

Thanks to all who entered!


Here are some others that she liked. (Honorable Mention)

Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Pele and Yo-Yo

My best friend, Julio, always said if he had a dog he'd name him Pele because Pele is the king of soccer and Julio loved soccer more than he loved his very own birthday.

And then I would say if I had a dog I'd name him Yo-Yo, because Yo-Yo Ma is the king of cello, and I loved playing the cello more than I loved playing soccer.

Whenever we saw an awesome dog at the park, we'd argue about which name fit best, until I'd say to Julio, "Ay, loco, your mom's alergic," and he'd say to me, "Tonto, Ramon! You know your landlord says no animales." Then I'd punch his arm and he'd punch me back, like thirteen-year-old boys are supposed to, until the dog was out of sight.

On the day I found my dog Yo-Yo, Julio missed watching the Barca vs. Real Madrid game.

He never let me forget, but he didn't stay mad at me very long. He couldn't because it wasn't like I'd kidnapped him and made him go dog shopping or something.

I've read too many MG books about dogs and I'm still kind of interested in this one. The author just has the voice down. It makes me wonder what happens? Why does Julio miss the Barca vs Real Madrid game? (It's not a life or death kind of tension but I know it's important because it's important to the characters.) 

Genre: MG adventure
Title: Mind Over Anti-Matter

Nobody tells you in middle school how useful a personal surveillance system could be. A whisper that something embarrassing is stuck to your pants, a beep hinting you’ve dropped an important piece of homework—or an alarm screaming that someone has just robbed you.

I search through the jumble at the bottom of my backpack again, but my entry for the Nicolas Araya Young Inventors Contest—the one due the minute lunch is over—just isn’t there.

“Lost something, Cole?” Down the cafeteria table, Josh Thesman holds up the bottle of liquid that’s supposed to be a spray to keep your socks fresh for two weeks straight.

I push away my open backpack and stand up. “Give it here, Josh.”

Josh’s laugh sounds like boulders tumbling together. “Finders, keepers.”

I glance at the teacher on duty and my hope deflates. Spidwads are flying, a couple is—urk—kissing in the corner, and guys are playing Frisbee with paper dessert plates, but Miss Harris shrinks against the wall, pretending her conversation with the lady who takes the lunch numbers is more important. She’ll never crack down on Josh.

Not that anyone does. Josh only ever picks on kids who don’t complain.

This one just seems fun. It made me realize that a personal surveillance system was exactly what I needed that time I got my period on field day. It would've alerted me and embarrassment could've been avoided! 

Genre: YA fantasy
Title: A Single Feather

Kila stepped into the breaking surf, letting the saltwater of the Pacific dampen the hem of her kapa skirt. A wind from the south pinned the bark cloth to her legs and sent her long black hair into a frenzy about her face. She closed her eyes and raised her arms, willing the wind to carry her away from the island.

“Kila, where are you?” her father, Wana’ao, shouted from the taro fields in the distance.

She smiled and ran to the grassy bank beyond the sand, pausing at the open-air hut where the family’s wa’a sat on stilts off the ground. As always, the wooden engravings along the side of the canoe transported her imagination to another time. The carvings weaved together the story of the ancient chief Akua. She traced the weathered shapes of his many forms: a shark, a sea turtle and a goose stirred beneath her fingertips. Kila longed for such a transformation. Akua’s tale spoke of adventure and freedom. She withdrew her hand and brushed it against her hip, wiping away the temptation with a sigh.

“Kila, hele mai!” Her father’s shout was closer now.

And this one just makes me kind of want to be there. Pretty. 

I also have two I liked but that weren't quite there YET. This one: 

Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Halo

Plants I get; they have guidelines. Sun or shade. Wet soil or dry. Prune them often or leave them alone. People are harder.

I’m standing on the edge of the Phinns’s yard, while around me throngs of people sing, eat and laugh. Kara Phinn and I have some classes together, but we don’t exactly hang with the same crowd. Well, I don’t really have a crowd at all.

She’s on the far side of the pool and I swear she must’ve taken those shorts out of her little sister’s closet. She gives her hair extensions a flip while flirting with the quarterback. They glance my way and start laughing, then Kara’s friend Danielle walks past me.

“Hey, Becca, who picked out that skirt? Your grandma?” She snorts and saunters past.

I tighten my jaw, but shake off her comment.

The Phinn’s annual Fourth of July cookout features live music, a catered B-B-Q dinner, and the opportunity to mingle with the Who’s Who in Sugarland, which is why my parents wanted to come. But I’m not exactly a mingler, so I squat down to deadhead some begonias, checking my watch to see how much longer I’ll have to endure the crowd.

I like the repetition of the plant theme (in the beginning and then with dead heading) but the first paragraph doesn't quite flow into the next few. The thoughts are a bit disjointed. 

Genre: YA horror
The carpet in the school library was rough against Erwin’s cheek, but the uncomfortable floor had nothing to do with why he couldn’t sleep. No one was sleeping. Everyone was lying there in silence, the fear and tension in the air so thick it reminded Erwin of movie scenes where the ceiling is slowly coming down to crush everyone. The only difference was that in the movies they always escape just in time.

It was hard to believe only a few hours ago he had been working out in the school gym. He remembered thinking this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. He laughed at the thought now. Outside he heard another bang as whatever those things were tried to claw and crash their way into the locked school.


Erwin was on his way to lunch when he saw them. Justin had Natalie pushed up against her faded orange locker, his tongue down her beautiful throat. Erwin’s own throat tightened and his stomach churned. So much for lunch.

I like zombies even if most editors think they are "over." The opening is possibly interesting--why is he sleeping in the school library?--but then the tension diffuses by cutting away and I lose some of my interest. I see a lot of cutting immediately away in openings. I think sometimes authors are hung up on the idea that the first sentence is super important that they start the story at the wrong place. There's a balance that needs to be established.


Thanks so much, Emily, for visiting us at OA! While she stopped by, we asked her a few questions so you all could find out more about her.

1. In your specifications for this contest, you stated that you wanted “story-driven" as opposed to "lesson-driven” MG fiction. Name some examples of great story driven fiction in the market today.

I think almost any middle grade breakout star, from your Harry Potters to your Newbery Award winners, would almost fall into the "story driven" category.  I said that because I see a lot of MG queries about teaching kids history or math or somesuch. While those books do exist in the marketplace (almost every book exists now!), it is my impression that they are developed in-house by the publishers. If a publishing house is going to go out and buy a novel they aren't going to buy something that doesn't have a good story behind it. 

So I only want a middle grade novel that tells a good story. ... In truth I really only want ADULT novels that tell a good story also, but I don't usually have to specify. I don't know if I am making sense (and it's only my first question!) but I found when I came out and said, "I'm really into young adult and middle grade!" then I got this influx of queries that were... just not what I wanted. So I try to be more specific now when I request middle grade in particular. I'll keep trying until I find the right phrasing. 

Maybe it is because YA and Middle Grade haven't really been "trendy" that long (I remember when I walked into the B. Dalton's of yore, there was one shelf of "young readers" books way in the back of the store and that was IT. If you didn't want Baby-sitter's Club, then you were out of luck. Whereas now they each have their own section and nomenclature...) 

That said, the last middle grade book that I really loved was "The Apothecary" by Maile Meloy, http://www.amazon.com/The-Apothecary-Maile-Meloy/dp/039925627X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333427296&sr=8-1 which I read when I was on vacation. 

2. If you could have three dream clients, living or dead, who would they be?

Only three? That's actually really hard. I'm tempted to name classic authors to sound literary and smart, but Shakespeare didn't need an agent, did he? Plus he left playwriting and retired after he made enough money, and I'd ideally like someone who is going to be in the business for a long time. I'm going to say Naomi Novik (who I've met and was quite lovely), someone like Deb Caletti or Sarah Dessen who writes YA that I routinely buy without even looking at the description because I know I'll want it and E. L. Konigsburg because I readMixed Up Files over and over and over again. And she's still publishing! 

3. What are you seeing too much of in your query box lately? What do you wish you’d see more of?

Interest in dystopian YA is starting to fade. I think that's something that will always be out there but bandwagon jumpers will be disappointed. I'm personally kind of sick of urban fantasy with cranky female heroines (I know people are going for "edgy" and "cool" but it's hard to read about over and over again. If you hate the world, why do I want to spend any time with you?) I'm also sick of lesson-drive middle grade! See above! Ha! 

It's hard to say what I want to see more of. Going through the queries can get repetitive after awhile, sometimes you feel like you're reading about the same five or six books over and over again. I'd like to stop and think to myself, "Wait did I read that right...? That's new!" more often. But obviously in a good way. 

4. Favorite TV show? Favorite movie?

Of all time I'd have to say "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." That show just meant so much to me and my sister. Shows that I watch these days include "Game of Thrones," "How I Met Your Mother," "Castle," "Community,"  and "The Walking Dead." 

My favorite movie ever is hard to pick. Maybe "Clue" because I can watch that over and over and over again ("Long story short--!" "Too late!") The last movie I saw in the theater was "The Hunger Games." 

Notice the fancy segue into question five!

5. Team Peeta or team Gale?

I'm Team Peeta. He's the bread boy and she needs bread to survive. 

Although I think one of the things I like about "The Hunger Games" series was that if Katniss chose to go off and live in the woods by herself, I almost would've been okay with that. That character stood really well without a guy. 

6. Coffee or Cocoa?

I'd have to pick cocoa because I'm kind-of-sort-of allergic to coffee (gasp!). Not deathly. It just makes me sneeze. People are always really sad for me, for some reason, when I say that. Fear not, I get my caffeine through soda and tea. 

7. Share with us your exciting agency/client news! Any upcoming releases or sales?

Not at the moment but--fingers crossed--shortly! 

Where you can find Ms. Keyes:


Rosalyn said...

Congratulations to all the winners! Also, thanks for posting about this agent--I just added her to my list of agents-to-query-when-I-finally-get-this-manuscript-polished!

Becky Mahoney said...

Congratulations to all the winners! There were some great openings in there!

ilima said...

Ooh. I'll take an honorable mention. :) Congrats to Megan and Susan!

Michelle McLean said...

congrats to the winners!! And huge thanks to Emily for being our MA this month :)

p.s. Clue is one of my all time fave movies also - laughed out loud at your quote :D

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Congratulations to the winners! And thanks for the honorable mention. :)

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Ms. Keyes, would it be okay for the HMs to query you?

Traci VW said...

Congratulations to the winners!

Susan said...

Thanks for hosting the contest, and to Emily for judging.

Suzan Teall Headley said...

Congrats to my two QT friends, Megan and Susan. You two are awesome... but I already told you that!

esc_key said...

Of course! Please mention the contest; I will forget.

esc_key said...

Can you keep a secret? So can I!


Aldrea Alien said...

Congrats all! ^_^

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Great, thanks!

Write Life said...

Thanks so much for running this. It's such a great way testing your first words and also getting a good glimpse at an agents likes and interests.
Congrats to the winners.
This was so much fun!
: )