Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview with my agent!

A stellar addition to my occasional interview series this week. It's Marvellous Victoria (aka Victoria Birkett of the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency). My agent! Yay!

So how did you get into this agenting business? An exciting opportunity to join a unique agency:  who'd say no?  Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency is expanding, constantly on the look out for the most talented authors.  I'm delighted to join the search, bringing over 20 years' experience of working in children's publishing.

What’s the best thing about your job? The joy of reading a submission and finding myself thinking 'This is good, this is very good'.

d the worst? Telling a first time author that it is a near miss. Top three children’s books of all time?   Three I had confiscated for reading them under the desk at school:  The Silver Sword, Carrie's War and Charlotte Sometimes.  Certainly three which made an impact on me as a young reader.  Best of all time? We should each have our own.  

What are some of the most common slushpile mistakes you see?
Many authors come to us through the submission route, so it is important to us.  We use our website www.milesstottagency.co.uk to offer advice about writing and preparing to submit a project. We ask for background information about the author, the first three chapters and a synopsis. Writers sometimes include what they think are the best, most action-filled chapters.  We receive a high number of submissions so have little time to try to make sense of chapters 5, 12 and 19.  And I've taken against the word 'atop'... 'atop the mountain', 'atop the table'. It suggests an author is trying too hard.

(Note to self: delete all instances of 'atop' from current manuscript.) If you could give aspiring writers one piece of advice, what would it be? Read. Read and understand what children love to read.  Read, not to copy, to see yourself in context.  At the very least it will help aspiring authors to understand our response to their work.

Are you looking for anything in particular at the moment? We are always looking for talented authors across the whole children's age-range, though we don't represent authors of non-fiction or poetry.  Publishers are looking particularly for fiction for 8 - 12 year olds but I would not limit my search and there are very enthusiastic YA editors with greats lists to sustain.

Any predictions for the Next Big Thing? No!!  The joy of being an agent is that we're looking for authors with careers to launch or nurture.  It is very important that we know what is happening in the market, and of course we use that information in our work with authors, but I'm looking for storytellers with a unique voice, whatever the genre.

Um... I’m curious to know exactly what it was you saw in ENTANGLED that led to me becoming your client? In Entangled and in you, Cat Clarke...  In Entangled, a voice.  A voice which your publisher summed up so well: 'I found ENTANGLED compelling and was very impressed with Cat’s fresh, direct voice that I think speaks so well to teenage girls.’ Quercus.  Also, a plot which makes us turn the page. Plus a second novel at concept stage and sounding great.  In you, Cat Clarke... a lover of YA fiction who'll make a mark in that world alongside the authors you read, signing sessions you attend, blogs you follow and Twitters you tweet.    

 Aw, thanks! *blushes* And finally, the biggest question of all: chocolate or cheese? After a weekend of children's birthday parties and 3 chocolate cakes, it has to be cheese. 

Yes! Cheese wins yet again. All is well in the world. Thanks Marvellous Victoria!


  1. Yes Cat! You are the whole package!!! Any agent would have a few screws loose to turn you down.

    And it doesn't surprise me that publishers are looking for 8 - 12 fiction. I've noticed a reduction lately.

    I love this series of interviews.

    I have another request... I would like to see what a synopsis actually looks like. I hear this word but I'm not entirely sure what it means.

  2. Thanks Becky! I'll see if I can get my hands on a synopsis for you. Not mine! Don't want to give the Entangled game away just yet...

  3. Great interview, Cat! Thanks to Victoria, too.