Hello from my new roost!

Hello from my new roost, Upstart Crow Literary! I’ve been wracking my brain for some hawk-crow-bird related jokes and can’t come up with any, but it all does seem fitting, doesn’t it? I’m delighted to join the very fine group here, and for my first post, wanted to talk about the kinds of projects I’m looking for. For more about my tastes and my background, please read on.

I represent books for children: picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult, along with some non-fiction for children and teens too. First, and most important, I’m looking for books that make me feel something. Grab me by the heart and don’t let go! Complex, layered, flawed, and lively characters are irresistible to me. I love writing that acknowledges and explores the way humans can hold opposing feelings—sometimes lots of them—all at one time.

Plot is equally important. I want to be drawn deeply into your story, and even if it isn’t an adventure, I want to feel like I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what will happen next.  Humor is key—I like smart, witty humor (not so much gross-out humor). Even if your book isn’t meant to be a knee-slapper, a bit of something funny feels like real life to me. I want writing that’s sharp, focused, thoughtful and inventive. I’m a sucker for bittersweet and soulful. Literary or commercial, high concept or character-driven, I want to be surprised by your book.

I’m committed to building a diverse list of books and authors and open to just about any category or genre: picture book, chapter book, middle-grade, young adult; contemporary, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy—you name it.

Here’s an even more detailed list!

For YA, I’m interested in:

  • Family stories, sister and sibling stories, and mother-daughter stories. In many YA novels, the main character’s relationship with their mother is troubled, and the mother is toxic in some way.  I’d love to see a book with a strong—albeit complex—mother-daughter (or son) relationship.
  • I want rich, big world-building and gutsy, smart characters, especially historical fantasy that isn’t based on Western Europe, or set in a world that takes inspiration from folklore of a non-Western tradition.
  • Science fiction, especially that deals with changes we might see in our lifetime—more cutting edge science, less space opera (though I’m open to a juicy space opera too).
  • Epistolary novels; a novel-within-a-novel; a journal format; secret letters; found documents— I’m interested in stories that use these kinds of elements.
  • A sharp, irresistible, crush-worthy but unreliable narrator.
  • A word about romance. I enjoy a good, swoony romance, but probably not by itself. Romance as a part of a larger story? Yes, please!
  • Some of my favorite non-client YAs of late: The Spectacular Now, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Fangirl, What I Saw and How I Lied, The Seeds of America trilogy, The Montmaray Journals series, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Grasshopper Jungle.

For MG:

  • Mystery! I’d love, love, love to see something that makes me think of Agatha Christie, but set in the US.
  • Edgy, dark MG that pushes the boundaries of “upper MG.”
  • Contemporary stories with a female main character who is passionate about science, math, engineering, ie. STEM. (For YA too!)
  • I love historical fiction, and want projects that feel vital and alive, that balance history against characters who are accessible, yet believably of the past.
  • All the above in YA Fantasy is true for MG too. In addition, I’d also like to see fantasy that’s based on American folklore—think Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, John Henry, Sally Ann Thunder, etc.
  • Some favorite non-client MGs of late: The War that Saved My Life, Wolf Hollow, El Deafo, When You Reach Me, One Crazy Summer, Cuckoo Song, The Riverman, Breadcrumbs, The Wednesday Wars.

For Picture books:

  • Texts that just get it when it comes to childhood, like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse; or More More More Said the Baby.
  • Conceptual texts like Duck, Rabbit or Not a Box.
  • Character-driven stories that introduce me to someone as indelible as Olivia, George and Martha, the Pigeon, or Miss Nelson.
  • The pairing of informational text with lyrical voice, such as in Over and Under the Snow.
  • Illustrators whose work is bold and full of emotion. I’m a fan of Sophie Blackall, Zachariah OHora, Frann Preston-Grann, Simona Ciraolo, Emily Hughes, Gabi Swiatkowska (and many more!).
  • Some of favorite non-client picture books of late: The Dark, Sophie’s Squash, The Princess and the Pony, A Home for Bird, This is Not a Picture Book!, Me…Jane, Flora and the Flamingo, Home by Carson Ellis, Boss Baby, Leo: A Ghost Story.

I’m an editorial agent, and passionate about my clients and their projects. The lists above are a grab-bag of interests and ideas, but please try me, even if you’re not sure if your project is described above—as I said, I want to be surprised!

  1. Congratulations on your move to Upstart Crow Susan!

    I follow you on Twitter but I first learned about you when I participated in Kidlit Summer School 2015 with Marcie Colleen, and in 12×12 Picture Book Challenge with Marcie. She is a great inspiration and a wonderful cheerleader for us all in kidlit.

    I love your passion for children’s literature and your marketing prowess which is so necessary in this business and it shows in your client’s published works.

    Thank you for the insight into your world and what you are looking for submissions. Best of luck on all of your future endeavors.


  2. Thank you, Traci! Aren’t Marcie and Sudipta’s Kidlit classes superb? I highly recommend for all picture book folks. So glad you stopped by!


  3. Hi Susan,

    I’ve been watching your MSWL postings. Of course, I am not pitching my ms to you but I hope you will find enough to like and have suggestions for improvement. I know you are so busy so if it’s any consolation/motivation, my YA ms has a significant involvement of libraries filled with smart people who celebrate knowledge, science, and intellectualism. It has literary tidbits throughout and a philosophical ending of the teens wandering through the 9/11 Memorial contemplating use and abuse of power.


  4. Looking forward to meeting you in Columbus in the fall.


  5. Hello,
    I wish to submit an excerpt of my children’s book. How do I go by that?


  6. Hi Susan!
    I’ve sent along a ms sometime back and I am not sure if you have kept it
    or if it’s left where you were before! Shall I send it to you again?


  7. Hi Susan,

    I have a few short stories that I’m writing for women, girls and the general reader. I think that they may fit YA but I’d need an informed opinion. Can you advise?
    Thank you for any help.



  8. Thanks for this post. I’m a closet writer whose days are soaked up with doing court transcripts, but my breaks absorb the leaks of the unquiet mind into stories aimed mostly at about age 5. I can’t ever get twhat I write to line up with an invisible visual aspect, solo pas de deux, but it’s really helpful to see what you’re looking for. I’ll follow you for sure.


  9. Hi Susan, Would you be interested in representing my children’s book: HOMELESS HOUNDICAPS? A tale of 6 homeless dogs with handicaps on a fun and scary adventure. Please let me know, thanks for your time, Pamela


  10. Dear Susan,

    What is your email address? I’d like to submit a manuscript or two to you so you can consider being my agent.


  11. I’m a new writer and I finally kicked the monster of procrastination out and sabotage. Lol I’m searching for all new writers just to see how you guys have done it. I’m getting tips. I also will be reading one of your books or some. This is interesting my niece is interested in writing to the audience of children and I’ve gotta giver her your blog. She too is a new blog writer. I’m kinda putting her info out there.
    Laporcia Morrison on facebook her blog is Blendedlifestyle.blog


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