Which kinds of books does your agency look for and what genres excite you?
As an agency, we represent everything from poetry and fiction to memoir and academic non-fiction. As for me, in particular? I'm on the lookout now for memoirs that transport me as a reader to another place, time, or culture, for well-written and conceptually smart YA, for collections of humorous essays—along the lines of Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? or Sloane Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake—and, always always always, for voice-drive fiction. Nothing sucks me into a book more than a unique, consistent voice! I'm also currently searching for the perfect historical fiction novel.
Do you look for queries or synopses to be a certain length? Single spaced or double?
I prefer double spaced—it makes reading easier. As far as length, anything longer than a page makes me wary. Ideally, the premise of the book should be able to fit into a paragraph or two.
What elements do you feel are the most necessary for a good read? What grabs your attention?
For me, the language and the narrative voice are far and away the most important things. All of my favorite books, since I was a kid, were books with great narrative voices—Member of the Wedding is the best example I can think of for what I mean when I say a great voice. (It's also, hands down, my favorite book.) After that, if the book needs to have some kind of momentum—there needs to be something pulling a reader forward. It doesn't have to be a plot-driven thriller, but there needs to be something—some spark—that makes me want to stay up late to finish a book.
When you receive a submission with some issues (missing scenes, wonky structure, etc.) are you ever willing to look at a revision if an author is prepared to accept your advice?
If the talent is there (an engaging narrator, sharp writing, and a compelling plot), then I'm willing to work for days, weeks, months to fix just about any other problem.
What are some books (or authors) you wish you represented?
It's hard—there are so many! I absolutely love southern writing—I mentioned Carson McCullers earlier. I think I wish I'd been an agent 70 years ago just so I could have worked with her—but I'm also a huge fan of Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, Aimee Bender, Deborah Eisenberg, Lori Moore, Chris Adrian, Jhumpa Lahiri, ZZ Packer and Stephen Chbosky.
Any suggestions for queries?
I think, like all agents, I don't like getting the mass query—the ones sent to every agent in the industry and begin "Dear Agent." We like to feel special!
What are you obsessed with?
Right now, I would have to say I'm obsessed with reading literary journals. There are so many great ones out there and it's one of my favorite ways to find new voices.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I will admit I'm still a little in love with high school me's favorite—the roman candle quote from On the Road. But I think my new favorite, especially as far as publishing is concerned, is "I look at what I write so that I can see what I think." – WH Auden