Saturday, July 8, 2017

Agents' Panel: Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary

Tricia Lawrence is the "Pacific Northwest branch" of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After twenty-two years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kid’s books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist. As an agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won't let go.

Tricia Lawrence is an actively acquiring agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency with more 20 years experience in publishing. "I started in publishing when I was 21, so I've been in publishing for a long time, but a lot of it was on the other side of the desk in production and marketing."

These days, "I rep picture books through YA -- so zero to 18, and my clients are awesome," she says. Here's a Q&A she did with Lee Wind about what she's looking for.

Clients include: Kim Turrisi, Debbi Michiko Florence, Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Paula Yoo, HM Bouwman

"I'm looking for wounded narrators, especially in the YA side," she says. "Everyone is writing because something has happened to them -- what prompted you to start writing? I want those life-changing moments. I'm a sucker for a good story where the characters fly off the page and won't leave my mind."

Tricia's big takeaway? Be ambitious, do the work -- and be prepared for publishing to take you in directions you'd never imagine.

Case in point: One of her clients, Debbi Michiko Florence, out writing YA. " She queried me with YA, then with a middle grade, and then started writing something else," Tricia says. "Then I got a call. 'I think I have something cooking.' An editor had expressed interest in another project. I was like, 'The YA?' Nope. Chapter book. They took one book into acquisitions, and came out with an order for FOUR books. A four-book chapter book series right off the bat."

That series, centered around Jasmine Toguchi, kicks off with two books debuting next week.

Jasmine Toguchi, 8, is a Japanese American kid who's learning to make mochi with her family -- and instead of rolling the mochi with her mom and the women, as tradition dictates, she wants to do the rice pounding part, with her dad and the men.

"You write what you love, you find someone who loves your work, but the publishing industry often has its own ideas about what goes first, the order of things. Ultimately, though, it's your time and your career. The thing I love about Debbi is, she goes with it. Have your meltdown moments, eat your chocolate, but at the end of the day, she knows we're going to do this. Get your work done. Embrace what happens."

Tricia points out that the connections you make at conferences like SCBWI LA stay with you even once you have an agent. Being proactive is a major plus. "We like to know the relationships you've been building," she says. "I love it when clients say, 'I ran into so and so and told them what I'm working on and they said please send it.' This is your career. You should have a say in where it goes."

That said, "We're also your safety net -- you can try your ideas and pitches out on us," Tricia says. "I love helping my clients feel really empowered and strong about their work when they're sharing it with the world."

As for trends, Tricia says, "Publishing is trying new things, changing it up a bit. For example, I'll submit a picture book and it will get turned into a board book instead, or a novelty books." For her, though, "this is the year of the novel -- middle grade, YA and chapter books. I really like character-driven and beautiful writing. And I'm very interested in non-fiction, both narrative and expository."

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