I’m excited to welcome another one of our conference speakers to the blog. Jodell Sadler with Sadler Children’s Literary and Kidtlit College will be part of our faculty for 2016 SCBWI OK Spring Conference on April 16th in Oklahoma City.
Jodell will be discussing the topic of pacing in picture books. The title of her talk is Pacing Picture Books (& Beyond) to WOW. “Attendees will walk away with oodles of editing options and a renewed excitement for just how fun crafting a story can be.”
Jodell wrote her critical thesis on pacing picture books and earned her MFA in Writing for Children & YA from Hamline University, 2009 and started agenting a few years later, and most recently launched Kidlit College. She hosts workshops and presents on pacing with Writer’s Digest. At Kidlit College, she brings in editors and agents to present and offers participants direct critiques. The webinars span from picture books (fiction and nonfiction) to MG/YA.
She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and is passionate about helping writers pace their stories well because it allows writers the opportunity to enhance emotional resonance, tension, and find exciting ways to improve story arc with jumps and twists and pauses and stops that garnish editorial attention and help them get published.
Valerie Lawson: Jodell, thank you for doing this interview. It’s a pleasure to speak with you, today.
Your agency is considered a boutique literary agency. Can you tell us more about what that means and why an author or illustrator would benefit from choosing it?
Jodell Sadler: My focus has been on craft, and, particularly, Pacing Picture Books (& Beyond) to WOW. I’ve taught and shared this material in libraries with young learners, in middle school classes, and from secondary education to graduate classes in picture books and publishing. I come from a marketing/design background where deadlines were tight and I juggled multiple projects a week. I’ve worked with thousands of writers and students and have been sharing my pacing study since 2008.
As I started the agency, I wasn’t in a position to move, and really wanted to stay where I lived, so I also taught full time as an AP/Dual Credit English teacher as well. Like writers, agents are not much different in that we do whatever it takes to achieve our goals. I started KidLit College for this same reason. I wanted to give back, celebrate editors and agents, and help them share their expertise, while also providing a great option for writers and illustrators looking for an agent or who would benefit from an editor’s webinar and critique.
VL: You come with a lot of teaching experience. That is excellent. We should all keep learning our craft.
What makes you stop reading a query?
JS: Writers really do need to know that if they submit out a solid query and simply follows submission guidelines, that’s half the battle. So often I receive submissions for projects I do not take on, and they are addressed in a generic fashion: Dear Sir, Dear Agent, etc, and I no longer read these.
The ideal submission is one that focuses on the manuscript. It’s short and direct and gives me a glimpse at the author’s personality. Like most agents, I look for a short query that shares that connection and answered the question: why me? A pitch for that top-quality manuscript that’s been through a number of editors and has received favorable feedback from a critique group. And the ideal bio is simple and focused and screams you are serious about your writing and actively participating in conferences.
VL: Short, direct, and with a glimpse of personality. Got it.
What hooks you when reading a manuscript? What doesn’t?
JS: Voice, direction, great pacing, and freshness: This gets the attention of most agents.
Some manuscripts I read, I love but cannot take on because I rep something similar, and there are manuscripts I love but I just feel I cannot sell well. I also steer clear of holiday books and much prefer the true story and narrative nonfiction book: PB or older.
VL: What manuscripts are on your wishlist?
JS: Nonfiction, narrative nonfiction picture books as well as author-illustrators top my wishlist right now. I am closed to submissions except through conferences and events like this one.
VL: Yes, conference attendees will be permitted to submit to our speakers, SO EVERYONE SHOULD COME TO THE CONFERENCE!!!
Besides being an agent, you also teach webinars about writing. Tell us more about this.
JS: I teach. I teach. And I teach. I’ve been teaching since I completed my MFA in 2008, and I actually taught full time in order to jump into agenting, to even be able to afford that time to grow the agency. KidLit College is really a dream community I thought about creating back in 2010 when I started my doctoral studies.
I really wanted to make a difference, make connections, and create that way to share craft learning fun with other writers and industry professionals. We all have so much to share. I invite everyone to join us on our closed Facebook page and visit our KidLit College website and just see what we have going on, including a writing retreat and cruise!
VL: Sounds like a wonderful resource.
Speaking of teaching, I was fascinated by a discussion you had about the difference between using rhyme versus poetry in picture books, could you address this?
JS: A quality rhyming picture book is one is 100% committed to quality rhymes. It often focuses on end rhymes and shares poetic forms in creative ways, but for me, poetry is a huge gift to picture book writing, and it’s one of the 20 tools I talk about in my Pacing Picture Books to WOW class.
Poetry lifts our writing through the power of enjambment, prosody, page turns, poetic devices, and it shifts the language to this contagious level. There’s nothing like that quality picture book that provides that beautiful poetic or comedic pause that suspends the emotion and lifts a piece to this loftier universal level. Nothing like it. When we write, we must write to mind, heart, and ear, and poetry is a big part of that. I will be discussing this more in my presentation and here’s a little overview of what I will share.
VL: Write to heart, mind, and ear. I love that. I think we could all learn to be better writers by studying more poetry.
Tell us what happens after an author or illustrator signs with you. What’s the next step?
JS: It differs and depends on a number of factors, but the first thing we do is meet online to really determine focus, discuss manuscripts, and plan next steps. The clients I work best with are those driven to move their work out into the world, who are actively participating at conferences, and constantly providing me with updates and new work. That’s just such a gift.
Recent sales include Brunhilda’s Backwards Day by Shawna J.C. Tenney (Sky Pony Press, 2017) Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs (Sleeping Bear Press, 2016) by Linda Vander Heyden, Snow Beast Want Play and Untitled (Roaring Brook Press, 2017) as well as the Friday Barnes MG illustration series project (Roaring Brook Press, 2016) by Phil Gosier, a picture book/board book (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan) by Ann Whitford Paul, as well as 5 NF MG projects, including my own (Rowman & Littlefield) and Medical Mavens (Chicago Review Press) by Susan Latta.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, today, Jodell. I look forward to hearing your talk at our conference!
Learn more about Jodell and her agency here.
Follow Jodell on Twitter here.
**Jodell does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, however conference attendees will be permitted to submit to her for a limited time.
This is an excellent reason to come see her and our other fantastic faculty members speak at our conference in Oklahoma City on April 16th!
To register for our 2016 SCBWI OK Spring Conference CLICK HERE.
I hope to see you there!