One of the most annoyingly difficult things I’ve tackled recently is writing a “short and sweet” submissions wish list for the agency site. Fortunately I have a blog! And I can ramble on about all of my submissions wishes for as long as I want here 🙂 So! This is my long-winded version of my middle grade submissions wishlist, with some added MSWL tweets along the way.
I represent authors of vastly different genres in the middle grade world, but the ONE thing they have in common is that their stories are absolutely dripping with heart. In order for me to work with a story, it has to have the kind of heart that makes me smile at the page as I’m reading, and that makes me take a moment to really bask in all the feels at the end. The best example that isn’t one of my author’s books is Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. The end of that story has so many feels. I almost cried.
As a reader, I tend toward clever humor and characters who are, at their very core, trouble makers. Stories of adventure, survival and mysteries are pretty much my jam, but I also have a soft spot for MG that tackles heavy topics that these kids might be facing such as grief, bullying, racism, poverty, etc. I also aim to represent stories that feature characters with special needs. Whether it be a character who is dealing with losing a limb, a hard of hearing or blind character, or a child with Down syndrome or Autism, I’m looking for characters who represent the broad range of kiddos in the special needs community.
When I was in middle school, I was absolutely obsessed with Gordon Korman’s books. Specifically the On the Run, Everest, Island, and Kidnapped series. These survival stories are still some of my favorites of all time. I’m looking for quite literally anything in this genre. Shipwrecks, deserted islands, mountains, forests, jungles, deep sea diving, lost in the big city, kayaking, camping trips gone wrong, treasure hunts…
Middle school me was also obsessed with The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and so literary agent me is absolutely dying to find a clever MG mystery. Another comp would be that ever-so-wonderful movie Clue.
Separate from the relatively contained settings of the mysteries I’ve described so far, I also love the far reaching, globetrotting mystery adventures such as the 39 Clues series. Give me spies and spy school, international intrigue, and something comparable to National Treasure or The Amazing Race.
Science Fiction & Steampunk
“Shenanigans on the space station or a space colony please!” Here’s where my love of the trouble making kiddos really comes into play. Does your main character a) go joy riding in a space ship b) use anti-gravity for pranking purposes or c) work as a cabin boy and want to captain his own ship but his attempts to prove himself end up creating a mess only he can fix? If you said yes to any of those or have something comparable (or if you can, in any way, compare your story to Treasure Planet), I want to read your story.
If you’ve written a steampunk, my love of the genre comes from the absolutely wonderful worlds created by these authors so if you’ve created a rich and complex world, I’d love to see it!
In fantasy for MG I lean more toward the contemporary fantasy realm. Stories that take place in our world but contain some wonderful piece of fantasy. For example, one of my favorite movies of all time is Jumanji. Some of the elements I like to see include ghosts & haunted houses, unique takes on known monsters, and elements from all of those beautiful cultures that aren’t always represented, especially (but not limited to) Native American culture.
Of course if you have a super unique epic fantasy world that is absolutely packed with adventure, I totally want to check that out. Think Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander.
I’m pretty well up for anything when it comes to this genre. I love to see healthy family dynamics in these stories as well as characters who are finding their family over the course of the story (Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff). Those heavier topic and special needs representation are still absolutely at the top of my list of manuscripts to consider, as well as representation of other cultures through OwnVoices.
I absolutely LOVE history and so anything in this genre is pretty much fair game. These stories can be a bit more literary and focused on character growth or action packed adventures, I am seriously looking for everything. I’d love to see a time travel adventure, a super atmospheric circus (maybe with fantasy elements?), sword fights, pirate battles on the high seas, stories about royalty, and a solid footing in the time period the story is written in. The only thing I’m not looking for is stories set during WWII, unless you have an incredibly unique twist.
This is a relatively new format that I’m branching out to, but I would love to see any and all graphic novels for middle graders that I can get my hands on. A recent favorite is Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. Books for boys, or girls. Stories about friendship or action. Literally anything and everything for middle graders.
For the most current MSWL tweets, check out my twitter page @kortney_price. If you want to go back into the archives a bit and see what else I’ve posted, you can check the MSWL site. Otherwise, check out my page at our agency website.