Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Call With Hannah Lapehn

Agent Lynnette Novak emailed me about a week after I queried her. In that email, she asked if she could set up a phone call. Of course, I said yes! I used the time in between to research pretty much everything about her, the Seymour Agency, and their reputation. I called my mentor, spoke with other writers and had lots of questions lined up to ask her. 

When Lynnette called, I knew right away that our personalities were going to mesh well. She had a lot of questions for me at first, then she talked about my story. That’s what really drew me in. Her passion for my work and her belief that it was something special was exactly what I was looking for. 

Lynnette’s transparency was also a selling point. She agreed to let me contact another client of hers, answered all my questions, and explained what her editorial style looks like. 

Lynnette offered me representation during that call. I took some time to mull it over and email other agents I had queried. Then a few days later, I signed the contract! 

About Hannah Lapehn:

Picture book writer Hannah Lapehn is a member of the SCBWI and Julie Hedlund's 12x12. She has attended many conferences including the Highlight Foundation's Crash Course into Children's Publishing, the SCBWI Middle of the Map conference, and Hannah Barnaby's picture book workshop. In 2019, she was selected by author Jill Esbaum for the PBChat Twitter Mentorship Competition. 

Hannah likes to write stories that make kids laugh and think about others. She's always on the lookout for creative ways to make that happen. 


Facebook: Hannah Lapehn

Twitter: @HannahLapehn


Thursday, November 19, 2020

What Should the Next Five Years of Disability in Publishing Look Like?

 By Madison Parrotta

Disability often remains the afterthought when it comes to diversity in publishing. Although more disabled authors are being represented and published, the numbers are still very low. And even though you may see more books than ever with disabled characters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those books are Own Voices.

Lillie Lainoff is the founder of Disability in Kidlit and an advocate for disabled writers of all kinds. Her debut, One for All, will be published in Winter 2022 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She obviously wants to see more disabled stories by disabled authors in the coming years—so many more that she can’t read them all—but there’s much more when it comes to disability diversity. 

Here is Lillie’s wishlist for more disability inclusion in publishing:

An end to traditional gatekeeping and a change to the structure of publishing. Most authors and publishing professionals know that the industry is made up of cis, straight, white, nondisabled women. There may be more diversity when it comes to internships and entry level jobs, but there needs to be an overhaul of more disabled workers in all facets of publishing and agenting, and especially in the higher roles. Getting disabled professionals to that level will involve figuring out why they’re not in these positions now. Is it because acquisition meetings aren’t accessible? Is it because they need to work remotely? Or maybe the salaries are too low? 

Disability representation in more genres. Right now, most disability representation is in contemporary MG and YA, though not all are #OwnVoices. While these are obviously great genres, the kids who are reading those stories have few stories to grow into as they get older and become adults, and the lack of disability diversity in other MG/YA sub-genres (and other adult genres like Science Fiction/Fantasy and Historical) does a disservice to all disabled readers. In addition, Lillie would like to see the eradication of sicklit and inspiration porn, as well as characters who are physically disabled and have mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.

An end to publishers using marketing and/or readership as an excuse to not buy disabled books. 20% of the US population is disabled, so there is definitely a wide readership. In addition, many disabled people read! When it comes to marketing, there’s not much research being done in terms of disabled readers or disabled books, and it’s difficult to have a market without that. But there is a shift happening, albeit slowly. 

About Lillie Lainoff:

Lillie Lainoff received her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and distinction within the major from Yale University. She currently lives in Norwich, and is getting her MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia.

Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has been featured in The LA Review, The Washington Post Outlook, Today’s Parent, via the Disability Visibility Project, Washington City Paper, and The Yale Daily News, amongst other places. She’s received recognition from Glimmer Train and The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and won the 2019 LA Review Literary Award for Short Fiction. She was a featured Rooted in Rights disability activist, and is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers (FB).

As an undergraduate, Lillie was a member of Yale’s Varsity Fencing team. As a senior, she was one of the first physically disabled athletes to individually qualify for any NCAA Championship event, and helped her team to an end-of-season 10th place ranking by the National Coaches Poll. She still fences competitively and coaches. In 2017, she was named a recipient of the inaugural Spirit of Sport award by the US Fencing Association.


Twitter: @lillielainoff


Instagram: @lillielainoff

Lillie Lainoff is represented by Jennifer Wills.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Q&A and Giveaway with Beth Vrabel!

By Elisa Houot

1. What was your favorite book to write ?

That’s such a tricky question! I loved, struggled, doubted and am proud
of each of my books. I think The Newspaper Club series was the most fun
to write, though. I braided my background as a journalist with my love
for small towns and quirky characters. Nellie, Gloria, Thom, Min,
Charlotte and Gordon were a blast to create!

2. Do you write while listening to music or do you need silence?

Spending so much time in newsrooms conditioned me to need a lot of noise
but no one talking to me. That’s why under ordinary times, I love
writing in coffeeshops. Right now, I actually have a framed picture of
my favorite coffeeshop hanging on my office wall! At home, my office is
in the heart of the house, right off the kitchen. I kick off writing
days by lighting a candle, settling into my armchair, and listening to a
Pandora station. The station itself shifts depending on the book. For To
Tell You the Truth, my June release, that was Ella Fitzgerald and the
Avett Brothers. For The Newspaper Club, I listened to a lot of The
National and The Frights.

3. What was your favorite middle grade book growing up?

Where the Red Fern Grows had a huge impact on me on a kid. I loved
Billy’s independence and determination.

4. Who is your favorite fictional character ever, and why?

Oh, this is a tough question for sure! Anne of Green Gables and I are
kindred spirits, so I’m going to have to go with her.

5. What is the one advise you would have to new writers?

My biggest piece of advice is to tell yourself the story first. Some of
the best writing takes place long before you ever pull up that new
document or turn to a blank page. Fall in the love with the characters,
imagine the critical moment when everything seems lost, think through
how you’re going to pull everything together at the end. And then, when
you’re so excited about this story that you feel like you might burst,
that blank white page won’t look intimidating; it’ll seem like an

Be sure to follow Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and "like" her Facebook page to be eligible for this giveaway to win book one and a poster of The Newspaper Club! 


Be sure to follow Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and "like" her Facebook page to be eligible for this giveaway to win books one and two of The Newspaper Club! 


About Beth Vrabel:

Beth Vrabel is author of the Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG-selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, the Pack of Dorks series, and The Newspaper Club. She lives in Connecticut with her family.




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Importance of Horror in Kidlit with Hannah Kates

By Madison Parrotta

Of the many genres in Kidlit, horror is one that tends to be tiptoed around, especially for middle grade books. Author Hannah Kates, however, shines a light on horror through her writing, and deems horror to not only be entertaining, but important for kids and teens alike. She names herself the “author of strange tales,” even though as a kid, she was easily spooked by everything and couldn’t watch scary movies.

Ironically, this fear got her started with writing horror for kids. As a kid, she one day came home to find that her hamster had had babies and then ate them, which made for a terrifying experience. This later inspired her work as an adult, and this was when she discovered that kids like scary books, even though horror is an underrated genre.

Even so, the common tropes of the horror genre are known to nearly everyone—vampires and werewolves. They’re not just made-up creatures from out of the blue, but they come from fear. Vampires are representative of the fear of consumption, while werewolves invoke a fear of all the changes that come with puberty. What one can glean from all this is that horror can teach lessons, especially to children.

According to Hannah, the most important thing that horror can teach is that fear isn’t necessarily a negative emotion. What is scary for kids and adults alike is usually things that don’t make sense, but when horror characters face their fears and survive, they are the ones who are in charge and have power. When kids see themselves represented in an MG or YA book, they realize they too can survive their own struggles.

In Hannah’s words, “Life can often be frightening, confusing, and bring turmoil without any explanation or reason. Scary stories prove to us that we can make it through. We can be heroes, we can find help, and we can actualize these experiences/the second and third-order consequences they have in our lives.”

About Hannah Kates:

Hannah Kates ran away to join the circus at a very young age. Aside from being an author, she also considers herself a professional adventurer and has chalked up misadventures everywhere from the streets of Mumbai to the ranks of the French Foreign Legion. If she's not skulking around cemeteries, you can find her running for ridiculous distances, having tea with her corgi, Bilbo Handsomepants, or playing honky-tonk piano.


Twitter: @hannahkates1