Monday, December 12, 2011

SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Ginger Knowlton

Ginger Knowlton
I'm pleased to welcome Ginger Knowlton to Cuppa Jolie. Ginger will be sharing her views, along with three other agents, on the final panel of the conference: The Current Market for Your Work. 

From the Curtis Brown LTD website. 

Ginger Knowlton, Executive Vice President

Ginger Knowlton represents authors and illustrators of children's books in all genres, as well as a few adult book authors. Her list includes Newbery Medalists, Newbery Honor and Printz Honor winners, Edgar and Lambda winners, a Sibert and Orbis Pictus winner, New York Times bestsellers, and a host of other delightful and talented clients. Ginger started working at Curtis Brown as an assistant to Marilyn Marlow, one of the first literary agents to specialize in children's books in the 1960s. Working for Marilyn was a rite of passage, affectionately referred to as Curtis Brown’s "Boot Camp." Before joining the company, Ginger worked in the field of early childhood education in Sacramento and Mendocino, California. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Authors' Representatives and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Library in her hometown in Westchester County.

And now on to the interview. How I love ending with an SCBWI success story! Read on...

Conferences can be a bit overwhelming. What advice do you have for conference-goers, especially those attending for the first time? 

Don’t be shy! Talk with other conference-goers, ask to sit with them at lunch, and if you came with a friend or group of friends, be sure to split up and do different things, so you can report back and share whatever you learned (or didn’t learn). Seek advice and camaraderie, and be open to listening as well as sharing. Go outside your comfort zone! Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words—“Do one thing every day that scares you.” (I’ll be doing that myself on January 29th at the Grand Hyatt…)

Writers often ask, "How do I know when my work is ready to submit?" Do you have any sort of measuring stick or advice for knowing when? 

My simple answer is: it’s ready when it sings ~ but I realize that’s subjective.

My short answer is: No.

Everyone works differently, and different things work for different people. Some people are blessed with writing partners/critiquers who offer advice and feedback that is spot on. Others are not so lucky, and still others don’t have partners or critiquers at all. I think what can often help is asking someone else to read your work aloud to you, or better yet, ask him/her to record himself reading it, and then listen to that recording by yourself and then with others. Do you like it? Do others? Are you fascinated and eager for more? If it’s a picture book, is it just too long? Would a youngster fidget? Would you, if you had to read it to said youngster time and again? Do you feel like the reader just didn’t get it and you could have done better reading it yourself? If so, there might be a lesson for you there—it may not be the reader’s fault at all. (Sorry!)

I know some authors finish a manuscript and decide to submit it to a lot of agents/editors at once—sort of flooding the field—and I recommend that you start out slower than that, in case you get actual feedback from someone who might help you make the submission stronger for the next round. While it’s important to be open to advice and other opinions, it’s also important to stay true to yourself and your writing. I realize this sounds cliché.

Do you have a particular pet peeve when it comes to receiving queries/submission?

Well, like everyone, I want the query to be addressed to me (Ginger Knowlton), not to Curtis Brown or Ginger Knowlton Clark or Agent or Tracey Adams (hey, Tracey!). And please take the time to proofread your queries and submissions so there are no misspellings. With spellcheck available, there’s just no excuse for that. I’m not saying I won’t read it if there are mistakes, but it is distracting, and why distract me from your writing when you’re hoping I’ll be enthusiastic about it?

Can you share with us a client's forthcoming or recently published book that you're extra excited about? 

I cannot wait to see I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, with illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, coming out in the fall of 2012—and it all came about because of SCBWI! Here’s a recap from Debbie herself:

Thank you so much, Ginger!

To register for the upcoming conference, or to learn more about SCBWI visit


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Great interview, and I liked the advice about having someone else read your work out loud, recording it, and then listening to it... And I'm with you, Jolie - I love hearing these SCBWI success stories!
Thanks to you both,

Debbie Ridpath Ohi said...

Wonderful interview, Jolie and Ginger. Can't wait to see you both in January!

Dawn Simon said...

Oh, great tips! I think it's so smart to submit in batches! Each piece of a submission--the query letter, the synopsis, and the manuscript itself--can improve with time and feedback.

I enjoyed reading Debbie Ridpath Ohi's story! Yay!

Thank you both for sharing this with us!

Russ Cox said...

Good and informative interview. Looking forward to "I'm Bored" as well and seeing Debbie's illustrations.

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