It is a truth universally acknowledged that a literary agent in possession of vintage Sweet Valley books, who grew up reading as much Judy Blume and Jerry Spinelli as she could get her hands on, must be in want of some clients who write great contemporary middle grade. I made my original request for Joni Pope’s manuscript via the #KidPit pitch event on Twitter. When I read it, I could tell without ever having talked to her that Joni was a big reader of middle grade. She knew just what to do with the voice and language. Since I firmly believe that the best writers are also some of the best readers, I had to offer representation.

1. How did you come to choose Fuse?

Carlie expressed interest in my manuscript when I participated in a Twitter pitch event and soon after requested the full. I’d known about Fuse for several years, even when it was previously named Foreword Literary. When I spoke to both Carlie and Laurie on the phone, what really impressed me about it was their enthusiasm for their work and for books in general. They can see your potential as author in a way you might not even see yourself. These are the main reasons why I chose Fuse and Carlie.

 

2. If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you do for a living?

Let’s pretend that the sky’s the limit and I could be anything I wanted, no obstacles. In that case I’d be an astronaut. I was born in the same year as the last manned moon mission and grew up in the space shuttle era. Lots of kids then wanted to be astronauts (even today kids still dream about it). I never really grew out of that. The idea of seeing the earth from orbit, being in a zero gravity environment, visiting another planet and making discoveries has always intrigued me. Space is the “final frontier” after all (yeah…big nerdy Star Trek fan here, it’s my substitute for the real thing).

 

3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?

When I first became serious about really wanting to write an actual book, I really struggled with “the right way” to do it. There’s a lot of advice out there that’s fine but hard to implement. For me, the hang up was making an outline. There are so many pointers on doing this part of planning: how to outline correctly, using index cards, using a story board, etc. I couldn’t get the hang of any of those things so my writing came to a complete halt because for some reason I thought I “had” to do it a certain way. After a few months of being depressed about failing at finishing a book, I came across the most amazing advice, which was this: there is no right or wrong way to write a book, just do what works for you. That’s all I needed to know. I pulled my book back out and finished it quite quickly because all the worry about “the right way” was gone. Since then I’ve never stopped writing and I’ve repeated that advice, or some form of it, more times than I can remember. Of course there are certain rules that should be followed, but for the actual act of writing, the process, I still feel strongly that all writers should do what works for them to write the story they are meant to tell.

 

4. Complete this sentence: “Nobody knows I’m really good at…”

 

…Human anatomy, baking chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies, and Mario Kart.

Follow Joni on Twitter: @littlejoni00