Wendy Schmalz today

Hi everyone,

My first Featured Guest, on –, was agent Wendy Schmalz. Wendy and I met through our mutual friend and her client Sandy Asher when Sandy wrote a play inspired by my poetry, SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK. On that play and a subsequent one written by Sandy based on a book of poetry we co-wrote (JESS AND GRACE: A BEST FRIENDS STORY), Wendy and I have become friends.

Here’s an update from Wendy. After that I’ll post her original remarks. If you have questions or comments, please use the boxes below.
Hi David,

Thanks for asking for news from me.

The buzz right now is that thriller and mysteries are going to be hot for the YA and middle grade markets. Dystopian books have about reached the saturation point, but publishers seem interested in science fiction.

I’m happy to say that some of the books by my authors I mentioned the last time you checked in with me are doing quite well:

FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP by Albert Marrin his the tri fecta with three starred reviews – PW, SLJ and Booklist

NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING got stars from PW and Kirkus.

TILLIE THE TERRIBLE SWEDE by Sue Stauffacher got a starred PW.

Sarah Miller’s THE LOST CROWN garnered a Kirkus star.

And April Henry’s GIRL, STOLEN and Bonnie Shimko’s THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF AMELIA E RYE were both YALSA 2011 Best Books for Young Adults.

Happy summer, David!

And now, here’s what Wendy had to say in her first time as my Featured Guest.

As promised, today my guest is New York literary agent, Wendy Schmalz. I’ve worked with Wendy and know her as a professional and as a friend. If you have questions or thoughts, that’s what the comment section below is for! Wendy opened her own agency in 2002. Before that she was a principal at Harold Ober Associates. She represents a small, eclectic group of writers.
Hi Wendy. Thank you for being my first guest. Welcome to the blog.
Hi, David, and thanks for inviting me. I hope your readers will find my remarks of interest.
I love books. I love everything about them – how they smell, how they feel, how they look on a shelf. I love the words. I’m infatuated with my Sony Reader. It smells like pleather, it’s stiff in my hands and it won’t stand on a shelf. But it’s got all the words.
I first got my Reader so I could download manuscripts and not have to schlep heavy paper manuscripts with me wherever I went. It wasn’t long before I was downloading published books. To my utter astonishment, it’s become my preferred way of reading. It’s more than just the portability. It’s my personal movable library.
For my entire career in publishing people have been predicting the death of books. First it was CD ROMS (Boy was everyone wrong about that one!). Now people predict ebooks as the beginning of the end. I think it’s the beginning of an expansion of reading, especially for older middle grade and YA novels. Kids prefer reading on screen. The more ebooks we offer them the more they’ll read. I also think it will result in more sales. I might lend friends a copy of a book, but I’m not going to lend my reader. They’ll have to get their own download.
What I am concerned about is the fate of literary fiction for children. While “quiet” books have been difficult to place for a while now, it’s been much, much harder during this recession. In the last several months, I’ve seen a spike in queries from authors who have had several books published (often to starred reviews and awards), but have been cut loose by their publishers because of mid-list sales. More often than not, I have to tell them that I can’t do anything to help them. High concept is what sells. I by no means think that high concept equals dreck. Many, many commercial books are extremely well written. Publishing is a business and I’m part of that business. It’s how I make my living and I want my business to be prosperous. I do, though, think there’s a beauty in literary fiction that children are going to miss out on if the current trend doesn’t change.
As an agent, I look for books that are well written and that appeal to my personal taste. I’ve never been a fan of traditional fantasy or science fiction so I’m not a good judge of those genres. I focus on older middle grade and YA fiction. I’m not taking on any new picture book writers.
People often ask me if vampire books and urban fantasy are on their way out. Clones of TWILIGHT and other huge sellers are out, but an original take on vampires or urban fantasy or any other genre will always sell. Anyone can copy; a good writer finds a way to be innovative.

David. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit on your blog.

Wendy, many thanks for taking the time to share some of your views.

Wendy Schmalz tomorrow

BULLETIN: Sometime today my blog will hit 90,000 visits. Thanks everyone!!


Hi everyone,

Happy 4th of July! If anyone has a poem for today, please share it in the comment boxes below.

Tomorrow I’m reposting my very first Featured Guest, agent Wendy Schmalz. Many of you will remember Wendy’s first appearance on November 11, 2009. For those who missed it, you have another chance tomorrow. Plan to come by.

Wendy opened her own agency in 2002. Before that she was a principal at Harold Ober Associates. She represents a small, eclectic group of writers and I think you will find her opinions and advice most interesting. I’ve worked with Wendy on projects with Sandy Asher so I can tell you from personal experience that she is a good agent and a neat lady.

See you tomorrow. Best wishes to all.


WRITERS AT WORK, Pros & Cons of Having an Agent (Part 1)

BULLETIN: I’ve posted all of the January poems below the ballot boxes now. Sorry for the delay. If you haven’t voted yet, it’s easier to see each poem before deciding.

Hi everyone,

Our February topic is about agents, a favorite subject wherever authors get together. Sandy Asher uses an agent and I don’t. I look forward to this one and hope to hear from many of you as we go along. Read on!

Topic 5: Pros & Cons of Having an Agent
Response 1: David
February 1, 2011

Sandy, I know that writers with agents are asked why they have one and writers without are asked why they don’t. I don’t so I’ll go first.

That’s not quite accurate. I share a fine agent – Wendy Schmalz – when I work with you. Wendy represented you, and therefore me, on DUDE, the collection of stories, plays, and poems for boy readers that we did with Dutton.

Nor can I say I’ve never had an agent of my own because somewhere in the dim past, twenty-five or thirty years ago, I tried an agent for about a year. We weren’t a good mix and went our separate ways. More about that shortly.

There are certainly pros to having a good agent. Many publishers don’t want to look at manuscripts from authors they don’t know. Dealing with agents cuts down on the mass of unsolicited submissions to read and in these days of bare bones staffing, an agent who sends quality material might be more of an asset than ever. So yes, an agent can open doors.

But I’m pretty sure an agent can’t sell pap. I still shake my head remembering some of my early manuscripts. I was writing short stories still so protoplasmic they sort of flopped about from page to page in search of a backbone, a beginning, an ending. I didn’t get that, of course. I was in my twenties, convinced that each story was original and issued from my soul.

I don’t remember why I didn’t seek an agent in the beginning. I’m not sure I knew to consider the idea. I wonder if most writers these days automatically start the search for an agent before they’ve written more than one or two manuscripts. I’ve heard that finding a good agent is roughly the equivalent of getting published without one, but maybe that’s because agents have to plow through a lot of unpolished manuscripts. Again, I’m guessing.

On my own I soon developed the habit of grinding out one masterpiece after another and setting them off in all directions like cheap roman candles. By the time I sold my first story, I had been winging it for six years, the no-agent habit was established, and I had managed to acquire a modicum of writing skills the hard way.

Years and books later, my muse took early retirement. Nothing for the ages was emanating from my trusty soul. Obviously, I needed an agent! Given that I was well published, I found one soon enough. The problem was that in a twelve month period he placed one manuscript, a picture book that I had presold before we met.

Bad agent? Maybe, but probably not. I wasn’t writing well and knew it. I didn’t blame the guy for being unable to place stories that weren’t my best work. We split ways, I coaxed my muse out of retirement, and I’ve been placing my own work ever since.

Sandy, you have far more experience with agents than I do so I look forward to your comments. I hope we’ll hear from agents and authors willing to share their own thoughts and experiences. Back to you.



Last week I brought back Wendy Schmalz to tell us about her most recent activities. She kicked off the new Monday segment, WHAT ARE THE PROS UP TO? in fine style.

This week it’s nice to feature another friend, Gay Fawcett who, as always, is busily engaged in new work. Gay, thanks for returning to my blog. I met Gay when she, Tim Rasinski, and I wrote a book together for Scholastic called Partner Poems for Building Fluency. Since then most of you have met her too through her poetry and her informed, caring comments.

Hi, David,
Thanks for asking for an update. Here’s what I’m currently doing. I’m into so many things, it gets confusing even for me.

1. I just finished up a book, which I co-authored with Robin Wiesznewski, Nancy Padak, and Tim Rasinski titled Evidence-Based Instruction in Reading: Culturally Responsive Instruction. Should be out in a few months through Pearson.

2. Finished up two books with Tim Rasinski, Kristen Lems and Robert Ackland titled Fluency in Action: Preschool- Grade 5 Fluency in Action: Grade 5 and Beyond. Those will be out in November with Scholastic.

3. Working on a book on vocabulary instruction–no co-authors on this one.

4. Teaching a writing course for University of Central Florida. It’s not a poetry-writing course. I’m just exploring my poetry wings through your blog. However, you should “see” some students of mine in November as I am requiring them to participate that month.

5. Teaching Educational Psychology for University of Dayton.

6. Doing some presentations for teachers on the new national Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

7. Evaluating a Federal grant for Palm Beach Community College.

Just as important, I’m preparing for a Teddy Bear picnic with my grandkids, reading The Fatal Shore (about Australia’s founding), and walking and doing yoga every day.

Life is full of interesting work and fun times!

“Never confuse motion with action.”
–Benjamin Franklin

WHAT ARE THE PROS UP TO? with Wendy Schmalz

CALLING ALL TEACHERS. Now that the school year is picking up speed, please consider engaging your students grades 3-12 to try their hands at the monthly Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. If you need a refresher course on how to do this, ask me and I’ll help. If you have colleagues who love poetry and look for ways to encourage their students to write, please tell them about this standing opportunity. THANKS!

It’s Monday, time for the first segment of WHAT ARE THE PROS UP TO? And to lead off, here is agent
Wendy Schmalz, who was my very first Featured Guest. To see her original appearance, here’s the link: https://davidlharrison.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/introducing-wendy-schmalz/

Hi David,

Thanks for checking in. I have a number of late summer/fall books I’m excited about: Bestselling novelists Myla Goldberg and April Henry both have new novels. Myla’s THE FALSE FRIEND is a psychological drama (Doubleday). April’s thriller about a kidnapped blind girl is called GIRL, STOLEN (Christy Ottaviano Books/Holt).

Two new middle grade series have just been published, Amanda Marrone’s creepy, funny books called THE MAGIC REPAIR SHOP CHRONICLES (Atheneum), and Sue Stauffacher’s witty, charming and informative series ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM (Knopf).

Amanda has a new paranormal romance called SLAYED about vampire hunters to add to her successful backlist at PULSE.

Australian Kathy Charles’s crossover novel JOHN BELUSHI IS DEAD about two teens obsessed with celebrity death is just out from MTV books.

Graphic novelist Jason Little’s MOTEL ART IMPROVEMENT SERVICE, the sequel to his successful SHUTTERBUG FOLLIES, will be published by Dark Horse.

Award-winning South African novelist Michael Williams NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING is coming from Little, Brown.

Seymour Simon’s Smithsonian/Collins photo essay TROPICAL RAINFORESTS is the latest of his successful books in that series.

I’ll be submitting a number of exciting new projects in the fall.

Thanks for asking! I appreciate you including me.