Welcome to #SeasonsOfKidLit, everyone! We are officially kicking off Spooky Season with a super-fun post featuring Literary Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez. Kaitlyn is truly a champion of books, selling numerous books for her clients, and constantly uplifts the #KidLit community. She even hosts events guaranteed to inspire you! Want to know more about Kaitlyn, the fun Fall Writing Frenzy event she has kicking off tomorrow, October 1st, and how to win an Above-the-Slushpile Submission pass from her? Read on...
Q: Hi, Kaitlyn. Thank you for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! I’m excited to have you! For anyone who may not know, you’re a literary agent who’s passionate about growing careers for your clients and helping out the entire #KidLit Community (by hosting events and sharing valuable insight). How exciting! Can you share a little more about yourself with everyone?
A: Thanks so much for having me for this fun event, Heather, and an extra thank you for the lovely introduction. I'm so excited about all of the beautiful books we're bringing into the world on Team Sanchez, and I'm blown away that some have already received lovely, starred reviews, like Old Friends by Margaret Aitken, illustrated by Lenny Wen and those that have received the great honor of being a Junior Library Guild selection, like Laura K. Zimmermann's Mushroom Rain, illustrated by Jamie Green.
Beyond being so excited about these books, I also teach middle school math at the middle school I went to as a kid, which is super fun, and I adore spending time with my family, they're so fun and funny, especially when we're reading and playing games.
Finally, the place I feel most content and free (beyond cuddling with my family) is on the soccer field with my friends by my side and a ball at my feet.
Q: You and Lydia Lukidis run the fun Fall Writing Frenzy event each year. Can you tell us more about this event?
A: Thanks so much for asking, Heather. I adore all the contests I co-host (and many that I don't), but this one is extra special to me because it was my brainchild. In fall 2019, I saw a Twitter post from SCBWI British Isles. It was a photo prompt of beautiful apples on a picnic table in a lovely fall setting and a poem just flew out of me. I immediately thought about how inspirational and fun that was and thought that others might appreciate the inspiration, too. I had started the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest with my wonderful friend, Ciara O'Neal, who thought up the idea and let me help her bring it to the masses. That was such great fun that I decided to do another right then in the fall. I didn't have a partner because I had just thought of the idea, so when Lydia offered to help, I was very grateful. Unfortunately, Lydia had surgery that year and wasn't able to help in the way she wanted so I serendipitously ended up asking my friend Jolene Gutiérrez to help me with selecting the winners. This was what Bob Ross would call a happy accident because it led to us having a wonderful guest judge to help out every year since. The next year was my lovely friend and award-winning author, Donna Barba Higuera, and last year was my agent bestie, Ameerah Holliday, and this year it will be one of my phenomenal clients, Alyssa Reynoso-Morris!
The contest is a photo prompt contest, where Lydia and I provide the photos and rules, and anyone who writes Kidlit (board book through YA) can join in the fun by choosing an image and writing about it! I should have known I would soon be an agent when I created this contest because I didn't want it to be a ranking system but a way to connect new writers with those experienced in the industry. In this contest, all the winners are equal winners who are matched for a critique with someone in the industry who they might connect with.
The contest officially kicks off tomorrow, so if you haven't heard about it, or have friends you'd like to invite, check out the rules and prizes below.
A: Haha! I love that it's infamous already. This contest was the brainchild of my wonderful friend, who you heard about just a bit ago, Jolene Gutiérrez. Jolene is now one of my lovely clients with so many fantastic books out and up-and-coming (please check out her books and support her by leaving reviews!) After reading about Brian Gehrlein's author success (his first picture book sold at auction, and it was a book that he had shelved, thinking it wouldn't be published), Jolene started chatting with our critique group, 6 Ladies and a MANuscript, about it. She thought that it would be cool to revisit our "dead" manuscripts and bring them back to life–like a zombie!--and thought wouldn't it be great if we could help others do that, too? Our group was like "uhh... definitely yes!" And Kidlit Zombie Week was born. It's a week devoted to bringing those dead manuscripts back to life! The contest is in June, and we know most people think zombies+Halloween=fall! Buuut I already had the Fall Writing Frenzy in the fall and many of us are teachers, or have kids, so summertime worked best for us. Plus, isn't summertime the best time for scary movies, like zombie movies?
Just saying… ;)
Q: When you’re open to queries, what kind of manuscripts are you most excited about?
A: Thanks for asking, Heather! It's always such a joy to discover something unique that will really connect with audiences.
I always love picture books because they're so incredible at providing joy, knowledge, and inspiration for those who appreciate it so much.
I also loooove a good heartfelt middle grade, especially one that has humor or friendship or mystery embedded. A great example of my ideal middle grade novel is one of the first middle grade books I fell in love with as a kid: Thursday's Child by Sonya Hartnett. From the first page, I got a feeling that I was about to read something really important and despite the heavy topic, the humor that Sonya Hartnett worked in surprised and delighted me. I felt exactly the same feeling this year when I started reading Shawn K. Stout's The Impossible Destiny of Cutie Grackle, and wow was it good! I flew through that book and have been recommending it to anyone and everyone since.
Plus, I really enjoy books that teach me something - I'm generally not a fan when it's in a didactic way, but I get so excited to learn about something I didn't know before. It's what drew me to love Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmermann so much, though when I say learning, I don't specifically mean school topics, it can also be about other people's perspectives, including but not limited to LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, BIPOC, disability, etc.
Finally, I'm always looking for phenomenal artists, who can really bring out the heart of a story, to represent!
Overall, I look for wonderful writing and drawing as well as beautiful storytelling ability that I connect with and hope others will, too.
Q: What kind of fall-themed stories can we look forward to reading from you and/or your clients in the near future?
A: Ohhh, you ask all the awesome questions, Heather! I love, love, love talking about my clients' wonderful books! Right now, some fall-oriented books we have coming from Team Sanchez are Gloriana Presente: A First Day of School Book by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris about how Gloriana's abuela uses her stories about her homeland and her own experiences with new places to help Gloriana find her voice in a new school, which is planned for fall 2024, and we also have The Ofrenda That We Built by mother-daughter duo Jolene Gutiérre and Shaian Gutiérrez written in the style of The House That Jack Built about a family coming together to honor their ancestors, which is planned for fall 2024.
Thanks for joining, Kaitlyn! It was a pleasure having you and hearing about all the wonderful books you and your clients are making!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: ooOoOooo! Well, treats (especially chocolate!) are always my favorite, so definitely a treat! How does an above-the-slushpile submission to query me sound? If your readers let us know in a comment below that they've followed my clients on Twitter and have either left a review, ordered/pre-ordered, or requested the library carry one (or more!) of my clients' books and let us know which book(s), then they can be entered to win this treat.
Thanks for such a spooktacular treat, Kaitlyn!
Contest Details: For anyone who's interested in winning an Above-the-Slushpile Submission with the frightfully fabulous Kaitlyn Sanchez, follow her clients on social media (they can be found here: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/literary-clients/). Also, comment on which clients' book(s) of hers you've left a review for, ordered/pre-ordered, or requested from your library and why! Her clients' books and pre-order links can be found here and here.
One lucky winner will be chosen on or about November 4th!
Reminder: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes.
About Kaitlyn Sanchez:
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez is a mom, wife, literary agent, and middle school math teacher. She's also the proud co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest and Kidlit Zombie Week as well as creator and co-host of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest. In her free time, she loves to play soccer, binge-watch TV shows, and, of course, read, especially when she's all cozied up with her husband and daughter reading together.
For more about Kaitlyn, and her amazing clients, make sure to check out the following links:
Personal Website: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/
Please follow my clients on social media: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/literary-clients/