Kathleen Rushall


Today I would like to welcome the fabulous Kathleen Rushall from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency to my blog. I have been fortunate enough to get to know Kathleen Rushall a bit over the past couple of years, as she represents several of my writer friends. And I can tell you that she is fun and energetic and has a great sense of humor. Her genuine love for all things kid lit shines through in everything she does. I truly appreciate her taking the time out of her busy work schedule to answer some very important questions for all of us authors. If you are thinking of querying her, this is an extra special treat because she has provided us with an insight into what she is looking for right now!

How long have you been an agent?

First off, thanks for having me, Sharon! I really appreciate it and am excited to be featured. I took on my first project in 2009 when I was working at a prior agency. I worked as an intern and then as an assistant agent/ front desk manager/ crazy-amount-of-hats-wearer for two years before I joined Marsal Lyon Literary Agency in 2011.

What made you decide to be an agent?

I realized I wanted to be an agent when I experienced my first internship during grad school. I was earning my master’s in Children’s Literature and was exploring various publishing careers. The agency internship completely sucked me in. I loved the idea of advocating for authors and the link between creativity and business that an agent can provide.

What is the best part of your job?

Nothing will ever beat calling an author with that exciting offer news! I just love it. It sounds cheesy, but one of my absolute favorite parts of this job is that feeling that you’ve helped someone’s dream come true. I also honestly love checking my inbox every day. I look forward to it every morning—you just never know what exciting emails may be there, from an amazing new query to an offer or tidbit of good news.

Are you open to submissions?

If so, what is the best way to query you? I am! The best way to query me is to send your query letter to Kathleen@marsallyonliteraryagency. If you’re sending me a picture book, please feel free to include it in the body of the email. I’m also happy to see the first 5 pages of any novel in the body of the email, below the letter. Here’s the link to our agency guidelines:

What do you look for in a Picture Book submission? Middle Grade? Young Adult?

I’m looking for funny, quirky picture books with heart. I enjoy character driven picture books with a strong story arc, whether it’s a timeless theme with a fresh approach or something completely different. That being said, while I enjoy character driven stories, I’m also interested in sweet, layered, thought-provoking lyrical texts that lend themselves to illustrations with fresh details to be discovered in repeated readings.

For nonfiction picture books I’m actively looking for biographies (I love slice of life bios, in particular) and anything within the Common Core topics. In particular, I’d love to see biographies on smart women who made strides in their field or truly followed their passion. I’m interested in biology, animals, nature, the environment, and am also looking for fun, unique STEM books that can empower readers and awaken curiosity.

For middle grade and YA, my taste runs the gamut. I love dark, edgy stories, humorous light-hearted stories and everything in between. I’m actively looking for more contemporary MG and YA for my list, and also enjoy magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction. I love MG and YA with complex characters and a story that has layers. Above all, I’m drawn in by the voice!

When it comes to signing a client, will you sign them based on one great submission or does the potential client need multiple great manuscripts polished and ready?

I am always thinking long-term and encourage my authors to do the same. When I offer representation, it’s ideally for the client’s career rather than for just one project. So, before I sign a new client I always talk to them about where they see themselves down the road: What do they want to write next? Do they have other projects they’re passionate about pursuing as well as the one they queried me with?

I want to get a feel for their goals as well as the breadth of their work. (For example, are they writing for more than one age group or within multiple genres?) I want to be sure that I can fully support them in the avenues they want to pursue. I’m always happy to see samples of other projects in addition to the manuscript that first sweeps me off my feet. And for picture book authors, I always ask to see several manuscripts if I’m considering representation. It’s a great way to see an author’s range but also to see where they want to go on their publishing path (and to make sure I’m the right agent to help get them there!).

Is there a best time of year to query you?

Any time of year works for me! I am always open.

If you could choose one thing to be in your inbox right now, what would it be?

I’d love to find a layered, heartfelt contemporary middle grade. I don’t see as much MG in my inbox and I am certainly looking!

I love YA and am especially hoping to find a contemporary YA that’s unique or takes risks. Something that straddles the line between literary and commercial (akin to Marci Curtis’s THE ONE THING). I’m also on a fantasy kick right now and am excited to see more YA fantasy submissions with characters who jump off the page and a plot that’s unexpected.

I’m also looking for more nonfiction picture books (particularly biographies).

And, sometimes, I don’t like to even mention what I’d most like to see in my inbox because I love being surprised. Some of my favorite submissions were things I didn’t even know I was looking for until I read them and was completely absorbed. So please feel free to surprise me!

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading the sequel to THE WINNER’S CURSE, THE WINNER’S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski. I absolutely love this series.

I hope that this blog may help answer some of the questions you may have regarding Kathleen Rushall. And I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Kathleen. Thank you very much for being a part of my blog. And for providing such wonderful, thoughtful answers to my questions.
Now writers, query away!

Don’t forget to follow Kathleen on twitter @KatRushall