Agent Spotlight: Jodell Sadler & Twitter Chat

Kidlit411 is pleased to feature Jodell Sadler, founder of Sadler Children's Literary, an agency representing children's writers and illustrators. Jodell earned her MFA in Children's Writing from Hamline University, studying picture book pacing, and has taught five Writer's Digest University tutorials on the subject.

Please join her in a Twitter chat on picture book pacing on Tuesday, May 20, at 8 p.m. EDT/ 7 p.m. CDT, using the hashtag #PBpacing.

Tell us about your background and how you came to be an agent. 

I received my MFA in Jan. 2009 from Hamline University in St. Paul, really connected to my critical thesis project on pacing picture books. At the time, there wasn't much out there on the subject of pacing, and I directly studied its relationship to honing and polishing and all the essential elements in award-winning books. So, I wrote more, studied more and submitted this project to Writer's Digest Books, and received the offer to do a few tutorials with them on this. I also started workshopping with writers and illustrators and really just fell in love with creative collaboration, and this is really where my desire to become a literary agent comes from. So I decided to jump in and toss that tiny pebble into the big pond and see what ripples I would make. I've been loving it ever since. 

What is picture book pacing and what are some key elements to know about it? 

Picture book pacing really focuses in on the speeding and slowing of a manuscript to raise the stakes, create tension, marry the text, and keep the reader engaged, all while supporting the theme of a book. It's all about that slap-stick comedy between art and words, the pauses, the page turns, the prosody (aural and oral enjoyment) as well as the performance that is the picture book. 

Simply put, pacing huge editing benefits for picture book writers and beyond. It's all about taking twenty ordinary tools we think about and looking at all the nuances and possibilities through pacing and watching extraordinary results happen. Authors and illustrators really can craft their manuscript to Wow using this approach. It's quite exciting.

What are a few other key elements that successful picture books have in common? 

I have a whole presentation about the Magic of Picture book crafting. My approach sounds Seussical but it's firmly embedded in great writers like Maurice Sendak and Eric Carl and Mo Willems and has a solid rooting in all things Ray Bradbury and Peter Selgin (who I have come to admire a great deal).  

I call it Picture Book Magic: the Not, the Now, and the Zing! it's about thinking of creating picture book performances that rock a reader's world by pouring your passion onto the page. And the funny thing is that this philosophy I've acquired grew out of Sendak's notion that a true illustrator furthers story, works contrary to story, and dares to halt the words to impress its audience with the ingenuity that is possible in the art. It's the chemistry that happens on the page when passion is present.

What are the things that stand out for you (in a good way) when you look at submissions?

I look for awesome art and word dances, exciting page turns (in picture books), thrilling lines of text (lines that really sing), and I love to work with authors and illustrators, but especially love it when illustrators who have done books are looking to make that leap into writing.

Art informs words, and to know instinctively when to pause, halt, speed or move your manuscript is awesome. I think there's a true gift to doing both, and the market is ready for new talent. I most recently have picked up graphic novel illustrators and admire their talent as well. What I look for in a submission is pretty undefinable except to say that I love finding writers and illustrators at every genre level that shares the kind of passion for children's literature that I have.

That said, presentation, I look for short queries:  hook, pitch, bio and done. I like the query in the body of the email and the manuscript as a Word or PDF attachment.

What are the things that stand out for you (in a bad way) when you look at submissions?

I get emails that address me as another agent, dear agent, or dear sir, which throws me off right away. The easiest way to get my attention is to let me know why you are sending to me. That word "exclusive" gets my attention as well. If a query is a long novel, I read the first paragraph and skip to the manuscript and/or art. I am looking for quality writing and illustrating and it's all about the writing—it's all about quality and craft. 

What is on your wish list? 

My wish list is for funny, quality, awesome illustrations and manuscripts. I am interested in author-illustrators, but also illustrators for YA/MG, spot, graphic, and covers, and especially those wanting to hone their writing.

I also enjoy working with picture books authors who explore the musicality of language, the playfulness that is the power of the picture book, awesome pacing, and still willing to edit strong.

I also like to know if you are also working on older genres as well.  
I gravitate toward commercial YA, fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, contemporary, and nonfiction projects.

I enjoy graphic novel work and MG novels that I can connect to emotionally. I am a sucker for a story based on a true event—love strong voice and characters. I will accept fantasy with a unique approach.

For illustrators or author-illustrators, please submit a PDF or dummy that shows off your style.

For PB: query in the body of the email, attach full manuscript.

Others: Query in body of email, first ten pages.

Can you share some of your recent sales?

My most recent sales include an author-illustrator picture book, picture book illustrations, a cover project, and a few nonfiction teen projects (one was my own).

Thank you so much. 

Jodell will be joining us at a Twitter chat to talk more about picture book pacing. Tune in on Tuesday, May 20, at 8 p.m. EDT/ 7 p.m. CDT. Use the hashtag #PBpacing.  (Here's a quick refresher on participating in Twitter chats)

You can find out more about Jodell Sadler at her agency's website. Follow her on Twitter (@PacingStory2WOW) and like her on Facebook (


  1. I am looking forward to attending the twitter train on Tuesday! Whoot!

  2. Thank you so much for the interview, Jodell and Sylvia! I am very excited for the Twitter chat!

  3. Wow, interview! See you on Twitter Tuesday!

  4. Very informative interview. Thanks, Jodell and Sylvia!

  5. Jodell sounds like a dream agent for PB writers, especially those with illustrative sensibilities! Lucky the folks who'll get to work with her. :) I loved that has Ray Bradbury (one of my fav authors) as one of the people she infused the genius of into her writing philosophy.

    Thanks, KidLit411, Sylvia, and Jodell for a terrific interview!

  6. Thanks for this! Pacing is one of the things I'm always trying to learn more about, in both pbs and MG.

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  8. Can not wait for our chat w/you Jodell! I need to learn more about pacing.

  9. Great interview! Thanks so much Jodell and Sylvia!

  10. Thanks Sylvia and Jodell. My colleague and dear friend Wendi Silvano used examples on pacing in our recent RMC SCBWI event here in Grand Junction that I organized. I was blown away by Jodell's honing of pacing.

    Looking forward to this and hopefully I won't blow it as it is my first official twitter chat!

  11. Fantastic interview, Ms. Sadler and Sylvia. I'll be at that twitter chat or DIE trying. It's all about the quality and craft. Yeah!

  12. Great interview and very helpful for 12x12 participants. I enjoyed this post

  13. Great article... just wish there were some female authors mentioned in the list of 'greats' Jodell gives. Surely there must be one female picture author she could mention alongside all those men?!

  14. Great post...wonderful to learn more about this month's 12x12 agent. ;) The Twitter chat was so informative...Jodell was generous in all that she shared about pacing! I learned so much and was energized to pull out a ms to revise. :)

  15. For many businesses the ability for users to communicate with top management using Twitter is an invaluable resource.

  16. First, I have to say that I had been confused on how to use Twitter to benefit my own business until I start uploading reviews on my account interesting!!


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