Agent Spotlight: Lori Kilkelly



Jan. 7, 2015

As the final day of Kidlit 411's Birthday Bash, we are pleased to feature Lori Kilkelly, agent at Rodeen Literary Management, an agency representing children's writers and illustrators, in the Agent Spotlight. 

If you have a completed PB or MG, be sure to enter into her giveaway to bypass the slush pile and query her!

Welcome, Lori!

When did you decide to become an agent?


I wish I could sum this up in a short and sweet kind of way but sadly, I'm going to bore the heck out of all your readers right off the bat. 


In '08 I was a Chicago sales rep covering a seven-state territory and I traveled a LOT. The kind of travel where you fly to a place and then drive to 5 cities while there, organizing 10-15 appointments along the way. I adored my clients but I was exhausted of this tedious travel (one flight cancellation and your whole schedule needed to be rebooked!) 


I've always been a crazy obsessed fan-girl kind of reader so as I began researching other job opportunities, I also began contemplating other careers. In my research I stumbled across information about the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI), founded in the '70s at University of Denver by publishing legend Elizabeth Geiser. I applied and was accepted. Unlike most attendees I wasn't 23 and I wasn't planning to move to NY and be an editor. 


The role of agent seemed to perfectly fulfill my love for my clients, my obsession with reading and my background in marketing. As luck would have it, Paul Rodeen was also a Chicago DPI alum and took me under his wing. I'm now in my fifth year with RLM.


Many writers are on a quest to find an agent. If you could have the perfect client, what characteristics would that client have?


I love that all of my clients are very different - even if I could, I wouldn't have them all be the same. In addition to being unique people, because I take on my clients at a very measured pace, they are each in a different place in their career. I strive to provide each client with attention personalized to their specific needs.


The one characteristic that I'd say all of my clients have is a willingness and desire to continue honing their craft driven by the belief that growing and learning continues throughout a career, whether writing, illustrating or both. 

What do you look for when considering a potential client? Does online presence help? Hinder?


I'm interested in representing someone's career, not in selling a single manuscript. So, after the submission ms intrigues me, I'll ask to see more work. 


I believe online presence is essential in today's marketplace. All of my clients have an online presence and I prefer a website as well, though writers have to be a bit more creative in concept until they have a book published. 


Of course most people realize that in the somewhat anonymous world of social media, it can be easy to over-share. Funny story - one of our long-married clients had his FB status listed as "open-relationship" so I approached him gently and said, look, that's cool, it's your life, but maybe, you know, since this is children's lit, we just leave that blank or else lock down your FB account so it's not so public. Turns out he had no idea this was selected and received many an enthusiastic congratulations when he corrected the setting to "Married"!


What do you look for in evaluating picture books? What is your taste? What are your favorite PBs?


First and foremost, a story that will interest a child, not a story that an adult wants to tell to a child. 


I love humor but I also love heartwarming. 


Generally rhyming isn't for me. 


I love when a story that's been told a million times in a million different ways surprises me. 


Too many favorites so I'll just pick one classic from my youth - CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS by Judi and Ronald Barrett. If you haven't read it; it's not the movie. 


What genres do you represent, and do you prefer to see one over another?


While Paul represents almost exclusively picture book and graphic novel author/illustrators and illustrators, generally taking on established authors and illustrators, I'm on the lookout for author/illustrators as well as MG and YA authors.  


What are some of your personal dos and don’ts for those writers trying to get an agent?


DO: Your research - read submission guidelines for each agency to which you submit - look on FB pages and agency websites.


DON'T: Assume every agency's guidelines are the same.



DO: Find an agent's name to put at the top of your email but indicate if you're willing to have other agents within in the agency review your sub.


DON'T: Submit without knowing what type of work the agency represents (I can't tell you how many adult submissions we receive!)



DO: Have a friend/spouse/child proof your email and turn on spellcheck! And DO remember to update the agency name if you've included it in the body of the email.


DON'T: (This one might upset a few people, but hear me out.) Tell me in your query that your child inspired you to write this ms. I realize Judith Viorst's son inspired her to write ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. And it's awesome (I read it 1 million times, according to my mother and pbs were a LOT longer back then!) And lots of people are inspired to write wonderful books because of their children. 


However, you have limited space in a query, and I personally don't feel that having a child uniquely qualifies a person to write a great ms; so leave it out! Tell me about your qualifications in terms of field(s) of study, occupation, how long you've been writing, whether you participate in SCBWI, awards, other books published, etc. 


I'm looking first and foremost for someone who has made writing a priority and has usually cranked out lots of crummy mss along with some fairly awesome stuff over a number years of hard work. Later, when we know each other, we'll happily chat about how your child(ren) inspired you to become a writer.


What are the best and worst parts of being an agent?


Worsts:

  • Only being able to fit a certain amount of reading into each day and wishing I had more time to read and review submissions.
  • Seeing my clients cope with the waiting (oh the patience necessary in this field!) and the "rejection"; although there's also a satisfaction to knowing a client is growing and accepting that it's not personal when a project just isn't right for a particular editor. And of course, having the context of rejection makes a project being acquired that much sweeter - that's a "BEST."
  • When an editor who really wants to acquire your client's ms loses in auction; calling that person to tell them they didn't get it. Not a fan.
Bests:

Absolutely everything else:

  • My amazingly awesome clients.
  • Brilliant editors who help make the work the best it can be.
  • The children's publishing community, which I've found to be fantastically tight-knit. There's so much collaboration and promotion of their colleagues' work on a daily basis.
  • Seeing a book in print for the first time, when it began as a spark of an idea in your client's mind.


Can you explain how your author/agent relationship works?


My overarching approach is that my client and I are partners in their publishing career. I believe my role as an agent is to be what my client needs me to be, for them. I tend toward being very hands on, but I represent some clients who have been doing this on their own for years and don't need me to walk them through each step. 


All of my clients run story ideas by me of course, and Paul and I each review every client ms that comes in the door, then we discuss our thoughts and provide feedback. 


Beyond that we strive to make all of our clients feel that they are part of the RLM team. Being a writer/illustrator can be lonely - not everyone has a multi-person art studio to go to each day - so, I encourage my clients to "friend" each other on FB, to reach out to their colleagues and ask about watercolors and paper, to join writing groups. And, of course, it's always nice to get the group together over a glass of wine.


What’s your best piece of advice for writers?


(Just one?!) Write as frequently as possible - every day if you can - and don't wait for ideal conditions and don't expect every word to be revolutionary - some days are all about the delete key. 


Join a writer's group with brutally honest, (but constructively so) members. 


And read everything you can get your hands on in the genre/age range you want to publish.


Thanks much for your interest and happy creating! 



Thank you so much for the interview, Lori!



Find out more about Rodeen Literary Management by following their Facebook page, Twitter feed (@RodeenLiterary) or website, Rodeenliterary.com (where submission guidelines are found).

Giveaway: If you have a completed PB or MG manuscript, you may enter this giveaway. If you win, you will be invited to submit your completed PB or the first 10 pages of your MG manuscript with a pitch summary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

231 comments:

  1. Wow, another great giveaway, thanks Kidlit411 and thanks Lori Kilkelly!

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  2. Thank you for an great interview, Lori and Sylvia! Very informative and inspiring!

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    1. Elaine was the interviewer here. Thanks to both Lori & Elaine!

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    2. Thanks, Donna and Elaine! (And you too, Sylvia!)

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  3. Wonderful opportunity! Thanks Kidlit 411 and Happy Birthday

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  4. What a way to end the party! Here's to another great KIDLIT411 year.

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    1. I prefer cocktails to end a party, but maybe virtually? ;)

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  5. Thank you so much, Lori! A fabulous interview and a fabulous prize!! Thank you!!

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    1. You're too sweet, Elaine - thank you for all the great questions! xo

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    2. Well, you're a piece of cake to work with! xo ;)

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  6. What a great blog post! I can't believe I have just discovered Kidlit411. I guess it is better late than never, right?

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    1. Aren't Elaine and Sylvia wonderful!! Always better late than never!

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  7. Wow - great post and great advice. Thank you!

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    1. So nice of you to say! Happy creating!

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  8. Thanks for the helpful advice Lori! Also, a big thanks to Elaine and Sylvia for all of the celebratory goodies! Happy Birthday!🎂

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Jodi. Thanks!

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  9. Love a Dos and Don'ts list! (Though honestly, I always think Dos looks wrong, don't you?)

    Thanks for a great birthday party!

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    1. I always worry "don'ts" seem so negative, so glad they were helpful.
      And, yes, every inch of me wants to add an apostrophe. Except the editor in me; she's all, DON'T DO IT!

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  10. What a terrific way to end your Birthday Bash! Thank you Kidlit411 for an amazing three day party!

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  11. Great interview and another fantastic giveaway! Thank you!

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  12. Good advice and interesting insights. Thanks.

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  13. She had me at "my client and I are partners in their publishing career". Sadly, that can be hard to find in an agent.

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    1. While every client/agent relationship is unique, I believe it's of the utmost importance that the two parties share a common vision for the client's career. Best wishes and thank you for reading!

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  14. This interview is great! Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Great interview, thanks for the honest advice!

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    1. Er, maybe to a fault? ;) Glad you enjoyed it, Caroline!

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  16. Great article, thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for reading!

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  17. I've been eying her for a while. Thanks for the opportunity!

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    1. Er, should I be worried, Niki? ;) hehe, I jest. Glad to hear RLM caught your eye!

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  18. Wow, great post! So glad a friend directed me to this site. :D

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    1. Sylvia and Elaine post so many awesome interviews; I'm honored to be among them. Thanks, Katy!

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  19. I appreciate the opportunity KidLit 411 and Lori are giving to a lucky writer. THANKS!

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  20. Great advice and great prize!

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  21. Great interview! I appreciate all the information on Lori Kilkelly and Rodeen Literary.

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  22. Thanks for the great interview! I especially liked the part about appreciating each client's uniqueness.

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  23. Great interview! Thanks KidLit and Lori Kilkelly.

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  24. Great interview. Lots of info to digest!

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    1. And Elaine and Sylvia give everyone such great info to consider in their publishing journeys. Best wishes!

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  25. Good advice - made me check my Facebook account marital status right away - whew - it says I'm married!

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    1. Hahaha - it was such a funny situation! Glad to hear you're happily Facebook married!

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  26. This was a wonderful interview! Thank you! One question: Does creative non-fiction count as non-fiction? (A piece of driftwood narrating its fictitious life?)

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    1. Hi Jill, I will ask Lori to answer you to be sure, but I'm pretty sure they are two different things. non fiction (think Common Core and books such as Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter ) are strictly factual, and in creative non fiction, a book such as Mac Barnett's, President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath is factual but with elements of non fiction.

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    2. Thank you, Elaine! That is helpful! But I'll wait and see what Lori answers.

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    3. Well, in terms of, 'is it the same thing?' Elaine is correct - it's not. But in terms of what I'm looking for at the moment, I'd prefer to see straight fiction. Thanks for your inquiry and interest!

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    4. Thank you, Lori! Everything else I write is in rhyme.

      I really enjoyed your interview. You offered a lot of great information! Thank you so much!

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    5. Ah, yes. Rhyming is tricky! Some editors love it and there are those who don't. I often feel the rhyming drives the story rather than the story driving the story, so, generally it's not for me. If you haven't already, you might find these links to be helpful resources: https://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fangiekarcher.wordpress.com%2Fthe-2014-rhypibomo-calendar%2F&h=iAQHDTva6
      http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmonthofpoetry.wordpress.com%2F&h=nAQEbW2iL
      http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kidlit411.com%2F2014%2F01%2Fkidlit411-writing-challenges.html&h=OAQForqc6

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    6. I'm not sure why the link isn't working, but just copy and paste and you should be all set. :)

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  27. Thank you Kidlit411 and Lori Kilkelly for sharing such helpful advice and encouragement. :)

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    1. Delighted you feel encouraged! Thanks, Rene!

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  28. Fantastic interview - wonderful advice. Thanks, Lori, for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Debra, for reading! So glad you found it helpful.

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  29. Great advice and a fantastic giveaway!

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Sian!

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  30. Loved the interview. It was very helpful.

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  31. I appreciate that you embrace and understand the writer's journey. Your advice is reassuring. I'll admit I've written some "crummy stuff" only I thought the stories were "clever" and "revolutionary" (you get the idea) and realized the reality of the writing once I was further along in the writing process. Ahhh... the agony and beauty of learning and growing.

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    1. Every single published author has written crummy stuff and will tell you they write crummy stuff long after bestsellers and starred reviews. It's part of the process! Create On, April!

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  32. Great interview with lots of fun info. Thanks!
    Valarie Giogas

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    1. As Elf would say, I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite! Thanks, Valarie!

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  33. Wonderful interview. Thank you for sharing your insights!

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    1. Glad it was helpful, Joan. Thanks!

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  34. What a great interview! Fingers and toes crossed. :)

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    1. GR - My clients and I like to cross our names when we're wishing hard from something. I'm RiLo. :)

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  35. My friend Lori Richmond recently signed with Lori Kilkelly. What a great opportunity!

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    1. Meg, so lovely to e-meet a friend of LR's. She's a superstar and is going to completely blow up - I can't wait to see her first books pub'ed in 2016! Thanks for reading!

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  36. Fabulous interview - and opportunity! Thanks so much! - and happy birthday again!!

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  37. Thanks for this interview and opportunity!

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  38. Replies
    1. Happy you found it helpful, Joy!

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  39. Thanks Lori! It's good to get to know you better.

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    1. Hi Gail! We need to chat about SCBWI and AZ. I'll be in touch.

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  40. ~ Happy Birthday, Kidlit 411 ~
    once again. And thanks to Lori. What a great opportunity.

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    1. Hi Tracey, great to see you here! Thanks for reading!

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  41. Thank you for this informative interview. It's good to know that some agents are interested in authors who have a track record.

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  42. Replies
    1. Delighted you found it informative! Thanks, Michelle!

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  43. Thanks for this opportunity! I write both MG and YA.

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    1. Great to hear! Thanks for reading the post, Marianne!

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  44. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by to check out the interview, AJ!

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  45. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and time with us! Wonderful opportunity and great prize!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my (long!) interview, Kelly!

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  46. Great interview with a lot of good information!

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  47. Thank you for sharing information about your process as an agent. Your passion comes through!

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    1. I'm so glad it does, Carrie; I really love what I do!

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  48. great post - thanks for being so candid!

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    1. I do tend to put it all out there. ;) Thanks, Sue!

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  49. Lori sounds wonderful. Thanks for this.

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    1. Well thanks, Rena! You guys all sound wonderful - so kind!

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  50. This is a really insightful interview, thanks so much for 'pulling back the curtain' and sharing!

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    1. Happy to do it; glad you found it insightful!

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  51. Great interview! I really appreciate it when agents can let us into their world.

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    1. Think of it as your world too, Robin - you're a writer (or illustrator) right? The kidlit community is darn warm and welcoming! :D

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  52. What an exciting opportunity for someone like myself who has been actively searching for an agent for a while :0) Thanks for sharing your story and giving us an inside peek and the knowledge that agents are real people just like everyone else!

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  53. Love this interview! Love Lori! Thanks for the peek at a wonderful agent, Kidlit411.

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    1. Beth, you're such a dear. Thanks for reading!

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  54. Love reading about an agent who wants to work with an author in whatever way they need. Kudo's to Lori for being sensitive to her clients. Thanks for the interview and Happy Birthday!

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    1. Thanks much for reading, Leslie!

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  55. Great interview Lori and Elaine! I adore Lori's passion for her clients and her charm!

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  56. Great post. Loved reading all about Lori.

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  57. Great prize, Kidlit411ers! Thanks for this bday bash! Y'all are the best!

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  58. Dear Elaine, Each day is more summit, more swirl in the cappucino, more jingle in the jangle.
    B R A V A to you and Team KidLit411 with applause on top.

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    1. Jan, you're a doll! Thank you so much, the team and I work very hard and we appreciate the love!

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  59. p.s. special loud long hand clap to LHK! didn't know of this agency - sounds spiffy.

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    1. Jan - So excited to introduce you to RLM! Check out our FB page, if you like; it's where we spend most of our online time: www.facebook.com/rodeenliterary.

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  60. What a wonderful interview! Great to learn more about agents and Lori in particular!

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  61. One of the better agent interviews I've read! Thanks to Lori and KL411 for making this happen!

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    1. Hi Julie! My client, Liza, was positively glowing about your work the other day! Thanks for checking out my interview!

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    2. Thanks for sharing that, Lori. Always nice to hear such a lovely compliment!

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  62. Great interview! I loved learning more about Lori!

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    1. Now if only I had enough hours to learn more about ALL of you! Thanks, Alena!

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  63. Thank you for this terrific interview!

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  64. Thanks for an insightful interview with an agent whose dedicated to her profession and her clients. Cheers!

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  65. Excellent interview - great information!

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  66. Thank you for this informative interview. To have a professional partner to develop you skill as a writer would be invaluable. How do you feel about representing international clients Lori?

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    1. Thank you for checking it out! Because we're a boutique agency, it can be trickier for us to represent international clients. We do accept submissions from international clients, but at this point, we don't have any on our roster. I do believe this will change in the future.

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    2. Thanks Lori. I will keep an eye out on your webpage. Regards, Melanie Hill

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  67. Thank you for the wonderfully, informative interview. I enjoy learning about agents and agency's. RLM sounds like what I am looking for, someone to help me grow my career!

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    1. Thanks for saying so, Anita! Write on!

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  68. Thank you all so much for your lovely comments and for taking the time to read my really long-winded interview. You're too kind. Best wishes in the raffle and with your careers in publishing! Please visit www.facebook.com/rodeenliterary and certainly "like" us if you enjoy following the kidlit community. All best! Lori

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  69. Great interview, advice and fantastic prize - thanks!

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  70. Thanks for the informative interview! It's nice to know about a great agency.

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  71. Very interesting interview and another very generous prize!

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  72. Great interview! Thanks, Lori, for all the tips on submitting to you.

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  73. KidLIt 411 is quickly becoming my favorite blog.

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  74. This interview is informative. Thank you for the submission opportunity.

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  75. A very personal and detailed interview. Thanks to both the interviewer and subject!

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  76. THank you for the very informative and helpful tips.

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  77. Thank you very generous. I love the support in this writing community. Looks like we are all working on the same page "Giving children excellent picture books".

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  78. Thanks so much. Great interview and a wonderful opportunity.

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  79. What a great interview! Thanks for this opportunity :)

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  80. I loved your heartfelt answers, Lori. It is so nice to hear from the other side of the desk. :) Thanks

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  81. Great information about Lori. And an incredible prize as well. I'm heading over to like her Facebook page. Thanks KidLit411!

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  82. Even if I don't win the prize, I feel like I've won some insightful information. :)

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  83. Want to win, but loved the article as well.

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  84. Thanks for all the helpful information.

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  85. This is great advice, Lori! I love that you recognized your need for a career change and followed your heart to the KidLit world. Thanks for taking time to share with us!

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  86. Wow. Very well put. This has been said many times but I love the way you've stated it.

    "Write as frequently as possible - every day if you can - and don't wait for ideal conditions and don't expect every word to be revolutionary - some days are all about the delete key."

    Never be afraid of the delete key.

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  87. fabulous interview. Thanks Lori for the insight into agent/author relationships. Having a change of career can be so wonderful and it seems your change has been very positive for you. Congratulations and well done.

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  88. This was a fantastic interview. It was informative and fun to read. I enjoyed learning more of the agent's perspective. Thank you for the interview, and for the prize.

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  89. Thanks for the great interview and this wonderful opportunity!

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  90. Wow - love the in-depth response from Lori. It's always great to get to know an agent better when considering whether to query them. Thanks, everyone!

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  91. Great post. Thank you for such real answers, so helpful.

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  92. Really great post and interview. Thanks for the wonderful information and for the chance to win!

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  93. 411 - You're on fire with your 'giveaways' this week! Happy Birthday.

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  94. Love Lori's advice to "Join a writer's group with brutally honest, (but constructively so) members." Such an important component to developing one's skill and honing the ear for perfect prose! TY

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  95. Thank you for being willing to raise someone from the slush pile, lol. Hopefully, everyone's work will shine anyway. :D

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  96. What a great way to kick off 2015! Excellent advice, but difficult to find writers' groups with brutally honest members.

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  97. Love -- "some days are all about the delete key."

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  98. Fantastic interview Elaine and Lori! I love the advice to write even if it's not brilliant...

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  99. Great interview -- Lori is my friend Kate Berube's agent and I have heard only wonderful things about her.

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  100. Excellent interview! Thanks so much for sharing with us AND for offering a fab giveaway!!

    Rosemond
    www.bighairandbooks.blogspot.com

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  101. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. Kidlit411 is amazing!!!

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  102. This is a great giveaway - thanks for doing this!

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  103. Huge thank you for sharing this. Good luck to everyone!

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  104. Great to learn about your process, Lori - thank you!

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  105. Thank you, Lori and Happy Birthday Kidlit411!

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  106. Another wonderful opportunity brought to help fellow writers!

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