Why I’m a Kidlit Agent

February 8, 2016

Working in children’s literature is a different kind of business. Everyone who is in it just wants to publish great books for kids and inspire a love of reading. It’s a brilliant place to be.

How did I get here?

It was a publishing cabaret and after the show, in which I had a very small, but treasured role, my boss and I started talking kidlit. He’d sold every children’s project he’d ever worked on—Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s award-winning graphic novel SKIM, as well as Christine Walde’s The Candy Darlings—and he wanted to expand with the new wave of young adult franchises heralded by The Twilight Saga. He intended to import someone. But the more we talked, the more he learned about my love of children’s literature—my sizeable personal collection, the books I wouldn’t have survived childhood without, the stories that are yet to exist that I wanted to read. A deal was struck: he’d mentor me. That was seven years ago.

I was never a writer myself, aside from some parroted attempts in grade school (largely ghost stories, based on the Scary Stories series), but I always loved the idea of lifting up the work of others. It’s why I became an agent: to see dazzling manuscripts into publication and onto shelves. I remember the first of my books hitting stores. What it felt like to hold them, pick them up and fan the pages, complete and resplendent. I took pictures—lots. And it hasn’t been any different for the titles that have followed, and are yet to come. I’m overwhelmingly happy with the small part I’ve played in these books finding readers.

As a kid I lived in the worlds of Lucy Maud Montgommery, Christopher Pike, and Francine Pascal. The landscape is so different now—more diverse and vast. I often wonder how this new terrain might have informed my youth—made me more knowledgeable, comfortable, safe, and happy. There’s such a wealth of children’s literature out there. And many more writers that deserve to become authors.

I believe that the experience of reading can save a life, perhaps the world. Literacy can mean peace. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

My mandate is to work on books that kids want to read. If you have burning suggestions for future blog posts, hit me up on Twitter. Oh, and keep saving the world.

Many thanks,
Ali