Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Exclusive with… Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Agent, Birch Path Literary


Alyssa Eisner Henkin founded Birch Path Literary, a full-service literary agency, in January of 2021 after more than twenty years in publishing. A proud English major alumna of the University of Pennsylvania ‘98, Alyssa was an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for seven years before joining Trident Media Group as an agent in late 2006. She represents a multi-award-winning stable of authors, including Ruth Behar, Julie Berry, Jen Bryant, Lisa Greenwald, and R.J. Palacio, among many others. Alyssa is actively seeking kidlit of all kinds as well as select fiction and nonfiction for grown-up readers. In all genres, Alyssa is passionate about heartfelt storytelling and fresh underrepresented perspectives and concepts. She loves quirky characters, settings rich with ethnic flavors and hints of magic, and retro art. In her leisure time, she enjoys pairing audio books with long walks, seasonally flavored coffee and cultural outings with her family and friends.


What was your path to becoming an agent?

I began my career in editorial at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. I loved everything about the job, from my wise colleagues to the craft of editing, to learning how to pitch books to sales and marketing. But over time, it became clear to me that collaborating on book ideas with my talented authors and illustrators and advocating for their rights was my favorite part of the job. I spoke to several industry colleagues and quickly realized that agenting was even better suited to my entrepreneurial mentality. Eventually, Trident Media Group posted a job seeking an agent for kidlit. I got the job, and the rest is history! I am beyond grateful that I made the switch. But I am also so fortunate to have spent several years honing my editing skills and learning the inner-workings of a publisher. Both have provided valuable insights into my role as an agent and now a new business owner.


What are the components a manuscript needs to have to make you fight to represent the author? 

Above all, I need to connect deeply with the characters. The caliber of storytelling, as well as the pitch itself, must stand out from the crowds. I am often intrigued by innovation of some kind, narrative devices that I haven’t seen much before, or classic tropes brilliantly reimagined.


Once you sign a client, what can they expect from you? How do you work with them?

 Once the client and I establish a connection and decide to work together, I will help polish the project with edits, research the right editors, craft a memorable pitch, and advocate for deal points at the contract stage, and then advocate some more for marketing, foreign, and film placement pre-publication and beyond. Frequent client communication is encouraged at every juncture. I love prompt, candid, and empowering goal setting and strategy talk!



What’s on your manuscript wish list?


Currently, I’m looking for more author/illustrators, especially in the picture book and young graphic novel/early-reader space. Here I love feistiness, food, and feel-goods. The more puns, the better! I also want more YA novels and crossover romcoms where the settings are so palpable, they feel like characters themselves, and where underrepresented perspectives reign. I relate to smart, complicated characters: the activists, the slam poets, the coders, the neurodiverse, the brave body-positive, and the “quiet” ones who actually have lots to say. In MG, I often gravitate to humor, social justice, school settings, and family secrets. I champion the hard truth conversation-starting stories, as well the whimsical ones brimming with magic and ethnic flavors. History and nonfiction for all ages is my jam. I love cinematic NF projects that leave me fervently googling the origins.


SCBWI members can submit to Alyssa for the month of July if your manuscript matches her wish list.