Carrie Howland joined Empire Literary after eleven years as an agent at Donadio & Olson, Inc. She represents young adult, middle grade, and select picture book authors. Carrie’s background is in poetry, so beautiful language is one of the first things she looks for in any project. Also important are a strong voice and great story, which she’s looking for across genres. Carrie is a member of the AAR as well as SCBWI. She holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Albion College. In her spare time, Carrie volunteers as a foster for a local dog rescue and with deployed military men and women through an organization called Soldiers’ Angels. She is an active volunteer and member of the New York Junior League, through which she teaches a third grade art class once a week, as well as a member of the executive board of the New York City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Gamma. You can follow Carrie on twitter at @ecarriehowland or visit www.empireliterary.com for more information.
What led you to childrens' book publishing and becoming an agent? I actually began my academic life at a Math & Science Center (now called a STEM school for all you post-nineties kids!), which sent me to college on a scholarship for Biology, Environmental Studies, and Pre-Medicine. Little did I know, a Creative Writing 101 class I signed up for on a whim, the semester I was taking Organic Chemistry, would change my life forever! I actually thought O-Chem was a breeze, but writing—WOW that was difficult! There was something to it that just kept pulling me back for more. I eventually switched my major to Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry (yes, poetry!) and during my first semester of my senior year, moved to NYC to begin an internship at this thing called a literary agency. I had no idea what that meant, but three months later, I knew it was what I was meant to do. A few days after graduation, I moved back to New York from Michigan, landed a job at that same agency, and have been doing it ever since! (Twelve years now!) I wanted to work in children’s literature specifically because of the books that influenced me not only as a child (Are You There, Judy Blume?) but the contemporary writers who shook me even as an adult (Laurie Halse Anderson: thank you, thank you, thank you). There really is no greater job than to help foster the next generation of readers. I am so blessed every single day that I get to help do just that.
When you read a submission, what keeps you turning the pages? Voice, voice, voice! Strong voice pulls me in, and keeps me reading! If I find a voice I love, I will follow that character anywhere. I truly believe that we, as an agent-author team can fix things like plot issues, we can work on character development, but voice is something I can’t teach you. You have to find your character’s voice, develop it, listen to it, nurture it, and your story will shine.
When you offer representation to an author, what can they expect from you? I’m an incredibly editorial agent (Just ask my clients! They absolutely love all the revisions I ask them to do! Right, guys?). This means I really am looking for authors who are interested in a partnership. When I call to offer to represent you, I’m really saying “Let’s do this thing, together, for as long as we both shall live.” I like to say I represent careers, not books, so whether we are working on your manuscript, building your platform via social media, or just having a chat about how awesome our dogs are, it’s all about finding that connection and building a relationship. Of course representing an author begins with the work, that’s what draws me in, but there’s so much beyond that. Find an agent who you can really see yourself being with long-term. Your work, and career, will be better for it!
What's on your manuscript wish list? I would love a great young adult thriller. Think Gillian Flynn for teens. I’m also always looking for a great middle grade ghost story. One of my early favorite authors was (and still is!) John Bellairs, who wrote The House with a Clock in its Walls, and I’ve loved a good scary story ever since! (Fun fact: John Bellairs is from my tiny hometown of Marshall, MI and his stories are all based on a fictionalized version of the town). While I love an adventure book, I’m also always looking for a poignant story, whether it’s middle grade or YA. I’m not afraid of tough issue books in YA, or a MG which deals with the loss of a sibling. I think kids are really looking for books they can escape in or relate to, and it’s our jobs as members of the children’s book community to provide those stories.
If you think your manuscript is a fit for Carrie, send her a query letter and the first 20 pages of your manuscript (or full mss. for picture book) to firstname.lastname@example.org