SCBWI Exclusive with... Trinica Sampson-Vera

Trinica Sampson-Vera (they/she) is a literary associate at New Leaf Literary & Media. She is passionate about championing diverse voices and particularly loves speculative fiction; adventurous, character-driven stories with largely emotional stakes; stories featuring Caribbean characters/settings; and stories where queer characters find happy endings. Trinica studied Creative Writing and French at Antioch College. Before she joined New Leaf, Trinica worked as an independent editor with Salt & Sage Books and Writing Diversely.


What was your path to becoming an agent?

I had a very roundabout path to agenting! I knew I wanted to work in publishing from a pretty young age, though I always expected to work on the editorial side after several editorial internships in college. After graduating, I joined AmeriCorps and found myself in social services, where I worked for five years as a Program Manager with those experiencing chronic homelessness. I kept a toe in the publishing world as I worked with Salt & Sage Books and Writing Diversely during that time, and I participated in the POC in Publishing mentorship program with Jes Negrón. I knew I didn't want to move to New York, so I was very excited when I saw the opening at New Leaf and the possibility to work remotely. I've been at New Leaf for two years now and love that I get to have the best of both worlds—the editorial aspect of helping authors get ready for submission, and the advocacy aspect that appealed to me in social work! 

What elements does a manuscript need to have for you to consider representing an author?

First, I need to see a gap in the marketplace and a strong hook. When I'm considering queries, I ask myself whether a project is doing something new (sometimes that means telling stories we've seen but from a new perspective!) and whether I can pitch what makes it exciting in just a few sentences. The voice is the most important aspect to me, but in addition, I want to see high stakes (emotional or world-ending stakes both apply), solid world-building, and clear character arcs . . . or the potential to achieve these things! It's also always a bonus if a story can make me laugh out loud or cry. 

How do you work with your clients?

My approach is always passion + strategy, because you need both to succeed in publishing! Advocacy and education is really important to me; the publishing industry can be needlessly opaque, so I try to make sure that clients understand not just that something is happening, but why it's happening. I'm working with clients not just for a single book but for an entire career, so after the first book is sold, I have a strategy meeting where we go over long-term career planning. I'm very hands-on and love to really dig in to edits and development of new projects!

What's on your manuscript wish list?

I would love to see more queer, trans, and/or BIPOC stories across genres. My updated manuscript wishlist is here, but some specific asks that I'm looking for at the moment are: New Adult dark academia; lovers to enemies and/or messy tragic romances; reality TV premises (my favorite is Survivor!); lesbians with swords; and genre-blending horror and fantasy. 

If your manuscript is a match for Trinica, SCBWI members can query the month of March: