Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Jamie Weiss Chilton

Wrapping up our terrific SCBWI TEAM BLOG conference faculty interviews is my chat with former SCBWI staffer turned agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton. Jamie represents children's books exclusively as part of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency team, specializing in teen novels and picture books. (See her bio on the agency website and her interview below for more info on what she's looking for.)

Before agenting and working at SCBWI, Jamie interned at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and held editorial positions at both Bantam Delacorte Dell and Knopf & Crown Books for Young Readers. Here she talks about nonfiction, Lady Gaga, critiques and more.

All you conference-goers will see her in LA this weekend at the 40th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference! (Don't forget to visit the conference blog for the play-by-play.)

At the Annual Summer Conference you're offering a session called "The Current Marketplace for Nonfiction." Why did you choose this topic? What will conference-goers learn from this session?

Nonfiction is a wonderful genre, one that can have all the power of fiction with the added kick of "I can't believe that really happened!" It's inspiring, shocking, riveting, touching, and entertaining. I'm excited to be presenting a general survey of the nonfiction market, from picture books through YA.

Your bio on says you're looking for "the Lady Gaga of YA fiction." I'm assuming that doesn't mean you'll be on the lookout for the most outrageous outfit at the poolside pajama party. Would you explain this for my readers?

I love the way Lady Gaga has captured the imaginations of and inspired a huge number of people of all ages. To me she exemplifies a new, unique voice taking artistic risks, who has attracted a broad and dedicated fan base. She has reinvented the pop star genre, and I'm looking for writers who do the same in their respective genres.

Are you open to taking on new clients? Is there any particular area you're most interested in currently?

Yes, I am looking to take on new clients, especially of the Lady Gaga sort. I'm open to all genres and am particularly looking for YA at the moment.

You're offering manuscript critiques at the conference. What's you advice on getting the most out of a critique meeting.

I love the way the critiques are run at this conference; I think the setup helps writers and illustrators get the most out of their one-on-one meetings. For those new to critique, I recommend Linda Sue Park's great article The Give and Take of Critique, which is available to members on the SCBWI website.

To get the most out of your summer conference critique, come prepared to listen to your critiquer's advice. That doesn't mean you have to agree with everything, or make all the suggested changes (or even any of them!) but you will get the most out of your session if you approach it with an open mind.

You're a former SCBWI staff member. What was it like attending the Summer Conference for the first time as an agent instead of the conference director?

It was a strange feeling! I had the overwhelming urge to help and had to keep reminding myself that wasn't my job anymore. It's such a pleasure to attend the conference as a faculty member. The SCBWI staffers, TEAM BLOG, all the RA's and the bookstore staffers do a ton of work behind the scenes to make sure the conference runs smoothly. For me, being at the conference from the other side of the desk is kind of like a vacation, albeit a working vacation. : )

Would you please offer some advice (or do's and don'ts) for writers and illustrators interacting with agents in a conference setting?

Do introduce yourself and tell the agent (or editor) about your manuscript. We're at the conference to meet you! Don't hand the agent or editor any materials. We have a lot to keep track of and pack, and most of us prefer electronic submissions (ABLA is an all-electronic agency, as far as submissions are concerned.) And remember that we have a lot of people to meet and talk with, so please be understanding when we need to move along and meet other people. For that reason, have your short, concise pitch at the ready (and it can be really, really simple, like "My YA is The Omen meets The Pink Panther." (I have no idea what kind of book this would be--a strange one--just throwing it out there as an example.)


Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

Love this! great insight!
You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: Powerful Woman Writer Award for all the hard work you do!

Go to and pick up your award.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thank you, Alice and Jamie - great interview!

Anonymous said...

Great interview, wish I could be at the conference but not this year.

kmckendry said...

Thanks for all the great info! Sounds like it will be a great conference. Wish I could be there too.