Q: What makes you offer representation to a project and its creator?
A: When I’m reading a manuscript (or reviewing an illustrator's portfolio), in my head I’m thinking about building connections: with the editor who will buy and champion this work; with the publishing team who will bring it to life and send it out into the world as a book; with the teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other professional book mavens who will put it into exactly the right hands—and most of all, I’m thinking about the readers whose lives will be entertained, improved, challenged, informed, or delighted by it. The stronger those connections, the more likely a book will live on for years to come. If I can visualize exactly how to form that web of connections around a book and its creator while I’m reading an early draft or reviewing sketches/art samples, then it’s a fantastic signal that I also know how to help that author or artist build their way into a meaningful, and potentially lucrative, career.
Q: Does having worked as an editor/in marketing/at a tech start-up help you as an agent?
A: Absolutely! Indubitably! Yes, every single day! Working inside major publishing houses for nearly a dozen years means that I understand the why behind many of the requests that a publishing team makes, and can help authors and illustrators work with their editor and publisher in the most meaningful ways possible. My years in Marketing gave me a deep awareness of the relationship between audience and market success; strong connections with publishing tastemakers across the country; and an understanding of the many different avenues to success that exist for authors and illustrators. Being an Editor taught me how to advocate as a book and author's first champion in-house (and out in the wider book-loving world), which correlates directly to the work I do as an agent. It also taught me the importance of strong and honest communication with authors, and the incredible creative thrill that comes from bookmaking and the love of stories that drives all of those working in or near publishing. And most recently, working for a start-up made me a more nimble, flexible thinker; a person of broader interests and fascinations; and perhaps most importantly, made me fearless about the future of storytelling.
Q: What were some of the books you acquired/edited at HarperCollins?
A: I worked with many talented debut authors and illustrators while at HarperCollins, and am especially proud to have edited creative powerhouses like Veronica Roth, S. J. Kincaid, Bobbie Pyron, Bryan Bliss, Molly B. Burnham, Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Sarah Jane Wright, and Hilary T. Smith. I remain an enormous fan of each of these talented creators, and hope that their books will live forever!
Q: What books on writing and the creative life do you recommend to readers?
A: A few of my favorites are 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden; Walking on Water by Madeline L'Engle; Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orlando; Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine; and How to Tell a Story by Daniel Nayeri.
Q: I'm a conference organizer looking for faculty. Are you available as a speaker?
A: Yes, please be in touch via Twitter or email. I can't attend every writing conference I'm invited to, but I very much enjoy meeting authors and artists in-person, and speaking to creatives about the business of publishing and the craft of writing. Send me the details of your event (please make it clear in the subject line that it's a conference invitation so I can respond ASAP) and we'll see if we can make it work.
Q: Didn't you blog as an editor? Can I still find those posts archived online if I want to learn more about you?
A: Yes, my editorial blog was Ten Block Walk. (Note: it hasn't been updated in quite a few years, though, so it's quite possible that you'll find broken links or missing images.) If you want to learn more about my tastes, and writers I've enjoyed working with in the past, you might particularly enjoy the posts tagged "Editorial Love Story."
Q: Are you the same Molly O'Neill who is a cookbook author and the former New York Times food editor?
A: Nope, you can find her over here. (But as doppelgangers go, she's pretty awesome.)
Q: Who designed your blog header? Is it a font I can use?
A: Designer Courtney Shelton | HIBRID created it, and it's her own handlettering. (She's great, and available for commissions and custom projects.)
Q: Wait! I have a question that you haven't answered here!
A: Try sending it my way on Twitter, and I may reply there. (Note: I don't take pitches via Twitter or any other social media. Follow these guidelines to submit.) Also please note that the more broadly you frame your question--i.e, the more likely that my answering it will be useful to many writers, rather than just one--the more likely it is to get an answer.