Wednesday, March 11, 2020

You Heard it Here First: Kelly Dyksterhouse Joins Raven Quill Literary Agency

When I heard that Kelly Dyksterhouse, a hard-working member of the SCBWI-Carolinas region, had recently become a literary agent, I asked her if she would share her journey as well as what type of books she is looking for. Take it away, Kelly! 


It’s interesting for me to look back and try to trace how I got where I am today. Upon reflecting, I have to say that it started with SCBWI. A little over 16 years ago, Donna Earnhardt hosted a Mingle for writers in Davidson, and I went, knowing no one, but knowing that I loved to write and loved kids books. From the Mingle, we formed a critique group, calling ourselves The Mudskippers after a lovely picture book manuscript by one of our members, Gay Rudisill. Though we don’t meet any more, The Mudskippers are cherished friends, and many of them have published books now, which is so exciting. (This is a plug for SCBWI, Mingles, writing friends, and critique groups, fyi). 

As I gained confidence as a writer in this group, I attended more SCBWI events. At a weekend spring retreat, the Carolinas RA at the time, Stephanie Greene, told me about the low-residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults  program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The teaching author at that retreat was Sharon Darrow, who was also on faculty at VCFA. Thanks to both Stephanie and Sharon, I went home, researched VCFA, and applied. So I started a 2 year program of intense study that consisted of reading and annotating hundreds of children’s books, writing and revising pages of creative work, and writing many, many critical essays and papers. All I can say is that hard work has never been so much fun.

My first semester at VCFA I also started interning for Susan Hawk, a literary agent at The Bent Agency. Thanks to Susan, I got tons of experience reading slush and full manuscripts. Susan moved to Upstart Crow Literary Agency several years ago, and I moved with her and continued to refine my editorial skills. Susan was (is) truly a stellar agent, a super kind person, and the best mentor anyone could ask for. It was while working for Susan that I learned that I got just as much of a thrill editing other people’s work as I did writing my own, and I was pretty good at it. That is also where I first met Jacqui Lipton, who was also interning for Susan. At the time, Jacqui and I talked briefly about starting our own literary agency, but for me the time was not right with my family, and she went on to work as an agent at another agency. A couple of years later, we ran back into each other and Jacqui informed me she was founding Raven Quill Literary Agency and asked me if I wanted to join her. This time, the timing seemed right, and with much encouragement from Susan and others, I took the leap! And I have to say that I am having the time of my life!

And here’s why I had to start so far back in this journey: Sharon Darrow was the author/faculty at the SCBWI retreat who first told me about VCFA. Now 12? 13? years later, Sharon also happens to be one of Raven Quill Literary Agency’s first clients, repped by Jacqui. Some people call this coincidence, but I call it Providence. I love how people circle back into your life, and I’ve learned this is not unusual in the kidlit industry. 

Now, for what I am looking for: I have a basic #MSWL on posted on twitter and on my Publisher’s Marketplace profile. I rep everything from PB to YA, with MG probably being my sweet spot. For PB’s I love the subversive plots, stories that celebrate imagination, and that have a surprise or humorous twist. For novels, I love fantasy that has a vivid world and themes that feel relevant to today. For contemporary novels, the voice has to be really unique and strong, and the characters compelling. I also have a real love for stories with ensemble casts (think The Penderwicks, The Vanderbeekers in MG, and Heist Society and Six of Crows for YA). Really, I am open to any genre as long as it is well written, carries me off into the story, and has characters I can’t forget. 

People can find me on twitter at @kellydhouse and can query me at: http://QueryMe.Online/KellyDyksterhouse




10 comments:

Theresa Milstein said...

Congratulations, Kelly!

And thanks for featuring her, Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Theresa. Thanks for stopping by.

Rosi said...

Congratulations to Kelly. That's a great story. Thanks for the post.

Young Authors Program said...

Congratulations, Kelly! That's great news.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Dorothy. Big news for the Carolinas!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Congratulations, Kelly! I loved reading your journey and I can see how hard you've worked to get to this place! All best as you take on this new venture!

Kathleen said...

Congratulations Kelly! I love reading the journey through SCBWI.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen and Joyce. Fun to write about NC folks!

KellyDHouse said...

Thank you all so much—Carol posted this while I was out of the country, and I’m just now able to catch up with things. I so appreciate Carol featuring me and all of your kind words! I’m excited for the future!

Carol Baldwin said...

It was a pleasure to host you, Kelly!

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