by Tammy Burke
We are thrilled to welcome you to this year’s GLVWG’s “Write Stuff” conference which is in its 22nd year. Your expertise both internationally and domestically makes you such a wonderful addition to our conference faculty.
Alexander Slater: Thank you! It’s an honor to be here.
So… Can you tell us what your favorite thing about being an agent is? What is your least favorite thing?
Alexander Slater: My favorite thing about being an agent is being blown away by outstanding fiction that millions of people deserve to read but haven’t yet. I truly can’t think of a least favorite thing.
How would you describe your ideal relationship between an author and yourself? What are your expectations? And what “sparks” you most when working on a project?
Alexander Slater: My ideal relationship would be one with an author who respects my time as much as I respect hers. I look for clients who are hardworking, creative, and willing to fight for their work as much as I am. I want authors who have something to say in a new and amazing away, writers who have faith, and writers who can teach me something I did not expect. What sparks me most is usually a story that insists I keep turning the pages, and language that makes my mind crackle. I am continually surprised by how many writers there are, so I’m looking for a partner who knows why her voice deserves to contribute.
Any pet peeves?
Alexander Slater: I do not seek relationships that are one sided, or that prohibit free and open communication. I’m looking to expand and promote an author’s business, and having the space and trust to do so is essential.
What elements would you say are necessary to give a book and its characters a chance to rise above the rest and be well-remembered by its readers? Do you remember what YOUR first memorable story was and why?
Alexander Slater: It seems like every book is a miracle – so many things have to go right for something to make it to publication. The elements that permit this are constantly changing; trends, style, etc., come and go, but the elements that remain necessary, to me, are truth and heart. If a book has characters that feel alive, it will be remembered and cared about. If the story connects with a reader on deep level it will stick with us. The story has to keep the reader turning the pages, not because there’s a cliffhanger in every chapter, but because the author is making us feel less alone.
How would you explain the key differences between middle grade and young adult fiction?
Alexander Slater: Age. Everything other than that falls into other sub genres, for example, dark middle grade, and “clean teen” young adult fiction.
It seems it’s not just kids reading middle grade and young adult for enjoyment. What are your thoughts about what draws such a broad readership?
Alexander Slater: I think reminiscing has a lot to do with it – escapism into the often more dramatic and formative years perhaps. I think it’s fun to read middle grade and YA, and it might be as simple as that. However, the arguments that these books aren’t or can’t be morally complex feel way too dismissive to me. We can learn a lot from all types of stories.
Out of curiosity, can you share one fly-on-the-wall item about what it’s like attending such a leading international event like Bologna’s Children Book Fair?
Alexander Slater: You feel like you’re in a hive of passion. I would sit in the Agents Centre and have conversation after conversation about contemporary literature, and what can be more thrilling than that?
I don’t know if you ever get the time but what do you like to read if you’re reading for enjoyment only?
Alexander Slater: I do try to carve out the time, and when I do it’s usually crime fiction, or southern gothic fiction, or narrative nonfiction like the work of Jon Krakauer.
And finally…what advice would you give for an aspiring writer? What about one looking for representation?
Alexander Slater: I would tell an aspiring writer to write every day. Understand the importance of community, and share your work often. If you’re looking for representation, do your research and seek out the best fit for you. And then keep writing.
Thank you again, Alex! We look forward to seeing you soon.
Alexander Slater: Thank you!
Alexander Slater joined Trident Media Group in 2010. After two years as an assistant, he spent two years as an agent representing the entire agency’s Middle Grade and Young Adult titles in the Foreign Market, attending the books fairs in Bologna, London, and Frankfurt. Alex is now building his list domestically, while keeping his focus on these areas. He has sold rights and worked such prestigious authors as R.J. Palacio, Louis Sachar, L.J. Smith, and many others.
Currently, I’m looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult projects, specifically those with original, strong, and diverse voices. I like books that work within a contemporary realistic setting and have an edge to them, with darker or dangerous themes. I have been saying recently I’m looking for Coen Brothers-esque fiction. That being said, I am also on the lookout for contemporary romance and coming-of-age in the style of Jenny Han or Rainbow Rowell. Also, cross-over appeal is ideal, since the best children’s books are rarely written for an audience of a specific age.
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).