Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Jen Newens of Martin Literary Management

Jen Newens is a Senior Literary Agent at Martin Literary Management.

She specializes in kidlit (many kinds, including graphic novels), as well as food & drink books for adults.

At different phases of her publishing career, Jen has been an author, editor, and publisher, giving her experience in all sides of the business. She comes to us after a seven-year stint as publishing director at West Margin Press, an Ingram Content Group company. There, she acquired a wide range of different genres, but holds a special place in her heart for young people’s literature. She began to acquire graphic novels in 2019 and sees it as an exciting and burgeoning way to tell children’s stories.

A subject matter expert in food and drink titles, Jen spent two decades as a cookbook editor and writer (she even went to culinary school!). She’s experienced in working with celebrity chefs, business owners, cooking brands, and food bloggers, as well as accomplished home cooks.

In her role as Senior Literary Manager, Jen applies her 360-view of the publishing business to MLM, seeking out fresh, original voices and developing exciting new talent. On the children’s side, Jen is interested in picture books with sharp writing and compelling messages; MG/YA stories that resonate with the challenges faced by today’s youth; and graphic novels with quirky narration and original art. In the food and drink space, Jen is keen to find original takes on popular topics, books that reveal a riveting personal story, and books with a health and wellness slant.

The following are on Jen’s current wishlist, but she’s always open to hearing new ideas:

  • Childrens/MG/YA/Graphic Novels
  • Books that portray historically excluded voices, disability, neurodivergent characters, LGBTQ topics
  • Regional books with national crossover potential
  • Author/illustrators with strong storytelling skills and a clear vision
  • Children’s activity books
  • Quirky and humorous stories
  • Cat content (she’s crazy for cats)

In Adult Nonfiction, she seeks:

  • Cooking
  • New takes on current trends
  • Chef books (especially underrepresented groups)
  • Weeknight Cooking
  • Food Bloggers with Unique Stories
  • Drinks (mocktails and the NA lifestyle; fresh takes on wine and cocktails)
  • Health, Wellness, Diet, and Chronic Illness
  • Lifestyle topics
  • Self-help

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Shari Maurer of The Stringer Literary Agency

Shari Maurer is a literary agent with The Stringer Literary Agency.

Shari graduated from Duke University with a degree in English, and later studied Dramatic Writing at NYU. Following a stint at The Children’s Television Workshop on international productions of Sesame Street, she published both novels and nonfiction, and worked as a writer and editor. Shari has also written Parenting & Lifestyle columns for several websites. A mother of three, she lives in New York with her husband.

In fiction, she seeks:

  • Picture Books
  • Middle Grade: Contemporary, Historical, Literary and Mystery
  • YA: Contemporary, Historical, Literary, Mystery

In nonfiction, she seeks:

  • Juvenile (YA and Middle Grade)
  • Memoir
  • Narrative
  • Parenting
  • Popular Science

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Carey Blankenship-Kramer of Belcastro Agency

Carey Blankenship-Kramer is a literary agent with Belcastro Agency.

After growing up surrounded by books and people who loved to read them, Carey dreamed of bringing more books to the hands of avid readers like herself. She graduated from Berry College with a dual degree in English and Creative Writing. She later received her master’s in Writing and Digital Communications from Agnes Scott College. She has experience working with both publishing houses and literary agencies and loves her role as Junior Agent at Belcastro Agency. As an editorial agent, she loves working closely with her authors to ensure their stories come to life on the page.

While her sweet spot is horror and middle grade, Carey’s tastes are wide and varied. From mystery to fantasy to science fiction, she loves anything that can draw her in and have her rooting for the main characters. Some of her most recent favorites include Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill, How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb, The Broken Girls by Simone St. James, and Just South of Home by Karen Strong.

Outside of work and writing, you can usually find Carey spending time with her small zoo and husband, getting way too competitive on the tennis court, gardening, playing video games, or eating candy.

Specifics Across All Genres and Age Groups:

If you have a strong platform and love what you do, feel free to pitch me a concept.

Diverse stories from Ownvoices.

— HORROR. Horror, horror, horror! If you have something remotely spooky, Carey wants to see it.
Neurodiversity rep. As someone with ADHD, anxiety, and depression, neurodiversity is extremely important to Carey.
— Queer stories, especially those with happy endings.
— Quiet, coming of age stories for MG audiences, especially if the word count is on the smaller side with a twinge of magic.
— Stories with animal sidekicks / main characters / or just fluffy pals. Especially horses.
— Video game stories.
— Dragons! Or anything with mythological creatures.
— Tennis-centered books.
— Stories set in the South.

Middle Grade

— Adventure
— Contemporary
— Fantasy
— Graphic Novel
— Historical
— Horror
— Mystery
— Paranormal
— Science Fiction
— Literally everything. Carey LOVES Middle Grade.

Young Adult

— Adventure
— Contemporary
— Fantasy
— Graphic Novel
— Horror
— Mystery
— Paranormal
— Science Fiction

New Adult/Adult

— Contemporary
— Fantasy
— Horror
— Mystery
— Romance
— Science Fiction

Carey is NOT accepting

— Nonfiction
— Stories where the animals die. I’m so sorry, I am weak and cannot handle it.

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Leslie Varney of Prentis Literary

Leslie Varney is a literary agent and co-president of Prentis Literary.

She specializes in adult speculative fiction — science fiction and fantasy — for adults, young adult, and middle grade. Leslie has also established herself as a specialist in genre-bending fiction, enthusiastically representing authors whose works defy easy classification.

“It was never my plan to learn to read. In fact, I resisted it with all my five-year-old might, which was fairly significant. My favorite times were when my dad would read to me and I was afraid that when I learned to read myself, those lovely times would end. But my dad’s plan was different and his will was equal to mine. After many knock-down battles, and lots of Dick and Jane, I reluctantly learned.”

“I grew up during the mid-70s on my family’s hippie farm, situated in a small middle-class town in the Hudson Valley. This would have made me unique in any case, but the fact that we had no television was downright bizarre. While all my friends were watching re-runs of the “Brady Bunch” (again), I was re-reading “A Wizard of Earthsea” (again). Or “Watership Down”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “The Crystal Cave”, whatever was around. Luckily for me, there were always books around. And, since my dad’s favorite books tended to the fantasy and science fiction genres, my house was a fantastic playground of interesting ideas and wonderful stories. I was known as the weird kid who always had a book with her. If you couldn’t find me, I was probably hiding in Oz. Instead of doing my boring chores, I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her chores were exciting frontier adventures! There were no limits when it came to stories and there was always somewhere wonderful to visit.”

“I am pleased as punch that now I get to help authors bring new worlds, new ideas, and new magic to the literary world. I will always love the oral story-telling tradition, but my appreciation for the written work knows no bounds and I love being a part of bringing that passion to new readers. It turns out that my dad’s plan was better than mine after all.”