Monthly Archives: March 2022

BWS 09.03.22 report: “Finding the Right Literary Agent for You” with emmy

emmy (they/them) holds a PhD in justice-oriented social work. In 2019, they made a lateral career move into publishing after four years as a bookseller at a local indie, and they now work as a literary agent at Westwood Creative Artists. emmy lives with their partner, a Deaf Dalmatian, and two formerly feral Maine coon cats. 

Agents and CanLit

As a literary agent with Westwood Creative Artists, I constantly get asked what it is that I do day to day, and whether or not an author needs an agent. I usually use real estate to help explain to people what it is that I do in my work as a lit agent. On a basic level, as a real estate agent can help someone sell a building, I help people sell books to publishers. If you know the real estate industry at all, or you’re like me and you watch a lot of real estate TV shows, you can think of it this way – I am a listing agent for a book, only it’s a perpetual buyers’ market out there!

Not every author in a healthy publishing ecosystem needs an agent. Some authors have the perfect skill set for self-publishing, while others have the legal and industry literacy to be able to negotiate their own contracts with reputable independent publishers, and still others write in genres or categories that don’t benefit much from literary representation. That said, if you are an author whose goal it is to be published by a large, corporate, trade publisher, your best advocate is your literary agent.

The good news for those seeking an agent is that you’re not limited by geography. No matter where you live, you can be represented by agents from anywhere in the world. That said, Canada’s literary landscape is a bit different from other markets, so no matter who you choose to represent you, make sure that they have a working knowledge of Canadian literary awards, Arts Council grant opportunities, tax structures, Public Lending Rights, and imprints. We also have great, accomplished literary agencies based in Canada, and for Canadian authors, they are a great place to start looking for the representative who might be the right fit for you. Those that are the most established include CookeMcDermid, PS Literary, Transatlantic, The Rights Factory, and the agency that I work for, Westwood Creative Artists.

There are lots of places to start researching other agents and agencies, including PACLA, the AALA, Publishers Marketplace, ManuscriptWishlist.com, workshops and conferences, Twitter pitch parties, book launches and events, through your literary networks, and podcasts (for example, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing). The most important thing is to try to seek out the agent who is the best fit for you and your process!

When you start querying, be sure to do your research and follow the specific submission guidelines for each individual agent that you reach out to. There is an expected, three-paragraph, industry standard query letter format that agents are expecting to receive, so make sure that you adhere to these expectations as much as possible. You can query multiple agents at once from different agencies, but be mindful to stay on top of your communication! If you receive an offer of representation, let everyone else who you reached out to know. If you want them to consider competing to work with you, be sure to give them ample time to read your materials and think them through thoroughly – usually, most agents will want a couple of weeks to do this. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You want to make sure that this relationship will work in the long term for you, the agent, and the agency, and that should be the goal on the agent’s side as well! Understand what you’re getting into, and what your shared expectations of one another will be before you sign an agency agreement.

I have shared a lot of query tips on my Twitter feed, but one that I go back to over and over is that if you have a manuscript that has already been self-published or posted for free online, except in very rare cases, that means that the book isn’t eligible for submission to publishers, and therefore, agents can’t represent it! When you’re working on a book, keep your end goal in mind, and don’t let your anxiety get the better of you. Nothing makes me sadder than books being self-published out of desperation, and missing chances at getting to reach their full potential.

Good luck out there to anyone who’s seeking an agent in this competitive landscape. I’m currently only accepting non-fiction queries because of my workload, but my Twitter DMs are always open if folks have questions. I can be found at @emmy_of_spines.

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BWS 09:03:22: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our March 9th event featuring Grace Lau, Brad Fraser, Rebecca Salazar, James Lee Lord Parker and guest speaker emmy who gave us pointers on, “Finding the Right Literary Agent for You.”

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, May 11th at 6:30pm!

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BWS 09.03.22: Rebecca Salazar

Rebecca Salazar (she/they) is a writer, editor, and community organizer living on the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik. Salazar is the author of two chapbooks, and her first full-length collection sulphurtongue (McClelland & Stewart) was a finalist for the 2021 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

7 Horrors for Traumatized Queers

The scariest thing I have done in the last few years is to write poems on illness, trauma, and horror during a global pandemic that fully animated these fears. Writing these poems has been a deeply personal exorcism, of sorts.

Mainstream horror cinema and literature have been rightly criticized for being exploitative of the traumatized (see: the bulk of the torture porn and rape revenge subgenres). In all its gory glory, though, horror is powerful because it refuses to prettify, the ugly, repulsive, and frightening aspects of fear and trauma. Since being diagnosed with PTSD in my early twenties, though I have found myself drawn to the oddballs of horror: the queer, feminist, and survivor-centred art that makes fear into something liberatory, without erasing the real horrors of gendered, sexual, racial, and ableist oppression.

Below is a list of horror media I keep returning to as I write my own nightmarish poems. Expect blood, guts, ghosts, monsters, and graphic violence, but no direct depictions of sexual or anti-queer violence. Expect the survivors of violence to wreak their own horrific justice, and to do more than just survive.

Scream, Queen! by Tommy Pico and Drea Washington

(Podcast)

Proclaiming itself “a podcast about scary movies by people not typically depicted in scary movies,” Scream, Queen! is hosted by two queer writers of colour with wits sharper than Freddy Kreuger’s claws. Pico and Washington have a raunchy, memeable chemistry that brings comedy to their discussions of everything from low-budget 80s B-movies to horror serials like Lovecraft Country, itself a speculative resistance to racism in the horror genre. I have taken more film recommendations from this podcast than I have from anywhere else.

Another Final Girl: Horror Poems by Claire Kelly

(Poetry)

Disclaimer: I was able to read this collection a year or two before its publication by Rahila’s Ghost press, since Claire is a long-time writing friend. It was her choice of subtitle for this chapbook that spurred me to seriously consider horror as a genre in poetry. This chapbook is both an homage to classic horror films and a reckoning with what—and who—they have left out or harmed. “Survival is not enough,” begins the title poem, in which the archetypal final girl demands recognition; “I am more than just / getting out of this alive.”

The Magnus Archives by Jonathan Simms

(Podcast)

If there is a single piece of media that has gotten me through the pandemic, it is this UK-produced cosmic horror podcast. After fans began crowd-sourcing content warnings for each episode in the early seasons, production company Rusty Quill began officially incorporating these into episode descriptions; additionally, writer and creator Jonathan Simms has stated his refusal to use sexual violence as a plot point. Magnus begins with a monster-of-the-week format, as a newly hired archivist sifts through disorganized paranormal research, but the series soon becomes a sprawling web (pun intended; if you know, you know) of interrelated narratives driven by characters who become inextricably tied to the horrors they investigate. The Magnus Archives is a rare case that proves horror can be both trauma-informed—actively responding to and offering care for conversations about trauma—while also producing legitimately chilling storytelling.

The Low Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani

(Graphic Novel)

What can I say about Carmen Maria Machado’s writing that will not rip me open and put my entire being on display? The Low Low Woods is the third of her books I have experienced as a chilling déjà vu that confirms and animates all the thoughts I never dare to write or speak. This graphic novel in particular feels like Machado reached into my nightmares and splayed them on a page: a mining town haunted by damaged land; the constant, buzzing threat of male violence; the tricky kinships between queer survivors. This story literalizes how trauma feels like your body transforming into a monstrous thing—an uncanny, hypervigilant animal ready to lash out, or a fracture in the very earth. While The Low Low Woods is in part a rape revenge, it is also a dream for a future that heals without covering the ugliness—it that makes room for the rage and rough magic of survival to carry into healing.

Parkdale Haunt by Alex Nursall and Emily Kellogg

(Podcast)

The best scares in this Toronto-based horror serial come from the audio format itself. When long-time friends Judith and Claire start recording their renovation of an inherited house in Parkdale to make their own podcast, this attempt derails: their recordings begin to change, warped by the influence of something lurking in the house. What hits me hardest in this series is its handling of traumatic memory gaps: when Claire and others are unable to recall conversations they hear themselves having on tape, the series becomes an examination of gaslighting and spiritual abuse on the supernatural scale, without ever trivializing the harm the characters suffer on the way. Side note: Parkdale Haunt also contains the funniest satire of new-age white wellness culture I have heard anywhere.

Salt is for Curing by Sonya Vatomsky

(Poetry)

A grimoire in poetic form, Salt is for Curing draws together ancestral spell craft recipes with new abjurations against sexual violence. What physically presents as a tiny, unassuming book is a powerful collection that establishes a kind of “ethical grotesque,” a way of surviving that embraces the witchy, wild, and subversive as a form of care.

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula

(Series)

How could I talk about weird, queer horror without mentioning Dragula? A reality competition in which contestants vie for the title of Drag Supermonster, the show features the blood-soaked, kinky, alternative, and genderfucked drag styles excluded from mainstream drag circuits, and includes drag kings and creatures as well as queens of many genders. Each episode opens with the Boulet’s’ cheeky re-enactments of classic horror tropes (killer clowns! exorcisms! 1960s vampire surfers!), but what hooks me beyond these tributes to a genre I love is in the performers themselves. Between the silly, reality-tv staples of dramas and rivalries, this is a world where queerness is the default. There is so much joy here, watching weirdos of all ilk reveal why horror feels like home to them, before creating politically subversive performance art that shocks, disgusts, arouses, and celebrates queer resistance all at once.

Rebecca Salazar visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Grace Lau, Brad Fraser, and James Lee Lord Parker. Our guest speaker emmy will give us pointers on, “Finding the Right Literary Agent for You.

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BWS 09.03.22: Grace Lau  

Grace is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian settler living in Ontario on the traditional and Treaty territory of the Anishinabek people, now known as the Chippewa Tri-Council comprised of Beausoleil First Nation, Rama First Nation, and the Georgina Island First Nation. Her debut collection of poetry, The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak, is published by Guernica Editions. Her work is published or forthcoming in Grain Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @thrillandgrace.

Hello! I’m Grace, and besides writing poetry, I also love photography. In the past few years, I’ve been doing more film photography. Even though I didn’t write my debut collection with the intention of it being a visual experience, I thought it might be interesting to pair some excerpts with photos I took during the time I spent writing those poems.

I hear tourists whisper, with the shiver

of a cheap thrill,

about driving down that strip

on East Hastings

windows up doors locked

past boarded-up bakeries and empty apothecaries

dried shrimp just don’t sell.

What happens when
a Chinese Immigration Act falls in love
with an Indian Act…What happens when
our medicine heals
each other—
her sage / my ginseng.
150 years are not enough to carry
the age in our roots

It is Friday night and we are at home 

on the couch, your head on my shoulder, a well -worn path. This is not the first time 

you have slowed my hours 

and yet 

how the seconds gasp 

to be doing nothing at all but feeling 

the universe 

wax content in your breath.

And ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.

I twisted the prawn’s head
from its body,
ran my finger along its belly,
split it clean.

Grace visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Rebecca Salazar, Brad Fraser, and James Lee Lord Parker. Our guest speaker emmy will give us pointers on, “Finding the Right Literary Agent for You.

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