“Find your ‘why’–that doesn’t have to do with getting published. This is what will keep you going when you inevitably receive rejections and other blows to confidence. If getting published is your main motivator for writing, it becomes easy to give up when it seems like things aren’t working out. Go back to why you started writing in the first place and find your motivation there. Internally, recognize why your writing is worth something to you, even if you don’t get a deal.” -Stefanie Molina, Ladderbird Literary Agency
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 29th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 24 – 26, 2022, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.
An Interview with Stefanie Molina
Stefanie Molina is an agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. Prior to becoming an agent, she spent her career advocating for marginalized folks in publishing as a technical editor at a national laboratory, senior editor at the literary journal F(r)iction, and book coach and editor for women of color. She is Asian Latina (Mexican, Japanese, and Irish) and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, both from the University of California at Davis. Aside from reading, she enjoys hiking, swimming, baking, and playing the piano. Her favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park. You can find her on Twitter @fiction_tech. Stefanie is primarily looking for BIPOC stories inclusive of intersectional identities (LGBTQ+, disability, mental illness, neurodiversity…). She particularly relates to stories centering mixed protagonists. In all genres, she adores stories that incorporate food, animals, the outdoors, and intergenerational relationships. She also loves when stories explore “messy” feelings like rage, fear, guilt, grief, etc. in empowering ways. Please don’t send her books that revolve around abuse (though it can be in a character’s past) or self-harm or suicide, or books where the protagonist dies at the end. In picture books, she’s looking for heartfelt stories about family, facing your fears, and/or finding your place in the world. She especially loves brave, quirky heroines. In middle grade and YA, she likes contemporary fantasy and coming-of-age stories. She loves a touch of mystery in any story and is also open to the right high fantasy or romcom. In adult, she’s looking for romcoms, mysteries, thrillers, and contemporary fantasy. She’s also open to high fantasy or historical fiction that empowers BIPOC individuals and communities. Two of her specific wishes are for a mystery or thriller helmed by a BIPOC woman, and for historical fiction centering a BIPOC cowgirl.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Stefanie Molina: I try my best to adjust my approach for each author’s personality and preferences, but my guiding values are collaboration, transparency, and sensitivity. I encourage my authors to email me whenever they have questions and be open with how they’re feeling about edits, going out on submission, etc. I do my best to make sure my clients always know what’s going on on my end.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
SM: Beyond writing, I’m looking for enthusiasm, persistence, and patience. There’s a possibility we’ll be doing a lot of work and a lot of waiting together–so on my intro call, I’m looking for someone with realistic expectations. Kindness is also a must!
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
SM: Find your “why”–that doesn’t have to do with getting published. This is what will keep you going when you inevitably receive rejections and other blows to confidence. If getting published is your main motivator for writing, it becomes easy to give up when it seems like things aren’t working out. Go back to why you started writing in the first place and find your motivation there. Internally, recognize why your writing is worth something to you, even if you don’t get a deal.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
SM: It’s easy for me to get down about the state of diversity in publishing, but when I flip that and realize that this many people didn’t used to make so much noise about it, that I get to be in publishing now when more and more people are starting to shout and scream and try their hardest to change it, including myself, that excites me! I get to be a part of this change. Sometimes that’s exhausting to think and other times it lights me up.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
SM: I’m super excited about my client’s MG contemporary fantasy about a young Black baker who enters a competition to intern for her hero, Chef Looray, but soon finds he may be hell bent on taking over her middle school with questionable magical ingredients…I can’t wait to find an editor who loves it as much as I do!!
Click here for more information on the 2022 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.