Literary Agent Interview: Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services

This interview features Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services. Paula began as a journalist, and over the years she has penned countless new stories, articles, essays, collateral, and blogs, as well as authored/co-authored more than a dozen books. Along the way, she has also added editor, acquisitions specialist, digital content manager, and publishing executive to her repertoire. She is currently seeking: Mystery/thriller, SF/fantasy, romance, YA, memoir, humor, pop culture, health & wellness, cooking, self-help, pop psych, New Age, inspirational, technology, and science.
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“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

(Why agents stop reading your first chapter.)

This installment features Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services. Paula began as a journalist, and over the years she has penned countless new stories, articles, essays, collateral, and blogs, as well as authored/co-authored more than a dozen books. Along the way, she has also added editor, acquisitions specialist, digital content manager, and publishing executive to her repertoire. She can be found on Twitter.

She is currently seeking: Mystery/thriller, SF/fantasy, romance, YA, memoir, humor, pop culture, health & wellness, cooking, self-help, pop psych, New Age, inspirational, technology, and science.

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GLA: How and why did you become an agent?

PM: My own agent, Gina Panettieri, asked me to join her agency, and I jumped at the chance.

GLA: Besides “good writing and voice,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

PM: Great premise/idea, clean copy, persistence, and professionalism.

GLA: How do you think your background as a writer and journalist affects what you take on?

PM: As a writer, I love and appreciate good writing. If I fall in love with the writing, I take it on. As a former reporter, I have a soft spot for journalists. As a longtime editor, I almost always give my clients notes and we discuss the issues I see as obstacles to selling their work. If they won't revise, I don't take them on.

(Secrets to querying literary agents: 10 questions answered.)

GLA: You have a deep love for words and enjoy working with talented wordsmiths. What do you think of writers who use a variety of adjectives and verbs in their writing such as, “whispered, gasped, mumbled,” as opposed to, “he said or she said”?

PM: When you need a dialogue tag, stick to said. But often the best dialogue tag isn't a tag at all. It's an action:

"Stop complaining," Humphrey intoned. "It's really annoying."

"Stop complaining," Humphrey said. "It's really annoying."

"Stop complaining." Humphrey pointed the gun at his wife. "It's really annoying.”

You see what I mean. When it comes to description, what you need is that telling detail. That's what brings your setting to life.

GLA: You’re a huge fan of crime fiction having served four terms as President of the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America as well as on the MWA board. On this subject—crime fiction: If you had to give your best three tips on how to write effective crime fiction, what would you say?

PM: 1) Don't write it unless you read it (true for most any genre).

2) Craft is everything in this genre, as the bar is high. Work on yours.

3) Become part of this generous, vibrant community--you and your work will be better for it.

GLA: You seek nonfiction in a whole host of subjects. Any areas lacking in the amount of submissions?

PM: I'm always looking for strong humor, business, self-help, and cookbook proposals.

(Find more nonfiction literary agents.)

GLA: If you were teaching a class on nonfiction writing & submitting, what would be item number one on your syllabus?

PM: 1) The idea.

2) The proposal. A well-written proposal proves you can execute on the idea.

GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?

PM: Last year, I completed my yoga teacher training. I now run asana and pranayama classes as well as mindfulness workshops. I'm also working on a book about mindfulness and the creative process.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

PM: The Algonkian Pitch Conference (http://newyorkpitchconference.com/) in New York City [March 14-17, 2013] and I will also be at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference (http://cookbookconf.com/) in New York City [Feb 7-9, 2013].

GLA: Best pieces of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

PM: Join a writers group. Take classes and workshops. Go to writers conferences. (See a list of writers conferences here.) Learn to revise your work, and invest in the services of an editor. Act like a pro and you will be treated like one.

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This agent interview is by Brittany Roshelle Davis, a
freelance writer and aspiring author. You can visit her
blog, The Write Stuff, or follow her on Facebook.

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