It feels like ages since we had an Oh Susanna day, and the next question in the queue seemed like a good one for the start of a new year.
Penny asked: I have noticed when researching agent blogs, that a lot of them don't represent poetry. So what if you write poetry along with picture books/middle grade, etc.? Do you have to submit poetry on your own? Or will agents usually work with you to find a home for your poems, too?
This is the first time an Oh Susanna question has come in that I really had no experience with, but I think it's something a lot of you might wonder about, so I wanted to address it. Since I don't have any direct, personal knowledge on the topic, I of course reached out to writer friends who might know the answer. And being children's writers they were of course all wonderful and helpful and wrote back immediately with the best information they could provide.
Laura Sassi whose poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun GOODNIGHT, ARK is forthcoming from Zonderkidz, a division of HarperCollins says:
According to my contract, when I had an agent, she represented all of my writing, but what she was interested in were my rhyming picture books, so that's what I focussed on and sent her. Not sure this answer helps in your question - except to point out that maybe part of the answer needs to be that it's a very individual thing. Depends probably on name recognition of poet etc.
Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of many wonderful rhyming stories for children, including ITSY BITSY SPIDER (Whispering Coyote Press, 1993) and THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN (Sky Pony Press 2012) as well as 2 poetry compilations - RUFUS AND FRIENDS RHYME TIME (Charlesbridge 2008) and RUFUS AND FRIENDS SCHOOL DAYS (Charlesbridge 2010) says:
My agent represents me on picture books, individual poems, poem collections, whatever I write. But that's our agreement. I am sure some agents may be only interested in picture books, rhyming or not. Poetry continues to be a hard sell...
Laura Purdie Salas (not to be confused with Laura Sassi :)) who is the author of many books and poems for children including
A LEAF CAN BE... (Millbrook Press, 2012) (which was Perfect Picture Book HERE)
BOOKSPEAK! (Clarion, 2011) NCTE Notable; 2012 Minnesota Book Award
STAMPEDE! (Clarion, 2009) Finalist, 2010 Minnesota Book Award says:
Good question. I've run into that same thing. What seems to be the typical case is that if an agent represents you for picture books and novels, she will also submit your poetry, but only for book manuscripts for traditional publishers. Not individual poems for anthologies, magazines, etc. Poetry, in general, makes so little money that agents don't have a whole lot of interest in representing it, even if they personally love it. They know that it's just not all that salable (can you hear me sob as I type that?). Just my 2 cents. Interested to hear if others have different experiences.
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater who is the author of FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion 2013) and READING TIME (Wordsong, date TBA) and who you can visit at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks in addition to her website linked to her name above has this to contribute:
I don't know the bigger answer to this question, only my own experience. I met my agent through the generous introduction and sharing of my work by my teacher, Lee Bennett Hopkins. Elizabeth Harding (Curtis Brown Ltd.) does represent and submit my poetry, and while I have not yet sold a picture book...she is encouraging me to write one.
From this, I'd imagine that if you're already working with an agent, s/he would most likely work with you and your poems. But poetry is such a tough sell these days, I wonder if agents hesitate to advertise that they might even read it.
I hope this helps?
Clearly this is a tough question to answer! In general, it seems that if you write other children's genres, at least some agents will probably help you sub traditional book length poetry mss. But it sounds like poetry by itself would be a hard way to secure an agent. Thanks ever so much to Laura, Laura, Iza, and Amy for sharing their knowledge and expertise, and if anyone in the reading audience has experience in this area, please share! We are all very curious to find out! Catherine? Anyone? Not to put you on the spot or anything :)
I hope we'll get some good information in the comments! Thanks for a great question, Penny!
Have a wonderful day everyone! :)