Today, Sporty Girl Books Blog extends a warm welcome to Alexandra
Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary Agency
. Alexandra has been in publishing
for over a decade. Her undergraduate degree was an interdisciplinary major in
Entertainment Business and Marketing. From there she went on to be a book
publicist, and an Editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster. She is
the co-author of New
York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks
and Publisher’s Weekly just announced the sale of her picture book FOOD TRUCK
FEST with illustrations by Mike Dutton to FSG. I am so lucky to work with
Alexandra. She is a business savvy, editorial agent, with infinite connections
and a writer’s understanding of how frustrating this business can be. One of
the things that drew us together was our mutual love of sports and fitness.
Alexandra, thanks for
being on Sporty Girl Books Blog today. Tell me a little about your sports and
fitness past and present. How does it shape the stories you like to represent?
I’m a lifelong swimmer from a swimming family. I think I
took my first lessons with my mom when I was around 6 months old and it’s been
a great passion of mine ever since. I swam competitively in middle school and
high school and I still swim today.
Swimming is largely an individual sport, but there’s also an
important team dynamic whether you’re cheering on the sidelines, counting laps
for a teammate, or swimming a leg of a relay.
I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m interested
in characters who challenge themselves, who are trying to find balance, who are
negotiating friendships and/or just looking to find their place in the world.
It feels like we are
seeing more books about sporty girls? How have you seen the demand for sporty
girl books change in the industry?
I definitely think we’re seeing more of a demand for sporty
girl books for all ages and I think the books being published cover a wider
variety of sports than in the past.
More authors are
pushing against the tradition teen female figure skating/romance trope. How do
you see the content of sporty girl books changing?
I love seeing books where the sporty girl is the
protagonist, not just the athletic sidekick of the main character. It’s also
nice to see a broader range of sports represented in books aimed at young
What do you look for
in a sporty girl book?
While I’m drawn to books about female athletes, ultimately
the story has to stand for itself. The very best sports books show us something
about life, about the human experience.
What area of writing
craft done poorly leads you to most commonly decline a manuscript?
I read a lot of queries and partials for stories that are
good in concept. They may have a great hook or take a clever idea and twist it
all around, but if the voice doesn’t ring true, it’s unfortunately going to be
a pass for me. Narrative voice is tricky and while you can fix a lot of plot
holes or inconsistencies and you can teach someone to improve their dialogue,
if the writer hasn’t landed the voice, that’s very hard to overcome.
What area of writing
craft done well impresses you the most?
The other side of the coin is that I’ll fall for an
authentic voice in a heartbeat. Give me a fresh, real voice and I’ll put
everything aside to finish that manuscript.
What new projects are
you working on as a writer?
I could tell you but then I’d have to…you know. Just
kidding. But seriously, I’m always turning new ideas around in my head, but I
never talk about them until they’re in a finished place. Sometimes I find
talking about my in-progress projects takes my energy and focus away from
completing them. There’s a danger in over-talking an idea, I say, just go for
mouth-watering pictures on Facebook, I know you are an incredible baker.
Donuts, pies, cookies… you seem to be able to bake anything! What recipe/type
of food are you hoping to conquer?
I’m always looking to improve my pie-making skills and I’m
very pleased at how my lattice weaving is coming along. Though people often
remark on my baking, I also enjoy cooking. I’d love to be able to make Korean
and Thai food with enough skill and confidence that I could go off recipe and improvise
without courting disaster.
If you could have any
kind of pie but it would be the only pie for the rest of your life, what would
Apple pie. I know that sounds a bit dull, but there are so
many different types of apples and different ways to prepare apple pie, that
I’m sure it could keep me happy for years.
As you know, my main
character uses speed-round questions in awkward situations and to spur
conversation. Here are some specially tailored for you and your love of food. Speed
Donut or muffin?
Cake or pie?
Cake. No, pie. No, cake. Ok. I’m just going to go for it…pie.
Ebook or paper copy?
Don’t you just love that new (or old) book smell?
Another huge thank you to Alexandra Penfold. Just a quick
note that she is currently closed for submissions. Find out more about
Alexandra and other Upstart Crow agents here
or by clicking on the logo.