ith a diverse background (early education and medical school, along with social work and writing for children) literary agent Eve Porinchak has never been afraid to go after her dreams and loves helping others nurture their writing talents. Reading over a list of her likes (travel, cupcakes, puppies) and dislikes (no frogs, snot or eyeballs, please) is enough to get any writer excited about submitting. She got hooked on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl just like the rest of us, says The Breakfast Club is still one of her all-time favorite movies, and gives back by working as a Guardian ad Litem, teaching creative writing to incarcerated teens and serving as an aid worker in Tijuana orphanages.
A writer and active member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) for 12 years, Eve interned at the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency where she was recently promoted to Agent. She is open to everything from picture books to adult novels, with special interest in Young Adult and Adult Fiction featuring younger main characters. Eve is especially fond of contemporary, realistic, edgy stories, speculative fiction, gang-lit, prison-lit, crime, science fiction, and light magical realism, but is not a fan of high fantasy. A lover of psychologically intriguing plots, Eve loves “nothing is what it seems” themes, a la Gone Girl.
Eve graciously agreed to answer some interview questions for us, and we were thrilled to ask about the process of editing and revisions in manuscripts, the benefits of SCBWI, and her obsession with true crime, among other things.
WOW: You have a fascinating background—from the degree in Psycho-Biology and Early Childhood Education to medical school. We’d love to hear how your love for creative writing ended up leading you in an entirely direction.
Eve: I’ve always worked with children in some capacity. Pediatrics seemed like a good idea at the time; hanging around all those Type-A smart kids at UCLA made me want to push myself to the limits intellectually, physically, and mentally. Truth is, I’m just not a Type-A science gunner, and in medicine there was no time for creative outlets. When I “retired” from medicine and transitioned to teaching, I had the privilege of working at an exceptional, yet impoverished, elementary school in Claremont, New Hampshire, where most of our students were on the free and reduced lunch and breakfast programs. New Hampshire’s public schools were funded by town, not the state, so property poor towns essentially had no budget for school supplies, books, or other materials. While teaching first grade, I created my own program for teaching students to read and write (most had never attended Preschool or Kindergarten). This entailed writing my own picture books and early chapter books, and illustrating them myself! I fell in love with the process, and vowed to remain in the Kid-Lit industry forever. That said, I’m an atrocious picture book writer, and an even worse illustrator. I learned pretty quickly that picture books are not my strength. I write novels and YA nonfiction now.
“Unfortunately, fantasy is such a tough sell right now . . .”
WOW: Are you seeing any specific trends in submissions for children’s literature (including picture books, middle grade and YA)?
Eve: The number one submission I’ve seen in my first year agenting (in terms of children’s books) is Fantasy. Unfortunately, fantasy is such a tough sell right now because the story has to be SO incredibly new and fresh, not to mention all the layers of world-building must be impeccable.
WOW: You are also a fan of true crime, which is a good thing for writers querying you to keep in mind. I personally always loved Ann Rule’s books. What is your favorite true crime novel and why?
Eve: HUGE fan of true crime. This is for the Mara Salvatrucha by Samuel Logan, Unbillable Hours by Ian Graham, and Journal of the Dead by Jason Kersten are all exceptional books that I never tire of re-reading. Perhaps this is because they all feature such strong characters who remind me of my students in the Los Angeles jails, and they really humanize young adults who have committed crimes, and avoid painting them as stereotypical monsters (which they are not at all). Also, for me, Columbine by Dave Cullen is the gold standard of true crime writing. It’s simply the most intriguing and well-researched piece of nonfiction I have ever seen. And, after researching for 10 years, Dave has left no stone unturned, and completely debunks much of what we the public were fed in the media following the tragedy.
“Brevity is our friend.”
WOW: What do you consider “must haves” that writers should include in their query letters?
Eve: My formula for the perfect query is THREE PARAGRAPHS:
- Very Brief Summary (with beginning, middle, and end)
- Brief Bio of the Author
The shorter, the better. Brevity is our friend. But, choose each word VERY carefully, because you must hook me immediately.
WOW: How involved are you in the editing/revision of a client’s manuscript?
Eve: I actually love this part of the job. But, honestly, about half my clients have given me a mostly flawless manuscript, and I send out as is. The other half have such compelling stories, and fantastic writing, but need help with the plot points. That’s my strength—arranging the story for the most satisfying impact on the reader.
“That’s my strength—arranging the story for the most satisfying impact on the reader.”
WOW: Can you tell us a little about some of your experiences teaching creative writing to incarcerated teens in Los Angeles? What have been some of their favorite assignments?
Eve: Because many of my students are locked up most of the day, much of our writing sessions become like group therapy. There’s something magical about writing down thoughts and feelings you have never shared with anyone, then reading those aloud for your peers in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. I love teaching this population more than any other teaching job I’ve held. Not to sound preachy, but the thing we most learn about each other as we get more intimate in our writing is that we are all so similar in emotions we feel during the teen years. Though I never grew up in a gang or was prostituted out by my family to help keep food on the table, we always find common ground with each other. And, quite frankly, my jail kids have taught me how to open up and trust people and that intimacy is a two way street. We write a lot about trust and loyalty. Their loyalty to family runs deep. That seems to be a really common thread in everything they write. And, many are incredibly skilled poets and song writers, which I really envy.
“My jail kids have taught me how to open up and trust people and that intimacy is a two way street.”
WOW: You’ve been involved with SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) for 12 years. What do you love most about the organization?
Eve: Where do I begin?!? SCBWI is hands-down the most supportive organization I've ever found. A crew of veteran writers took me under their wings early on in my newbie days and set me on the straight path to writing well. SCBWI is loving, inspirational, informative, collaborative, non-competitive, non-judgmental, and super fun! Joining is the number one best thing any new Kid-Lit writer can do for him or herself.
WOW: What would you say to a writer who has the attitude of “I’m too old to get a book published.”
Eve: Oh, goodness! This is the only profession I’ve ever worked in where ageism doesn’t exist. You can be 10 or 100, and still write a fabulous story!
WOW: Thank you so much, Eve. Your enthusiasm is contagious!
More about Eve:
Visit the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency website: http://jillcorcoranliteraryagency.com
Follow Eve on Twitter: @EPorinchak
To query Eve Porinchak of JCLA, please submit a brief cover letter with short bio and synopsis, and the first 10 pages to: email@example.com.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Charlotte Parent, Lake Norman Currents, The Charlotte Observer, The Writer and more. When she’s not working on client projects, she enjoys spending time with her family and writing young adult and middle grade fiction.
Visit her website at: www.FinishedPages.com