High-Flying Prospects: Agent Regina Brooks

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Agent Regina Brooks is the type of go-getter everyone wants on their side: passionate about her clients, and aware of what she likes – especially when it comes to young adult literature.

“I love young people – the way they think, the way they process things, their curiosity. You can introduce them to something new and they rarely have a jaded or cynical stance. YA literature reflects this,” said Brooks.

Brooks founded Serendipity Literary Agency in 2000; now, with a team of six agents, she is determined to get hands-on with talented writers and work with them to build on their potential and form long-lasting careers.

“Our mission is one of long-term development and the cultivation of lasting relationships with new and established authors and illustrators. In the future, we look forward to continued growth and discovering fresh, new voices with authentic and compelling stories to tell.”

Among Brooks’ star-studded clientele is Marilyn Nelson: Newbery Honor winner, three-time National Book Award finalist, and winner of the 2006 Michael Printz Honor Award. Other notable faces are ALA winner Derrick Barnes, and Coretta Scott King award-winning Sundee Frazier. Brooks takes pride in the fact that her list is a blend of experienced, recognizable names, and enthusiastic newcomers.

“There is always something new on the horizon. In a lot of ways, that’s what I love about being an agent – constantly being introduced to and reading new things. For me, there’s a parallel between young people and the way I approach what I read.”

It is because of her yen for nurturing the next great YA voice, that Brooks founded the YA Novel Discovery Contest in 2009. It was widely accepted and promoted alongside National Novel Writing Month, and continues to be a major draw for authors looking for a way to get their work in front of the eyes that matter.

“The contest was designed because so many people forget the importance of the first page in getting an agent and an editor interested,” explained Brooks. “If you can capture someone within the first 250 words, you really can get an agent excited about your work. Agents and editors get thousands of submissions, and the first page, or 250 words, gets the most focus.”

The contest has completed its fifth running, and already has notable success stories to report.

“The winner of last year’s contest, Lori Goldstein, received a two book deal, and her book – Becoming Jinn – will be published by Feiwel and Friends. The winner of the 2012 contest, Sarah Combs, ended up signing with an agent and selling her book to Candlewick.”

The publishing industry isn’t the only area of Brooks’ life that benefits from her skill. Not only is she a pilot and member of the Brooklyn Aviation flying club, she also is the founder of Possibiliteas.

“I created this line of teas for my writers I believe these teas could have a beneficial effect on my clients—writers, artists and other professionals who were looking for fuel for their creative fire: hence, the slogan ‘Dreaming, planning and doing are more enjoyable—after a cup of Possibiliteas.’ There are three blends available.”

Brooks is currently open to queries, and remains enthusiastic about attaining new clients.

“We accept fiction, non-fiction, and children’s fiction. We’re looking for great storytellers, fresh new voices, unique perspectives, and people with a strong platform. In the YA Novel Discovery Contest, we’d like to see first pages that immediately engage the reader and get them excited to read the rest of the story.”

When asked about advice in terms of addressing queries to her, or submitting to the YA Novel Discovery Contest, Brooks didn’t hesitate with sharing more of her hard-won wisdom.

“When querying, be professional, neat, and organized. Remember that the reason you’re contacting an agent is because you want someone to represent your writing. The first sample of your writing that an agent sees is your initial letter. Don’t let your query letter kill your chances by turning off an agent with typos and poor grammar. And be sure to have a compelling hook.”

Specifically for the YA Novel Discovery Contest, Brooks added, “As far as the YA Novel Discovery Contest goes, make sure you have a strong opening that grips the reader. The first page is the first impression of the story and many agents and editors will be heavily influenced by your first 250 words.”

Regina Brooks. Photo courtesy of Regina Brooks.

Having written a book on successfully writing within the YA category, Brooks definitely feels that there are some areas that cannot be ignored when developing a story.

“Let’s boil down to the important points: first of all, be authentic. The life of the story depends on the writer’s ability to convince the reader that the protagonist is one of them. Second, don’t preach or be condescending to your readers. Also, stay up to date and read today’s YA fiction. Finally, silence your doubts about commercial considerations. Forge your own path!”

For more information on Regina Brooks and Serendipity Literary Agency, visit the agency’s website.

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About Author

Hebah Uddin

Hebah is a 21-year-old Muslim girl who reads a lot of books, writes a lot more, and wears a lot of (figurative) hats. As a result of being raised on a steady diet of foreign films and BBC period dramas, she now likes to think of herself as Charlotte Bronte + one of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai women. She’ll rap your fingers with her katana if you don’t mind your manners – or your grammar.