RYS's July Guest Guru - Leslie Zampetti!


This month I am excited to feature Leslie Zampetti, an Agent with Dunham Literary. Leslie is this month's featured Guest Guru.

For those not familiar with this aspect of the Rate Your Story Membership, each month we have one or two Guest Gurus who are Industry Professionals who will pop in and rate the stories of four Members. So that's at least 48 Special Ratings from just one of the Guest Gurus!


To share a little backstory, Leslie, Rob Sanders and I were writers in RYS Judge Lisa Michael's online Yellow Brick Road Mentored Critique Group. When Leslie was moving to New York Rob Sanders reached out to me to make her feel welcome. We met in person, were fast friends and have been friends ever since!


Here's her answers to my Guru Questions:


1. What do you LOVE about children’s books?

The honesty. The potential to create change. The challenge in presenting difficult, complex topics and themes in a way that allows children to understand their world and that of others positively.

2. What brought you to children’s books?

When my daughter was very young, I was seeking part-time work as a librarian. I found a job as a reference librarian, and one of the requirements was that I would cover the children’s desk some of the time. I loved it and discovered so much amazing kidlit that I had missed out on! Later I became a school librarian; I found helping new(er) readers discover books is so fulfilling and helps create change in the world. I do the same thing now - just from a different place in the process.

3. What do you look for in a project to add a client to your list?

Like all agents, I am seeking a distinct voice and an appealing premise. I also look at a potential client’s ideas or works-in-progress to see if we are interested in the same types of ideas long term. I look to see how a client works at their craft and if they aspire to continue developing as a writer. Finally, I see how their work fits in with my existing list - I don’t want clients competing directly with each other.

4. What drew you to your latest acquisition?

My latest client had a wonderful lyrical voice combined with scientific stories that have wide appeal to kids and their teachers and librarians. As a former librarian, I love stories that can be used in the classroom but have a voice suited to reading for pleasure.

5. What is a common issue with the submissions you receive?

For the queries or the stories themselves? For queries, not focusing enough on the story itself. Unless you are writing about a specific topic in which you’re an expert, I don’t need to know why you wrote the story. I want to know what it’s about. For manuscripts, stories that are not submission ready. I see a lot of great premises, but the execution isn’t there, because the writer hasn’t taken enough time in revision. (Also, proofread carefully. Mistakes aren’t an automatic no, but when there’s tons of them, it’s distracting.)

6. Please share a submission tip with our Members.

A general tip: include your name, especially if using an email address that is not your name. You’d be surprised how many people don’t sign their name. How am I supposed to address you when I reply? :-) A specific tip: Jennie and I refer queries to each other, if it’s a better fit. You don’t need to query us separately, one after the other.

7. Please share a revision Tip for our Members.

Have someone *unfamiliar with your story* read your work to you. (Or use your computer to do so - search “how to have your computer read to you” on Google.)

8. Name a subject you would like to see in your in-box.

YA interfaith romance and romance between those of differing practices/belief in the same faith. Always more middle grade mysteries. Stories that center universal experiences from creators who have been marginalized, such as disabled or BIPOC creators. Right now I am seeking joy - lots of joy!

9. Name something to avoid sending to your in-box.

Christian or inspirational fiction, high fantasy, Holocaust or WWII stories, political or spy thrillers. Gross out humor or preachy/didactic stories.

10. Share a fun fact about YOU!

I’ve eaten pizza in all five boroughs of NYC. Staten Island for the win, surprisingly!

On Rating: Is there anything in particular you want or don't want to give rating and

feedback on?

I love heart and humor, but I’m not a fit for sentimental or very sweet stories or gross-out humor. I’m also not a fit for stories that use abuse/violence/murder - particularly of women - as an opening “hook.”


BIO: After much experience as a librarian and writer, Leslie Zampetti became a literary agent. Her clients include Ann Clare LeZotte (SHOW ME A SIGN, SET ME FREE [Fall 2021]) and Lisa Rose (THE SINGER AND THE SCIENTIST). Leslie represents picture books through young adult, but middle grade is her sweet spot. At the moment, Leslie is seeking more humor (dry or sweet, not gross), mysteries for all ages, and friendship/sibling/found family stories. Inclusivity and stories by marginalized creators are a priority for her.


You can learn more about Leslie here...

On Twitter: @leslie_zampetti

On the Web: http://www.dunhamlit.com