Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Peter Knapp

Hello, my dears!

Today I am delighted to bring you an interview with the wondrous literary agent Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group.

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I’m a huge fan of Peter for a variety of reasons. He’s a genuinely nice guy, sharp as all get-out, and one heck of an agent.

Plus, like recent interviewee Bridget Smith, Peter is one of the fabulous agents attending this year’s Midwest Writer’s Workshop, and you don’t want to miss that for anything.

For extra incentive, I’ll be doing a session with him at MWW, but I’ll let him fill you in on that below. *flails excitedly*

And to solidify him as one of absolute favorites, when I asked him, as I do all people I interview, if he had any preferences against profanity in the potential GIFs for this post, his response was, “No limitations. Shock the world.”

Seriously. New favorite.

Kick back, grab a snack, and get to know Mr. Knapp!

1. Let’s start with the basics: How long have you been an agent, and what made you dive into this wacky business in the first place?

I started at The Park Literary Group about three years ago as an assistant and began taking on clients a little over a year ago. Growing up, novels were just a part of my life—my mom is an English professor, and my two older brothers were always fighting over copies of books. You had to read fast at our house or else the younger of those two brothers would swoop in while you were sleeping, read a book overnight, and then accidentally (or not) spoil the whole thing. (“Did you get to the part where he dies?”)

So I began my career working, actually, in a book scouting agency, where we looked for manuscripts that our clients—film entities based out of Los Angeles—could adapt into features or TV series. It was such a fantastic job, especially because there was a big focus on young adult material at the time, but I found myself wishing that I could read a little more widely—sometimes I wanted to read a manuscript even if it had no real cinematic potential. And I wanted to work more closely with the material and with authors. Joining an agency was a natural next step.

2. What genres do you rep?

I am focused primarily on two categories: young adult and middle grade. In terms of genres: I’ve always had a soft-spot for contemporary MG and YA or contemporary with a fantastical twist. Growing up, favorites included WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, SHILOH, DOVE, THE OUTSIDERS, THE CHOCOLATE WAR, FRINDLE, HOLES, WALK TWO MOONS, etc.

So: contemporary, contemporary with a speculative twist, gothic, fantasy (in middle grade), fairytale retellings, mystery and suspense (especially psychological suspense), magical realism, contemporary romance, and regardless of genre I have an interest in stories with LGBTQ characters and themes. Really, what I’m looking for is great characters and great writing, regardless of genre.

3. What sort of story do you pray to the literary gods will land on your desk?

An unforgettable literary YA or MG novel. More specifically, I really want a YA about the AIDS crisis or Stonewall Riots – perhaps a YA take on THE NORMAL HEART or the documentary WE WERE HERE. I also want books about bands and music and art.

4. What is your very favorite part of agenting? And for the sake of balance, what makes you want to cry sad agenty tears?

My favorite part is when I get to call an author when an editor has offered on his or her project and say, “Your book is going to be published.” It’s far from the end of the journey, but it’s a really exciting moment for the author, and for me.

My least favorite part is when I fall in love with a project and the author signs with another agent. That’s when I get out the sewing kit and start making voodoo dolls.

5. You periodically do Submission Feedback Giveaways for those who query you. Which is fantastic, by the by. What makes you want to take the time to go that extra mile for writers?

Frankly, it’s a great way of getting in some fantastic submissions—and so the main purpose is to find authors I can sign. Melanie Conklin’s debut Counting Thyme (Putnam 2016) was the result of a feedback giveaway I did right when I started agenting. But the other purpose, of course, is to give something of substance back to authors—even if it’s very short feedback, as it often is, I think authors find it encouraging to get a personal reply.

6. Tell us something you are working on right now that’s giving you fluttery feelings?

The whole job gives me fluttery feelings. Do I really get to do this for a living?

This month a client of mine is in the midst of edits on a YA manuscript (details to come—the deal announcement is pending) that feels so true to my own teenage years that reading it, I feel exposed in the best possible way. And Melanie Conklin’s debut Counting Thyme is going to really hit readers hard when it comes out—it’s got such incredible emotional range.

7. You will be coming to the Midwest Writer’s Workshop this summer! For those on the fence about attending, woo them with the details on what you will be offering up in your panels/sessions!

The biggest selling point is I get to be on a panel with YOU! We’ll be discussing the pros and cons of entering online contests and games as a way of seeking representation and getting feedback. These various contests have really taken off, and they certainly present an opportunity to unsigned authors—the first project I ever sold was by a writer I found at WriteOnCon, an online conference. But there are also things to be aware of if you’re participating in anything like this, which we’ll be discussing.

Another big selling point for this and any writing conference is that it presents a great opportunity to network with other writers—authors writing in your category are an invaluable resource regardless of where you are in your career, so making those connections is essential.

8. As is customary on my blog, it is here I request an embarrassing or hilarious moment. Bonus points if industry related.

Here we go! Shortly after I started working for Park Literary, my boss asked me to join her in meetings she had set for a client with various publishers. It was, to me, a big deal: I was new to this side of the business and suddenly I was going to be at a conference table with the publishers of some of my favorite books—the people I had looked up to from the moment I got my first internship. Time to make a good first impression!

I sent my suit to the dry-cleaners, polished my shoes and bought a new tie. I brushed my teeth twice. I was ready.

So going into the third meeting, the publisher’s assistant brought us down a narrow hall past rows and rows of cubicles. As we were nearing the conference room, a colleague whispered something to me, but my hearing in my left ear is terrible so I had to ask her to repeat it. And she did, just as the publisher’s assistant opened the door to the conference room. “Pete,” she said, “your fly is down.”

I turned bright red, did a weird side-step thingy out of the doorway, and then spent the next hour trying to be invisible. In retrospect, it wasn’t so bad—I’m not even sure anyone else heard—but at the time I was mortified.

Fizzy again! That’s Peter, guys! Ain’t he a gem?

And trust me, you are not going to want to miss that panel at MWW. I can guarantee knowledge and important information will occur (almost exclusively from Peter), and awkward and embarrassing moments! (Those will indeed be exclusive to me, I’m sure.)

In the meantime, Follow Peter on Twitter HERE, scope out The Park Literary Group’s Twitter HERE, and run go grab one of the less than ten available spots to attend Midwest Writers to see Peter’s awesome in living color, HERE!

I hope you all are having the most fantastic of weeks, and that I’ll get to see all your happy faces at MWW!

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Voodoo Dolls!

6 Comments

  1. MWW14 almost at capacity! DO NOT miss this opportunity to see Pete Knapp and Fizzygrrl! Oh, and me 🙂

  2. Okay, since I don’t write YA or MG, I feel able to make this comment since I won’t be sending Peter a manuscript. He has beautiful eyes! Sorry to get off track, but I couldn’t help it.

  3. MWAAAAAH! Great embarrassing story! And I can’t WAIT to read COUNTING THYME and whatever other PK gems are in the pipeline.

    I also can’t wait to hear about the MWW panel. Wish I were going to the conference, but I trust we’ll get a full report. 🙂

  4. Seriously, he is a heck of a nice guy. His feedback to me was so generous and kind. All good things to Pete.

  5. Wonderful interview! I wish I were going to the conference. So sad to miss it. And everyone, query Pete!! Seriously. He really cares about his clients.

  6. I’m going to take Brenda’s advice right now and query Peter. I have a feeling he “gets it” right in the nicest possible way.

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