Editor Wish List

Loan Le

Associate Editor

Atria Books

*updated 4/6/2020*

I struggle with how to begin emails these days. I end up writing “I hope you’re staying safe and healthy,” even though I really want to say, “Hopefully you’re staying sane wherever you are!”

Present circumstances are preventing face-to-face meetings, which are so important to forging agent and editor relationships (even though we end up re-scheduling so many times that it seems like we really don’t want to see each other, ha). So, I thought it’d be helpful to provide my “wish list” for any agent who’s interested in learning more about my reading/editing taste. A shortened version is also available on the Atria Books’ ‘About Us’ page.

I don’t mean to replace actual meetings (well, maybe for now) or phone call introductions, but this might be helpful. If you have a submission that meets any of the below criteria, email me at S&S! (My email is on Publisher’s Marketplace.)

Acquisitions

(F) A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by Shea Ernshaw. From New York Times bestselling author of YA novels The Wicked Deep and Winterwood, her adult mystery debut following three residents of Pastoral–a reclusive, seemingly peaceful commune–as they investigate the disappearances of two outsiders: a mysterious children’s book author and the man hired to find her.

(F) THE SHIMMERING STATE by Meredith Westgate. A luminous literary speculative debut exploring memory, identity, and human connection as it follows characters in near-future Los Angeles, their personal histories distorted by an experimental drug that lets one experience other people’s memories.

(F) GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan. In this dark, propulsive literary suburban noir, tensions spike in a Long Island suburb after a local girl falls into a sinkhole, and neighbors turn into enemies as an accusation puts one family in terrible danger.

(NF) WE ARE ALL SNOWFLAKES by Dylan Marron. From the creator of the award-winning podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me” and the “Every Single Word” video series, a timely personal and cultural book exploring the nuances of difficult conversations in today’s divided society and offering ways to navigate them, expanding on his TED Talk “Empathy Is Not Endorsement.”

Wish List (favorite reads, old and new)

FICTION

  • In general, the darker the atmosphere (“eerie,” “unsettling,” “full of dread,” etc), the more likely I’ll want to see it!
  • Literary in style but still a page-turner
  • Character-driven

Magical realism or rooted in folklore

Literary horror

Family-centric literary fiction/suspense/mystery

Atmospheric/Psychological (unnerving, full of dread)

NONFICTION

  • I’m often drawn to the strange and the obscure.
  • I tend to be more interested in narrative nonfiction than in memoirs

Unexpected subject with universal impact

Very specific wants at the moment

I’d love to see a Black Swan-esque dark literary mystery/suspense/thriller set in the K-Pop world.

A novel similar to the sci-fi/mystery/drama Netflix show “The OA.”

Spark Words + More

Diverse voices; unusual perspectives; Vietnam War; Vietnam refugee experience (and other refugee and immigrant experiences); misfits; supernatural events; hauntings; human connection; trauma; psychological literary fiction; unrequited love; family secrets; clever plot twists; sisterhood; unlikely friendships; and more!

I can best describe my fiction interest as “literary plus.” So, “literary” to me means the prose is polished, distinct, stylish. It signals that the author has paid attention to each word, sentence, and paragraph, and considered their emotional impact on the reader. The “plus” means elements such as horror, magical realism, or suspense, which add propulsion to the pages and lift up the plot. I don’t respond as strongly to commercial fiction because it tends to prize plot over character development and might use familiar language. But I always get excited at fiction that falls right in the middle! 

In the story itself, I hope to encounter nuanced characters who feel as if they’ve lived a full life. They have a past, but they also have a reason to move forward. The secondary characters feel just as necessary as the protagonist.

I’m not a huge reader of nonfiction so I don’t acquire many nonfiction titles. I don’t respond strongly to memoirs. But I gravitate toward titles on unusual subjects that actually have universal impact like Susan Cain’s Quiet, Rebecca Solnit’s The Field Guide to Getting Lost or Wanderlust, and Mary Roach’s books. In my job, the rare ones I knew I had to champion had a distinct, entertaining voice and a strong mission to educate others.

Fleeting thoughts: Words, words, words

I found a spare dictionary at work last week and gleefully took it home, and now it’s displayed at the very top of my bookshelf. If I have to pick an odd hobby for when I’m old and curmudgeon, and when all I have left in life are inanimate objects, I would choose to collect dictionaries. They are totems, keepers of humankind’s kaleidoscopic logic and emotions changed by time. 

When I was seven or eight years old, I copied the entire A section of Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary’s Tenth Edition. This edition is beautiful: deep red cover, silky pages with shimmering gold edges, always cool to the touch. According to the inscription inside, my father gave the dictionary to my mother as a gift. August 23, 1992. I’m tickled by the idea that this was considered a gift. Dad didn’t give her jewelry or flowers, but a dictionary . . . I sat at my parents’ desk in their bedroom, secluded from my sister and my brother who took up more space than me. This was back when my family of five lived in a two-bedroom apartment. The desk lamp cast shadows against the walls, letting out just enough light to hit the pages and illuminate new words. 

I still discover words by reading. It’s always a solid experience. When someone mentions an unfamiliar word, I’m almost never able to catch it. Or I would feel awkward stopping that person mid-sentence and asking, “Sorry, what does that mean?” 

But I’d forgotten the second part to committing these words to memory: repetition, the muscle memory of scrawling each letter, the right side of my palm sliding across a page in a notebook. I’m noticing how easily words slip away from me, so I’m compelled to return to the dictionary, to this childhood method of capturing words. I’m also revisiting the aid of visuals. I used to draw pictures to accompany words and their definitions. On computer paper folded into eight sections—each reserved for a word—I once sketched an image for eviscerate: entrails hanging out of an open stomach wound. (I love that word and its sound—a hiss in the middle, a bite at the end.)

The words I love are usually multisyllabic—and not often heard from people’s mouths, unless those people are pompous. I would love to include such words into my writing, but as much as I want to, that’s not my writing style. When I try, it’s a hundred-dollar-word surrounded by dollar-words, and that’s no good. I’ve learned to love my plainness. 

Here are some of my favorite words. What’s yours?

Compunction

Defenestration

Lackadaisical

Vacillate

Teeming

Susurrous

Bludgeon

Seeping

Knoll

Ethereal

Sonder *a made-up word that’s been adopted by logophiles*

Derelict

Quell

ASIDE

As I was writing this post, I needed help from the WordPress tech support. Mahangu chatted with me and before I signed off, I was compelled to ask him for his favorite word. Obviously surprised, he took a minute to think.

“I guess one of my favourite words would be mercy. It’s a tiny word, but is a central part of what makes anyone a good person, right?”

Mahangu is a genius, obviously.

 

Fleeting Thoughts is a space where I can release my imperfect, unfiltered words that often occur when my body is still but my mind is racing.

Other Fleeting Thoughts

Weekend Tuesday Rainstorm

Love, Hate, and the MTA

Bullies

A Spark

Things I’m Incapable of Doing