Name: Michelle Cusolito
What you Write: fiction and non-fiction picture books, middle grade non-fiction
Agent: James McGowan
Why BookEnds? I love the collaborative way the agents work together.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
I try not to do this to myself. I admire loads of books. Too many to list, really. But saying I wish I wrote them isn’t helpful to me. Instead, I study them to learn to be a better writer.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
In my day-to-day life, you’ll find me taking daily walks, spending time with my family, going to shows, getting outdoors for nature time, cooking dinner every night (I love to cook), being a “mom-taxi,” watching live music, gardening, playing ukulele, having dinner with friends, that sort of thing.
I also love to travel with my husband and two teenagers. We emphasize experiences over things, so we budget to create interesting experiences for all of us. Our biggest family adventure was a year spent living in Dublin, Ireland. We’re very fortunate that my husband has skills that were in pretty big demand in Dublin, so he was able to get hired by a local company. That enabled us to make the move, which coincidentally enabled me to complete important research for another project of mine that is currently out on submission.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
You can read about my book, school visit offerings, and other projects at http://www.michellecusolito.com/
What’s the last book you read?
I read so many books! Three books I finished in the last two weeks and loved are The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (adult novel), New Kid by Jerry Craft (middle grade graphic novel), and Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes (non-fiction picture book).
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I can only choose one? Gah! I have a bit of wanderlust and find new places infinitely fascinating and inspiring. I loved visiting Malta, Sicily and Salina. These three locations strongly impacted the manuscript that caught James’ eye: HOW DEEP CAN WE DIVE? I learned to SCUBA with my family in Malta and I worked out a troubling structure problem by making a picture book dummy while on Salina overlooking the sea and three volcanic islands.
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
I don’t have a particular favorite, so I’ll choose one I read this morning that seems relevant. This is Colum McCann quoted in Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo: becoming a writer is “all about desire, stamina, and perseverance.” Seems about right for me.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The best advice I’ve heard is to find what works for you and don’t worry about what other people are doing. Definitely learn about other people’s processes. Read books and blogs that might offer helpful advice. Go to workshops and conferences. But don’t assume that what others do is what you should do. Don’t feel bad if you don’t write morning pages every day, or get up at 4 am to write, or pump out 500 words a day. All of these are strategies that work for some people. Find what works for YOU and stick with it (as long as it keeps working… sometimes things change).
The only thing I think all writers should do is try to make some small progress toward your goals every day, if possible. Maybe you brainstorm titles for your WIP on a voice app while commuting to work. Or maybe you send an email to an expert who can help with a project. Or maybe you read a pile of recent picture books to keep up with what’s current. Not everyone has loads of time each day, but I encourage you to do your best to touch something related to your goals every day.
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family?
Of course, working with James is number one. He WOWed me from our first phone call. I had to make myself put the brakes on and do my “due diligence” before accepting.
As I mentioned above, I love that the agents are collaborative. I appreciate that they support each other by sharing details about what agents are seeking, offering advice to each other, etc. I also appreciate the resources provided to clients via our shared Dropbox.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
See that quotation I cited above? That’s really it. If you want this, you need to persevere.
Also, find the people who will support you: family, friends, critique partners, on-line groups, etc. Find your people and keep them close. I would not have survived without mine.