Name: Craig Kofi Farmer
What you Write: Middle Grade Fantasy/Fiction
Agent: Emily Forney
Why BookEnds? Honestly, I was drawn to BookEnds because of their agents. BookEnds has garnered several impressive accomplishments since their founding in 1999—yet, the agents were what pulled me to the agency. BookEnds has several wonderful agents; nearly all of them are known to be great advocates for authors’ works. Specifically, Emily Forney was widely known to be a wonderful champion for underrepresented voices. Now that I am with BookEnds, I am happy to say that all the great things I heard are true. Believe the hype.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
Before I write, I create a light outline. This outline may include ideas, concepts, story philosophies, research, and story beats. I want to know where the story starts and when it ends before I write the first word; however, I remain open-minded to any wild and ridiculous ideas that may strike in the middle of the journey. Sometimes, I like to put myself in the main character’s shoes and literally experience my story with the character—letting the story take me where I need to go.
I take the same approach to writing as I did in graduate school; write a little bit every day. For writing, I usually set a daily goal for myself (i.e., write at least 1,000 words per day), and go for it. Many times, my excitement whisks me into the story, and I end up surpassing the daily word count goal. Conversely, there are days where I barely meet my daily mark. I think that it’s important to set goals and continue to write even when you don’t feel especially inspired. Like any relationship, there’s an element of commitment that comes with every story; your story still deserves your attention, care, and effort even on the bad days.
Regarding location, I usually write wherever I can, as long as it’s not near my bed. To maximize my own wellness and productivity, I know that I must write far away from where I sleep.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
You can find me on Twitter at, @State_Farmm. Fun fact—the handle is a callback to my high school days. When I played baseball, my teammates had a chant for me: “Like a good neighbor, Craig Farmer’s there!” Hence, my Twitter handle.
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
That’s a good question. I don’t know that I have a traditional writing ritual that I follow before starting. When I can feel that I’m going to have a bad writing day, I listen to either, “Tuscan Leather,” by Drake or “The Night Begins to Shine,” by B.E.R. Those songs inject energy into me, especially when I need it the most.
What do you love about writing middle-grade?
I think the accessibility of the writing really draws me in. I remember being younger and reading the literary “classics”; at times, I felt confused, disconnected, and disinterested. When I was ten, my mother bought Rick Riordan’s, “The Lightning Thief,” and gave it to me to read. It was then that I found that writing could be snappy, exciting, and accessible. That’s the philosophy that I take to my writing now; I want my stories to be written so anyone can understand, but nuanced enough that anyone can enjoy.
The spunk and the attitude of middle-grade also appeals to me. That age group is usually characterized by some excitement, attitude, insecurity, stubbornness, imperfection, and maybe a little of unique invulnerability. I think those traits and tendencies are a gold mine when exploring fantastical (and sometimes scary) adventures.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
To quote the philosopher Patrick Star, my mind is an enigma. I will come up with wild ideas that take something that already exists, and completely change it with just one question: “What if?” Fantasy and other types of fiction are great channels for imagination—a great story can come from just asking the question of, “What if?” If you’re lucky, your readers will also ask themselves the same question after reading your book and start to dive into their imagination.
What is the hardest part about writing fiction/fantasy?
I would say trying to balance the boundless imagination of fiction & fantasy with being grounded. I think that fiction/fantasy is at its most powerful when it’s tied to real-world problems, emotions, themes, and struggles. As such, I try to make sure that I am weaving realism with the more fantastical elements of the story.
The research is also a surprisingly big part. A lot of my interests come from preexisting mythologies and ideas, so it is imperative that I do research on the origins of said concepts. I want to make sure that I am showing respect and honoring the traditions and folks to whom those mythologies and ideas belong.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
Definitely, but I wouldn’t say I get inspiration in the way you might think. With television shows and movies, I will become inspired by the concept of the creator being able to share their work with the world. So, I may watch, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” (the best Spider-Man movie ever, argue with your grandma) and just be inspired by the creativity, risk, and passion that went into the story. As soon as the movie or show ends, I’ll end up feeling galvanized to return to my writing—so I can tell my own story.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
Hm, that’s an interesting question. I would probably say outside Old Greenbelt, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I’ve always loved the energy around there. If you ever get the chance to visit, you’ll find that inspiration floats on the wind.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
Not quite yet! I belong to many student affairs organizations, but not any writing organizations at the moment. I am always up for some recommendations, though!
What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents?
“What about my story spoke to you?”
This question helps to get an idea of what the agent pulled from the story. When selecting an agent, you want to pick someone that not only can champion your work, but also understands the core of your story.
Say that you wrote an action-adventure story that explores grief in the background and, sometimes, in the foreground. You meet with an agent about your story and they say that the romance really pulled them in. It is completely okay for an agent and author to recognize different themes within a story; in fact, multiple perspectives make for better, more intricate work. However, you need to make sure that your agent understands the core of the story.
Will they try and change the core of the story in the editing process? How will they pitch your story to editors & publishers? Make sure that the agent you select is a good advocate for your story; they’re going to be helping to sell your book in spaces you may not be present in. Knowing that an agent understands your book and gets what you’re trying to say is a liberating feeling that I wish for all querying authors.
How did you know your book was ready to submit?
I want to say that I felt this magical, unspoken confidence that you have when you just know, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I was never quite sure that my story was ready to submit to agents. I’m the kind of person that will constantly be second-guessing things and decisions—for me, waiting until my book was “ready to submit,” would result in it never getting submitted.
I wrote it, edited it, and then submitted it—before I could have the chance to think twice. Please keep in mind, however, that that’s something that worked for me specifically. Everyone works a little differently, so be mindful of your own process for creating your story.