www.isabelsterling.com
@isasterling

AGENT
Molly Jaffa

WRITES
YA & MG fantasy

PUBLISHING STATUS
In Revision

BIO
Isabel Sterling spent her childhood making up stories in her head, but she didn’t start writing any of them down until grad school. She participated in NaNoWriMo on a whim in 2012 and fell in love with writing (and revising in particular). Since then, Isabel has written four YA novels and recently completed her first MG project. She loves all things fantasy and believes strongly in the importance of ownvoices work (she’s a cis, queer woman). Isabel signed with her first agent, Molly Jaffa, through #DVpit for a queer YA fantasy novel.

EXPERIENCE
I’ve been an active critique partner and member of a local critique group for nearly four years. My CPs have gone on to sign with agents and sign book deals with the Big Five. Last year, I provided query and first 5 page critiques for the second round of #DVpit. As part of my Day Job, I’ve done LGBTQ+ trainings and relationship violence prevention workshops, so I have a good eye for spotting subtle sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. I will (gently and educationally) challenge any problematic content I spot.

OVERVIEW
Overall, I’d like to work with an LGBTQ+ author on an ownvoices project. While I think coming out stories are important and have their place, my preference tends toward stories where being queer or trans is part of the character but not the main point of the plot. I love fantasy with vivid world building, and I’m a sucker for a great voice. I do enjoy romantic subplots (my favorite being an f/f pairing), but I’m probably not the best mentor for projects where the romance is the main plot.

I love revision. The whole process of taking a story apart and putting it back together better than before is what I live for. My ideal mentee will share my love for revision and be excited to work hard on their manuscript.

YA – fantasy of all kinds, space opera, spec fic in general, thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary stories with an interesting hook. I have a soft spot for witches and elemental magics. Bonus points for stories with an f/f romantic subplot.

MG – fantasy, adventure, and mystery. A strong voice is a must in MG for me.

MENTORING STYLE
I like to critique in rounds. For the first critique, I will read the novel and provide an editorial letter addressing larger scale issues of plot, characterization, world building, etc. This will look similar to an editorial letter you might get from an agent. I’m happy to communicate via email or video chat to brainstorm revision ideas and answer any questions. After the mentee has revised their novel, I will read it again, this time leaving comments with track changes looking for things like passive voice, awkward wording, and trying to strengthen the voice and character motivations on a smaller scale. I tend to leave a *lot* of notes, but I’m also good about pointing out what’s working well and providing plenty of encouragement along the way.

I’ve been through the query process with four different novels, so I have developed a pretty solid system of coming up with a “”to query”” list and keeping track of the query process. I also have experience with twitter pitch events. I’m happy to help my mentee navigate the query process both logistically and emotionally (as it can be a bit soul sucking at times).

IDEAL MENTEE
An LGBTQ+ author writing an ownvoices project.

FAVES
I’m horrendous at picking faves. I tend to forget most things until someone mentions it and then I’m all “”OMG I LOVED that!”” But I’ll try:

Authors/Books – Shaun Hutchinson, Brigid Kemmerer, Victoria/VE Schwab, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Kody Keplinger, Rachel Hawkins

TV – RuPaul’s Drag Race, Castle, Parks and Rec, Faking It, Buffy, Firefly, Chuck, Sailor Moon, Bob’s Burgers

Movies – Harry Potter, Practical Magic, Hocus Pocus, Marvel movies (which need more women)

MSWL
I’d love to see a YA fantasy project with unique world building and well-developed characters. I also enjoy high concept contemporary where romance (if there is any) is a subplot rather than the focus. I don’t have a POV/tense preference, but I like work with a lot of voice.

In middle grade, I tend to be super picky about voice. If you have a fun MG (particularly fantasy, adventure, or mystery) that includes LGBT characters or the children of LGBT parents, I’d be happy to give it a look.