Coffee & Conversation with Rachel Orr!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Okay, here’s another treat for those of you going to the March Rx for Children’s Book Creators:Getting Your Stories Right workshop. Last week, you got to meet HarperCollins editor Sarah Dotts Barley through an interview Larissa posted.

Before that, we had a chat with workshop present Esther Hershenhorn.

And now today, we’re sitting down with agent Rachel Orr!

Rachel has been representing authors and illustrators at Prospect Agency since 2007.  Prior to agenting, she edited children’s books at HarperCollins for eight years.  Her clients include Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (CHICKS RUN WILD), Cori Doerrfeld (PENNY LOVES PINK), A.C.E. Bauer (COME FALL) and Katherine Easer (VICIOUS LITTLE DARLINGS). 
She will be giving a presentation called “VOICES CARRY:  Discovering and Developing Your Own Personal Style:”
–  Voice can be the hardest element to master, yet it’s probably the most important factor that agents and editors look for in new writers.  By examining the work of our influences–and taking a critical look at our own work–Rachel will discuss how to develop our natural voices, as well as how to use voice to create likable (yet realistic) characters.  She’ll also explore the effective use of intentional repetition, first-person vs. third-person voice, multiple viewpoints and other experimental formats, and dialect.


And now that Rachel is settled in the cyber cafe with her favorite coffeehouse beverage, a salted hot chocolate from Starbucks . . .

And her favorite snack, chocolate chocolate chip ice cream (intentional repetition there of “chocolate”) at 11pm if that counts as a snack . . .

. . . if not, then Triscuits . . .

. . . let’s begin! First off, Rachel, what was your favorite book as a child?

Hmmmmmm…in terms of novels, I adored Lois Lowry’s FIND A STRANGER, SAY GOODBYE and A SUMMER TO DIE (morbid, I know), as well as Mildred D. Taylor’s ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY.  

In terms of poetry, definitely Shel Silverstein’s WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (which, I later discovered, was published on my EXACT date of birth!  And now you all know how old I am.) 

As for picture books, I was fascinated with THE CARP IN THE BATHTUB by Barbara Cohen, which was about a Jewish family in Brooklyn—such a foreign concept to my young Protestant self in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

I also loved Rachel Isadora’s MY BALLET CLASS and THE PAPER PARTY by Don Freeman (author of the much more justifiably popular CORDEROY).  

The latter title is about a little boy who walks into his TV set and joins the characters of his favorite show.  My husband finally got me a copy for Christmas a few years ago and we both agreed that it had to have been seriously drug-influenced.  The acidic illustrations are especially trippy.

My LEAST favorite book as a child was SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE by William Steig. 

Yes, yes, I know—it’s a classic—but didn’t anyone else find the scene when Sylvester turns into a rock AND HIS PARENTS SIT ON TOP OF HIM to be absolutely terrifying?!  Seriously.  And yet it won the Caldecott while THE PAPER PARTY got no props at all.

Great list! Okay, you magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

Right now, a haircut—although that’s more of a necessity (and hopefully I’ll get one before I meet you all in March).  I’d probably spend it going out to dinner with friends, or on dance classes, or on going to see a show in the city.  (I’m dying to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, which I danced in my senior year of high school.)

Now, you’ve been locked in a bank vault like that guy from The Twilight Zone, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses remain unharmed, though, so what’s the first book you crack open? 

Do manuscripts count? If not, then I would finish THE HELP (which I’m reading right now).  

I also desperately want to read MOCKINGJAY before “Hunger Games” comes out next month. 

Also, possibly A WRINKLE IN TIME, since it’s the 50th anniversary of the book this week and I still haven’t read it yet. (Actually, I might have read it in high school, but I don’t think I liked it very much if I did and I think I would appreciate it more now.)

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now? 

Honestly, I’m happy to say that I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now! (Well, technically, I’d be a children’s book editor—which I used to be—because I didn’t know that agenting was a job back then.)  I also wanted to be a teacher at one point, until I discovered that books were edited (and agented) by real people and didn’t simply fall out of the sky, perfect.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you have the opportunity to visit any famous deceased author you want.  Who do you pick?

Shel Silverstein? Laura Ingalls Wilder? E.B. White? Mildred D. Taylor?  (Is she even dead? Oops, no. According to Wikipedia, she’s not.) Anyway, I think I might be too intimidated by Shel—especially if I had to track him down in the Playboy mansion—and I’m worried that I’d be disappointed if Laura turned out to be too boring—although it might be fascinating to visit her on the frontier. So let’s go for E.B. And it would be cool to be in New York in the 1940s, too.


If you could sum up your best advice for new writers in only four words, what would it be?

Read the books you want to write! (Sorry…I couldn’t say it in four. Can someone find me an editor around here? 🙂

Too funn! Awesome, thanks so much for stopping by Rachel, and we’re looking forwarding to meeting you at the conference!

Happy writing and drawing, everyone! 🙂 

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Conference Information, Interviews: Agents & Editors. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Coffee & Conversation with Rachel Orr!

  1. What a fun interview! Thank you, Laura, and now I am looking forward to meeting Rachel more than ever.

  2. Edie Hemingway says:

    Yes, this series of interviews is a great way to get to know our speakers a little better in advance of the workshop!

  3. I loved this interview. You know, I’ve heard “read the books you want to write” many times, and have even said it to others, but I think today I really heard it from Rachel Orr.

    Thanks Rachel. I feel inspired.

  4. Pingback: March Conference Report « As the Eraser Burns

  5. Pingback: An Interview with Literary Agent Rachel Orr « One Way to Wonder

  6. Still relevant years later. And starbucks doesn’t have that beverage anymore. 😦

  7. Pingback: Conference faculty profile: Rachel Orr – Pen & Story

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