SDSU Writers’ Conference: Three Questions with Literary Agent Brooks Sherman

Brooks Sherman,

Brooks Sherman, Literary Agent

1. Can you share one of the best and one of the worst opening lines from query letters you’ve received?
One of the best opening lines I recently received in a query was from my now-client Jessica Cluess, for her forthcoming YA historical fantasy novel A Shadow Bright and Burning: “Henrietta Howel should not be a sorcerer. At seventeen, she is a practical schoolteacher who understands that magic is men’s business.” It immediately intrigued me because in just several words it hinted at conflict, fantasy, world-building, and gender politics.

The worst opening lines to a query are usually some variation of “I have written the Next Big Thing” or “I don’t read for fun, but…” Particularly with the latter choice, why would you think that was a good thing to say? To a literary agent? As your introduction? Fortunately, these queries are outliers, rather than the norm.

2. What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
The first book that spoke to me would likely be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I’ve since devoured that book at least 10 times over, as well as the vast majority of Dahl’s children’s book catalog. The Witches is now my favorite of his books, but Charlie maintains a warm place in my heart for introducing me to Dahl’s wonderfully weird (and occasionally malicious) humor.

3. What do you hope to find at the 31st Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference?
I’m looking for my next client! I’ve heard nothing but great things about the SDSU Writers’ Conference and its attendees, and I would love to find a writer whose narrative voice just grabs me from the first sentence, to the point I just cannot put it down.

For more information, visit neverstoplearning.net/writers, email sdsuwritersconference@sdsu.edu or call (619) 594-3946.