Slush Pile: Behind the Scenes with Jaida Temperly

May 11, 2015

Hey everyone, and happy May! Glad to have you stop by. 

I'm extra excited to have Jaida Temperly of New Leaf Literary join us today! I've had the pleasure to correspond with Ms. Temperly a few times, and she's always been extremely polite and encouraging (did I mention I'm excited to have her here?). And now, settle in and join me for a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on as agents are sifting through their query inbox, reading submissions, and, of course... signing a new client!


MR: What is your query-reading process? Do you read them as they come in or do you designate certain times of the day? Do you sort them out, or just plow through all at once?

It depends on my schedule. But I usually try to review queries on Friday and then read through requested query manuscripts on the weekends or during after-work hours.


MR: If you request a manuscript, do you always request a partial first, or do you sometimes ask for a full right away (and why?).

This differs from agent to agent but I usually request the full manuscript right away. Part of this is because if I do end up falling in love with the ms., I want to be able to keep reading (and not have to email the writer / wait for their response). But the other part is because I like being able to see the full arc of the story. (For example, I’ve seen many manuscripts that weaken after p. 50 but then pull it together a few chapters later. But I can’t see this improvement if I only have a partial.)

MR: Do you read manuscripts in the order they’re received or in order of what looks most appealing?

This depends on the turnaround timeline. For example, if I’m backed up on reading requested materials, I’ll read in order so I can get a response to the author on time. But if I have a few weeks to play with, and if something really caught my eye, I’ll read out of order. You can’t deny the power of a stellar query!

MR: After reading a MS do you know right away that you want to represent that author or is there a certain process you go through to reach that decision?

 I’ll usually set up a phone call with the author to get a sense of who they are as a person, because to me, their writing is just as important as their personality. I also like having phone calls so we can make sure that we’re both on the same page for revisions, career trajectory, communication style, etc.  

New Clients:

MR: What happens after you sign a new client? What's the next step for that author?

It depends on the status of the manuscript. Sometimes the ms. only needs light editing; sometimes it needs a full round of revision. (This is all discussed via the phone call.) But ultimately the goal is to polish the ms. to its full potential and then submit it to editors.

We’ll also begin “big picture” discussions on career goals, working style, communication style, etc.

For fun:

MR: Your ultimate vacation: 

 The Scottish Highlands. If I could live there in a cottage, with a garden, and endless supply of coffee, I’d be one happy lady! (For now, I just watch endless hours of Monarch of the Glen.)

MR: If you could be dropped into any story (book, movie, or tv), where would you want to go, and why?

It’s a tie between Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.

For Lofting, it was my childhood dream to become a naturalist. (I once asked for a microscope, metal detector, and telescope for Christmas.) And I love the whimsical adventures the Dr. Dolittle goes on – it’s so easy to get lost in the story!

For Raskin, I am obsessed with codes, mystery, and logic puzzles. (Escape the Room is my latest obsession.)

MR: Who's your role-model (literary or otherwise)?

My Grandma Sharie. She’s an incredibly smart, strong, and driven woman. She also taught me persistence, which is a necessity living and working in NYC!

What are you looking for right now?

MR:  What would you love to see land in your inbox right now?

I would love to see more Adult and Middle Grade, specifically:

Middle Grade: Just about anything – it’s definitely my favorite age group! But I do tend to gravitate towards stories that are darker, quirky, and whimsical. Some of my favorite titles are:

-          The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
-          The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand
-          Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
-          A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
-          A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
-          Coraline by Neil Gaiman
-          Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Adult: I would love to see more adult queries, specifically those with a mystery, high fantasy, or religious undertone! Some of favorite titles are:

-          The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
-          Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
-          And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
-          The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
-          Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
-          The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
-          A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
-          The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Prior to joining New Leaf, Jaida moved from Wisconsin to NYC to intern at Writers House. Before that, she had a brief stint in medical school and milked cows on her family's dairy farm. Jaida is currently Literary Assistant to Joanna Volpe but in her down time, you can find her practicing yoga, downing coffee, or searching for the city's secret bars and cemeteries.

You can follow Jaida on Twitter. Submission details to query Ms. Temperly are here.Thanks so much for stopping by. Jaida seems absolutely wonderful to work with, so good luck to all who are querying her!


  1. Thanks to both of you for this informative post!

  2. Thanks to both of you for this informative post!