I’m absolutely thrilled to have Victoria Wells Arms as a guest today! For those of you who don’t know, Victoria has lived a life steeped in children’s literature like no one else. Raised on books by her mother—author and illustrator Rosemary Wells—Victoria worked for 20 years as an editor, first at Dial Books for Young Readers, then at Putnam, and finally at Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA, where she was the founding editorial director.
Under her lead, Bloomsbury flourished, hitting the best seller lists and garnering major awards. While at Bloomsbury, Victoria’s list included Shannon Hale, Nikki Grimes, E.D. Baker, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
In 2013, Victoria founded her own literary agency, Wells Arms Literary. From the very beginning, Victoria has represented authors and illustrators working in the full panoply of children’s literature, including the award-winning YA authors Marcella Pixley and Sonia Patel, beloved middle grade authors E D Baker and Hillary Homzie, and picture book authors and illustrators including bestselling collage artist Susan L Roth, children’s musician and author Ben Gundersheimer, and many other creators. To top all this off, Victoria holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. So, you see, I wasn’t exaggerating about her gold-star credentials. She knows every inch and corner of the children’s literary scene.
But enough of me hogging the stage, let me turn things over to Victoria. She joins us from New York City—where she lives with her three children and always adorable dog, Felix—to tell us What Was On her…
Bookshelf as a Kid: The entire Nancy Drew collection, Trumpet of the Swan, Chris Van Allsburg’s Harris Burdick, The D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths, Jose Aruego’s Whose Mouse Are You?, The Borrowers, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and many books from favorite authors Ursula LeGuin, Susan Cooper, Richard Peck, Lois Lowry, Lois Duncan, John Bellairs, Arnold Lobel, James Herriot and many many more.
Bookshelf Last Week:
Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad is Untrue
Genevieve Gornichec’s The Witch’s Heart
Mary HK Choi’s Yolk
Barbara Demick’s Eat the Buddha
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
Maggie Smith’s poetry, Keep Moving
Most-Memorable Literary Moment: Random low: Most agents and editors have the list of The Ones That Got Away. For me the kicker will always be losing out on Llama Llama Red Pajama in a two-way auction by about $1500.
Random high: Another moment was at a sold-out reading of Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris at a Barnes and Noble so packed that someone moved my coat and stuff off my chair so they could steal the chair. The person put my stuff right up next to the stage so I had the best view and was first in line for the signing. I didn’t stay mad at the chair thief long.
Dream Guest List of Kid Lit Stars from the Past: Lois Ehlert, Tomie dePaola, Arnold Lobel, Lois Duncan, Ursula Nordstrom.
Rug: Always Felix. Unless he’s on my lap.
Stove: Right now my youngest is baking Mazelnuts, a cookie recipe we made up based on my beloved Silver Palate’s super buttery chocolate chip cookie recipe but adding in hazelnut flour and maple syrup for a richer flavor, and (in theory) more nutrition! They smell amaaaazing…
Drive: Friday afternoon, as we often do, I’m driving the kids the nearly 5 hours northwest to Ithaca to camp out in our large, dusty box-filled oversized garage, our holdover while we build a house next door to my sister and her kids’ sheep-chicken-duck-rhubarb farm. It’s my favorite place on earth, where the kids can jump in the pond or swing on the rope in the barn while the adults chase errant lambs and end the day with local beer or wine or cider on the porch.
Mind: Real Estate is often on my mind—maybe this is just what happens when you live (mostly) in New York City, but I love looking at listings for apartments, houses, land, you name it. This week we are looking for new office space for the group of agents that makes up the Hannigan Getzler/Wells Arms Literary Agent group. We gave up the beautiful space we had in December, mid-covid lockdown. Last week, trouping around with a broker looking in the flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan was incredibly inspiring. While I know the landlords are panicking about people not wanting to come back to work in person, for those of us who adore their colleagues this is an exciting time. We should be able to get a good deal on a beautiful space, and there are many options. More important, unlike so many people I know, we are a group who actually like each other’s company. If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic year, having a group of friends and colleagues to come back to like this certainly puts a happy light at the end of this tunnel. I can’t wait to welcome you there, Sandra!
Thanks so much, Victoria! I can’t wait to visit. It’s been far, far too long.
Join us again on July 15, when Lori Steel of Raven Quill Literary Agency will be talking about success, inspiration, and life as a new agent.
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.