Each finalist will be judged by both an editor and a literary agent. Our 2017 final round judges are:
Stephanie Doig, Assistant Editor, Carina Press
Assistant Editor for Carina Press, Stephanie began her career at Harlequin eight years ago and has been working with the Carina Press team since 2011. In her time at Harlequin she has worked as a proofreader, copy editor and author liaison before moving to the editor’s desk. Stephanie reads across genres, but is especially interested in contemporary romances with smart, sharp dialogue; fast-paced romantic suspense; and paranormal/urban fantasy series with continuing characters and solid world building.
MacKenzie Fraser-Bub, Fraser-Bub Literary
Fraser-Bub Literary was established in 2016 by literary agent MacKenzie Fraser-Bub. MacKenzie began her career in publishing as a teenager reading manuscripts and writing readers reports at the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. She is a veteran of the Columbia Publishing Course, having taught and worked there. She also spent several years at Simon and Schuster (Touchstone Books), in one of the industry’s finest marketing departments, before becoming an agent at the venerable Trident Media Group. There, MacKenzie quickly built a diverse list that included multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling titles, including romance, new adult, women’s fiction and science fiction.
Carly Silver, Assistant Editor, Harlequin
Carly Silver is an editorial assistant in series, working with Special Edition and Kimani Romance, as well as other lines. After graduating from Barnard College, Columbia University, she achieved a lifelong dream when she started work at Harlequin in January, 2013. Carly loves hunky heroes, from men in kilts to cowboys that fall head-over-boots in love; a cute dog or two in a story doesn’t hurt, either!
From her Manuscript Wish List:
I’m looking for diverse authors across all of our series romance programs. In particular, I’m looking for the next Brenda Jackson: smart, sexy romance and hot, hot heroes!
In terms of hooks that I love, give me miniseries about brothers, cowboys, people who work with animals, CEOs, military men and women, and marriages of convenience. I want the series romance versions of “The Bollywood Bride” by Sonali Dev, “Topaz” by Beverly Jenkins, and Erin McCarthy/Lori Foster in a small town.
Jessica Alvarez, Bookends Literary Agency
After 10 years as an editor, Jessica Alvarez joined BookEnds in April 2011. She began her publishing career in 2001 as an editorial assistant at Harlequin Books. There, she had the opportunity to acquire and edit a wide array of fiction, specializing in historical romance, romantic suspense and inspirational romance. Jessica left Harlequin in 2008 to pursue a freelance editing career, and completed projects for Harlequin, Scholastic Books, Thomas Nelson, and independent writers. She uses her editorial background to help writers hone their skills and develop strong, marketable stories. Jessica is actively building her client list and is proud to work with a wonderful group of clients. She is a member of AAR.
Jessica’s areas of interest include most areas of romance, female-focused erotica, women’s fiction, mysteries, suspense and thrillers. In all areas of interest, she looks for books that will appeal to women and have strong female leads.
Nicole Fischer, Associate Editor, WilliamMorrow/Avon (HarperCollins)
Associate Editor Nicole Fischer has been on the hunt for the next great romance for as long as she can remember. From reading Jude Deveraux by flashlight at 4 a.m., to secretly ordering used Sandra Brown paperbacks with her mother’s credit card, she’s always had her nose buried in a love story—or what she wished was a love story (poor Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson didn’t get enough action).
A California girl born and raised, Nicole never imagined her obsession with romance novels would take her to the East Coast in the dead of winter. But the lure of big city life—and an internship at a literary agency—was too tempting to pass up. A year later, Nicole landed her dream job at Avon and the rest, as they say, was history. She now edits many talented authors and is actively acquiring all subgenres of romance. She has a weak spot for sassy heroines and Alpha men in uniform (sports stars/cops/firemen, you name it), but she’d kill for a dark, sexy romantic suspense (pun intended).
Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary Agency
Courtney Miller-Callihan founded Handspun Literary Agency in 2016, after more than 10 years with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a hands-on editorial agent whose eclectic list includes historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance, mysteries, young adult novels, humor, and practical nonfiction. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz (B.A., Literature), and Johns Hopkins University (M.A., English), she lives in San Diego with her family, and travels frequently for meetings and conferences. She is always looking for stories she can’t stop reading.
Erin Molta, Editor, Entangled Publishing
Erin has been working in publishing for more than 24 years. From picture books and novelty books to YA and middle grade she is now enjoying the romance genre! Erin would love to see historical romances about the Elizabethan era—the “Virgin” Queen Elizabeth and the intrigue at her court. She is also fascinated with the Salem Witch trials—think “Witch of Blackbird Pond” but as an adult romance. Any tale of an ostracized woman and the man who stood up for her is a plus. So, of course, medieval knights in shining armor rank high on the wish list, but not necessarily the damsels in distress! She’s looking for strong women who can put those knights in their place. And, if you can’t tell by her name, Irish historical—whether it be way back when the leprechauns were a frolickin’ or tales from the potato famine—she’d love to read about it.
Carrie Pestritto, Prospect Agency
Carrie Pestritto joined Prospect Agency in 2011 after working as an assistant at Writers House. With a B.A. in English from Amherst College, she has experienced all sides of the publishing industry, having worked as a ghostwriter, freelance writer, and as an intern in the editorial acquisitions department of the Greenwood Publishing Group. As an agent, she loves the thrill of finding new authors with strong, unique voices and working closely with her clients to develop their ideas and manuscripts.
For Carrie, extraordinary fiction and nonfiction share the ability to transport readers to new and exciting places. As a history and mythology buff, she is intrigued by books that introduce her to another culture or time period. She is looking for description and detail that will make her feel like she is inside the story and interest her in a subject she never thought she would want to read about—or, conversely, introduce her to startling facts about something or someone she believed she already knew everything about.
Norma Perez-Hernandez, Assistant Editor, Kensington Publishing
Norma Perez-Hernandez is an acquiring editorial assistant at Kensington Publishing Corp. She has worked on a variety of projects, including fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and nonfiction. A New York City native, Norma studied English literature at the Macaulay Honors College at The City College of New York and is a graduate of the Publishing Certificate Program at City College. She is thrilled to build a list with diverse authors and books.
Jessica Watterson, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Jessica graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in sociocultural anthropology and English. She has made books a serious part of her life for many years. During college, she started an indie review blog that has featured author interviews and has reviewed several self-published books that eventually ended up on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Jessica is actively building her list and is most interested in all genres of romance, especially historical, contemporary, romantic suspense and paranormal. She greatly enjoys romance novels with strong characters that jump right off the page and a plot that stays with the reader long after the book has finished. She is also interested in young adult fiction that takes the reader on an emotionally satisfying journey, whether that be in far off places or at home. Jessica also loves select women’s fiction that concerns elements of life that greatly change one’s perspective and outlook on culture and events one experiences.
Recent sales include: Emily Alibright’s “Everyday Magic” (Merit Press), Tara Wyatt’s “Holiday Novellas” (St. Martins), Jamie Howard’s All The Ways You Saved M” series (St. Martins), Sophia Henry’s continuation of the Pilot’s Hockey series (Flirt/Random House). Jamie Howard’s Until We Break series (St. Martins), Amanda Heger’s “Without Borders” (Diversion), Emily Albright’s “The Heir and the Spare” (Merit Press), Tara Wyatt’s “Body Guard” series (Forever/Grand Central), Melissa Brown’s “Red Carpet Kiss” (Montlake Romance), Beth Ehemann’s Cranberry Inn series (Montlake).
* Judges subject to change.