Interview with Tracey Keevan

By Theresa Rizzo

Date:  January 2014


Bio: Tracey Keevan is a senior editor at Disney * Hyperion Books where she edits a range of children’s books, including picture books, early readers, graphic novels, middle grade and young adult fiction. She is thrilled to be working with a number of talented writers and illustrators including Mo Willems, Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, Robin Mellom, Stacey Kade, and Laurie Faria Stolarz.


Currently, Tracey is looking to acquire young adult/middle grade action-adventure series; literary fiction, particularly middle grade; YA and middle grade short story collections; contemporary chapter book series; and multi-voice / POV novels. She has a strong interest in humor, science/nature, contemporary fiction, and magical realism. Tracey also has a background in digital media and is interested in transmedia story-based projects for middle grade and YA readers.


Tracey has worked in children’s media for nearly 20 years as an editor, writer, and producer. She was previously a senior digital editor at Disney Publishing Worldwide and the former executive editor of Nick Jr. Magazine. Tracey has also worked at Workman Publishing and The New York Daily News. She is a Daytime Emmy-nominated writer whose children’s fiction has been featured on Nickelodeon television as well as in books and magazines.




  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?


My YA list spans a number of categories, including: action/adventure, contemporary/realistic fiction, horror, humor, paranormal romance, literary fiction, and magical realism. There will always be a place in my heart (and on my list) for a great story and strong writing—regardless of the category. That said, I’m often drawn to literary coming-of-age stories, humor, survivalist narratives, and experimental fiction.


  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?



I prefer to have a solid sense of the direction of the novel. For me, more is more in this case.  Typically, a two-page synopsis (single spaced) does the trick along with a partial manuscript. If the author has a chapter outline, I’d love to see it as well.


  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?


I’d like to see more issue based submissions, literary humor, realistic fiction, and original voices that jump off the page. I’d also like to consider YA short story collections. In general, the submissions that are the most challenging to consider are those that come after a trend has peaked. Trend-focused themes (superheroes, vampires, aliens, etc.) work well when the timing is right, but can under perform if the timing is off.



  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

    Voice, heart, humor, originality—and perfect pacing—make for great read. Sharp, clever writing grabs my attention. I appreciate attention to craft and language as much as character development and world building. I want to be thrown into the action right along with the characters through great dialogue and memorable events. Lengthy exposition slows the pacing down and detracts from the overall experience.



  1. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice
    2. Weak Grammar
    3. Common plot
    4. Poor character development
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow
    10. Story starts in wrong spot
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory
    12. Other



Red flags for rejection include: generic voice; weak grammar; uninspired writing; overused plot; excessive clichés; lack of action; expected plotting.


Fixable issues include: character development; pacing; story intro/ending; subplot development; chronology problems; plot holes; tense changes; language and situational content.


  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?



It’s great to meet authors at conferences, signings, events, etc. However, submissions are treated equally for potential new authors to our list. If I’ve read a submission, I typically share my thoughts with the agent.



  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?



I enjoy working with authors who are enthusiastic, full of creative ideas, and who are open to collaboration. I also appreciate an author who hits her deadlines and is flexible with the editorial process. Of course, being active in the industry is a plus as well.


  1. Do you have any pet peeves?



An overuse of dream sequences to foreshadow events, reveal plot points, and/or uncover dark secrets is a pet peeve. The buffoon parent/teacher/adult is another one!