Let's get to know Stefanie Molina!
What made you decide to join the Ladderbird team?
I was looking for an agency that unabashedly invests in diversity and inclusion, on the writer’s side and on the publishing professionals’ side. I was hoping for a place where diverse voices were not only heard, but valued. Finally, I hoped to join an agency that facilitated connection and collaboration, while also being remote. It was a tall order, but I feel like I found all of that and more in Ladderbird and I’m incredibly excited to get to know the team even more!
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Indiana but have spent all but three years of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. As an Asian Latina growing up in a mostly white community, I learned what it was like to move across identities and experienced the varying discrimination, privileges, and connections that came with that movement from a very early age. When I attended the University of California at Davis I was thrown into a vibrant and diverse community for the first time. I joined a nonprofit that boldly prioritized people of color. I wrote for a local newsletter on the state of children’s education. I met people with all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences. Academic education was the least of what I gained during college: it was the first time I connected with people who looked like me. It was also the first time I could put a name to what I had faced growing up.
That was when the flame to unconditionally support communities of color was lit within me. Since then, I’ve been a senior editor for a magazine prioritizing underrepresented voices, a technical editor at a national laboratory, and a writing coach to women of color. Each position has only validated my need to uplift our voices and share them with the world. As an agent I know I will continue that work.
What makes you excited about taking on a new author? What kind of stories and writers really capture your attention?
When I take on a new author I’m most excited about becoming a team. I think that the right agent and author pairs complement each other’s skills so well, and I want to be a part of that! I’m always eager to get to know someone’s writing habits, talents, and struggles. It’s a really important relationship to me.
The stories and writers that capture my attention are those that don’t shy away from being themselves. We talk about who writing is “for” sometimes: I’m most captivated by stories that are written “for” POC and other marginalized communities—which in part means they don’t make any attempt to explain or justify themselves to non-POC folks. And of course, I’m a sucker for a sizzling romance, regardless of genre!
Talk about your editorial process.
I think one of my biggest priorities is to ensure that my authors feel like their identities and expressions are safe and respected in their writing. As a woman of color I know how it feels to be uncomfortable sharing my thoughts and experiences honestly, and I also know that others may feel uncomfortable sharing honestly with me. I want to do everything in my power to be a comfortable and safe person for my writers because I believe the best writing happens in that kind of space. So I suppose the biggest part of my “process” isn’t necessarily editorial at all: it has to do with setting the stage for each author that will enable them to do their best work.
Beyond that, I try to embody what I think are the usual hallmarks of a good editor: prioritizing the author’s voice and intentions, establishing a team dynamic, and kindness! I’ll often have a long conversation or conversations with an author before doing anything at all with their work, because I want to know what’s behind it. I invite a lot of collaboration, and sometimes I invite an author to brainstorm an edit with me. My edits have been described as having a great balance between technicality and creativity, but they’re also very casual and friendly!
What are your top three all time favorite books? Or what are three books that have moved you?
It’s hard to pick three favorites, so I’ll go with books that were the most formative for me!
The one that always comes to mind is Flame in the Mist, and I actually think this one is a true favorite as well as a formative one. It was the first Asian-inspired fantasy I ever read, the first with a Japanese protagonist, and the first with an Asian male love interest, too. That all meant so much to me, and still does.
The second would have to be the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. It has its flaws, but it was one of the first fantasy novels I ever read and it taught preteen me a lot about being a girl and what that meant for me internally and out in the world.
The third I think is the Throne of Glass series. This series taught me not to be ashamed to be as feminine as I want to be, and it taught me that it’s okay to love yourself loudly—both of which are things I think people are shamed for. I certainly was. I always find it telling when people say they don’t like Celaena. Of course that can be justified, but sometimes I’m suspicious it’s because she just loves herself a little too much and a little too loudly to be likeable to some.
What do you like to do when you’re not agenting, reading and editing?
So many things! I love baking; I’ve been baking for as long as I can remember. I love hiking (Yosemite is my favorite place!). I love swimming and playing volleyball. I’m a musician, and I play alto sax, tenor sax, and piano. I’ve also recently taken up running!
Is there anything else writers should know before they query you?
I’m a person who wants to connect. I laugh a lot and I love being friendly! If you let me, I will send smiley faces and LOLs in my emails. Like I said, I’m interested in making the agent/author relationship a really comfortable one, and that’s reflected in all of my work.
Thanks so much for letting us get to know you!
Ladderbird Literary Agency
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