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Author & Agent Interview: Megan Kamalei Kakimoto and Iwalani Kim

Today, we are thrilled to be interviewing Megan Kamalei Kakimoto, Kanaka Maoli author of Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare, and her literary agent, Iwalani Kim. More about Megan can be found on her website and more about Iwalani can be found on her agency’s website.


You can add Megan's short story collection, Every Drop is a Man's Nightmare, to your Goodreads here, or to your Storygraph here. Megan's book is also available now through these retailers.


We started this Author & Agent blog series to spotlight Pacific Islander creators and their agents for Asian and Pacific Islander month. Our hope is that this series will inspire other Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing traditional publishing as creators or as agents! As we learned in the creation of our website, there is not a single Pacific Islander agent, and we hope to see that change.


Thank you for joining us!


Megan's Interview

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and the project for which you've found representation? 


I’m a mixed Kanaka writer currently based in Honolulu. I found representation for my debut story collection Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare (Bloomsbury, 2023), and my forthcoming novel Bloodsick


What inspired you to write it?


The story collection was inspired by so many of my longtime interests and obsessions, including the female body, local superstitions, the moʻolelo of my ancestors, and the collision of the mythic and the modern. 


What resources did you use to compile your list of agents to query? What criteria did you use to build your list?


I had an unusual query journey, in that I both queried traditionally but also connected with Iwalani (who would become my agent) before my manuscript was ready. Our connection happened before I queried. Iwalani sent me the most generous “fan mail from a literary agent” after happening upon a tweet I wrote about getting into Tin House then reading from my website the only story I had ever published: “Temporary Dwellers” in Qu Literary Magazine. I didn’t have a completed manuscript at the time, but we decided I would touch base when I did. (I should say it was the honor of a lifetime to receive this “fan mail”!) 


About four months later I was feeling confident in my draft collection and was ready to query. I had assembled a list of agents by browsing the acknowledgements of books for which I felt a strong affinity and connection—books I imagined were in conversation with my own. Here I found most authors would reference their agents in their thanks. I decided to query these agents once I researched their tastes and interests in a manuscript, so long as they were in line with my project. And of course, I reached out to Iwalani. 


Did you tailor your query to each agent?


Absolutely. Each agent is taking their time to encounter your query (and sometimes even an excerpt of your work). I think it’s incumbent on the writer to do their research and query wisely so as not to waste either person’s time. 


What about Iwalani made you query her?


Though Iwalani was the one to reach out, I felt especially excited to query her based on her commitment to championing Kānaka and Pacific Islander writers. It’s one of the very first things we talked about, and we continue to have related conversations to this day. It’s also an interest I don’t hear often expressed in the publishing world. Receiving her email was so touching and honestly very exciting (to have an agent interested in my work seemed like the dream come true), but even beyond that initial excitement, I was also just very taken by her outlook on Pacific Islander representation and her passion for short story collections. 


What advice would you give creators looking for representation?


Be intentional in everything you do. I don’t believe in querying widely just to get an offer of representation from any agent who will have you. The author-agent relationship is exactly that, a relationship, and you want to feel both comfortable and confident in your partnership. Also, be mindful about why you are querying, and don’t query before you or your project are ready. Give your book the best chance to find its ideal agent by first making it the best it can be. 


When Iwalani offered, what made you decide to sign with her? What criteria did you consider?


Iwalani saw into the heart and soul of the collection, truly. When we had our first zoom (before she offered representation), Iwalani walked me through her reading experience story by story, then spoke to the book as a whole. And that magical thing happened in which it felt she was describing the book I dreamed of writing, seeing potential in each story while offering thoughts on the book’s thematic ligature. I was searching for a strong editorial partner, and I could just tell we would work so well together. I was also excited by the fact that she was, at the time, a junior agent, and I was to be the first author she signed. I thought we could do this very mysterious and truly magical thing of putting a book into the world together. 


What advice would you give to Pacific Islander creators looking for agents?


The same advice I would give to creators looking for representation, but with the added note to pay attention to what you need out of an agent. Take the time to look for agents who are hoping to bring more Pacific Islander art into the world, and ask all the questions you need to feel confident in your decision. 


How long have you been signed together? What’s your favorite thing about Iwalani?


We’ve been working together since late April 2021. Iwalani is my biggest champion and first reader. It’s corny, I know, but she really does believe in me when I have lost the belief in myself and my work. That belief and unwavering support is the greatest gift. I joke that I’m president of the Iwalani Fan Club, but it’s pretty much the truth! I could keep gushing, but I’ll close by saying my book owes its whole life to Iwalani and her day one trust. 

Iwalani's Interview


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