Middle Grade Memories: Agent Suzie Townsend (+ Giveaway!)

25 Jun

This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.

Below is the fifth post in the series, by Suzie Townsendagent fabuloso at Nancy Coffey Literary. Read on as Suzie talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, The Westing Game. Then check out the giveaway!


I have a problem. Impatience.

It makes working in publishing interesting because like writers, agents also do a lot of waiting.

But this impatience problem was even worse when I was a kid. I ate food entirely too fast, I ran rather than walked, and I often skipped ahead and read the end of a book first. In fact when I was 8, 9, and even 10 years old I think every book I read, I read the last page first.

We all know this can ruin the twists of good books and my mom, clever lady that she was knew she had to put a stop to this, she just hadn’t worked out how to do it yet.

Then came The Westing Game.

(Now if you haven’t read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, you need to. It’s about sixteen people chosen to live together and hear the will of self-made millionaire Sam Westing. In pairs, they’re given clues, and challenged to solve his murder in order to inherit his $200 million dollar fortune and his company. It’s fabulous.)

I was in fifth grade and my teacher—a wonderful amazing teacher, the kind you never forget—mentioned to our parents at back to school night we would be reading The Westing Game. She told them about the story and encouraged our parents to make sure we didn’t read ahead and spoil the mystery for any other students.

This worried my mother. After all, I would read the last page first and have to wait several weeks for the class to finish the book. I don’t think I would have been evil enough to spoil the ending for everyone else in my class, especially after being told not too, but clearly my mom didn’t want to tempt me.

So she and my teacher conspired.

What they came up with was this: my mom was going to buy me a personal copy of The Westing Game and tear out the last chapter. Yes you heard that right, she was going to tear out the last chapter of the book! And not only that, they got copies for everyone in class and tore out all the last chapters (sadly, I was that kid who would have borrowed someone else’s book to read the end).

Thus I was forced to read The Westing Game and try to figure out the mystery on my own.

This might have been the second best decision my mother ever made to encourage my love of reading. (The first was another trick. I loved presents so every time I finished a book she would get me a present. The present was always another book.)

By forcing me to read the book start to finish (oh I tried to read ahead at times but I couldn’t read the end so it was less satisfying), I was had to come up with my own theories which I discussed with my mom each night before bed in the hopes she would drop a clue about whether I was right.

I lived the mystery along with the characters, I immersed myself into the story, I read and reread certain chapters looking for clues, and I was rewarded when I finally was allowed to read that last chapter and had my mind blown by the ending. None of my theories had been the right one and The ending made complete sense. Thinking back I knew exactly where the clues where even though I’d missed them.

It was the most glorious reading experience I’d had.

Now I’d like to say this changed my ways, and maybe it would have. But I didn’t have the chance to find out. My mother bought all my books for the next several years and she tore the last chapter out of every one of them and only gave that last chapter to me when I’d finished the rest of the book.

I can’t exactly remember when she stopped tearing that last chapter out—probably when I gave up complaining about it—but it didn’t matter. I’d finally grown into a person who still had an impatience problem but appreciated and relished the twists in novels and being surprised by what happened.



After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend started publishing at FinePrint Literary Management in January 2009 and worked her way up from intern to agent. Now an agent at Nancy Coffey Literary, she represents adult and children’s fiction. She is actively looking to build her list. In adult, she’s specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens’ she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie Super 8). She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI. She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in New York with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.



To celebrate Suzie’s post, she is generously giving away an ARC of Nikki Loftin’s upcoming spooky MG, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (which I have had the pleasure of reading, and thought was utterly delightful)! Nikki was Suzie’s first MG client, and it was a book she read from start to finish without reading the last page first.

A bit about Sinister Sweetness:

When Lorelei’s old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It’s every kids’s dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it’s too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.

Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she’d like to forget – and taking on a teacher who’s a real witch.

What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!

To win this ARC, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with The Westing Game. Have you read and loved this book? How did it influence you? What are your middle grade memories?

For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.

This giveaway begins now and ends Monday, July 2 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.

EDITED 7/3: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner . . .

Amy! (@amabe421)

Amy, I will be emailing you shortly with more info. Thanks to everyone for participating, and stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories giveaways throughout the summer!


Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!

You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below:

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32 Responses to “Middle Grade Memories: Agent Suzie Townsend (+ Giveaway!)”

  1. Kellie DuBay Gillis June 25, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    Loved THE WESTING GAME. My favorite children’s librarian was the one who put this fab puzzle book/mystery into my hands in the 5th grade. It was like reading a game of CLUE, but only better. She was my go-to librarian from then on. And I just re-read it as an adult this year.

  2. lovingrob June 25, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    Ahhh. I have never heard of The Westing Game :( But I blame that on being Norwegian. But ohh. It sounds awesome. :) And I should check it out ;) So thank you for sharing. <3 also, this ARC sounds so extremely good! *wants it* <3 Hih :) Thank you so much for this awesome post and this awesome giveaway :D
    Love, Carina

  3. Erica June 25, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    I haven’t read The Westing Game – but I have heard about it! But it sounds really awesome and I think I may need to make sure to read it!

    One of my favorite middle grade memories definitely lies around my Nancy Drew addiction I had where I would read 1-2 of them a night. I still have my collection of around 250 Nancy Drews :)

  4. Melinda VanLone June 25, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I did the same thing as a kid! If the story was making me tense, I read the last few pages to calm myself down. Otherwise I read the book way too fast and ended up having to read it twice. My mother never attempted what yours did but I’m not sure it would have made a difference for me. Knowing the end never ruined the book for me. It just reassured me that everything would be all right :-). I do sometimes still do that as an adult, but not as often now that I use the Kindle. It’s much harder to skip ahead on the Kindle, so I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the ride. Although, when I read James Rollins Devil Colony, I had to keep putting the book down because I got too tense and couldn’t check the end ;-) (yes, I finished it).

  5. deadtossedwaves June 25, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    I haven’t read The Westing Game. I really need to do that!! But I was a huge RL Stine fan as a child. It was just so much fun to be able to choose a different outcome every time. It never got old.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

    • readatouille June 25, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Wow, that is one determined mother! I would never read the last page of a book first; my problem was being unwilling to stop reading to do other things. I’m impatient to read The Sinister Sweetness, and if I win the ARC, I promise not to drop it in the bathtub.

  6. gina sandoval June 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Haven’t read it but would love to! I hated middle school lol truly!

  7. Michelle Mason June 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I haven’t read THE WESTING GAME, but now I want to! I loved anything Nancy Drew as a kid, but one of my lasting favorites was THE BFG. I remember sitting entranced as my teacher read a chapter to us each day. It’s stuck with me for more than 20 years!

    I tweeted about the contest here: http://twitter.com/michelleimason/status/217298872404426753

    Thanks for hosting!

  8. Tobi Summers June 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    I LOVED The Westing Game! We read it in eighth grade English, and my best friend and I sat there for HOURS trying to solve the mystery before we read the end. I think we were close, but I don’t think we actually got it.

  9. simplyinfatuated June 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    I haven’t read The Westing Game. During my MG years, I was into Nancy Drew, the Sweet Valley books, and choose your own Adventures.

  10. angelicarjackson June 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    I haven’t read the Westing Game (but will now!), but I had to laugh at this. I can totally relate to the impatience (guilty of unwrapping my Christmas presents, playing with them, and then rewrapping), but I would have been horrified if my mom tore apart a book!

  11. Jasmine Rose June 26, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    I haven’t read The Westing Game. It was a tad before my time :P It’s definitely on my TBR now, though :D
    I have to say I’ve never been the type to read ahead. In fact, if I find myself skipping ahead I force myself to go back and reread whatever I glanced over :P

  12. Amy June 26, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I have not read The Westing Game, but I really should. That is a great story about how her mother tore out the last chapter and she had to try to figure out the mystery. The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy sounds really good!! I love a good mystery. I was obsessed with Nancy Drew!

    tweet: http://claire-legrand.com/2012/06/25/middle-grade-memories-agent-suzie-townsend-giveaway/

  13. Malvina Beatrice July 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Sadly I’ve never heard of The Westing Game but surely I would love to read it. During my Middle Grade years I used to read books by Enid Blyton.

    Tweet : http://twitter.com/Acciomalfoyz/status/219467451417628674

  14. alicia marie July 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    i LOVE the westing game!! i read it for the first time when it was one of my summer reading requirements for 7th grade and loved every page of it!! it’s one of the first books i read that i actually completely immersed myself in. i wanted so badly to figure out the end before i got there and be right about it. i never even considered reading ahead so that i’d know what the end was. i’ve always loved being surprised!! i’ve probably read the book at least 5 more times since then. it is one of my all time favorites!! i think i’m gonna have to go read it again now : )

    tweeted: https://twitter.com/bamayankee/status/219503805711126528

  15. Julianna @ The Reviews News July 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I’ve never read THE WESTING GAME, but you can bet I will now!

    Ah, some of my favorite middle grade memories are in 6th grade when we had to make a life-sized ancient Chinese robe with a partner and then wear it and be like a model, pose around the room, etc. It was hilarious, the poses people would do. Especially the guys, haha. Another one of my favorite memories is that my 6th grade teacher had a jar of pretzels that he would always give to groups who won the weekly challenge. :)

  16. deniz July 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    You won’t believe it, but I haven’t read this book! Now I feel guilty. Off to add it to my wishlist!

    • Jennifer Gottschalk July 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

      I read The Westing Game in 6th grade and it held the “I didn’t guess the ending” record in my middle grade reads all the way until I read When You Reach Me about 3 years ago. I have taught The Westing Game to students in grades 5-6 and loved listening to their theories about who did what. Once, only once, did a student guess the ending correctly (a very bright girl named Adrienne). Thanks for a great post, Suzie Townsend, you took me back to some very happy memories.


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