Since joining the Darley Anderson Children’s Agency in 2018, Lydia has built a wide-ranging list of dynamic and diverse writing and illustrating talent. Among other accolades, her authors have been picked as Blackwell’s Book of the Month, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Jhalak Prize, and won the Diverse Book Award.
After a childhood buried in library books and Beanos, Lydia started her career in the editorial team at Egmont, where she commissioned books such as the Carnegie Medal-winning The Poet X. She then decided to switch to agenting in 2018, and was chosen as a Bookseller Rising Star in 2022.
With experience on both sides of the commissioning desk, Lydia loves working editorially with her clients and developing ideas from an initial spark into a full manuscript. She represents clients across all age groups, including picture book, chapter book, middle grade and YA, and has a particular focus on non-fiction.
No matter the story, Lydia is drawn to voice above anything else and will always be sucked in by a strong hook. Lydia is actively looking for submissions from all under-represented writers, and if you’re comfortable doing so, you can use the hashtag #diversevoice when you submit to indicate that you identify as under-represented. Lydia is not currently taking on new picture book clients.
My tastes lean towards the bold, the loud and the zeitgeisty – big, commercial storytelling that also says something about the world we live in. I’m a sucker for beautiful writing but for me, it needs to be combined with an ambitious, hooky concept or plot. Give me character! Give me drama! Give me end-of-the-world stakes! If you can make me laugh, cry, or see the world differently, I’m likely to fall for your book.
One of the reasons I am so happy to be a specialist children’s agent is because of the huge variety in storytelling opportunities that children’s books hold. As such, my tastes are wide-ranging across genre and form. One thing that almost all the books I love have in common is that they have something to say. Books are a brilliant way for children to discover, discuss and digest the big things happening in their lives, often for the first time. While I don’t tend to like books that are message-heavy, I think that all truly great children’s books have a subtle point to make.
In middle grade, my first love is fantasy. I remember vividly sitting half-way up my stairs at home reading Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, and anything that combines that wild, remote magic with his human-daemon tenderness will speak to my heart. It’s a crowded space, so here I’m looking for scale and ambition – think Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, Greenwild or Fireborn, with a huge world to explore and save.
Mystery and adventure are inherent in most stories, but I do have a real soft spot for them as genres. I would love to find an adventure series that appeals to boy readers, particularly when they hit that tricky stage between MG and YA. I loved the Alex Rider series and I think there’s a space for something new to burst into that gap, with thrilling missions, dark secrets and genuine peril. I also love a more classic-feeling mystery, or a historical adventure, but told from a viewpoint that we’ve not seen before. My own client Laura Noakes does this brilliantly, telling classic heist stories with a disabled cast, and it would be great to see more in this vein.
For younger fiction, I’m lead by my funnybone. I have a slightly dark, offbeat sense of humour and I love seeing this replicated in books for seven year olds! I particularly enjoy working with author/illustrators here – there’s a real alchemy in seeing how the art and words combine right from the start. I fell about laughing at Louie Stowell’s Loki series, and anything with that strong a voice and identity is a big yes from me.
In YA, for me, fantasy is queen. I was big into Holly Black as a teenager and I love any romantasy that’s dripping venom off the end of its beautifully-crafted paragraphs. The love interests I fantasize about are arrogant, cocky and impossibly gorgeous, so I’m much more interested in enemies-to-lovers than when the pair start as friends. I like big-world fantasy but the stakes still need to be personal, so I’m not the best fit for sprawling epics with a cast of thousands. I also love genre bends and blends – I already represent a crime romantasy but I would love a horror romance, a speculative thriller or a comic fantasy!
Across all age ranges, I have a huge love for illustrated fiction and graphic novels. Like everyone with a heart, I swooned over Alice Osman’s Heartstopper, and Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey cracks me up. I am interested in books that push the boundaries of genre or form, whether that’s an illustrated YA fantasy or a MG graphic novel that uses colour to make a point. I’m concious that graphic novel/comic is a format, not a genre, and I’m open to seeing them in any space on my list.
Books are both mirrors of the world children live in, and windows into new ones. As such, I will always look for and prioritise writers from backgrounds underrepresented in publishing, and stories that I haven’t seen told before. While I would never out someone or force an author to be explicit about an aspect of their identity they’re not comfortable with, I do think it’s important that if you’re writing about a marginalized experience, that’s an experience that you share and understand. I try to be both anti-racist and queer-positive, and to be an ally to marginalized communities, although I’m aware this needs to be ongoing work. I’m also ethnically Jewish, and so on a personal level I would love to see more Jewish experiences and characters in UK children’s books.
Books I love include:
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston Grimwood by Nadia Shireen Evil Emperor Penguin by Laura Ellen Anderson Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell The Amulet of Samarkand by Johnathan Stroud Lore by Alexanda Bracken Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen