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Literary Liaison | Storytelling Advocate | Architect of Dreams

Joanna MacKenzie

Joanna MacKenzie stands as a seasoned Nelson Literary Agent, committed to bolstering unique voices and guiding them through the publishing world. MacKenzie’s alchemical touch transforms raw manuscripts into narratives that resonate with their intended readership, fueling empathy and self-discovery.

Over the past 20 years, MacKenzie has built a successful portfolio of high-caliber authors like Kate Bear, Kristen Simmons, and Katrina Monroe. Her work is underpinned by her belief in the power of storytelling and her vision of fostering authentic connections through narratives. Her tenacity and skills have enabled these authors to shine in the literary landscape, reflecting her passion for unearthing new talents and nurturing them to connect with readers. 

At Nelson, MacKenzie leverages her wide-ranging expertise to facilitate seamless publication processes and enhance book sales. She represents a variety of authors writing everything from commercial fiction to self-help, including New York Times bestsellers and Edgar & Anthony Award nominees, proving her proficiency in the field. As a testament to their continuous efficacy, in 2021 and 2022 alone, Nelson Literary Agency’s mighty team of two efficiently processed and responded to a staggering 22,471 queries. 

But it is MacKenzie’s distinct approach to harmonizing client management and sales, that sets her apart within the industry. For her, accompanying an author extends beyond mere text—it’s about fostering careers and crafting brands that are as compelling and impactful as the narratives they bring to life.

MacKenzie’s previous roles at Browne & Miller Literary Associates informed her reputation of excellence and effectiveness. From expanding the agency’s network as an Agent to developing manuscripts as an Associate Agent, she honed her skills in brand integrity and strategic relationship building. Her transformative work in the agency’s ePub initiative and social media strategy is a testament to her innovative mindset and results-driven approach.

As a Freelance Packager and Writing Coach, MacKenzie simultaneously ventured into film criticism, volunteering at The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and acting as Assistant Director of The Chicago International Documentary Film Festival, not to mention penning numerous reviews for various outlets..  She facilitated screenings for children from diverse backgrounds, transforming post-film chats into in-depth analyses of characters, discussions about hidden messages, and insightful dives into filmmaking mechanics. Balancing this with her work in conceptualizing, outlining, and editing novels, MacKenzie continues her advocacy for diversity and cultural understanding through opportunities dedicated to fostering growth through narrative and storytelling.

With her distinct voice,, MacKenzie has lent her thought leadership to diverse topics, from career reinvention to Chicago-based art in publications such as Newcity, The Chicago Tribune, Time Out Chicago, and Chicago Magazine.  With an eclectic mix of topics, from change management to art-centered adult wellness classes, she enthralls her readers, driving meaningful conversations and inspiring personal growth. Her articles are a testament to her diverse interests and her ability to thread compelling narratives that engage, educate, and inspire–embodying her belief in the transformative power of storytelling.

MacKenzie’s academic foundation is deeply interwoven with her passion for narratives. Armed with a Master of Arts in Film Theory & Criticism from the University of Chicago, her scholarly exploration of the moving image informs her literary savvy. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft from the University of Calgary further broadens her understanding of storytelling, acknowledging the deep resonance of stories expressed on stage and their echoes in literature. As a Chicagoan by way of Canada, MacKenzie’s unique cultural and academic experiences, along with her MA thesis on Romantic Comedies, demonstrate her unwavering love for stories across all platforms and mediums.

MacKenzie is a visionary, steadfast in her mission to transform the literary landscape. Her unraveled dedication to fostering connections, amplifying diverse voices, and championing aspiring authors makes her the beacon of inspiration in the publishing world, ready for the unfolding chapters of empowering narratives.

Championing emerging voices and igniting exploration in literature.

Leading Expertise:

  • How to craft stories that connect with readers

  • How to identify & captivate your story’s ideal audience

  • Things every aspiring author needs to know when getting published

  • How reading transforms the way we see ourselves & the world around us

Connect with Joanna

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