Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Dan Kirschen

“In general, my favorite thing is putting the right two people in a room together.”

-Dan Kirschen

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30–July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Dan Kirschen

Dan Kirschen began his career at ICM Partners in 2010 and has been there since, focusing on literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, current events, and pop culture (music and comedy in particular). He is a graduate of William & Mary, with a degree summa cum laude in philosphy. In his nocturnal life he plays the drums in a band.

Daniel Kirschen posed at the New York ICM Offices on October 29, 2014 in New York City.Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Dan Kirschen: With regards to the work, I’m as hands-on or hands-off as is required/preferred by the author. In general, my favorite thing is putting the right two people in a room together.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

DK: Of course the work itself is the most important thing, so if the writing grabs me and won’t let go, that’s enough. But naturally I prefer to work with good and likable people. Likewise, with big personalities and extremely hardworking, driven writers.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

DK: Completely depends on the author and book, but generally speaking, no, I don’t think it’s critical.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

DK: Many come to mind, but I think above all is: Be confident. Almost all instances of self-deprecation, particularly in a query letter, are a turn off.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

DK: Getting my first client a very high profile writing gig, and watching as his career changed overnight.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re looking to take on?

DK: Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.

Thanks, Dan!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Annie Hwang

“I don’t see myself as their agent for ‘this’ book or ‘that’ book, but for the entirety of their writing career.”

-Annie Hwang

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30–July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Annie Hwang

Annie Hwang is an agent at Folio Literary Management where she represents a range of fiction for adults and select nonfiction projects. She gravitates towards literary fiction with commercial appeal, and is particularly drawn to braided narratives and layered plots, especially when populated by complex characters with deep emotional resonance. Commercially, she’s looking for both sweeping historical fiction and visceral literary thrillers that depart from the norm of the genre. The most important thing to her, beyond concept or pitch, is breathtaking storytelling that stretches its genre to new heights. A California native, Annie worked in journalism before joining the publishing world, where she digs for stories that keep her reading late into the night and stay with her long after she puts them down.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Annie Hwang: I’m an editorially rigorous agent, so expect to work, and to be challenged to do your best work. When I decide to represent a client, it’s with a deep sense of responsibility and a passion for their voice, their work, and their career as an author. I don’t see myself as their agent for “this” book or “that” book, but for the entirety of their writing career. I want to know where they want to be in the next year, in five years, in ten years, and beyond; and, ultimately, help them lay out a path that will allow them to accomplish those goals. I’m also a proponent of regular, open communication and I expect the same of my clients to ensure that we’re on the same page every step of the way.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

AH: Any great relationship starts with honesty and communication. Trying to bring a book into the world is hard enough already — if we’re not on the same page, we’re not going to get very far. Beyond that: I am on the hunt for authors who are able to roll with the punches and revise based off of feedback. I look for someone who can and wants to carry more than one book. Because, at the end of the day (to borrow a phrase from the tech world), I invest in people, not (just) products. I want to develop deep, meaningful relationships with authors that go far beyond their debut.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

AH: It really depends on the kind of book we’re talking about. For prescriptive nonfiction, most definitely. For literary fiction, less so. It’s probably more important to have meaningful connections to notable people in the literary world (but, of course, having a presence on social media never hurts). Ultimately, what’s critical is being present where your audience is.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

AH: Just because it’s good doesn’t mean that other people will want it, so take ownership of your book, be confident in your abilities, but also be open to thinking critically about your book and the kind of guidance that comes your way.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

AH: One of the most exciting moments in my career was holding in my hands the very book I’d plucked out of the slush pile. I was an assistant at the time, so seeing my name in the acknowledgements meant the world to me — it still does.

Scribe: You emphasize “gifted storytelling” on your website; can you elaborate on this a little more for our readers?

AH: I’m really looking for the kind of writing that can make me forget the world around me and completely immerse me into the one that the author has created on the page, whether it be a subculture I’ve never experienced or a place I’ve never been or even turning that which I find familiar on its head.

Thanks, Annie!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

 

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Dan Smetanka

“Seek out forms of engagement that you enjoy and feel comfortable with. There are so many now, and it can be a benefit in the often long, lonely slog of becoming a writer.”

-Dan Smetanka

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Dan Smetanka

Dan Smetanka has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty-five years. As an Executive Editor at Ballantine/Random House, Inc., he acquired award-winning books including The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, Down to the Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck, and Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, a 2001 Finalist for the National Book Award. He is currently Vice President, Executive Editor for Counterpoint Press. He acquires both fiction and nonfiction, and his projects include works by Dana Johnson, Abby Geni, Tod Goldberg, Natashia Deon, and Karen E. Bender, a 2015 Finalist for the National Book Award.

dan-smetanka-newScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Dan Smetanka: Every book is different, and every author needs different things at different times throughout the process. So I don’t think there is just one approach. An editor’s first job is to establish a level of trust with the author; you are for that book the author’s closest reader and confidant. In discussing revisions, no ideas are off the table; it must be a safe zone of collaboration. An editor will be the one to guide the author through the process of revision but also through the entire process of publishing the book, from manuscript to galleys through production, publicity, and marketing. So the job of an editor does not end when the manuscript is finished. The relationship must be strong enough to withstand all aspects of the publishing process.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

DS: Really the same as for any project: an interesting story, well told, in a way I have not seen or thought about before. The magic can come from voice or perspective or language or structure, but it has to be there. There is so much extra work in breaking out a debut author — no awareness of them in the marketplace, or with sales reps, or a history to fall back on — but it is also consistently one of the most exciting aspects of the American publishing scene. Everyone likes to encounter a new and exciting voice. The act of discovery is an impactful and memorable one.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

DS: Yes, it’s important. But I would say this a different way. Any and all forms of engagement are important and necessary. To not have any forms of engagement is a mistake. This is an industry based on relationships and community. So the days when the writer — especially a debut or non-yet-famous writer — can retreat to the fainting couch are long past. Seek out the forms of engagement that you enjoy and feel comfortable with. There are so many now, and it can be a benefit in the often long, lonely slog of becoming a writer.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

DS: Socially, be polite. Just because you wrote something, do not assume that anyone has any responsibility to you to read it. Editorially, read your pages out loud — to the wall, to the pet, to the plants. You can catch a lot of your own mistakes that way.

Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?

DS: I am very proud of the depth and breadth of the Counterpoint list — for both fiction and nonfiction — and for our ability to welcome and publish both new and established voices. A trio of debut novels really connected with readers last year: The Houseguest by Kim Brooks, set just before WWII about the different factions of American Jews and their reactions to the news of atrocities coming out of Europe, that seemed to have direct echoes to the horrible news coming out of Syria; The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni used a nature photographer on the Farralon Island to explore our relationship to the natural world, to memory and loss, and the murky distinctions between animal and human; and Grace by Natashia Deon created a group of outlaw women in the antebellum south to portray the horrors of slavery and the divinity of maternal love. All were very different, all had bold, inventive ideas, all are stunning.

Scribe: In previous interviews, you’ve discussed how the role of the editor has expanded over the years in response to changes and expansions of the industry. How would you recommend debut authors proceed in a market that is in constant flux?

DS: Proceed carefully, of course. Educate yourself on the basics of the industry, since it is one led by idiosyncratic rules. There are ways to approach agents, ways to learn about books, ways to behave on social media as you present yourself as a professional writer. The internet provides a host of information that never was available to me or my ilk coming up in this industry. So while the market is in flux, and very competitive, this is the most knowledgeable generation of writers to exist, ever. Use that. And keep your wits about you.

Thanks, Dan!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Tricia Skinner

“If your first book deal doesn’t let you retire from your day job, don’t put away your computer.”

-Tricia Skinner

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Tricia Skinner

Tricia Skinner is an agent for Fuse Literary. She began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit NewsInvestor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle. Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles, including public relations, industry relations, and writing/editing. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by McLean). Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart. As an agent, she wants to represent authors who reflect diversity and cultures in their work.

tricia-skinner-agentScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Tricia Skinner: I prefer to communicate frequently, touching base on projects and providing updates when I have them (even if the update is “no new info yet”). My clients will tell you I’ll pick up the phone or send an instant message just to say “Howdy.” Writing is so solitary. It helps to know your agent hasn’t forgotten you!

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

TS: Drive, career goals, and a sense of the business of publishing books. Even if a writer is unpublished, I want to see that they have a website and a developing social media presence. It’s easier (and more helpful) to find a debut author who “gets it.” The most important thing I look for is someone I can truly partner with. I don’t want divas, and I don’t want anyone lazy. I don’t want to have to drag someone along (this is their career, after all), but I also don’t want someone who’s harboring too many unrealistic goals. I prefer to work with authors who are open to new ideas and different perspectives.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

TS: Yes, I do, but social media should be used in a smart way. Spamming people to buy your book is never a good idea. Neither is never updating your social media. Authors should understand the balance.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

TS: Think in terms of years. Publishing books is always going to be the first goal, but so is growing your career over time. All the quick fixes you’ve heard about, or mega deals, don’t happen to everyone. If your book deal doesn’t let you retire from your day job, don’t put away your computer.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

TS: This year, I was promoted to a full agent role at Fuse Literary. I had closed two new book deals, and I had planned to reopen to unsolicited submissions when it happened. For me, it was a formal acknowledgement of this career path being a great fit for me. I love what I do.

Thanks, Tricia!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30 – July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Anjali Singh

“I want to find and help get published the stories we just haven’t seen enough of, and that have the power to open up readers’ understandings of the ‘other’ — in whatever shape that might take.”

-Anjali Singh

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is an agent at Ayesha Pande Literary. Most recently Editorial Director at Other Press, she has also worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Vintage Books. Two upcoming projects include Sherine Hamdy and Myra El-Mir’s young adult graphic novel about coming-of-age Muslim-American, and Bridgett M. Davis’ What Dies Happiness Play For?, a memoir about growing up in Detroit in the 60s and 70s with an extraordinary mother. Singh is looking for character-driven fiction or non-fiction works that reflect an engagement with the world, memoirs, and MG and YA literature and graphic novels.

anjali-singh-1Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Anjali Singh: My background is as an editor, so I would say my approach as an agent is similarly hands-on; I’m on board to help manage every aspect of my clients’ careers, but it starts with getting the fiction MS or proposal just right in order to get them the best possible deal with a publisher. That means the pre-submission/development part of the process can be very drawn out. I do several rounds of close reads with editorial comments, and all along the way I’m talking to my clients about their expectations, helping to manage those expectations, but also helping them to hopefully write the book that has the best potential to reach their intended audience.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

AS: I’m always looking for writing that is direct and honest, and that has an immediacy that moves me. I want to feel swept up in the stories I read, and I want to feel that the characters are complex and recognizable and to truly believe in them. I also want the book to somehow change the world! I know it’s a big ask, but I think what I mean is I want to find and help get published the stories we just haven’t seen enough of, and that have the power to open up readers’ understandings of the “other” — in whatever shape that might take.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

AS: Some of this is informed by my generation — I’m pretty much mid-career with 20 years in publishing, but I still didn’t grow up in a world, even a professional world, where social media was king. The perceived wisdom is that if you’re good at it and it comes naturally and organically, having a social media presence can be immensely helpful. But if not, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, especially when it’s something that feels forced. I do think it’s worth learning about, trying out different platforms, to see if there is one that is a fit with your personality type. I think it behooves all of us to engage with it and to do our research.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

AS: I’m beginning to sound like a broken record on this subject, but what I think is most important in terms of building a career and growing as a writer is to create a community for yourself of fellow writers and readers — and to read your fellow writers’ books, to really know what else is out there.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

AS: I’m only a little over a year into my agenting career, so right now every project is new, different, and exciting. One area I’ve been stretching my wings into is MG and YA, which I knew very little about as an editor in the adult publishing world. But as the mom of 8- and 5-year-old girls, I’m reading into that space at home. I have been picking up YA books in my spare time and falling in love with them, in the way that reading books as a young person utterly transported me and made me fall in love with reading. It’s also about getting to have a new experience with books and with publishing. So right now I’ve placed a YA graphic novel about growing up as a Muslim-American and am working with the author of a YA fantasy novel set in ancient India, as well as a MG graphic novel series that features a 9-year-old girl detective.

Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?

AS: One project in the pipeline that I’m extremely excited about is Bridgett Davis’ What Does Happiness Play For? This memoir is about growing up in Detroit in the 60s and 70s and pays homage to the author’s mother. Davis’ mother ran Numbers, an illegal lottery business, and in so doing created a loving, prosperous, and stable life for her family at a time when African-American women had very few career paths open to them.

I’m also working on several debut novels, one about a Muslim immigrant family that is both beautifully written and political, and which I feel will be an important contribution to the body of work about the American immigrant experience. I’m also working on another debut that’s a saga about four generations of a Kuwaiti family.

Thanks, Anjali!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30 – July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

 

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Michelle Brower

“I do love it when a debut author is some magical combination of hardworking, eager to promote, and just an all-around good human being. I find most of my authors are that way; I think we self-select each other.”

-Michelle Brower

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Michelle Brower

Michelle Brower began her career in publishing in 2004 while studying for her Master’s degree in English Literature at New York University. After stints at Wendy Sherman Associates and Folio Literary Management, she joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth and Kuhn Projects, now Aevitas Creative Management, where she is looking for literary fiction, suspense, “book club” novels, genre fiction for non-genre readers, and narrative non-fiction.

michelle-brower1Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Michelle Brower: I’m a very editorial agent, so I love digging into the manuscript and helping the author turn it into the best version of itself. I really think that my main job in working with the writer is to ask them questions. I can suggest what the answers or solutions might be, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the writer to decide. And in addition to that, it’s my job to be a cheerleader for the book, both in selling it to publishers and getting it through the publication process in the best way possible.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

MB: Voice, voice, voice. I’m selective in adding new authors to my list, but I always desperately want to find a voice that I haven’t heard before and that sweeps me away into the world of the book. All else is immaterial. But I do love it when a debut author is some magical combination of hardworking, eager to promote, and just an all-around good human being. I find most of my authors are that way; I think we self-select each other.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

MB: Not at all, but it is helpful. A huge social media following will not cover for a bad book, and a good book can rise up without a big social media presence.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

MB: Write from your heart and your gut. If you aren’t, it becomes obvious very quickly.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

MB: They all feel special and unique in their way — that’s sort of the type of project I like to take on. But for example, I have a novel publishing called Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore, about a man who has been reincarnated 9,995 times and only has 5 more lives to achieve Perfection before he ceases to exist entirely. It’s strange and vastly funny, and it made me feel like a slightly better person after reading it. I was thrilled to find a great home for it. Another good moment: Stephen King tweeting that he really loved Final Girls by Riley Sager (out in July).

Scribe: On your website, you talk about an interest in fiction “that pays equal attention to both the voice and the story.” Can you give readers a few examples of novels that you feel find this balance?

MB: Yes! I like to think most of my books fit this criteria — the ones I mentioned above, Sarah Domet’s The Guinevers, Erika L. Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Heather Young’s The Lost Girls — but for books I don’t actually represent, I just read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Catherine Webb and loved that. Really, I just find that plot is a useful craft tool and something that I’m drawn to as a reader.

Thanks, Michelle!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Claire Anderson-Wheeler

“Write every day. It doesn’t matter if some days it’s just fifteen minutes. It’s important to stay in that world.”

-Claire Anderson-Wheeler

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 24th Annual A&E Conference from June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Claire Anderson-Wheeler

Claire Anderson-Wheeler has been part of the RHA team since 2013 and previously was an agent at Anderson Literary Management, New York, and the Christine Green Agency, London. She is Irish and grew up in Ireland, Belgium, and Switzerland, although she was born in Washington, D.C. She holds a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK. She represents adult fiction and nonfiction, and fiction for children (focusing on YA and MG). In nonfiction, she is looking for incisive social/political discourse from established commentators; for distinctive, well-credentialed biography; quirky historical narratives seen through an unexpected lens; “big picture” science, and unusual, thoughtful memoir (no travel writing or dating memoirs). Fiction is harder to specify, but she is open to both genre and literary writing for adults, and both contemporary and speculative fiction for children.

caw-wordpressScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Claire Anderson-Wheeler: My approach is very author-led. Different authors need different things — some want a lot of independence and solitude, others want a lot of guidance and frequent contact. So it’s different for everyone. But if there’s a common thread that feels important to every author relationship, it’s that it feels collaborative and that there is a sense of partnership in the relationship — we don’t have competing agendas here.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

CAW: Most of all, I look for a great voice, and an intuitive understanding of story — a bunch of interesting things well-described does not a story make, and some people grasp the essence of a satisfying story more instinctively than others. Personality-wise, I love to find new authors who are confident enough that they won’t throw their instincts out the window, but detached enough that they can digest constructive criticism in a fruitful way, and see me as an “insider” they can learn from.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

CAW: Not always, but it helps. It’s good to play to your strengths. If you’re a natural online, that’s great — it enables you to be part of a community, get in the know about what’s going on in the real world that you might want to be part of, and it helps you get in touch with your readers. But not everyone needs thousands of Twitter followers. It also depends on the kind of author you’re trying to be. If it’s fiction, a big social media presence doesn’t tend to be quite as crucial as if it’s nonfiction.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

CAW: I’m going to cheat and give two: the first is to have a manuscript critique partner (ideally, who writes better than you do). The second is to write every day. It doesn’t matter if some days it’s just fifteen minutes. It’s important to stay in that world. If you let it into your mind every day, it will stay with you better. Inspiration won’t seem so far away when you sit down in that chair.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.

CAW: Well, there’s a book coming out from one of my authors this April — it’s called Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan, and it’s a YA debut. It takes place against a backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, and when I first read the synopsis I thought, “Hm, I don’t know — can something about Hurricane Katrina still feel that urgent and important? Will today’s sixteen-year-olds relate to something that happened over ten years ago?” But then I read the book and realized it was about so much more than one specific natural disaster. It was about what it means to lose things and how to rebuild when everything you know has changed. It was about how it feels to be a refugee in your own country — and of course, it was about love! I totally fell for the manuscript, and it was such a great reminder to me that we can sometimes be very narrow when we talk about “topicality.” Something doesn’t need to be explicitly about current events to be about current events. And as for a proud moment, I was certainly proud to see Between Two Skies pick up starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist just last week!

Scribe: You mention on your website that you’re looking for literature with “a meaty narrative and a confident voice;” can you elaborate a little more on what that looks like? Maybe give a few examples of recent publications that you think exemplify these traits?

CAW: For me, a meaty narrative is the opposite of those manuscripts where it feels like the main character is meditating for 250 pages. It means, for me, a plot that involves complex and intense conflicts that are external as well as internal, and an authorial approach that steers free of cliches, and creates situations that surprise the reader and yet feel “right” for the story. A “confident voice” to me means a voice that just knows who it is. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or tricky sort of voice. It can be a very clean, unadorned sort of voice. But it should feel like a voice that the writer has settled into and isn’t trying too hard to create. Liane Moriarty is a good example for commercial fiction — the writing just flows, and you never feel pulled out of her story by feeling the author it “trying for” a certain kind of voice. Elena Ferrante is another great example at the more literary end. Reading her just feels like someone telling a story — convincing, personal, and authentic, without fuss or effort. The intensity comes from a feeling of authenticity — because the writer knows their characters inside out, is tough on them, but respects them — and not from big words or showy metaphors.

Thanks, Claire!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.