Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Amy Gash

“Show your work and be open to hearing criticism. Incorporate the feedback that feels honest and true.”

-Amy Gash

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 Amy Gash

Amy Gash is a Senior Editor in the New York office of Algonquin Books, where she acquires literary fiction and narrative nonfiction on topics ranging from from science, education, humor, graphic memoir, history, and language. Books she has edited have won The National Book Critics Circle Award, The American Library Association Sophie Brody Medal, and The Sami Rohr Prize. They have been New York Times bestsellers, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times bestsellers, #1 Indie Picks, Top Ten Amazon Books of the Year, and New York Times Notable Books. They have been published in translation throughout the world.

Amy Gash photoScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Amy Gash: My goal is to help an author write the best book possible—and that requires a personalized approach to each book. Often with nonfiction, the book I’ve acquired has not yet been written—there may only be a proposal and a chapter—so the first step might be conversations about what the author wants to achieve and how to get there. We might talk about structure, about themes, about endings and beginnings. I usually have strong opinions but I’m always cognizant of the fact that I’m there to facilitate the author’s vision. At the same time, I want to steer the author in a direction that I think readers will respond to—and I’m the stand-in for the reader. Once the manuscript is delivered, I always print out a hard copy and make copious notes all over the pages—I’ll write down whatever comes to my mind as I read. Then I’ll usually read the manuscript again while I’m transferring those notes to the digital manuscript and by then I’ve formed a cohesive view of the bigger issues (pacing, structure, does the book hold my interest, etc.) and smaller issues (sentence structure, repetition, did I “notice” the writing instead of enjoying the reading, etc.) that need to be addressed. Then I’ll do all this again when the revised manuscript is delivered, and again until the book feels ready to be published.

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

AG: In any book—fiction or nonfiction, debut or not—I’m looking for a story that no one but that particular writer can tell. A voice or a story that makes me sit up and say this is original, this is something I haven’t read before. And even if the story is familiar, I’m hoping it’s told in a way that is completely fresh—maybe the writer comes at it sideways or backwards—or just differently.

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

AG: No, but it certainly can help. That said, I think one’s social media presence has to be authentic to be effective. So an author who has published a book and has never been active on social media but then decides to tweet up a storm in order to sell that book is likely to be disappointed.  Algonquin has a strong social media presence and we really work with our authors to create campaigns that are creative and potent. It takes thought.

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

AG: Show your work and be open to hearing criticism. Incorporate the feedback that feels honest and true.

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 editor.

AG: Algonquin recently published a book by filmmaker and pop culture icon John Waters. It’s the text of the commencement address he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design. I watched the speech on YouTube and loved it because it was not the usual, tired advice for graduates. I immediately thought it should be a book but the text was short and we needed to create a book around it. We found a slightly subversive illustrator whose art fit John’s worldview and we worked with John and now Make Trouble has just been published. It’s not a typical book for me, as I mostly edit fiction and narrative nonfiction, but still it fits well on Algonquin’s list because the book is moving and original.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on, or can you give an example of the ideal book you’d like to publish?

AG: Recently published books include Real Food/Fake Food, an expose about how many of the foods we eat—from olive oil to cheese to wine—are not what we think they are; The Muralist, a novel by the author of the bestselling The Art Forger, about abstract expressionists in pre-WWII New York; Cannibalism, written by a zoologist who looks at the practice across the animal world; Pumpkinflowers, a memoir by a former Israeli soldier about how wars are fought today; and The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, by the comedian Paula Poundstone. As you can see, my interests are broad!

Thanks, Amy!

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.

Advertisements

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Caroline Casey

“A successful author/publisher collaboration is like parent/nanny—no one will ever love your book the way you do, but you need to find someone you feel comfortable with and then trust them to do the right thing by your progeny.”

-Caroline Casey

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 Caroline Casey

Caroline Casey is Managing Director at Coffee House Press. She has a background in marketing, publicity, and acquisitions, including stints at Sarabande Books and Stanford University Press, and holds an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

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

Caroline Casey: A successful author/publisher collaboration is like parent/nanny—no one will ever love your book the way you do, but you need to find someone you feel comfortable with and then trust them to do the right thing by your progeny.

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

CC: Talent. Full stop. We only care about the book.

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

CC: Definitely not. Social media can, when employed well and with years (years) of groundwork laying, sell books. But plenty of writers simply write, and they succeed or fail based on that.

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

CC: If only! Everyone requires something different. I guess I’d say to not judge the value of your work by its reception. You can’t control that.

Scribe: On your website, you give a wide-range of narrative nonfiction; can you highlight a few examples of recent narrative nonfiction publications to give readers get a better sense of what you’re looking for?

CC: We’re interested in work that conforms more to the demands of “essay” than of “nonfiction.” Recent-ish examples would be Elena Passarello’s Animals Strike Curious Poses or Katie Holten’s collage (that’s the best description I can think of) About Trees. I’m enjoying Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse. Garnette Cadogan is writer I’m always ready for new work from, as is Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. I’d say our taste is: any book that approaches its subject with curiosity, sentence-level interest, and a sense of context.

Thanks, Caroline!

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: David Doerrer

“Sit down and write! Don’t wait for someone else’s permission or validation to create.”

-David Doerrer

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 David Doerrer

David Doerrer is a graduate of New York University and worked at Sterling Lord Literistic and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt before joining Abrams Artists Agency in 2010. In addition to working with a growing list of writers, novelists, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, he works with his colleagues at Abrams, “a full-service talent agency,” to create opportunities for his clients in other mediums and outlets. He’s on the look-out for big-hearted adult and YA fiction, and a wide range of narrative nonfiction, from science, sports, and pop-culture to memoir that atomizes large-scale change through a personal prism.

david-doerrerScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

David Doerrer: Before I made the transition to agenting, I was in subsidiary rights, which is strictly a sales position. I switched gears because I wanted to play a greater role in the editorial development of projects—and still have a chance to sell them. So I tend to be very hands-on. I work with authors over the course of weeks, months, and in some cases years to get a proposal or manuscript just right.

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

DD: I look for a compelling and confident voice. I find that a lot of debut authors get tripped up in trying to embroider every sentence and fitting all of their stored wisdom in one book. I love a well-crafted, flowery sentence, but it’s not everything. I look for first-time writers who unfurl their stories with assurance and patience.

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

DD: Social media is no silver bullet for the unpredictability of the marketplace. That said, I advise all of the authors I work with to cultivate some kind of social media footprint. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—these are unparalleled avenues for authors to find their fans and for their fans to find them.

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

DD: I realize this is not particularly profound, but I’d say: Sit down and write! Don’t wait for someone else’s permission or validation to create.

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.

DD: Playing a role in the sale of the memoir by the first male professional athlete to come out as gay. That book saves lives.

Scribe: On your website, you give a wide-range of narrative nonfiction; can you highlight a few examples of recent narrative nonfiction publications to give readers get a better sense of what you’re looking for?

DD: I recently sold a nonfiction account of the citizen science movement told through the prism of one crusading family. I love books that anatomize large-scale social, political, and cultural change.

Thanks, David!

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.