of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Q#1: Curtis Brown is one
of the oldest and most respected literary agencies. How did
you start working there and how has the company changed over
A: Well, I broke up with my boyfriend
and called my dad, asking him for financial help to fund my
further education. I thought I would go back to school and get
my teaching credential. Dad said no. He called me a couple weeks
later and asked if I'd like to move back to what he called "the
civilized coast" (I was living in Mendocino, California
at the time) to work in the children's department at Curtis
Brown. Dad retired a few years ago but it's still a family business.
My brother and sister are here as well. Has the company changed
over the years? I guess it has, though it's hard to see when
you're in it. I've been here 20 years now. There are always
new faces but several people have been here for over 30, 40,
and 50 years. Soon we hope to join the rest of the civilized
world and put up a website. Very soon, in fact. Please check
Q#2: What kinds of work do you represent?
Do you have a favorite?
A: Mostly children's books, from picture
books for the very young to y.a./teen novels and nonfiction. At
the moment, I especially love middle grade and teen novels and
Q#3: Describe one great query letter that
stands out in your memory? What did the author do right?
A: Smart, funny, and engaging letters catch
my eye. It's best to include at least a first page of a longer
manuscript with your query, and an entire picture book if that's
what you write. Let me see what you want me to sell.
Q#4: What kind of work is "hot"
right now? What's the hardest to sell?
A: Oh, I guess funny middle grade novels
are always hot. Toughest at the moment, at least for me, are "mood"
picture books, and beginning readers by "unproven" authors.
Q#5: Are you taking on new clients?
A: I'm always on the lookout for exciting
new clients. That said, I am rather picky.
Q#6: Do you attend conferences? Do you
recommend them for authors?
A: I do, but fewer than in the past. They're
terrific for the right authors. If you need to connect with other
writers, if you want to network and get to know editors and agents
personally, conferences can be great. There's usually a lot of
useful and valuable information to be gleaned by beginning authors.
Q#7: Describe your ideal client.
A: A talented writer with realistic expectations,
willing to work at her/his craft, respected and respectful.
Now for some fun questions!
FQ#1: Describe your ideal day.
A: Sunny skies, light breeze, an available
tennis court...oh wait, do you mean at the office? Starts with
a cup of decaf coffee (light, no sugar) at my desk with phone
calls from a few editors making offers, and a few contracts on
their way to clients, already negotiated to my satisfaction, and
then the mail comes--and in it is a brand new manuscript from
either a client or someone unknown to me. I start to read and
cannot put it down because it's so engaging from the first line.
That's a great day. No need for lunch, even.
FQ#2: Do you love ketchup?
A: On my occasional cheeseburger, yes.
With fries, yes. Otherwise, all that sugar can stay in the fridge.
FQ#3: What book did you read last? Did
you enjoy it? Why or why not?
A: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round
Things by Carolyn Mackler. I enjoyed it very much because it was
funny and sincere. I must admit that my 12 year old daughter read
it before me and that colored my reading. Spurred some interesting
conversations...all to the good! I just started The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak and I’ve been perusing Red Herrings and
White Elephants : The Origins of the Phrases We Use Every Day
by Albert Jack (very interesting!) for a while now.
FQ#4: What were your favorite books when
you were a kid?
A: A variety, and it depends on what year.
I remember arguing with my dad about the author of The Outsiders.
I was emphatic in my belief that there was no way S.E. Hinton
was a woman. He was equally emphatic in his (rightful) "opinion"
that she was (is). Of course, the fact that she’s a Curtis
Brown client and he had met her helped his case. I loved Puzo’s
The Godfather, and Stranger in a Strange Land set me off on a
Heinlein reading spree, as well as "share water" experiences
with my friends. I’m lucky because I’ve always loved
FQ#5: What's your favorite work related
A: Just one? Hmm. I love letting clients
know when there’s an offer (or two, or three, or…)
on the table.
FQ#6: If you could go anywhere in the
world right this minute, where would you go?
A: Paris, to see the last few matches
in the Roland Garros Open. My husband’s there right now,
working as a camera operator, and I’m here in New York.
FQ#7: What's the one interview question
you never get asked, but wish that you would?
A: "So, Ms. Knowlton, is Wimbledon
your first Grand Slam tournament win?"
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