Agent Interview with

Ginger Knowlton
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 the years?

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 it out!

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 quirky nonfiction.

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 to read.

FQ#5: What's your favorite work related memory?

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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