Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Of agents and other delights

Coming to the end of my very short trip to the UK, here is a quick round up and what I hope is interesting information from my experience of meeting two literary agents.

First, two of my flash stories were shortlisted for the FISH One Page short story competition, but alas once more it was not to be! Congratulations to the winners.

Second, it was my grandmother's 100th birthday yesterday (this is a pic of me and her a few years ago), and the party held in her nursing home, complete with cupcakes with her name on (!), felt like a truly historic event. There was the card from the Queen (no telegrams any more), and many family members, some I had never met. And my grandmother, Zara, beaming from her wheelchair. And this is book-related: My aunt and uncle had made Zara's dream come true by producing a beautiful, hardback book with extracts from the memoirs she has been working on almost as long as I've known her, complete with photos. Totally wonderful, I look forward to getting my copy - and was astonished to be summoned by some cousins and shown a photograph of my grandmother in 1927 which really did look like me. Genes, eh! When I get the book in digital format, I may post the photo here and see what you think. I don't really look strongly like either of my parents, so this was something quite lovely.

Agents. OK. Buoyed by the Orange Award commendation, which gave me the feeling that the world was open to me in a way that it hadn't been before, I had set up two meetings in London with agents who had been personally recommended to me. I was excited yet unsure: how would the meeting go? Who would speak first? What would I say? I realised I do have something for an agent to sell right now: the foreign rights to The White Road & Other Stories. But I have only small pieces of future projects, and I feel that some of what I am writing now is very different from the stories in my collection. How would it all work? I really feel the need now for someone to be waiting for me to produce something. My journalistic training means I thrive on deadlines, and I have had no deadlines for the past few years, no-one waiting for me to do anything. But how long would an agent wait?

So, the first meeting on Friday afternoon took place in a cafe near the agent's office, at her suggestion. She was lovely, very friendly, and when she immediately said she loved flash fiction, I was delighted! We talked about short stories, about my writing etc.., about ideas for future projects. But she had to go after less than an hour and as I walked back to the station I realised that I had been left with more questions than answers, quite possibly because I hadn't known what to ask. I also was unsure how it was left between us, a bit like a first date after which you wonder if they'll call you!

I was much better prepared for today's meeting with Agent 2, having made a list of questions. We met in her agency's offices, beautiful and book-filled, which created a great first impression. And although we met for the same amount of time as my first meeting, I felt that all my questions were answered and I got a very clear and good impression of what she and her agency do and could do for me, and what she would like from me in order to see if we could work together. (She gave me two short story collections to take home, which I won't name since that would give it all away, but which is always a way to my heart!) Bumping into a rather well-known author in the reception also made a great impression :) I would suggest that if possible, you always meet an agent at the office, just to get a sense of the atmosphere. And - do write a list of questions! I didn't do that for the first meeting, and that was a mistake.

So, we will see. If one of these agents really likes what I am working on now, then we could move ahead and I will have someone nudging me and spurring me on! Flying home tomorrow, back to work, back to writing and thinking. Will keep you updated.


Chancelucky said...

Best of luck with the agents. It sounds like you encountered two very different personalities and professional approaches.

I look forward to seeing the American edition of your collection and any future books.

Sarah Hilary said...

How exciting, Tania! I loved the photo of you and your grandmother -beautiful. And fingers crossed for the agent.

SueG said...

First, I love the picture of you and your grandmother! Thanks for showing us.Second, I am so impressed that you had the nerve to call those agents and set up meetings in the first place. I would never have known that an agent would be willing to talk to a writer without there being a specific piece of work on offer. I'm sure the Orange mention was a big draw though. Great that you did that!

gef said...

Beautiful blog page, and good news in your latest entry. Best of luck. (I found you in Zoetrope.)

Tania Hershman said...

Hi Chancelucky, thanks so much for stopping by. Actually, there is already an American edition of my collection, you can find it on Amazon.com.

Sarah - thanks!

Sue, it's a nice pic, isn't it. And yes, I did get quite nervous about the whole thing. Had no idea what might happen!

Gef - thanks for stopping by!

Nik's Blog said...



V interesting, Tania. Best of luck. I hope you get the one who'll do most for you. N x

Carolyn Jess-Cooke said...

that is fantastic news all round! Keep us posted!

Tania Hershman said...

Thanks Nik and N, even if neither of them works out, it was an interesting, enlightening experience!

Carolyn, thanks so much, I will most definitely keep you all posted, ad nauseum I suspect!

annie clarkson said...

It's interesting hearing of your agent experiences. It's complicated, the world of agents and publishing. It will be interesting to hear what happens next...