Did we mention it was Curtis Brown Creative’s Discovery Day on Saturday? We’ve been blogging about the event at Foyles bookshop all week, and yesterday we provided those of you lucky enough to be pitching your novel to a literary agent from Curtis Brown or Conville & Walsh with some tips. And, though some of you will be talking about your work to our senior literary agents – and will be scrutinised by faces familiar to broadsheet-readers and culture show-watchers – many more of you will be discussing your masterpieces on Saturday with our New Writing team.
You won’t see this group of expert ‘mini agents’ arguing with Harvard professors on Channel 4 or stumbling out of Bouji’s at 5 o’clock in the morning with their celebrity clients, but they do know what they’re talking about when it comes to new writers. Curtis Brown prides itself on being one of the few literary agencies that accepts unsolicited manuscripts via an innovative online portal, and every one of those submissions gets read by the New Writing Team. It meets once a week to discuss manuscripts that has caught its members’ eyes and, though they may not represent authors themselves (some do!), they pass promising material on to the most appropriate agent. So who are these up-and-coming agents of the future, and what are they looking for?
Alice graduated from Sussex University in 2010 with a BA in English Literature, and started at Curtis Brown in December 2012 after spending two years as The Folio Society’s Editorial & Rights Assistant. She is Anna Davis‘ assistant, working with her on her list of literary estates, and a second assistant to Jonny Geller. ‘My taste in literature is pretty varied,’ she says. ‘My bookshelves hold everything from young adult novels to literary classics to narrative non-fiction –but I can usually be relied upon to enjoy anything with a compelling story and a strong narrative voice.’
Kirsten joined Curtis Brown in 2013 as assistant to Jonny Geller. She was previously living and working in Paris, where she was involved in various theatre and creative-writing projects. Before that she worked at The Agency as an assistant and junior agent.
Emma graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009, and after completing an MA at King’s College and RADA, began working in Waterstones on the shop floor. She then progressed to head office, where she worked in the fiction-buying team until moving to Curtis Brown in May 2013 to become assistant to Stephanie Thwaites and Felicity Blunt. ‘I have hugely varied taste when it comes to books,’ she says. ‘I enjoy anything from narrative non-fiction to historical novels, but I will read anything and everything ever written by Iris Murdoch or AS Byatt, Ian McEwan or Iain Banks.’
Catherine joined Curtis Brown in November 2011. She works closely with senior agents Sheila Crowley and Gordon Wise, reading and responding to new writers’ work, and helps to maintain Curtis Brown’s social-media presence on Facebook. ‘I like variety and will get happily stuck into gritty social commentary one week, before reading a great fat bestseller, YA novel or a debut novel that comes recommended by one of my colleagues,’ she says. ‘I especially love richly detailed novels, where the writer has created a whole new universe with a fascinating raft of characters for me to get to know and love, such as Marian Keyes’ Walsh family or the inhabitants of Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire.’
Norah joined Curtis Brown in May 2013 as Karolina Sutton’s assistant in the book department, after four years as the managing editor at Canongate Books. ‘I like challenging, original voices in fiction and non-fiction,’ she says. ‘And stories that keep me reading into the small hours.’
Richard came to Curtis Brown in 2012 after five years at Hodder & Stoughton. He now assists Gordon Wise in the book department. ‘I look out for insightful fiction and non-fiction, driven by a strong narrative and lit up by well-drawn characters, he says. ‘My interest is always piqued by a moving memoir, compelling history, food writing, or anything with a sporting angle. When it comes to fiction, I like a story that provokes a response, whether that is laughter, excitement, outrage, or even the odd tear.’
After reading English at Somerville College, Oxford, Lucia was waylaid into consultancy and spent several years in legal publishing. She joined Curtis Brown in 2011 as assistant to Jonathan Lloyd. ‘I am excited by brilliant writing which makes us look at ordinary lives and ordinary places in a new way,’ she says. ‘The grittier and more realistic, the better. Preferably without a happy ending. Sad, funny, gruesome, the sort of prose that leaves you reading from behind your hands in horrified, delighted recognition.’
Rebecca has been assisting Sheila Crowley and Vivienne Schuster with their fiction and non-fiction lists since the beginning of 2011. ‘I am looking for a debut novel that I can get swept up in, be it historical or contemporary fiction or psychological thriller, with captivating narrative and emotion at its core,’ she says. ‘I want compelling characters who pull me in, with either a protagonist I can root for or an unreliable narrator who can lead me on an unexpected journey. I want to find a novel that will keep me up all night and will stay with me long after the first reading.’
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.