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23 September 2020

Meet the CBC and Curtis Brown Discoveries team

by Discoveries Discoveries, Events, From the Agents

Now that the Discoveries Prize is open for application we’d like to introduce you to the team of women behind Curtis Brown’s and Curtis Brown Creative’s participation in the programme. We’re all particularly excited to be working with the Women’s Prize Trust and NatWest on this exciting new initiative designed to support unpublished women writers from all backgrounds. We want to help assist these budding novelists by building their confidence and helping them reach their potential.

As well as working behind the scenes to help launch Discoveries we’re part of the team of readers selecting entries to be put forward to the judging panel, which includes bestselling author and founder of the Women’s Prize Kate Mosse, founder and director of CBC Anna Davis, Curtis Brown literary agent Lucy Morris, acclaimed author of The Girl with the Louding Voice Abi Daré and director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature Sandeep Mahal.

Without further ado, meet Team Disco! As the old saying goes, ‘you are what you read’ – so we’d like to share a little more about our favourite fiction by women – enjoy!

Lisa Babalis, Curtis Brown Literary Agent

My favourite book by a woman is The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West because it is PERFECT.  And also you fall headlong into a musical mossy world of prodigies and you never want to leave.  It is a siren song of perfection. 

Becky Brown, Curtis Brown Heritage Agent

I feel like it changes every five minutes but right now it has to be Anita Brookner’s extraordinary novel Look at Me. On the surface, it follows a lonely woman who is swept up into the glittering life of a beautiful couple and then brutally discarded. On a sentence-by-sentence level, it is an endless string of miniature masterpieces and I would like to print out the whole thing in one long strip and then cocoon myself with it like a silkworm. 

Norah Perkins, Curtis Brown Heritage Agent

One of the most extraordinary sequences of novels ever written – sharp-eyed and spare, full of the impossible weight of history and rich with the patterns that the world weaves around us – are Louise Erdrich’s seven novels about three families living in North Dakota over the span of the last century. I go back to her books again and again, tracing new paths through the interconnected stories they tell. Start with Love Medicine – her first novel – and don’t rush through them. Erdrich is an extraordinary poet as well as a novelist, and every word in these books is worth savouring. 

Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown Literary Agent

As my teammates seem to have found it near impossible to pick just one, I’m following suit with three of my own favourites. In Marian Keyes’ fabulous novel The Other Side of the Story I discovered in the character of Jojo Harvey that there existed the job of ‘literary agent’ – and if it’s possible to fall hook, line and sinker for a career, that was me. Also up there on the podium (and I’m really breaking the rules now as it’s not even fiction) is The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy, particularly the bits about her electric bicycle and its countercultural celebrity status. And the novel I’ve probably recommended more times than any other: Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, a pithy and impossibly tender story about the changing relationship between a daughter and her father as his Alzheimer’s worsens. 

Viola Hayden, Curtis Brown Associate Agent

A few favourites from my lockdown reading, otherwise I won’t even know where to begin. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan is a razor-sharp debut that follows twenty-something Ava on her move to Hong Kong, and it’s filled with some of the best semantic sparring I’ve read in ages. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is about two sisters fighting very different battles in occupied France, and I finished with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. Finally, The Binding by Bridget Collins – a magical love story in a beautiful otherworldly setting, wrapped up in a book about books. Oh, and Heartburn by Nora Ephron, obviously.

Anna Davis, CBC Founder & Managing Director

I’m going to go for two books I read when I was 15: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark – because it’s an amazing portrayal of a monster – we see her in all her terrible charismatic glory and we see her shrunk down to nothing – an incredible feat of characterisation. And The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: I read it when it first came out, and it blew my mind (and still does, actually). I’ve read many other great books – but when I was 15, everything way more intense than at any other time of my life, so the experience of reading those books will always stay with me. 

Jennifer Kerslake, CBC Senior Manager

I have so many. Favourites from childhood (The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett); favourites that challenge me (Beloved by Toni Morrison); favourites that soothe me (I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith). I often cite the latest novel to sweep me away (Dominicana by Angie Cruz). But the one I keep coming back to is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. A wild and passionate exploration of love set on windswept moors, it thrills at the level of imagination, theme and form, and in defying simple interpretation offers something new for every re-reading. 

Ria Cagampang, CBC ECommerce Manager

It’s so hard to pick just one woman! However, two recent favourites that I keep returning to are The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. There’s a dark quality in both writers’ work that’s both disturbing and yet so exciting and alluring. It’s hard not to be utterly transfixed whilst reading either of their books.  

Katie Smart, CBC Marketing & Content Executive

There are so many women writers that I admire, so this is a real challenge. I am going to cheat and recommend two books. I love fiction that challenges conventions – societal and in terms of genre. Women have been experimenting with forms, reinventing history and reclaiming patriarchal and oppressive narratives for years and the books I’ve chosen reflect this. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter and Kindred by Octavia E. Butler are both long-standing and firm favourites. 

Danni Georgiou, CBC Team Assistant

As a fan of books with a touch of fantasy, one of my recent favourites has got to be Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This wonderful wintery tale is loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, and follows the daughter of a money lender, as she struggles to regain her families fortune as they face poverty.  Packed with snowy scenes, cold creatures, and devilish princes, Spinning Silver makes the perfect escapist fantasy for anyone who is a fan of stories layered with Russian fables, and the strength of female friendships.

Find out more about Discoveries and how to enter the prize.

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