You might think you already know who all the literary agents at Curtis Brown and C+W are, but as the students of our three- and six-month creative writing courses quickly discover, there’s another really important bunch of people you might not know about: the book assistants and new agents. Much of their work with writers happens behind the scenes with Curtis Brown and C+W’s existing client-lists, whether it’s editorial work, client-care or contract-checking, and a lot more besides. But they’re also likely to be the first readers of your novel if you send it in as a submission to the agency.
Often they’ll be reading in order to talent-spot for the senior agents they work closely with, but also some of the team are actively looking for novels they’d like to represent themselves, as part of their own growing client lists.
So, without further ado, here are the team to tell you a little about themselves, and about what’s on their submission wish lists:
I joined the team at C+W from ICM in New York and now work with Sue Armstrong and Sophie Lambert on their amazing books, while also building my own list. My taste ranges from literary fiction to YA crossover, but upmarket commercial writing is what I’m most interested in right now. I’ll always have a soft spot for my roots and books set in the American South, but I’m particularly keen to read stories that transport me somewhere new, whether real or imagined.
I read widely and am open to anything with writing that grips me, but I do love fiction about food and families, thrillers with complicated characters and a unique hook, campus novels, historical fiction starring strong women, quirky coming of age stories, and literary works that reveal a darker side of human nature. My favourite non-fiction explores an author’s obsessions (think Cork Dork or Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), but I’m also after quality investigative journalism, and memoirs that read like novels.
Recently I’ve loved A Little Life, Americanah, Do Not Become Alarmed, Station Eleven, Eleanor and Park, Sweetbitter, Rules of Civility, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and The Art of Fielding.
I work with Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown on her list of fantastic commercial fiction writers. I am starting to build my own small list, as well as looking after a few authors alongside Sheila. I’m looking for sharp, unusual commercial fiction voices, snappy hooks and clever plotting. I love novels like The Rosie Project and A Man Called Ove – those that can make you laugh and cry in just a few pages. Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my all-time favourite authors.
I assist Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown, and I’m also building my own list. I’m looking for stories that transport the reader – whether it’s magical realism, science fiction or fantasy. I’m particularly looking for emotional, powerful stories. Novels I love are Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak or The Passage by Justin Cronin. My favourite authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elizabeth Strout, Robin Hobb and Margaret Atwood.
I work part-time but check my emails when I’m not in the office, so feel free to submit whenever! I used to be Jonny Geller’s assistant at Curtis Brown, but am now working as editorial consultant to all the book agents here, while building up my own children’s book list. I will consider any age range (picture books to YA) so long as the story and narrative are well plotted and the idea is original. I like humour, adventure, strong characters and great writing.
My favourite kids’ books range from Oliver Jeffers, Maurice Sendak and Lauren Child in picture books, to Philip Pullman, The Hunger Games and I Capture The Castle in YA, passing through Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Louise Rennison and many more! Try me, basically, and don’t worry too much about the synopsis and covering letter – make sure the three chapters you are sending me are strong and, chances are, I’ll ask to read more.
I work with Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown and am also building my own list of book club and accessible literary fiction, narrative non-fiction and memoir. On the fiction side, I look for great social observation and clever storytelling. I love the domestic realism of Anne Tyler – stories about families are guaranteed to pique my interest. I’m looking for a great returning detective like Susie Steiner’s Manon Bradshaw, and I’d also love to find some stylish, nail-biting suspense in the vein of Patricia Highsmith.
In terms of non-fiction my tastes are pretty broad, but I’m always drawn to memoir, the professional and the personal, beautifully written stories told with wit, warmth and precision.
I’m building my list at C+W and looking for literary, book group and crossover fiction with a strong voice, compelling plot and characters I can wholeheartedly invest in. I love a strong sense of place and am also open to fiction with a speculative edge (think Station Eleven.) Broadly speaking, if it’s an original story brilliantly told then I’d love to see it.
My taste varies from psychologically astute family novels in the Elizabeth Strout/Anne Tyler vein, to dark, thrilling dramas like The Secret History and Fingersmith, to warm, emotionally powerful novels along the lines of Tin Man, All My Puny Sorrows and Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Most recently, I really fell for the playfulness and fierce intelligence of Sally Rooney’s debut, Conversations With Friends.
I’ve worked with Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown since November 2016, assisting him on his eclectic list of fiction and non-fiction projects. My own tastes are quite broad, and I particularly enjoy accessible fiction that sits in that sweet spot between commercial and literary.
Ideally I’d somehow magically find the next Anne Tyler or David Nicholls and am always open to reading something that captures the zeitgeist (think Animal by Sara Pascoe and Not Working by Lisa Owens). As for what I’m not looking for, I generally avoid travel writing and overtly comic novels.
For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:
Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Sunday 21 January).
Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Sunday 28 January).
For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:
Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sunday 4 February).
We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:
Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).
Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).
Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).