Author: Partridge, Elizabeth
Date published: January 1, 2011
Many years ago, as an aspiring writer, I overheard a successful author give her definition of a good agent. "You don't want a friend," she said. "You want someone who's like a shark, swimming next to you. But you have to be careful not to get bitten yourself."
That made sense, in a writer's overblown-hyperbole kind of way. The author/ agent relationship was a business one. You needed someone tough and scary, with lots of teeth, who kept moving on your behalf. And you didn't want to be a bothersome client, or you might get a quick nip.
When I began working with my agent, Ken Wright, I treated him like a shark with a mouthful of teeth. I was respectful, and very guarded. It took him a long time to wear down my defenses and prove that he would never bite me, or even bite anyone else on my behalf.
Turns out he doesn't subscribe to the bunny-eat-bunny model of children's publishing. He operates on the old-fashioned handshake, negotiating deals, linking people and projects. He loves to brainstorm about ideas until they suddenly come into focus as a potential manuscript. It's clear he enjoys the whole business - and he's good at it.
Ken makes me laugh and makes me think. If I'm bogged down or overwhelmed, he smells it in the wind and shoots off an e-mail. "Talk soon?" he writes. He's my touchstone and my taskmaster.
While I'm alone in my writing room with my research and my interviews and a big, rambling idea I'm trying to squeeze between the covers of a book, he's got my back.
Elizabeth Partridge's newest book is Dogtag Summer (Bloomsbury).