Tuesday, 30 August 2016

ONE ON ONE WITH LITERARY AGENTS: LAUREN SPIELLER


ONE ON ONE WITH LITERARY AGENTS
LAUREN SPIELLER

Lauren Spieller is an author and an assistant literary agent living in Brooklyn. Before joining Triada US, she worked in literary scouting, and as an editorial consultant. She is the author of The Wanderings of Dessa Rose
First an author, then an editor, and now a literary agent. You juggle many hats! Which role do you love the most and why?
This may sound like lip service, but I truly love them all equally. I’ve always seen these roles as complimentary, almost like two (or three?) sides of the same coin. I’m particularly excited to be representing clients of my own, as my favorite part of working in publishing has always been helping authors shape their stories. I took great pleasure in doing so as an editorial consultant, and I continue to love it as an agent and a critique partner!
“Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism,” says Rollo May. As a literary agent who seeks diverse voices, what is your take? Which rules of fidelity will you let your authors break?
This is such an interesting question. I’d like to first provide the original quote for readers, which is a bit longer, and provides some context: “Courage is not a virtue of value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.”
As far as I understand it, Rollo May was talking about the role courage plays in the development of one’s character. It’s the piece that elevates our virtues, that makes them not only possible, but meaningful. So when he says “without courage our fidelity becomes conformism,” he’s suggesting that courage is the ingredient that makes us faithful and true to an idea because we believe in faithfulness, not just because faithfulness is what is expected of us. This idea, applied to the role of diversity in literature, suggests that there are two approaches to including diverse voices: one of conformism, in which we feel it is important to include diverse voices because everyone else is doing it, and one of courage and fidelity, which suggests that we believe it is truly important to represent diverse voices and experiences because they have intrinsic value, and it is the right thing to do.
I like to think that I am a part of this second camp. Then again, I would hope that all agents and editors fall into this camp when they say they welcome diverse voices, or #ownvoices. That might be na├»ve, but at the end of the day, I think what really matters is that we are giving diverse writers—be they people of color, LGBTQ, neurodiverse, or some other type of “minority”--the opportunity to share their stories, and their voices, with the world, regardless of why we’re doing it.
As for which “rules” I’m willing to let an author break, that’s a harder question. I am particularly invested in finding #ownvoices writers, which is to say, writers who have lived the experiences they are writing about. But I also understand that research is a wonderful tool, and done right, can produce a story full of excellent representation. Even then, however, I am a big believer in sensitivity reads and ongoing research, and it’s important for writers to recognize that their work will—and should—be critiqued and discussed, even after it is published. That’s how we all learn and grow.

If you could go back in time and say something to your 10-years younger self, what would the message be?
I’d tell her to skip the LSAT classes, because she doesn’t actually want to go to law school. Those classes were expensive!

If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?
I’d tell them to read read read, especially books in their genre/age category that have been published in the last five years. Books are the best writing class there out there, and the best way to learn to write something for a specific audience is to read something for that audience.

Describe a day when you curse your brain for not stopping you from choosing your occupation.
There are days when my reading is pilling up, and all I want to do is watch a Netflix marathon of Law & Order SVU. But I’ve learned to get my reading done, and then set aside a few hours each night, or a full day if I can manage it, for binge TV watching/time with friends/etc. It’s important to refill the well of creativity and energy once in a while!

Describe a day when you bless your heart for choosing your occupation. 
Today was a day like that! This morning I spent a few hours editing Mary Widdick’s amazing Psychological Thriller, which is a pure pleasure. I also had coffee with a friend in the industry, and then read a few chapters of a manuscript I’m considering for representation. This evening I’m having a drink with a fellow agent, and then I’ll dive back into Mary’s novel. Not a bad day. Not bad at all.

TriadaUS Assistant Literary Agent Lauren Spieller has a background in literary scouting and editorial consulting. She has a sharp editorial eye, and is passionate about author advocacy. Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as commercial Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse voices. Visit www.triadaus.com for her full wishlist, and follow her on Twitter @laurenspieller.

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Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist, screenplay writer, and author. Her debut novel #iAm16iCan questions Juvenile Justice System of India and raises opinion AGAINST rape culture. 
Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam 

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