Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Agent Interview: Emma Patterson, The Wendy Weil Agency INC

Have I mentioned how fantastic my agent is? Yes? Well I wanted to share more of her wonderfulment here on the blog and, I'm happy to say, she was kind enough to agree to answer some of my questions. But before we get to that, I wanted to say something to those writers out there who are getting ready to add Emma Patterson to their agent search list and that something is this--Emma has been amazing to work with over the last few months. From the moment she first expressed interest in my MS to the revisions and submissions, Emma has offered the voice of steadfast wisdom and commitment. I truly feel fortunate to be working with her.

And so, without further blubbering:

Emma Patterson is a literary agent with The Wendy Weil Agency INC. She is actively looking for new clients. 


Can you tell us a little bit about you? How did you get your start as an agent?

I grew up in New Jersey as an avid reader and the daughter of a literary agent.  My mother had her office in our house, and I remember realizing at a young age that my house contained more books and stacks of papers than any of my friends’ houses.  And no one else had multiple copies of books in multiple languages, either!  I loved helping my mother organize her files and bookshelves (I’m still an obsessively organized person…), sort query letters, and read manuscripts that she was excited about.  Basically, I grew up comfortable around books, writers, and writing.  Then, in the secluded Ohio cornfields during college, my love for literature and writing only further intensified, and I knew I wanted to be part of it.  Luckily for me, after two fantastic summer internships with Wendy Weil, she needed an assistant right after I graduated from college, and I jumped at the chance to be part of her amazing team.

What genres are you currently looking for?

I am on the lookout for literary and commercial fiction, women’s fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, and food writing.  I’m open to mostly any project with strong writing and a story that immediately grabs me – and I still think about weeks after I’ve finished reading it.  I’m not one to shy away from dark or quiet, either.

Can you tell us about a couple of the published authors/books your agency represents?

This is a tricky question because I’m very attached to all of our talented authors – and I’d gladly tell you about every single one of them if I could! 

I will tell you about Anthony Doerr, who has been a client of Wendy’s since I started working here, and whose work I’ve adored for years.  His most recent book, Memory Wall, is a wonderful collection of stories, and we’ve loved watching him receive his due credit in recent months – he won the 2010 Story Prize, Memory Wall was named a best book of the year by many newspapers including The New York Times, Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and a story of his won the 2011 Sunday Times Award in England (the largest prize in the world for a short story – a form that should be celebrated more than it is!) this past Spring.  Not only is he a beautiful writer, he is also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.  It’s been incredible to have been with this agency long enough to really watch his career develop and flourish. 

Are you currently accepting queries? If so, what would you love to see in your sub pile right now? 

Yes!  I’d love to see YA fiction with strong plots, great writing, memorable characters, and no vampires (please).  I’d also love to see transporting, powerful adult literary and commercial fiction – anything from a well-written literary thriller to a historical novel set in 19th century France.  I’d also love to consider more nonfiction queries about pop culture, food, history, and memoir.

What do you look for in a query letter? or When a query really grabs you, what is it that makes it stand out?

Honestly, for me, the most important thing is the writing.  If a query is well-written and describes an intriguing story or idea, I’m grabbed.

The most frustrating thing about being an agent is…

Relaying editors’ rejection letters to your talented authors whose work you’re trying to sell (and whose work you wholeheartedly believe in!). 

The best thing about being an agent is…

Seeing strangers reading your authors’ books and loving them as much as you do. 

What is something you wish every writer knew?

Most agents (or at least myself) don’t love being cold-called by writers.  It’s much more important to me to see the writer’s writing on paper…hence the query letter.

What one book, from you childhood, stands out in your memory the most? Why?

I’d have to say Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  It was the first chapter book I can remember reading and adoring; it was the first book that made me cry.  After that, even though my reading tastes changed and developed over time (I went through various Baby Sitters Club, Judy Blume, and Mary Higgins Clark phases in my later childhood years), I can still remember the connection I felt to Island of the Blue Dolphins, a connection that I need to feel with any project I represent today.  And not even in a “this-book-is-so-beautiful-that-it’s-making-me-cry” sort of way (though that’s always a sure sign that I’m in love with a book!), but at least in a “this-book-is-so-good-that-I-can’t-put-down-and-I-want-to-share-it-with-everyone-I-know” sort of way.

If you weren’t an agent, what would you be?

Eek – I have no idea!  I know that if I lived in a fantasy world, I’d own a restaurant in a remote beach town and live within a 2 block radius of all my family and friends.  And I’d have a labradoodle.  And a never-ending supply of Cadbury eggs.


  1. Ah, Cadbury eggs! Thanks to both of you ladies for the great interview. I loved hearing about Emma's awesome literary childhood, and it's great to know what she's looking for.

  2. Lovely interview. Ah, "Island of the Blue Dolphins". Now that takes me back.

  3. Great interview... she sounds amazing to work with, you are blessed.

    Thx for sharing!

  4. Great interview, and how awesome is it that she's a second generation agent? It's in her blood.

    Also, I can't believe people actually call agents on the phone. What are they thinking?

  5. Great interview. Good info for those in the query stage!

  6. mmmm, love Cadbury eggs! Awesome interview.

    P.S. I love your new blog picture, it's beautiful.