Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I Am An Agent (Chasya)

by Chasya

Sick and confined to bed this weekend, I gazed aimlessly at the television during the few short hours I managed to stay awake hoping for some distraction from the painful knot in my throat. At some point I switched away from TLC’s Cake Boss marathon for a second, only to catch Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold screeching at someone or another (Kevin Connolly, maybe? I’m not really sure, in my Theraflu-induced haze I wasn’t processing much). Which gets me thinking, now that I’m less fuzzy-brained, about agents and why, despite the stress of it all--particularly during a difficult and uncertain time for this business--I became one myself.

First things first, let me dispel the myth that agents are screeching Ari Gold-like banshees. Obviously he’s a caricature of an agent (even if he is based on a real person). But aside from that, we in publishing like to think that the industry is a bit more genteel than Hollywood.

So if I don’t get to yell at people on the phone all day long, you ask, why did I become an agent? Well, it just started with an old-fashioned case of wide-eyed idealism and took off from there. As with many of the people you’ll find populating publishing, some of the most memorable moments of my life involved books. Those moments led me to define myself as an ardent book-lover. For instance, when I was five my neighbors would come over to my house, and I would feel very important as I read to them all aloud. We went through the entire Disney series that my mother had been purchasing one by one at the grocery store. When I was in the fourth grade and trying to plow through as many books as I could in Mrs. Rosen’s library, I was reading one afternoon on the bus ride home and was so absorbed that I kept on reading despite intense motion sickness and had to get off at another kid’s stop just to puke. I got back on after the driver nearly pulled away and resumed reading. When I first read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in junior high it almost made my head spin and fall off. I was enamored. I wanted to marry Jonathan Swift. Who would think an essay about eating babies could do that to a person? There are a multitude of these small, seemingly unimportant moments, but I won’t embarrass myself further by trying to relay them in any earnest sort of way. All I can say is that now, for many, many tiny reasons, I really love books.

And that love affair blossomed into a so-called useless degree in English literature. One that many students pursue, wondering “What am I supposed to do with this?”

I knew I wanted to do something practical. I knew I wanted to work in publishing and be a cog in the great machine that produced those things I was so impressed by. So I did what you do when you start out in publishing--I got an internship.

The business turned out to be far more complex and fascinating than I could have ever imagined and led me to want to stick around. Especially now, as it undergoes significant changes, it will be interesting to see how things progress. The things I wouldn’t really say aloud anymore (but appear to have less of a problem putting in print) are still there. But now what drives me is the added bonus of helping clients pursue their goals and guide them through the process. It’s rewarding and fun, even if it’s challenging.

But I can’t be the only one with these types of memories--and I certainly shouldn’t be the only one to admit them! What small moments led to your love of books?


  1. My first memory of reading was when my mother gave me the book, "Babar Visits Another Planet." I must have been six. The added importance to this moment was that my mother didn't speak English so for her go to a store and buy this book was a major feat. That began my love affair with reading.

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  3. One of my earliest memories is sitting in bed with my mother when I was four and learning how to read "Green Eggs and Ham." And I can name at least six books I read when I was growing up that I was so in love with that I read and re-read and re-read them constantly. The only time I got in trouble in elementary school was for reading during morning exercises instead of paying attention to the teacher! I love books, so much!

  4. A MODEST PROPOSAL holds a lot of fond memories for me as well.

    I was always a bookworm. I'm sure we all were. But some of the moments that stand out to me are my first time reading ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS and realizing how imaginative books could be, the feeling of accomplishment I had when I read ROBINSON CRUSOE (which was well above my grade level), and realizing the way words could be used in unconventional manners when I first read SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. That last book is what made me want to be a writer, and I still list Vonnegut as one of my biggest influences, even if my style doesn't resemble his.

  5. I remember having the same thing happen minus the motion sickness. I almost always missed my bus stop because my nose was stuck in a book.

    I was raised in a very religious home and my grandmother did not believe in mindless hours of watching TV, for a while we didn’t have one. I can’t remember the first book I picked up but I know that from the moment I knew what words were I was hooked. Reading is and will always be such an important part of my life. My love for books has inspired me to write. To be part of any process that creates a book is something amazing. So I totally get why an agent, it might be tiring but in the end it is rewarding.

    Books, one of the greatest treasures of life.

    Oh, for anyone who wants to enter, I am having a contest to win a $20 gift card to Amazon plus some really cool books. Stop by for some contest fun.
    “Excuse me; does this blog make my butt look big?”

  6. Excellent post! I remember reciting Sleeping Beauty (Golden Book edition) countless times to relatives when I was in preschool. I devoured the Sweet Valley High books before 6th grade. The first book that stuck with me was The Giver, which is still one of my favorites. I read multiple novels per DAY after school up to age 14 (seriously, I read my way through the library). By high school, I had less time to read (and my choices became more refined), but I'm a lifelong bookworm.

  7. PS - I hope you're feeling better!

  8. I remember reading a trashy novel in middle school (a big, heavy, historial thing about Troy, I think), and I was so involved, that I read it in the dark - I read it in a theater by the little emergency lights at the ends of the aisles.

    The next day, I was sick, and I had a serious blindspot in the middle of my field of vision. (Later I realized it must have been a migraine - the only one I had as a kid.)

  9. Libraries and book stores always smelled so good. I loved the fact that every book's illustrations were different, that you could enter one world and get thoroughly immersed, then after finishing that book, enter another entirely different one and come to love that one just as much. Every time I finished a book, I was sure I could never love another one as much, then almost every time I'd start reading a different book and find myself pulled right in.