In the months leading up to this year’s Literary Writer’s Conference, we’ll be sitting down with some of our favorite agents to talk about their work, working with writers, and their LWC experience. This week we’re chatting with Erin Harris, Vice President and literary agent at Folio Literary Management, where she represents debut and seasoned authors in the areas of literary and book club fiction; narrative nonfiction; Young Adult; and contemporary poetry. A graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the New School, she brings a strong editorial eye and hands-on approach to her agenting practice, ushering writers through all stages of the publishing process and fostering long-term professional partnerships. Outside of the office, she is a founder and co-host of the literary event series H.I.P. Lit.
How does a smaller conference like LWC benefit both writers and agents who participate? What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?
A smaller conference like LWC offers writers and agents the opportunity to have thoughtful and nuanced conversations about the writer’s work and the publishing industry at large.
The Opening Lines clinic seems particularly essential for writers. What goes on in this type of clinic? What can writers expect, and why is this such an essential skill?
In the Opening Lines clinic, writers are afforded the opportunity to see firsthand how an agent responds to their sample material. During the clinic, agents walk participants through how they read a text, what they’re looking for in an opening, and how decisions get made. Writers have the opportunity to learn from their peers as well as have their own work critiqued. Getting the beginning just right is such an essential skill for a writer, because if the beginning doesn’t entice the reader, then they’re not going to buy the book! This clinic is designed like a writing workshop: through feedback and constructive critique, writers are given the tools they need to hook a reader.
When you come to an event like this, what are you looking for as an agent? How do you connect with emerging writers? How does LWC help foster a community of writers and agents?
When I participate in an event like LWC, I’m looking to give back to the literary community and share what I’ve learned from over a decade of working in publishing. I’m also always hoping to find a writer and project that ignites my curiosity and interest. Sometimes, I’ll meet writers at such events who have works-in-progress that appeal to me. The manuscript may not be ready yet, but I’ll stay in touch with the writer as they continue their work. When the project is ready, they’ll submit it to me for consideration. It’s always nice to be able to start a dialogue with writers early. LWC allows for this early communication.
How does an event like this connect with your daily life as an agent? What are some of your essential takeaways?
I’m always looking for bold voices, bold stories, and language that leaps off the page. Events such as LWC are a wonderful way for me to get in touch with fresh talent and to share what I know about the craft and business of writing with emerging writers. It’s so important from them to be versed in both!