An Interview with Publishing Manager Porscha Burke
by Greg Stewart
Porscha Burke is a Publishing Manager at the Random House Publishing Group. Throughout her career in book publishing she has worked with award-winning and bestselling authors including Maya Angelou and the former Chief of Police in Dallas David Brown. In this interview, Porscha provides insight into the intersection of her life as a Queens native and her role of writing about hip hop and working with seminal African American voices. She grew up in a thriving arts and culture scene, and then broke into the book industry as an assistant to Random House Publishing Group president and publisher Gina Centrello. Recently, Porscha finished an MFA in nonfiction from Goucher College, and now teaches there as an adjunct professor. She has also taken part in the SLICE’s annual writers’ conference. Porscha discusses how editors function behind-the-scenes at Penguin Random House, the role of books in the world of hip hop, and much more.
An Interview with Steve Erickson
by Bruce Bauman
In his ten novels and two nonfiction books since the debut of Days Between Stations in 1985, Steve Erickson has created a world unlike that of any author working today. When people ask me to describe Erickson’s work—as they often do, knowing I was senior editor for thirteen years on the national literary journal Black Clock, of which Erickson was co-founder and editor-in-chief—I quote the Lovin’ Spoonful: “It’s like tryin’ to tell a stranger about rock ’n roll.” Erickson is a literary magician. His work is a unique North American magical realism: Faulkner meets García Márquez meets the Dylan of Highway 61 Revisited. In the last thirty years he has imagined a reality both completely recognizable and what only can be called “Ericksonian.” Writers from Jonathan Lethem to Rick Moody to Mark Z. Danielewski have credited his influence. While working with him on Black Clock, I saw the respect and admiration he received from David Foster Wallace, Richard Powers, Joanna Scott, Susan Straight, Samuel Delany, T. C. Boyle, Aimee Bender, Greil Marcus, Janet Fitch, Geoff Nicholson, and Don DeLillo. Erickson has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. Recently Steve and I talked over Mexican food and via email about literature, politics, being and becoming a writer in these times, and his new mindblower, Shadowbahn [out in paperback February 2018].
#SLWC17: Meet the Speakers: An Interview with Literary Agent Saba Sulaiman
by Maria Gagliano
As a writer, it can be nerve-racking to imagine a team of editors talking about your work behind closed doors. You get to hear their final decision, but you’re rarely in the loop on their discussion about what they think of your work. Literary agents often get a detailed account of the conversation if they have a good rapport with the editors, but even they may not get the full story.
We chatted with agent Saba Sulaiman about the mysterious process of submitting work to editors. She also shares powerful insight on what writers can do before editors see their work. We’ll hear more from Saba at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in Brooklyn on September 9, when she joins us for our panel, “What We Really Talk About in Editorial Meetings.” Conference attendees can also sign up to pitch their work to Saba in person at a one-on-one meeting.
You’re moderating our panel, “What We Really Talk About in Editorial Meetings.” As an agent, how privy are you to what goes on in those decision-making meetings? And how much do you then share with your clients?
#SLWC17: Meet the Speakers: An Interview with Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb
by Bobbie Ford
Book publishing is an industry comprised of connections. Between reader and writer. Publisher and agent. Agent and writer. In the ever-evolving and incredibly competitive book world, the latter has recently become more important and more sacred than ever. It’s often difficult for a novice, aspiring writer to navigate through it all, and the relationship with the right agent can not only make a difference in their trajectory, but their confidence as well–after all, it’s always helpful to have a cheerleader in your corner.
For agent Mark Gottlieb, championing new authors is in his blood. Born into a family of publishing professionals (his father, Robert, founded the very agency where he now works) he’s had a long and unique perspective on how books are made and what makes them successful. And it’s this perspective that’s won him a roster of best-selling clients, plus their affections as well. We had a chance to sit down with Mark to ask him a few questions, including what new writers can do to give themselves the biggest advantage during the querying process in order to establish that important initial connection with an agent.
Mark will be at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference on September 10 in Brooklyn, where he’ll join a team of agents on the panel “Making a Case for Fiction.” Conference attendees can also sign up to pitch their work to Mark in person at a one-on-one meeting.
#SLWC17: Meet the Speakers: An Interview with Literary Agent Kate McKean
by Maria Gagliano
Every year the book world changes all around us. The Big Six shrink to the Big Five, while indie presses claim a bigger stake in the industry. Editors come and go; print books peak, drop, and then make a comeback. Lit trends cycle through the marketplace. But what does it all mean for writers trying to get their work noticed by editors and agents?
Literary agent Kate McKean chatted with us about how she’s seen the business change since she started well over a decade ago, for better or worse. Kate will share more of her wisdom at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in Brooklyn on September 10, when she joins us for our panel, “Welcome to the 2017 Book World.” Conference attendees can also sign up to pitch their work to Kate in person at a one-on-one meeting. But note: Kate is not the agent for you if you’re writing about dragons. Don’t even try her, no matter how good your writing may be.
I imagine you have an especially sharp sense of how things have changed over the years since you have a long history of helping people make the leap from online personality (i.e., many bloggers) to published author. Whether online or off, what stands out to you the most in terms of how the industry has changed in recent years?
#SLWC17: Meet The Speakers – An Interview With Ayesha Pande Literary Agent Anjali Singh
by Maria Gagliano
Anjali Singh has built her publishing career around championing underrepresented voices. Nearly two decades ago, at her first job as an editor, she pitched the idea of publishing a graphic novel by a debut Iranian author to her new bosses at Random House. More than one million copies later, that book, Persepolis, is one of the most important graphic novels ever published. These days, Anjali is a literary agent and her dedication to advocating for unheard voices only burns brighter.
We chatted with Anjali about her new(ish) role as an agent: how she likes to connect with new writers, her infinite patience when it comes to waiting for an author to finish a manuscript, and how she’s seen diversity in the industry evolve—or not—since she entered the book world.
We’ll hear more from Anjali at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference on September 10 in Brooklyn, when she joins a team of agents on our panel “Making a Case for Fiction.” Conference attendees can also sign up to pitch their work to Anjali in person at a one-on-one meeting.
Pitching agents can be a discouraging journey for emerging writers. How do you tend to connect with debut authors?