Posted by: Natalie Hatch | November 30, 2009

Agent Interview: Gwendolyn Heasley – Artists and Artisans Inc.

Gwendolyn Heasley is a new agent over at Artists and Artisans Inc.  A New York based agency that is actively looking for new authors.  Gwen is also an author herself, her novel “Confessions of a Teenage Recessionista” is available next year.

Can you tell us a little about why you wanted to become a Literary Agent? Was there a light bulb moment that you woke up with one day and said “aha! I have to be a secret agent”?

As a child, I stayed up very late every night reading books under the covers. And I couldn’t wait to turn 14, so I could get a job at Barnes and Noble. I never did get a job at a bookstore, but my love for literature never faded.  When I found out there is job that lets you read all day and help make writers’ dreams come true, I knew that I had found my dream job. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this job.

You’ve already a published author, how do you think that will help you as an agent?

Since I am an author, I think that I am able to help hopeful authors to edit and fine-tune their manuscripts before we send them out to publishers.  I also think that I am able to intimately understand the complex emotions that writers feel about their work, and I try to be sensitive to them.

Now a really tricky one, how did you land yourself the job? Is there really some secret agent handshake that we don’t know about?

I am lucky to work at Artists and Artisans with Adam Chromy and Jamie Brenner.  We work at an incredibly inclusive agency, and I think our personalities and talents all mesh well together.

What makes a story stand out to you?

I think stories that stand out are ones that you are able to retell…If you read a great book, you should be able to retell the story as if it actually happened /….Most readers yearn to feel familiar and connected to books, and by retelling the books (to yourself and your friends), you strengthen that connection.

Also, I love it when a character reminds you of a real person. For instance, you see a boy on the street, and you think ‘oh, he reminds me of this character, he’s got that certain something about him.’

What advice would you give teens trying to get published?

I would advise teens who want to be published to find the characters first and the stories second. If you write in the first person, you could try to inhabit the character’s mind and body as much as possible before even picking up a pen or a keyboard.

Your own book, “Confessions of a Teenage Recessionista” is being published soon. In Australia we call this op-shopping, getting great clothes for a bargain price. Do you practice this yourself? If so, what’s the best bargain you’ve snaffled so far?

I bought a snakeskin bag at Target, a discount store, 4 years ago. I used it every day of graduate school as a book bag. I’ve also taken it around the world as a carry-on, and I now use it to haul manuscripts.  I’ve used the bag so many times that it has completely paid for itself. When you are shopping, you need to think ‘how many times will I use this?’ If it’s not very many, it’s probably not worth the cost whether it’s cheap or expensive.

Finally I have to ask this one, what sort of stories are you looking for right now?

I am looking for stories that have a ‘readability’ factor, a trait that pushes the reader to spend all afternoon with a book. I also particularly enjoy first-person narratives, especially ones where the characters are complex and not always sympathetic.

Thanks for dropping by our blog. Gwendolyn can be contacted at Artists and Artisans Inc



  1. Thanks for coming to visit us, Gwendolyn. Congrats on your book deal *and* your new job!

    I’m a big fan of writing (and reading) first-person stories. I feel I can better connect with the characters and get under their skins. I also LOVE Target. When I was last in San Fran, I could’ve gone anywhere in that fabulous city, but I spent ages in Target and found a $35 pair of killer stilettos that I’ve worn dozens of times since.

  2. Thanks for the interview Nat, and thanks to Gwendolyn as well. I actually find it hard to write in anything but first person now, as the last three books have all been that voice. I’ll have to try something different soon and see if I can still do it!

  3. […] I have interviewed wonderful writers/agents, including: Michael Gerard Bauer, Melanie Nilles, Kim Miller, Richard Harland, Kirsty Eagar, Tania Roxborogh, Kathy Charles, Scott Monk, Jacinta di Mase, Rebecca James, Jack Heath, Paul Collins, and Gwendolyn Heasley. […]

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