Nov 20, 2006

The Waste of 16 Dollars

I went to an interview on Friday. The interview was with a New and Big Cheesy Literary Agency. I was shown in by the current assistant, who was very nice and cleared away the previous interviewee's glass of water and brought me a fresh one.

Two Less Cheesy Literary Agents came in. The Big Cheese didn't take meetings at this level.

Question One: Having sold books and worked as a junior agent, why do you want to be an assistant again?
Thought Answer: Because no one advertises for junior agents, they want established agents or assistants.
Spoken Answer: It wasn't as though my duties as an assistant stopped; I continued assisting as well as representing my own projects.

Question Two: What sort of books interest you?
Answer: Lately I've been reading a lot of YA.
Response One: Ah! (Happy)
Response Two: Ah.(Not happy)

Question Three: What was the last book you read?
Answer: NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. It's a young adult novel. (Pause. I feel defensive) It was published by Knopf, and it was very well-written and unusual.

Question Four: What magazines do you read?
Thought Answer: None, as I don't really like them.
Spoken Answer: Saveur, my boyfriend's Esquire, my parents got me a subscription to Atlantic Monthly but I never have time to read it.
Answer I Probably Should Have Given: Esquire, Time Out (but this would be lying because I don't read it anymore now that I have no money to do the fun things advertised), Atlantic Monthly, Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and all the other magazines that lie around the house and Guy reads them and I don't. Do not mention Saveur.

Question Five: What music do you listen to? This is VERY important to us. It's a big indicator.
Answer: Tom Waits, Keith Richards' solo stuff. (Blank stare. I feel defensive) And Thom Yorke's new album.
Response: I have never heard anybody say they listened to Keith Richards before.
My Follow-up Answer: He's really very good.
Answer I Probably Should Have Given: The Wrens, British Sea Power, Mission of Burma, any obscure indie rock band I can't think of right now. Or is that wrong? Maybe I should have gone non-obscure, to show that I'm tapped into what people are actually buying since they're not buying British Sea Power, that's for sure.

Question Six: What do you do in your free time?
Answer: I knit. That's pretty much all I do now since it's the holiday season and I have presents to finish. I got started working in this little mom & pop store in Minnesota, and didn't quite realize that it was a fad until I looked around my college campus. (This is not interesting Cordelia; do please try and remember that no one but you cares about your knitting habits and history). I watch a lot of TV.
Response: TV or movies?
My Follow-up Answer: Mostly TV. I'm a Netflix addict. Right now I'm watching Battlestar Galactica.
Response One: Blank stare.
Response Two: I've heard it's pretty good.
My Follow-up Answer: It's engrossing. (To give a sense of balance, I add:) I also watch Homicide. And I have two stepchildren. They take up a lot of time.
Response: Blank stare. Children are not cool.

Question Seven: This is a casual Friday; we normally don't dress like this. Big Cheese wears ties. What did the people at your last job wear?
Answer: Pants and shirts? (Try not to glance down at outfit. Did I not dress fancy enough?)

My Question: Having worked at a few different literary agencies now, it's become clear to me how widely people's preferences can vary. I read almost constantly at my first job, and at my current temping position, I read not at all. How do you two handle your slush and requested materials?
Answer One: Um. Um um um um. Well, with the could sort it. I would want to delegate that, but I don't know if I could trust anyone else. Eventually you would learn my tastes. I would want you to grow and understand how publishing works, that would be a good learning experience for you.
Answer Two: Uh. Uhuhuhuh. Yes, someone should definitely organize the slush. That would be nice. I should delegate too, I really should, but I don't know that I could trust anyone else to read anything. Normally if I want a second read one a manuscript I would give it to another agent. I don't think I could trust anyone. I should.
My Response: Blank stare. They do want an assistant, right?

So at my temping job, I'm making $12 an hour. I had to leave an hour early to go to this interview, and since I no longer have an unlimited subway pass, there was also the $4 to travel up to the interview and back, bringing my total investment up to $16 before I ever even sat down. I choose not to pursue this opportunity further. I am not cool enough, and I know how to read. I am not qualified.

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