At my day job, I'm a literary agent.
For Headwater Literary Management, I represent a diverse list of clients writing on all sorts of subjects, in both fiction and nonfiction. I work with a writer observing firsthand the cultural revolution in Iran, and a basketball reporter revealing how the industrialization of the youth game will affect college basketball and the NBA. I work with a national political columnist, a culture writer studying our online selves, an American historian, a neuroscientist. I work with novelists. This might sound all over the place, so here’s a sense of what sorts of projects I’m looking for.
Most of my list is nonfiction, and I’m always looking for projects with strong narrative. Right now, I’m loving the writing I’m seeing in publications like The Baffler, Current Affairs, n+1, The New Republic, New York, and plenty of other places in a similar progressive vein. My topical interests include:
History, especially American. I’d love to see more dynamic history writing on labor movements, The Left, the shaping of our economy, revolutions large and small, and the art and aesthetics that sprang up in any of these things’ wake. Specificity in angle is always preferable.
Science, specifically evolution, biology, animals, or neuroscience; think Elizabeth Kolbert, Ed Yong, E. O. Wilson, Yuval Hurari.
Cultural criticism, essays, commentary, politics: this could be on anything, but off the top of my head I really like great writing on politics, race, social trends, leftism, video games, Weird Twitter, our relationship to the Internet, and anything else you’re thinking deeply about in a way that might matter to others.
Sports with a larger (and necessary) cultural angle; think Grantland. Specifically I really like tennis, football, and basketball.
Literary nonfiction: so often, it’s not the topic, it’s the writing. There are some people I’d read about absolutely anything from. If you love reading and your writing takes after people like Leslie Jamison, Alexander Chee, Jia Tolentino, or any other contemporary literary writer in that vein and your subject isn’t listed here, send me a note anyway.
I read a ton of adult literary fiction, but I’m pickier in representation and so it’s a smaller part of my list than nonfiction.
I don’t place much of a premium on literal subject matter in fiction. It’s all in the writing; everything I like, I like because of the way it’s told. I’m interested in unique structural or craft decisions—multiple perspectives, metafictions, disparate threads that end up weaving together—as long as they make sense and feel necessary. I like folklore, ghost stories, local legends, myths, religion; I typically pick up realist fiction, especially when that world feels a little bit surreal as a result of the prose. As with the nonfiction described above, I like novels that are class- or power-conscious, that set up shop in the many divides, dangers, and inequities of late capitalism. I like understatement—the most important craft decision an author makes is what to leave unsaid but present, just off the edge of the page.
I would gladly read something speculative, surrealist, or fantasy as long as it’s thinking deeply about some of the above themes.
One highly specific request, in case the author of this specific story is reading: I’d love a novel that engages with what would happen and how the world would look if the workers won.
Miscellaneous things I’m probably not the right agent for: stories of privileged people self-actualizing away from external consequences; long, static backstories; stories that would primarily get called “light” or “whimsical”; office culture; police or other types of officers as protagonists; benevolent rich people.
I do not represent Thrillers, YA, middle grade, or children’s books.
If you think your work fits any of this criteria, send me a query through Headwater's submission page. I can't wait to hear about your work.