What I learned in Agents’ School: Nerves of Steel

It’s just been announced that Emma Adams will be Writer in Residence for the New Writing programme at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.




Naturally, Emma’s really excited, and I’m completely thrilled.  This is a major step forward.


It takes longer, and more work, than anyone would expect, to get a writer launched.  You think maybe in a couple of years they’ll be getting a reasonable number of commissions, and nearly earning a living off their writing, but typically it’s much longer.  Emma was unusually self-starting at the dawn of her career, and her talent was recognized relatively early when her first play was short-listed for a Meyer-Whitworth Prize.  She’s had a second play toured nationally, and other small commissions, and a lot of activity going on.  It feels like we’ve nearly built up that critical mass.


Producers have to have time to watch how a writer’s early career starts to shape up – whether their writing is consistently good, whether their work finds an audience, and whether other producers also think they’re good.  But it takes nerves of steel to keep confident through this period.


Sometimes, of course, a writer hits big very early on.  I had a client whose first book was published by a very posh publisher when he was 25.  This is the client I lost most sleep over.  You need to know what you’re doing wrong, as well as what you’re doing right, and an early success can make a writer afraid to look honestly at both forms of feedback.  If you don’t learn this vital information in the tough early years, it’s very hard to work out how to maintain your success.  As Fanny Brice says in Funny Girl, when she’s suddenly offered a spot in the Ziegfeld Follies, ‘But I haven’t suffered yet!’


I’m very proud to be representing Emma, whose voice is one of the most interesting and stimulating I’ve ever come across.  And she’s certainly earning her success.

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