At age sixteen, I landed a great part-time job: showing old movies at a revival house built in a barn. Friday night, I’d crank up the projector and watch a classic movie I’d never seen. Saturday, I’d watch it again, focusing on how the movie told its story.
At the time I graduated from college, a fellow waiter at the restaurant where I worked invited me to test-read a novel he’d begun writing. We knew nothing about publishing but managed to get his book finished and sold, to a major trade house. The fact this took us on a multi-year trek made that first-ever book contract all the more satisfying.
In the meantime, I completed a masters in English and Comparative Lit, my focus of comparison being prose narration vs screen narration.
Next came ten years in boot camp, as a literary agent.
The first eight I spent at Curtis Brown, Ltd., one of the longest-established agencies in New York. From colleagues there, I learned a meticulous approach to every aspect of representing authors, from text preparation to deals to contracts to rights management. The agency instills in its trainees a strong code of ethics, one I still strive to live up to. We represented a lot of prize-winning and best-selling authors. A milestone for me was working with Peter Hedges—from early drafts to publication and through to the Oscar-nominated movie—on his first novel, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Next, I worked at a newly founded agency, Endeavor, before it grew big and merged with William Morris. In Hollywood, I was a fish out of water but valued the opportunity to learn about movie and media production, from exceptionally talented colleagues and clients. My most memorable success during that Los Angeles run came in shepherding another first novel, Rex Pickett’s Sideways, on its way to publication and to adaptation as an Oscar-winning movie.
In my years as an agent, I got the greatest satisfaction assisting writers in the development of their work. The natural next step, to complete what amounted to a 20-plus-year apprenticeship, was making that my full-time occupation. While I was getting my business up and running, digital advances made it feasible for an editor to work anyplace there’s broadband access. Since moving to Brazil, I’ve expanded my range of projects to include works in Portuguese as well as in English.
My most memorable success during that Los Angeles run came in shepherding another first novel, Rex Pickett’s Sideways, on its way to publication and to adaptation as an Oscar-winning movie.