Name: Penny Haw
What you write: Literary fiction
Agent: Jessica Faust
Why BookEnds? Months, perhaps even years ago, one of Jessica’s tweets with a link to a BookEnds blog post she’d written was retweeted into my timeline. I immediately recognized her as someone I could learn from and began following her and BookEnds on Twitter. I wasn’t disappointed. It was as if I was a student in a masterclass entitled, Everything Authors Want To Know About Literary Agents But Are Afraid To Ask. Although I’ve been a journalist and business writer for more than three decades, I’m new to creative writing and fiction, and eager to learn. The information and guidance made available by BookEnds is exactly what I was looking for. When I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I couldn’t imagine not submitting it to Jessica. I did so, hoping with every cell in my system she’d see potential in it.
What book do you wish you had written, and why? I could name several for many different reasons, but at the moment it would be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Why? Because it’s a beautifully-written, intriguing story about a woman who is, at first glance, simply a social misfit. A few chapters in, however, and you realised Eleanor is one of the most memorable literary characters you’ll ever encounter. Her story is funny, heart-wrenching and moving. Most notably, it reminded me of the importance of empathy, friendship and human connection in a world that sometimes seems characterized by animosity, scepticism and conflict. I wish I’d written Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Finebecause I would love to offer the kind of uplifting reading pleasure Gail Honeyman provides in the novel.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing? Walking my dogs, running, cooking and enjoying the results with a glass of wine, family and friends.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media? Website: https://pennyhaw.wordpress.com/
Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram: @PennyHaw
What’s the last book you read? The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location? I grew up on an African farm and I fantasize about living in the country again. My ideal writing location would be somewhere simple in the middle of nowhere with only the wilderness in view. It would be at the end of a long road, where the only vehicles to approach would be those coming to visit me. When I switched off the electricity at night, the only light I’d see would be that reflected by the moon and stars.
What’s your favourite quote about reading or writing? ‘Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.’ Daniel Pinkwater. American author of children’s books.
What’s your favourite piece of writing advice you’ve received? Be yourself and write the story only you could tell. It’s easy to be intimidated and influenced by writers you admire. There’s nothing wrong with learning from them but if you try to emulate other writers, you’ll dilute your voice and end up with a muted, unoriginal story.
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family? I am enthusiastic to work with and learn from professionals to produce the best possible manuscript we can.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches? Give an agent exactly what she or he requests, no more and no less. Read their wish lists and add a phrase or line to your query letter that makes it clear you have taken the time to find out what they are looking for. Not only does it make practical sense to give someone what they want, but it also indicates your willingness to cooperate and your appreciation of the fact that the author-agent relationship is a partnership.