New Client Alert – Isabel Calkins

  • By: James McGowan | Date: Feb 04 2022

Name: Isabel Calkins (soon to be Isabel Calkins Mata!) 
What you Write: Creative Nonfiction 
Agent: James McGowan
Why BookEnds? On my first call with James, he made it clear that he was going to be more than just my agent, but my career champion. This excited me as a debut author because while I want my first book to be great, I wanted to work with an agency that was also invested in me as a person and had faith in my voice and vision. 

What book do you wish you had written, and why?

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath because she perfectly encapsulates how it feels to live with mental illness when you feel like you are going crazy and no one around you understands. And she did so in a way that was honest, raw, and uplifting at the same time. 

If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?  

Probably singing and being dramatic. 

Where can readers find you on the web and social media?

Tbh social media really messes with my mental health so I have been trying to stay off it recently. But besides that, you can find me on Twitter @ilcalkins, Instagram @isabelcalkins, and on my website

What’s the last book you read? My Body by Emily Ratajkowski, I devoured it. So beautifully written and painfully relatable. Now, I am halfway through I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom and it makes me cackle. 

If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?

A chic Parisienne flat overlooking the tour Eiffel or a private tropical island somewhere without Wi-Fi or cell service. 

What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing? This quote is not technically about reading or writing but it is about truth, which is something very close to my heart as a creative nonfiction writer. 

“In any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way. The angles of vision are skewed. When a booby trap explodes, you close your eyes and duck and float outside yourself. .. The pictures get jumbled, you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.”
― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?

When I was a first-year student at New York University, I lived in London for a year and was obsessed with the writings of Virginia Woolf, particularly her use of the stream of consciousness. In my writing class with Julia Pascal, a British playwright and theatre director, she said something that stuck with me as I tried to mimic Woolf’s method into my own writing. While I don’t remember the exact verbiage, the message was clear: your own voice is the most important voice. You can be inspired by other authors and writers, but at the end of the day, the best stories you write are the ones that are true to your voice.

What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family? I love how BookEnds is actively trying to tell more diverse stories and I am so lucky I get to be a part of that as a young queer, Jewish woman. 

What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches? Keep going and don’t take things personally. I wrote my first book proposal two years ago and sent it off to a few agents and got zero replies. I put it away for a year before starting fresh and immediately got a few responses. When the time is right, it will happen. 

What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents? “What is your vision for my career as an author?”

How did you know your book was ready to submit?

When you’ve read through it a gazillion times and feel like it’s as good as it’s gonna get without you going crazy. The moment you start rethinking everything is when it’s time to submit. 

One response to “New Client Alert – Isabel Calkins”

  1. Good for her, and I wish her much success. Anyone who likes Sylvia Plath is a superior being 🙂 and likely to fall into the “Cluster ‘B'” group of personality disorders if my observations are typical.

    And gosh, I hope BookEnds acquired for her enough to buy pants with the knee part included.