Fall Recap - Laurie Frankel Takes the World by Storm

Here at The Friedrich Agency we’ve had a busy fall! Over the next three weeks, we’ll be posting a recap series with some of the season’s highlights. If you don’t have a book in mind for everyone on your holiday gift list after we’re done with you – well, we can’t say we didn’t try! So stay tuned and check back here for more info in the coming weeks!

In January of 2017, Laurie Frankel’s masterful novel THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS was published by Flatiron Books. A novel about a family whose youngest boy of five wants to be a girl when he grows up, Laurie’s book was a 2017 Best-of-the-Year favorite across platforms, but sometimes it still take a little longer for the rest of the world to catch up…

And who better to help us spread the word than our book champion herself, Reese Witherspoon! This October, Reese selected THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS as her official book club selection, introducing the power of Poppy to a whole new set of readers.

To add to her accolades, Laurie became an NYT bestseller, a winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award, and she’s long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award.

As you can see, you don’t have to take OUR word for it that this book is worth reading! Just take Reese’s, the NYT’s, various literary committees’…. you get the point.

We’ll leave you with this powerful image made by the brilliant team at Flatiron, which encapsulates just how important Laurie Frankel’s novel is in our uncertain times.

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Remembering Sue Grafton

It’s August, 2018 and, aside from what feels like truly endless rain, it’s also Sue Grafton’s paperback publication month for her last novel, Y IS FOR YESTERDAY.  In honor of that, I thought I’d share the words I wrote in honor of Sue’s memorial service at The New York Public Library, back in April.  It’s certainly not perfect but it was written directly from the heart. We all miss her so dearly.

 

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"Hi. My name is Molly Friedrich and I was Sue’s literary agent for thirty-five years, since B Is For Burglar first made its way across my desk.

I didn’t actually meet Sue until a couple of letters deeper into the alphabet. She didn’t come to New York very often and I’ve never been much of a traveling agent, leaping onto planes for any of those key moments in a writer’s life. 

There probably isn’t anyone in this room who didn’t adore Sue Grafton or, at the very least, admire her. In a writing world painfully thick with competition, I don’t think Sue had a single literary foe. As Sue and I rode that ferocious wave from truly modest success to so-called mega-success, I don’t think Sue ever once reproached or berated or scolded me for any decision I ever made on her behalf. 

Can you try for a moment, to even imagine that? And, as they say of the architect, if you want to see her monument, look around you—at her husband, at her children, at her many readers, at all her publishing family…

Two things always happen when people learn that I represent Sue Grafton. The population of agents and writers longs to learn just how Sue became “Sue Grafton.” And I know the answer, of course I do! But agents don’t need to reveal all the secrets in their arsenal, so I’m not telling you.

The second thing that happens when the rest of the reading world learns that I am Sue’s agent is actually slightly maddening. The fan suddenly feels morally obligated to offer an opinion on nearly every single letter. It often goes something like this, “Well, I just loved S!  I mean, that is my all-time favorite-- well, my other favorite is N, you know, for noose? But T? What’s going on, is Sue okay?” I usually smile politely, having learned long ago that it’s not becoming or helpful to yell at people who don’t love every book I send out into the world.  I point out diplomatically that, like best friends, you cannot have more than one favorite, that what matters is that they keep going with the alphabet, that their loyalty will nearly always be well rewarded.

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Back in those single-engine days—the days of Selectric typewriters and carbon paper—we both worked really hard, building and nurturing an audience for Kinsey. I’ve sifted through my ancient files and discovered many enraged letters written by me and sent to various people at Holt, Sue’s first publisher. There is a certain, consistent sameness to these letters: if you scream politely, eloquently, you will eventually be heard! By the time “G” is for Gumshoe marched onto the New York Times Bestseller list, I’d learned a good deal about Sue Grafton:

Here was a woman with no use for sentimentality, a writer for whom ethics, principles and integrity were not the hypocrisy of our politicians but simply matters of hard fact. No clutter. No glibness. No complacency. And hard work. Even as late into the alphabet as “W”, the work stayed hard—Sue never phoned it in. Never. In fact, I found a note from Sue in which she cheerfully announced that she had amassed 605 pages of single-spaced notes for W and was finally moving in a straight line…

There came a time, probably around “P” is for Peril, when my deeply middle class, Judeo-Christian bones kicked in and I decided I was making too much money from Sue’s success.  I don’t want to be falsely modest here but I began nursing febrile, dark, 4:00 am thoughts that Sue might hire a lawyer and just be done with me.  So I called her up and began ranting and raving,

“There’s nothing for me to DO for you!” I complained. “You’re never any trouble! Don’t you have any anthology deals going awry? Or some permissions snafu that needs my attention?”

Sue just laughed that effervescent, tingly laugh of hers and said, “No, Ma’am.” I finally said, in utter exasperation, “Well, can’t you at least send me your ironing?”  She laughed again, and said, “Oh, honey. Just enjoy it. Call it back pay.”

And so, I did. But I want to return here to the subject of ironing. 

When I heard from Steve last Spring, that Sue’s operation had yielded only bad news, I was suddenly desperate to see her, to get on a plane and visit her. It was finally arranged that Lucy and I might visit between chemo sessions, the last week of July.  Ever the vainglorious Leo, I declared, “Oh, that’s perfect! July 31st is my 65th birthday!”  Sue’s response to this was distinctly Southern: if there’s a birthday, then of course, there must be a cake! I protested, but Sue remained firm.

Lucy and I spent a deeply charmed evening with Sue and Steve, begging for a detailed house tour. Two features fired Sue’s enthusiasm. One was a fake dresser. It looked exactly like a traditional, three-drawer wooden dresser but cut discreetly into its side was a kitty cat door, housing a food and drink station and a litter box. No noise, no noxious smells, no spraying litter all over the floor. Sue had designed it herself and was rightly proud of its elegant functionality. 

The second feature Sue adored in the house was an old fashioned iron, actually called a “mangle”. It was a large ironing steam press, with multiple fabric settings and Sue loved showing it off, like a vast, domestic fantasy.

 So now you know why Sue never sent me her ironing: she was having way too much fun doing it herself. 

When I visited Sue late last July, she seemed shockingly thin, needing to nap but otherwise fully present.  I had assumed my birthday cake would be made by Liz Gastiger, their long-term chef and friend. But no, Sue had made my cake herself: a perfect lemon genoise with buttercream frosting.  As I tucked into my second piece, I exclaimed, “Sue this cake is a LONG way from Duncan Hines, whose recipe is it?” 

“Rose Levy Berenbaum,” she told me. 

I nearly choked, “But Berenbaum is impossible, she’s so exacting, she’s an absolute tyrant of precision!” 

I don’t know. There’s something so deeply moving about this beloved writer, not an ounce over ninety pounds, baking me a sublime birthday cake.  The next morning, before I drove to the airport, I had a third slice for breakfast.

Respectfully submitted, indeed." 

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Welcome to the world, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE!

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At long last, the buzzed-about debut from Ingrid Rojas Contreras, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE, is here! Based on her own experience as a child, the novel is set against the backdrop of the devastating violence of 1990's Colombia, following  a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both. Her brilliant novel is staggering (it made a New York Times reviewer "wince in recognition") and has been praised as "one of the most dazzling and devastating novels" with "images that blister and burn, phrases that adorn and astonish." (San Francisco Chronicle

We guarantee that as soon as you finish, you'll want more, so check out Q&As with Ingrid on Goodreads and Shondaland

Here’s a tale for the time we were all completely beside ourselves….

Ruth Ozeki won the LA Times Prize for her novel
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING

&

Karen Joy Fowler won the PEN/Faulkner Award for
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES

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A lot happens when not just one, but TWO authors on our small, beloved list win major literary awards: TV & film producers come sniffing, foreign publishers arrive in droves (Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary—oh my!), Facebook fans and Twitter followers accrue. Yet what’s most rewarding to witness is the passionate outreach from fans, expressing their love and gratitude for the written word. Both novels have extraordinary heart and wit—two well-suited words for the novelists as well.

It’s been an especially gratifying experience because Ruth and Karen are not only great fans of one another’s work, but have also become great friends.

The road to publication and prizes wasn’t easy, either. Ruth worked tirelessly through five drafts and auditioned just as many narrators for what would become A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING. Just months before publication, Karen tragically lost a cherished friend and literary agent in Wendy Weil. Through it all, Karen and Ruth forged a deep kinship, while in residence at the Hedgebrook center—with the support and understanding only a fellow novelist who’s been at the edge of scrapping it all could provide.

The Friedrich Agency likes to imagine Nao and Rosemary are time beings and—if they weren’t imaginary—they’d likewise be friends. We couldn’t be prouder to represent Karen Joy Fowler and Ruth Ozeki, along with their two prize-winning novels. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES also won the 83rd Annual California Book Award’s Gold Medal for Fiction and has been nominated for the Nebula Award. A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING won the Kitschie Award for Innovative Fiction, and was a finalist for the Man Booker prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Both are New York Times best sellers.

Please join us in sending Karen and Ruth our greatest, most heart-felt, over-the-moon enthusiastic congratulations!

 Karen and Ruth among other writer friends at Hedgebrook

Karen and Ruth among other writer friends at Hedgebrook

TFA goes to Queens!

On April 23rd, the entire humble Friedrich Agency took a car service, loaded down with four cartons of books, to continue our volunteer efforts on behalf of World Book Night. If you don’t know what that is (and you SHOULD know….What are you doing with your time, Dear Reader??) World Book Night is a fabulous annual event held on the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday during which book lovers go out into the world, all over the world and distribute free books to light and non-readers.

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For us book lovers here at the agency, this was our third year participating, are we GREAT or WHAT???  We went to a library in Jamaica, Queens, right smack in between LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, home to no fewer than ninety-two different ethnic groups of immigrants. Before we even got started, I nearly got killed crossing the street to pick up water at Dunkin Donuts for the team. When we first wanted to set up a table with our lovely banner on the lawn in front of the library, we were told, “Oh, no, the grass is locked up.”

“The grass is locked??!!”  What?!?

A long discussion followed about the grass being there to be looked at, not sat upon, not stood upon. This poor neglected garden, ignored by the custodians who were part of a terribly dysfunctional union, sat ignobly beside us as we began to distribute our books.

So anyway, there we all are, giving books away outside the library: “You get to keep the book! There’s no test!  How about your Mom, for Mother’s Day, if you write a card, she’d LOVE this book, c’mon, take a book, it’s FREE!!!”  And then we encounter this deflated, deeply shy woman. She doesn’t really much want our offerings but she’s curious, she’s game to listen to our over-caffeinated spiel about the importance of World Book Night. (The Bard’s birthday!  500,000 books being given away on this very night, my first trip to Queens, how cool!  On and on and on!)  She’s a little overwhelmed by our imported energy but she senses our good intentions, our passion, and mildly offers up the tidbit that she’s in charge of the book group at this imperiled library.  ($7,000 annual budget, closes every night at 7:00pm, it’s mobbed from 3:00 to 7:00, it’s sacred space, everyone is using this library).  I ask her, “When’s the next book group?”  She says, “Tomorrow.”

I say, (duh) “Well what book did you assign?” Drum roll…and she says, “It’s a book called The Burgess Boys, by a writer named Elizabeth Strout. Have you heard of her?”

OMG. The poor thing. The primal scream that emerged, full-flung, from The Friedrich Agency–well, I have to say, it was slightly embarrassing. I think she thought we were all a little bit demented. But whatever, it was a fine moment in the world of reading and great writing, and the sun was shining, the wind was blustery and we had a blast.

Report from the heart,

The Gentle Diva

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