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

Ruth Ozeki won the LA Times Prize for her novel


Karen Joy Fowler won the PEN/Faulkner Award for


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.


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


The Gentle Diva Speaks!

Welcome to my blog, brought to you by The Gentle Diva.

I’d like to use this space to expound, to exhort, to implore, to scold, to have a little fun, but not at anyone’s expense and hopefully, without too much verbal incontinence.  I’m getting to the age where incontinence of any sort is going to be an issue, so tell me to shut up if I digress too often! Before I tell you The Gentle Diva’s thoughts for this blog, let me explain the provenance of this extraordinarily self-serving and slightly egomaniacal title:

Today, an editor blew me off for lunch, always my favorite spontaneous act of charity.  I was imagining a quick nip into Marimekko to purchase some overpriced but will-last-a-lifetime stripped towels.  No such luck, thank you WORK for saving me from such an unnecessary purchase! Before I knew it, it was 1:30 and the Fage Youghurt I’d consumed at 7:30 AM was suddenly yearning  noisily for some alimentary company.  My assistant, Molly Schulman, asked me what I wanted to eat.

Another digression: does anyone remember Margaret Wise Brown’s kids’ book called THE IMPORTANT BOOK?  You all know THE RUNAWAY BUNNY and of course, GOODNIGHT, MOON; you’d have to be in a parental coma to not have encountered one of those classics.  Okay, so THE IMPORTANT BOOK is a little obscure, not to brag and say “recherché”.  But it basically goes like this, “Snow is wet.  Snow is cold.  But the IMPORTANT thing about snow is that it is WHITE.  To paraphrase a bit, I’d say “Molly Schulman is adorable.  Molly Schulman is smart.  But the IMPORTANT thing about Molly Schulman is that she is UNFLAPPABLE.”  And since I rarely censor myself, this is, as they say, “meaningful”.

Back to the anecdote: Molly S. asks me what to order for lunch.

“Shall I order the usual? Two hard-boiled eggs and a fresh fruit salad?”

“NO!” I bark, from the bowels of my office. “The so-called “fresh fruit” just isn’t fresh, let’s be honest here. The last time I ate it, the blueberries were frozen and clearly shocked into importation from someplace like Uruguay. Even the kiwi was woody and fibrous and unpleasant! Get me the eggs, yes please, but just buy a banana.  An honest banana not bruised.  If it’s bruised and nasty-looking, find me an orange.  A thick-rinded Sunkist orange, not one of those thin-skinned, ancient ones lying at the bottom of a deli barrel, waiting for a sucker customer.”

There was a pause, and then I heard Molly S. whisper—a whisper that carried all the way to my office, okay, like ten feet, “The Gentle Diva has spoken.”  What???  I mean, how great is that?  First, I’m a Leo, so I get along with diva personalities.  Second, I’m numerologically a One. Chinese Astrology tells me that I was born during the Year of the Dragon, yeah yeah, you guessed it, I’m 59, born in 1952, I’ve just done the math for you.  Meanwhile, I’m reading Michael Shelden’s new biography, on young Winston Churchill’s Edwardian years and he quotes Churchill, “I believe in personality” and I think, “Wow, Churchill, C’est MOI!”  I DO have a large personality and I DO feel strongly about things, about principles, about manners—not whether to wear white buckskin shoes after Memorial Day, I could care less!–who even WEARS buckskin shoes anymore, anyway?– but about how to behave in a fast-moving world where behavior might just get lost in translation.    That, my friends, is what The Gentle Diva will be about.

No more digression.  It’s time for the first Gentle Diva lesson:  the language of TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE.

I grew up surrounded by rotary phones, long after the touch-tone version had claimed nearly every American household.   Phones were where you briefly conducted business, distinctly NOT for chatting.  My father, Otto Friedrich, was a writer and he instilled in me, a slight terror of the telephone.  I represented him and I loved him, not in that order, but the phone was his worst form of communication.  I would call him up, as an adult daughter, just to say, “hi” and the first thing he’d ask, always, was, “What do you have to say for yourself?”  Talk about a conversation killer!  The phone was used so rarely at home that the moronic beagle,Jenny, would levitate from her resting place when it occasionally rang.  When I was incredibly unhappy at Skidmore College, before I transferred to Barnard, where I was only slightly less unhappy, you could take a single course for one month.  I wrote to my parents to tell them of my decision to study astronomy.  I had visions, like any flighty nineteen-year-old, of studying the stars, so romantic; I still look UP every day when I pass through that magical central dome of Grand Central Station.  The next thing I know, I’ve received a telegram—the entire dormitory is ringing with that false, hushed urgency which still, back then, accompanied the arrival of a telegram.

My father’s message: No Astronomy. Stop. Disaster ahead. Stop. Slightly retarded in math. Stop. Papa.

Wow, okay, then back to Greek mythology!  But so allergic to the telephone, that this man would send a telegram, which usually, let’s face it, bespeaks death and disaster of a REAL sort?

When I became an agent, I had to overcome the telephone, that instrument that I’d been told all my adolescent life, to please GET OFF! I learned to sound calm on the phone, when the rest of my body was vibrating with the thrill of the publishing offer.  To sound rushed when I just needed to NOT hear another word about a writer or editor’s ovulation/marital/sibling rivalry crises, enough, already.  I got good at the phone, it became a sort of higher art—when to blow smoke with an editor, when to have an assistant “channel” a long-distance call from Seoul, when to stretch the conversation to actually LEARN something about this insane and insanely  wonderful business.

But there’s something about the NY/LA axis that is always weird and weirdly competitive.  I’ve got loads of business buddies there, I check in frequently—by phone—hoping to divine something about how that side of the business actually works. Because I never watch TV or see movies (okay, three a year, tops. I only saw “The Artist” and “Hugo” this year, in an actual theatre; do I pick them or WHAT?). I’m stunningly, no breathtakingly out of it.  My daughter, Lucy Carson, who is stunningly, no breathtakingly IN it, lovingly teases me about this numbing ignorance on my part.  But she’s another story, another blog for The Gentle Diva.

So I receive a phone call from a well-known book agent in L. A., but I’m not there.   And so the phone tag begins, back and forth.  I reach Nate’s office and Nate’s not there:

“I don’t have him.  Can he return?”

Wow.Just. Wow.  Is this assistant kidding? So when I finally connect with Nate, I say,

“Look, before we get to an actual conversation, can I please talk to you about phone etiquette?”

“Uh, yeah, Okay, Molly.  What’s the problem?”

“Well, it’s just that, this is why New Yorkers are always making fun of Hollywood, this is so awful and hopeless and short-circuited and pretentious, can you just please correct this, ‘I don’t have him/ Can he return’ business? And don’t do it within the next two weeks, I don’t want to be slammed by your assistant, but this language HAS to stop, it’s just AWFUL!”


I was on a Delta flight returning home recently and the flight attendant was clearly literate.  She had a rigidly straight backbone, she enunciated her words.  She also had that fine fuzz of new hair that so often, alas, signals recovery from a serious bout of Chemo.  I admired her, as she said, “As you disembark from this plane, please be sure…etc.”  As I left the plane, luggage and kids intact, I said, “Thank you for NOT saying ‘deplane’.  She was so thrilled! Elated, even!  Someone had noticed her teeny-tiny effort to not abuse our sturdy English language!

I just adore Bill Bryson.  I call him “Bill” even though we’ve never met but his books exude that come-hither air of familiarity.  In his marvelous book about the English language, MOTHER TONGUE, he talks about the richness, the diversity and the nuance of English.  According to “Bill”, we’ve got between 400,000 and 600,000 words, depending upon the source. German runs thin at about 180,000 words and the French language is positively anorexic at 100,000 words.

So let’s please NOT “have” someone or not.  And let’s also not “return”.  Let’s. Just. Not.  It’s lazy.

The Gentle Diva has spoken.  Enough!