Meet the Agent
Ladderbird has had the extreme good fortune to add several new agents to our team and we are really excited about having everyone get to know them.
Let’s meet Kirsten Aguilar:
What made you decide to join the Ladderbird team?
After interning at Folio Literary Management, I knew that agenting was what I wanted to do. I love being able to work with authors on a diversity of projects instead of being limited to one genre or editorial vision. I like thinking about agenting as a puzzle, a matchmaking of sorts, finding a home for the book where it fits and where it will thrive, under the guiding hand of an editor who will champion it and advocate for it. I was drawn to Ladderbird because of its mission. I believe the publishing industry needs to make a conscious, concerted effort to increase accessibility and to elevate voices from marginalized communities. So I was thrilled when I found Ladderbird, and I came away hopeful and inspired by the conversations I had with Beth and with Leah. I am passionate about Ladderbird’s values and by the company’s commitment to being kind and respectful to each person we interact with. Ladderbird is an incredibly bright spot in the landscape that is publishing and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in Sonoma, California, a small town in the middle of wine country. I get asked often if I lived on a vineyard growing up and the answer, unfortunately, is no. I also get asked if I know a lot about wine, and that answer too, is no (unfortunately!). My dad is a musician, and my mom is an artist, so I couldn’t escape childhood without being bitten by a creative bug. I have loved to write and read ever since I can remember. After graduating from college in Vermont, I somehow found myself moving to the Midwest, to Chicago, where I’ve been ever since, except for a brief stint in South Bend, Indiana where I got my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. I’ve fallen in love with Lake Michigan (it’s not an ocean?!) but I can’t go as far as saying that the winters have grown on me. Before becoming an agent, I’ve been everything from a waitress to a teaching assistant to a legal assistant to a university instructor of record to a freelance editor.
What makes you excited about taking on a new author? What kind of stories and writers really capture your attention?
I am excited about finding stories that feel like I’ve been waiting to read them, that feel like they’re doing something new with old tools, that takes pleasure in the writing, and that feel like they’re raising questions I’ve been struggling to answer or didn’t know needed to be asked. I love working with writers who are looking for a collaborative approach to editing and revising, and who have an idea about what trajectory they want their career to take. I’m also excited by stories that fully immerse me in a place, a world, or a character’s mind and I love narrators who feel like I’ve known them a long time, even after only a few pages. Finally, as a writer and reader of Mexican and Swedish descent, I am especially captivated by stories that explore, sit with, nod to, or inhabit the identity questions/crises that can come from being 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation, that can come from not being able to speak the same language as your relatives, that can come from feeling like you’re not “[insert identity here] enough”. These are the stories that make me feel seen and less alone, and I know they have the capacity to help others feel seen and less alone too.
Talk about your editorial process.
I believe my job as an editor is to help the writer reach their vision for their book. I see myself as being the mirror that helps the writer see what needs to be done to arrive at that vision. I first look at the work as a whole to figure out where there might be gaps and what might need rebalancing. And then at the line level, I look at how stylistic choices might be able to emphasize themes or strengthen narrative voice. I love thinking about editing as sculpting, carving, rearranging. Always, I believe in conversations, in having the space to talk through edits and ideas together. I am always going to tell you why I think an edit should be made so that my reasoning and logic are out in the open. I want to help the writer see their own work more clearly and I want to honor what they see.
What’s are your top three all time favorite books? Or what are three books that have moved you?
I’ll go with three books that have moved me, since trying to choose favorites feels impossible!
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. There’s so much movement, power, anger, ugliness, metaphor. It feels like Ferrante held nothing back.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I cried for days! I love Lahiri’s sentences, the language she uses. Her descriptions are so precise and detailed.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. The sense of place in this short story collection is so vivid. I love how the stories work as a collection, how they illuminate each other and build into something that feels like a beautiful kaleidoscope.
What do you like to do when you’re not agenting, reading and editing?
Although sometimes it feels like there’s hardly enough hours in the day to do anything other than agenting, reading and editing (which I am okay with!), I am obsessed with plants so I try to reserve a little bit of time every day to tend to the ones I have. I’ve been spending the last few months trying to coax some veggies out of containers and so far, I’ve harvested two zucchinis and some parsley. I also love to hike and to spend time with friends over long dinners and sing really loudly when I’m cooking.
Is there anything else writers should know before they query you?
I am looking for a collaborative relationship with my clients and am ready to advocate for you and cheer you on throughout your career. Let’s talk about writing, about books, and about what your vision for your writing is!
Thanks so much for letting us get to know you! Writers, remember, Kirsten accepts queries through Query Manager at queryme.online/KirstenAguilar.
Ladderbird Literary Agency
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