Recently, I caught up with my dear friend, Tina Schwartz, an award-winning author, speaker, literary agent and owner of the successful Purcell Literary Agency. Tina and I were founding leaders of a thriving Chicago chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) where I journeyed alongside this budding author who quickly blossomed into a successful publishing industry professional and renown author. I’m always in awe of Tina’s talent and incredible body of creative works. But one thing that I admire most, is how she’s channeled her passion for books and reading into a successful literary agency connecting authors with publishers and getting compelling stories into the hands of readers. Tina was gracious enough to answer questions about her books, career and the authors that she works with.
Did you always want to be an author? What about your work as a literary agent? As a child, I hated to read. Now I have to do it daily! I fell into writing after a career in advertising. Once I had children, I had to find a job I could do from home. I was always a pretty good writer in school, and I found a correspondence course that taught writing, and how to publish your work through The Institute of Children’s Literature. Then I joined SCBWI that helped me get published through their conferences where I’d met my future editors.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? The last book I had published is called Depression: The Ultimate Teen Guide in the “It Happened to Me” series by Scarecrow Press – Rowman & Littlefield. I suffered with depression since childhood and the teen years and want to help kids understand that they will get through that rough time in life.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? I’d like readers to know that they are not alone, and that tough times are not permanent, things do get better.
What are you most excited about with this book? I’m most excited that this book can actually save lives! I’ve had readers who had been suicidal tell me that this book gave them more healthy coping mechanisms and ideas to get through the rough patches.
How did writing a book help your career take off? This book helped me get more speaking engagements and was the first book to be sold in bigger stores on-line like Target.com.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career as a literary agent? Start out at an agency, if possible, even if it’s a super entry-level (even unpaid) position, if possible. Learn everything from the ground up! You need to be encouraging, learn how to critique in a helpful way, and read a ton.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism in regard to your work as an author? And agent? Criticism is always difficult, no matter how many books you have published! Each project is like one of your children… you’ve put your heart and soul into the writing, and it is a very personal thing. Same thing with agenting, you have to wonder why more people don’t have the same taste in literature, or don’t like your specific taste, if they don’t offer to publish the work you submit.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I make a “to do” list each day and try to accomplish as many things on the list as I can. It’s usually a much longer list than there are hours in the day, but then I put the unfinished tasks to the next day. It helps to have clear goals, and then be able to check them off a list.
What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? As an author, it’s wonderful to get feedback from a fan of your writing. To hear how your book helped the reader is very satisfying. I write non-fiction on somewhat difficult topics (organ transplants, depression), so when a person takes the time to write how the book has helped them through a difficult time in life, it makes my job as a writer that much more validated.
What book uplifts you? I really enjoy Mitch Albom books… Tuesdays with Maury, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, etc.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? If a specific book really speaks to you, or even changes your life in any way, take the time to write and share that with the author. Writing can be a lonely and solitary profession, so when someone takes the time to reach out and pay a compliment, it means the world to that writer!
Check out all of Tina’s books on her author site and learn more about her story and how you can invite her to speak at your next conference.
Image courtesy of Tina P. Schwartz