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Monday, January 02, 2012

Welcome to 2012

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Happy New Year to you all, and here’s wishing you everything you wish yourselves in 2012.

Sorry for the long blog silence. Just before Christmas I went down with the worst cold I’ve had in years, which turned into bronchitis once I got back to London for the holidays. Incredibly annoying, as I felt too pathetic most of the time even to open my laptop, let alone come up with anything sensible and interesting to say. Thank goodness, I’m now feeling a lot more like myself again – all ready for a new year of work, starting tomorrow!

I flew back to the US on New Year’s Eve, so was comatose by the time New Year – Eastern Time – came around.  However, I’ve had a little think about resolutions for 2012. Or rather, the objectives that I want to drive us this coming year.

2011 was fabulous for Greenhouse on both sides of the Pond. Very successful in business terms, despite an intensely competitive marketplace, with more and more agents entering the fray. However, it’s always the human side of the business that delights us most, and both Julia and I found great satisfaction in launching a number of new authors into first deals, as well as seeing repeat deals coming through for existing clients. We did a lot of big deals, but never lost (and never will lose) our heart for, and delight in, the smaller ones too – they can be every bit as significant in changing a writer’s life, making their publishing dream come true. Equally exciting was the range and number of foreign deals (ie, in translation) done for us by our lovely colleagues at Rights People in 2011, as well as our first –ever TV option deal.

So, where is my personal North Star as I take a deep breath and enter 2012 with Greenhouse? Here are my thoughts; perhaps they will spark some of your own. The accompanying photos are all images associated with my Christmas - explained at the foot of this post.

So . . . .

I intend us to be smart, savvy, fast, gutsy and tough in business. Yet strive to be people who are full of heart, integrity and humanity.

I want us to keep our reputation for very close and warm contact with our clients. I never want any of our authors to sit there thinking ‘Why don’t they reply to me?’ And that means not overloading ourselves. Maintaining the right number of clients is a fine line, and to walk it we have to make quiet, careful decisions.

Social networking and maintaining ‘the face of the business’ is another very fine line. I want us to be ‘out there’, heard, present, interesting – yet knowing when to cut out the babble and just reflect privately and with dignity.

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I want us to keep replying to all sensible and respectful queries, as we have done since Greenhouse began.  Can we continue to do this throughout the coming year? I hope so, I really do, and we’ll certainly do our best.

I want to continue to love this business passionately, adore my job, throw myself into it like a crazy woman, yet never forget that we are all more than just our jobs. What does this mean? For me, it means remembering that I am a family person, I love art and theatre, I love taking photographs, I love Edith Piaf and Mozart (and tons of other musicians), and I love putting on my walking boots and going for a hike. Hooray for normality and a sense of proportion!

I want to keep my real love for writers – for the struggle, the craft, the growth, the adventure of learning how to put thoughts, a story, down on paper or a screen. It is fantastically exciting to see writers develop and find success. Yes, it can be nerve-racking too (especially as we often get so involved in editorial), and there many incredibly roller-coaster moments. But would I swap this crazy business for any other form of employment? Not likely! Julia and I are like pigs searching for truffles, and when you’re ruled by your nose, there’s nothing more exciting than truffle-hunting.

I want to continue enjoying that personal contact with writers which we have at conferences around the US and UK. This year I’ll be speaking in New York, Texas, New Jersey and Nashville. Who will I meet? What will I discover? The thing is, you just never know! I guarantee there will be surprises, but WHAT surprises?

I intend to keep running and getting better at it. Before I got ill, I was running nearly 1.5 miles at a go – utterly unthinkable a few months ago when I realized I had legs like jelly. I like the way running makes you keep looking at the horizon, keep going, toughing it out. It’s a stonking great metaphor, it’s discipline for the mind – plus it’s good for the bod!  (Also, you can feel really, really smug when you run.)

Finally, I want to cook more and get better at French. And for those of you who’ve heard me speak (around the country) about my Great Uncle Wilfrid – the brother my grandmother wanted to marry, instead of the brother she DID marry . . . . Well, I’m off to find his grave in July. It is just south of Ypres, in what was Flanders, in a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery near where he died shot through the chest by a sniper in Fall 1917 having gone out at night to rescue wounded British soldiers in No Man’s Land. I will be the first member of my family ever to see Wilfrid’s grave, and I think that will be quite a moment.

Wow, as I write all this, I can feel the excitement starting to build. I already have a few manuscripts waiting for my urgent attention and I feel a bit like a racehorse waiting for the gate to open.  I also already have a shrewd idea of what January is going to bring, and I’m looking forward to it. Aha!

Welcome to you all. It’s great to be in touch with you, thanks for following us here and on Facebook (just search for The Greenhouse Literary Agency) and Twitter (@SarahGreenhouse). We can’t wait to share this great, challenging year of 2012 with you, and both Julia and I wish you all the very best of success in everything you do. Even more than that, we wish you the nerve and grace to accept triumph and adversity with equal aplomb, which is of course one of the things we also wish ourselves.

With love from

Sarah

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Pix: 1) The Ibex, known as Auntie, which adorns my mother’s wall. Sadly, Auntie was shot by my grandfather early in the 20th century. I know, it’s horrible - but I can’t help it. So now we decorate her at Christmas. It’s really the least we can do.  2) Lucy, our older Dachsund, gets weary at Christmas. Here she is relaxing - with gift boxes.  3) This was my pre-Christmas getaway weekend to Baltimore. Here, I was at the fascinating Fort McHenry. These guns are actually from the Civil War rather than the War of 1812, but basically they sum up my combative and determined view of agenting and what 2012 will probably hold. Let’s just say that I want to win.

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