SWAG is thrilled to start its first issue with the hot-off-the-press news that Singaporean writer Clarissa N Goenawan has been signed up by a major literary agent based in Barcelona.
As if completing a novel with two young children in the house wasn’t enough proof of her determination, Clarissa got a grant to take a well-respected online writing course, hooked a professional mentor and won a prestigious international prize. And now, after a lot of soul-searching, she has signed with Anna Soler-Pont, who represents a diverse stable of international authors, including the late Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
Her novel, Rainbirds, was described by the Bath Novel Award judge as “a deeply thoughtful book that follows Ren as he grieves for his sister, Keiko, who was suddenly murdered in the prime of her life.”
I first met Clarissa on a Curtis Brown course during the 2013 Singapore Writers Festival, when Rainbirds was no more than a 3,000-word opening chapter. We spoke again just as Clarissa was going through the turbulent process of securing the right agent.
In this podcast, Clarissa offers some advice on how to navigate the way to representation. She starts by describing her novel, Rainbirds.
After Clarissa confirmed that the ink was dry on her contract with the Pontas Agency, SWAG asked how she knew that Anna Soler-Pont was the right agent for her?
CNG: We spoke by Skype about her agency and her vision for my novel. I could feel her passion for female writers and multi-cultural voices, and I can see that my novel and I will fit into her agency. Also, she’s warm and friendly.
SWAG: And she represents the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer – how does it feel to have an agent who worked with such a legend?
CNG: I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s nice to be able to tell my parents that I signed with the agent who represented Pram, because of course they’ve heard of him! She also reps two other Indonesian writers, so that diversity appeals to me.
SWAG: You had several interested agents in the end, which sounds like a dream situation, but how was the reality during those weeks when you had to make a crucial decision?
CNG: Very nerve-wracking. I didn’t sleep much. There was also the time difference so I had to stay up late many night and then still have to wake up to get my kid to school! Everything felt so strange.
SWAG: What happens now?
CNG: The usual – writing and editing. But no more querying. I’m not gonna miss that!