Nafissa Thomp­sonSpires

au­thor of the story col­lec­tion Heads of the Col­ored Peo­ple, pub­lished in April by 37 INK, an im­print of Atria Pub­lish­ing Group

Poets and Writers - - Special Section ■ Literary Agents -

In 2015 I started query­ing agents with a novel I’d writ­ten as my MFA the­sis at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois. No one was sure about its genre—YA or adult lit­er­ary fic­tion. Af­ter a lot of par­tial re­quests and a dozen full re­quests, lots of re­jec­tions, and lots of agents ig­nor­ing me—I queried about a hun­dred—an agent asked me to re­vise and re­sub­mit. I grew bored with try­ing to write to his sug­ges­tions; to dis­tract my­self I wrote sev­eral short sto­ries. One of them, “Heads of the Col­ored Peo­ple,” gave me the idea for a full man­u­script. In early 2016 I ran into an old col­league, Jensen Beach, who rec­om­mended that I submit my com­pleted col­lec­tion to some con­tests and men­tioned that he could re­fer me to his agent,

Anna Stein. Two weeks later the col­lec­tion won a small-press con­test that came with pub­li­ca­tion, but I wasn’t sure if that was the best route. I con­tacted Anna and the three or four other agents I’d sub­mit­ted to, strate­gi­cally this time. Anna re­sponded en­thu­si­as­ti­cally that I should talk to her in­stead of giv­ing the book to the small press. We clicked on the phone, and the rest is a blessed his­tory.

“Her sto­ries are exquisitely ren­dered, satir­i­cal, and cap­ti­vat­ing in turn, en­gag­ing in the on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions about race and iden­tity pol­i­tics, as well as the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the black body.” —Stephanie Men­doza, se­nior pub­li­cist, Si­mon & Schus­ter

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