I Never Liked to Read Until Freak Came Along

kw_headshotby Kira Watson, Emma Sweeney Agency

I hated reading, because, as my youngest brother so eloquently asked our mother, “Why do we have to read. It’s just words on paper?”

Back then thirty minutes with a book was a punishment–cruel and unusual. To make the time pass–and not spend any of it reading–I would count the words on the page, stare at the ceiling, try to communicate with my dog telepathically (which by the way never worked!), and make faces at my two younger brothers who, like me, were forced to read.

At school, reading was just as torturous. I disliked all of the books my teacher picked to be part of our curriculum. They were old, dusty, and dull. Why would I care about some kid trying to survive in the wilderness with only a hatchet to help him?

Besides, it was a boy book.

When my teacher handed all of us a copy of The Adventures of Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick all I could think was, Great. Another stupid thing for me to read. But when my teacher read the first sentence—I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth,—I couldn’t help but listen and be interested. It was as if the narrator was speaking to me, not at me. That day we read only the first chapter, but I remember racing home after class and devouring the book in one sitting. As you can imagine, it was all downhill from there: I had my grandmother drive me to the library so I could get a library card, and from then on I was at the library almost every other day looking for a new book to read.

By the time I was in High School reading had become my even more important to me. As with many of us, it was my way to escape from school, grades, friend drama, and the pressure of college. For a few hours, I didn’t have to deal with any of it. But my reading choices garnered comments from adults around me: “Why are you reading that? Isn’t it a book for children?” “You really should be reading something more mature so you can be intellectually challenged.” “Don’t fill your mind with all of the fantasy. Read something more realistic.”

I tried to read the “more mature” books I kept hearing about. I was able to appreciate the writing, but adult fiction did not have the same impact on me as YA and Children’s Lit. I was back to reading words on paper, instead of being taken on a journey and caring for the characters that lived between those pages.

I didn’t want to lose my love for reading, and so I went back to reading YA. The comments from adults, who I’m sure meant well, kept on coming but each time I heard them, the comments meant less and less. I was going to read YA if I wanted to and it didn’t matter if I was eighteen or eighty-one.  And so, my reading habit eventually led to a blog, which I started in college so I would have an excuse to read while I earned an undergrad degree and worked my way up to Law School. That, however, did not go as planned.

A week into my Sophomore year I decided I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than sit through another Political Science Class. I hated everything about being a PoliSci major, but most of all I hated that it got in the way of reading (even if I did read non-class related books on my Kindle during lectures). That same week, after announcing to my parents that I was going to be an English major (you can imagine how well that was received), I filed the required paperwork for a change of major and started to search for an internship in publishing.  After a few weeks of interviews, I had landed an internship at ESA. I was supposed to stay for ten weeks, but here I am almost three years later building my list.

Over the short time that I’ve been with ESA, I learned more than I could have imagined back when I was trying to set foot into the publishing world. Some of the things are quite obvious: contracts, foreign rights, writing editorial letters, editing manuscripts, etc. I also learned the importance of trusting my instinct when it comes to manuscripts because if I don’t have the confidence in myself and my abilities, then why should my clients. If something in the manuscript doesn’t sit right, trust your instincts and use your abilities to guide your author. As cliché as this may be, you have to have confidence in yourself first before you can expect others to believe in you.

Freak the Mighty was the first story I cared about, and in retrospect, is the first book that set me on the path to becoming a Children’s Lit agent.



Kira Watson graduated from Hunter College where she earned a BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing) and a BA in Russian Language & Culture. Kira is particularly interested in young adult and middle grade books with a strong narrative voice, well-crafted storylines, and memorable characters. Within YA and MG, Kira is actively seeking realistic fiction, speculative fiction, magic realism, thriller/mystery, horror, fantasy, and historical fiction. Stories with folklore elements, complex villains, morally enigmatic (and very flawed) protagonists, medieval literature influences, and taboo subjects are bound to catch Kira’s attention.

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