Susan Hawk has worked in children’s books for over twenty-five years, and her clients include Alison Oliver, illustrator of the bestselling Baby Lit board books and the forthcoming picture book Moon; Ruth Spiro, author of the Baby Loves Science board book series; Marcie Colleen, author of the Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series and the forthcoming picture books Love, Triangle and The Adventure of the Penguinaut; Lisa Tyre, whose debut middle-grade novel, Last in a Long Line of Rebels, was a BEA Buzz Book title; Sarah Lariviere, whose middle-grade novel The Bad Kid is an 2017 Edgar Award Nominee; and Rachael Allen, author of the YA novels 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook.
She joined Upstart Crow Literary after seven years at the Bent Agency. Before agenting, Susan worked in the Children’s Marketing departments of Penguin Books for Young Readers, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and North-South Books, where she managed campaigns for many books and authors including Eric Carle, Mary E Pearson, Richard Peck and Joan Bauer. She’s also been a children’s librarian and bookseller, and spent some time in Dutton Editorial, acquiring select picture book and YA projects for that list.
"I grew up in Washington, DC just a couple blocks from a wonderful children’s bookstore, The Cheshire Cat. Reading had me hooked at an early age, so this was a magical place for me. The minute I could get a job there—at the ripe old age of 13—I did. And ever since, children’s books and publishing have given me both a home and a career.
After college, I got a job at another bookstore, a brand-new Borders. As a bookseller there, I met a number of publicists, coming from New York with touring authors. The travel, the media and the authors all seemed pretty thrilling to me, so I moved to New York myself, determined to find a job in Publicity. I landed in the Children’s Publicity and Marketing Department at Penguin. This was in the 1990s, when children’s books were becoming a force within publishing houses and it was an exciting time. As much as I loved the new books, I equally adored the opportunity to read more classic backlist titles than I could carry home, and pore over old author files—letters from S.E. Hinton, Ludwig Bemelmans, Robert McCloskey and more!
Perhaps it was those files (and the possibility of becoming an archivist) that led me to pursue librarianship. And that, in turn, eventually brought me back to Penguin, where I ran the Library Marketing Department and was able to work simultaneously in Dutton Editorial for a brief period. Finally, I began to think about agenting—a place where I could put my passion for kid’s books together with my experiences in marketing, editorial, bookstores, and libraries. I haven’t looked back since taking on my first client in 2010!
When people ask me about my favorite part of agenting, I say it’s hard to choose just one, because I enjoy the variation so much: the deeply thoughtful work that goes into an edit letter, helping a writer to dig more deeply into her character and story. The strategy, and pleasure, that goes into selling a project, matching it to an editor that I suspect will feel just as strongly about it as I do. Brainstorming new ideas with my clients. Thinking big picture about a client’s career, and the patient process of building that career, together.
But if I had to pick just one thing, it would be this: I love the moment that I open a query, and find myself pulled completely into a new world, with characters I never want to leave. I can trace that feeling right back to my own childhood and the thrill of cracking open a new book. I didn’t know, those years ago, that books would take me on so many different and marvelous journeys—not least of which is the one that brought me here.”