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How I Found My Agent: Susan Pohlman

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Memoir, Memoir Writing & Memoir Examples.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Michael GG won.)



Susan Pohlman is author of the travel memoir
Halfway to Each Other:
How a Year In Italy
Brought Our Family Home,
winner of the
relationships category in the 2010 Next
Generation Indie Book Awards.
Housekeeping called the book “a remarkable

story.” Susan is also the writer of three
award-winning short films, and a magazine
freelancer. See Susan’s website here.


When I decided to move forward with the idea of publishing Halfway to Each Other, I had no illusions about the difficulties of finding an agent.  I imagined my query letters lost among stacks of paperwork or filed immediately into spam folders. What I did not imagine was the role that serendipity would play.

My memoir is about the year my family spent in Italy and the way it brought us through troubles. We had been back from Italy for a few months, and I was ready to begin the agent search process. I had no idea how to go about it, so I pored over writing magazines and researched articles on the Internet. I was promptly overwhelmed.

That week, I went to watch my sixth grade son, Matthew, play basketball at his new school. Not knowing one soul, I plopped down on the sidelines next to another mom. We introduced ourselves and began to chat.  This was the conversation.

“So I understand your family just returned from Italy.”
“Where were you living?”
“Near Genoa.”
“Oh! My mother-in-law, Carol, is from Genoa.”
“She is?”
“Yes, and she is about to publish a book on olive oil called The Passionate Olive.”
“Oh, and you know what? She’s coming to town next Saturday to visit. Would you like to have coffee with her?”
“I would love to! Thank you.”

Are you kidding me? What are the chances of that?


The next week, I met Carol Firenze and her sweet mother for an espresso; Carol offered to share her knowledge and expertise in regards to writing a nonfiction book proposal. Her generosity of time and spirit helped me focus my efforts and move forward. Unbeknownst to me, she contacted her agent, Judith Riven, and asked her if she might be interested in taking a look.

I spent weeks researching the market in both the travel and memoir genres. I visited bookstores to see what was on the shelves and how those books were marketed. I read every acknowledgments page to get a feel for publishers and agents who were drawn to that subject matter. Then I sat and constructed a proposal that I hoped would speak to both the heart and the bottom line. I felt like I was back in graduate school working on my thesis.

When the proposal was ready, Carol suggested that I send it to Judith. So, fingers crossed, I put it in the mail and decided to wait for her response before I sent it to the other 429 names I had compiled.


A few months later, (yes, I said months) I came home to a message on my answering machine. Judith had finally gotten to the proposal and would love to speak to me! After a long conversation, we agreed to work together. Her professionalism and guidance have been integral in my development as a writer and in my continued learning curve in understanding the business of publishing.

Looking back, it was the combination of a good story, a lot of hard work, and some plain, old-fashioned dumb luck. I wish all of you who are in this phase of the game the same! Keep your head up and be friendly to strangers. You just never know who you might meet.

Susan is excited to give
away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You
can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update Michael GG won.)

Writing a memoir or life story? A great
resource is Writing Life Stories



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13 Responses to How I Found My Agent: Susan Pohlman

  1. Jan Patterson says:

    Congrats on your success. I was lucky enough to travel to Italy (eons ago) with 2 friends. We stayed in Modena with the family whose oldest daughter had stayed in Nebraska with one of my friends family. It is a beautiful country. I am glad you had that opportunity and am anxious to read your book.
    Some day I would like to compile the stories my mother wrote down before she died. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Jan Patterson

  2. Congrats, glad you spoke to the right person. Sometimes we can look back and see the opportunities that we had. Writing is certainly hard work and getting published seems almost impossible, but perseverance and chance encounters can have good results. Good luck!

  3. Wow, that’s so impressive that something as simple as attending your child’s event could have led you here! I love how generous and helpful other writers can be – congratulations and best of luck with this and other future publishings!

  4. patrice says:

    You can never underestimate the power of connections. Of all the people she could have sat next to at her son’s game!I would love to read this book!

  5. Audra Krell says:

    I never tire of hearing your inspiring story. Thanks for continuing to share.

  6. Hi Everyone! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment! I love the whole "Cosmic Chess" parallel Danielle. My guardian angel/fate was certainly looking out for me here. It was such a crazy experience that I still have a hard time believing it happened!

  7. I really like the title of your book (and your story, too)!
    : )

  8. Danielle Saleski says:

    So inspiring! A friend and I like to play a little game called "Cosmic Chess" where you attempt to make the best moves possible and hope that your guardian angel and fate make the counterpoint moves so you can succeed! Sounds like you’ve had a "check mate" of your own! Can’t wait to read the book!

  9. I love Susan’s story and I loved it the first time she shared it with me in person over coffee!

  10. Keetha says:

    This sounds lovely! A great story all the way around.

  11. Thanks for sharing Susan! It’s amazing how God closes some windows only to open bigger doors for us. And because of what you went though, a beautiful book was the result! I have read it (would LOVE to win another copy) and plan to give a copy to my mom for Mother’s Day!

  12. Michelle Brunet says:

    Congratulations!!! I’m looking to start my ow career, hopefully I’ll do well with perseverance like you.

  13. What a great story. Hooray for serendipity. I’ll look out for your book.

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