Yasmin Kane – Kane Literary Agency
Report written by Sarah Noon
Yasmin has been a literary agent for 16 years and is now head of her own agency.
Yasmin’s talk starts with a brief history of creativity. The word came into use in the 1920’s and 1930’s. She goes on to explain that creativity’s sibling is inspiration – literally meaning “to breathe”. This “breath of life,” continues Yasmin, is the creative force. However, creativity is a comparatively modern concept. It was the emergence of psychology in the twentieth century which heralded the arrival of creativity as we conceptualise it today. “ Creativity,” says Yasmin, “is the ability to transcend our usual manner of thinking and let new and original ideas come to the surface,” clarifying that this is not limited to writing or the creative arts.
Creativity is subjective – it covers all works of art. Yasmin uses an example of standing in an art gallery with other members of the family, considering how the art would be interpreted differently by each person. In a similar way we connect with writing in a very personal manner and from our own “subjective reality”. She believes that creative ideas came from a place she refers to as “the space between.”
Yasmin is a strong advocate of reading and writing groups, where she claims, “subjectivity comes to life.” Yet she is fascinated by the influence that someone else’s viewpoint may have on our own writing.
Yasmin states that there are two types of creativity:
- Intense, focused creativity (for example, when one is writing short stories)
- Meditative creativity (when one is writing full-length fiction)
Inspiration, says Yasmin, is a combination of inspiration and discipline. Being in a relaxed state of mind is the key to unlocking the door. She asserts “be clear about your purpose. Why are you writing this book?” This is the first question she asks writers. Is it all about a publishing deal? Is it about getting one’s work work published? Is the main objective to become a best seller and earn a living from writing? Creativity and our beliefs about ourselves and our writing go hand in hand. “Belief in oneself and one’s writing is crucial,” she says. It is the engagement of the conscious and the subconscious mind. “Your belief in both is vital for creativity.” Yasmin eloquently explains “Creativity comes to the fore when it is ready – like a long-awaited guest. It has no timetable.”
Yasmin understands that the pressure to produce 5000 words per day can halt creativity. You have to let the words flow and let the characters’ voices come through. Creativity is trifold: inspiration, discipline and self-belief. If one has a deadline then plan in order to work towards it so that things aren’t left to the last minute, as this may hinder the creativity. If this occurs, step away for a bit and come back to the task. “Relax into a deadline.”
Creativity is about letting go, walking away from the page and doing something unrelated, allowing the creativity to come forth. Yasmin links this to the poet Rumi: “What you seek is seeking you.” “By stilling the mind,” she says, “we seek out that which is already seeking us.” She continues, explaining that creativity has its own identity, framework and is unpredictable. We should trust this process with “unflinching self-belief”. It will come with practice and by honing one’s writing skills. “You are not editing; you are being creative.”
Yasmin Kane: Literary Agent
Yasmin was originally a lawyer. She later moved to publishing and did work experience at a literary agency. She then set up her own agency using her law and business experience. When talking about the relationship between writer and agent, she explains that it is a partnership based on trust. It is crucial to find the right agent for you.
Yasmin fielded many questions from the audience – she was asked where she stood on the debate regarding the self-publishing vs publishing market. She says that this is all down to the individual person “horses for courses” and that refers back to her earlier point – what’s your intention? With this in mind, one can then decide about the best publishing route to embark upon.
She was also asked about what she looks for in a manuscript. Her reply: “a magic spark of creativity.” She explains that she wants to feel and know that the writer has moved out of the way. There’s an authentic voice – something, she says, that publishers a frequently talking about.
Following on from discussing manuscripts, Yasmin went on to explain what she looks for in a good synopsis (she asks for one side of A4). She explained how a writer should be able to hold the story in the palm of one’s hand. She gave the example of Star Wars and how you would strip that down “It’s basically good versus evil.” Look at story arc, she says, and pick out the plot elements that sum up your story beautifully. This will then be in chronological order with brief description of characters.
Yasmin also advised about cover letters. “Be honest.” She explained how they are the first opportunity for the agent to get to know the writer. It should include something about the writer’s background and experience, as well as the dreaded elevator pitch – a summary of the manuscript in two to three lines. A letter with a good elevator pitch from a writer who has done their homework with regards to the agency will have an increased chance of attracting attention. Check the websites to ascertain exactly what is required – and she also added that there is a difference between the fiction and non-fiction submissions process.