Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, April 19, 2010

Emilie Jacobson

Curtis Brown Ltd. lost a beloved family member last week when Emilie Jacobson passed away at age 85. Emmy started working at Curtis Brown in 1946, and though she had planned an upcoming retirement, she was working tirelessly to the very end.

She didn't love e-mail and would brag that when the Internet or e-mail server went down she could still get work done on her typewriter, but she still gamely kept on top of new technology. And in fact just a couple of weeks ago she sent me an idea for a blog post that I was planning to tackle very soon:

Incidentally, out of curiosity I looked recently at your blog about writing a synopsis. You’re right, it’s a pain and, actually, what counts is how the skeleton is eventually clothed. Nevertheless, there’s a crucial point that you might want to address if you return to the subject. I find that more often than not the author concocts essentially a blurb, not a synopsis. Might be useful to discuss the difference. (The other common mistake is a lettered and numbered construction, the kind of “outline” one is taught in school.)

Emmy's client Emily St. John Mandel recently posted a beautiful tribute at The Millions that captures Emmy's spirit and dedication:

Emilie was so much a part of Curtis Brown that it was almost impossible to conceive of her being outside it, no longer coming into this office every day. I asked what she planned to do after retirement. She said she thought it would take her about a year to clean the stacks of manuscripts out of the closets in her apartment, and then she was going to read for pleasure. She thought she might like to do some writing. We talked about books for a while—she’d just read and loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. We spoke about her career.

“You were my first champion,” I told her. I told her how much I appreciated everything she’d done for me, the faith she’d always had in my work.

She smiled and began reminiscing about other firsts: a piece of Joyce Maynard’s that she placed in The New York Times when Maynard was eighteen (“An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life”), a John Knowles story that eventually became the climactic scene in A Separate Peace. She asked if I was working on a new novel and I told her that I was.

“Oh, this is why I’ve delayed retirement for so long,” she said. “I always want to see what everyone’s going to do next.”

Emmy was an immensely classy lady who saw many evolutions of the publishing industry--when she started, the magazine industry was so robust her job was to place stories and articles in periodicals. But while the industry changed around her, her dedicated work for her clients never wavered.

She was similarly supportive of her colleagues, and I'd always make sure to visit her office for some friendly advice when I worked in New York and then always when I returned for a visit.

It really is hard to imagine Curtis Brown without her. We'll miss her very, very much.






67 comments:

J.J. Bennett said...

In deed, a great woman. She will be missed but will remain in the hearts of those who knew her.

Ink said...

That was touching. What a wealth of knowledge she must have had about the business. And the stories about stories...

Kat Harris said...

It sounds like she was a wonderful person. You have my sympathy.

Lyn South said...

My condolences to her family at home and her work family, too. She sounds like a great lady.

Julie Weathers said...

My condolences to you, Curtis Brown and the publishing community. Agents like this are the dream for so many authors, with just cause.

Kim Lionetti said...

Nathan --

A great tribute to a remarkable woman. Thanks for sharing it.

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

What a wonderful tribute. I'm sure it will be difficult for your agency to deal with the loss. I'm equally certain you feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her. It is rare when people like that come in to our lives.

My condolences!

Carl said...

I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was a special lady.

abc said...

I love the way she writes (in her email). She seemed like a neat woman! I would have loved to have heard her stories.

Susan Quinn said...

Such a lovely tribute. You can tell the depth of a person by the love that follows after them.

Margaret Yang said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Stephen Parrish said...

Thanks for the tribute. I wish I'd known her.

WriterGirl said...

Sympathies to everyone at Curtis Brown and her family. She sounds like a funny, wise woman

amethyst said...

**HUGS**

Ryon said...

What a sad thing it is to lose someone who must have been so in love with what she did everyday...working for Curtis Brown, for over 60 years. Wow..

Im sorry for your loss.

Katie Alender said...

“I always want to see what everyone’s going to do next.”

Love this, on a very profound level.

My condolences. She sounds like a remarkable woman--curious, creative, and generous.

Mary McDonald said...

I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful lady and you are so lucky to have known her.

Other Lisa said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman, someone I would have liked to have known. What a lovely tribute to a full and well-lived life.

ryan field said...

Sorry, Nathan.

Mira said...

A beautiful tribute, Nathan. I'm so sorry that you've lost an important person in your CB family.

My heart goes out to those who loved and cared for her.

T. Anne said...

It sounds like she was a very special lady. What devotion she had!

Tracy said...

Now she's in a place where her closets are clean, and she can read as much as she wants for as long as she wants.

Steppe said...

A life well lived.
That's old school class and dignity.
Art

Pamala Knight said...

My deepest condolences to those who knew her well and will miss her most.

Rick Daley said...

My condolences on your loss, and my congratulations on your fortune in having had the opportunity to know her. It seems she had a positive impact on the lives of many.

Maryann Miller said...

She sounds like she was an amazing lady. Always hate to lose someone like that so full of wisdom and experience. I do hope you address her suggestion in another blog some day. That would be so helpful to those of us still trying to perfect a synopsis.

Sissy said...

What a wonderful woman! Oh to be surrounded by books for 50 plus years...what a dream.

D. G. Hudson said...

My condolences on the loss of one of your colleagues. Sounds like she had a wonderful life, and kept a great attitude.

These losses remind us that life is fragile, and we should not waste any of it.

terripatrick said...

From this tribute, I believe Emilie spent her life reading for pleasure and had no desire to retire and miss what everyone was doing next...

That's a fulfilled life.

Thanks for sharing!

Kelly said...

A true legend in the business. Condolences to you, Nathan, and everyone at Curtis Brown.

writerjenn said...

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful person.

Marilyn Peake said...

Emilie Jacobson sounds like a remarkably wonderful person. The posts about her by both you and Emily St. John were extremely touching. My condolences to you and everyone else at Curtis Brown.

Zachary Grimm said...

Emilie sounds so awesome, Nathan. Thank you for sharing that. My sympathies go to all of you at Curtis Brown. :)

Terry Towery said...

My condolences to you and your colleagues at Curtis Brown. She sounds like a lovely lady and one I wouldn't have minded having in my corner.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Beautiful post. Well done.

Kristin Laughtin said...

She sounds like a wonderful lady who really loved the industry and books. My condolences.

Victoria Dixon said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Nathan! Losing a mentor is tough.

Stephen Prosapio said...

What a career! Amazing to think of all she lived through, both in the world and in the world of publishing. Sorry for your loss, Nathan.

Kathie said...

How wonderful it is for you to have known her, Nathan, and how sad it is for the many of us who never had the opportunity. It is women such as Emilie that great stories are inspired by and swept on to last us well beyond bedtime. I hope her stories are ones that you will be able to reflect upon - starting with the synopsis article you'll be writing soon. I'm sorry to have missed such a wonderful woman. Blessed there are others who cherish her enough to carry on her voice in their work and hopefully, play. Yes, let's all look to what will come next.

M Clement Hall said...

With the greatest of respect to the important person you have lost, the lesson to those of us who did not know her: don't wait for retirement to start what you most wish to do. And then there's the other side of the coin: how better could you live your life than to end it in the harness of what you most enjoy doing

Anonymous said...

Nathan, thank you for sharing the wonderful tribute to Emilie Jacobson--I just signed with Maureen Walters at Curtis Brown in November and when I looked at CBltd's website and saw her picture, I remember thinking just from that picture, "what a fascinating person she must be--what stories she must have to tell!" I know she will be missed!

Nancy Reinhardt

wendy said...

God bless you, Emilie Jacobson.

A wonderful tribute.

wendy said...

A wonderful tribute. God bless you,
Emilie Jacobson.

Anonymous said...

If I were an agent, living up to such an example of passion and dedication would be one of my life's noble goals.

Anonymous said...

May God bless Emilie Jacobson.

Julieanne Reeves said...

I agree with what others, and you, have said. She was doing what she loved until the end. I think that is what really counts and the best way to measure a life truly lived.

Ishta Mercurio said...

This was a lovely tribute, Nathan. My condolences to all who knew her; may we learn from her very positive example of a life well-lived.

Melanie Avila said...

My condolences.

Linnea said...

Oh how sad. Sounds like she was a lovely lady.

Kristi Helvig said...

She sounds like an amazing woman who touched the lives of many. I'm sure she will be very missed and very remembered.

Dawn Maria said...

Thank you for that tribute.I love what Emilie said about the synopsis. My condolences to you and the entire agency.

Moira Young said...

I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds like an incredible person to have known.

clindsay said...

Wonderful post, Nathan. And I am so very sorry for your loss.

Bethany said...

My condolences. She sounds like she was quite a woman. May she rest in peace. God bless her and all of you.

Lucy said...

What a beautiful lady. I'm sorry I didn't know her. Those who did have been fortunate.

Thank you for posting this.

L-Plate Author said...

What a heartfelt tribute, Nathan. She was truly a Curtis Brown babe.

Mel x

Dawn Kurtagich said...

What a remarkable lady.

Kate Evangelista said...

One of the persons you wish you'd met.

Cynthia Watson said...

What a wonderful tribute you have written. My sincerest condolences to her family and colleagues.

Val said...

You and all her family and friends have my sympathies for the loss of one who obviously meant a great deal to a great many--one who must have been a great lady.

Carol Newman Cronin said...

I never met "EJ," but we exchanged some correspondence (real letters on paper) that were very special to me. She was my grandmother's agent in the 1970-80's and when I decided to pursue a fiction career, I sent her my novel-that-should-have-stayed-in-the-drawer. She was very generous with her time and tactful with her advice. I'm so glad I sent her a copy of my first published fiction, "Oliver's Surprise," last fall as a thank you, and I hope she enjoyed it. RIP, EJ. Curtis Brown and the fiction world will continue, but an era has ended.

Creepy Query Girl said...

awe. Really sweet and heartfelt tribute to a lady who influenced your life. You made us all feel like we wished we had known her. I'm sorry for your loss and everyone at Curtis Brown.

Terry Stonecrop said...

She sounds a wonderful person who led a full and generous life. A lovely tribute to her.

Susan Fletcher said...

Thanks for this, Nathan. Emmy was my agent. She kept me grounded. She had no time for the latest new trend, maybe because she'd seen so many of them come and go. "Write the book you want to write," she said. "Can't wait to read it." Thank you, Emmy.

Marjorie said...

She sounds like she was a fine person with remarkable dignity. Your tribute is excellent. Sorry for your loss.

lde said...

My first agent, a wonderful and patient woman with a large heart and a sharp wit. the very best.

Merrill Joan Gerber said...

Emilie Jacobson was my agent for many years. She offered support, encouragement, consolation, a few pep talks ("put a little more sunshine in your typewriter"), but essentially, she wanted me to succeed, and could see me tipping into an area of writing that might do me more harm than good. We separated at some point, but about a year ago I wrote her that I appreciated her kindness and her hand on my shoulder through all the tough rejections. She wrote back that she would treasure my note. I'm grieved she is gone.
Merrill Joan Gerber
www.cco.caltech.edu/~mjgerber

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