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Booking it


Photo: Laurie Horowitz

It all comes down to the good story: literary agent Laurie Horowitz '82

With her string of pearls and plum-colored suit, Laurie Horowitz '82 has the Hollywood polish just right. But there's something about her that breaks with type. She doesn't seem overly eager to impress. Her desk is neatly stacked with contracts and manuscripts, paperbacks and hardbacks in various stages of consideration and negotiation. Her windowless walls are lined floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves.

     A literary agent with Creative Artists Agency, Horowitz is the STPEC major in Hollywood whom UMass novelists might most like to meet. "I love books, so to sell them to the movies is the best job I could have," she says. "It still amazes me to be working with authors I've been a huge fan of."

     CAA's headquarters, on a sunny corner of Wilshire and Rodeo in Beverly Hills, is a streamlined, white, stone-and-glass building by I.M. Pei. The marble lobby is dominated by a massive Lichtenstein canvas and continually crisscrossed by busy, beautiful, people. Horowitz's assistant, a frighteningly young redhead who explains that he hopes to do someday exactly what his boss does, leads a visitor through carpeted mazes to a cozy nook tucked deep in the heart of the building.

     Horowitz picks books from her shelves and introduces them like friends: Carolyn See's The Handyman, Suzanne Strempek Shea's Lily of the Valley, Rick Reiken's The Odd Sea. (The last two authors coincidentally hail from the Pioneer Valley.) In a city where nightlife is an extension of the workday, she spends many an evening curled up on her own sofa reading.

     "I have a very simple apartment, a very simple car," she says. "The glamour and all – I've met these very famous people. Some are very nice, and some are out of their minds. That all wears thin very quickly. For me it all comes down to the good book that tells the good story."
Though Horowitz "knew at the level of my gut that I wanted to do something with stories," she went to law school after leaving UMass. "I didn't let it get up here," she said of her literary longings, gesturing toward her head. "Because we weren't into this entertainment stuff. We were lawyers." Following a stint at her father's law firm in Boston, however, she eventually followed that all-knowing gut out to Hollywood.

     She resigned herself to starting over at the bottom at CAA - as a secretary, as coordinator of the TV movie-of-the-week department. Quietly, she set her cap for the job of agent. You can't exactly apply for the job, said Horowitz; it's a process of proving yourself and hoping they notice.

     According to Horowitz, who became a literary agent when another one left, the qualities required are patience, personableness, and business sensibility, as well as a sixth sense for texts that will translate into celluloid. "I look for characters I love, a story I can follow. Maybe it's good writing. Maybe it's not great writing but it's episodic. But if it doesn't have an arc that carries it from beginning to end, even if you love it, you can't sell it ."

     Among the books she's personally sold are Tom Perrotta's novel The Election, which starred Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, A. Marette Ansy's Vinegar Hill, and Robert Rodi's Kept Boy. She works with commercially popular authors like Fannie Flagg and more obscure ones like Arthur Nersisian, who writes dark stories from New York's Lower East Side.

     Horowitz enjoys speculating about the larger implications of her milieu. Speaking as only a STPEC major could, she muses, "Does Hollywood affect what happens in the world, or does the world affect what Hollywood does? It's a dialectic."

– Ali Crolius

 
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