|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
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
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."