My Journey to Books & Such

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

Recently, I have had a couple of people ask me how I became an agent. It’s a story I like to share because I can see God’s hand in the whole thing.

A favorite book led me to my position as an agent at Books & Such.

Waterfalls by Robin Jones Gunn is a story about a woman who works as an editor. There’s much more to it, of course, including that she falls in love with a movie star and talks to her goldfish, but the editor part is the most important for my journey.

I decided after reading Waterfalls that I wanted to be an editor. The main character of Robin’s book, Meri, was able to work from home in her pj’s and read all day. That sounded pretty nice! She did have to speak at a writers conference in the story, but I was going to pass on that part. 🙂 So at 16-years-old, I knew that I wanted to get an English degree and become an editor. Just about everything I knew about publishing at the time came from that book. I didn’t know anything about literary agents.

During college, I was looking for an internship anywhere because all of the first-time jobs for assistant editors require at least two years of publishing experience. I didn’t really want to move to New York for a summer to work for free as an intern at a publishing house, but that was looking like my best option. I asked a few women at my church to pray for an internship for me, and within days Michelle from our agency contacted me. Michelle goes to my church and was told about me by one of the women I talked with. As a writer herself, Michelle was trying to take off the summers to write; so Janet was looking for someone to fill in for Michelle. Janet was willing to call my work an internship, it was 10 minutes from my house, and she was going to pay me! I still had no idea what a literary agency was, but the job sounded good to me.

I worked at Books & Such as an intern for two summers and then for a year after I graduated from college. At that point, Janet offered me a job as an agent. She had been training me during that time for my agenting job and continues to help out when I have questions–even more than ten years later. Agenting is always full of surprises. Being an agent is different from my original “dream” of being an editor, but I think it’s a great fit for who I am.

And there was frosting on the cake: Janet represents Robin Jones Gunn! I’ve been able to work with Robin on some special projects and we’ve formed a friendship.

God sure knows what he’s doing, and I’m grateful to know he’s in control of my life.

And speaking at the conferences isn’t so bad either! 😀 I love the people I get to meet with at conferences!

What about you? Did a book influence you toward wanting to be a writer?

Is there a special book (other than the Bible) that has shaped your life in some way?

30 Responses

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  1. Hannah Currie says:

    What a cool story of God’s faithfulness!! Thanks for sharing 😁 Love that you decided on a career in publishing because of Waterfalls. It’s my absolute favourite of the Glenbrooke series because of Meri and her job and the insight it was to the publishing world. (And yes, the maraschino grape, starfish story and all the other craziness might have played a part! 😂 Such a fun story 😁)

    Robin Jones Gunn had a huge influence on me becoming a writer, which is something I’d love to give her a huge hug for one day (emails just don’t seem to cut it where gratitude is involved). One day 🙂

  2. I love your story, Rachel. Thank you for sharing the heart behind the words.
    * This is going to sound stupid (and thus perhaps unsurprising) but the Beatles’ song ‘Paperback Writer’ was what inspired me to try writing, and more importantly made me believe I could do it.
    * I mean, why not?

  3. What a sweet story! For me, I started my first Beth Moore Bible study in my late 20s. I was hooked and came to love writing through Beth. She made the Bible and words come alive in my heart. As far as fiction, my girls’ love for reading combined with not being able to find much safe to read for young adults caused us to delve into writing a middle grade book (I was over-protective probably). My daughter supplied some ideas and art to help inspire me as I wrote. Then books by Becky Wade and Laura Frantz sealed the deal.

  4. Kathy Cassel says:

    My writing journey is changing. I’ve always written devotion or non fic books for children and preteens. But what I read most is YA fiction. And a lot of it deals with real life teen issues, but they don’t really offer hope. So many suicide or death stories that fall short because there is no hope in God. I’ve felt a passion to write YA fiction that offers real answers and real hope but write them in an engaging way so that teens will want to read them.

  5. Such a wonderful story, Rachel! I think that Anne of Green Gables influenced me so much. I wanted to dye my hair red and dance in the forest and write! I have certainly danced in the forest and written many words … but my hair is still plain old dark blonde. But my youngest son is a redhead and boy oh boy is he fun and feisty!

  6. Oh, Rachel, I loved reading your story! I loved seeing the had of God in bringing it all about. So totally amazing.

    I can’t pick one book, but I can pick one author, C. S. Lewis. I loved that he could write intelligently on so many subjects, especially, Mere Christianity, which lead a physician friend I knew to the Lord. I loved Lewis’s imagination and love of fantasy. His ability to create worlds that spoke of deeper truths. I love that it was that his writing began because of a challenge many don’t know about. It is that his thumbs did not have the joint that bends and because of it he could not play baseball with the other boys his age. Therefore, he took to the attic with his brother Warren to create the world’s of both Narnia, and in his Space Trilogy.
    His writing has affected the lives and souls of many for eternity.

    It was the same year I realized, through a very smart college professor, that I had a gift for writing and a way with words. The fear of proper punctuation had held me back for years. Through her encouragement I made a commitment to longer let that fear block me. I went to the school’s tutoring center for English, The Write Place. It was there I began to grasp what I never thought I could. I ended up falling in love with the works of Lewis. I became a tutor myself, and took every writing course in that college. I was already a nurse since 1980, and this was 1990 thru 1993 when I graduated. Due to family responsibilities and work, I had to shelve most of my time for writing, but six years ago I joined the Minnesota chapter of ACFW, and began to study and write intentionally. The past two years I have actually been producing. One year ago, I joined this blog community. I love it, and the posts have been incredibly educational and inspire me in following my calling and passion to use words to transform lives with whatever I may write.

  7. Dear Rachel, I love your story and how it was an answer to prayer. My daughter and her friends love the young adult series Robin Jones Gunn wrote.
    I recently posted on a group blog about my first writing “mentor.” I also believe my introduction to her was an answer to a teacher’s secret prayers for me. Praying opens up potential we never could have imagined.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  8. Linnea Heinrichs says:

    Thanks for sharing your path to becoming an agent. God uses some interesting things to prompt us to take the path He has for us. For years I read voraciously and wrote stories for myself and friends but never considered writing anything novel length. I belonged to a book club and one of the books that arrived in the mail was ‘The Paston Letters’, a collection of fifteenth century correspondence between members of the Paston family. I hadn’t thought much about history up to that point but reading those letters piqued my interest in the medieval period. More research led me to write a novel set in the time of the black plague. The gospel was tucked into the storyline so I was thrilled when it was published and went on to be nominated for a young readers choice award by the OLA. I’m presently working on a novel set in ancient Babylon just prior to its fall to the Persian Empire. Historical fiction, as unlikely as that seemed to me in the early days, is obviously the genre God has chosen for me and I love it.

  9. Loved hearing your backstory, Rachel, especially since I’ve known dear Robin and Janet for many years via the Mount Hermon conference. I could so relate, since God did some amazing things to orchestrate my time as a nonfiction editor at Multnomah Publishers, where I started as an editorial assistant. What a gift as a writer to experience the other side of the desk. I so appreciate God’s creative ways!

    Thanks so much sharing!

  10. What a cool God story!

  11. Great story, Rachel.
    I can’t remember a time before I wanted to be a writer. Even before I could read I made up stories in my mind.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. Not the usual song and dance! But some things are meant to be. My writing journey has nothing to do with books I’ve read but everything to do with my heart message. Not to say they’ve not had their place. Many books speak to me and some phrases sing in a language all their own. Sometimes I wish I could do it all over again, I would enter the field much earlier in life. But, alas, that’s neither here nor there. Your journey is awesome. God bless.

  13. LINDA STRAWN says:

    There was a time (well over 20 years ago) I thought the only Christian books in print were devotionals and non-fiction. That is until someone at church shoved a Francine Rivers book into my hands and said, “You have to read this.” A year or so after that, Francine spoke at a women’s retreat our church sponsored. I was inspired and my little hobby of filling notebooks with stories had turned into something more serious.

  14. Naomi says:

    Inspiring story, Rachel. I love how God puts ‘cherries’ on the top of already well-iced cakes; how you ended up being able to work with the very author whose story inspired you to pursue your dream.
    When we follow His leading, amazing things always happen!
    Whisper of the Heart and Anne of Green Gables are two stories I like to fall back on when I need some encouragement to keep following my writing dreams.

  15. Another song that encourages me to write. Why? I have NO idea. But it’s fun.

  16. Mary Kay Moody says:

    What a delightful story, Rachel! God is so good. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I caught the vision for writing from C.S. Lewis as well. My third grade teacher introduced me to the Narnia books. I loved them so much that I wanted to write to Mr. Lewis and tell him so, only to find out he had died three years before. Instead of being sad that there would be no more wonderful C.S. Lewis books, I was struck with Are at the idea that if you write really good books, you could touch people’s hearts even after you were dead. From that moment on, writing seemed to me to be the most significant thing a person could ever do.

  18. Rebecca Mitchell says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Rachel! It’s a great reminder of God’s sometimes mysterious but always sovereign ways.