Introducing RQLA Assistant Stuti Telidevara

In Conversation with Stuti Telidevara
© Salima Alikhan 2020

RQLA's new assistant Stuti Telidevara speaks with agent Jacqui Lipton about the publishing industry.

Jacqui Lipton (JL): How did you come to be working as the agency assistant at RQLA? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Stuti Telidevara (ST): I’ve known for a few years that publishing is the industry I want to be in. So to that end, I did a couple of publishing internships in college — one with an agency, Transatlantic, and one with a publisher, Hachette. I also made sure to apply to the formal mentorship programs that industry professionals have started and maintain on their own time. 

Through one of them, Rep Matters, I met the wonderful Saba Sulaiman, an agent at Talcott Notch. Once I’d graduated — virtually, into very unusual times! — I started looking for any openings that would help me stay busy and keep me involved in the industry. Saba put me in touch with you, and the rest is history! 

JL: What are some of your favorite books for children and young adults?

ST: Oh, this is always the hardest question to answer. With the caveat that I can never pin down an absolute favorite, some of the books I have come back to again and again are Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and White Cat by Holly Black. 

More recent favorites are A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno. I also just read Legendborn by Tracy Deonn and was absolutely floored by it!

JL: Is there a book you’d love to see someone write in the future?

ST: I’m a big sports fan, and though I have mixed feelings about quadrennial tournaments like the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup, I would love to see that kind of grand spectacle in a science fiction or fantasy novel.  

JL: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of interning or assisting at a literary agency?

ST: I would say about 99% of the job counts as my favorite parts! I love reading submissions, I love helping troubleshoot clients’ work, and I even love organizational and administrative tasks. 

The only thing I don’t like is when I’m reading a submission that I enjoy, but I know isn’t right for the person I’m assisting. It’s really hard saying no — harder than most authors realize, I think.

JL: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your publishing industry experience so far?

ST: That it’s important to speak and to listen. So much of this industry comes down to networking, which is a very special chance to listen to the people who have shaped and continue to reshape the business. 

At the same time, if you’re interested in publishing it’s because you have something to say. You have stories you’re looking for, or you have suggestions to give about this draft, or you have an exciting way to pitch a story. It takes a lot to speak up, but when given the opportunity that’s the best way to make sure you stand out. And it’s what you came here to do anyway!

JL: Where would you like to be in five years with respect to the industry or in general?

ST: Given the uncertainty everywhere now, I’d love to have a solid foothold in the industry, hopefully working on books I love!

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