There’s something about the shade of matte green on the door of 62 Grafton Way, and the unmistakably Bloomsbury brick facade that it is set in to, that quietly tells its own story. The cloudy curve of the window above it and restrained brass sign whisper rather than shout that this is the home of “MBA Literary Agents”. Here is a world of shabby elegance, mysteries and wonder that could only exist in London. And having been inside I know that what happens there is at least thirty per cent a very restrained but potent and cheerful kind of magic. And modern magic at that.
Julia Silk of MBA has been my literary agent since October 2016. Like any good modern romance, we met online and, after much mutual-googling, decided to progress to real life. Julia didn’t seem to mind that I made her cry within 20 minutes of sitting down. Instead she understood, almost without explanation, what I was trying to do with my book. More importantly she cared about the same issues as me, believed in what I was doing and could sell my ideas all the better for it.
Since then Julia and MBA have represented me professionally and bolstered me personally in such a wonderful way that I have trouble rationing my adjectives when describing them. After a few lessons in punctuation that shame me to my BA English Literature and Language core, and meticulous attention to detail, Julia sent out my proposal.
On the resulting whistle-stop tour of some biggest publishing houses, Julia and I pounded the streets, discovered a mutual appreciation for eating, chatted all things feminism and occasionally retreated through that green door to try to remember where we were going next and fuel ourselves at the expense of MBA’s biscuit jar.
I knew about five minutes in to the meeting with the Penguin Life team that it was going well and, as we were able to communicate with a slight eyebrow wiggle by that point, I could see that Julia felt the same. I decided to skip the F-word (feminism) and jump straight in there with the P-word (patriarchy). No one flinched, heads were nodding and one of the Penguin team said ‘revolution’. Julia and I were both grinning by the time we left. It had got dark while we were in there so we headed straight to a Covent Garden pub to be deservedly giddy and pre-emptively celebrate.
A six-way auction later, managed with a cool precision that I imagine doesn’t speak to the intensity of her first deal as an agent, Julia sold my book to Penguin. In deference to how 2016 our story is, we marked the occasion by texting each other penguin emojis.