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dear rosemary

My first agent, Rosemary Canter, died this morning and I've written a letter to her, even though I know she won't be able to read it. She was a wonderful person and there are a lot of us who will really miss her.

Dear Rosemary,

Thank you for being the best agent I could have ever hoped for. When I first met you, I was rattled and fearful about the business side of being an illustrator, I'd already had a couple hard knocks. When you took me on, you gave me the courage to think I could take on the world and do a good job of it.

I must confess, I had a bit of a crush on you from our first meeting; I was so smitten with your glamourous air of graceful confidence, your gutsiness, cleverness and, of course, I was terribly flattered by how seriously you took my work. When we had that lunch together in Bologna with my editor, I remember I was a bit nervous, but more because I wanted to make a good impression on you than anything. I've hoped I could be a bit like you when I'm a few years older.

It was so hard seeing you struggle with cancer; you seemed so invincible and, because no one else dared mess with you, it seemed totally wrong that something as stupid as illness could take you down. There was a lot I didn't know about your personal life, but you were very open with me in other ways, and I know for sure that you were aware how fond I was of you. How much I'm still fond of you, I can't quite believe you're not here anymore. I know it must be even harder on Jodie, she worked right beside you for so long and you trained her up so well to take your place. In a business sense, the transition has been seamless, but I know we'll both miss you terribly.

I love you, Rosemary. I wish I could have got to know you earlier, I know you have some long-time clients who have been through so much with you and care about you deeply. The world was a different place because you were in it, more exciting, more colourful, and I'm so glad we were able to find each other, even if the time was far too short.

How does one end a letter like this? I hope to see you again and that death is not the end. We'll have such fun running around the afterlife, not having the slightest worry about contracts or co-edition deals, and I'll make you that Moroccan tagine I was always promising.

Love, Sarah

Edit: Here's some more from the writer and my good friend Candy Gourlay:

I was so very sorry to see this in the book news today:

Book Brunch: Children's book agent and United Agents co-founder Rosemary Canter died of cancer this morning in London. She started her career in 1972 at Penguin Books on the adult trade side before moving into children's fiction, with stints at Macmillan and Methuen where, in 1987, she launched their teen paperback list. Canter joined PFD as an agent in 1989 before leaving to help found United Agents in 2008. The funeral will be held on Friday 18th March in London and details can be obtained from United Agents' children's agent Jodie Marsh. A memorial service will be announced later in the Spring and a full obituary will appear in due course.

Rosemary Canter was one of the first agents I met at a SCBWI conference (in Madrid). She read my first novel and gave me life-changing advice: that I should not be afraid to have Filipino characters in my fiction. It is from her that I first learned that to write fiction with real heart, it is not write what you know but write who you are. Though she never signed me up, her rejections were compassionate and helpful.



( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 11th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh. I'm sorry to hear this, Sarah.
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, Raina. Rosemary was such a wonderful woman. About a month ago, I woke up sobbing after a dream that she had died, and then spent a couple more hours wondering if maybe she had. I was going to write her another e-mail this morning, but she wouldn't have got it. :( I know she's been a huge help to a lot of children's book people in their career, she'll be well remembered.
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
That is sad to hear, but your letter is wonderful.
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that. xx
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
This is such terrible news. I never had the chance to meet Rosemary, but her reputation was so strong and her clients so complimentary of her, it felt like I did. She will certainly be missed.
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Nick. It's true, she was a force of nature!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 11th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Cheers, Faye! x
Mar. 11th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
Really sorry to hear that, but that's a wonderful letter.

Many hugs !
Mar. 11th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that. x
Mar. 11th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
thanks for this Sarah. Rosemary Canter gave me advice that I believe changed my prospects as an author

Mar. 11th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Hey thanks, Candy, I've just included it in the main blog post, hope you don't mind. I'm so glad Tall Story has some of its origins in her encouragement. xx
Mar. 11th, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'm very saddened to hear this news, Sarah. It's a lovely letter. Good luck to you and Jodie. I'm sure her many friends and admirers will miss her so much.

Ellen Renner
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
Thanks, Ellen. I'm glad you got to know her a bit, too.
Mar. 11th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)

She sounded like a lovely person.
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
She was! Cheers, Gina. x
Mar. 11th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
She sounds like a wonderful person. My condolences and thoughts go out to you.
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! x
Mar. 11th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
Sarah, I am so sorry to read this morning of Rosemary's passing. I know how important she has been to you, and what a loss this means. Thank you for the lovely tribute to her you wrote above, celebrating her life and your relationship. It is very dear. What a gift she gave you, both in her being and in the smooth transition to working with Jodie. Much love, Mom
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
Thanks for that. Need to catch you on the phone soon. x
Sheryl Gwyther
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Rosemary Canter
Woke up to see in Candy Gourlay's page that British literary agent for children's books, Rosemary Canter has succumbed to cancer.
Rosemary was my agent for two or three years (but had trouble selling my very Australian book to the Brits - but she did try very hard to because she loved 'McAlpine & Macbeth). I withdrew the ms but she kept me on their site for a couple more years.
She was one of the world's lovely ladies - gentle, strong, compassionate, able to put people at ease, a gorgeous, articulate lady with a genuine passion for children's book.
Rosemary will be missed by many who care about the industry.
I feel a great loss this morning - being on the other side of the world made no difference to Rosemary, she was as caring, nurturing, helpful, and encouraging to me as she would have been to someone living in London.
Sheryl Gwyther
Mar. 11th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Rosemary Canter
PS Your letter means a lot to me, Sarah.Thank you for posting it.
Re: Rosemary Canter - jabberworks - Mar. 13th, 2011 11:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry to hear of your loss Sarah. But what a lovely letter. Thinking of you at this time.
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
Thanks, Helen! x
Mar. 11th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
very sorry for your loss. Such a touching letter <3
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for that. x
Mar. 12th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear this, Sarah.
Mar. 13th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
Cheers, David. x
Mar. 12th, 2011 09:29 am (UTC)
This is a lovely letter, Sarah, about a lovely (though sometimes scary!) lady who will be greatly missed.

I've posted my own tribute on my blog.


Mar. 13th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
Re: Rosemary
That's a great tribute, Thomas. Thanks for posting it and getting in touch. x
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Sarah McIntyre

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