For this edition of our Member Spotlight we chatted with literary agent, journalist and editor Laura Palotie. Born and raised in Helsinki, Finland, Laura moved to the U.S. as a teenager, and has since studied writing and journalism and worked in writing, content marketing and editing on both sides of the pond. She’s passionate about sharing great stories that break down cultural barriers. Laura works as the New York-based agent of Elina Ahlback Literary Agency, headquartered in Helsinki. A Brooklyn member since day one, Laura was our steadfast cheerleader as we got the space up and running. We love hearing about her trips back to Helsinki and all the fun books that land on her desk. Thanks for spoiling us rotten with Finnish chocolate, Laura!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Because I’m in touch with publishers in both Europe and the U.S., as well as with our Helsinki office, my days begin relatively early; I’m typically handling correspondence starting at 7 or 7:30. Throughout the day I work on our agency’s newsletters and other English-language materials, meet and keep in touch with publishers, and work on contracts and other elements of the publication process: we represent Finnish authors, illustrators and publishers in international markets as well as several U.S. publishers and agencies in the Nordic markets, so I’m always busy! In the evenings and weekends I’ll often work on journalistic or editing projects at home: I contribute to Finnair’s English-language inflight magazine, Blue Wings, as well as a medical news publication in Finland, among other outlets: most recently I had an article published in Breaking Character, the theater industry publication of Samuel French.
What do you love most about what you do?
As a literary agent, I love having the opportunity to bring fantastic books to new markets. A terrific translated book, whether it be a literary novel or a picture book, makes the world feel more accessible. We work with outstanding, imaginative authors in all genres, and playing a part in the process that helps them gain more fans worldwide is an honor. The best part of my job is calling an author and telling them that their book is going to be published in a new language. Overall, whether is be as an agent, a writer or an editor, I love bringing compelling stories to new audiences.
What projects are you excited about right now? a favorite book that has landed on your desk recently?
We have a terrific middle-grade novel called “Monster Nanny” (“Mörkövahti”) by author Tuutikki Tolonen, which is a mix of “Mary Poppins” and “Where the Wild Things Are” set in contemporary Finland. It’s just as quirky and charming as it sounds, and it has already sold in Germany, Spain and Estonia (the Finnish edition is coming out in August). In the adult fiction realm we have “Jingle Land” (“Mantelimaa”) by Miina Supinen, about a sinister theme park where it’s always holiday season. To complement the intriguing Tim Burton-esque premise, the story is told in a very realistic way with relatable, richly drawn characters.
What do you miss about living in Helsinki? and what do you love about living in Brooklyn?
In addition to my family, friends and godchildren, I miss the bike lanes, gorgeous light in summers and the abundance of nature — and yes, the free health care system! In Brooklyn I absolutely love the diversity (in friends, food and experiences) and energy. It feels like everyone here is on a crazy shared adventure together.
Any funny stories about your first adventures in NY?
I first moved here in 2006 for grad school, and lived in Soho in a tiny, slightly decrepit apartment. I remember stepping outside and finding more options for designer shoes I couldn’t afford than for bagels (Brooklyn suits me much better in that realm). The most ridiculous moment for me was probably noticing a giant mouse devouring a bag of chips in the kitchen, and calling my dad in panic. Not sure how he could have helped me from 5000 miles away in Helsinki.
What’s your favorite thing about working from Makeshift?
It’s a place full of people who are totally passionate about their respective projects (whether it be in design, marketing or writing). It’s a great place to focus, but also the perfect environment to chat with like-minded folks.
Where’s your favorite spot in the neighborhood to grab a bite or a drink?
I’m very much into Sweetgreen for lunch, and as an after-work spot my absolute favorite is the Pinkerton Wine Bar. It’s cozy and not too loud, so it’s great for catching up with a friend or for sitting down with a book, and the wines and cheeses are delicious.