Taylor Martindale Kean '09

Literary Agent

I never had any anxiety about choosing to major in English. I was lucky that I knew very early on what I wanted to do with my life, and an English major was the only path I considered for college. I remember touring Tucker when I came to visit campus, and knowing without question that's where I'd spend the majority of my time at W&M. I always knew, though, that other people in my life did have anxiety over my field of study. When I told someone I was an English major, they always had the same question: "So, do you want to teach or write?" They were always a bit confused when I said neither. My family has always been incredibly supportive, but even they did worry that an English major would limit my options for career choices. I disagreed, but also wanted to be prepared for the business world. We agreed that, in addition to my major, I would minor in something that would be more "practical." Half of a semester into pre-requisites for a Finance minor, I knew I was in the wrong classes and quickly changed my minor to my other passion, Hispanic Studies.

The beauty of a liberal arts education is that schools like William & Mary are creating well-balanced students who can take and translate skills from different disciplines into their preferred careers. I minored in Hispanic Studies because I find it incredibly important to have a global perspective of culture, and because I take pride in being able to communicate in two languages. I majored in English because I wanted to know how to break down every element of a book, analyze and discuss it, then put it back together again. I use all of those skill sets in my everyday work. While I find no fault with students choosing a major based on practicality, I absolutely reject the idea that an English major is impractical or limiting. My time in the English department taught me every skill I needed to succeed in the business world - strong writing skills, communication, critical analysis, creating productive dialogue in a team setting, and so on. I would not have chosen any other major, and hope that other students will continue to see how very versatile this degree can be.

Throughout my academic career, I knew my goal was to work in publishing as a literary agent. It was my dream career, and I was ready to work as hard as necessary to find my footing in that industry. Upon graduation, my first position was a summer internship at a literary agency in San Diego, where I was subsequently hired as an assistant. My position covered a variety of duties - general office management, assisting the contracts and finances manager, assisting the subsidiary rights manager, managing the internship program, and providing feedback for manuscripts under consideration. I was creating PR materials, assisting in negotiating subsidiary rights contracts, handling all office mail and filing, and providing research for various projects. I worked at that agency for two years before moving to my current position as literary agent at Full Circle Literary, where I represent a wonderful list of authors, focusing on middle grade and young adult works.

There is a lot of pressure when it comes to choosing a major, no question. I was lucky that I knew I wanted to work in publishing, and there was simply no other department I would consider. But I faced the same skepticism from others that many of you might be facing. They were worried that my career options would be limited. But they were wrong. My time in the English department taught me every skill I needed to succeed in the business world - -strong writing skills, communication, critical analysis, creating productive dialogue in a team setting, and so on. My advice is to choose your major based on what courses make you hungry, because you will need that drive in your courses and in your future career. The English professors at William & Mary are the very best, and I would not have chosen any other major. I hope that you will continue to see how very versatile this degree can be, and how far your William & Mary education will take you.