Meet Our Panelists: The Intersection of Literary and Commercial Fiction


By Celine Keating, WNBA-NYC Member and Author of Layla and Play for Me

“The Intersection of Literary and Commercial Fiction,” the inspired title of the upcoming March 27th event hosted by the Women’s National Book Association – NYC Chapter and New York University (NYU), is the brainchild of board member Harriet Shenkman, who will moderate the panel.


In March 2014, Harriet moderated a precursor panel, similarly co-hosted, on the   relationship  among authors, editors, and agents. NYU was a gracious partner with the Women’s National Book Association – NYC Chapter in hosting a panel, part of the Reading Series at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House. Developing fruitful ideas for panel discussion is a natural for Harriet, who ran a Literary Arts Center at CUNY, where she was a professor and director of a Center for Teaching Excellence. She brought in such notable authors as the poet Billy Collins, and the novelists E.P. Jones and Junot Diaz. The Women’s National Book Association- NYC Chapter’s aim is to help its community grow within the field of publishing through learning, community, and networking. Such academic partnerships enrich the experience for its membership.

The idea for this spring’s collaboration with NYU came to Harriet for several reasons. Although her published work is in poetry (Teetering, Finishing Line Press ), she has been working on a novel, The Camel Tamer, that aims for a crossover YA-adult audience – think The Kite Runner or The Book Thief. She wondered where the phenomenon of the crossover YA novel fit into the commercial/literary landscape.

A cursory look at best-seller lists reveals a confusing overlap of commercial/literary categories:  Consider the conventional mystery novels of John Grisham’s courtroom dramas versus Donna Tartt’s stylishly sophisticated The Goldfinch. Or match up appealing mainstream Anne Tyler novels with the quiet literary ones of Alice McDermott. There’s no clear point where commercial shades into literary.  Harriet found herself asking whether it’s the balance between character and plot or the artful use of language that distinguishes literary from commercial fiction, or whether it has to do with the subject matter. She wondered whether hitting the sweet spot, where the two overlap, might be the key to getting fiction published?

The Women’s National Book Association- NYC Chapter includes many writers and agents for whom these are also compelling questions. Harriet is thrilled that on March 27 the WNBA is bringing together a distinguished panel of professionals to discuss these questions and their implications.

The bios of the four panelists are below:



Amy Einhorn is Senior Vice President and Publisher of Flatiron Books, a new division of Macmillan. She has been in publishing for over 25 years, having started out at Farrar Straus & Giroux. Ms. Einhorn has been the editor and publisher of many New York Times No. 1 best-sellers, including The Help (Kathryn Stockett), The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty), and many others.

Seth Fishman is an agent with literary agency Gernert Company, and began his career as an agent at Sterling Lord Literistic. His emphasis is on literary and commercial fiction, YA and Middle Grade fiction, humor, sci-fi/fantasy, thrillers, and graphic novels.

Melissa Flashman has been an agent at Trident Media Group for over 10 years. She represents literary and commercial fiction, including young adult, as well as a broad range of award-winning and bestselling nonfiction.

Suzanne Gluck is the co-head of the Worldwide Literary Department of talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME), which sells more books than any other agency. Over her 20-year-plus career,Gluck has represented a wide range of bestselling and prize-winning authors, including Jill Abramson, Elizabeth Berg, Meg Wolitzer, and Judy Blume.

For more event information, please visit: 

About Blog Editor

The Women’s National Book Association was founded in 1917 by female booksellers who weren’t allowed in the men’s organizations. Nearly 100 years later, the WNBA is still supporting women in the book industry through literary events, networking, literacy projects, workshops, open mic nights, book clubs, and many other entertaining programs throughout the season!

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