Courtesy of Lindsay Pierce

As a literary assistant at Neon Literary, a literary agency, Lindsay Pierce ’23 enjoys the imagery and vignettes of hope in the manuscripts she studies. In choosing her passion for stories over school for some time, Pierce is crafting a narrative of her own.

When Pierce — a cognitive science major concentrating in the science of storytelling — went home in the spring, she experienced a new normal for her mental health and began to think about extending her time off from school. Pierce has since used this time to prioritize herself and her passion for storytelling in the literary publishing realm.

“Stories have always been my passion and what motivates me,” Pierce said.

While Pierce had considered taking time off prior to the pandemic, she didn’t feel “brave enough.” But this time — halfway through her college experience — Pierce felt the “urge to give [herself] every opportunity to make as much as she could of Yale.” For Pierce, this meant spending time away from school.

Pierce’s decision to take time off was also influenced by her mental health. Prior to the quarantine in the spring, Pierce said she had found new avenues that improved her personal and academic experiences at Yale, from studying at Jojo’s to blowing off steam with Danceworks. When the pandemic hit, Pierce knew that continuing this experience on campus would not be a possibility in the near future.

But Pierce is keeping busy at Neon Literary — a newly established literary agency that represents authors in publishing deals with major publishing houses. Her day-to-day tasks vary, but they generally include a couple hours of reading authors’ manuscripts and book proposals, followed by two to three hours of administrative work. The remainder of her work day often involves providing feedback to authors, scouting new talent, managing bank information, working on the agency’s social media and writing memos to agents. Pierce also babysits a six-year-old in her neighborhood three times a week.

“At the moment, everything [at the agency] is just so new,” Pierce said, explaining the plethora of tasks she undertakes on a daily basis.

Pierce primarily works with literary and commercial fiction scripts, as well as commercial nonfiction scripts. Pierce said that because the agency often works with books surrounding death, she often receives melancholic books and proposals that explore “terrible things that can happen to humans.” But she enjoys books with characters who are excited and passionate about “changing something in their lives.”

“There are characters who have a lot of hope and drive and that’s what I need right now to be inspired … to feel like you’re on a ride with someone where you feel like you’re going somewhere,” Pierce said.

The process of writing, especially for fiction stories, requires authors to be emotionally in touch with their characters and narratives. Pierce said this makes it difficult to provide criticism. To provide feedback in an effective yet sensitive way, she strives to balance honesty with kindness. She said the agency has always prioritized helping authors manage their “emotional rollercoasters.”

“To be a good agent, you need to be well-read and able to edit writing, but it’s also just about critical thinking and understanding human emotions so you know how a reader is affected by words,” Pierce said. “Part of that skill is managing the author’s emotions.”

Pierce said that even though the skills she has acquired from this internship are not specifically linked to her classes or major, her time off from school has shown her that activities at Yale do not necessarily need to “feed into the rest of her life.”

Pierce plans on continuing her job through the spring term.

Samhitha Josyula | samhitha.josyula@yale.edu