Interview with an Agent: Alex Gehringer
last updated 12 June 2023
Interview by Rachel Moffat
Our agents move mountains, working with our artists to make dreams come true. In this blog series, we sit down with our experts and give you an insight into their story and their passion for all things Bright.
Join us now as we interview Managing Agent: Alex Gehringer
How long have you been working for Bright? Tell us a little about your career journey?
I’ve been with Bright since 2015. I joined the team just as the brick-and-mortar New York office was getting set up and actually came aboard to execute Bright’s marketing initiatives as well as to have a hand in artist/publisher support. I ultimately enjoyed working with the artists and publishers so much that I made the permanent shift to agenting and never looked back!
Where did your love of art come from?
I joke with people that pretty much every choice I make is driven by aesthetics. And while that’s a slight exaggeration, it isn’t overly far from the truth. I’ve been known to really go out of my way in pursuit of seeing, smelling, hearing, or just generally experiencing something beautiful.
I can’t remember a time before I loved art. It’s always been a compass in my life, pointing me toward hobbies, friendships, and even this career!
What do you look for in an artist?
Oh, this is an easy one! Beyond talent, which let’s assume is a given, it’s all about having a collaborative mindset and operating from a place of positivity.
From the moment an artist joins my list at Bright, we’re going to be rolling up our sleeves to create the strongest portfolio possible. This frequently means developing and creating new art to use for pitching. It also means I’m going to really push an artist to spend the time and work to the absolute limits of their abilities.
Someone who is not only open to a collaborative creative process, but who has fun with it, is someone who will love working in children’s publishing.
Tell us about the most exciting project one of your artists worked on?
Okay, to set the stage for this answer, you have to understand that it was March 2020. Needless to say, the world was tense and weird, and we all felt like we were living in an episode of Black Mirror.
I was working at my kitchen table, which overnight had become my new office, and this email came in from the always delightful Emily Settle at Macmillan. She’s got a new script on deck, celebrity author, and they’re interested in sampling Kim Barnes (who, for the record, is also delightful).
This would be a fun inquiry to get any day, but because my newest hobbies at the time were avoiding crowds and walking around with a Lysol wipe in my pocket, it was especially exhilarating.
Kim had just had her second child and was still technically on maternity leave, so it was with a wish and a prayer that I reached out to her to see if she might consider an early return to her studio. Kim, being the star she is, got back to me right away with enthusiasm. She would love to do the sample. And so, before the sun set on March 12, 2020, I knew the following to be true:
- Emily’s celebrity author was Channing Tatum.
- Channing Tatum had written a children’s book.
- Yes, really.
- It contained a lot of sparkly, feathery outfits.
- Channing wanted Kim to draw him (or, more accurately, his character – no, not Magic Mike, wrong character) in one such sparkly, feathery outfit.
And, boy, did Kim draw her heart out on that sample. Obviously she got the project, which you’ll now recognize as the hugely successful Sparkella series, and we went on to spend our Covid spring blissfully awaiting the regular arrival of Channing’s (and Emily’s!) feedback as Kim worked through the sketches for the first book, The One and Only Sparkella.
Maybe it was because we all needed a pink and purple distraction from the horrors of the pandemic, I really don’t know, but we managed to achieve the kind of team chemistry that agents dream of. Everyone who had a hand in Sparkella was at the top of their game and approached the project with hard work and humor.
Even three years on, it remains one of my fondest memories here at Bright and I continue to be endlessly proud of Kim for creating art that feels so very true to her identity and the vision Channing had for his books. A brilliant balancing act if ever there was one.
When you’re not working, what does a day in the life of Alex look like?
I love a routine! Usually, I’ll wake up around 6:30 to take my dog, Marco Polo, for a little walk. The devastating irony of his name is that he hates walking far, so we’re pretty quick outside and back in for coffee (me) and kibble (him). I still get a physical newspaper delivered to my apartment, just the weekend edition, but it takes me the full week to read through. So, I’ll do that or chip away at the latest book I’ve got going. My ugly truth is that I’m a slow and easily distracted reader.
Then it’s up and out for the day! I’m very lucky that some of my closest friends live within a three-minute walk, so we’re regularly up to something en masse, whether it’s doing a wine and tarot night (love a bit of woo woo!), laying out on the roof during the warmer months, or heading out of Jersey City altogether.
What advice do you have for new agents? What do you know about the industry now that you wish you could have told yourself when you first started?
Not every relationship is meant to go the distance. It sounds obvious, but when you’re giving everything you’ve got to an artist and that artist is giving their all right back to you, and things still aren’t connecting, it’s perfectly okay to part ways. It doesn’t need to be this big thing! There’s absolutely no shame in saying we tried and it’s not working.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Try to be a little bit better each day. Create now the work you eventually want to be hired to create. Meaning, if you want to work in picture books, know that you need to have art in your portfolio that resembles a picture book spread. On that point, familiarize yourself with the components of successful narrative scenes. Ask questions. In one of David Berman’s poems, he says:
And the pressure to simulate coolness means not asking when you don’t know, which is why kids grow ever more stupid.
Break that cycle, raise your hand when you’re uncertain. Have grace for yourself. Creating art is cutting your heart out and offering it up to the world. It’s exposing and awkward, but it doesn’t need to be brutal.
A final message?
This is a spectacular industry full of wise and inspiring people. I wish you luck finding your pack, the people who boost you up and let you create to your fullest potential. If you think Bright might have a place within your circle, I encourage you to reach out so we can chat.
To work with Alex, get in contact here.