Last fall, Katie Hill, a Democratic congresswoman from California, faced some of the darkest moments of her life. Nude photos of her had been published online without her consent, and the House was investigating her over an alleged sexual relationship with one of her staff members, which she denied.
She resigned from Congress, but during a farewell speech on the House floor, she delivered a passionate indictment of revenge porn and what she called a “double standard” when it comes to women’s sexual behavior. “I’m stepping down, but I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful,” she said in the speech, which later went viral.
Hill will expand on that message in “She Will Rise,” a book that is part memoir, part gender-equity battle plan, which Grand Central Publishing plans to publish on Aug. 18. The date is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The former congresswoman is exactly the kind of client that Anna Sproul-Latimer, the literary agent who represents Hill, had hoped to attract when she started Neon Literary with her co-founder, Kent Wolf, in December. “My clients all share a sense that they really want to change the story of the world in some way,” Sproul-Latimer said.
After years as an agent, she was inspired to start her own firm after reading about the connections that Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who died in August, had to the publishing world and prominent nonfiction writers. “This idea that the front list of nonfiction in America was so bound up with this culture of billionaires and private jets and corruption and cults of personality drove me insane,” Sproul-Latimer said. So she decided Neon’s mission would be “materially shifting attention and power and money to people who are moral and good,” she said.
Though the publishing industry struggles with low salaries and razor-thin margins, it wields significant power over the public discourse. Sproul-Latimer hopes to shift that power to writers whose voices are seldom heard.
The agency represents writers such as Carmen Maria Machado, who has written genre-bending short stories and memoir, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras, a novelist whose debut centered on a domestic worker in Colombia. Neon also represents Zoë Quinn, a video game developer, and Samantha Irby, a humor writer.
“I’m excited about the other people that she’s signing,” Hill said of Sproul-Latimer and Wolf’s budding list of clients, several of whom have also spoken out about sexual harassment or gender discrimination. “I hope we can create a network out of that.”
What Hill wants women to take away from her book is that they can own their mistakes and get back up, no matter how difficult their experience. “It would be much easier for me to just disappear, but I’m not, and this is an act of defiance, staying in the forefront,” she said. “You can’t let other people take away your power or your voice, even when it’s hard.”