We had the good fortune of connecting with Christy Ewers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christy, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I bought the agency from my mother in 2018, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to not only carry on her legacy and make her proud, but also to prove to everyone who was trusting me with their careers that they could, in fact, trust me with their careers! At the time, my work/life balance was a true balancing act. I had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, and my husband was traveling most weekdays. Our children were in school/daycare until 5:30 every day, so I would get them off to school, carve out an hour to work out and then hit my desk until 5:30. I rarely stopped for lunch, or even bathroom breaks! At the end of the day, I would get them fed, in bed, and then go back to my desk until it was hard for me to see my computer screen. I’d steal away to my desk during the weekends, too, much to the chagrin of my family. This was the routine, and it made for a successful first couple of years. My grueling schedule didn’t bother me at the time, as I LOVE my job, and it makes me very happy to be working, but I was definitely not taking enough time for “life”.
Then came 2020, and everything that came with it. It was amazing that publishing did not slow down, but it meant that I just had to put my head down and go full bore into working full-time while homeschooling the kids. Every day felt like triage. I went into survival mode, and tried to stay as positive as possible for my nuclear family and my agency family, who needed me to be strong! It was all a blur.
But the silver-lining of 2020 was that I was smacked in the face with what was important. And I began to question why I was working so hard, if I wasn’t taking the time to enjoy other things that make me happy? In mid-2020, I expanded the agency a little by bringing on another agent, and then a few other freelance employees who have provided invaluable support. Having that kind of support has allowed me to do things like take an afternoon off to play golf with my Dad without feeling like the world will fall apart. If my husband suggested that we cut out to have a lunch date in 2019, I’d have looked at him like he was nuts. Now, I check my schedule, and if it’s free, I say “YES!”
I wasn’t the only person running myself ragged – there is industry-wide burnout, and we’re all trying to feel our way to a “new normal” of work/work-from-home / life balance. I still regularly stay up working until midnight, but I’m also carving out time for long runs, volunteering at the kids’ school, and spending time with my family and friends. And I REALLY try not to work on weekends. It feels good to truly have time for everyone; including myself.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
The CAT Agency is an Artist Agency, specializing in representing illustrators and author-illustrators in the children’s genre. We are a boutique agency, full of artists from around the world in all things children’s art and literature; from board books, to picture books, to graphic novels, to YA covers and everything in between.
The agency was founded by my mother in 1994. I joined her in 2013, and took over in 2018. What I am most proud of, and what I think sets us apart from other agencies, is the familial community that exists within. It’s literally a family business, and having that at the core of the agency is really special.
My Mom always treated her clients like family; inviting them over for lunches, and being knowledgable and caring of their personal lives and families. It has always been important to me to carry on that tradition; especially as I have worked to grow the business. Not only have I made it my mission to create a personal connection to everyone in the group, but we encourage the people we represent to get to know each other as friends, colleagues and ‘siblings’. It’s not mandatory, of course, but we do our best to cultivate an environment of support and camaraderie. Like a family! I’m extremely proud of the relationships that I have seen form within the agency – completely outside of me or the other agents. Many of our artists are acquaintances and colleagues – if not close friends. They communicate regularly, hold Zoom call meetings and get-togethers, chat on Slack, and ask each other for advice, feedback and critiques. They attend each other’s signings and speaking engagements, and look for each other and spend time together at conferences and industry events. I just recently learned that some of my artists have formed a critique group that regularly meets to share and review dummies, manuscripts and works-in-progress. How awesome is that!
I like to think that we have created a safe, welcoming ‘home’ for people who work in what can be a very isolating and solitary career. I don’t know that that’s particularly special in terms of how other agencies run, but it’s certainly special to me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ooh, thought-provoking! I don’t really see Fairfield, CT as a city, but it’s a wonderful town! If someone was visiting for the week, I would take them to the beach one day – regardless of the season. The beaches along the Long Island Sound are beautiful and quintessentially New England. There is a really cool spot in Westport (a town over) called La Plage where I would take them to eat. The view is gorgeous!
I would definitely hop the train to New York City for a night as well. It’s a 70-minute ride to the heart of NYC, and dinner and a show and a fun hotel would be on the agenda for sure.
I would also spend a day or two touring the CT countryside. There are wonderful farms and beautiful scenery in Connecticut and it doesn’t take long to drive anywhere in the state. If the visit was during the fall, I’d take them up to Litchfield, County to go leaf-peeping and cider-sipping; there’s nothing better.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Mom, Christina A. Tugeau (CAT)! She is the founder of the agency, and the woman behind all of it. When she was in her early forties, she had the courage to start her own business and forge her own path. I had the privilege of being there to watch her work incredibly hard, and to be inspired by it during very formative years. By the time I joined her at the agency after she had run the agency alone for 20+ years, her reputation for being talented, smart, and KIND, as well as being an amazing agent preceded her. Still, in retirement, she is widely adored and highly respected in the industry. She really broke the mold, and I have her to thank for everything.