The power of literature: interview with Mentor USA’s supporter Elina Ahlback Literary Agency

Mentor USA is proud to have the support of Elina Ahlback and the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency. During our most recent Silent Auction, you had the opportunity to bid on an amazing one-on-one with Elina herself. Read more about Elina’s career journey, her love for books, and why she wants to give back to the community in this exclusive interview.

9 February 2022 | News

Elina Ahlback, Founder & CEO of the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency (left photo). Literary agent Toomas Aasmäe on the left, together with author Max Seeck centered and Elina on the right (right photo). Photo Courtesy: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency

Elina Ahlback has enjoyed a successful career in publishing and bookselling since 1982 and has worked as a bookseller, buyer, marketing manager, sales and store manager, publisher, editor, and senior vice president. In 2009 she established her own agency: “Elina Ahlback Literary Agency” with the mission to build bridges between authors and publishers worldwide and with a passion to internationalize literature.

When Mentor USA recently arranged a Silent Auction, we were honored to auction off a “one-on-one virtual meeting” with Elina Ahlback, founder of the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency, who generously donated her expertise and time to help raise important funds for our youth. We have now spoken to Elina about what motivates her to give back to the community, her journey and career within the world of books, as well as the power that literature has to teach us new things, take us on adventures, and broaden our perspectives.

Elina, you have had, and still have, a very long and successful career within literature and you also own one of most prominent Book Agency’s in the Nordic countries. Do you have any advice or tips for young people with high ambitions?

Dream big, create visions of your future, of your future plans & ambitions, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people and team members that share your vision, but also has different talents & different backgrounds. Write a road map to your future! Go for it!

What are some challenges you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome these? Is there a lesson you have learned that you found especially valuable that you would like to share with the Mentor network and youth?

Challenges are the only way to growth and innovative business ideas! Every challenge or every failure (or crisis) is a huge opportunity to learn, to develop the business (and yourself) and to find new innovative business models. Encourage your team and yourself to do things differently and always aim for the best quality in business. Ask questions and look out for great mentors!

Looking at your career and the decision to establish your own agency in 2009, it’s clear that you are passionate about literature. What would you say is the best thing about books/literature, and is there anything else you still would like to achieve with your work in this field?

The best thing about literature is that every day you can travel to different worlds, to different imaginative worlds and places, to learn from different views and ideas, understand and appreciate different views in science, literature etc., and to get to know so many authors through their literary works.

I want to see Finnish literature, Finnish authors and their works conquer the world in a big way, in every country in the world, and in different channels: books, film, tv, streaming services etc. We have already created success stories at Elina Ahlback Literary Agency with our global teams in Helsinki, Los Angeles and New York: Young Adult Author Salla Simukka and her Snow White Trilogy has been published in 52 languages and now being developed for a Hollywood TV show. Max Seeck and The Witch Hunter, published in 40 countries and a TV Series in development by Stampede Ventures in LA.

Elina with the agency’s author, Finlandia winner Anne-Maija Aalto (left photo). Elina together with German publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair (centered & right photo). Photo Courtesy: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency

Recently, you generously donated your expertise and time for our Silent Auction, and helped us raise much needed funds that enables us to continue our work with youth substance use prevention across the U.S. Why is it important for you to support the mission of Mentor Foundation USA?

I am grateful for the opportunity to support your great and hugely important work at Mentor Foundation USA. I believe the future depends so much on how we can support the youth to find their place in the world and to inspire youth to the world of books & literature: to do good for our communities, to care about the future and do good for the humankind. Literature can inspire in so many ways!

I believe the future depends so much on how we can support the youth to find their place in the world and to inspire youth via the world of books & literature: to do good for our communities, to care about the future and do good for humankind.

- Elina Ahlback

What motivates you to give back to the community?

Like I said above: when I can learn so much from books, literature, and science, I feel it’s wonderful to do this meaningful work, and to expand the message of excellent literature to the world!

Can you tell us about a Mentor you have had in your life?

My best Mentor in my life has been my dear father, he was a publisher, author and a translator of American poetry like T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings and many other great poets. He encouraged me always to follow my dreams and to create my own Publishing/Literary Agency Business.

What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote?

“may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to
and if men should not hear them men
are old”

E.E. Cummings, Poems 1904 – 1962

Thank you, Elina, for taking the time to speak with us! And once again thank you for donating your expertise and time for our Silent Auction and helping us continue our work with empowering, supporting, and motivating youth.