Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Kayla Lightner of Ayesha Pande Literary

Kayla Lightner is a literary agent with Ayesha Pande Literary.

Kayla started her career at Liza Dawson Associates. She also managed APL’s subsidiary rights department for two years before transitioning to full-time agent. Her client list includes multi-award-winning actor, Delroy Lindo; multi-award-winning journalist and food writer, Annabelle Tometich; and Vice, Teen Vogue, and Longreads contributor, Minda Honey.

Kayla is an adventurous reader who loves stories (typically adult; though there are a select few middle-grade titles on her list) within upmarket fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction. She’s looking for writers that can masterfully straddle the line between story-telling and teaching readers something new (about themselves, their communities, or the world we live in).

Kayla is a Georgia native and earned her B.A. in English from Vassar College. When Kayla’s not reading, she can be found writing, reminiscing on her rugby days, and trying to retain her (waning) fluency in French by watching French shows on Netflix.

I love discovering diverse and fresh new perspectives across adult literary + upmarket fiction and nonfiction. I’m particularly a fan of authors with singular voices that masterfully straddle the line between story-telling and teaching readers something new (about themselves, their communities, or the world we live in).

Within Fiction, I’m looking for…

Magical realism with southern gothic elements like Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; books that use speculative elements as a means to examine history like These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card (no slave narratives, please.)

Book Club Fiction with an entertaining core premise and flawed characters we can’t help but root for, but still maintains sharp, incisive prose on a line-level like Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid and The Maid by Nita Prose.

Family Sagas that turn the picket white-fence narrative on its head and/or are rooted in the immigrant experience like Zadie Smith’s White Teeth; or sit in the tensions of familial relationships (whether is be spouses, parent/child, or siblings) like American Marriage by Tayari Jones, With Teeth by Kristen Arnett, or The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Within Nonfiction, I’m looking for…

Narrative Histories that are compelling, well-researched stories about forgotten / willfully overlooked moments in history and the ripple effects they have on our modern-day life like Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

Deeply reported narrative nonfiction that examines race, class, current events, arts, business, and technology like Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“Big Idea Books” that critique the different ways the internet and “internet culture” currently impact our lives, and that take pop culture seriously, like Lurking by Joanne McNeil, Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke,and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Platform-driven Memoirs that take me inside a previously inaccessible community, a niche sub-culture, or a unique way of life like Uncanney Valley by Anna Weir.

Practical Nonfiction that taps into gen-z’s changing attitudes around work, money, and mental health.

True Crime that provides a fresh perspective on scams and multi-level-marketing schemes