Kneerim & Williams

Celebrating the Life of Jill Kneerim

Dear Friends,

Jill KneerimIt is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Jill Kneerim, co-founder of Kneerim & Williams, who died on April 22, 2022, after a brief illness. Jill was enjoying a beautiful spring day with her dearest loved ones (and stacks of books) when she painlessly slipped away.

For so many of her colleagues and authors, Jill was a lodestar—a guiding light and an inspiring force, shaping our journeys, always vivid and always there. As we process our feelings of grief, love, and admiration, we also celebrate Jill’s joyful, spirited life.

Jill Kneerim and Ike Williams founded Kneerim & Williams in 1990, together with agency manager Hope Denekamp. Over the three decades since then, Jill has been a mentor to so many of us in the industry.

Jill brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to her illustrious agenting career of thirty-two years. She was a champion and loyal friend to her authors, and a fierce advocate for the agency’s entire list. Jill particularly distinguished herself representing leading nonfiction writers, in genres ranging from ‘big idea’ to memoir. Her clients account for a fifth of the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize winners in general nonfiction since 2006, and many more were winners and finalists for a host of major prizes, including the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bancroft Prize, the George Washington Prize, the PEN Awards, and the Ballie Gifford Prize. Even in other categories, Jill was no less renowned: she represented #1 best-selling novelists, poet laureates, and acclaimed short story writers. Paging through “Best Books of the Year” lists, it was hard to find one without any of Jill’s titles included.

Over the course of her career, Jill wielded her red pen fiercely but always wore her major reputation lightly. Her wit, insight, and generosity touched many lives in the publishing industry and beyond. She often spoke of how honored she was to help bring books into the world and her awe at the powerful changes they bring—and how badly our world needs that change.

As an agent and as a reader, Jill prized the power of books to communicate ideas and tell the human story in all its variations. That legacy is part of Kneerim & Williams’ DNA. Thirty two years after our founding, we are honored to carry on her work advocating for writers and thinkers whose books move our world forward.

Katherine Flynn
John Taylor (“Ike”) Williams
Lucy Cleland
Carolyn Savarese
Sarah Khalil
Carol Franco
Elaine Rogers
Matthew Valentinas

Jill Kneerim
Photo by Rob McQuilkin
Jill Kneerim
Photo by Hope Denekamp

Selected Acknowledgements

“In my much-anticipated first meeting with Jill, she generously treated me to a four-hour breakfast in which she posed the perfect questions that helped me find solutions to some of the issues I had been wrestling with in my writing. She has been an inspiring mentor, incredible editor, and wonderful guide through this entire process.” – Aaron Berkowitz, One By One By One

“Thanks to Jill Kneerim, my agent, friend, compass, and cheerleader. Surely Jill knows how fabulous she is, but I love that I get to put it in print in this book.” – Theresa Brown, Healing 

“Jill Kneerim, for relentless advocacy and an understanding of scope and scale.” – Louis Chude-Sokei, Floating in a Most Peculiar Way

“Jill Kneerim, my deep-thinking and resolute agent, worked closely with me to develop a proposal, a rigorous and clarifying ordeal. I owe Jill, and everyone at Kneerim and Williams, a huge debt of gratitude.” – Matthew Desmond, Evicted 

“This book would not have been possible without the unwavering support and guidance of my agent, Jill Kneerim, and the entire team at Kneerim and Williams. Jill is my trusted confidante and truth teller on all things publishing-related, cheering me on and giving me a gentle nudge (more than once) when I most needed it.” – Caroline Elkins, Legacy of Violence

“I have the opportunity once again to express my deep gratitude to Jill Kneerim, the best imaginable agent…” – Stephen Greenblatt, Tyrant

“Jill shaped this mess of ideas into something full of possibility…” – Sarah Stewart Johnson, The Sirens of Mars

“My agent, Jill Kneerim, has been a dream to work with from the very start—passionate about good ideas, ferocious at the bargaining table, brilliant at editing, acute in her judgment and advice. When I hit a wall in the early stages of drafting the book, Jill pointed out an elegant way around it and, with a gentle shove, sent me on my way. For this and so much more, my profound gratitude. It was truly my lucky day when I found her (with a little help from Deb Brody).” – David Laskin, The Children’s Blizzard

“This book would never have made it from my mind to the page without the vision, emotional support, and incandescent energy of…my agent Jill Kneerim.” – Jean Kilbourne, Can’t Buy My Love

“We are indebted to our agent, Jill Kneerim, for many things. Jill invented this book project and guided us through it from start to finish. She has been a source of much-needed encouragement and wise advice—and great editing to boot.” – Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die

“Jill Kneerim, a wonderful agent.” – Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back

“I wish to thank…Jill Kneerim, my agent, for her faith in me as a writer. Over the past four years, she has been an editor, an advisor, a cheerleader, and a confidante, most importantly, she has been my friend. With sagacious (and sometimes prognostic) insight and down-to-earth sensibilities, she has offered me a relationship that I deeply treasure. If she never laughed at fraternal antics, we wouldn’t be here today.” – Brad Meltzer, The Tenth Justice

“Then there is Jill Kneerim. Jill is my agent, but that word doesn’t begin to describe how much she means to me as a writer. She has sometimes been a critic, with tough words I didn’t want to hear. But she has always also been a friend and a believer.” – Sue Quinn, Eleanor & Hick

“An amazing group of women bought this book into the world. Jill Kneerim…saw the potential in this project about an obscure woman in a faraway place.” – Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City

“My agent, Jill Kneerim, encouraged me to write Vittoria’s biography, and guided me with terrific devotion through the early steps of imagining and launching the book.” – Ramie Targoff, Shakespeare’s Sisters

“For an idea to become a book, you need an agent who believes in it, and Jill Kneerim did. She helped with my envisioning, my proposal, my landing just the right editor and publisher, my research and my writing, and my fretting. That, in case you are wondering, is the definition of a crackerjack literary agent.” – Larry Tye, Demagogue

“Finally, I must thank Jill Kneerim, my agent. Her wisdom, encouragement, steadiness, and skill were crucial in turning an aspiration into a book.” – Lou Ureneck, Smyrna, September 1922

“My beloved friend and the best agent in the business, Jill Kneerim, agented this book as only she can—first finding the essence of the story, organizing it, and then championing it.” – John Taylor “Ike” Williams, The Shores of Bohemia