Rhoda Ackerson Weyr, noted literary agent whose client list included such writers as Mark Bowden, Sue Harrison, G. Gordon Liddy, Fred Chappell, and Reeve Lindbergh, died on Sunday, April 25, in Palm Beach, Florida. She was 83.
Weyr, who with her husband, biographer Fred Kaplan, had lived in retirement in Boothbay, Maine until moving to Florida five months ago, developed complications after a fall.
She was born Rhoda Anne Ackerson in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary, where her father was a U.S. diplomat. She spent her childhood learning new languages as the family moved from country to country.
When the Ackersons settled in Washington, D.C., she attended Stone Ridge, a Catholic girls’ school. The nuns gave her deep love of reading a home.
In 1958, she graduated from Barnard and moved back to Europe, where she began her career as a journalist. While working for the legendary Fritz Molden, Weyr secured rights to Svetlana Stalin’s Twenty Letters to a Friend. Her publishing career was born in that moment. “She loved puzzles and problem-solving,” said her daughter, writer Garret Weyr. “Publishing let her arrange venue, writer, language, and story in the best possible way.”
In the early 1960s, she returned to the United States with her first husband the writer Tom Weyr. She worked as a literary scout for several foreign publishers, including Mondadori. In 1972, Weyr made history as the first female literary agent hired by the William Morris Agency.
“She was an enormous help to me as I tried to figure out how to be a writer,” said Reeve Lindbergh.
Mark Bowden said Weyr called him after reading one of his stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You’re going to need an agent,” she told him. He recalled how, after Black Hawk Down was rejected by almost every publisher in New York, she sent it to Morgan Entrekin at Atlantic Monthly Press. Entrekin called her to say, "I must have misplaced your letter, Rhoda.” "I didn't write one," she replied. "Just read it." He did and remains Bowden’s editor to this day.
Weyr was a longtime board member of the Women’s Media Group. She never failed to give younger women career advice, adding that “having it all” was nonsense, but that hard work and exhaustion were the foundation of family and career. “She was a fiercely protective mother,” said her daughter, Television director Tara Nicole Weyr. “But also, she made us go out and face the world.”
When Weyr left Willian Morris in 1982, it was to create her own highly successful eponymous literary agency. She sold the agency to Jennie Dunham in 2002 and retired with husband, Fred Kaplan, to Maine, where she lived until November 2020.
In retirement, Weyr read for pleasure, knitted furiously, and taught herself to make jewelry, eventually creating a line that she designed, marketed and sold. Her energy and talent refused to let her hands be idle.
In addition to her husband, Weyr is survived by two additional daughters, Sascha Weyr (Foti) and Teddie Weyr, as well as a grandson. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to the International Rescue Committee to support displaced women and girls. (https://help.rescue.org/donate)