A self-professed introvert, Agata Antonow takes great pleasure in life’s simple luxuries: the myriad of memories she’s created with now-husband Adam over the past two decades; the companionship of her tuxedo cat Audrey (named equally in honor of Audrey Hepburn and the pot-stirring teen from the ’90s David Lynch cult classic Twin Peaks); the hand-painted desk made out of pine she purchased from a local artist in Halifax; an antique steamer trunk discovered at a local jumble sale; and the warm embrace of a perfectly drawn bath.
But perhaps her most cherished indulgence is one of the simplest of all: time spent with a good book.
“I love plunking down in front of our shelves, pulling out a few books, and just losing myself for a bit,” Agata said. “We’ve collected books for years. Most of them are not very rare or valuable, but we have some older ones that have this glossy finish to the pages and gold on the edges. They’re just beautiful and special in and of themselves.”
This seemingly offhand description about her personal library speaks volumes about the tangibility of her passion for literature and storytelling. No matter her stage of life, books and stories have been steadfast stewards and partners in all that she’s pursued. When Agata was a toddler, they were vehicles for learning English after her family moved to Canada from Poland. At university, they were the sole focus of both her undergraduate and graduate studies earning her degrees in history and gothic literature. Today, they are the lifeblood of her career and a steadfast source of comfort and escape when the world outside becomes too, well, loud.
“I find crowds and smaller groups draining. Or after talking to a bunch of people, I find that I need quiet,” Agata said.
And when it comes to working with clients at Round Table Companies (RTC), it’s their voice she wants to rise above the din. Referring to herself as a “servant leader,” Agata said her sole role as an executive editor is to “be the sea that raises the boat.”
“Even if we’re in full book development and doing the lion’s share of the writing, it’s about allowing them to come into themselves and their own voice,” she said. “Even if we’re the ones capturing them on paper, we’re shaping them along so that they can find that part of themselves that lets them create.”
In the five-plus years she’s worked with RTC, Agata has made meaningful contributions to ten books and has lent her talents to dozens of other projects, including graphic novels and a podcast series. Still, she’s hard-pressed to single out any one of those experiences as being more memorable than others.
“They all stick out for various reasons,” she said. “We had one client who set up a company in China, and she was so, so brave. Another was a veteran who served in Iraq, and he started this multimillion-dollar company. I can’t even imagine what these people’s lives are like. It’s just these remarkable stories, and they all stand out in their own way.”
A common thread among all of the clients Agata has guided along the way has been courage. Whether it’s vulnerability, fearlessness, or the sheer audacity it takes to refuse to give up in the most trying of times, it’s this willingness to try despite the absolute possibility of failure that has left its most indelible mark on Agata’s soul.
“I don’t think bravery is baked into each person. I think in some ways it’s easier for us to cower, and that’s why we look for stories in which people are brave because we hope we’re like that or we aspire to be that,” she said. “I think there’s some situations where we get this little push to be brave—maybe it’s for someone else or because of this specific circumstance—and we go for it because we can’t bear the alternative.”