Posts Tagged MG debut

Agent Spotlight: Stacey Kendall Glick

Literary agent Stacey Kendall Glick is Vice President of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC. She brings a varied background in film and television development to her work as a literary agent, having held varied roles in entertainment including scouting for books to be adapted into feature films, a position as a story editor, and as a child actress who appeared on TV, in films and in theater. She represents a wide range of titles from nonfiction to adult, YA, and middle grade fiction and picture books. Her clients include four middle grade debuts for 2019: Jennifer Camiccia (THE MEMORY KEEPER), Wendy S. Swore (A MONSTER LIKE ME), Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo (RUBY IN THE SKY) and Jenni Walsh (the SHE DARED series). Stacey notes on her web page that she “wants to see more heartwarming, inspiring middle grade fiction and nonfiction.” Learn more about Stacey Glick at

Hi Stacey! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with us. I’m really curious about how your background in film and TV influences your taste in middle grade fiction. Do you think you gravitate toward stories that feel like they’d be well suited for the big screen?

I think I’ve always been a naturally visual reader. As a childhood actress, then working in film and TV development before becoming an agent 20 years ago, stories that jump off the page and have a visual element always appealed to me. But I also appreciate quieter stories too. Not every book can be or should be a movie.

Several of your Novel19s middle-grade debut clients this year deal with some form of trauma. In Jen Camiccia’s book, THE MEMORY KEEPER, Lulu has a syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which essentially means she recalls with near perfect clarity every moment of her life. And at the same time, her grandmother is suffering from trauma-induced amnesia and losing her memory. What drew you to this story?

I have four daughters, all of whom are middle grade (or newly graduated from) readers so I am always looking for books that resonate with me personally but I know will also appeal to my girls. I’m drawn to contemporary realistic stories that explore the often complicated relationships between family and friends, and kids who struggle with challenges and need to find solutions to their problems. To me, that’s real life and if we can teach our kids through books how to better navigate and manage a difficult world, we’ll all be better off for it.

Let’s talk about your another of our debut middle grade clients, Wendy Swore. Her book, A MONSTER LIKE ME, publishes on March 5. It’s been compared to both Wonder and The Thing About Jellyfish. Sophie, the protagonist, is a monster expert. And she’s also convinced that she is a monster because of a facial disfigurement. Can you talk about that a bit?


I loved the idea of this book from the pitch, and the minute I opened the first page, I had a feeling it was going to be a winner. The book is so warm and genuine, and Sophie is such an endearing character. Her struggles are unique to her but familiar enough to feel relatable to all readers. Her way of looking at the world and managing in it, despite having something that makes her so obviously “different” is what really made me fall in love with the book in the same way I did with Wonder when I first read it with my girls.

Are you an editorial agent? Is there any one piece of advice you give to middle grade authors? In other words, are there any common kinds of problems that you are good at helping MG authors fix?

I’ve been very fortunate to work with talented authors who are able to craft and create stories that are often in great shape at first draft stage. Both Jennifer and Wendy sent manuscripts to me that were almost ready to go. I really appreciate authors who go through multiple drafts and get feedback from writers’ groups and beta readers before they send it out to agents. It makes our job easier to be able to think about sales strategy and business decisions without having to focus too much on editorial concerns and an elaborate revision process. That said, if I fall in love with something and think it needs work, I will do what I have to do to create the best draft possible for submission before sending it out.

What can middle grade authors do to help teachers deepen the reading experience, or better help students engage with their texts, in the classroom?

I love when authors have the opportunity to engage with students. It’s such a wonderful way for a reading experience to come to life. Asking questions that readers can use to discuss the book and see things from a different perspective can help. This season I also represented the start of a middle grade nonfiction series called She Dared by Jenni L. Walsh. The series focuses on accessible biographies for middle grade readers of strong, brave young women. The first two books in the series are about Malala Yousafzai, the Afghani activist author, and Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack but went on to become a professional surfer.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for the middle grade authors you represent, once they sign their first contract?

I think the hardest thing is to overcome what might be seen as modest sales for a first book, and then trying to sell a second book when an option publisher passes. It’s easier (though not easy) to do in children’s books than adult. But it still requires a very different and sometimes a more creative approach.

I should also mention another of your debut authors this year, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, whose marvelous contemporary middle grade, Ruby in the Sky, published in February to starred reviews in Kirkus and Booklist. It’s already become one of my very favorite middle grade novels. I needed to read that one with many tissues in hand. And you have a gorgeous picture book, Bird Watch by Christie Matheson, that just published yesterday. You’ve had quite a year!

Anything else you’d like to elaborate on that I haven’t asked you? How’s life treating you?

Good! I really enjoy my work with children’s books and authors. I also help to run a wonderful conference affiliated with Rutgers University, the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature (this year on October 19, 2019), which your readers might be interested in learning more about. It’s the only conference I know of that offers attendees a one-on-one meeting with an editor or agent, and because it’s local to NYC and just one day, we get a lot of agents and editors to attend. There’s always a great keynote speaker as well. Last year, we had Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple. Thanks for having me!


Connect with Stacey on Twitter at @staceyglick

What to Give this Holiday Season: The Hotel Between

It’s the holiday season, which means I get to pepper our readers more than usual with book recommendations AND introduce you to the authors! Yay!

Today’s pick is a lovely, lush novel by author Sean Easley: THE HOTEL BETWEEN.

HOTEL weaves the story of Cameron and Cassia, who have never known their parents. Cass thinks their father abandoned them, but Cameron is certain something happened to him. When Cam discovers THE HOTEL BETWEEN, where there are endless doors that open into countries all over the world, his instinct tells him his father’s story is there, in the hotel, and he’s determined to stay long enough to figure out what happened and find his father.

This story has magic and intrigue, international travel and fascinating people,  an intricate plot, and a dash of wry humor. (NOTE: Sean is a former Mixed-Up Files contributor.)

“In the end, people are just people no matter where they’re from and no matter what they look like. It’s how they treat one another that matters.”

One of the things I love about this blog is getting the chance to go behind the scenes with authors, being able to add to the depth and texture of great scenes by seeing them from the writer’s perspective. Here’s what Sean Easley had to say about writing THE HOTEL BETWEEN.

Author Interview: Sean Easley

The Origin Story

MUF: Of course as authors, when we love a book a lot, we always want to know the origin story. How did you come up with this world and with Cam and Cass, Agapios, Nico, Rahki, and everyone else?

SEAN: There were several factors that led to me writing this book, I think. Part of it came from growing up the son of a foreign language teacher and a world-class athlete—my sister and I were always meeting people from all over the world.

Then, one night I had a dream about a place that was a hodgepodge of halls and rooms from all over the world. The next morning I set aside another project I was working on at the time and went to work figuring out how a place like that would work. As for the characters: they’re largely the product of people and friends I’ve known over the years, all mashed up together with bits of myself

MUF: Is it okay to say I see echoes of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE here? If so …. May I also say, I see so many lovely differences as well. Cam is desperate to unravel the mystery of his father’s disappearance and his mother’s death, so there is definitely a similar relationship theme. But there is also the best friends and chosen family theme with Nico, the moral relativity theme with when do you tell the truth to protect someone—and on that front, I found it much more sophisticated in many ways than HOWL’S. What are other themes in addition to these you hope readers will be affected by?

SEAN: Compared to the amazing Diana Wynne Jones? You flatter me too much, but I’ll take it!

When I started working on the book, I was enamored with this idea that magic—real magic—would be rooted more in the emotional/relational side of the world than in the physical. I didn’t want the kind of magic that plays out like a manipulation of the laws of physics, like fire and ice and all that. I wanted something that would be deeply, inextricably tied into the magic of who we are as human beings.

With that as a base, it just made sense to me that a magic that bonds and connects things together would also be used to bond people and families as well. Out of that came some really strong feelings of friendship and family—something that’s so very important at that age. The family we’re born with determines so much about who we are, and the family we choose determines who we are becoming.

The Magic of Best Friends

MUF: The moment when Cam and Nico bind each other as blood brothers—this was middle-grade perfect. I remember doing that with my BFF back in the day. Do you have a friendship that you modeled this relationship after?

SEAN: That part was one of my favorites when it happened during writing too. And it did just “happen”—when I was drafting I hadn’t originally planned for Nico to do that, and then all of the sudden he starts talking and the next thing I knew they were making up a contract.

I can’t point to any specific friend as the impetus for that scene in particular, but it’s always been a big thing for me to let important people in my life know that I’m not going to “drop” them. I’m typically a pretty intuitive judge of character, and when I find those folks that fit with me I want them to know.

But Nico himself does remind me a lot of a long-time friend who’s always brought a bit of trouble and mischief wherever he goes.

The Antagonist

MUF: The character of Stripe is delicious in ways I won’t reveal so as not to give spoilers. But I have to ask … did you have fun creating him?

SEAN: For sure. Interestingly, Stripe is a character that came out of a different dream way back when I was a kid. In the dream, I was with a bunch of friends when our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. Of course back then few people had cell phones, so we had to walk somewhere to find a landline telephone. We ended up knocking at the door of this incredible mansion on a hill, where a man in a pinstriped suit and cane opened up. He kinda reminded me of Mr. Peppermint, if you ever saw that show. The man welcomed us into his mansion and said that of course we could use his telephone, but first he wanted to give us the grand tour of his home.

To say much more would be to give away big spoilers for the book, but it’s safe to say that the dream version of Mr. Stripe is very like the one who made it into the manuscript.

The Editing Process

MUF: What parts of the book stayed the same through the editing process?

SEAN: Is it a cop out to say “nothing”? That might be a little dramatic, but it feels that way.

The scene you mentioned above with Nico and Cam might be the only bit that stayed largely the same from the early drafts to the final copy. It’s the hinge-pin of the book for me, and even for the whole series (seeing as how my editor is working on book two with me right now). Aside from that, I think the Budapest scene stayed pretty close to the original, as well as the events at the Monastery, though there were some significant tweaks in both.

A fun tidbit: while working on early versions of this book, I was able to share the manuscript with a group of around fifteen middle school students who told me what they liked and what they didn’t. Kids that age are effusive in both their praise and their criticism, and a lot of how the book ended up is thanks to their brilliant input.

A Great Holiday Gift

MUF: Since I’m recommending this book as a holiday gift, can you tell us what about the book lends itself to the spirit of the season?

SEAN: The Hotel Between takes place over a holiday break from school. Cam even visits a Christmas market in Hungary, and there’s a pivotal scene that happens when New Year’s Eve becomes New Year’s Day.

Aside from that, there’s an undercurrent of togetherness in the book that I think really fits with the holiday season. Of family, and friends, and the important moments that bring us all together—and not just the people we know, but people from all over the globe. It’s all tied up in this idea that we’re all just people, living together across the world. We’re all the same in the ways that matter, and we all deserve to be cared for and connected to those we love.

MUF: What is your favorite part of the book?

I’d love to say it’s one of the poignant moments in the book, but it’s actually the scene at the Hotel pool. I had so much fun imagining what a pool-type area would look like with all the magic of the Hotel at their disposal, and every time I got to editing that piece of the story I ended up smiling.

Congratulations, Sean!

Sean Easley started writing in third grade because he was looking for adventure. He’s worked with kids and teens for well over a decade, listening to their stories, and somehow ended up with a Masters degree in education along the way. Now he’s a full-time writer living with his wife and son in Texas, where he stubbornly refuses to wear cowboy boots. Visit him at and on Twitter and Instagram @AuthorEasley

Author Interview: Amanda Rawson Hill

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m excited about this author interview because it gives me a chance to introduce our Mixed-Up Files community to one of my favorite middle-grade writers, Amanda Rawson Hill. Her debut novel,  THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC (Boyds Mills Press), drops on September 25.

And what’s more …. we get to give one lucky reader a copy of THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC! After you read our interview with Amanda, scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter to win.

Author Interview with Amanda Rawson Hill

My son and I read THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC at the same time, which allowed us the fun of collaborating on an author interview with Amanda about the amazing Kate and how her brand of magic came to be.

MUF: How did you come up with the concept for the Three Rules of Everyday Magic? And by that, we mean the theme of the book AND the three rules themselves?

Elizabeth Gilbert is a best-selling author and she wrote a book called BIG MAGIC that talked about the theory that ideas are actual THINGS that exist outside of a person and are just waiting to be found. That’s sort of what finding the theme and the three rules felt like. When I started writing the book, I didn’t know it was going to be about connecting with others through giving. I just knew it was about a girl and her grandma. When Grammy taught Kate how to knit a hat, that’s when I realized that the book was about giving. I actually worked on the book for about ten months before I did a major revision that added in the THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC. I was writing while on a cross-country drive and all of a sudden my fingers typed out Grammy saying, “That’s the first rule of Everyday Magic. You have to believe.” It wasn’t in my head before I wrote it, but all of a sudden it was there on the paper. And I thought, “What are the other rules?” That’s when it all came to me. Like it was one of those ideas just floating around in the air waiting for someone to latch onto it.

So I guess that’s a long way of saying, “I don’t know.” Sometimes…most of the time…I don’t feel like I did come up with the rules. I feel like they kind of exist outside of me and were just waiting to be discovered.

MUF: Did you conceive of Kate before the book? Or did she grow along with it?

A bit of both. There are certain things about Kate that haven’t changed at all since the very first words of the first draft. Her love of karate, her hatred for the color pink, her secret crush on Parker. But there was a lot of her that I felt like I really didn’t know after the first draft. So I opened up a blank document and completely rewrote the entire book trying to really tap into WHO KATE IS. I ended up writing that version in epistolary format. The whole thing was told in letters to her dad. It didn’t stay that way, but doing so allowed me to really get to know Kate because letter writing requires a certain vulnerability which Kate didn’t really want to show me (and I still struggled to get her to open up to me all the way, even in much later drafts.) That’s what the symbolism of the pink is all about. Kate becoming comfortable with being vulnerable.

MUF: The poetry in this book is simply lovely and we just loved the way Kate’s teacher structured the history lesson with poetry and self-expression. Have you done this yourself as a homeschooling mother?

I’ve done poetry with my kids before, but I haven’t done this specific kind of poem with them yet. I got the idea for it at a writing conference I went where George Ella Lyon herself was presenting about how to write a ‘Where I’m From” poem and how to help children write one. It was such a great class, and everyone shared lines of their poems and I loved it so much that I knew I had to use it in my book.

MUF: Another special piece of the poetry in this book is that Jane’s poem was written by Joan He, a friend who is also a writer. How did you come by her poem?

I actually asked Joan and paid her to write it just for this book. It was important to me that Jane’s poem was authentic to her experience as a Chinese American, and I just didn’t feel like I could do that justice, even if it was just a few lines. I felt Joan’s knowledge and authenticity would really add something that I couldn’t bring to it, and I definitely think I was right about that because the poem is amazing and beautiful.

MUF: The themes of loss and depression are tough to write about – and poor Kate has to cope with some terrible losses. How did you approach writing these themes for a middle-grade audience?

I started out approaching them much more simply, with Kate simply referring to her father’s depression as “the sadness” and describing it all about his eyes and just lying in bed all day. But when it sold, my editor made me get much more specific about it. She had me refer to it by name, call it a sickness every time. She wanted me to show the slow development of it, other ways it manifested, etc. Which meant that I then went and talked to a lot of different people who had experienced it, so that I could show it in several true ways. I think that’s important. There are lots of kids dealing with depression, whether in their parents or themselves, and so naming it and accurately portraying it is absolutely vital, even if it’s hard because we’d like to just simplify and shield kids from it, right? But that doesn’t end up doing anyone any favors.

However, I did still have to filter all this information through the eyes of a child. I think that’s where the hope comes in. That quiet, undying hope that everything can and will get better eventually. And when you let hope color these hard topics, even when you face them and the pain head-on, it makes it approachable for a middle-grade audience. That’s the number one rule. Hope. Always.

MUF: What is your favorite passage?

Oh man! What a hard question! There are so many that I love. I think my absolute favorite though is, “Grammy said that magic happens when love becomes visible, when you give people something they can hold. But I think she was wrong about that. Because some things you can’t hold, not really. Like a firm squeeze that says it’s okay, or a song that makes you feel better. Like a family that’s always, always a family no matter what. You can’t knit that, or cook it, or draw it, or write it. But all those things are magic.”

Followed closely by this one that always makes me cry. “I’ve waited five months and twenty days to hear Dad say my name again, to say it like he knows me for real and forever, and when he does, it’s like somebody shaking up a root beer and pouring it over ice. All the foam comes spilling out from inside of me. ‘Daddy, please come home. Please come home. I can make you happy again. Mom will understand. I know you’re sad. But I’m sad too. And Mom’s sad. She needs you. We need you.'” (This passage hasn’t changed since the very first draft, which is kind of miraculous.)

MUF: We got chills AND tears in our eyes when we read that part, Amanda.

MUF: Congratulations to you, and good luck with your launch. And — thank you so much for offering to give away a copy of THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC!

Amanda Rawson Hill

Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. She got a degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University and now lives in Central California with her husband and three kids. THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC is her first novel.



a Rafflecopter giveaway