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 https://www.dystel.com/stacey-glick/.
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