When I was in middle school, I pretty much fit into two stereotypical roles. The first was the “fat kid.” Oh my gosh, guys, not only was I a five-foot-nothing, two hundred pound sixth grader, I was oh so fortunate as to get hit hard by the grease fairy: my hair was always shiny in a bad way and pimples were a harsh reality that I was never going to get away from.
I was a tomboy with zero knowledge of makeup or fashion. Even if I did want to dress up, I usually got so frustrated by my size that blouses were tossed aside in favor of t-shirts. And don’t even get me started on my lack of athletic abilities.
The second was the “quiet kid.” Middle school kids can be mean. And I was a brat growing up so I guess they felt I had it coming, but eventually I just stopped talking in school. I sat at the smart kids table because they tolerated me best, kept my head down, and survived… Basically, my middle school years suuuuuuuuuucked.
Around this time is when I truly found my love of books. I’d always been a reader, but now books were my lifeline. They allowed me to escape from all of the problems, taunts, and embarrassment and into the lives of characters who were brave, strong, sweet and tough. All of the things I felt I wasn’t.
And for how much I despised them, I have to give my tormentors one bit of credit… They never interrupted me while I was reading.
Fast forward to the present… I now represent middle grade authors who tell the kinds of stories that I would have absolutely loved to escaped into when I was working through those years. I get to help authors help kids who are living the daily “just keep your head down and don’t let them see you” existence like I did. I get to make a tangible difference in the world by helping these phenomenally talented people get their books into the hands of those who are the most malleable and the most willing to hear opinions from “the other side.” I believe it was Madeline L’Engle who said something like “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
Middle grade books are in the unique position to shape their readers in a very tangible way for the long term. As middle graders, we didn’t read for lessons, but we learned them. We didn’t read books thinking “I’m going to develop a deeper sense of empathy because this is from a perspective different from mine.” We (or at least I) thought “Wow, this person, who comes from somewhere so different from me, still has this big thing in common with me.” We read middle grade books for friends when we had none, for adventure when we were stuck in our small towns, and for experiences we had yet to know first-hand.
I believe with all of my heart that middle grade is the category where books have the most potential to affect readers in a positive way and if I can be even a small part of that, then I feel like I’ve done my job and made a difference in this world.
Over the years I got taller, went down a few pants sizes and the grease fairy found some other poor soul to torment. I had my fun and ended up getting my revenge on my tormentors in my own way (see “Why I Rep Young Adult”-coming soon). With all of those changes, I never did actually grow out of my love for middle grade stories. Whether or not I actually “grew up” at all is pretty debatable if we’re being honest, but I’ve found a way to make these stories my job and it’s more rewarding than anything I could have imagined in any other field.
Oh! And if you want to know more about some of the authors whose books got me through those lovely years, just click on the book covers to be redirected to their goodreads pages. If you want to know more about what I’m currently looking for in middle grade submissions, check out my Middle Grade Wish List: Extended Edition.