What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
The editors and agents I’ve been speaking to are trying to publish more civically engaged books, especially in this current political moment. My submission inbox, too, has been inundated with children’s-book writers and artists trying to find new ways to talk to kids about politics, even if they aren’t explicitly political. For example, how do you explain that a bully can win? How do you talk about the fact that words still matter, despite our president’s blatant disregard for them? And what is America, anyway? I myself am looking for answers to these questions, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with authors, like Julie Leung, who are writing great books to help us understand this difficult time.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’m very interested in children’s books about race relations in America and anything having to do with the immigrant experience—particularly immigrating at a young age or navigating that tricky relationship with immigrant parents. Growing up, I always had the distinct feeling that the world inside my house and the world outside of it were diametrically opposed. I didn’t always deal with these feelings productively, especially as a teenager growing up in white suburban America! I’m looking for books that speak to children and teenagers on these topics in a thoughtful, digestible way. Books that could’ve helped lost-little-kid Wendi.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fantasy person! I’m not great at worldbuilding. That being said, I loved Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, which has worldbuilding to boot. Throughout the book, Rhoda weaves in race issues very reminiscent of this current moment as well as the ethics of privacy and technology as integral parts to the story. Rhoda wrote an incredibly smart, intellectual book that also happened to be an epic fantasy page-turner. Very tough to pull off. All of this to say, I’m not looking for fantasy, but there are exceptions.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I get to work with the likes of children’s-book industry geniuses like Brenda Bowen as well as up-and-coming adult literary agents like Stephanie Delman. I am lucky enough to have Brenda’s ear on every big decision that I make as a children’s book agent, and I also get to seek advice from people like Steph, who is the agent behind some highly anticipated literary feminist novels. (Look for Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed and What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine when they are out!) I love the collaborative spirit of my office. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
Wendi Gu is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She grew up in the sleepy northern suburbs of Chicago and began her publishing career in 2012 as an intern in the offices of Brenda Bowen and Lisa Gallagher. Shortly after graduating with a degree in creative writing from Northwestern University, Wendi was hired at Greenburger as a full-time assistant and began focusing on children’s books under Brenda Bowen’s mentorship. Wendi now agents her own titles with a focus on picture books, middle-grade, young-adult, and select adult literary books.