Agent Marietta Zacker of Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency will be joining our SCBWI chapter at the Pocono Remix 2023 retreat this April at the Highlights Foundation. Marietta will give the opening keynote speech, run a workshop titled The Marriage of Words and Illustrations in Books for All Ages, provide critiques for those who have signed up, and participate in the panel, pitch roundtable, and mock slush pile events. In preparation for this event, Jenny Krumrine had a virtual chat with Marietta for EasternPennPoints. Here’s what they had to say.
A Café Chat with Agent Marietta Zacker, by Jenny Krumrine
Jenny: Hi, Marietta. Welcome to the EasternPennPoints virtual café! Thank you so much for your involvement in our upcoming Pocono Remix 2023!
Marietta: I am very excited for the Pocono Remix and grateful that you asked!
Jenny: This year, you are the opening keynote speaker. Would you mind talking a bit about where your passion for children’s books comes from and some of your proudest moments?
Marietta: Aside from Abuelo—who I channel often and who no doubt helped me understand the power and beauty of storytelling—my passion comes from witnessing what stories do to human beings, young children and young adults in particular.
Whether it’s witnessing a person touched by a story, or the conversation between a group of people after sharing a story, or a community coming together because a story has given them deeper insight—I know firsthand that stories transcend the superficial and bind human to human in special ways.
I am so very proud of clients whose words and illustrations do exactly that—this year, that’s true of THAT FLAG written by Tameka Fryer Brown, HELLO, MISTER BLUE by Daria Peoples, SEARCH FOR A GIANT SQUID by Amy Seto Forrester and Andy Chou Musser, the next Make Way for Fenway book: FENWAY AND THE LOUDMOUTH BIRD written by Victoria J Coe, BREAKING THE MOLD by Dana Alison Levy, WHEN SEA BECOMES SKY by Gillian McDunn, and QUEENS OF NEW YORK by E.L. Shen, among many others. Definitely proud of all my clients’ work!
Jenny: You said it—the work of these authors and illustrators transcends the superficial. I see that a few of these titles have just become available and others will be out in the very near future. Definitely a lot to look forward to.
You’ll also be leading a workshop on “The Marriage of Words and Illustrations in Books for All Ages.” Can you give us a teaser? What do you hope creators will gain from attending your workshop?
Marietta: I want people to remember that, at our core, what we should be focusing on is the art of storytelling, which is much more than just words on a page. Even in a YA novel, the image on the cover, at a minimum, evokes a certain emotion and presents an entry into the story the author is trying to tell. Of course, that’s an easier statement to make about picture books or even graphic novels, but I suggest that we all think about our work more holistically and include the imagery that goes along with it, regardless of the age group. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Jenny: Ah, I can’t wait to hear more on this.
In addition to agenting, you are also an author in ALLIES: REAL TALK ABOUT SHOWING UP, SCREWING UP, AND TRYING AGAIN, published by DK Children in 2021. Can you tell us about this book and the impact these true stories can have on young readers’ lives?
Marietta: I appreciate you asking about ALLIES—it is such an important book. Mostly because of my fellow co-authors who shared their own personal stories. To know that young adults can see themselves and feel validated because of these stories, and to know that after reading the book they can also find ways of coping or acting differently when connecting with other human beings, makes ALLIES a unique anthology. We often talk about the importance of allyship, but putting that into practice is not necessarily easy. Contributors to the anthology dug deep into their own histories in order to help the reader walk a path that helps them understand and appreciate what true allyship looks like. The authenticity in the storytelling is powerful and, we hope, impactful.
Jenny: Lovely—like it says in the Amazon description, “This book is for everyone.”
Last question: What major changes have you noticed in the children’s book market in the past decade or so? What are some don’t-miss titles that best illustrate these new directions?
Marietta: Admittedly, the changes I’ve witnessed are connected to the expanding ways that creatives choose to express their stories. In part because creatives push in new directions, publishing professionals have to find ways to talk about projects with their teams in order to expand the definitions of storytelling. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago when talking about graphic novels was somewhat taboo (leave that to the comics world, they used to say). In that storytelling style alone, we represent some amazing creatives. Take a look at ISLA TO ISLAND by Alexis Castellanos, MISS QUINCES by Kat Fajardo, CRUMBS by Danie Stirling, NARWHAL AND JELLY and TATER TALES by Ben Clanton, ACCURSED VAMPIRE by Madeline McGrane, and MARSHMALLOW AND JORDAN by Alina Chau.
On a lighter note, signing all contracts electronically was an absolute game changer, so I’m certainly grateful for that major change in the industry!
Jenny: Thank you so much for hanging out with me today! See you at Pocono Remix 2023!
Marietta: Thank YOU!
Marietta Zacker has worked with books, authors, and illustrators throughout her career — studying, creating, editing, marketing, teaching, and selling. She supports independent bookselling, believes in libraries, and takes pride in her work as a Latina in the world of publishing. In 2021, her short story COUNTING ON ESTEBAN anchored the anthology ALLIES, published by DK. She is co-owner of and literary agent at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency and considers herself the luckiest person on earth to be Mami to the three fabulous humans and wife to an exceptional spouse. You can find her at www.galltzacker.com and www.mariettazacker.com.
Pocono Remix 2023 Retreat Info
Our annual retreat is back and in-person! It will be a weekend of amazing faculty, craft talks, industry insights, and the chance to meet with fellow creators all set at the beautiful Highlights Foundation in Boyd’s Mills, PA.