WME literary handler has a knack for bestselling talent
Ask Jennifer Rudolph Walsh how many times her clients’ books have been selected to appear on “Oprah,” and the co-head of William Morris Endeavor’s worldwide literary department can only hazard a vague guess: “A lot. I’ve been very lucky.”But the 42-year-old New Yorker, who was hired by agent Virginia Barber one day after graduating from Kenyon College and wound up buying the company nine years later, will never forget the first time it happened, with “Drowning Ruth,” the debut novel from Christina Schwarz, which also reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. “That was a game changer for me,” says Walsh, a mother of three who is still married to her high school sweetheart. “It was a huge vote of confidence that I was on the right track.” Today Walsh is the only woman on WME’s nine-member board, and her department boasts more NYT bestsellers than any literary agency in the world, with 61 titles in 2009 alone (a handful of which are thanks to Walsh’s recruitment of star agent Eric Simonoff in March). Her personal clients range from chick lit powerhouse Gigi Levangie Grazer to “Bones” author Kathy Reichs to Man Booker Prize-winning short story writer Alice Munro. Some of her most eagerly anticipated fall titles include new books from Reichs and Munro as well as Ken Burns’ history of U.S. national parks, a prequel to Jeannette Walls’ “The Glass Castle,” and “Traveling with Pomegranates,” a historical memoir by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Taylor Kidd. Walsh is also excited about the recent sale of Portia De Rossi’s memoir, which will address her eating disorder and her coming out as a lesbian. “I think it’s going to have an amazing impact on young women,” she asserts. Oh, and about her status as the sole woman on the WME board? Just give her some time. “I’ll get some other females on there. I got that covered.” IN A NUTSHELL Job title: WME board member, co-head of WME’s worldwide lit dept. Role model: “Virginia Barber taught me to be a literary agent, and the person who taught me to be the person that I aspire to be is Rosa Parks.” Career mantra: “It’s not what happens, it’s what happens next.” Leisure pursuits: Cooking, gardening, running Philanthropic passion: Room to Grow (of which Walsh is a founding board member), which provides babies born into poverty with all the necessities during their first three years.