Success Story: Rebecca Carvalho

We’re excited to be able to share Rebecca Carvalho’s #LatinxPitch success story! The Brazilian author answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing YA rom-com debut, SALT AND SUGAR, which was acquired by Inkyard after the 2020 pitch event, and will be published in fall 2022. Congratulations, Rebecca!

1) Tell us a little bit about your experience with #LatinxPitch – where did you hear about the pitch event from, how did you feel the day of the event in terms of expectations, and how did the event lead you to sign with your editor?

September 2020 was such a stressful month. A few days prior to the #LatinxPitch event, we had that Blade Runner, apocalyptic looking day in the Bay Area, when the sky was blood red with wildfire smoke. I couldn’t believe my own eyes. The birds didn’t sing that day. It got eerily cold. I couldn’t bear to venture outside. We were also in the thick of the pandemic and I feel like there was so much going on, my anxiety was at an all-time high.

We’d gone on sub earlier in 2020 with SALT AND SUGAR, but editors didn’t connect. At that point, my agent Thao Le and I were wondering what to do next.  

I was standing at that crossroads with my book when I first saw a tweet about the #LatinxPitch event. It honestly felt like a breath of fresh air. I was surprised to see that it was open to agented writers pursuing editors, too. I discussed it with Thao, who was super supportive and encouraged me to participate. We worked together on my pitch, scheduled it, and it’s cheesy to say this… but the sky finally cleared a lot on the day of the event, enough that it even looked blue again.

As exciting as Twitter pitch events are, I still didn’t know what to expect. I just knew I had to give SALT AND SUGAR one last try—writing the book had been such a significant experience for me, following my mom’s passing—and I just felt like I owed it to the story. I believed in my book, but I really wasn’t expecting #Latinxpitch to change my life.

I got so much support from so many people. I was speechless. As editors started requesting my book, Thao and I kept track of everyone and we later put together a list she was going to contact. I think one week later, an editor had already scheduled a call with us. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe how quickly the editor had read my book. She wanted to discuss her editorial vision for it and she was so enthusiastic, it all felt surreal. Other brilliant editors started showing just as much interest, too, and so Salt and Sugar went to auction. You can imagine how dizzying this whole thing can be… I’m grateful for my husband, who kept me sane throughout it all. I’m grateful for all the editors, who were so thoughtful and kind. And I’m extra grateful for Thao, who virtually held my hand throughout it all.

Rebecca Kuss (who was at Inkyard Press at the time) was my acquiring editor. It felt like a dream come true, honestly. Everyone at Inkyard Press showed so much love for my Brazilian story, and they all assured me they’d take good care of my career and my book. A book that had been a dream I dreamed together with all my loved ones. Many thanks to Bess Braswell and Claire Stetzer (my current editor)! Thank you, #Latinxpitch, for putting the right people in my life at the right moment!

2) What is your recipe for the perfect pitch?

I don’t know if I have a perfect pitch formula. It’s honestly so subjective. But if I were an agent combing through all the pitches, I’d look for the more straightforward pitches that tell me right away the problem the main character is facing (or how they’re stuck) and how they’re going to take action to solve it, or at least what’s the journey the reader will go on with the main character, so I know what’s at stake. Seeing comp titles helps, too, but I don’t think they’re absolutely necessary.

Rebecca’s Pitch During #LatinxPitch

My pitch for Salt and Sugar was “17yo Lari Ramires and Pedro Molina were born enemies. Their families’ bakeries have always been at war with each other, but when a supermarket preys on their community and corners the bakeries, together they must create the perfect recipe.”

One pitch that’s my favorite EVER was Dustin Thao’s #DVPit pitch for You’ve Reached Sam: “Heartbroken after her boyfriend’s death, Julie calls him to hear his voicemail—but he picks up. It’s their second chance at goodbye, but the connection’s temporary. The longer they talk, the more impossible it is to let him go. YOUR NAME meets IF I STAY.” I teared up reading it and I felt so emotionally invested right away.

3) What would you say to writers who aren’t sure if they should pitch?

I’d say go for it. You have nothing to lose. I’ve participated in other pitch events in the past (I’ve been pitching different projects on Twitter and querying since 2012, actually!) and I know how hard it is seeing your pitch sitting there without any likes, but you’ll at least make new friends, meet potential beta readers and CPs excited to read your work, and network with agents and editors. 

Participating in a more focused pitch event like #LatinxPitch is an even better opportunity, because the founders of the event advocate for different cultural backgrounds in publishing and they attract like-minded agents, editors, and writers.

4) What does an event like this mean to you as a Latinx writer?

It means the world to me. I was born and raised in the Brazilian Northeast, and I traveled alone to the United States with a scholarship to study English at Lawrence University. My mom was a single parent and she was unemployed, dreaming I’d one day achieve all my academic plans. Things were so tough back then, it wasn’t until after graduation that I reunited with her in Brazil, because all those years we just didn’t have money for me to fly home on Christmas. We wouldn’t have had enough to send me back to school, you know?

Writing has been a constant throughout my whole life. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember—back when I was in first grade, getting in trouble with a kid who thought I’d named a character after her—but as much as I believed in my work, I didn’t know if it would ever be published. I’ve encountered so many people who doubted my writing because English isn’t my first language. I’ve always felt like I had to prove my worth as a writer the moment I stepped into a room. 

Things like getting an agent, finding the right editor, and getting a book deal, at times, sounded like winning the lottery. I felt some of it relied on luck, too. On meeting the right people at the right time… so an event like #LatinxPitch was like suddenly finding an open door. I’ve received so much love and support from the Latinx community on Twitter, and for the first time in a while I felt like my words were celebrated and needed.

5) Finally, tell us all about your YA novel, SALT & SUGAR!

SALT AND SUGAR is a telenovela-esque YA rom-com debut that follows the grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries who fall in love despite their families’ feud while working to win a contest that would save both of their bakeries from being driven out by a predatory supermarket chain.

If you like stories that feature multi-generational feuds, enemies-to-lovers romance, childhood neighborhoods, and characters that bond over food, add SALT AND SUGAR on Goodreads. Publication is planned for fall 2022 (Inkyard Press).

Goodreads link:

Follow Rebecca on Twitter (@cavalcar) and on Instagram (@rebeccacarvalhowrites) for more book news!

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