Success Story: Lauren T. Davila

We’re excited to share Lauren T. Davila’s #LatinxPitch success story! Lauren answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing work, with which Lauren signed with an agent after the #LatinxPitch 2021 event. Congratulations, Lauren!

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 agent?

I sent out my #LatinxPitch tweets sporadically throughout the day in between classes and work! So I probably wasn’t as nervous as I could’ve been considering I wasn’t super online. I had heard about it through my Latinx writer friends network and just on my timeline on Twitter. I have always loved pitch contests and think they are amazing! So I loved being able to try my hand at one specifically for the Latinx/Latine community! I had some really great responses to my pitches for my YA Latina supervillain book, which my agent ended up liking. I had eight agent likes and one editor like for my pitch, which was seriously amazing!

2. What was your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

Here’s my tweet just for posterity’s sake! 

I had quite a bit of engagement on this tweet and I think it boils down to the comps and the high concept. When this was tweeted WandaVision had just come out and it was allllll over social media with commentary and edits and theories. Great time for the superhero genre honestly. It was kismet I was able to focus in on a story which was about female trauma and relationships and expectations in an authentic way. My biggest advice would be to find comps that work but don’t be so stressed about finding the perfect ones! You can also pick and choose elements from certain things too: “the trauma exploration from X with the found family from X” or “the slow burn romance from X with the political dystopia elements from X.” Don’t be afraid to be inventive!

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

My advice is always to go for it! Often, we are our own worst critics so don’t count yourself out. Even if the agent or editor engagement is low, these are great opportunities to find beta readers or CPs for future projects. And most importantly., to find friends in the industry! I have made some life-long friends just by simply interacting through pitch contests. 

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

At the end of the day, it’s about celebrating us and our stories and our lives. It’s representation at the base level. These diverse pitch contests are opportunities to finally close the gap in the querying process. It’s an opportunity to find “our people,” so to speak. With something as wide and vibrant as these pitch contests, we have the ability to get our stories in front of the masses and start drumming up support even before finding agent rep! #LatinxPitch is one of the best ways I have found to widen and deepen my personal writing community! And I found my amazing, wonderful, supportive agent through this process! 

5. Finally, tell us about the project(s) you signed your agent with!

It’s a bit nontraditional! So while Susan liked my YA supervillain manuscript, that isn’t what she signed me with. Right now, I am in the process of a rewrite for a novel titled AT THE STILL POINTE. It is an adult standalone gothic/speculative MS that follows three professional ballerinas at a cutthroat dance academy with nothing in common but competition. When soloists start turning up dead, they decide to try to uncover the killer before they become the next victims. It just so happens they have a little help with the addition of some unexpected mythical powers – furious, vengeful powers. 

Other than this MS, I am also working on a short story collection, the YA supervillain series, and multiple YA and Adult anthologies. I have been an anthologist in the indie sphere for a bit but I may be cooking up a few projects for the more traditional publishing world as well!


Lauren T. Davila is a Pushcart-nominated, Latina author, anthologist, and editor. She has edited multiple short story anthologies. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared online at Granada Magazine, The Paragon Journal, Ghost Heart Literary Magazine, Peach Velvet Mag, Voyage Journ Lauren is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English at Claremont Graduate University. She holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from George Mason University. After completing her studies, she plans to teach at the collegiate level while working in publishing.al, Second Chance Magazine, Headcanon Magazine, In Parentheses, and Poets Reading the News.

She lives in the greater Los Angeles area where you can find her swimming, walking her golden retriever, and drinking one too many rose lattes.

Lauren T. Davila is represented by Susan Velazquez Colmant at JABberwocky Literary Agency

You can find Lauren on:

Twitter

Instagram

Website

Finding Meaning in Publishing

If you’re currently querying, you might be worried about the buzz saying that it’s more difficult than ever before to be in the query trenches. There is no doubt that, at least for the time being, the COVID pandemic has changed publishing at all levels. However, all of us at #LatinxPitch want to everyone going into the pitch event to feel the hope that all of us on the #LatinxPitch committee hold for Latinx creators. And we hope that these words from members of our committee help encourage you to continue on your journey toward achieving publication! See you all on September 15th!

Publishing is about networking and genuine connections but also about learning from one another. That’s why it’s so important to read your peers’ work and help promote it.

Mariana Llanos (Run Little Chaski, Run out now; Vampirita out 2023)

Publishing is all about the long game, so when you’re first starting out focus on building those relationships that will help you get through the inevitable rejections. Build a support network that can both be your cheerleaders and your quality control. Be sure you’re ready to process passes in a way that won’t pummel your confidence but keep you moving forward—community is essential for that. Not only can they cheer you up when you feel down, but they also help you realize that rejection is part of the process and the people whose work you deeply admire are experiencing the same highs and lows. When I first started writing, I queried before I was ready and received a very kind pass from one of those golden ticket opportunities, and it was enough to freeze me up as a writer for over a year. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t query, I was stuck. But as I got to know the industry and built my community, I realized I wasn’t alone. Not only did critique partners and support networks help me refine my work and helped me deal with passes in a more constructive way, but they also helped connect me to others in the industry which eventually led to representation and book deals. Be kind. Be supportive and build that community!

Sara Fajardo (Paka Paka Con La Papa: Alberto Salas Plays Potato Hide-And-Seek out 2023)

Publishing is challenging. We all know this, but it helps to remember and own it. I use this truth to fuel myself—it’s a challenging business, a challenging craft, and by engaging with publishing at all, I’m pushing myself to grow and learn. We can’t control what happens outside of ourselves, but if we are improving, evolving, leveling-up, that matters. That is meaningful. Find your meaning in this wild ride; it’s not a straight road to follow like many other vocations. When things are difficult, when you’re hearing no over and over, when things are unjust or unfair, lean on your own personal meaning and journey.  Keep going for your own evolution as a creator, that meaning and fire that burns deep inside of you that cannot be put out by world events, injustices, or the beast of the publishing business.

Jorge (Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies and XO, Exoplanet (illus.) out now; The Wild Ones out 2023)

We hear the words community and rejection in publishing often because the first one is absolutely necessary to navigate the inevitable second. It’s in the relationships that we will find it’s a path worthwhile. I’m so grateful for the friendships created in this #LatinxPitch group and our conversations have been essential in learning many different aspects of this career and finding opportunities. My advice is to open your circle and engage with latino creators like you, the ones debuting and the established ones. Reach out, follow, connect, boost, request these books at your library, read, explore what is working. Networking and connections in the community are a building block for learning and support that will go far beyond craft and querying. Community will reminds us we are not alone, our stories are valuable and every milestone along the way deserves celebration.

Cynthia Harmony (Mi Cuidad Sings out now; A Flicker of Hope out 2023)

Querying is hard, but cold querying still works! Some rejections stung more than others, and after I’d let myself feel my feelings for about a day, I’d send out more queries. So for every rejection, I’d send out 1-2 more queries right away. It was kind of like, “Take that! I’ll show you Agent X!

Nydia Armendia-Sánchez (Not Far From Here out 2024)

I always like to say that publishing is hard but it’s not impossible! When I first started out, I’d often ask myself, why me? Now, whenever something feels hard, whenever I’m unsure, I ask why not me? When you’re doubting yourself, take the leap, because the reality is we need Latinx and diverse voices more than ever! We need you!

Sandra Proudman (👀)

Agent Interview: Marietta Zacker

We’re excited to have gotten a chance to ask Marietta Zacker, a participating agent in this year’s #LatinxPitch, some questions regarding what she’s on the lookout for and what an agent typically needs to see in pitches to have them click that “like” button.

Thanks so much for your time Marietta!

Q: Tell us a little bit about what you’re looking for in your query inbox this year and how it might have changed from previous years.

A: I have a vision for an illustrator’s collective that highlights an array of untapped talent. I’ve always represented illustrators and author/illustrators, but the time feels right to find an expanded portfolio that truly shows a range of character work as wide and deep as the people represented in our world. I would love to work with an artist that is as dedicated as I am to showing our diverse world.

I will continue to look for stories and novels and images created for any age group (from the youngest reader to the young adult audience) that make me laugh, cry, or feel any sort of way, which, for me, typically means finding characters who stand out and are irreplaceable.

Q: What tips can you offer to writers or illustrators that might be planning to participate in the next #LatinxPitch event as they gear up for the event?

A: I would suggest that you not overthink it, and also, not rely solely on being ‘discovered’ in a pitch event. It’s a window that could certainly get blown open, but it’s not the only window or door in the house. And remember that, sometimes, the greatest of things happen when someone comes down the chimney, so stay awake if at all possible 😉

Q: What Tweets normally catch your attention during pitch events? What do you think makes a pitch stand out?

A: Much like the stories that attract my attention, I typically do a double-take on tweets that make me feel some kind of way. Tweets have, of course, limited space, but you can always ask writer friends, family members, or even the online community for feedback prior to the pitch event to see if you’re hitting a tone that matches your manuscript and that will make an agent feel!

Q: What’s something you’d like potential clients to know about your and/or your agency? 

A: I love our crew at GZLA. Everyone in our agency works collaboratively for the benefit of all of our clients. I believe in the power of storytelling, so I am hoping to add more clients who are willing to share stories that only they can tell.

Q: There are a lot of writers and illustrators, especially BIPOC writers and illustrators, who feel discouraged by querying right now . . . What advice do you have for staying positive?

A: I understand why people are discouraged – it’s all been harder. But the way I see it, the alternative – to stop our work and not give readers a way to escape or feel or expand their minds – is not an option. There are a number of publishing professionals who continue the work of those who came before us whose aim is to make the canon of children’s literature representative of our world in every way. We can only achieve that with creatives like you. We need your voice because readers need your voice. Don’t forget that!


About the Agent: 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. She is always on the lookout for visual and narrative stories that reflect the world we live in, not the bubbles in which we put ourselves. She loves books that make readers feel and shies away from those that set out to teach the reader a lesson. Whether she is reading a young adult novel, a middle grade novel or a picture book, Marietta looks for a book in which young readers can identify with the actions and reactions of the characters, not the perspectives of the author or illustrator. Diversity in the story must be inherent and authentic, not trendy. She is thrilled to shine the spotlight on soulful, insightful, well-crafted, literary or commercial projects aimed at any age group from young adult to the youngest of readers.

She is currently open to queries.

You can find out more about Marietta on the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency website.

Success Story: Carolina J. Gómez


We’re excited to share Carolina J. Gómez’s #LatinxPitch success story! The middle grade and young adult author answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing work, with which Carolina signed with an agent shortly after the #LatinxPitch 2021 event. Congratulations, Carolina!

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 agent?

I’ll never forget how #LatinxPitch got me my first ever full manuscript request. Before then, I felt as if my voice was drowning in a sea full of so many creative books and wonderful pitches. But #LatinxPitch created this space only for us, for Latinos! And that was perfect for agents who love our stories and wish to raise our voices as they have never been before. I like to say that Tricia (my agent) found ME. She fell in love with Milo (my character) and his culture and background before I even hit that send button to the query. 

2. What was your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I LOVE WRITING PITCHES. (So, if you are a querying writer, feel free to hit me up! I always love to help other writers with their pitches/queries! @seriouslywrite on Twitter!)

It’s all about the ✨hook✨ For my math people out there, think of it this way: WHO + WHY + HOW. If you cover these questions, you’ve got yourself a good structure. Keep it simple and clear, gente. Also, use comps if you can! They are very eye-catching and give a sense of your story right away.

For reference, here’s my pitch:
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON x Avatar: LoA Finding missing pets is easy, right? 12yo Mexican Milo Martínez would say otherwise, especially when a girl from another world asks for help. An evil wizard is turning animals into monsters and only Milo can save them #LatinxPitch #MG #F #OWN

3. What would you say to Latinx writers who are querying?

Well, to start, please be my friend! I want to support your journey and lift your voices!

¡Amigxs! ¡Sigan luchando! The perfect agent for you is out there. It will take time, mental and emotional breakdowns, and a whole bunch of self-doubting, but it’s all going to be worth it when Latinx kiddos all around the world see your book at bookstores and find themselves represented on the pages. You WILL get there. Don’t be afraid to shelve a project, write the next thing, read more books. And reach out! You’ll find lots of help in the community! (Again, @seriouslywrite pa’ la banda.)

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

Is “everything” too obvious an answer? Because it honestly means that, everything! Whenever [I tell] someone I was born and raised in México and English is my second language, [it] puts me at a HUGE disadvantage with so many intelligent and eloquent writers out there. So, when I found out about #LatinxPitch I wanted to cry (of happiness). I felt like my voice might not be so small after all and that I am surrounded by an amazing Latino community. I am so thankful for this movement! And I can’t wait to share my stories with the world. 

5. Finally, tell us what you can about your manuscript and the stories that you write!

I mostly write picture books right now. I write either really funny and adventurous MG books or very dark and deep YA books. The book that I got my agent with is called MILO MARTÍNEZ AND THE MISSING PETS, and as you read on the pitch above, it’s about a Mexican boy who searches for missing pets and accidentally gets caught up in an evil wizard’s plans to turn animals into monsters. It’s very voice-y, funny, and whimsical. Right now I’m also working on a YA Horror based in México that’s very spooky. My saying is that I write serious books. Because I do. Or do I? 

Carolina J. Gómez is an author, Computer Science and Business student, and artist. She was born and raised in Monterrey, México but is currently lost in fictional worlds and novels, living vicariously through her characters and wondering the “What-if’s” of the real world.

When not writing, reading; and when reading, living.

Carolina J. Gómez is represented by Tricia Lawrence at EMLA

You can find Carolina on:

Twitter

Instagram

Cover Reveal: The Tree of Hope

We are so excited to be revealing the cover for the picture book, THE TREE OF HOPE!

When Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, jagüey blanco, the banyan tree that had stood guard by the historic San Juan Gate was uprooted and fell into the sea. For locals, the ancient tree, which weighed over 30,000 pounds and measured over 50 feet in height, symbolized the indomitable spirit of the Puerto Rican people and its fall was a shattering blow. The TREE OF HOPE is inspired by the tree’s miraculous rescue and regrowth; a reminder of the power of community and the importance of never giving up.

“We and nature are so very much related, or similar. We both face challenges in life, but we move forward with determination each and every day. In this case, Hurricane Maria destroyed so much of the island’s nature, but it regrew…bit by bit…like the tree in my story. THE TREE OF HOPE is a love letter to my country…to the indomitable spirit of the Puerto Rican people, who never give up despite facing so many challenges . . .

Anna Orenstein-Cardona, author of THE TREE OF HOPE

See the amazing cover to this phenomenal picture book below!

Juan Manuel Moreno

You can now pre-order The Tree of Hope by Anna Orenstein-Cardona illustrated by Juan Manuel Moreno, out August 23, 2022.

BEAMING BOOKS | B&N | Amazon USA | Amazon UK


About the Author

Anna Orenstein-Cardona was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is an alum of Faber Academy (Writing a Novel and Writing for Children). She is active in the Society of Children Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI).

She is an NFEC-certified financial educator (CFEI) and coach with over 22 years of experience working in global financial markets. In 2020, she founded Wear Your Money Crown® to help close the gap in financial literacy.

Currently, Anna is working on developing various projects, including more children books. She lives in London with her two very special furbabies and her Southern Gentleman husband, although spends as much time as she can in Puerto Rico, where she regularly gets involved in rescuing abandoned animals and supporting local charities.

Read Anna’s #LatinxPitch success story here.

About the Illustrator

Juan Manuel Moreno is an illustrator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He spent most of his childhood living in the countryside and cultivating his passion for painting. After studying graphic design, he lectured at the university and worked as an in-house illustrator for different studios. He has illustrated several picture books for international publishers.

Success Story: Jackie Morera


We’re excited to share Jackie Morera’s #LatinxPitch success story! The PB author answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing picture books, with which Jackie signed with an agent shortly after the #LatinxPitch 2021 event. Congratulations, Jackie!

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 agent?

I follow many Latinx writers on Instagram and Twitter, so in the weeks leading up to the event, it felt like #LatinxPitch was everywhere! I believe the first I heard of it, though, was on the Las Musas Podcast (Ask A Musa, Ep. 10: LatinxPitch). I listened to the episode in the car and then immediately ran to my computer once I got home to research as much as I could about the event. I spent a lot of time on this very blog!

On the day of the event, I felt anxious! I was new to all things publishing, querying, and pitching and only recently rejoined Twitter about two months before. Thankfully, I had one round of Twitter pitch events under my belt (#PitMad) and had help from some friends in the writing community to refine my pitches by the time #LatinxPitch rolled around. I went into that day planning to make new connections with other writers, read great pitches, and have fun. I never expected the incredible response from agents, editors, and publishers alike! Tara Gonzalez liked the pitch for my picture book, THE MAGIC ISLAND, one of four projects I was pitching, and then later that day asked me to send her my other stories. I signed on with her in early December!

2. What was your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

There’s a lot of excellent advice out there about how to craft a strong pitch, and I tried to apply as many of those tips as I could, but what it came down to for me was asking myself two questions: 1. Is this clear? 2. Is this compelling? No small feat when you only have 280 characters, I know! But, what I found worked best, was to write multiple pitches for each of my projects, ask myself these questions, tweak them, and then ask someone else to read my pitches and answer these questions. I also played with formatting, white space, emojis, comps, and delivery, so I had a lot of variety in my pitches by the time the event rolled around.

The pitch that Tara liked was the least traditional of the group:

WHERE ARE YOU FROM x VIVO 🇨🇺
A magic island 🏝️An Abuela’s sacrifice ❤️An enchanted painting 🖼️
When Abuela’s grandchildren ask about THE MAGIC ISLAND, she must decide if she wants to share the whole story–the sol y sombras of her magic home.
#LatinxPitch #PB

3. What would you say to Latinx writers who are querying?

Well, to start, please be my friend! I want to support your journeys and lift your voices!

But the honest advice is not too far off: lean into the Latinx community! Find other Latinx writers, join groups like the Kidlit Latinx Facebook Group, listen to podcasts like Las Musas, attend events like Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, try to find CPs who also identify as Latinx, and then engage with the people you meet in a meaningful way. All of this will take your mind off the emotional roller coaster that is querying while also establishing the foundation for beautiful friendships! 

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

Is “everything” too obvious an answer? Because it honestly means that, everything! Whenever someone asks about what led me to finally pursue publication, I often tell people that I was content to write for “an audience of one” for the rest of my life. While true, there’s a deeper layer there that I only recently unveiled. And that’s: is there even an audience? If I put myself out there, and I tried, would people care to read about Cuba, or about an Abuelo who sells flowers on the side of the road, or about Latinx princesses in space? Is there too much Spanish in my books? Does that Vivaporu reference make sense? And on, and on! So when I eased my way into putting myself out there, I was pleasantly surprised to find a community ready to embrace me and even more relieved to learn about events like this one! There is hope yet for the bookshelves of the future. 

5. Finally, tell us what you can about your manuscript and the stories that you write!

I mostly write picture books right now, but I enjoy writing YA and some adult fiction. The pitch that connected me to Tara, THE MAGIC ISLAND, is for a picture book inspired by my experience as a girl listening to my grandparents talk about their lives in Cuba and describing this special, seemingly mythical place with a heavy sadness. It’s very near and dear to my heart, as one might imagine! 

The first story Tara and I are working on, ABUELO’S FLOWER CART, is a picture book that gently explores grief and death. It was also inspired by my time with Abuelo visiting his flower cart in Miami. His home, his flower cart, the colorful Miami street where he lived—they all felt like an extension of “the sad place,” a beautiful gated garden across the way. The story is about understanding that these places, where we go to remember and miss our loved ones, can be beautiful too. 

Jackie Morera is a second-generation Cuban-American writer who was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She lives with her husband, their son, and their two neurotic pups in Central Florida. Jackie writes picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction. When she’s not writing or spending time with family, she works as a Career Advisor for an online Business Apprenticeship Bootcamp where she helps young people take their first steps in their career journey.

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Success Story: Leslie Adame


We’re excited to share Leslie Adame’s #LatinxPitch success story! The MG author answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing MG, CHLOE VEGA AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, with which Leslie signed with an agent shortly after the #LatinxPitch 2021 event. Congratulations, Leslie!

Leslie’s #LatinxPitch Tweet

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 agent?

I heard about #LatinxPitch last year when it first started! I’m a part of a Facebook group of Latinx writers and the founders promoted the event through that group. At the time, my manuscript was still going under revisions and I was preparing to submit it to Pitch Wars, so it was no where close to being query-ready. 

This year, I was barely in the process of querying agents when #LatinxPitch came around again. What I love about it is how well organized it is. On September 1st we were given the opportunity to practice by tweeting out our pitches during a certain period of time and incorporating feedback given to us by other authors. I was doing my eyelashes and had my phone on do not disturb when the event was going on and was SHOCKED when I looked at my phone hours later and saw a lot of supportive and helpful comments about my pitch! It gave me a lot of confidence and made me more excited about the event. 

A week after the practice pitch event, however, I received a R&R from one of the agents I had originally queried. They gave me feedback I strongly agreed with, so I put querying on pause while I worked on my revisions. I probably shouldn’t have done this, but I couldn’t resist being left out of #LatinxPitch for the second year in a row and participated anyway. I still had a completed, polished manuscript and figured it’d be fine as long as I communicated to the agents who requested that I was working on revisions and would send them my updated materials as soon as I finished. On the day of the event, I ended up receiving 15 agent likes and 3 editors likes. I was overjoyed and scrambled to let the agents know I would send them my materials soon. 

But then I got a call from another one of the agents I had originally queried, and they offered me representation. They were willing to work with me on my revisions. 

Internally screaming, I informed the agents who requested during #LatinxPitch and sent them the older, completed version of my novel. One of those agents ended up loving the book and offered representation too. I laugh now, but I was a mess. In the end, I chose to accept the offer of the first agent. I am thrilled to announce I am now represented by Patrice Caldwell at New Leaf Literary & Media! I can’t wait to work with Patrice, and I am grateful for #LatinxPitch for giving me the confidence I needed to get my book out there. 

2. What was your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

I really credit my film and television professors at UCLA for helping me write my pitch. My first pitch for Chloe Vega was written as an assignment for one of my screenwriting classes, and from there I modified it. My professor was a stickler for keeping it at one to two sentences, and not gonna lie, I struggled a lot. After doing a bit more research, I realized that the problem wasn’t my pitch, my problem was my manuscript. 

Pitches sometimes [sometimes] help identify problems in your manuscript, especially if you’re aiming for a more commercial concept. If you find that you’re struggling to find the three main components to a pitch: the main character, their goal, and the stakes (what’s stopping them from getting to their goal), then you should probably take a look at your manuscript. I quickly realized that I didn’t have any stakes and had to forgo a long revision process to add them. 
Be strategic about your comps. If you feel like the tone and message of your book is clear with the pitch alone and don’t have more space to write comps, leave it as it is. If you feel like your pitch could benefit from including comps, do your best to include them! You want to make the most of the space that you have. Every word counts, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes less is more, and if you feel like your pitch is good and you’ve still got a couple characters left, leave it! 

3. What would you say to Latinx writers who are querying?

Mi querida gente, our stories are SO important, and I really want to take this time to thank you all for rising up to be the literary voices of our community. I come from a low-income, primarily immigrant/first-gen community where we are constantly being discriminated against and exploited. For many of the people here and in other communities like this one, folks don’t have the time or knowledge to write about their injustices or happy experiences because they’re too busy trying to make ends meet. I’ve encountered many instances where I was told beautiful stories by the people of this community, and when I suggested they should turn those stories into novels, they shyly turned away and admitted they didn’t know how to read or write. 

Writers, querying is hard. Rejection sucks. But we owe it to the people of our community who don’t have the privilege to write to keep going. If we don’t tell our stories, who will? There is not a single person on the planet who can write a Latinx story better than a Latinx writer, and I’ll take that to my grave. If there’s one thing we Latines are, it’s resilient. No se detengan. Keep going. ¡Si se puede! 

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

Y’all remember that graphic from 2018 that showed the percentages of representation in children’s novels? The one that indicated that only 5% of children’s novels in 2018 had characters that were Latinx? When I saw that graphic for the first time, I was distraught, and I couldn’t stop asking myself why. It’s not just publishing, it’s the film industry too. We need more Latinx representation across the board, and I really appreciate organizations like #LatinxPitch that create bridges for Latinx writers to get their foot in the door. Keep it up #LatinxPitch staff! Your work is important! 

5. Finally, tell us what you can about your manuscript and the stories that you write!

Here’s the extended pitch for CHLOE VEGA AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, my middle grade contemporary fantasy!

When her undocumented parents are taken by a sorcerer disguised as an immigration officer, twelve-year-old Chloe Vega joins a magical resistance academy to get them back. But things take a turn when she realizes the resistance will sacrifice everything to defeat the sorcerer— even her parents.

Growing up, I always admired the resilience of immigrants, both documented and not. They’re hard workers and in my eyes, heroes. They are the backbone of this nation, working jobs most U.S. citizens do not want to work. No matter what the job is, immigrants will get the job done.

As a child, I wondered why there weren’t as many fantasy books centered around not only Latinx/e people, but immigrants and their first-generation children as well. Why can’t we wield the wands, fight the dragons, or lead a magical resistance to victory? The day five-year-old Leslie asked herself these questions was the day the very first seed of this story was born.

CHLOE VEGA AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS is a love letter to mi gente. My people. It’s written in a way that is informative for folks who aren’t familiar with the struggles mixed-status families experience, but also not heavy enough to be painful to read for those families in question. My hope is that this book makes you smile, laugh, cry, and overall, makes you feel warm inside. Thank you so much #LatinxPitch!

Leslie Adame is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Film, Television, and Digital Media. Along with writing books, she invests most of her time mentoring historically marginalized students and preparing them for a higher education. She strongly believes in the importance of representation in books, and has volunteered in events like the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival to put a spotlight on Latinx/e authors. Leslie grew up in the Inland Empire, specifically Ontario, California. She hopes to one day publish a middle grade fantasy centered around a first-generation protagonist and her undocumented parents. You can follow Leslie on Twitter @lesliepadame, on Instagram @leslieadame, and her website, leslieadame.com.

Moving Past Rejection

Rejection in publishing may be commonplace but it is also one of the hardest things to get used to and move past when you start querying. You’ll often see writers celebrating their first query rejection online and sporting it as a badge of honor. Which it totally is! It means that you’re putting yourself and your project out there. But this is no easy feat to come to terms with when you’re quite literally asking professionals within the industry to cast their opinion on your project. A project that you might have spent years perfecting. That might cover personal traumas. That is personal any way you put it. Sometimes, moving past rejection is easier said than done and it can definitely take a whole lot of time to master.

The reality is, though, most likely if you are pursuing traditional publishing you will be inundated with rejection during every stage of the process. Not just while you’re querying. But once you go on submission, once you request blurbs, once you start receiving trade reviews. Learning the ability to move past rejection is as valuable as learning proper pacing. 

And it’s not impossible.

Moving past rejection for you might involve celebrating passes. Perhaps every time you get a pass, you indulge in a chocolate or small treat. Or it might involve learning to completely forget about passes, quickly deleting them from your inbox as if they never existed and letting them fleet away. It might involve venting to a writer friend or someone in your family and having their kind words of encouragement comfort you. It might also involve realizing that when publishing professionals say that the industry is subjective, it’s because it is. Not all projects resonate with every agent or editor, nor should they. Could you imagine if every agent or editor wanted every project? It’d be chaos! And it is also a saturated market. Recent conversations abound with how overworked agents and editors are at the moment because they’re receiving pitches for more books than ever before. Querying isn’t easy right now, nor is being on submission. This is one of the reasons #LatinxPitch was created—in order to help Latinx writers during this difficult time, yet vital one when it comes to adding more diverse voices to publishing.

Moving past rejection might take time. Or it might come naturally for you. It might hurt or make you feel like an imposter. 

Whatever your feelings are, it’s important to distinguish passes from failure. Every time you get a pass, it’s a stepping stone. For every stone you throw down, you’re forging your path toward reaching your publishing goals. Not being able to sign with an agent or making a sale from your first manuscript on submission isn’t failure. It means you’re trying. It means that you care enough for it to bother you, which means that you’re in the right place, trying to make your publishing dreams happen one way or another and not letting possible rejection stop you. 

Which is to say, pa’lante.

#OwnVoices in a Latinx World – Should I Call My Work #OwnVoices Still?

We Need Diverse Voices recently posted a Tweet calling for the end of the #OwnVoices hashtag and released a statement that they will no longer be using the term at their organization. Where once it was a coveted hashtag that marginalized creators embraced, it’s recently come under scrutiny. In order to understand why its use is being contested we can look at the history of the hashtag and its use—by both writers and publishing professionals. 

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We Need Diverse Books Announcement Tweet

In 2015, author Corinne Duyvis created the hashtag as a shorthand tool on a Twitter thread calling for recommendations of diverse books written by people who shared that identity. During the years to follow, writers of all marginalized groups have used the term widely, though this was never its intention.

One of the issues that has recently risen has to do with the vagueness of the hashtag and how it’s been used by publishers despite the works associated with the term missing #OwnVoices themes. 

In an episode of the podcast Deadline City, #OwnVoices Observatory, hosts Zoraida Cordova and Dhonielle Clayton bring up how the vagueness of #OwnVoices can be problematic. During the episode Zoraida Cordova, the well-known Latinx author of The Brooklyn Bruja’s trilogy, points out that she’s appeared on queer lists because her work has been labeled #OwnVoices and features a queer MC. The only thing is, she doesn’t share that marginalization. She is Latinx, and so is her MC. 

Can you really call a manuscript #OwnVoices if it has a marginalized witch as the main character? Which part are you calling #OwnVoices, the marginalization or the fact she’s a witch? Or just because the character in the manuscript shares your marginalized identity, but that identity isn’t at the forefront of the story? 

Furthermore, others argue that publishing houses have been using #OwnVoices in their marketing and publicity even when writers are not ready to share (or can’t share because doing so would put their lives in danger) their marginalization with the world—causing personal hardship for writers, many of whom are LGBTQA+.

Proponents of this say that it’s better to stop being vague with the term and simply state how you are marginalized as long as you’re comfortable with it. For example, if your main character is Honduran and so are you, instead of saying your manuscript is #OwnVoices, stating that you are Honduran and so is your main character will give a more accurate depiction of the marginalization without leaving room for interpretation. 

Meanwhile, many writers still continue to embrace the term #OwnVoices to describe their work, especially when it comes to pitching to agents and editors, who have taken the term as a buzz phrase. There are also some who say that the term #OwnVoices has helped bring more diverse books to libraries and catalogs, which didn’t always note an author’s identity. 

So should you still call your work #OwnVoices? And should you use the hashtag during #LatinxPitch? Well, it’s still a gray area with many on either side of the argument.

If you’re thinking of using the hashtag just to show that you’re Latinx, it’s unnecessary for #LatinxPitch since the pitch event is solely for Latinx writers. Agents and editors will automatically know you are from a marginalized community. But it is something that you might be considering including in your query letter. And while many agents and editors will still jump at the chance to work with an #OwnVoices writer, just as many are also trying to shy away from the term. 

For many writers #OwnVoices has been empowering and its use is second nature. Ultimately, it’s up to you, the writer, to determine whether or not you would like to use the term. Whether you think that it’s still a necessary term. Or whether you think it’s a term that has underlying issues. If there’s one thing that we all agree on, though, is that we need more books by marginalized writers who share the marginalization they’re writing about. Whether or not they want to share that they’re a part of that marginalization, that’s one hundred percent up to the writer. And whatever you choose to call your work, the important thing is to keep writing, keep pitching, keep going!

Success Story: Jamie Ofelia

We’re excited to share Jamie Ofelia’s #LatinxPitch success story! The PB author answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing PB debut, MIGUEL MUST FIGHT!, which was acquired by Esther Cajahuaringa at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers after the 2020 pitch event, and will be published in summer 2024. Congratulations, Jamie!

Jamie Ofelia’s PB announcement

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 agent?

I’m in the Kidlit Latinx Facebook group and I heard about #LatinxPitch through discussion there. (As a side note, if you are a Latinx writer or illustrator, published or unpublished, I highly recommend you join that Facebook group; it’s such an informative and supportive community.) On the day of #LatinxPitch, I was very anxious and excited. Even though they say not to do this, I’m pretty sure I scheduled my tweets because I’m a stay at home mom and I didn’t trust myself to balance tweeting all my pitches and taking care of my toddler son. Throughout the day I checked Twitter and thanked everyone who commented to show their support. Apparently the more you converse and engage with others on a tweet, the more likely it is that your tweet/pitch is to be viewed by others, because of the Twitter algorithms. So I tried to respond and engage as much as possible. And I tried to comment on my fellow writer’s tweets to show support! I got a few likes from different agents and editors and was very happy about that. I queried agents over the next couple weeks and my absolutely wonderful agent, Savannah Brooks, and I had “the call” about a week after I queried! One of the editors who liked a couple of my pitches was the incomparable Esther Cajahuaringa, with whom I signed a book deal at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers! So this long, tangential tale has a very happy ending!

2) What is your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

That’s tough, but clearly it has to be short, due to the Twitter format. I’d say make it clear enough to understand the premise or hook, while leaving a question of what will happen in the reader’s mind. When I’m writing pitches, I think of those punchy little tag lines that you see on movie posters. You want a couple catchy lines that convey that blockbuster quality drama and appeal. It always helps to have writer friends give feedback on your pitches before the event, too!

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

This is also tricky. Basically, if you’re wondering if your work is ready to submit, have a mental checklist in mind. Have you had several critique partners give their feedback on this book? Have you taken time to reflect on the feedback, find what critique notes resonate, and apply those edits to your work?

I once heard the advice that after you’ve completed and polished the book as best as you can, set it aside for three months. After you’ve had that break, you can pick it up again and read it with fresh eyes. It may be clearer then how to edit.

But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when your work is ready to submit. If you’d rather only wait one month or not wait at all, that’s your call! The worst an agent or editor can do is just say no or give no response at all; rejections are always disappointing, but inevitable. They’re the risk we take as creatives.

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

Growing up, I wasn’t aware that there weren’t many books featuring Latinx characters or how that related to me. I just knew I felt bad about the way I looked sometimes because there were no Disney Princesses who looked like me, physically or culturally. In school I received the unspoken (and untrue) lesson that historically, Latinx people didn’t contribute much of value to our country or our culture. That’s pretty sad, considering I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Latinx people are the majority. 

But now we are seeing an exciting cultural shift where all kinds of diverse characters are taking the center stage in fiction and nonfiction, books, movies and TV. I feel so honored and inspired to take part in Latinx Pitch, because it is part of a movement that will impact how new generations of Latinx kids see themselves: as heroes of their own stories, as powerful, as beautiful. And I hope, going forward with this year’s Latinx Pitch, to add more stories of unsung Latinx heroes to all of our children’s libraries.

5) Finally, tell us all about your PB, MIGUEL MUST FIGHT! 

Okay, for this I’ll share my pitch that was liked by both my wonderful agent and brilliant editor.

BO THE BRAVE x ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES x FERDINAND THE BULL

Miguel’s family nags him to quit doodling and join the family business: sword fighting. But when El Dragon attacks, Miguel must save his family and prove his colored pencils are mightier than the sword! #PB #LatinxPitch

This story is a fantastical, larger-than-life version of my brother’s and my own experiences of expressing ourselves, forging our own unique paths, and defying expectations of family and society. I think on some level, we can all relate to the desire for family’s support as we pursue our dreams. I hope you all have a chance to read and enjoy it; I’m really proud of Miguel’s story.

Jamie Ofelia headshot

If you’d like to follow my work, you can find me at @JamieOfelia on Twitter! Thank you so much for this interview and buena suerte to everyone participating in Latinx Pitch 2021!

As a biracial Latina, Jamie Ofelia is interested in writing casually diverse stories so that Latinx and biracial kids can see themselves reflected in mainstream children’s literature. She holds her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and is currently a stay-at-home mom living in Dallas, where she spends her days reading diverse picture books with her son. When her son gets bored, she continues reading diverse picture books all by herself.