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!
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.