Resources

#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.

Making the Most Out of the #LatinxPitch Experience

There’s a whole community behind the #LatinxPitch event and we want you to be a part of it!

One common question that new writers and illustrators, or even writers and illustrators who have been around on Twitter for a while, ask is how to make more connections and build a stronger presence within the publishing community.

A way to do this is by making the most out of Twitter pitch events like #LatinxPitch.

So how do you do that?

#LatinxPitch is a great way to find critique partners! You can search the day of and connect with others who write in your same genre and for the same age group. Simply comment on their tweets and mention that you want to connect. It’s normal to start by exchanging three chapters (or a PB book draft) of a work in progress with a potential/new critique partner to see if you both connect with one another’s work and critique style.

If you end up with minimal or no likes during the event you can still connect with agents or editors by searching for other projects/artwork they liked that are similar to yours. This is a great way to build a cold querying list. Even if you get likes from agents or editors this is still a way to supplement your list and cast a wider net when querying (and when you eventually go on submission to editors).

A third way to make the most out of the event is to connect with established writers and illustrators beforehand. Or even during the event when many writers and illustrators hop on to uplift and support those who are pitching.

Have a question? Use the hashtag #LatinxPitch or send a tweet to @LatinxPitch and we’ll help!

Beyond Twitter, we also have other online resources on our blog where you’ll find lots of useful information to help build your industry knowledge base. Some of our other blog posts include the agent call as well as how to put together a strong query letter.

We hope that #LatinxPitch is as social as it is helpful for Latinx writers and illustrators of all levels. Our aim is to not only make it easier for editors and agents to connect with Latinx writers and illustrators, but also to make it easier for the Latinx publishing community to find each other, unite, and move toward more kidlit books being published by Latinx writers and illustrators.

Success Story: Anna Orenstein-Cardona

We’re excited to share Anna Orenstein-Cardona’s success story today on the #LatinxPitch Blog. Anna answered some of our most pressing questions about her experience with #LatinxPitch and her amazing PB debut, THE TREE OF HOPE, which was acquired by Beaming Books after the 2020 pitch event, and will be published in summer 2022. Congratulations, Anna!

Publishers Marketplace Deal Report

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?

The summer of 2020 was very difficult because I lost my beloved Mamá, after a brave fight against cancer. It was a period of deep mourning, but also a time of reflection. A period of renewed appreciation that we must live each day to the maximum, follow our dreams, and consider the legacy we wish to leave in this world.

My mother’s legacy was her love of familia, culture, and having the courage to live our values. I was blessed to have a successful career in finance for more than two decades, but the cost of it was silencing my creativity. I had put my writing in the back burner for a long time. My soul was telling me that it was time to give it another go.

That’s why when I heard about #LatinxPitch via a group of writers on Twitter, I immediately penciled in the date of September 15th 2020 in my calendar. I didn’t want to miss it!

I also applied via #LatinxPitch & won a critique from the lovely Rene Beauregard Lute for my MG manuscript, which ended up being super helpful for both projects that I wanted to pitch that day – my picture book THE TREE OF HOPE and my middle grade novel BORICUACATS.

On the day, I was both nervous but also hopeful. My picture book received various likes from a mix of editors and agents.

Naomi Krueger, who is the acquisitions editor from Beaming Books, was amazing. She really loved the story from the start but suggested a few edits. So, I did an R&R (revise and resubmit). The process took almost a full year, but I am excited to share that my debut picture book will be published in August 2022. Wepa!

It’s been such an incredible experience and I am full of gratitude to Naomi and all those that championed this story. I am also hopeful to find an agent in the future who can represent my other work.

2) What is your recipe for the perfect pitch? 

I really think there is no such thing as a recipe for the perfect pitch because at the end of the day it is very personal. However, my advice would be to get to the heart of the story in the simplest way possible.

Anna’s #LatinxPitch Tweet

The way to achieve this is by letting your creativity flow. Write numerous pitches without giving it too much thought. I even recommend using Post-it notes and placing them up on a wall. Then choose the ones that you believe stand out the best, read them aloud, and go with your gut.

I also understand that using book comparables (comps) is helpful, however I did not use them for my picture book pitch because my story is inspired by true events.

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

This reminds me of when I was 21 years old and received a job offer to move from New York City to London. I was excited and petrified at the same time. You see, I didn’t know a soul in the UK and the job was demanding.

My mother said to me, “echa pa’ lante”, which means just go for it. It was the best decision of my life, both professionally and personally. I’ve come to realize that by setting our fears aside and moving forward boldly that we can accomplish great things, for ourselves and for others.

So, that’s my advice for all those writers who may be hesitant, echa pa’ lante!

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

I have dreamed of not only becoming a published author, but also representing my beautiful Puerto Rican heritage through my writing. Thanks to #LatinxPitch my dream has come true.

I am deeply grateful to all the hard work that the #LatinxPitch team does. I am also thankful to the numerous agents and editors who participate and the writers who support other writers with their critiques and advice. Together, a more equitable world is being created. One in which children will find a reflection of themselves and their culturas. This is not only beautiful, but much needed in a world where demographics are rapidly changing. ¡GRACIAS!

5) Finally, tell us all about your PB, 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.

Anna-Orentstein-Cardona Headshot

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.

The Anatomy of a Query Letter

If you are pursuing traditional publishing, your road to signing with an agent will likely begin by writing a query letter. But what should you include in your query letter?

Read on for all kinds of query letter help!

PARTS OF A (TYPICAL) QUERY

Your first paragraph should include your character’s age if you are writing for kidlit, something about their personality, and what they want and are dealing with at the beginning of your story.

The body section of your query letter should include your inciting incident, turning points that progressively up the story’s stakes, and finally, what’s at stake if your character fails and what do they get if they succeed that ties back to growth from what they want from the first paragraph.

Your final paragraph(s) should include information about the manuscript, including your title, age group it’s written for, word count (rounded up or down to the nearest thousand), comp titles, and any other fact about it you would like to highlight. This includes if you want to highlight that you share a marginalization with your main character. You can also include a couple of sentences for your biography, though, your biography usually shouldn’t be longer than any of the body paragraphs. Finally, don’t forget to thank the agent for their time!

SAMPLE QUERY LETTER

13-year-old Gabe doesn’t care about being a brujo protege when he rather be reading and engaging with his followers on book TikTok. But when his mama becomes seriously ill from an ailment that seems to be coming from the commission dedicated to protecting brujx, he must shelve his TBR list and dust off his wand to save her.

With the help of his followers, he gets closer to a cure and the truth—the commission headmaster, Antonio de la Rivera, is seeking to be the only brujo left standing. Now he must band together and meet some of his long-time followers and friends in person to defeat the brujo. Including his TikTok crush, Ruby, who turns out to be a seasoned bruja.

Though success is easier said than won when they must fight off fantasmas, evade a nosey detective trying to show that brujx are real, and make sure Gabe’s little brother doesn’t fall under the curse as well. If Gabe doesn’t succeed, all of humankind might fall under the brujx spell, not just brujx. But if he can save the day, he might just realize his abilities aren’t the curse he’s always thought they were and finally find a home within the brujx community, offline.

BRUJO is a middle grade contemporary fantasy featuring a Mexican American main character. It is 45,000 words long and will appeal to fans of WITCHLINGS by Claribel A. Ortega and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.

Like Gabe, I am Mexican American. I live in California with my husband and newborn. Per your submission guidelines, please see the first ten pages of the manuscript below.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sandra Proudman

(Contact info)

10 QUERY LETTER TIPS

1. ELIMINATE THE WHY?/HOW? Eliminate any chance for an agent to ask why a certain fact is how it is. Or why a certain character makes a certain choice. i.e. Luna is a vampire with a soul who goes on a secret mission. Well: Why is she going on a secret mission? And what is this secret mission? A better sentence would be: After vampire Luna loses her soul going after a human slayer who curses her, she ends up on a secret mission on behalf of the slayer who promises to give her back her soul in exchange for a leaf from the tree of life.

2. DON’T BE VAGUE: This one definitely lends itself to cracking Tip #1. There’s no reason to be vague in a query. Being mysterious isn’t really a good thing. It’s okay to reveal some juicy info that a reader won’t find out until the last chapter to an agent/editor you’re trying to hook. And you want to be as specific as you can so that your query makes sense.

3. IT’S OKAY NOT TO INCLUDE EVERY STANDARD PART OF A QUERY: Don’t stress out about a bio. It’s okay not to include one at all! Focus on telling an agent about your story. You also don’t have to include a note on why you’re pitching said agent unless it’s on their submission guidelines. Always follow their guidelines!

4. ASK A FEW PEOPLE TO READ YOUR QUERY LETTER: Feedback can be vital to getting your query ready to send off. You may think you’ve written the perfect query and then someone will spot a mistyped word you’ll be shocked you missed!

5. FOCUS ON YOUR STORY: A query is a professional cover letter. Don’t make strange comments to the agent you’re querying. And don’t be rude or mean or demeaning to someone you’re asking to consider you for a business partner. Even if they pass.

6. COMP TITLES: You’ll be surprised how comp titles start coming to you when you read and keep track of books within your genre. You can also compare your writing to that of another author. Even a feeling another book gave you. It’s perfectly okay to say your MS is written in a similar voice as X, Y, and Z.

7. ONLY USE THE NAMES OF THREE CHARACTERS: Only using the names of three characters tops, which are usually your MC, your antagonist, and your romantic lead. This helps you figure out Tip #8!

8. CHOOSE ONE STORYLINE: How do you condense a novel that’s 35,000-120,000 words down to one page? UGH! So hard sometimes! The biggest thing is to focus on your turning points. Set the stage with your MC. Then describe the turning point that sends your MC down their path and mission. And then describe the challenges your MC faces to get their mission done. And finally, describe the consequences your MC will face if they fail. And what they’ll get if they’re victorious.

9. IT’S OKAY TO DESCRIBE YOUR WORLD FIRST: A lot of people will tell you to start with your main character. But there are times when you NEED to describe your world first so that the rest of your query to make sense. That’s OKAY!

10. USE YOUR QUERY TO REALIZE YOU MAY NOT BE READY TO QUERY: If you’re finding you can’t make your query concise enough any way you turn it, it’s time to relook at your manuscript. And it’s a good thing to do this before your start to query!

Querying can be one of the most challenging and stressful things for writers since it’s such an important factor to achieving representation from an agent. We hope that this blog post has given you the confidence to refine your query for #LatinxPitch and beyond!

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: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57814701-salt-and-sugar

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

Agent Interview: Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black

We’re excited to have gotten a chance to ask Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black, 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 Jem!

Q: Tell us a little bit about your experience last year with #LatinxPitch and any successes you might have had connecting to writers or illustrators because of it.

A: I have participated in LatinxPitch, but it didn’t result in me signing any clients. However, some of those author’s manuscripts that I read went on to sign with other agents, and seeing that was awesome!

Q: Why do you participate in and what do you like about Twitter pitch events? What do you like about #LatinxPitch in particular?

A: Twitter pitch events can be a lot of fun. For agents, we get to read pitches and let a creator know that we have an initial interest in their manuscript’s premise/portfolio. From the creators’ side, they get exposure. It also allows an author or illustrator to choose whether or not they want to query a particular agent. But there are certain pitch events that I keep a lookout for, and #LatinxPitch is one of them. When I became an agent, I never hid my purpose of amplifying marginalized voices. We’ve all seen the percentages of who, on average, gets published, and those percentages still don’t reflect the United States demographics. In saying that, I look to organizations like #LatinxPitch that help put a spotlight on creators who are deserving and have been deserving of agents’ and editors’ attention. It serves as a virtual meetup and makes it easier for us all to connect, and I really am grateful for that.

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

A: Like I said, Twitter events are fun and can get you exposure, but before you participate, make sure that your manuscript/portfolio is ready should any publishing professional request it. Having an awesome pitch is only the beginning, and to be honest, not the most important. If you don’t have a complete and polished manuscript, your pitch won’t matter. And for illustrators, if the art pieces you pitched with are your only samples, my first thoughts will most likely be that you aren’t ready for representation. Take your time because, in most instances, this is your one-on-one moment with an agent or editor. We are paying attention to you, so make sure you’re ready for that spotlight and that your work reflects that readiness.

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

A: A creator should know that their value or the value of their writing, story, or artwork has nothing to do with the attention of an agent or editor during any Twitter pitch event. From our side, a creator’s pitch might not even show up in our thread even if we do a search. Because I’m on the west coast, I wake up at 5 AM during those events, and my coffee-needing brain struggles to wade through the extensive thread of people saying they will retweet and the actual pitches. 

However, to answer your question, the pitches that grab my attention are where the author doesn’t forget to post about the main character, their main conflict, the stakes, and the obstacle the character faces. You’d be surprised how many creators forget to give a central conflict and set the stakes. Without these main elements, I have no idea if I’m interested. For illustrators, make sure you’re sharing a range of what you can do. If you want to work on different age groups, showcase it. If you have artwork that features day or night scenes, show one of each. If you draw animals and humans, again, show one of each. Versatility is key here. 

Q:  What will you be on the lookout for this year? Tell us a little bit about your current manuscript wish list.

A: This year I am on the lookout for more MG and adult work. In the MG space, I’m looking for contemporary, fantasy, horror, and graphic novels. And in the adult space, I’m looking for romance, women’s fiction, and/or literary fiction. That doesn’t mean I am not open to everything in between, but that is what I have less of in my inbox. I love grounded fantasy, and I will admit I’m looking for that in MG and YA. I am always open to illustrators, and I am always down to look at portfolios with a great range. 

About the agent: Before Jemiscoe “Jem” Chambers-Black joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2020, she was an assistant director for film and television. Her love for books prevailed, and she went back to school to study English Literature and creative writing in fiction and earned her MFA. She represents illustrators, picture book authors (by referral only), MG, YA, and adult authors. In picture books, she enjoys laugh-out-louds, tight rhyming, and heartfelt books that deal with family, friendships, and emotional literacy.

You can find out more about Jem on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website.

Writing and Workshopping #LatinxPitch Tweets

Although workshopping your #LatinxPitch tweets doesn’t guarantee any likes from agents and editors, paying special attention and spending some time on including basic information about your manuscript in your tweets might help an agent or editor gather enough information to know whether or not they want to click the Like button.

Whether you end up with one like, thirty, or zero, all amounts are absolutely okay. The important thing is that you tried using this one avenue to get an agent or editor. There are dozens more available! Keep querying, keep pitching, keep your chin up.

But let’s face it. We put the event together because we want everyone to have the best odds possible. Thankfully, like writing a manuscript, creating a good Tweet is somewhat formulaic:

Character + Hook + Ultimate Stakes + Hashtags = Pitch Perfect Tweet

With any kidlit pitch, it’s always good to start with your character’s age, and then go into what makes your manuscript and your character’s voyage unique. In the case of #LatinxPitch, you might also include your marginalization if your main character shares it. And, if there is room in your pitch, you might add in comp titles at the end or beginning! Don’t forget to leave plenty of room for your hashtags, too!

Examples:

  • 17-yr-old Honduran Alma doesn’t take things sitting down. She tricks her divorced parents into a shared vacation of her dreams. And their nightmares. But when her parents start falling for other people on the trip she’ll have to go above and beyond to stop them. #LatinxPitch #YA
  • 13-yr-old Gabe is a brujo protege who doesn’t care about learning magia. But when his mama comes down with a strange ailment spread by the brujx commission that’s supposed to protect them all, he must bust out his wand before time runs out to save her. #LatinxPitch #MG #Fantasy
  • 5-yr-old princesa-de-la-casa Viviana thinks camping is totally gross. But when she’s forced to go on her first camping trip ever, she starts to learn that it’s only out in the wild you find osos y venado y cascadas de agua. #LatinxPitch #PB

Although there isn’t a one-fits all formula for success, we hope that if you’re stuck building your pitches for September 15th, this is a formula that will help you write tweets that include everything an agent or editor might be looking for in terms of story details.

Visit our event page to learn about common hashtags and all of the rules and regulations for #LatinxPitch.

Do you have your pitches ready to go and want some feedback on them? Join us for our pre pitch event on September 1st, when members of the #LatinxPitch team will be giving feedback on practice pitches!

The Agent Call & 10 Questions to Ask

Your querying journey will likely culminate in “The Call,” which is when an agent that you’ve sent your full manuscript to invites you to hop on a phone call or video chat with them, which most often leads to an offer of representation.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! It’s no small feat and should be celebrated to the fullest.

Although The Call can cause all kinds of jitters, it doesn’t have to be stressful. During The Call, you’ll likely hear the agent gush about your project, want to know more about what you’re working on next, and overall sell you on themselves and their agency.

It’s important to note that even if an agent invites you on a call and offers you representation, you do not have to accept it. Be ready to interview them as much as it might seem they’re interviewing you. Before the end of The Call, be sure to ask to be connected to two or three of their clients prior to making your decision to sign with them and their agency. It is also standard practice to ask for two weeks to consider their offer of representation (you can ask for more time as well, if necessary) during which you can reach out to other agents with your fulls, partials, or query and see if they’re interested in offering representation.   

A few ways you can prepare for The Call include knowing about the agent and agency in terms of who they represent that you’re familiar with and any recent deals they might have brokered, thinking about what future projects are on your queue you can chat about, and preparing questions.

Below are 10 questions to consider including in your list:

  1. Are you planning to represent just this project or my career? How do you typically develop a writer’s career? And are you willing to represent books I write for age groups and genres outside of your norm? Career building and planning is definitely something that your agent should have some idea on. A lot depends on what happens with project one, etc, but you can get an overall idea from them. These questions will give you an idea if the agent usually represents writers per project or for their career. If an agent will only represent you on a project-by-project basis, having a long-term idea of when you will need to possibly start looking for a new agent can save you lots of heartache in the future.
  2. Are you an editorial agent? Why or why not? Meaning, will they revise the manuscript with you beforehand or just do small edits and send it off to editors. Both have their pros and cons, and one might matter to you more.
  3. How many clients do you have and how do you juggle your workload with your clients? You can also ask: On average how long does it take to get a project on submission?
  4. What is your communication style? And how fast are you able to reply to client emails? If you’re someone who expects day-of answers on questions or issues that might arise, asking a potential agent how quickly they respond to requests from clients will give you an idea on whether their communication style matches your expectations.
  5. How does your agency support you? Feeling supported by your agency is just as important as feeling supported by your agent. Especially if the agent you’re speaking to is newer to the industry, knowing their support and mentorship system is important!
  6. What are some projects you’ve recently sold or signed? If you write sci-fi and all they’ve sold recently are contemporaries in a different age group that’s good to consider!
  7. What changes do you think my manuscript needs, if any? If there are things you are not willing to change that the agent mentions, better to have the conversation before. Many agents won’t tell you everything, so you can always mention some things you don’t want to change, too.
  8. Do your clients talk to one another? Does your agency do any type of conferences or events for writers within the agency to meet? Are you a social person? Networking within your agency can always be helpful.
  9. How does your agency handle foreign and television/movie rights? This is a business and knowing that a potential agency has access and experience with other avenues that can make you income is awesome!
  10. How does your agency support marginalized writers/writers of color? Knowing beforehand how your agency supports their Latinx clients, can help you feel more at home even if the agent you sign with isn’t Latinx.

There are many other questions you can ask based on what’s important to you as a writer. These can be regarding an agents list, editorial eye, or even contract questions.

Now that you’re more familiar with The Call, whether it ends in an offer of representation or not, we hope that you’re feeling better prepared to take a massive and important step toward reaching your traditional publishing goals.

Preparing #LatinxPitch Submission Materials

LatinxPitch Submission Materials - Twitter Literary Pitch Event

You’ve saved the day to your calendar, you’ve finished your manuscript(s), but what else should you have ready before participating in #LatinxPitch?

A QUERY LETTER AND A SYNOPSIS

Most of—if not all of—the time you’ll need to submit a query letter with your manuscript sample pages. We recommend having a few people read and offer feedback to help you with a final version.

Although less commonplace, some agents might also want a synopsis, or a short version of a story outline that shows your character’s complete arc. Having one already handy that has also been read by a few people is also a good idea!

A WAY TO KEEP YOUR QUERIES ORGANIZED

If you’re participating as a writer looking for an agent, whether you get one like from agents or thirty, one easy (and free) way to keep track of requesting agents is to organize a folder on your desktop for the event. Inside of it, you can add a folder with the names of each requesting agent and add in copies of the materials they’ve requested. This will help keep varying requests separate from one another and help you avoid sending the wrong files. Having this type of filing system also allows you to keep track of who you’ve queried by color tagging files and folders and it gives you room to move agent folders around as you hear back. Even if you’re participating as an unagented writer, it’s also good to have a file that includes the names of any editors that interact with your pitch for the future!

A FULL MANUSCRIPT AND A 50-PAGE PARTIAL

Having these two files prepared before participating in #LatinxPitch can save you time later on—a full manuscript and a 50-page partial (the most common partial). Spruce up your manuscript files up by adding in a placeholder page for your query letter addressed to each requesting agent at the beginning of your file, making sure your pages are numbered, and ensuring that your manuscript uses standard fonts and colors (you can never go wrong with Times New Roman).

PREPARING AND SCHEDULING YOUR TWEETS

You’re allowed to pitch each manuscript once in the morning and once in the evening during #LatinxPitch. Like your query and synopsis, be sure to try to get feedback on your Tweets before sending them out to get the most out of your experience. Once you’ve finalized the two (per project), you can always use a scheduling tool like TweetDeck to have them ready to go on September 15th if you won’t have time to send them out in real-time the day of.

Now that you have a good idea on what you might need after #LatinxPitch is over, make sure to join the community during our pitch practice day on Wednesday, September 1st. Members of #LatinxPitch and the writing community at large will be able to offer comments on your Tweets, so be sure to take advantage of any chance to get feedback!