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.
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.