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!
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 (As a side note, if you are a Latinx writer or illustrator, published or unpublished, I highly recommend you join that Facebook group; it’s such an informative and supportive community.)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.
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.