I am overdue for a love letter to Jaye Robin Brown.
Readers, I just plain lucked out. No two ways about it.
If you’re reading this blog in its infancy, you probably knew me already, or found me through Pitch Wars. So you have some idea how Pitch Wars works: choose from among a ridiculously talented array of agented and/or pubbed authors, submit to four. Four.
It’s so difficult to winnow that selection down. In the end, you hold your breath, hit send, and hope you applied to the people most likely to love your manuscript.
But I almost didn’t apply to Jaye.
I had a long list, and as I went through it, I focused on something that’s become more and more important to me as I’ve worked toward publication: I want my book in front of people who adore speculative fiction. I mean ADORE it. I write MG and YA genre fiction. It was the saving of me as a kid, and it’s where my heart is. WARNSVELD is MG contemporary fantasy, CELERITY is YA SF with a western twist, and my current WIP is a mash-up of MG SF/F with a touch of horror for good measure.
One thing to think about if you’re querying genre fic is this: agents, like the rest of us, have jobs to do. Sometimes that means playing ball and repping genres that aren’t what they hope to focus on long-term. You might love them on twitter. You might love them in person. But if they don’t love your genre, then even if they love one specific manuscript, they might not be a good fit over time.
I was thinking about Pitch Wars mentors in much the same way, and Jaye writes (wonderful, twangy) contemporary. I figured I should send my entry to someone who wrote genre fic…then I really looked at her. She wasn’t just asking for SF, she was asking for “sociological sci-fi”, a phrase that resonated with so much of what I love about sci-fi, from H.G. Wells to Asimov to Lois Lowry to Patrick Ness. We had idiosyncratic little things in common, in that way that always makes my spine tingle. One night, I saw her chatting on the Pitch Wars hashtag. I decided to be bold, and tweeted to ask whether she’d be interested in a Firefly-esque YA about microbes. She replied with a show reference: “Kill me with your brain.” Irresistible.
The other three mentors I applied to were all amazing, and I would have been thrilled to be chosen by any one of them, but I admit, I was crushing on Jaye hard by the time Pitch Wars actually started. When I raced to Brenda’s blog, ran my finger down the list and FOUND MY NAME on Jaye’s team, I had a big dumb grin on my face for the rest of the day.
I’m still grinning, weeks later. Jaye’s completely amazing. She’s read my comps. Her crit is dead-on. And she is turning it around SO FAST. I’m sure the polar vortex is helping, since she’s a teacher by day, but still. She did a full read-through with crit and is now giving me feedback on my rewrite. She’s cheerleading, and posting interviews with me and my teammate ahead of #PitMad, and pushing us on our pitches. The line between mentee and alternate just can’t be that thick in this case, folks. I challenge anyone to produce a better mentor.
If you’re not following her on twitter, do. When NO PLACE TO FALL comes out in autumn of this year, READ IT! She’s written a novel that’s rawly honest, but also illuminates the better angels of our nature. It’s wonderful. I’m incredibly lucky to have her for my mentor.