J.Elle is a YA Fantasy writer passionate about elevating marginalized voices. Read on to see what she has to say about how our stories affect young people, how to persevere, and finding the right agent!
In ten words (and unlimited emojis), tell us about the book that got you your agent!
JE: A Black teen w/ magic saves her neighborhood.
When you first got THE CALL, how did you celebrate?
JE: Ya know. I didn’t. LOL. I was a bit in shock. I was excited to notify the agents still reading, but I was also excited about the offer I received so it was a mixed bag of emotions. I don’t like disappointing people! It was exciting but hard to talk to several people excited about my story and realize I can only work with one of them. I do remember I slept better that night of my first offer than I had in a long long time. I was apparently really stressed out and exhausted from Pitch Wars application prep, then drafting WOE in 35 days, getting ready for DVPit, revising WOE to query, and even revising WOE with agent feedback throughout the query process. It was a whirlwind, to say the least. I went to bed early that day and slept hard. So maybe that was the way I celebrated. Ha!
What stage are you at now? Editing, submissions, something else?
JE: I’m in every phase on one project or another. 🙂
Can you tell us about a time in your writing, revisions, or querying when you were starting to lose hope?
JE: Oh gosh, I lose hope everyday. I mean that probably sounds crazy but I really do doubt daily. I have had revisions that seemed so incredibly daunting I couldn’t even open the document without wanting to cry. LOL. But I also know how tenacious and relentlessly persistent I am. When doubt creeps in, I try to force my brain to latch onto any positives. I then preach them to myself until that cyclical negative thinking flees. I swear I go through this every few days LOL.
Who or what do you turn to when you start to doubt yourself?
JE: I’ve learned doubting is just part of the “journey to publication” process. Some days it’s easier to convince myself all this work I’m doing isn’t pointless. Other days I can’t muster the energy to write when it feels like it could all go nowhere.
But I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic to allow myself those moments of doubt.
It reminds me I’m human, keeps me humble, and forces me to train my mind to think positively. If doubting is something you struggle with too, don’t beat yourself up for having those low points and wanting to burn every word you wrote. Know that you feel that way because you’ve set such a high standard for yourself! You feel that way because you know what you’re capable of. You feel that way because you really want to succeed. These are GOOD desires!!
But also know that you’ll rise from that doubt with perseverance to keep pushing. This writing path is full of ups and downs. They are two sides of the same coin. The lowest point of one deepens your appreciation for the highest point of the other.
Ride the wave and know that the doubts are 1) normal and 2) fleeting.
What advice do you have for other writers, especially those in queryland?
JE: Two things!
First, finding an agent is really about finding the right fit, for you and for your story. You’d be shocked how many writers, well known writers, are on their second or third agent. It’s really about fit and it’s better to have the right agent for you than no agent. Someone told me that when I was querying and I didn’t completely understand it. However, having an agent and connecting with other agented writers to share experiences, I can clearly see it’s better to have the right agent for you than have an agent that’s not a good fit for you. There are so many agents out there. Think of it like speed dating. It may take awhile and you may go through a lot of rejections, but the RIGHT fit will be worth the wait.
Second, remember that each rejection is an opportunity to grow. Sometimes the rejection will give you insight on what you need to adjust in your query or opening pages. Don’t be so offended by a rejection that you miss the learning opportunity. However, sometimes the rejection is really just not a good fit and that’s actually an opportunity too–it’s a chance to thicken your skin to rejection. If you are querying, remember that going on submission is full of rejection as well. You will get tons more No’s than you get Yes’s.
The silver lining? It only takes one yes. O N E.
Do you have any fun author goals? Seeing fans cosplay your characters, make fanart, or having your book turned into a movie, for example?
JE: Gosh, honestly, no. I mean I would just love to have my book published with wide distribution so that it reaches the hearts of kids in every corner of the country. If I can encourage kids, particularly Black kids, to know they are powerful, capable of GREAT things despite whatever distractions they may see around them–I’m truly living the dream!
You concentrate your job as an author around empowering the voices of young people, especially young Black people. What are some ways writers can help lift up this community, too?
JE: Oh gosh I love you for asking this question! I wish there was a magic formula and I could say do THIS and the result will be THIS. BAM YOUTH empowered. But it doesn’t work that way. My biggest recommendation is don’t forget who your audience is. Don’t forget whether you like it or not, kids are looking at your stories and learning from them. Be intentional about the messages you send. And widen that message to encompass kids outside your own paradigm.
Thank you so much for your thoughts! Lastly, do you have any links you’d like to share?
JE: Thanks for asking!!
Web | www.authorjelle.com
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