Friday, October 7, 2016

The Writer's Voice: Where Is Jessie Oliveros Now?

I'm thrilled to share this guest post with TWV 2013 alum Jessie Oliveros, who, as you're about to see, has had a busy year. Jessie's MG voice immediately caught my attention, but as it turned out, she caught her big break in another category. Read on for all the details!

Over three years ago, I posted the beginning of my middle-grade novel A Pretty Pirate Pickle for The Writer's Voice. I came away from that experience with a submission in the inbox of an excellent agent and a fine-tuned first five pages. (I also came away with a mentor-relationship with Krista who has been an amazing help these last few years!)

I would go on to query many agents with my middle grade baby. I lost count, but between contests and query letters I'm going to say 100. Eleven agents showed interest and asked for more. One even emailed me just before Christmas and said they were giving the novel a second read! (Admittedly it kind of made my Christmas a little stressful.) They came back with R&R notes for me. I revised, but ultimately they passed. It did make my manuscript half-full here.

Fast forward more rejections and working on other manuscripts, and I connected on Twitter with my now CP Myrna. We'd been around the same blogosphere ground for a few years, but we found we had a lot of the same writing interests and started trading work--namely picture book manuscripts. I bring Myrna into this story because she kind of helped rekindle that spark for picture book manuscripts. This put my writing brain in just the right place when I went back to Kansas two summers ago to visit my parents. I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents during that visit. My grandpa had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years back, and so this time was precious. I voice recorded their stories from their youth. I had a special interest in recording my grandpa's stories before he forgot them.

When I went home after this trip, I wrote a picture book about memory loss called The Remember Balloons. I felt like it was special. When I read it to my sister, we both cried. My sister said, "Don't change a thing!" Which was nice, but even the best-feeling manuscripts aren't perfect. (Myrna gave me some great advice to make it better.)

And so I queried. I queried this one pretty slowly. Over several months, I sent it out to about twelve agents. One even said she thought it was very sweet, but she didn't think it would sell. After that one, I thought about just keeping it for me. Maybe it wasn't a sell. Myrna told me otherwise, and so I kept it out there.

I love Twitter pitch contests, and I entered a couple last Christmas. When I entered my pitch for The Remember Balloons in Pitchmas I had a request! From Mike Hoogland of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. I sent the manuscript off to him on a Saturday. He emailed me the following Monday and asked if I had illustrations. I told him I wasn't an author/illustrator but let him know about my other work.

Then an email on Tuesday--he wanted to know if we could talk on the phone about representation! That night my husband took our kids out while I had The Phone Call I'd only been waiting for for six years. :) Mike really believed in my manuscript, he liked the sound of my other work, and I thought we would work well together. I signed an agent-author agreement a week after Christmas.

We worked on my manuscript for a few weeks, and then we went on submission in February. We were only on submission for a couple weeks (incidentally, the day we were closing on my house and a few days before I had my baby number four) when I received an email from Mike letting me know the editor of Simon and Schuster BFYR was interested. The day after I brought my baby home from the hospital, I received an official offer. 

New house, new baby, new book...that was ten days of a lot of amazing things! My book is due out Fall 2018. In the meantime, Mike and I are editing a couple PB manuscripts and that little middle grade baby that started this journey. I now call it A High Seas Heist. So hopefully you see that one as a real-life book one day, too!

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Jessie. Can't wait to get my hands on THE REMEMBER BALLOONS (and, with any luck, A HIGH SEAS HEIST, too)!

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