Hi virtual friends! :)
I'm so stinking excited to be mentoring again in the YA category this year. Back in 2015, I first entered the Pitch Wars realm as a mentee, and the following year I wanted to give back and become a mentor. I'm so happy to say that my mentee went on to score representation after the agent round in November (shameless plug alert: I actually think it was that month she got the offer).
Some other qualifications: I majored in Creative Writing + History, have critiqued and beta read for other writers (agented and not) and have gone through hefty revisions of my own manuscripts. I know how to break down a novel and build it back up again so it's at its best. It will be hard work but totally worth it when everything is all said and done. With me as your mentor, please be prepared for hard work. I want my mentee's story to be the absolute best that it can be, and I'm going to put you through the ringer. :)
When I'm not writing, I'm designing for 9th Letter Press, a design and stationery studio that I founded five years ago (I recently sold it, but maintain the lead designer position). That's right...I design and write greeting cards for a living. 9th Letter Press uses a letterpress built in 1894 (it's made of cast iron and weighs a whopping 1,500 pounds!) for printing and he is the heart and soul of the company.
Side note: I feel like now is as great time to mention my scavenger word is STEER (and it's supposed to be in BLUE).
WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU
Here's the game plan: I'll read my mentee's MS very carefully and write up a detailed edit letter addressing the various aspects of the story that need work. This can be anything from dialogue to the world building, from character development to their emotional arcs. From there, my mentee will revise, revise, revise and then once he/she believes it's ready, I'll take another quick look and add any track comments I think necessary for another round of quick edits before the agent round. If you're game to work hard, I'm your mentor! I'll push and encourage you, always politely and never in a harsh way. And I'll always be honest with what is and isn't working.
I'll always be available for questions. I'll respond quickly to emails and questions, twitter and any DMs. If you're game, I also like to jump on the phone and hash out any problems with the manuscript, along with doing joint brainstorming sessions.
SHAMLESS PLUG | Interview with Christy, my 2016 Mentee!
I thought I'd have Christy share what it was like being my mentee last year. I hope it will give you a better idea of my mentoring style. I know it looks like a lot of work, and you'll probably be exhausted by the end, but it's so worth it. I'm super committed to sharing everything I know about writing well and the publishing world. :)
From Christy Chao:
Working with Isabel last year was an amazing experience! She was very encouraging with comments/criticism during Pitch Wars and remained incredibly supportive throughout the querying process. During the mentoring period, she made herself available to help me improve my manuscript in every way possible! She’ll brainstorm with you, check in to make sure you’re still doing ok, offer suggestions when you’re stuck, and celebrate with you when ideas start coming together.
When Pitch Wars kicked off, Isabel immediately sent a detailed edit letter explaining the different parts of the story she liked and the parts that needed work. Before the rewriting process began, we also had homework assignments to figure out how I was going to address these points during the revision period. This included coming up with a new title that better described the story, outlining the chapters to block out a new plot for revisions, and putting together romance sheets for the main characters.
During this stage, we communicated through text, DMs, and a shared Google Doc we both edited (sometimes simultaneously! Hurray for color coded conversations!). Whenever I was stuck, Isabel was always there to exchange ideas with and brainstorm solutions. She had great recommendations for fixing whatever I was struggling with at the time (characters, plot points, etc). Even if I didn’t end up going in the particular route she suggested, her feedback and questions were so helpful in guiding me to that final solution!
During the revision period, Isabel gave me feedback regularly. I began revising based on the new plot outline and sent these revisions to her in chunks. She would send me back notes (pointing out areas that didn’t make sense, asking questions, letting me know what she loved) and then we would have a detailed phone call discussing ways to improve the chapters. I have pages and pages of scribbled notes from these calls! We worked on everything from world building, character reactions, dialogue tags, sentence structure, tension, fluff cutting, character development…basically anything that needed improvement!
AGENT SHOWCASE PREP
Before the November showcase, Isabel read the manuscript one last time and sent a final set of comments. She helped me polish up my query, pitch, and first 200 words. Even though this was close to the end of Pitch Wars, she continued to challenge me to improve my writing/manuscript and worked extensively with me (providing quick feedback, notes, inspiration) until we were both happy with the final product.
I learned so much from Isabel! How to revise, how to pace a story, how the publishing industry works, to name a few. Be prepared to work hard, but also be prepared for how much your writing will improve with her guidance and support! Her future mentee is a very lucky person. :)
WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR
Squeeee! My favorite part of this blog post.
Remember that moment in Beauty and the Beast when Belle is surrounded by rolling hills and she starts singing about wanting adventure in the great, wide somewhere? This is all me, sweet friends. I want your adventure, your far off places, daring sword fights and princes in disguise, please and thank you!
I'm seeking incredible landscapes, well drawn fantasy, captivating historical time periods, and fresh world building. Does anyone have a fairy tale retelling in the same tone as SHREK or ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS? Please do send my way! Do you have a story set in a desert kingdom or ice castle? YES, YES, YES. I want all the unique settings, please!
(And here is where I reiterate my love of fairy tale retellings and historicals. GRABBY HANDS).
SETTING: I'm the most excited about unique places that haven't been overly done. Roman servant in a palatial house? Catherine the Great's court? A YA mystery set in a theater? I LOVE epics and sweeping landscapes, where the latter is a character onto itself. If you've got a story set in a non-European inspired setting, I WANT IT.
ROMANCE: I LOVE love. I'm looking for believable romance, so please no instalove and the like. I'm a sucker for these troupes: hate to love, friends to something more, will they or won't they, forbidden romance, slow-burn, and enemies to lovers. Do you have something that falls in that category? HIT SEND NOW, please and thank you! I'll be leaning toward manuscripts that have a romantic subplot, but please no love triangles. My heart can't take them. :)
DIVERSITY: As a Bolivian Latina writer, I think reading about different cultures enriches the reader and their perspectives. This is super important to me. I would love to get my hands on a story from a different culture/religion/background. Ottoman empire? Babylonian? Imperial Russia? The Dominican Republic? Cuba? China? Africa? Hispanic, Black, Asian? YES PLEASE, especially #ownvoices.
TIME TRAVEL: As an avid Outlander fan, I would love to get my hands on a YA version, but please no Scotland and their highlander warriors. I'm looking for something that hasn't been done before. :)
HISTORICAL: I love any and all Historical tales, so if you have epic battle scenes and political powers at play between empires, PLEASE send it my way. If you have a story about the French Revolution (and kudos if it has french words in it), I WANT IT. But seriously, all of the history—I want it, no matter the era or continent. Side note: I used to want to be an Egyptologist. If you have a story about a plucky female Egyptologist...you know what to do! :)
CONTEMPORARY FANTASY: A new genre for me! I'm excited to mentor any YA Contemporary manuscript that features a fun and unique magic system. I would love to see our world paired with a magical slant.
RANDOM LOVES: I love bounty hunters, Norse Mythology, shipwrecks, ninjas, and mysteries. Do you have a YA version of Sherlock? I want it! I love tough heroines, who don't just rely on their mad sword skills but on their intelligence and wit as well. I also love princesses, but lately I've been more intrigued by the people around those in positions of power—the guards, ladies in waiting, etc. I want to read about the people whose stories don't often get told.
In short, I'm looking to be delighted and kudos to you if you make me giggle over a clever turn of phrase. :)
If you have anything like the following books, SEND IT MY WAY PLEASE AND THANKS!
- Shadowfell (or anything by Juliet Marillier)
- Salt to the Sea
- Walk on Earth a Stranger
- Song of the Current
- Anything by Susanna Kearsley
- My Lady Jane
- Enchantment of Ravens
To make things easier, here's my YES list:
- Historical (I love all history and time periods, kudos if it has fantasy).
- Fairy Tale Retellings (Cannot. Stress. This. Enough!!!!)
- Romance (as a subplot!)
- Contemporary Fantasy
And here is my NO list:
- Contemporary (I LOVE contemp, but I'm only taking manuscripts that have some kind of magic)
- Rape (it's OK if it alludes to it but NO on screen time)
- Urban Fantasy
- Science Fiction
- Love Triangles
Thanks so much for reading! :) To continue blog hopping, click here.