Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary

YA Contemporary

On Submission

Jaime Olin is a contemporary YA author. Her novels feature complicated, witty, occasionally unlikeable main characters who can be too smart or cynical for their own good and don’t always make the best decisions. Jaime grew up in South Florida, found her home in San Diego, then somehow ended up in Dallas, where she continues borrowing from Texas geography and culture for her books’ settings and characters. Jaime’s a Scorpio, a Gryfflepuff, a mild extrovert, and a die-hard proponent of the Oxford comma. Beware: she’s never met a pun she didn’t like.

I’ve written four YA novels. The first will never see the light of day. The second was good, but not quite good enough to get me an agent. I signed with my first agent on my third book, and though that book didn’t sell, I learned a ton about editing and the submission process. Then, when my first agent left the business in early 2018, I signed with my current agent (with my fourth book), and we’re currently on submission. Rejection is HARD at every stage of this process, and one of the reasons I love mentoring is so my mentees don’t feel like they have to handle the publishing journey alone!

Aside from my GREAT experiences mentoring in AMM Rounds 3 and 4, I’ve also spent the last two years blogging at the Operation Awesome website (www.operationawesome6.blogspot.com). I created an advice column on writing and the publishing process called ‘Dear OAbby,’ and I also run a synopsis critique service on the site… I’ve been described as a Synopsis Whisperer, and have critiqued over 50 of these beasts. I also taught ‘Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis’ at the 2017 and 2018 DFW Writer’s Conference and ‘Writing Realistic Courtroom Drama’ at the 2018 conference. I was a slush reader for the 2018 WriTE CLUB contest. My AMM Round 3 mentee signed with her agent a few months ago, and one of my closest critique partners, who I’ve worked with on his book for over five years, just signed a book deal!

I’m mentoring for two reasons. One, because I have experience and knowledge to impart (revision, querying, juggling multiple agent offers, going on submission, finding a new agent, and, maybe most importantly, maintaining a positive outlook through all of that). And two, somewhat selfishly, because there are few things more exciting than finding a ‘diamond in the rough’: a manuscript that has a ton of potential but isn’t quite ready, and that I can work with the author to polish and brainstorm new ideas for.

I’m looking for YA Contemporary that makes me laugh, cry, think, wonder, learn, change my mind about the world, boo, and cheer. A book that makes me want to hug your main character and/or throttle your main character (preferably both), keeps me turning pages until way past when I should have gone to bed, and won’t leave my mind even when I’m not reading. Humor, whether it’s snarky wit or tongue-in-cheek commentary on absurd situations. Diversity that reflects the world we live in. A main character who grows, changes, stumbles, makes mistakes, takes chances, makes terrible decisions, self-reflects, is stubborn, takes bad advice, and more than anything, is authentic and HUMAN. Romance is fine as long as it’s not the main plot. Deep, complicated friendships are everything. Do you have a main character with ambition, drive, unusual hobbies, a huge competitive streak? I love all of that! A hint of magic or fabulism is great, assuming it’s worked into the plot and isn’t the basis of the plot. More than anything, I want to follow your main character on their journey, whether it’s a road trip to find their long-lost sibling, a cutthroat ballet audition, a year-long cooking competition, or confronting loss to discover who they really are, and rejoice with them at the end, celebrating how they’ve changed and the person they’ve become.

  • Contemporary
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Own Voices
  • Romance

I love high-concept contemporary with relatable characters (note: characters do NOT have to be likable to be relatable!). A main character who sparkles with cynicism, wit, and/or obvious intelligence. I also adore contemporary with a dash of magic or fabulist elements (think A.S. King’s STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO and Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE). Strong friendships, complex family relationships, and romance that feels real. Books with some element of competition – beauty pageants, sports tournaments, ballet students vying for roles – are catnip to me. And as someone who’s done a lot of traveling, give me your road trips, hiking trips, sailing trips, etc. Finally, diversity of all kinds… yes, please.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call

I will read your manuscript at least twice when we get started on our mentorship. The first time, I’ll read straight through for big picture issues. The second time, I’ll read and make comments in redline, including smaller plot points, character consistency, frequently-seen grammar/writing issues, etc. Then, I’ll send the manuscript back to you to work on these issues – we can (and should!) have a phone call or Skype to walk through my comments. After you’re done revising, you can send the manuscript back to me and I will do a line-edit, if needed, and point out any remaining big-picture problems. I will also work with you on drafting your query and synopsis, pulling together a list of agents to query or contests to enter, and generally help get your submission materials ready to go.

I want to work with someone who’s ready to WORK. I’m planning to devote a lot of time and energy to my mentee, so I want my mentee to be prepared to really dig into their manuscript and make big changes. I also want my mentee to push back on feedback they might not agree with. When we disagree, let’s have conversations about plot points, character motivations, etc., but ultimately, I want a mentee who understands that they are the author, and they get the final say.

High-concept contemporary with an unforgettable setting (e.g.,The Serpent King)

Contemporary with a hint of magic or fabulism (e.g., Devil and the Bluebird, Still Life with Tornado, Going Bovine)

Diverse contemporary that makes me laugh, cry, and think in equal measures (e.g., The Hate U Give, From Twinkle with Love, Love, Hate, and Other Filters)

Cutthroat, competitive teens (e.g., Tiny Pretty Things)

Themes or hooks I’ve never seen before (e.g., Undead Girl Gang)

Mysteries that keep me guessing until the end (e.g., One of Us Is Lying)

No gratuitous animal cruelty (things like hunting/fishing for food are fine), no damsels in distress who exist only to be saved (or female characters with very little agency), no fantasy (I love a hint of magic, but I’m not the right mentor for pure fantasy)

My favorite movies: Almost Famous, Say Anything…, The Princess Bride, Clueless, Mean Girls, Back to the Future, Mars Attacks!, Star Wars (IV-VI)

My favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones, Friday Night Lights, Bojack Horseman, Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, and yes, Pretty Little Liars (as flawed as it was toward the end)

My favorite YA authors: A.S. King, Libba Bray, Sarah Dessen, Jeff Zentner, Angie Thomas, Nicola Yoon

My all-time favorite books: The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Harry Potter series, A Song of Ice and Fire series, Catcher in the Rye, The Stand

The best books I’ve read this year (so far): Us Against You, From Twinkle with Love, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Little Fires Everywhere, Exit West

My all-time favorite Broadway musicals: Hamilton, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line

My favorite sports team: Michigan Wolverines (Go Blue!)