Jaime Olin is a contemporary YA author. Her novels feature complicated, 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.
Like many of you, I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen. I wrote plays and stories as a kid, and a fantasy novel during my Algebra II class in high school (unsurprisingly, perhaps, my math grades weren’t great). In college, due to a combination of lack of self-confidence and the belief that I needed to ‘buckle down and get serious,’ I stopped writing fiction. I went to law school and started working at a big law firm. Although I did a ton of writing as a lawyer, it wasn’t until I was laid off from my job during the Great Recession that I decided to ‘buckle down and get serious’ about writing fiction again. That was seven years ago now. Since then, I’ve written almost constantly: I’ve published two short stories, written four full-length novels (all YA), shelved two of those novels without querying, and got my first agent with my second novel that saw the light of day. I queried my first book (high-concept YA contemporary) in 2015. I got close, including a back-and-forth R&R with a great agent, but the book wasn’t quite ready. I shelved that book (though it may see the light of day again at some point) and started working on an idea a lot closer to my heart, based on some of my own experiences with my family. Writing that ‘heart book’ felt like being possessed – I wrote the first draft in less than a month (while working full-time), and, after a few rounds of edits, entered it in the 2015 Pitch Slam contest. After my experience with my first novel, I was thrilled to get responses from a lot of agents, but shocked to get an offer about a week after I sent the full to the requesting agents! I ended up with three agent offers just from the contest, and never ended up querying at all. That book didn’t end up selling, but I used the time we were on submission to work on a new book. Then, in late January, my first agent decided to leave agenting. So back into the querying trenches I went, but this time, I had a complete, polished, really fun new book to query (it’s a light-hearted, serious-minded, political YA contemporary). It took exactly three weeks from sending my first query to getting my first offer of representation. I signed with my new agent in early March
Aside from my GREAT experience mentoring in AMM Round 3, I’m also a weekly blogger at the Operation Awesome website. 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. I also taught ‘Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis’ at the 2017 DFW Writer’s Conference (and am hoping for a repeat in 2018!) and am a slush reader for the 2018 WriTE CLUB contest. I offer occasional query and first page critiques through Operation Awesome and on Twitter during Pitch Wars. 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.
Note that, like I did in Round 3, I intend to provide feedback to everyone who subs to me and isn’t chosen as a mentee (as long as the submissions fit in my requested genres). That’s because I understand how frustrating it can be to submit your work into the void and never find out why it was rejected. It may take me a while, and it might not be extensive, but you will get feedback from me.
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, 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.
I love high-concept contemporary with relatable characters (note: characters do NOT have to be likable to be relatable!). A main character with snark, cynicism, sparkling wit, and/or obvious intelligence is catnip to me. I also love contemporary with a dash of magic or fabulist elements (think A.S. King). Romance is great, but I don’t tend to gravitate toward books where romance is the main plotline. And I adore books with some element of competition: beauty pageants, sports tournaments, ballet students vying for roles… I love it all. As someone who’s done a lot of traveling, give me your road trips, walking trips, sailing trips, etc. And diversity of all kinds… yes, please.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- 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)
Diverse contemporary that makes me laugh, cry, and think in equal measures (e.g., The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, Love, Hate, and Other Filters)
Cutthroat, competitive teens (e.g., Tiny Pretty Things)
Mysteries that keep me guessing until the end (e.g., One of Us Is Lying)
DO NOT SEND ME:
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: the year is young!): Little Fires Everywhere, Exit West, Love, Hate, & Other Filters, Down & Across, my Round 3 mentee’s revision!
My favorite Broadway musicals: Hamilton, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line
My favorite sports team: Michigan Wolverines (Go Blue!)