J.Elle is a Black author and advocate for marginalized voices in both publishing and her community. Her debut novel, Wings of Ebony, a YA fantasy about a fearless, magical Black girl from a poor neighborhood, is a lead title in Simon & Schuster’s Spring 2021 lineup.
From growing up poor to being a 1st generation college student, Jess’ tenacity and passion for empowering others dates back to her first career in education, teaching tweens and teens from traditionally underserved areas to fight for their dreams. More recently, as the founder of the Your Story Is Your Power, a creative writing workshop, she mentors high schoolers on the craft of writing and the importance of sharing stories from their perspective.
Elle has worked as an Editorial Intern at P.S. Literary Agency and served as a mentor for both Pitchwars c/o 2019 and R6 of AMM. She’s also the founder and co-host of #MondayMixer, a Twitter chat to engage writers on the platform with networking opportunities, writing questions, and encouragement. In her spare time you’ll find her cooking up some dish true to her Texas and Louisiana roots, loving on her three littles, and traveling the country with her nomadic military spouse.
I signed with my agent in Dec 2018 after entering DVPIt with a YA Fantasy manuscript. It was the second novel I’d written, but the first YA. I was on sub for 5 months and sold in a 2-book deal after completing an R&R with a Big 5 editor. Once I had an offer, competing interest escalated quickly among the editors still considering. So, the initial offering editor upped the offer in a pre-empt. After my debut and its sequel sold, I wrote another novel, a MG contemporary fantasy. I can’t say much more about that yet #bcreasons.
In terms of mentoring/editorial experience, I’ve worked as an intern at PS Literary in an editorial capacity. In that role I evaluated queries, opening pages, partials, full manuscripts, and nonfiction proposals for marketability, writing quality, and structural soundness. I looked closely at voice, dialogue, writing style, plot development, characterization, pacing, stakes, and tension, of both queried and client manuscripts. I also gave editorial notes and made pitch suggestions for submission-ready manuscripts. Outside of that internship, I’ve served as a YA mentor in R6 of AMM. My mentee and I worked together on her contemporary MS through multiple passes of edits from developmental to line/copy, drafting query materials, and crafting pitches for #DVPit. She ended up slaying DVPit, getting multiple offers, and signing with Root Literary. I was also a class of 2019 Pitchwars mentor. In terms of educational qualifications, I have a Bachelors of Journalism with a minor in Rhetoric and I’ve taught Middle School creative writing.
In 2019, aside from my internship, mentoring AMM and PW, I critiqued/provided developmental edit notes for 29 writer’s manuscripts at varying stages of the publishing process (some querying, some on sub) purely because I’m super passionate about helping writers fight for their publishing dreams. I’d have quit a long time ago if it weren’t for the Writing Community’s support. I thoroughly enjoying supporting others in that same way. Watching others shine brings me such satisfaction! I also really love thinking critically about story fixes. It’s like solving a puzzle and I genuinely love it.
I’m looking for contemporary and contemporary fantasy with stand out voice! Gimme the real world with a dash of magic. I love urban fantasy, magical realism, fabulism, all that jazz. Magic. Magic. Magic. I enjoy heartfelt sweet middle grade, adventure-y middle grade, dark middle grade (a la Serafina). And bonus points if you: A) have some thrilling / mysterious vibe woven or B) can make me laugh out loud or cry!
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I’m wide open, but a few things that might stand out: I am enamored with unraveling curses, puzzling out clues, exploring COOL new places that are right under our nose.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
We’ll start with a ‘get to know each other’ call. From there I’ll give you an edit letter, as you to review it a few times and brainstorm ideas. Then we’ll do a follow up call to talk through how you’re feeling with everything. We’ll discuss ideas and things you’d like to push back on or anything in the letter that was confusing. The goal of this second call is to have a shared vision going forward, one you’re excited about.
From there you’ll dig into developmental notes and get it back to me in chunks. Once you’re completely done, I’ll read and do another read and smaller edit letter or line edits. When you’re query ready, be it right then or in the future, we can draft your query and synopsis together and I’ll be on hand during that process if you’d like. 🙂
So, at least 2 reads / edit letters and querying support is what my mentee will receive.
Questions about working with me? Feel free to ask @KelisWrites (my ’19 Pitchwars mentee) and/or @KrisRLee (my AMM R6 mentee).
My ideal mentee:
- understands that publishing is ultimately a business, and market matters. BUT doesn’t want their voice and vision to get lost in the process of pursuing trad publishing.
- is hard working and very comfortable with blunt feedback. I’m really kind in my critiques, but I won’t hold back on the work it needs because that’s not doing anyone any favors.
- is comfortable working on deadlines. Though these are deadlines are set together and are rather flexible.
- understands revising is where the magic happens and is ready to dive in head first with me as their partner in making their story all it can be.
- is anyone ambitious, driven, hungry, with a passion for storytelling.
- values diversity.
- VOICEY CHARACTERS!!!!!!!
- Afrofuturism (nothing sci-fi, but dots of techy sort of magic is fine)
- Black girl magic
- Black boy joy
- Worldbuilding grounded in a culture’s mythology / lore
- Magic hidden in the real world
- Descriptive writing w/ a strong sense of place
- Story premise with strong themes of family and community
- Inventive yet simple magic systems (a la Sorcery of Thorns)
Some oddly specific things I’d love to see:
- MG appropriate stories that can be comped to The Witcher
- Anything comped to The Girl Who Drank The Moon or The Thing About Jellyfish.
- Grandparent characters
- POC kids as royalty
- Novels w/ series potential
- Anything comp’d to Wakanda
- Unusual magic will always peak my interest
- Something w/ a pinch of a historical vibe
- Witches in the real world
DO NOT SEND ME:
- I’m not looking for anything super dark. Spooky is okay. Just nothing super gore-y. Serafina was fine.
- Not really looking for anything romantic. A crush is fine.
- No orcs, elves, fae, or mermaids.
- Sci Fi
- Lots of blood and gore on the page
I love the MG styles of Aisha Saeed, Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, Roshani Chokski, Tami Charles, Ibi Zoboi, Kacen Callendar and Lamar Giles to name a few.