Danielle Burby, Nelson Literary Agency

MG and YA Fantasy


Jessi Cole Jackson grew up in rural Michigan surrounded by lakes, cornfields, and hard-working pragmatists who would never call themselves artists, despite their proficiency at woodworking, sewing, baking, flower arranging, building, drawing, and crafting. Thus, it took her twenty long years to accept that she was, in fact, creative, just as all of her teachers had been telling her all along. But she wasn’t quite ready to admit her true dream of writing and so she studied and pursued a backup career. In theatre. She spent twelve years building costumes in various prestigious regional theatres before getting her MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University, where she honed her craft and found her people. After living in Cincinnati, DC, Philadelphia, Princeton, and the north shore of Boston, Jessi left theatre and moved back to Michigan where she has a very practical dayjob and no longer calls herself an artist despite sewing, sculpting, embroidering, and very occasionally baking. She does call herself a writer though, and is represented by Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two doofy cats.

Although I always loved writing–and even had a couple of poems published as a child!–I didn’t start writing seriously until 2012, because I was scared of failing. But once I started, I threw myself into it, writing YA and MG novels, SFF short stories, and a handful of poems. I had a handful of short stories published in various online magazines and anthologies before deciding I wanted to focus exclusively on novels with my limited free time.

I queried with 3 different projects over the course of 5 years. The first one (YA contemp fantasy) I had some requests, but ended up pulling shortly after starting to query when I realized I’d mishandled a major theme and had no desire to revise again. The second novel (MG contemp fantasy) I got quite a few requests for including a handful of heartbreaking personal passes that were sure I’d land representation and go on to sell it. The third novel (YA fantasy) had a high rate of requests and multiple offers of rep. After the most excruciating decision of my career I ended up signing with my FABULOUS agent. We worked together on revisions for quite a few months, and now I’m currently on sub for the first time, which is both terrifying and awesome.

I have been in various writing communities since I began writing eight years ago, and have critiqued countless manuscripts, including many that have gone on to land agents or sell. I was also one of the initial organizers of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America mentorship program, which is career-focused rather than craft, and I’ve formally mentored 5 writers through everything from finding community and applying to workshops to putting together query packages and navigating the complexities of juggling parenthood, dayjobs, and beginning an MFA program.


I want to give back and I love digging into stories!

I’ve been SO lucky through the years and had amazing mentors, both formal and informal, who’ve given me craft advice, career guidance, and most importantly encouragement, and I want to pay forward the tremendous impact they’ve had on me.

Also, I love, love, love digging into other people’s words and helping them pull out the heart of the story they want to tell.

I love all sorts of books in all sorts of genres, but am probably the best mentor for character-driven stories with speculative elements, either fantasy or sci fi. I love solid world-building, even for contemporary settings, and dynamic characters with complex wants and relationships. I like stories that mix elements: scary with humor, darkness with joy. I love whimsy and fun, especially when paired with important themes and deep truths.

I’m especially interested in stories told by writers from marginalized communities.

As a mentor and critique partner, I’m kind, but honest and thorough. I want to help people tell the absolutely best version of their story, not make it into my story. Also, I understand that there is more to life than writing. So while I expect my mentee to take their writing career seriously and be actively pursuing publication, I understand that some people’s processes take longer than others due to family, finances, physical or mental health, or other priorities. I am not here to rush you, but to support and encourage you, however long you’d like me to and through whatever step of the process you’d like assistance in.

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Sci-Fi
  • Historical
  • #ownvoices

I’m open to all middle grade genres, but especially love light, fun stories with deep truths and speculative elements. Also, stories by authors from marginalized communities.



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

My mentoring style is kind, but thorough. I’ll probably start with an edit letter and any big picture feedback and give you time to digest before setting up a call or video chat (if you want) to talk through any questions or brainstorm together. From there, we’ll set a revision plan and potential timeline based on your needs and goals.

For future passes, I’d prefer to read the full manuscript, but am happy to be available for questions or any cheerleading you might need.

Also, if you’d like, I’m happy to help you develop your query package and provide insight and encouragement during the querying process.

My ideal mentee is persistent, driven, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. They don’t have to be fearless (I’m not!), but they have to be able to push past the fear to dig deep, whether that’s being vulnerable on the page or in the query trenches. They should be open to both critique and encouragement, and excited to make their book shine, even if that involves big, big changes.


  • artistic protagonists
  • great world-building, whether our world, a made-up world or something in between
  • BIPOC, queer, neurodiverse, disabled characters
  • friendship stories
  • found family and non-‘traditional’ families
  • fat-/body-positive stories
  • joyful stories
  • feminist stories

Also, this is very specific, but I would LOVE an #ownvoices adoptee or fostercare story, whatever the genre.


There is room for all kinds of stories and nuanced, careful ways to handle even hard topics, even in middle grade. But I am not the right mentor for books containing:

  • fatphobia
  • bodyshaming
  • abuse
  • gore
  • a lot of on page violence
  • potty humor
  • talking animals

As an adoptive and foster mom who prioritizes adoptees’ stories and is very leery of typical adoption narratives, stories that are about being adopted or in fostercare that aren’t #ownvoices will be a very difficult sell. That isn’t to say your book can’t contain these circumstances or characters! But if the thrust of the plot revolves around either adoption or fostercare, then it’s probably not for me–unless you’re writing from your own experiences.


– Dhonielle Clayton
– Shannon Hale
– Holly Black
– Rachel Hartman
– Kristen Cashore
– Margaret Rogerson
– C.L. Polk
– Claudia Mills
– Anne Ursu
– Kate DiCamillo
– Laini Taylor
– Diana Wynne Jones
– Stephanie Burgis
– Naomi Novik
– Renee Watson 

– Bridgerton (I’m so confident I’m going to love it, it’s on my list BEFORE I’ve seen it)
– Gentleman Jack
– Torchwood
– Sex Education
– Sense8
– Derry Girls
– Project Runway
– Jane the Virgin
– Avatar the Last Airbender

Places to shop:
– Target
– Cozy little indie bookstores with coffee shops and lots of nooks
– Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s
– Anthropologie (pretty much window shopping only)
– Little gift shops in tourist towns
– Antique stores

Vacation Destinations:
– Northern Michigan
– Anywhere with cobblestones
– Small, quaint towns
– The mountains
– The ocean

– All of them
– Seriously, all
– Except chocolate ice cream or dark chocolate or mint and chocolate together