Jaime Olin is a contemporary YA author represented by Mallory Brown of TriadaUS. Her novels feature complicated, often-unlikeable main characters who are sometimes 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.
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. Even though 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 six years ago. 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 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 last year’s Pitch Slam contest. After my experience with my first novel, I was thrilled to get a great agent response, 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. This is my first time on submission, and it’s a grueling, stressful process. But everyone says to work on something new while on submission, and I’ve found that to be 100% true. I plan to send my next book to my agent by late September, and I love this one: it’s a light-hearted, serious-minded, political YA contemporary. Fingers crossed!
I’m a weekly blogger at the Operation Awesome website. One of the main things I do there is run a synopsis critique service… I’ve been described as a Synopsis Whisperer. I also taught ‘Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis’ at this year’s DFW Writer’s Conference. I LOVE line-editing, and do a lot of it for my critique partners. One of my critique partners just signed with an agent a few weeks ago! I also offer query and first page critiques through Operation Awesome and on Twitter during Pitch Wars.
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. 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 know how it feels to have a great concept and to have poured blood, sweat, and tears into a manuscript that you just can’t quite get past the finish line. I know, from my own experience, that it can be really easy to give up at that point. I want to find a mentee with a book that’s *so close* but not quite there, and work with them on fixing what needs to be fixed and illuminating what’s already working.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
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, 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 can 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, I want to 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, Simon vs. The Home Sapiens Agenda)
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 animal cruelty (things like hunting/fishing for food are fine), no damsels in distress who exist only to be saved, 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, Mean Girls, Back to the Future, Mars Attacks!, Star Wars (IV-VI)
My favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones, Bojack Horseman, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights
My favorite YA authors: A.S. King, Sarah Dessen, Jeff Zentner, Becky Albertalli, 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 Underground Railroad, The Hate U Give, Beartown, Lily and the Octopus, The Sun is Also a Star
My favorite Broadway musicals: Hamilton, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line
My favorite sports team: Michigan Wolverines (Go Blue!)