A Chicago native, Naseem Jamnia is a former neuroscientist and current MFA student at the University of Nevada, Reno. They’ve written for The Rumpus, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Bitch Magazine, and other sites. They’re the coauthor of Positive Interactions With At-Risk Children (Routledge, 2019) and have a piece in We Made Uranium! And Other True Stories From The University of Chicago’s Extraordinary Scavenger Hunt (UChicago Press, 2019).
I started writing when I was a kid, but I didn’t seriously consider (read: research to learn you almost always need an agent to publish traditionally) querying until after I’d graduated from college. By that point, I’d written two novellas and two novels, and I queried the novel I’d written in my last year, about psychiatrically disabled orphans in a boarding school/orphanage. I queried that book for four years as I wrote and revised a disastrous YA fantasy and most of another fantasy. In 2017, I wrote FEATHER AND EARTH for NaNo, and began querying that in February 2018. During that time, I did final revisions on the manuscript I’d been querying for the last four years to put away and finished drafting the other fantasy I’d been working on. In March 2018, I got my first agent offer, and by the end, had 5 offers. During this time, I’d participated in PitMad, where my tweet got the attention of over 40 agents, and two of the offers I got were from agents who liked my pitch. I signed with Erica at the beginning of April. We did revisions on FEATHER AND EARTH and went on submission in September 2018.
My AB and MS are both in the biological sciences, and I began a PhD in neuroscience. Now, I’m in an MFA in fiction writing, but that science knowledge and background doesn’t just go away! I’ve also been a copyeditor for about ten years and a more general editor (content, development) for the past few years. In college, I was the head editor of our literary magazine, and I’ve an editor for Sidequest.Zone, an indie gaming website, for the past couple of years. I do sensitivity reads as well (psychiatric disabilities, Middle Eastern/Persian rep, child of immigrants, nonbinary/trans rep, queer rep [including ace-spec]). I’ve read and edited many queries (and Twitter pitches) whose writers went on to get agents. I also interned for a literary agent for 8 months, and so have seen dozens of queries and sample pages and read a ton of manuscripts that didn’t work—which means I know what pitfalls to avoid and how to make your work stand out.
One of my favorite things about being a scientist was mentoring the undergraduates in my lab. I loved helping them figure out not only their science careers but larger life moves. I’ve been craving that sort of interaction on the writer side. I want to help young writers as I’ve been helped! I love seeing a manuscript shape up into something amazing. And I love helping writers grow their craft!!
I love richly imagined worlds with fierce, well-rounded characters. Characters are my big thing; if your story is mainly plot-driven without thought about character arcs, I might not be the best mentor. I love lyrical voices, too. Mostly, I want a story about characters I can scream about, whether that’s dark, funny, or something else.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
- Basically, if it has a speculative element, I’m here for it
I’m a fantasy person, first and foremost. If you have a fantasy of any kind, send it my wayyyyy! The general rule of thumb for me is if your story has a speculative element to it, I want it. I’m not as great with sci-fi (prefer to watch it than read it) but if you think I’d like it, send it over! Regarding horror, I really love psychological horror but am not much for gory stuff. There isn’t a genre I’ll automatically pass on, so if you think it’s a good fit for me, I love being surprised.
As a QTPOC, I’m always looking for stories that feature us, especially those written by a member of the community. Not that allocishet/white writers can’t write these, but to write a story *from* these perspectives or *about* marginalizations really, REALLY requires research and sensitivity reads. If you’re submitting a story about this without being part of the community, I’d like to hear a bit about your reasoning and process for thinking you’re the one to tell the story. In kidlit especially, I think it’s important for marginalized authors to get a shot at these stories before privileged ones.
Tropes I love:
- Enemies to friends/””lovers”” (this is MG, people)
- Masked balls
- People having to dress up as another gender to Do The Thing (keep in mind, though, trans people exist, so having a sex essentialist view of this will NOT work for me)
- Band of misfits
- Lovable rogues
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
I like hearing some of the concerns a person has about a manuscript to keep in the back of my mind, but mainly, I sit down and read the manuscript first. I do comments in the margins (track changes) but do not do line edits on the first go-around (I may do some light grammar stuff if they’re very egregious or if it’s consistent). Then, I sit down and write an edit letter in the style of the agency I interned in: I comment on the overall plot, things that worked and didn’t, all the major characters, pacing, style/tone. In all of that is suggestions for revisions, or areas to focus on. At this point, I’m happy to call/Skype/email/whatever to figure out a revision plan, or let the writer do their thing. In future drafts, I focus mostly on in-manuscript comments and line edits, after these big picture things are taken care of.
I’m most interested in working with a marginalized person, in that my skills and interests fall in line with someone trying to tell a story involving marginalized characters (and I think they would get the most out of having me as a mentor). That aside, I hope my mentee is ready to work and willing to take criticism with grace. I’m not always right, but if I’ve pointed something out that isn’t working, we should be able to have a respectful, adult conversation about it. Someone who communicates but also understands anxiety is a thing/we are all super busy and follows up if they haven’t heard back in a few days is a plus. (Also, not a requirement, but I’d also love a mentee who’s a nerd like me, if only for us to nerd out over texts or chats!) I’m happy to continue this relationship into the long-term and would love for it to turn into a friendship!
- I love second-world fantasies with queer POC leads (given that’s most of what I write), so if you have it, send it my way, please!
- Are you writing a book that’s based in the myths of your culture? I WANT IT. Don’t care the culture, SEND IT TO ME!
- My queendom for a science-driven fantasy
- Nonbinary! And! Trans! MCs!
- Do you have a science-y story? Then you need a science-y mentor! AKA ME!
- If you’re Persian/Iranian especially but even Middle Eastern generally and are writing about that, even if it doesn’t fall into something I definitely will like, PLEASE send it to me. I am hungry for our people’s stories. And if you’re not writing about that? Send it to me anyway!
- If you couldn’t tell, I want all the queer characters and characters of color and queer characters of color!
- Do you have a story set in Chicago, the greatest city in the world, regardless of the genre? WHY ISN’T IT IN MY INBOX
- Matriarchal society? YES PLEASE
DO NOT SEND ME:
- Anything glorifying sexual assault or rape culture
- White savior narratives
- Demonizing/stigmatizing psychiatric disorders
- Any “”casual”” ableism/racism/sexism/trans antagonism/queer antagonism/fat antagonism/bigotry in general, unless the book is directly grappling with these issues
- A book based in toilet humor. I know it’s common in MG, but that type of stuff isn’t for me. Other kid/silly humor is fine, though!”
Movies (I’m actually not a huge movie person):
- Dead Poets Society (actually in general, I love Robin Williams movies)
- They’re so problematic but… I love Disney movies
- A&E Pride and Prejudice
- The King and the Clown
- Kazuo Ishiguro is my favorite author and I die every time I read a book by him
- Leigh Bardugo is up there, too
- I don’t know if she’s aged that well, but Tamora Pierce’s books have meant the world to me for over 15 years
- I will follow Akemi Dawn Bowman to the ends of the earth
- City of Brass is one of the best books I’ve ever read
- There are so many 2019 YA fantasy debuts I love ahhhhh
- Brooklyn 99
- Avatar and Korra
- I’m watching Battlestar Galactica right now and I… love it… so much…
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has an exposition problem but man, I love it
- Undertale/Delta Rune
- Persona 5
- Borderlands 2
- Resident Evil (4, 5, and even 6!)
- Original Spyro trilogy
- Fire Emblem (Path of Radiance)
- Final Fantasy (Tactics, 6, 10)
- Legend of Zelda (Wind Waker, BotW, Link Between Worlds)