Mentor Jessica Parra

www.jessicaparra.com
@jessicatparra

AGENT
Jennifer Azantian, Azantian Literary Agency

WRITES
Contemporary YA

ON SUBMISSION

BIO
As a lawyer and daughter of Guatemalan and Cuban bakers, Jessica Parra never objects to an extra slice of cake. She’s a Los Angeles native who loves to write about Latinas with big hair (and even bigger dreams), complicated families, cats living their best lives (all nine of them), and the healing magic of acceptance.

When she isn’t drafting books you can find her sipping kombucha, cuddling with her kitties, or co-piloting the Millennium Falcon at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge.

PUBLISHING BACKGROUND
I started writing creatively around eight years ago. Having been born and raised in LA, I gravitated towards screenplays first. I entered my first screenplay (a zombie rom-com) in Final Draft’s Big Break Competition and made it to the quarter-finals. My second screenplay the following year (The Shining x Misery), placed even higher, but when I wasn’t able to find representation, I enrolled in UCLA extension classes to level up. One semester, the screenwriting classes were full, so I took a novel writing one and fell in love (I’m wordy as you can tell). I joined CP group and SCWBI, and by learning how to give better feedback, I learned to become a better writer.

During my first SCBWI retreat in 2019, I met Jen Azantian (our meet-cute is everything), who awarded me the Agent’s Choice award. We kept in touch (I only had half of a manuscript at that point), and when I finished my book, I applied to Las Musas’ mentorship program and was selected by Nina Moreno to work on a developmental edit. I was so starstruck and refused to keep my eyes on my own paper, so I did mentorship pretty wrong. I was afraid to ask questions and didn’t really know what I wanted from the mentorship other than “getting signed” by an agent. Needless to say, a few weeks before the covid lockdown, I queried the less messy second draft of my book. My query was good, so I got a 90% full request rate – which was quickly followed by 100% form rejections.

I shelved the book, played lots of animal crossing and started working on another book to have something to share at the next SCBWI retreat. Once again, I won the Agent Choice award! This agent wanted to see the book, but since I only had the first chapters, I told her, “I don’t have a full ready for this, but would you like to see my other book that’s Don’t Date Rosa Santos x The Great British Baking Show?” Thankfully she said yes, and I promised to send it to her – after another pass of revisions. Whoa! The months away from the manuscript – as well as critiques from my trusted CPs and one from the Manuscript Academy – made all the difference. I finally understood how to implement Nina’s original feedback and started chipping away. This query round had an even higher request rate: 99% within two weeks. But since I queried in August (don’t query in August), the waiting began all over again.

I was still waiting for responses by the time Pitch Wars submission window opened up, so I applied. I had 3 requests from 4 of my selected mentors, and ultimately I got in! This time, I treated this mentorship as a practice run for working with an agent. I was very clear with my mentor (the incredible Hoda Agharazi) about my weaknesses (pacing), my strengths (character), communication style preferences (email and text with some occasional calls for brainstorming solutions), and what I wanted from the mentorship: one full developmental round, one line edit, and one copyedit. I’m a former Catholic school girl, so I love tough work and have thick skin!

In the end, Hoda helped me fall in love with my book again. And I found another amazing community of writers to support and get support from along the way. After the showcase, I had several offers of rep and signed with Jennifer Azantian!

EXPERIENCE
As I mentioned in my Publishing Journey, I’m an active member of my local SCBWI chapter, and have participated as a mentee in both Las Musas mentorship program and Pitch Wars 2020. In my writing groups, I am proudly known as the “momager.” Not only have several of my CPs gone on to sell their books (some at auction), but I also have experience on the business side of publishing. All my electives in law school were in entertainment law, and I have taken several literary representation classes at UCLA extension (taught by Linda Camacho, Quressa Robinson, and Saritza Hernandez). Recently, I completed a BIPOC Agent mentorship with Transatlantic Literary Agency and hope to continue breaking down doors in publishing as both an author and an agent.

OVERVIEW
Writing is often a solitary (ad)venture, but writing for publication takes a village. I would not be where I am in my writing journey if not for all the mentorship I’ve been so fortunate to receive. I want to give back to the community of writers by passing on everything I’ve learned both from my unofficial mentors on podcasts and YouTube (Hi Alexa!) and official ones. Writing for publication takes lots of learning, patience, and community support, and my goal is to provide this for an aspiring writer. The only way my journey could get any sweeter is by helping make someone else’s dreams come true too!

In YA Contemporary, I’m looking for something that’s like a gummy vitamin – sweet but contains something good for you inside. Give me a strong voice and a story loaded with heart and humor. Let’s spotlight stories that center BIPOC joy. In YA Horror, I love stories that use tropes to Trojan horse socio-political issues, shining a light on the dark side of humanity and society without attacking it directly. Representation matters, so BIPOC and marginalized cast of characters are everything. HEAs (even in horror) are too.

MENTORING GENRES
Young Adult

  • Contemporary
  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Horror

I’m trash for all tropes, but I have a sweet tooth, so give me all the cinnamon roll Love Interests! Like Lizzie Bennett, I dearly love to laugh (and swoon). Send me fresh takes on fantasy retellings set in a contemporary world, slow-burns, complicated families, villains who secretly want to be good, second-chance romances, friendship breakups, I can go on and on!

 

I WILL PROVIDE:

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

WORKING STYLE
We will start with an edit letter where I will address big picture issues. My goal here is to build on what you have and help strengthen the manuscript in order to pull the version of the story you have in your head (and heart) onto the page. As my CPs know, I go DEEP in this round. My edit letter will likely be pretty long, and I will also leave comments in the margins, gushing about things I love… while also asking lots of questions. I’m a lawyer by trade so I can’t not cross-examine you. And no, you may not plead the 5th on all of the questions! These questions are meant to help you dig deeper into the heart of your story. As much as I love pointing out problems, I love brainstorming solutions more. Still, I will never force you to make edits you don’t feel are appropriate for your story. Trust me, I will remain the Sam to you’re Frodo. After this round, I will read again, making sure the big picture issues are fixed. In this round, I will also do a line-edit and make the story as shiny as possible. I’m down with DMs, text, email, and phone calls. Phone chats are fine too, as long as you’re fine with interruptions from my two hairless cats, Juno and Jolie. In addition to me, my BFF and most trusted CP, Carolina Flórez Cerchiaro has so graciously offered to provide additional support if you wish! Lastly, I will be on standby to help you in all steps of the querying process, from researching agents, drafting, and polishing your query letter and synopsis.

IDEAL MENTEE
My ideal mentee is one who does not shy away from hard work – or a little homework. I’d prefer someone who has familiarity with craft, but if not, someone willing to brush up on Save The Cat Writes a Novel (for plot and editing lingo shorthand) and Story Genius (for character arc). I will also provide links to several videos and online resources. Additionally, I want to work with someone who is open to constructive feedback and change. Since I love asking questions, a mentee who is not afraid to ask questions right back is key. Let me know what your expectations are, what’s on your mind, etc.. so we can always be on the same page. Treat this as a practice run for working with an agent and/or editor. Be clear and transparent so I can provide the resources you need to help you grow as a writer. Lastly, I want a mentee whose first goal is to improve their craft, community-building second. A mentee should view getting agented as the cherry on the cake!

SEND ME:
So you can get a better sense of the heart and humor I’d love to see in my inbox, here are some books I love:

  • Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (made me laugh out loud several times)
  • Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (made me happy cry – all the cries actually!)
  • Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (make me want to wear yellow like Rosa)
  • Last Night Light at the Telegrahp Club by Malinda Lo (the slow burn and social issues in a historical framework are so masterfully done)
  • Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce (LOLOLOLOL but so much depth and character growth)
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (navigating life in the hyphens)
  • Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June (Hilarious and celebratory)
  • For Horror I’d love to see YA versions of anything Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Grady Hendrix, P. Djèlí Clark, and Stephen Graham Jones.
  • Himbos!!!
  • Found Family

DO NOT SEND ME:

  • I’m not the best fit for stories that involve romanticization of toxic relationships, suicide or suicidal ideation, cheating, white saviors, or anything involving animal death.
  • Unchecked racist, homophobic, transphobic, acephobic, ableist, Islamophobic, zionist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, or fatphobic content.
  • BIPOC main characters from cultures that are not your own — diverse worldbuilding is needed, but appropriation or checking off boxes under the guise of “activism” is not.

FAVES
My favorite Austen is EMMA. I’m a Knightley Sun with an Emma Rising. Fun fact: I’ve even been inside the Mr. Darcy suite in Bath! Some of my fav shows are: Schitt’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, The Great British Bake Off, and Insecure. I’m ULTIMATE TRASH for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel, and always watch all the Oscar foreign nominated films. I LOVE most things in the Criterion Collection. In Horror, my favorite directors right now are Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, and Robert Eggers. I really love Eli Roth’s History of Horror too. I’m a huge standup comedy fan: Whitney Cummings and Nikki Glaser are queens! I’m 100% a cat person and an Aquarian to the core! Thank you for your consideration 🙂