Hello, Hopefuls! I’m so looking forward to meeting my mentee, and I hope that this info gives you an inkling into me, what I’m looking for, and my mentoring style.
My name is Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez. I was born and raised in Rosario, Argentina, the cradle of fútbol (don’t ever mentioned the s-word in front of me). I’m obsessed with the beautiful game. My favorite teams are Rosario Central, the Argentine national Team, the US Women’s team, Barcelona, Juventus, Real Salt Lake and Salt Lake Royals. I moved to Utah on my own when I was nineteen years old to attend college. My husband’s Puerto Rican, and we have five kids, ages 17 to 6. I also have two dogs (a labradoodle and a Yorkie) and a majestic calico/tortoiseshell cat. I’m a BYU, VONA (Voices of Our Nations), and VCFA (Vermont College of Fine Arts, Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program) alumna. I’m the kidlit guest editor at Hunger Mountain Literary Journal, and I’m also a freelance editor with Angelella Editorial. I’m involved with the Storymakers conference in Utah, and several social outreach organizations linked to the Latinx community. I’ve also been a SCBWI member for the longest time, and I love their conferences.
So far, my upcoming books are: BLIZZARD BESTIES (Scholastic, December 2018), WHERE ARE YOU FROM? (Harper, spring 2019), ON THESE MAGIC SHORES (Lee and Low/Tu Books, 2020), and a still untitled picture book out with Harper in 2021. I’m an Inaugural Walter Dean Meyers Grant recipient, and a New Visions Award and Utah Arts Award Honorée. I’m represented by the one and only Linda Camacho at Gallt and Zacker.
One less known fact about me: I’m in love with languages. I taught myself English with an English/Spanish dictionary as a young child, and once at BYU I learned Portuguese to the point that by the end of my college career I was translating my professor’s poetry from Portuguese into Spanish. I also took French and Italian classes, and I’m not fluent in them anymore, but I can communicate pretty well when I travel. I have an excellent sense of direction, and I love to travel and meet new people (although I’m an introvert). Oh! I also LOVE maps. I’m obsessed with them.
Now that you have an idea of who I am, this is what I want:
Middle Grade Contemporary realistic fiction* that includes:
- A magical bent. Very light fantasy (NOT epic fantasy or adventure a la Percy Jackson), but a magical realism. I want a middle grade Anne-Marie McLemore.
- Family and friend dynamics that are authentic and believable.
- Sports (I’m not familiar with or particularly like American football or baseball, but if you can weave these sports or any other sport in a way that I care about it, like in The Dairy Queen, yes. This).
- Diverse cast. What I mean by this is, I want a cast that reflects our world! Also, I use “diverse” because it’s the industry standard word for inclusivity, but more than the skin-level diversity, I want a decolonized story. Although I won’t ask for anyone to out their identities, I will prioritize #ownvoices stories, especially by authors of color.
- Deep, life-altering emotions. I’m a feelings junkie. I want to feel the range of emotions when I’m reading, but I don’t want to be manipulated into crying. I want genuine feelings, from joy to despair and back to hope, like in One For The Murphys, Bridge to Terabithia, or Milagos, Girl From Away. Feelings and situations experienced in the middle grade age mark people forever. I want to read a manuscript that shows the author’s respect and love for the child who one day will read it. With that said, graphic scenes of violence and abuse of children are not for me, and I ask that you please respect this. I’m not saying that I won’t read a story in which a child suffers (the characters in my books DO suffer), but not everything needs to be implicit to make an impact. Think of Okay For Now or Orbiting Jupiter. Make me feel for your character what Gary Schmidt makes me feel for his, and I’m your loyal reader to the end of the world.
*One big exception to contemporary realistic fiction: Retellings NOT based on Western tradition. BIG POINTS if you send me your middle grade Latin American/Caribbean modernized folklore, in the vein of The Jumbies. But for this, I want an #ownvoices author to have the chance to tell their people’s stories. If you’re writing outside of your culture here, I will need AN EXCEPTIONAL reason to consider it.
Why should you submit to me? What’s my style?
As a true Slytherin, I’m ultra-competitive. I want my mentee to win it all, and by that, I mean that I want my mentee to have a fantastic experience, to learn how to revise and LOVE it, and to know that they can go out into the world and conquer anything. I’m a very driven person, so I’d love to work with someone who’s also self-motivated and very hard working. I attended my MFA program because I wanted a mentor who would teach me what I couldn’t learn on my own. Pitchwars will hopefully be an accelerated MFA with the most invested helper you could find. I love the revision stage and working with my own mentors because usually when they point out what’s not working out in a story, my mind will always find the best solution and address their concerns in a way no one else could but ME! It works like magic. I want to help you find your own solutions because it’s YOUR story!
Disclaimer: I love a good synopsis. Get yours ready now if you haven’t already! When I request additional material, the synopsis will be the first thing I ask for.
Communication style: I prefer email! Please no FB messenger or Twitter direct messages. I don’t expect to be on the twitter hashtag very much, so I might miss notifications. If you have questions, leave a comment on this post. Once mentees are announced, I’d love to set up a video call with you, my dear mentee! Expect a deep, extensive edit letter, and then a lighter line-edit revision.
One last thing:
So that my mentee and I start on the same note, and while I prepare my editorial letter, I’ll ask them to read Lisa Cron’s Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) and Katherine Paterson’s A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children. In fact, I encourage everyone to read these amazing books that changed my writing life forever. Even if we don’t end up working together, dear Blog Hopper, please add these books to your to-be-read list. They should be in every writer’s toolbox!
To get a peek at the other mentors’ bios, click on this link or at the list below:
2018 Middle Grade Mentors