Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.
And now, we have #TeamTelenovela . . .
Marcos S. Gonsalez – Mentee
Jenny Ferguson – Mentor
Marcos: Why did you choose Jen?
It all began not so long ago, in an internet galaxy not that far away, when I stumbled upon Jen’s response to the question of her editing style: “I’m blunt. Super blunt. Really super blunt.” Knowing myself, knowing how directly and clearly I needed it handed to me in order to do better, in order to make the baby that is my novel something to be proud of, I knew I needed Jen in my life. The brutal bluntness I desired and needed was sure given to me when she sent the edit letter.
Upon first reading and then re-reading, I was overcome with emotions. Anger, to be honest, was probably the first. [Jen: I wasn’t lying. I’m like so blunt it hurts.] I kept thinking “Why did she pick me if she just wanted to give me this many edits? She is butchering everything I worked for! She doesn’t get me!” After about an hour or so sulking in such thoughts, I truly contemplated what Jen was telling me. Quickly, the other reasons I chose Jen started appearing. Each of her edits were attentive and aware to the “literariness” of my novel. What “literariness” means is obviously vague, subjective, and not all that telling. For me, though, it was the idea that my novel was more than a novel: it was a political statement; an ode to my heritage, to the people who made me a writer; it was a piece of art about topics, subjects, and people never considered worthy of being art. This “literariness” was important to me, and I knew it was important to her. She was conscious of what I was trying to do, how I was doing it, and why I was doing it which made so many of her edits, upon further inspection, so much more appealing and exciting to do.
Another major reason for choosing Jen, to be honest, was that she’s a Doctor of English (woot-woot!) [Jen: You know nothing, Jon Snow], which I knew gives her such a rich understanding of the kind of work I’m doing. Not to mention I am currently a doctoral student in English and she is a beacon of hope that completing my PhD is possible.
The most important reason for wanting to work with Jen was she was interested in making her mentee a better writer. Of course, a huge part of me wanted to leave Pitch Wars with a ms that was more perfect, but I was more exhilarated by the idea of working with someone who could challenge my ways, test my abilities, and better me as a writer and as person. I did not want to leave the experience of Pitch Wars with just a polished ms. I wanted to leave it a much stronger writer. Jen certainly is making that a reality [Jen: No, this is all Marcos. For real, he’s doing the work], with the added honor of her friendship.
Jen: Why did you choose Marcos’s manuscript?
Marcos’ manuscript pretty much hit every single one of my wishlist items on the nose (okay, other than hijabs and sex). One of his narrators, her voice literally (yes, I am using this word correctly) had me smiling, then smirking, then thinking, oh my stars, I could read this all day. My body reacted to Marcos’ narrator’s voice in that electric way. Like Yolandi, his protagonist, was speaking to my heart, soul, the hairs on my arms, that kind of voice.
On top of all this, Marcos’ book is political without becoming an “issue book” or a book all about politics and not about characters. I’m a feminist, and I found a book where all of the central characters, and 90% of the supporting characters are women, complicated, real, difficult, strong, sassy, bitchy, funny, real, real, real women. This is so hard to do and I commend Marcos for this. For his gift to me, a feminist. But yes, his book is about women, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about immigration politics and family and art and the beauty of culture and language. His book will change the world—as all books should.
Plus—and this matters—I had a very clear vision of how I could help Marcos revise his book so that his vision and his manuscript matched up more closely. And yeah, I may have binge watched Season 1 of Jane the Virgin this summer, and when I discovered Marcos’ novel had a telenovela subplot, I almost died. When I recovered, I started sharpening my nails, and pumping up the volume in my hair in case I needed to brawl to mentor Marcos.
Marcos: Summarize your book in three words.
Major Telenovela Weirdness.
Jen: Summarize Marcos’s book in three words.
Voicey, politically-sound telenovela.
Marcos: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?
This question is a whopper, but I (think) can take this on. Ok, ok, let me begin with myself. I was born and raised in a small town in New Jersey. My experience of how and where I grew up, in many ways, is what makes my ms and perspective on things unique: I was raised in a primarily upper-middle class white town, living in a poor neighborhood of recently arrived Mexican immigrants, in a household of mostly Puerto Ricans with my undocumented Mexican father.
Bizarre, I know.
These many borderlands of identity I navigated and still navigate inform my life, my writing, and my ms. I grew up watching telenovelas with my abuela and mother. I grew up listening to both Puerto Rican and Mexican dialects. I grew up to the sound of slurs slung at me throughout my K-12 experience. I grew up watching as police raided houses in the middle of the night. I never knew exactly why they did this, since no one told me, but I knew that we could have been one of those houses. I knew that one of those people taken away in those cars could have been my father, my tia, a cousin, a neighbor. I knew anytime my father drove down the street he worried about being pulled over, about being profiled.
My novel, a book about immigration, unspoken pasts, and the impact of immigration on a family dynamic, is one I know intimately. Yet, I want to tell more than just a story about a family dealing with these concerns. I want to make the lives and experiences of people like myself, people whose lives and experiences are never made important or brought to the center, into art [Jen: Marcos is #ownvoices to the core, people]. For me, that is why my MS is so unique in the kind of story and the kind of art it is trying to be in this chaotic world we all inhabit.
Jen: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know.
I fell asleep riding my bike in the 5th Grade and woke up with a broken arm. Oy, eh? My undercut is the hairstyle I’ve had the longest in my adult life. It’s only been two years—but baby, that’s a lifetime for me when it comes to hair. I might be working on a YA novel currently called Code Name: The Boy Who Eats Sadness, and I’m thinking of naming the male lead after Marcos. Oh, and since my first book, BORDER MARKERS, just came out from a fantastic Canadian press (NeWest), the easiest way for someone to make my day: send me a selfie of you with my book, or a shot of my book on a bookshelf playing with other books, or you know—and yeah, it doesn’t take much—a picture of the Amazon packaging my book arrived in.
It never gets old.
This is what I wish for Marcos and all of you. And I wish you many books that change your world.
Check out Jenny Ferguson’s latest release . . .
After the accidental death of a high school-aged friend, the Lansing family has split along fault lines previously hidden under a patina of suburban banality. Every family’s got secrets, but for the Lansings those secrets end up propelling them away from the border town of Lloydminster to foreign shores, prison, and beyond.
Told via thirty-three flash fiction narratives, fractured like the psyches of its characters, “Border Markers” is a collection with keen edges and tough language. It’s a slice of prairie noir that straddles the line between magic and gritty realism. Recalling Tania Hershman’s “The White Road and Other Stories,” as well as Robert Oren Butler’s “Severance,” Jenny Ferguson’s debut is an essential collection of commonplace tragedies and the ghosts of failures past.
Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round.