We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Jasmyne Hammonds and her mentor, Trisha Tobias! Jasmyne signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
Jasmyne, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor?
Focus on who you want your main character to be at the end of the story and work backwards.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
Trish and I did two major rounds of revision during Pitch Wars. The first round took the longest because it was a complete rewrite of the last 100 pages or so. That took nearly two months, and I finished right in time for the holidays. The second round felt like more of a clean sweep. There were line edits and minor plot revisions that we focused on. The week before the Agent Showcase, I sat down and read the entire manuscript aloud to check for consistent voice and make sure there weren’t any gaping plot holes.
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
The conversation I had with Suzie was actually my third agent call and was a result of me nudging her that I had another offer. At that point, I was kind of getting in a flow and felt more comfortable with sharing my ideas and being honest about what kind of agent relationship I thought was going to be best for me. When I got Suzie’s email that she wanted to have a call, I was actually on the subway with my partner. We both got so excited that we probably scared everyone around us! I also wanted to respond immediately but couldn’t because I had no service! Once I was finally able to respond, we set up a call for the next afternoon. I had so many butterflies, but they quickly subsided once we started talking. We chatted for nearly two hours, and I had a feeling when we hung up that Suzie and New Leaf were going to be a good match for me in the long run of my career.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
My mentor was everything. Trish took my book and poured so much love and thoughtfulness into it. Even if Pitch Wars didn’t land me an agent, it led me to Trish. Her mentorship, and now friendship, is invaluable to me. Also, there’s something special about being among 100+ other writers who are going through the revision and querying trenches together. It helped me feel like I was a part of the writing community. I’m so grateful for the connections I made.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
DO IT! Get your manuscript as ready as possible and have all your materials prepared before the application opens. Also, it helps to have several pairs of eyes on your query so it’s as strong as possible.
Trisha, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
I was terrified! I’d never mentored before, so I definitely struggled with whether I had much to offer Jasmyne. But I lucked out with a perfect mentee match, and the two of us fell into a comfortable situation quickly. We dove straight into talking about notes, suggestions, and concerns regarding the manuscript and what Jasmyne hoped to achieve with it. The entire two-round process was tailored to helping Jasmyne get a little closer to her story and writing goals. And she was amazing! She took all revision notes with grace; she was committed to creating an even better manuscript than she applied with. Mentoring Jasmyne was like working with a friend—and that’s exactly what it was!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Jasmyne is a flight attendant, a job that’s pretty brutal on the body. I can’t imagine how exhausted she must have been during intense revisions and beyond, but she handled everything with style! And she kept all her deadlines like a boss! What a queen.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Know your non-negotiables upfront. Participating in Pitch Wars means being open to big revision changes, and that open-mindedness will take you far. But before revisions even start, you should also know what parts of your story make up the “heart” of it. What CAN’T change? Know what makes your story yours, and tell the truth when speaking with prospective mentors who might ask. That’s the only way to find the perfect fit!
Let’s find out what drew agent Suzie Townsend to this manuscript. Suzie?
I was first drawn in by the pitch. The main character is new to this town and suspicion of a local murder falls on her. That immediately piqued my interest. But then I was totally hooked when I read the opening excerpt. Driving into town, Avery, our main character counts ten bullet holes in the rusted “Now Entering Bardell” road sign. This striking image is then contrasted with the open banter between Avery and both her parents in the car. Despite the fact that she’s not thrilled to be moving her senior year, you can tell there’s real love between her and her parents. In only 250 words, I felt like I got a peek into well rounded characters and a town that was going to be a character unto itself. As I kept reading the manuscript, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, not just in my desire to unravel the mystery but because the characters felt alive and I wanted to see them find their happiness.
How about some fun questions for Jasmyne and Trisha.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Jasmyne: If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll stay in bed. Otherwise, I like going to the library.
Trisha: I’m a hermit, so I’ll stay at home, but it’s time to put up the blanket fort for maximum privacy. Add some wireless headphones and I have a self-built oasis! (Bonus points if my background music is a compilation of K-pop piano covers.)
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Jasmyne: I’d love to go watch horror films with Tiffany D. Jackson. Her thrillers are a must-read.
Trisha: I’d welcome the chance for Dhonielle Clayton to dress me up like a gorgeous and powerful Belle.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Jasmyne: Juliet Milagros Palante from Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. She’s a queer Latinx character, and her hilarious voice captured me from the first page. I feel like we’d be friends in real life.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Jasmyne: There’s a mobile app called Choices I’m not ashamed to say I spend way too much money on. It’s an immersive story app that has great writing and characters you fall in love with. The Tumblr fandom is very real!
Trisha: It’s not a book fandom, but Kingdom Hearts. It’s the video game of my youth and I can’t let it go.
What inspired you to start writing?
Jasmyne: I started writing in elementary school when my best friend and I discovered Fictionpress.com. We didn’t need anything other than a word processor and an Internet connection for people to read our stories and leave reviews! As a military kid who was constantly moving around, writing felt like one of the only constant things in my life. I always had my nose in a book and when I didn’t, I was dreaming of the day I’d create my own.
Trisha: I loved reading as a child, and I think writing my own stories seemed like a natural extension of my love for stories. I used to write incredibly boring tales about little girls like myself who had big tests coming up. Later in life, I cut my teeth on fan fiction (much more exciting than school tests) and stories made from English class vocab words. Props to my junior high teacher for encouraging my creative vocab assignments!
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Jasmyne: I’m a flight attendant with a hectic schedule. Sticking to a routine is very hard, and sometimes I’m so exhausted that writing is the last thing on my mind. When I was writing Crooked Letters, I would write a lot on my layovers. For a while, I enjoyed working Salt Lake City trips because I can spend ALL day at the city public library. I also love laying over in Boston, New York, and Alaska because I can always find a cozy coffee shop to work in.
I’m not a major planner but I do like to have all the pivotal scenes outlined before I get into a project. I find that I write best at night. When I’m at home, I put on a lo-fi hip hop playlist and work for hours. If I’m working a redeye flight, there’s typically a lot of time to kill while all of the passengers are sleeping so I always keep my notebook close to jot down ideas and scenes.
Jasmyne Hammonds grew up as a military brat and went to college in Virginia where she studied Human Services and Creative Writing. She is a Pitch Wars alum, a Lambda Literary Fellow, and a Sundress Academy for the Arts resident. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and works as a full-time flight attendant. When she’s not daydreaming at 30,000 feet, she enjoys reading and writing fiction about characters from diverse backgrounds.
Trisha Tobias is Associate Fiction Editor for FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology, an Editorial YA Intern at Page Street Publishing, a freelance editor, and the mind behind the YouTube channel, Paperback Prima Donna. She’s also a member of the Representation Matters Mentorship Program. She holds a BA in Media and Communication Studies from Fordham University with a minor in Creative Writing. In her “free time,” Trisha can be found playing The Sims, connecting with her tarot cards, making too many to-do lists, or crying over her favorite Disney movies like the adult she is.
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