We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Jessica Parra and mentor, Hoda Agharazi! Jessica signed with Jen Azantian at Azantian Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
About the Team…
As an attorney and a daughter of bakers, I never object to an extra slice of cake. I was the recipient of SCBWI So-Cal’s 2019 and 2020 Agent’s Choice Award, and SCBWI’s 2021 BIPOC Scholarship. I was selected by Don’t Date Rosa Santos author Nina Moreno for the first class of mentorships through Las Musas, a Latinx collective of children’s writers, a 2020 We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Finalist, and a 2020 Pitch Wars Mentee. I not only devour YA and MG #ownvoices contemporaries that are like gummy vitamins – sweet but also contain something good for you inside – but also love to write them.
Hoda Agharazi is a YA writer who loves storytelling in all its forms. She has worked in the publishing industry as a literary intern and an editorial assistant. Currently, she is doing her PhD in English Literature. Her non-writing related interests include photography, film, and traveling.
Category: Young Adult
Jessica, can you tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars?
Hoda and I did two manuscript passes. In the first, we focused on developmental issues such as revising the setup so they can payoff with more emotional resonance later, amping up tension between the main character and love interest, restructuring Bake Off’s challenges so readers could really “feel the heat” and speed up pacing (the bane of my existence). We also worked on adding external stakes to Bake Off. This added so much more emotional depth to the story, and really tied together the Cuban diaspora themes in my book.
In the second pass, we focused on eliminating filtering and showing instead of telling. We also spent HOURS (so many hours) eliminating crutch words to tighten the prose. You know that Spongebob gif where he’s sticking out his tongue and tapping a pencil on his head, staring at a notepad and thinking “HOW?” Well, that was me most of January, wondering how I’d gotten into Pitch Wars LOL! I’m so happy that I did though, because meeting Hoda, her 2019 Mentee Stephanie Dodson, and some of the other mentees (Angela and Melanie I’m looking at you) has been the real success in this journey.
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)!
I was fortunate enough to end up with a handful of Calls, but THE CALL felt different. I met Jen Azantian at a SCBWI So-Cal retreat in 2019 with just a few chapters of this manuscript. She actually ended up giving me an award that weekend, which gave me the confidence to finish the manuscript! So being able to sign with her felt like a homecoming. She was a fierce supporter of my writing and this story before the book was even finished; so I’m beyond thrilled to see her continuing to do that for this, and many more books to come! As far as celebrations, I commissioned some character art from the amazing Carina Guevara. She sent me the most beautiful illustration of Rubi as I was literally signing the agency agreement, which made the entire day even more magical.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I’ve come out of Pitch Wars a better storyteller and feel less scared to REALLY pour my heart onto the page.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
DO IT!!! You will come out a better writer and have access to a community of writers
Hoda, tell us about working with your mentee.
I had so much fun working with Jessica! She’s such a talented writer and doesn’t shy away from hard work. Her dedication and passion made working with her a joy!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Jessica really gave it her all during revisions and nailed her edits. I have no doubt she is going to accomplish great things.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Make sure your manuscript is complete and as polished as possible. Having a CP or two look it over is definitely a good idea!
Now, how about some fun questions.
Jessica, you only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
My home office.
What author would you like to spend the day with, Jessica? What would you do with them?
Zoraida Cordova. I’d go to Disneyland with her and spend the day in Galaxy’s Edge; find Kylo Ren (for her) and Darth Maul (for me) and ask them out on a double date.
And Jessica, what fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Jaime Fraiser 😉
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Jessica: Star Wars
Hoda: The Marvel Universe!
What inspired you to start writing, Jessica?
I wanted to create characters that looked like me and have them be the protagonists of stories.
Thank you for stopping by and supporting our mentors and mentees!