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Mentor Type:

Traditional

Jessi Cole Jackson

Mentor

May

she/her

Danielle Burby, Mad Woman Literary Agency

Jessi spent twelve years building costumes in various prestigious regional theatres before getting her MFA in Children's Literature from Hollins University, where she honed her craft and found her people. After living in Cincinnati, DC, Philadelphia, Princeton, and the north shore of Boston, Jessi left theatre and moved back to Michigan where she has a very practical dayjob and no longer calls herself an artist despite writing, sewing, amateur sculpting, embroidering, and very occasionally baking. She adores mentoring and has participated in multiple rounds of SFWA's career mentorship program and Author Mentor Match, as well as informal mentorships. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two doofy cats.

Working Style

What does mentorship mean to you, and why do you want to be a mentor?

I want to be a mentor in order to pay forward all of the amazing formal and casual mentorships I've received, both in the professional theatre community and especially in the writing community. And I love to share the knowledge I've gathered over the years. I'm particularly passionate about mentoring authors from underrepresented communities, especially those who might not do well in fast-paced or highly structured programs.

I think mentorship can mean a lot of different things, depending on the mentee's needs. For some, it's accountability, validation, and/or encouragement. For others it's a way to gain information from a trusted, experienced source. Or a safe way to test theories or approaches before flinging them out into the world (thinking here primarily of the querying process!). Mostly I think a mentor is someone who has walked the road the mentee wants to walk and is there to illuminate the path(s) available so that they can achieve their goal/destination.

What is your mentorship style? What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?

I think my primary style of mentoring is flexible! It's really important to me to listen to my mentee's goals and capacity in order to develop a cadence that works well for both of us. I think my biggest weakness as a mentor at the moment is that I don't yet have a traditional publishing deal.

But the "failures" do allow me to talk about grit, resilience, how to keep moving forward even when things get really, really hard. Other strengths include: I'm particularly knowledgeable about querying, current conversations happening in the industry, and where/how to build community.

I'm also not prescriptive at all, but instead like to provide tools, resources, and insight so mentees can choose the best options for themselves.

What makes a great mentee? Describe your ideal mentee/mentor relationship. 

I think a great mentee is engaged, self-aware, and willing to do the work it takes to achieve their goals, whatever those might be.

My favorite mentee/mentor relationships are the one that continue on past the bounds of a formal program timeline just because it's going so well. Sometimes that means that my mentees send me an email here and there when they have a situation they're not sure how to navigate, sometimes that means I hold their hand through the whole process of querying. Occasionally that means it eventually develops into a friendship, which is amazing! (Though I am very aware of power dynamics in mentor/mentee relationships and very respectful of boundaries.)

But I think an ideal mentorship doesn't have to start/end there. I think as long as there's mutual respect and open communication so that everyone's hopes and needs are taken into account, then that's the most important thing!

How would you describe your normal working speed?

BICYCLE

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Communication

What kind of communication can your mentee(s) expect from you?

PREFERRED METHODS
Like many people, I have a day job, a young child, and a writing career to juggle, along with other plain old life things happening and so I prefer scheduled conversations either via phone or video chat. If I end up with more than one mentee, then I'd love to do these together as a small group, because I think one of the most important parts of writing is having a community and we learn as much from our peers' processes as we do our own. That said, I am always happy to accommodate my mentees' communication needs and preferences!

REQUEST
Open communication and honesty! If something changes, either externally with your life or internally with your goals and/or mental health, and our work together needs to adjust, just let me know. I like schedules and deadlines and having clear expectations, but I understand that life can be messy and flexibility is necessary.

What kinds of communication are you able to accommodate?

Email, Zoom/Skype/Video, Text/Whatsapp, Social Media DMs, Phone calls

Are you able to make accommodations for mentees that request them?

Yes

Mentorship Details

Expected Timeline

Indefinite/As long as the mentee needs to complete our work together

Check all that apply: What do you plan to offer as a mentor?

Submission package critique (Query, Synopsis, 50 page sample), Full manuscript critique, Cohort style mentorship (up to 4 mentees)

Submissions

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How polished should your submissions be?

Funhouse Mirror

MSWL

Age Categories:

MG, YA, NA

Genres:

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance

Send Me:

I love all sorts of books in all sorts of genres, but am probably the best mentor for character-driven stories with speculative elements, especially YA fantasy, but will happily consider any of the genres and/or categories below. I love solid world-building, even for contemporary settings, and dynamic characters with complex wants and relationships. I like stories that mix elements: scary with humor, darkness with joy. I love whimsy and fun, especially when paired with important themes and deep truths.

I’m especially interested in stories told by writers from underrepresented communities.

GENRES & CATEGORIES I'LL MENTOR:
- MG
- YA
- Crossover
- Fantasy
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
- Horror (of the spooky/unsettling variety...I don't do well with gore or lots of violence)
- Science Fiction


ELEMENTS I LOVE:
- artistic protagonists
- great world-building, whether our world, a made-up world or something in between
- BIPOC, queer, neurodiverse, disabled characters
- friendship stories
- found family and non-traditional families
- fat-/body-positive stories
- joyful stories
- feminist stories

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Please do not send me:

There is room for all kinds of stories and nuanced, careful ways to handle even hard topics. But I am not the right mentor for books containing:

- fatphobia and/or body-shaming
- abuse
- gore or a lot of on page violence
- potty humor
- talking animals

What are some of your favorite books? 

There are too many to list! Some of my favorite authors include:

– Dhonielle Clayton
– Shannon Hale
– Holly Black
– Rachel Hartman
– Kristen Cashore
– Margaret Rogerson
– C.L. Polk
– Claudia Mills
– Anne Ursu
– Kate DiCamillo
– Laini Taylor
– Diana Wynne Jones
– Stephanie Burgis
– Naomi Novik
– Renee Watson
– Talia Hibbert
– Sarah MacLean
– Helen Hoang

What are some books, movies, shows, games, etc. that you've recently enjoyed?

TV/MOVIES
Gilded Age
Bridgerton
Abott Elementary
Kim's Convenience
The Batman

BOOKS
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerfeld
The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner
Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Once and Future Witches by Alex E. Harrow
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

GAMES
Dixit
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Tokaido

Is there anything else you want potential mentees to know?

My ideal mentee is persistent, driven, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. They don’t have to be fearless (I’m not!), but they have to be willing to work to push past the fear to dig deep, whether that’s being vulnerable on the page or in the query trenches. They should be open to both critique and encouragement, and excited to make their book shine, even if that involves big, big changes.