In this blog post, WNDB mentee Angeline Boulley shares a six-month update about her experience with the WNDB Mentorship Program. Angeline was a mentee in the 2019 Mentorship Program and had a Young Adult Fiction Mentorship with Francisco X. Stork. To learn more about the mentorship program, visit our website here.
Editor’s note: In October 2019, Angeline Boulley sold her debut YA novel called The Firekeeper’s Daughter after a 12-bidder auction. You can read more about it in Publishers Weekly.
By Angeline Boulley
I applied for the year-long mentorship through the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) nonprofit organization in October 2017 and was not selected.
As any writer knows, rejection is part of the process. Every rejection hurts, some more than others. This one was not so bad. Something about it felt hopeful. I sensed I was a contender and that it just hadn’t gone my way in this instance.
Nearly a year later, after a major revision and working with a freelance editor, I was encouraged to try again. I dusted off my WNDB application, reread my writing sample from 2017, and saw my growth.
As a writer, I hover between extra confidence (“My manuscript is fantastic and I must remember that one high school anecdote for when Terry Gross interviews me on Fresh Air!”) and zero confidence (“No one will ever read this or be moved by it. Who am I to even try?”).
So, in an extra-confident moment in October 2018, I applied again for the WNDB Young Adult Mentorship Program. And then my confidence went on hiatus. Doubt crept in. My manuscript is dark. Wherever the line is in YA literature, my story surely crosses it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. Would my sample pages resonate with any of the mentors?
I’d read the bio sketches of the three YA mentors and one, Francisco X. Stork, stayed with me. I read his most recent book, Disappeared, which dealt with siblings grappling with drug-related criminal elements in their town. I connected with his stories and his writing.
In December 2018, I received an email notifying me that I had been selected for a WNDB mentorship in the Young Adult category and my mentor would be Francisco X. Stork!
The year-long mentorship began in January 2019. Francisco and I communicated via email. He read my full manuscript and offered to provide feedback in sections. He also wrote about his experiences as a writer, working with editors and publishers. Sometimes we communicated every week and other times we both had work, travel, family, and other commitments that took priority.
His feedback on the manuscript was so helpful. Francisco picked up on things my beta readers hadn’t. I was eager to strengthen my manuscript with his guidance.
FYI: The WNDB mentorship agreement states that mentees (like me) are not to ask their mentors (like Francisco) for agent or editor referrals.
As Francisco completed his feedback on my manuscript, he asked if I would consider submitting my manuscript to his agent. I was stunned. And honored by this completely unexpected referral.
I participated in #DVPIT on Twitter in April 2019…and had favorable responses from over 80 agents and editors. It took me a month to research agents and develop my dream list.
I queried 12 literary agents including Francisco’s. Received full manuscript requests from all but two. I received my first agent offer before my first rejection. Ended up with multiple offers of agent representation over a two-week period—which is a wonderful situation that no one ever discusses how it’s also extremely stressful.
I communicated with my mentor, who encouraged me to choose the right agent for me, not based on anyone’s referral.
After a thorough research process, including agent phone calls, an Excel spreadsheet, and podcasts, I chose to sign with Faye Bender of The Book Group—who also happens to represent my mentor Francisco X. Stork. She truly was the best choice for me.
I am midway through my WNDB mentorship. During that time, I’ve signed with an agent and am finalizing revisions before my manuscript goes out on submission to editors and publishers.
And Francisco X. Stork, my mentor, is a tremendous resource. He has made a difference in my life and my writing career through his kindness, talent, and insight.
“A mentor-mentee relationship is best when it is based on mutual learning and encouragement,” Francisco X. Stork said in a comment on my Facebook post. “I too am learning from you and your work. I see now how important it is for old writers like me to be there for new ones like you.”
He had a speaking engagement in Washington, D.C., in April 2019 and we met in person. I felt so fortunate to connect with my mentor.
The WNDB Mentorship Program has helped me polish my manuscript and approach the agent querying process with my best foot forward.
I am so glad I tried again!
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Angeline Boulley (Bahweting Anishinaabe) is an enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Her family comes from Sugar Island, a small island between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Canada. She is a former Tribal Education Director and holds a Master of Public Administration from Central Michigan University. Her writing background is as a grant writer to secure funding for culture and language preservation, tribal youth suicide prevention, and Indian education projects and services. This is her first foray into writing fiction. She works and lives in the Washington, DC area. You can find her on Twitter: @FineAngeline or at www.angelineboulley.com.