This was originally published on Diana Ma’s blog. It was republished here with permission.
In this blog post, WNDB mentee Diana Ma shares an update about her experience with the WNDB Mentorship Program. Diana was a mentee in the 2019 Mentorship Program and had a Young Adult Fiction Mentorship with Swati Avasthi. To learn more about the mentorship program, visit our website here.
By Diana Ma
In October 2018, I was stuck. I’d been querying my YA novel for nearly a year in search of agent representation without success. Although I’d gotten full requests and even a few “revise and resubmit” requests from agents, I still hadn’t secured representation and had burned through all my ideas for revision. I’d revised many, many times based on feedback from beta readers and agents, but as I said, I was stuck.
Then I saw that We Need Diverse Books, an organization I love and passionately support, was offering a year-long mentorship opportunity with a published author. A thrill of excitement ran through me. As a teacher as well as a writer, I’ve passionately supported the We Need Diverse Books mission to encourage diverse representation in children’s literature and get diverse books into classrooms. Was it possible that this organization could also help me with my book? For a woman of color writing an #ownvoices book, it would be a dream come true to work with an established YA author who understood the challenge and importance of #ownvoices representation. So, with renewed hope, I applied, knowing that there were likely to be many excellent applications and that the chances of getting a coveted mentorship were slim.
Then at the end of December, I got the email. I had been awarded a mentorship with the amazing Swati Avasthi. From the very first phone call, I was amazed by how well we connected. Swati was smart, funny, and insightful—everything I could ask for in a mentor. I had so much fun talking to another woman writer of color who totally got me that I almost forgot that I would ALSO get the benefit of Swati’s editorial eye. And oh, what a gift that was!
Swati read my manuscript and gave me the most thorough, brilliant, and insightful feedback I’ve ever gotten on anything I’ve ever written. She not only understood what I wanted to do with the manuscript but had so many ideas for how I could get there. Swati’s suggestions helped me not only with this manuscript but with my writing in general. I can’t begin to express how helpful this was. Based on Swati’s feedback, I revised yet again and sent out the revised manuscript to agents.
That’s when the magic happened. In the summer of 2019, I got an offer of representation from an agent. And then another one. Before I knew it, the offers were pouring in, and I was suddenly in a place I hadn’t expected to be—deciding between multiple offers of representation. It was a tough choice, but I chose the wonderful Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis and her fabulous assistant Daniele Hunter, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. For one thing, I have a book deal for a YA book coming out in Fall 2020! It’s a different book than the one I queried with, but I’m so excited working on Heiress Apparently, the first book in a romantic saga, with Anne Heltzel from Amulet Books. I know this wouldn’t have happened without the We Need Diverse Books mentorship program.
I’m beyond grateful to We Need Diverse Books for offering this wonderful and necessary mentorship program and to Swati Avasthi for her invaluable feedback and encouragement. I can’t say enough good things about Swati, the mentorship program, or We Need Diverse Books in general. Thank you!
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Diana Ma writes YA and MG books that feature kickass Asian American heroines. Growing up as a Chinese American girl, these were the kind of characters she hungered to find in books. She believes that it’s important for all kids to recognize themselves as the heroes of the books they read. Diana has two wonderful kids of her own and wants them to grow up with books that represent them. Her belief that diverse books help us create a better world is what drives her writing and teaching. Diana teaches composition, creative writing, literature, and humanities at North Seattle College and has an MA in English with a Creative Writing focus from the University of Illinois, Chicago and a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her debut novel, Heiress Apparently, is coming out in 2020 through Amulet Books. Diana is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis.