SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Exclusive with… Jazmia Young

 

Jazmia Young is an associate agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. She received her bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing at the City College of New York and was a graduate of the Publishing Certificate Program at CCNY. She is interested in representing children books, picture books through YA, focusing on middle-grade fiction/non-fiction with the goal of amplifying underrepresented voices and experiences. She particularly loves stories with friendship ties, complicated family dynamics, and grief or loss. Being a New York native, anything based in the great NYC has her heart. Jazmia is also the Administrative Assistant of the Association of American Literary Agents.

 

What was your path to children’s book publishing?

I didn’t come around to children’s book publishing until I started working at my current position at Curtis Brown, Ltd. At my alma mater, the City College of New York, I studied English with a concentration in creative writing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, all I knew is that I enjoyed writing and reading. To be around peers who enjoyed those things too, was a dream. My professors there were always encouraging the students on different paths related to their degree and that’s how I found out about the Publishing Certificate Program at City College. The program was imbedded in my curriculum so I didn’t need to take extra courses on the side so I was able to graduate on time. The courses were taught by publishing professionals who were very inspirational.

The last course of the program was an internship at a publishing house. I interviewed with a couple of places and landed an editorial internship for a small imprint at Norton. I didn’t quite enjoy what I read there because they primarily did adult but it was a good experience nonetheless. Once that was finished, I applied for and was one of the recipients of the AAR Diversity Fellowship that was offered to City College students. A program that gave a grant to two students to intern for a literary agency. That lead to multiple interviews with several different agencies until I accepted the opportunity to work at Curtis Brown. Once my internship was done, an assistant position opened up to assist two agents, Katherine Fausset and Elizabeth Harding. I was hired right away and have been there ever since! Both of my bosses have a wonderful list but I gravitated towards Elizabeth because she exclusively acquires children’s books. Working with her made me realize the diversity of the children’s work. I’ll read anything from a middle grade story about a fifth-grader fascinated by science to a ready-to-read about a juggling toucan! I love the range and that solidified the area of publishing in which I wanted to pursue.

 

When you get a submission, what keeps you turning the pages?

I love emotion. The more, the better. I tend to gravitate towards darker emotions such as despair and grief. Writing and expressing those emotions on the page can be tricky because, naturally, the reader wants the protagonist to win in the end. To overcome. To fight the monster and come out on the other side. But, like life, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you don’t win. I definitely want to read that the main character faces their problems head on but when the ending comes to an ease rather than a solution, the story resonates with me more. Also, soft and sensitive characters that discover their courage and strong-will keeps me glued to the page. The vulnerability tugs at my heart.

 

When you do offer representation to an author, what can they expect from you?

Growing up, I didn’t have much help with school, work, money, and etc. I’ve earned everything that I currently have. I thought in order to accomplish anything great, you needed to struggle a lot and make a lot of sacrifices. Even though that is partially true, I’ve learned that being a black woman had greater disadvantages in this world than that of my white counterparts. I wouldn’t change the way I grew up and the things I’ve endured because it made me resilient, strong-willed, and unwavering. When I offer representation to an author, they’ll see that. And realistically, I’ll make mistakes because I’m human, but I’ll accept them, and find every solution to solve them without a beat. With my incredible mentor and guide, Elizabeth Harding, to help me every step of the way, it allows the author to feel comfort that they not only have me but a team to help them. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, I have a distinct will to amplify BIPOC authors and illustrators and I’ll willing to do all that I can to see that happen.

 

What’s on your manuscript wish list?

Even though I love stories with doom and despair, on the flip side of that, I’m a sucker for a little black girl saving the world with her friends. The joy that overcomes me is unimaginable. I’m looking for stories with strong friendship ties, complicated family dynamics, and honing in on the despair aspect, grief or loss. The representation of the LBGTQ+ community, disability, traditionally underrepresented voices, and mental health is important to me as well. And, anything based in the great NYC is an automatic steal for me!

If you have a manuscript that is a match for Jazmia, you can query her this month. Please put SCBWI member in the subject line and email jky@cbltd.com.