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  • Writer's pictureElnora Gunter

The Daily Debut Prayer and Catholic Schools: Sonora Reyes

Oh, baby, baby

How was I supposed to know

That this traditional publishing thing would be a ride, yeah

Oh, baby, baby

Maybe I should've listened to the Reddit users who told me to self-pub

Sometimes this revision and rejection never ends, yeah

Not to mention all the racists and homophobes, yeah

Read this

Sonora will tell you how it all is

Listen to them, baby

Cause you want to know

Oh, because

This journey can be defeating and lonely

They will confess it was a bit of luck, but still believe in querying (in querying)

the waiting can make you lose your mind

But then you get a yessssssssss

Refresh that email, baby, one more time

Sonora got their yessssssssss

Now read instead of hitting that email refresh button, one more time

1. Welp, the first question is the one all in the writing community love to know! What’s the story of your journey from querying to publication?

I got very lucky in my own journey to getting published. At first, I tried pitch contests, but since I didn't get any interest, I went on to cold querying. I ended up getting my first offer of representation while I was recovering from top surgery, so I had to spend my recovery emailing all the other agents I'd queried in a pain-killer induced haze. It just added to the unrealness of the situation! I ended up with multiple offers, and I chose to go with my amazing agent Alexandra Levick! We ended up revising for about a year before going on submission, but it was SO worth it because we got our first offer quickly, and then it went to auction! I was actually in a cabin in the woods on a writing retreat trying to get my mind off of being on submission when I got the call, and I missed it due to poor reception! Luckily I checked my email and was able to find a spot somewhere outside with good enough reception to take the call. After that experience, I'm definitely ALL about taking that sweet time with revision.

2. Your YA debut, THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL, follows seventeen-year-old Yamilet as she navigates being the new kid at a mostly white Catholic school, her sexuality, and parental expectations. Where did the seed of this idea begin? Did it evolve as you continued working on the book? What is your overall hope in what readers take away from it?

Originally, I came up with the idea for this book because I needed to write something “easy” for National Novel Writing Month. I thought writing to my own experience as a queer first-generation Mexican-American getting sent to a mostly white Catholic high school would be a piece of cake. It… wasn’t. I didn’t enjoy my time in Catholic school, and writing solely to my negative experiences got old quickly. The idea evolved so much as I wrote it. I ended up coming to the conclusion that it’s not my own story I wanted to write, but the story I wish I could have had back then. Of course, my main character, Yami, goes through her fair share of struggle, but she gets to come out the other side of it thriving, safe, and loved. It’s the story I wish I had read when I was her age. I hope readers can come away from this book feeling ready to embrace themselves for who they are, or that it gives them the courage to go ask out their crush ;)

3. Your MC, Yamilet, showcases the intersectionality of identity: a reality that has always existed but is becoming more acknowledged within media and entertainment. When you received feedback about Yamilet, did you ever feel as if others didn’t quite understand this? Was it ever suggested that you write more exclusively in part of her identity over the other? What advice would you give to writers who also face this problem?

There were many times when I felt agents or beta readers didn’t understand what I was trying to do with Yamilet. I got plenty of homophobic and racist comments from early readers who I hadn’t vetted. I won’t go into details about what was said to me, but some of it was truly appalling. My main advice to any writers facing this problem is to vet your beta readers. Make sure you’re not letting just anyone read your book, and only give it to people you trust to handle it with the care it deserves. As far as agents and editors go, we can’t really control what they say, but one thing that helped me when I was querying was having a group chat of trusted friends I could vent to about the feedback. It’s easy to say “don’t let it get to you” but in reality, it’s okay if it does get to you. Just know that your experience is your own, and no one can take that from you. Then talk sh*t to your heart’s content in a PRIVATE chat to trusted friends lol.

4. Some say contemporary requires more character than plot. Others say plot reigns supreme. And there’s always the crowd that says balance! Do you think one outweighs the other in this genre?

I think it’s not so much about the genre, but the author. For me, character reigns supreme in almost anything I write! I can’t personally care about a plot if I don’t care about the characters it revolves around. Of course plot is still important, but I definitely tend to prioritize character first, personally.

5. Congrats on being selected as a mentor for PW! What drew you to writing mentorship? What are things someone should consider before volunteering for a mentor program?

Thank you so much! I was drawn to Pitch Wars because I feel like there can always be more opportunities for marginalized writers. I personally got extremely lucky in my publishing journey, but that’s not true for most marginalized authors. Because of the experience I’ve gained and the luck I’ve had, I now feel equipped to pay it forward and help someone who might not have been as lucky as I was. My advice for anyone volunteering for a mentor program would be to make sure you have the time to properly dedicate to your mentee! For me, the Pitch Wars agent showcase is three months before my book comes out, so it’s perfect timing! I can focus on my mentee up until the showcase, and then I’ll be able to switch gears and focus on my own marketing. I wouldn’t have done Pitch Wars if I didn’t think I had the bandwidth or time to fully dedicate to helping someone.

Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!

6. You’re in a partnership with Supreme to create a line of Catholic schoolgirl-inspired outfits. What’s your vision for the Sonora-line ?

I’m horrible at fashion and I’m sure it shows here but! Rainbow plaid skirts! Lots of gay pins! Khakis! Pride flag hair ties! Any way to queer up a regular Catholic school uniform is fair game lol.

7. Unpopular book or writing opinion?

It’s okay to dog ear your own books to save your place ☺

8. The 2023 Debut Daily Prayer is...

I just want to be able to keep doing what I love for a living. I’m so grateful I’ve been able to do this author thing, and I hope I can keep this up for a long, long time.

Born and raised in Arizona, Sonora Reyes is the author of the forthcoming contemporary Young Adult novel THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL. They write fiction full of queer Latine characters in a variety of genres, with current projects in both kidlit and adult categories.

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