We spoke with 14-year-old Jake Marcionette, the author of Just Jake, about how he landed a literary agent and wrote a New York Times best-selling book—all while tackling middle school.
Q | We heard Just Jake came out of a summer writing assignment. Tell us about it.
A | My mom would make me read an hour and a half every day, and I’d have to write a whole book every summer. She’d approve all of the chapters. Once I started to write about what I was feeling and what was happening at school, I started to be passionate about it.
Q | How did you get a literary agent? That’s not easy to do!
A | Once I had my book, I asked my mom if she could put it on her website. I got a lot of good feedback from kids. I wanted to see it in a bookstore, but my mom was happy with it as an e-book. I had to make the tough decision to fire my mom in my quest to get it to the bookstores, but I had no idea how to approach a publisher. So I typed “how to get a book published” into Google. I read that I had to get a literary agent, so I printed a list of agents and started calling. Some didn’t take kindly to that. They thought I was wasting their time. Others were nice enough to read my book and tell me what they thought. At the end of my process, I was able to get Mr. Dan Lazar. He’s the best agent I could ever ask for.
Q | What’s Just Jake all about?
A | Jake was doing great in Florida. He was the man. But when his dad takes a job in Maryland, his whole life is turned around and he has to adapt to a new school. He has these things called Kid Cards, which are basically baseball cards but for kids in his class. He draws pictures of them and writes observations. Sometimes they’re not very flattering. Once the Kid Cards get out to the school, it’s a big deal.
Q | What advice would you give teachers to make their students better writers?
A | Let them write about what they love. When someone told me I had to write about a certain thing, I didn’t really like it. But when I had the freedom to write about anything, I started to love it. I’ve had a bunch of really good teachers: Miss Williams, Miss Simpson (I’m just throwing out some names). They all helped me.
Q | Tell us about your writing process.
A | I’m a very observant kid. I always have a notebook and pen with me, so when something funny happens at school, I’m writing it down. I document it on index cards. I have a whole bunch of them. My book is semiautobiographical. I was just writing about what was happening to me in school. I beefed it up a little bit to make it more of a story, but a lot of the things did happen.