Biography and F.A.Q.
Jess (left) and sparkly best friend/editor Kate
Twenty-four year old Jessica Burkhart (pseudonym--find her still under-construction Website for Jessica Ashley here) was born in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. By the age of ten, Jess started her own business, "Jessie's Tack Cleaning Service" to pay for horseback riding lessons. She rode daily and on occasion, wore her paddock boots to school. Boys thought they were cool. Seriously.
In eighth grade, Jess had a spinal fusion for severe scoliosis. During her recovery, she read dozens of teen magazines and thought "Ooooh! I could do that!" She learned how to write a query and sent dozens of (awful) queries to magazines. She used writing to fill the emptiness of no longer being able to ride horses.
Each query was rejected.
Jess kept at it.
She finally stopped writing about topics she thought editors wanted to read and wrote about what she loved--volunteering with the Humane Society. That article became her first acceptance.
In 2001, a year after her spinal fusion, Jess started "Str8 Spines for Shriners," a support group for kids and teens facing spine surgery at any Shriners Hospital.
Jess, still disheartened by not being able to ride, kept writing about anything BUT horses. She hated being reminded of what she couldn't do.
Jess' family moved to Florida and she focused on two things--education and writing. She started college at sixteen and had an Associate's Degree from Lake City Community College in fall 2005.
Jess kept freelancing and had over 100 pieces published in magazines such as Girls' Life, Listen and The Writer.
She transferred to Florida State University and in November 2006, during her senior year, she signed up for National Novel Writing Month. The challenge? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
The idea for a horse novel hit and wouldn't go away. Jess started to live vicariously through her horseback riding characters and fell in love with horses all over again.
On December 1, the first (BAD!) draft of Take the Reins was complete!
In January 2007, a supercool agent stumbled upon Jess' blog and asked to read her manuscript. Jess crossed her fingers and sent Take the Reins to NYC. She signed with the agent who sent Take the Reins to publishers that spring. Within 10 days, Jess had a four-book deal from Simon & Schuster's Aladdin MIX.
Jess graduated magna cum laude from FSU in April 2007, at 20, with a BA in English.
Now, Jess is a full-time author of tween fiction. She has six books releasing in 2009 and several scheduled for 2010.
Jess relocated to NYC in April 2009 and loves it!
Jess co-owns Violet & Ruby with her bestie Kate Angelella. Violet & Ruby was started in January 2011. Kate and Jess will be bringing tweens original, fun e-book novellas for download via BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.
I'm a young writer and I want to get published! Advice?
I shared TONS of tips and tricks here!
Where has your writing been published?
You'll find over 100 of my articles, quizzes, short stories and more in magazines and newspapers such as: A Girls' World, AboutTeens.com, Beautiful Girl, Characters, Florida Trend's Next, FSView & Florida Flambeau, Girls' Life, Guideposts Sweet 16, Howl!, Kid Magazine Writers, Lake City Magazine, Listen, NE Chronicle, Positive Teens, Rainy Day Corner, Romance Writers Report, Teen Ink, Teen Scene, Teen Voices, Teenage Christian, The Famuan, The Next Step, The Tattoo, The Writer, Writing for Dollars, Young People's Press and Young Writer.
How did you get an agent?
In November 2006, at nineteen, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal of the contest is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. The prize? The writer has a completed first draft of a novel. I signed up and on December 1, I had a very, very rough draft of Take the Reins.
I blogged (the entry is still in the archives) that I'd finished a novel and was going to start editing it and looking for an agent.
That month, an agent stumbled onto my blog and read my entry about my book. She sent me an e-mail and offered to read it.
I sent it and--gasp--she liked it! She signed me as a client in January 2007 and we revised the manuscript for a few months before it went on submission.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have so many lovely author friends that I couldn't choose! Hmmm...how about I list favorite authors who aren't friends?
I adore anything by Kate Brian, Libba Bray, Stephenie Meyer, Sara Gruen, Maureen Johnson, Sara Shepard, Becca Fitzpatrick and Stephenie Meyer.
Tough call between Moulin Rouge and Mean Girls. I heart them!
Where have you lived?
Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Illinois.
Things you can't live without?
Lip gloss. (It's everywhere. I, um, even have a lip gloss box beside my laptop.) Books. Kittens. Pink pens. Cozy sweaters. Coffee Mate. Best friend. BlackBerry.