Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlst
Hi there! This is my first year mentoring for Pitch Wars and I’m excited for this opportunity to give back some of the support I’ve received from the writing community. This year, I'm looking for YA (young adult) manuscripts!
What is Pitch Wars?
A mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.
About My Writing
My debut YA dark fantasy, Flint Flare Flame, is being released by Swoon Reads/Macmillan in Winter 2021. It follows two teen soldiers in love, pitted against each other as they fight for freedom from an empire of fire magic and ash-gray morals. If that sounds like your jam, you can add it here on Goodreads!
I’m also represented by the amazing Allison Hellegers of Stimola Literary Studio, who recently signed me for my Icelandic historical fantasy Wicked is the Witch (think Inception in an alternate, steampunk Iceland, with Viking-age magic).
Along the way, I've received the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature for my own Pitch Wars manuscript, and both Flint Flare Flame and Wicked is the Witch were honored with YARWA's Rosemary Award.
Video Credit: GIFGrrl/Claribel Ortega
Chilling on the Bushnell Park Carousel with Little T
I've always loved storytelling--before I could write, I'd draw out stories on the inside covers of my coloring books. Since I was a teen, I knew I wanted to be an author, and I've been chasing this dream of publishing for a long time, with a few detours along the way because hey, that's life. My publishing journey has been one of sheer stubborn persistence and sticking with a dream even when at times all I had going for me was a deep love of the stories I had to tell. Along the way, I've met some truly incredible writers I'm honored to call my friends.
But! When I’m not writing, I’m chasing after my busy toddler, whirling through dance workouts, or baking waaaaaay too many cakes. I live in Connecticut with my family and I’m very much looking forward to another New England autumn. (Fire-colored leaves and sweater weather ftw!!!!!!)
What I Can Offer
Looking for help with world-building? Stakes? Character motivation? Setting? Pacing? Dialogue? I’m here for you!
I have a BA in Creative Writing and studied young adult literature for my master’s degree. I’m a member of SCBWI, I’ve worked as a copywriter and proofreader, and I’ve CP’d and beta read for writer friends (agented and unagented) for years. In 2016 I was a Pitch Wars mentee … though it was the book I wrote after Pitch Wars that became my debut, and the book I wrote after that which landed me my agent (Okay, yes, that’s not the usual order of things. Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing! Buckle up, it’s a wild ride). So, I also know about persevering in publishing because I’ve done it, again and again … and again, lolsob.
But seriously, in publishing writers find their champions by persisting, honing their craft, doing their absolute best with stories they must tell, and making connections with other writers they can uplift and who will uplift them when they need it most.
And oh hey, that sounds like Pitch Wars, doesn’t it???
My Mentoring Style
Writing often comes from very personal, vulnerable places. I respect that and strive to be sensitive and considerate in my feedback. I do not believe critique must be brutal to be helpful.
That said, mentees are in Pitch Wars to improve their writing skills, and improvement doesn’t happen without addressing weaknesses. I will point out areas where I think your story isn’t working, or could be made much stronger. I’ll explain why I see an issue and offer potential solutions (suggestions only!! Ultimately, the mentee decides what to do about each area).
I’ll do two passes through the manuscript for my mentee. With the first, I’ll provide an edit letter and probably some in-text feedback to guide the mentee through revision. Edit letters can be a lot to swallow at once; it’s okay to take a few days to think over the feedback (in fact, I encourage it). When ready, I can discuss a revision plan with the mentee. My preferred methods of contact will be email and DMs, but right after the edit letter, I will be open to a phone call if that will be most helpful in brainstorming ideas. After the mentee has revised, I’ll read again to make sure the changes are working, and send suggestions for final clean-up edits before the showcase. I’ll also assist with the query letter, synopsis, and the pitch for that agent showcase.
What I Expect of My Mentee
My mentee must be a diligent worker willing to put the effort into even significant edits, if needed. They must also know their story well enough that they can stay true to their vision for it. I do not expect my mentee to agree to a suggestion if it would alter the heart of their story. While I wouldn’t want a mentee rejecting every one of my suggestions (if that’s the case, our visions for the story simply don’t align and we wouldn’t be a good fit) if a change truly feels wrong to a mentee, I wouldn’t want them feeling pressured to make it anyway. In that situation, I would want to talk through our ideas until we come to a mutually agreeable solution.
All along the way, I am of course available to answer questions. Though do be aware, in addition to juggling my own publishing deadlines, I’m also primary caregiver to a very energetic toddler (this child never. stops. moving), so while I won't leave my mentee hanging! ... I may not be able to respond immediately to every message. My mentee also needs to be an independent thinker who can first brainstorm and troubleshoot ideas, and then turn to me when stumped. That’s what I’m here for! To answer questions they can’t figure out/google themselves.
What I’m Looking For
Okay, I've been a mentee, I know this is what you're really here to see. ;) FANTASY is my first love and where my greatest strengths and expertise lies. I also enjoy stories with STEAMPUNK elements. And while I haven't written them myself, I have helped CPs with CONTEMPORARY and HISTORICAL manuscripts, so I'm open to those this year as well.
I love historical fantasy inspired by intriguing questions that open a whole new side of the world (“What if the plot to kill Lous XIV had been successful?” as in Addie Thorley’s An Affair of Poisons).
Gimme, gimme that dark fantasy that shows a grimmer side of human nature. Does your story feature morally gray protagonists and flawed characters forced to make tough choices? Are you telling a villain origin story? Send that to me!
I want those high/secondary world fantasies in a richly-imagined worlds unlike any I’ve heard about.
I also love contemporary fantasies set in our world but with a touch of magic that opens the setting to a new set of possibilities. (And trouble, of course!)
I am heeeeeeeere for all the witchy stories. ::grabby hands::
I love retellings of fairytales, folklore, or classic literature that haven’t been done before. Especially gender-bent. Mash-up those character roles and get me thinking about the story in a whole new way! And give me retellings outside of Western canon. Think Sangu Mandanna's Mahabharata retelling, A Spark of White Fire.
Also, paranormal creatures outside of Western canon, like Kat Cho’s Wicked Fox, about the gumiho from Korean mythology.
Give me stories where the steampunk elements are seamlessly woven into the plot and setting. Make the steampunk a character in its own right—by which I don’t necessarily mean automatons, btw. Give me a manuscript where the steampunk elements are so integral, you can’t tell possibly tell this story without them. I’m thinking of books like Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing, Mary Fan’s Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, and Rosiee Thor’s upcoming Tarnished Are the Stars.
My tastes lean toward darker rather than fluffy and light, though even in a more serious tale, if you can get me laughing out loud at well-timed points, bonus points to you. And send that book to me.
I love contemporaries set outside the United States. Give me a story about teens in another part of the world, such as Tanaz Bhathena’s A Girl Like That and S.K. Ali’s Love from A to Z.
My favorite historicals feature bold female protagonists breaking barriers and contributing to their world in ways that others around them insist are impossible. Think Grace Lafferty in Amy Trueblood’s Nothing But Sky (girl wingwalker ftw!!!), Botille in Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa, or Julie in Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity (one of my all-time favorite books. If you have a story like this that will wreck me, I want it in my inbox).
Give me historicals set outside of Europe or the United States, with diverse casts of characters. I want to read more of them! I want them on bookstore shelves!!
In any genre, I’m not the best fit for a plot primarily focused on romance. Also, please no love triangles. They’re so stressful for me to read. [sobs]
I do appreciate, however, a delightful, swoony romance as a subplot. My absolute favorite: CINNAMON. ROLLS. Think Hamlet from Maureen Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel and Jack King in Justin Reynold’s The Opposite of Always. Give me characters so sweet I’ll get cavities just reading about then.
I also love slow burn romances. Sloooooooooooooooooooooooow burn. Have me screaming at the characters “Kiss already!!!” Just … make sure they do kiss before the end, okay? Don’t break my heart.
All that said, I DO NOT believe a YA story must have a romance. Does your story not feature any romance at all? Maybe your story has an aro/ace MC? Or maybe romance didn’t find a place in your story because your characters got swept up in something else entirely (Surviving? Saving their best friend? Taking down their worst enemy? Sailing across the Aegean Sea? Winning the lead in the school play? Baking the perfect cake?) Does your story feature platonic relationships with no pressure to make them anything else? IMO, there’s no “just” about being friends. Friendship is a powerful love in its own right and I want to see stories celebrating it! If that’s your manuscript, send it my way, because I want to read it.
Books I Love
For more of my tastes, here are some of my current favorites (in no particular order).
If your manuscript can comp to any of these, I may be the mentor for you!
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell
Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (heist heists heists gimme those heists!! in any genre)
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
American Panda by Gloria Chao (amazing example of a book that addresses serious topics while still being laugh-out-loud funny!)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (both awesome examples of strong historical setting with just a touch of fantasy. I love it!!)
I’m Not A Good Fit For (CW Note: This List Contains Potentially Triggering Themes)
Fire magic, Viking-age magic, baking magic (I love allllll of this! But it’s too close to projects I have in works.)
Fae, werewolves, zombies, elves, dwarves. Or vampires, unless the concept is super fresh.
Complicated histories and huge casts of characters
Long journeys in search of magical/mythical objects
Character(s) must fulfill [insert number here] tasks to prove themselves
Chosen One stories (unless there's a really unique twist on that trope)
Secret royalty (unless there's a really unique twist on that trope)
Romance as the main plotline
Good girl/bad boy romance trope
Toxic/abusive romantic relationships
On-the-page sexual assault
Issue books (main plot-line focused on characters overcoming abuse, addiction, mental illness, etc.)
Anything much above a PG-13 rating
Sci-Fi (other than steampunk)
Novels-in-verse (I LOVE them. I do not, however, feel I have the skillset to effectively mentor them at this time.)
More than three POVs
Stories longer than 110k words
MG, NA, or Adult (I’m only mentoring YA this year)
To anyone putting their writing out in the world, whether through Pitch Wars, sending stories off to CPs and beta readers, querying, posting to online forums ... that takes great courage and I applaud you for it! To anyone who chooses to submit their stories to me: Thank you for trusting me with your work. I'm honored to be part of your writing journey. While I can only pick one mentee to work with, know that all your stories and voices matter and I'm already cheering for each of you as you hone your craft and search for your champions in the publishing world. Good luck!!
Now, onward to the rest of your mentor search! Click here to return to the main Pitch Wars post, or follow the links to the remaining YA mentor wish lists below.