Welcome to Pitch Wars! I am so excited to be back for my third year as a YA mentor! This contest has changed my life in so many wonderful ways, and I have experience on both sides–as a mentee and as a mentor. I’m super proud to say both of my previous mentees have found agents. You can read their success stories here and here!
I’ll talk a bit more about myself and my editing style below, but first… here is an overview of what I’m hoping to find in my inbox this year!
1) Magical Realism (as well as realistic fiction with fantastical elements)
Magical realism is always a tricky genre to define, but I love the way Anna-Marie McLemore described it in this blog post: “It’s a world where magic is more heartening or frightening than it is surprising.” I’m looking for a manuscript where a sense of magic shapes not just the MC, but their community. Some of my favorite books/authors of this genre are:
- The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
- Nova Ren Suma
I’d also love to see a story with fantastical or supernatural elements that may not fit the exact definition of magical realism. Such as…
- The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry
- Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
- Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
- This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers (not even close to magical realism, but I include this because it is one of my favorite examples of a book with a high concept (zombie apocalypse) that is grounded in the emotional lives of the characters, and because to me it reads more like a contemporary than a sci-fi or fantasy. Also because I love everything Courtney Summers writes.)
To be clear, I am NOT looking for fantasy or science fiction novels.
2) All The Contemporary
I love the entire spectrum of contemp YA, from light and swoony to dark and gritty. The most important thing is that it gives me the FEELS. I love when a book manages to make me laugh and cry, or when a dynamic between two characters is so intense it makes my stomach clench. I would love to see a book where characters’ backstories intersect in unexpected ways.
I’d also love to see any manuscripts with psychological elements, and/or manuscripts addressing mental illness as a main focus or influence. Some favorites: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Other things that will give me grabby hands:
* Flawed female characters
* Anti-heros (love a protag who makes mistakes and could be labeled unlikeable)
* Sibling stories, especially those with complicated relationships in the vein of I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
* Characters with messy histories
* Toxic friendship stories
* Unreliable narrators
* Romance that is grounded in flawed characters facing real obstacles. [Give me a slow-burning romance to ship! Also love the enemies to friends to lovers trope. (My ultimate book boyfriend is Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road)]
* Unique structures (alternating POV, alternating Before/After timelines, etc.)
* VOICE! Always voice.
I would love to see a twisty mystery or suspense, especially one with emotional heft. Some recent examples I adored…
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
After the Woods by Kim Savage
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (not so recent, but… <3)
Anything by Stephanie Kuehn
To reiterate, I am NOT the right mentor for your fantasy/science fiction/horror novel.
Think you’ve got what I’m looking for?? HOORAY! Here’s some more info that might help you decide if we’re a good match!
What I’m looking for in a mentee:
Someone who is willing to work hard and who will take a thoughtful approach to revisions. Someone who responds well to feedback and is willing to kill their darlings. (This does NOT mean you have to agree with everything I say. I love having a dialogue with my mentees and coming to a solution that feels right. But I do want someone who will take the time to absorb my notes before deciding on a revision plan.) Someone who isn’t afraid to cut scenes/chapters/huge sections if they aren’t working. (Fun fact: when I was a mentee I cut and rewrote about 75% of my book during the contest. It sold four months later.) And last but not least, someone who has put in the hours to get their manuscript as ready as it can be, and is looking for help to take it to the next level.
What you can expect from me as your mentor:
An edit letter with big picture feedback, as well as line edits/examples in track changes that jumped out at me while reading. Time allowing, a second pass to focus on smaller-scale revisions. Several passes over your pitch/sample for the agent round. A cheerleader who will be there to talk over any issues that come up while you’re revising. Encouraging emails that will likely contain pictures of my goldendoodle puppy, Tilly.
Miscellaneous and probably irrelevant facts about me (that aren’t listed on my bio page…):
I’m slightly obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. I watch too much TV, especially Netflix. I know every line in Mean Girls. If I were an appliance, I’d be a refrigerator (because I like being full of food). I consume a lot of maple syrup. My favorite ice cream flavor is cookies ‘n cream. I think sea lions are adorable. If you like Arrested Development and/or Gilmore Girls, we will probably be great friends.
And if you’re looking for a letter…