Hi there! I’m thrilled to be back for my fourth year as a YA mentor. And I’m equally thrilled to say that all three of my past mentees received offers of representation following the contest, and two now have book deals for their Pitch Wars manuscripts!
This year, I’m looking for YA in the following genres:
1) Magical Realism + Contemporary with speculative elements
I will swoon over atmospheric settings that feel like a character in their own right. Some of my favorites in this arena are:
• The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
• The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
• Anything by A.S. King
• The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu
• Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
• The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry
2) Contemporary Realistic
Give 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. If your novel pushes boundaries or tackles controversial issues, I AM HERE FOR IT. Some favorite contemporary realistic books:
• Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
• The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
• Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
• The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
• Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
• Anything by Katie Cotugno
• Anything by Courtney Summers
I would love to see a twisty suspense or psychological thriller, especially one with emotional heft. Some recent examples I adored…
• Far From You by Tess Sharpe
• Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
• After the Woods and Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage
• The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
• Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
4) Comedic Horror
Okay. So admittedly, this one is sort of oddly specific. The thing is, I’m not the biggest fan of scare-the-pants-off-you horror. But I DO love horror with a comedic or ironic twist, as well as stories that turn stereotypes and tropes on their head. Some examples…
• The Santa Clarita Diet
• Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
• This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers (This is one of my favorite examples of a book with a high concept that is grounded in the emotional lives of the characters. It also has a good dose of irony.)
Aaaand since I’m now realizing I just gave three zombie examples… to be clear, there do not need to be zombies involved!
And finally, here are some elements that will give me heart-eyes and grabby hands across all genres:
• Feminist narratives
• Dark humor
• Anti-heroes (love a protag who makes mistakes and could be labeled unlikeable)
• Unreliable narrators
• Characters with messy histories
• Character backstories that intersect in unexpected ways
• Family secrets
• Sibling stories, especially those with complicated relationships in the vein of I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
• Unusual settings
• Slow-burning romance that is grounded in flawed characters facing real obstacles
• Unique structures (alternating POV, alternating Before/After timelines, etc.)
• Strong voice!
Think you 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. And a cheerleader who will be there to talk over any issues that come up while you’re revising (and after the contest ends!).
Miscellaneous and possibly irrelevant facts about me (that aren’t listed on my bio page…):
• Favorite TV shows: Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Fargo, Archer, Stranger Things, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, The OC, Veronica Mars
• Favorite movies: The Way, Way Back, Mad Max, Wonder Woman, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Benny & Joon, Now and Then, Harold and Maude, Mean Girls, Some Like it Hot
• Favorite kind of pie: tie between pumpkin and key lime.
• If I were an appliance, I’d be a refrigerator (because I like being full of food).
• I’d rather be too hot than too cold.
• Jonah Griggs is my ultimate book boyfriend.