Pitch Wars 2019
Pitch Wars is "a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents." Click here to read more about the program and about the agent showcase!
WHO I AM:
This year, I'm excited to serve as a mentor for middle grade (MG)! My debut MG novel, THE TROUBLE WITH GOOD IDEAS, is coming out next summer from Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan. It's the story of Leah, a twelve-year-old Jewish girl who creates a golem to take care of her ailing great-grandfather so that he won't have to go into assisted living… only to realize too late that golems always turn on their creator. I recently saw my cover and now I walk around looking like the heart-eyes emoji all the time! I have another MG standalone due out from Roaring Brook in 2021, and a couple other things coming out soon too… *whistles innocently* I'm also the author of two dark young adult thrillers, DAMAGE DONE and NEVER MISSING, NEVER FOUND, which were published in 2015 and 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers.
Before full-time writing, I spent years working in the publishing industry. I was a literary agency assistant at Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents (then Lippincott Massie McQuilkin) for three and a half years, and before that interned at three different literary agencies (fun fact: I interned for my agent before she was my agent). I know how to make your query, first pages, and manuscript enticing to the people reading the query pile because I spent so long as the person reading the query pile. I actually took part in Pitch Wars on the agent side a few years ago! I know what made things stand out to me, and I can help you get to that point.
At my old agency, my boss used to call me "the hatchet"—I was known for being tough on the manuscripts I edited, but very good at the process. You should apply to be my mentee if you're not afraid of hard work—I'm never mean, but I will go into detail about what isn't working in your manuscript (along with what IS working, too—I'm not a monster!) and help you brainstorm how to fix it. I love the editorial process, which is the thing I miss most about working in publishing. At the same time, I'm respectful of the fact that this is your book, not mine, and I won't protest if you decide not to take some of my notes. It's your book, and ultimately you know what's best for it.
WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR:
I'm open to pretty much every genre inside middle grade. Here are some things I would especially love to find:
—Books by underrepresented voices, books with feminist themes, and #ownvoices projects.
—Stories that focus on food or have food as a significant element, even if just as droolworthy descriptions, are my jam (and jelly!).
—I'd love to find a book that looks at religion in a thoughtful way—not inspirational books that would probably be published by a religious publisher, but a character who engages with their religion in a positive and/or negative way. Think a MG version of DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.
—Anything with elements of humor, even if it's not overall a "funny" book.
—Also… anything with darkness! I love dark books. Bring on the ghosts and haunted houses. If you've read my debut YA book, you know you can't get too dark for me (though I'm probably not looking for TOO much murder and blood in my middle grade…).
—Sweet contemporary coming-of-age books that deal with serious subjects in an authentic middle grade way.
—I spent eight years playing various instruments in marching band, concert band, and woodwind choir, so I love everything to do with band and music!
—I'm interested in examining class differences and class privilege in books.
—I'm a cat person… and a dog person… and an animal person in general. So I love reading about animals in my books.
—I'm the oldest of five siblings and love books that look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of sibling relationships.
—My bucket list trip was to the Amazon rainforest, which was about two years ago now. I love books that take place in areas we don't see much in U.S. fiction.
—Historical fiction (fantasy or contemporary) set during times in places that aren't explored much in the books out now.
—I love books with elements of fantasy, especially when you're not sure until later on (maybe not ever!) whether the fantasy is real or not.
—I am fascinated by unique magic systems and interesting worldbuilding in fantasy novels. Think MISTBORN, but for kids!
—Interesting narrators or formats, like a novel in lists or a book narrated by the main character's imaginary friend.
—Kids with quirky hobbies.
—A surprise: if your book doesn't have any of the above, please still consider sending to me! My favorite thing is to be surprised by a book I wasn't expecting.
Here are some recent MG books I loved!
—The LOVE SUGAR MAGIC series by Anna Meriano
—THE DOOR AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Caroline Carlson
—Frances Hardinge's entire bibliography (picking a favorite of her books would be like picking a favorite child)
— SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES by Margaret Dilloway
—THE DRAGON WITH A CHOCOLATE HEART by Stephanie Burgis
— NIGHTBOOKS by J.A. White
—AMINA'S VOICE by Hena Khan
—WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW by Cindy Baldwin
—THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty
— MAYBE A MERMAID by Josephine Cameron
— EVERLASTING NORA by Marie Miranda Cruz
— MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON by Linda Williams Jackson
— THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani
— ZENOBIA JULY by Lisa Bunker
— THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BRYONY GRAY by E. Latimer
— THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras
— LOVE LIKE SKY by Leslie C. Youngblood
— THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK by Celia C. Perez
— STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN by Jennifer Torres
— THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS by Ann Braden
— MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina
— FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang
THINGS NOT TO SEND ME:
—I'm not looking for graphic novels or novels-in-verse—while I love reading both, I'm not confident in my ability to evaluate or edit them well this early in the publishing process.
—I'll specifically be avoiding topics and themes too close to what I'm currently working on (to avoid any conflicts of interest), which include books heavily featuring Jewish mythology, books centering bar or bat mitzvahs, books centering around a main character dealing with anxiety/social anxiety (specifically if that's the whole book—if anxiety is just an element of it, that's okay), vampires, and books set at sleepaway camp.
—I'm not the best mentor for books centered around sports or plots about who's going to win the big game. I'm just not a sports person (except for marching band, which YES is absolutely a sport). Same with books about circuses—they just don't interest me.
—Sometimes I feel like the only person ever who hasn't watched any superhero movies, read any superhero comic books, or watched any of the superhero shows on Netflix. I'm just not a superhero person, and I'm probably not the best fit for your superhero book.
—I'm not the best mentor for your project if your main character has an eating disorder. Please don't send me eating disorder books.
—I have a soft spot for portal fantasy, but I'm probably not the best mentor for you if your portal fantasy story involves your main character getting sucked into the pages of a book they're reading.
—While I like books about boys and boy main characters, I'm probably not the best fit for your book if it doesn't have any significant girl characters, or if you have only one girl in the book who fulfills the trope of being "not like other girls."