Welcome, potential Pitch Wars 2017 mentees! If you don’t know what Pitch Wars is all about, you can find all the deets here.
Pitch Wars will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s how I got my agent, and how I met so many of my wonderful writer friends. I was an alternate mentee in 2014 (that’s back when alternates were a thing) and in 2015 I had the fantastic honor of being picked by Marieke Nijkamp as a mentee. During the revision period, she had me cut two major characters and completely rewrite the last half of my manuscript. It wasn’t easy, but I can’t even begin to express how much I learned from the experience. It made my book unfathomably better, and I’m a better writer for it. I’m so excited to be able to pay that forward and mentor a very special YA writer this year, someone reading these words right this very second. It might even be YOU! Holy crap!WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:
- YA Contemporary
- YA Contemporary with an unexpected genre twist
- Ghosts/Supernatural (i.e. We Were Liars, The Walls Around Us)
- Spec-fic/light sci-fi (I don’t read much sci-fi, so big stress on the LIGHT here)
- YA Historical set in the 1920s-40s. Give me all your teen flappers and noir stories, especially if they are relevant *to contemporary issues (gender, sexuality, race, disability)
- Diversity is a big plus, especially #ownvoices. I want characters whose identities MATTER in their stories and whose differences help make them complex individuals with authentic experiences and struggles.
- Dark themes—think David Lynch, Coen Brothers, Harmony Korine for the teen set
- I’m cool with stories involving swearing, sex, drugs, drinking, abortion, suicide, and murder. Stories involving rape are iffy, particularly if it’s graphic and feels exploitative. (I was triggered by the rape scenes in the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series but wasn’t by the book, if that’s any indication of what my limits are…) If your story challenges or critiques rape culture in some insightful way, bring it on.
- LGBTQIA+ themes, especially stories about teens who are struggling with sexuality or gender issues beyond coming out. I’m bisexual and didn’t come out to my mom until grad school, so let me live vicariously through your fiercely out and proud protagonists.
- All the feels—give me hilarious, spooky, cry-my-face-off tragic, rage-inducing, holy-shit-YES inspiring stories. Extra credit if your book has all of the above.
- Stories involving girls who stand up and fight for each other, rather than being mean bitches who cut each other down. (Not that I necessarily require the protagonist to be female, and I won’t automatically dismiss a beautifully-written bitch-fest, either.)
- Unreliable or unlikable narrators (Dangerous Girls), misunderstood weirdos, underdogs we root for (Dumplin’). I’d love a YA version of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
- Multi-POVs, non-linear storylines, non-traditional formats (My last book incorporated four POVs, texts, interview transcripts, and news articles, so I’m well-versed in this area.)
GENRES I’M NOT THE BEST FIT FOR:
- Romance (romantic subplots are fine, but the protagonist should want something in life beyond a successful coupling)
- Hard sci-fi (or most any sci-fi, really…)
- Zombie or post-apoc stories (Even though, yeah, I wrote about zombies a couple times. I’m sure your zombie story is amazing and will someday go on to sell a million copies, but trust me, I’m BURNT OUT on the subject. I can’t even muster enough energy to watch The Walking Dead anymore, which kinda bums me out.)
FAVORITE BOOKS: (in addition to the ones mentioned above)
- The Hate U Give
- Everything, Everything
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics
- A Visit From the Goon Squad
- Geek Love
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette
- Cloud Atlas
- Eleanor and Park
- The Virgin Suicides (and the movie)
- The Walls Around Us
- Never Let Me Go
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Ghost World
- Donnie Darko
- Sing Street
- The Big Lebowski
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MY EDITORIAL STYLE:
- I’ll provide two thorough read-throughs of my mentee’s manuscript. The first will include extensive in-text comments in the submitted manuscript on what is working and not working, my first impressions, and other thoughts, as well as a comprehensive edit letter on big-picture issues I’ll ask them to tackle. The second will come after my mentee has completed their revisions, and it will include more in-text comments and any lingering suggestions/thoughts. When that’s done, we’ll polish your query letter, pitch, and first 250 words in preparation for the agent round.
- I will not be offering a detailed line edit of my mentee’s manuscript, but I will try to point out things here and there if I see typos or patterns of problematic syntax/grammar/sentence structure. Because I’m more interested in tackling the big picture issues, I will likely gravitate toward manuscripts with more polished prose. (Or as polished as you can get it at this time. I’m not looking for perfection, but I’m not a professional copy editor, either. I’d rather focus on things I’m relatively skilled at, like structure, pacing, voice, dialogue, etc.)
- I will be honest but compassionate in my feedback. I like to make stream-of-consciousness-style comments during my first read—focusing both on the stuff I love and what I think isn’t quite working yet—in order to capture my first impressions of both the prose and the plot. Sometimes I go back through and clean those comments up—especially if I’m rambling or repeating myself—but most of the time I leave them as-is because it’s a good reflection of how a set of fresh eyes experiences your work.
- Once I select my mentee, I will become their fierce advocate, their stanch supporter, and an undying cheerleader for their work. Having gone through this process twice as a mentee, I know how crazy the agent round gets and I’ll be there to squee and cry with them every step of the way. And if we get matching tattoos at the end of it all, I won’t be mad.
I’m a YA author represented by Melissa Nasson at Rubin Pfeffer Content. I’m currently out on sub with a book about four troubled teens who go searching for their reclusive movie star sperm donor. Before that, I wrote the first two volumes of ZOMBIE HIGH, a choose-your-own-adventure gamebook app available through Delight Games, and I’ve also published academic articles in an assortment of film journals and a film encyclopedia.
I have an MA in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and I’ve taught film history and analysis courses at a community college in Iowa City for the past 16 years. (UNESCO City of Literature and home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, holla!) I’m also a Jazzercise instructor. (Yes, that still exists, and no, we don’t wear legwarmers.)
In my free time, I enjoy knitting and cross-stitching portraits of drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race while binge-watching Netflix shows and podcasts, hanging out with my two adorable dogs and my adorable spouse, bullet journaling, and volunteering at my local food bank.
*P.S. If you’re still looking for the scavenger hunt word, it’s to in red.