Hey there, Pitch Warriors!
I am so excited to be mentoring for Pitch Wars for a fourth year!
First, the basics. If you’re reading this post and saying, what in the world is Pitch Wars? In short, Pitch Wars is 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. Find all of the details and dates here.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME
I’m Jamie, *waves*. For my day job, I work in Pricing & Contracts for a large medical device company. I live with my husband and four children in New Jersey, along with our three ridiculous pups.
I currently have six books out through St. Martin’s Swerve (Until We Break, Until It’s Right, Reluctant Hearts, All the Ways You Saved Me, The Feeling of Forever, and The Way Back to Us), but am solely focusing on my YA Fantasy and Contemporary projects going forward.
I mentored YA in Pitch Wars in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and have been able to work with three incredible writers. In 2016, I got to partner with the inimitable Kristen Clouthier. If you don’t know her, you should definitely go give her a follow. She writes some of the wittiest banter and characters you can’t help but fall in love with. In 2017, I had the honor of working with Shelby Mahurin whose story, Serpent & Dove, completely blew me away from the first page. It was released by HarperTeen this September and is now a NYT Bestseller! In 2018, I mentored the incredible Kaitlin Bartlett and her breathtaking story featuring two “unlikeable” girls and the heartbreaking consequences when their friendship implodes. I highly recommend giving her a follow to see what comes next for her! As for 2019? I can’t wait to see what this year’s Pitch Wars brings!
Some random tidbits about me:
- I lived and breathed softball for the majority of my life. I’ve played every single position on the field, but I’m most at home on the mound.
- I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts, specializing in Drawing, Painting, and Photography. Which clearly has a lot to do with my current day job :). I do put it to use doing newborn and couples photography, mostly for family and friends.
- I was a first chair oboist.
- I’m addicted to television series but rarely watch movies. Some of my favorite shows are/were: Lost, Fringe, The 100, Westworld, Friends, The Vampire Diaries, Stranger Things, Grey’s Anatomy, Outlander, Ally McBeal.
- I am an avid supported of the Oxford comma.
- I love video games. I’m a Playstation girl myself with some of my favorite games being the Uncharted Series, Assassin’s Creed, and Resident Evil.
- I truly believe there is a Friends reference for every life situation, and I’m pretty sure I can communicate entirely in Friends gifs.
- I work with several dog rescues as a foster family for rescued pups, and it’s one of the most rewarding experiences.
- I’m an early bird. Sleeping in to me is staying in bed until 7.
- I never, ever bother matching my socks. Ever.
- Slytherin, INTJ. Enough said.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ME AS YOUR MENTOR?
I plan to tackle all the big picture issues first and then work my way down to the smaller things and line edits. We’ll get to your query and synopsis at the end, too. I’m fully prepared (and excited!) to read your manuscript several times until everything’s as perfect as can be. I tend to comment pretty zealously on Word documents, so be prepared to find a lot of those sprinkled throughout your manuscript. To be clear, more than a handful of those comments will be utter fangirling.
You could probably describe my critiquing style as slightly blunt, entirely honest, but always kind. I’m a big fan of the compliment sandwich. Some things that I’m particularly good at fixing are pacing issues, increasing tension, dialogue, making surprises/twists less predictable, picking up on plot holes and world building inconsistencies, and improving/complicating character relationships. I also have the odd knack of picking up on repeat phrases and words throughout the length of an entire manuscript.
I definitely see the editing process as a collaboration and ongoing discussion. I’ll give you suggestions, probably a lot of them, but ultimately I want to work with you to take your book to the next level. And the only way that’s going to happen is if we’re working hard together. I’m looking for a mentee who’s willing to work as hard as I am, someone who wants to dig deep and doesn’t mind doing whatever it takes to get their manuscript where it needs to be.
Pitch Wars lasts several months, but it’s my expectation (and hope) to continue working with my mentee long after that.
SO, WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR?
I am here for all your Young Adult manuscripts. Okay, not all of them. Let me give you the specifics: I’m looking for Fantasy, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, and Paranormal.
There is one thing I absolutely have to have in every manuscript, regardless of genre. Unless your manuscript has a small thread of romance, I am not the right mentor for you. And when it comes to that romantic story line, I’d be happy with any combination of romantic pairings.
Your story doesn’t have to be romance-centric, but there has to be at least a teeny tiny romantic subplot. If I can’t root for two characters to get together, ultimately, I’m probably not going to love the story. Also, I fall into the Upper YA spectrum. I’m really looking for characters 16+.
I am also absolutely here for your diverse manuscripts and welcome your #ownvoices stories. However, in no way, shape, or form are you required to label your work as #ownvoices if you’re not comfortable labeling it as such.
In all the genres I’m looking for, here’s what I’m really hoping to find in my inbox:
- I’m keeping this one to the top of my list because I am dying for a book that centers around villains and anti-heroes. Please, please, please, please, please send me these. I am a huge sucker for these types of characters. Even the ones who seem completely irredeemable, I promise you I will somehow have a soft spot for. The Darkling is one of my favorite characters ever. Characters that are ridiculously manipulative like Ben Linus are my jam. I have always been Team Damon, but I think my ultimate ship from The Vampire Diaries is Caroline & Klaus. And dear Lord, do I love me some Klaus. If your manuscript centers around the “bad” guy, I would absolutely love for you to send it to me. Super extra bonus points if your villain happens to be female.
Which leads me to…
- Morally gray characters. Give me a character that doesn’t always make the right decisions, or who makes the wrong decisions for the right reasons. If morality were a white to black scale, I prefer my characters to be a middle gray at least.
- Manuscripts that have feminist themes–whether those are completely blatant themes or more subtle ones, I want them all. Give me your strong, kickass heroines. Now, this doesn’t have to be literal. Your main character doesn’t have to wield a sword or fight crime (though I’m 100% for it if she does). But I’m also talking mental toughness, self-reliant, independent women. I love characters with strong juxtapositions. Show me an assassin who loves dresses and makeup.
- Which is a great segue to…”unlikeable” female characters. If you’ve ever been told your female character is too harsh, too downright mean, or anything of that sort, you have found the right mentor.
- Please rip my heart out. Make me laugh, cry, or want to set your book on fire. The books I can get emotionally invested in are the ones I love the best. And for the record, there have only ever been two books I nearly hurled across the room in love/hate–Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo and In the Afterlight by Alex Bracken. I’d tell you why but the answer is full of spoilers.
- Damaged characters/love interest. Even better if that character’s issues cause conflict in your story. Think Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows or the Gansey/Blue conundrum from The Raven Boys. Or the ever-contentious, high conflict relationship between Cardan and Jude. If the relationships in your book can be described as complicated or twisty, you have come to the right place.
- Retellings. I have a huge soft spot for retellings. Literary retellings, fairy tale retellings, Greek mythology retellings, all the retellings. To that I’ll also add origin stories or YA versions of movies (i.e. a YA version of Bridget Jones’s Diary). Whether it’s set in the contemporary world, has a fantastical spin, or a paranormal twist, I want them in my inbox. I’d particularly love to see non-mainstream retellings that haven’t been done before, especially any from non-Western or underrepresented cultures.
- Alternating timelines. I love the complexities that come with weaving two separate yet intertwined stories together. A story like this really appeals to me.
- Unreliable narrators!
- Genre blending. If you have something that straddles the line between Fantasy and Sci-Fi, or Contemporary with hints of magic, or anything of that sort, I’d love to see it!
- Manuscripts featuring a strong atmospheric setting. I am such a sucker for settings that really come to life. Especially if that setting happens to be creepy or spooky (think House of Salt and Sorrows).
Alright, let’s get more genre specific…
My taste here runs a little bit darker. (You’re not surprised by this now, right?) Really light and fluffy fantasy is probably not for me. I love vivid world building and unique magic systems. Alternate histories are always intriguing. Did I mention villains? 😉 If you have a YA Suicide Squad and it doesn’t end up in my inbox I’ll be extremely disappointed.
I have to tell you that Contemporary Fantasy, specifically, is very high on my wishlist. Some of my favorite books of all time fall into this specific subgenre and I would fight someone for the chance to mentor a unique, dark Contemporary Fantasy.
Beyond that, I’m pretty open in this genre. As long as you’re hitting some of the above points, we’re good. Some favorites of mine:
- Anything by Leigh Bardugo
- The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater (but really anything by her)
- Anything by Laini Taylor
- A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
- The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
- The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
You know how I mentioned I needed a small romantic subplot? This is super important for me in Contemporary. Right here is also where you can get me with your more light and humorous stories. Anything from light to really dark works for me in this genre.
Here are some things I’d particularly love to see:
- I’d love to see some killer thrillers this year a la One of Us Is Lying or a YA Big Little Lies.
- Characters who play sports. Give me a girl taking on a male sport. A jock who falls for someone in the marching band. Really any type of athlete is a big win for me. Bonus points for baseball, softball, football, hockey, and swimming.
- If your romance involves a best friend’s brother, or brother’s best friend, I will absolutely love you forever.
- I’m also a sucker for enemies to umm…love interests.
- Strong female friendships and positive family relationships.
- A story where the female lead is more sexually experienced than the male lead.
- Gamer girls and boys. Coders and hackers.
- Authentic, cringe-worthy teen moments that are thoroughly awkward and amusing.
- Anything a la Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, or Riverdale.
- Complicated, messy relationships.
- Any story that can be comped to On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta or 99 Days by Katie Cotugno.
- Contemporary retellings of Pride and Prejudice.
- Small towns.
- A female James Bond.
- Unusual settings.
- Virgin heroes.
- Paranormal/magical twists in a contemporary setting. Think If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
- Psychics/fortune tellers/tarot card readers.
- Exciting, twisty thrillers!
- Stories featuring twins.
Note: These are just things I’d like to see. The cherry on top of the sundae if you will. If your manuscript isn’t any of these things, as long as they hit on one of the points in my wishlist above, no worries.
Favorites (some of these cross into NA):
- Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
- On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
- I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
- Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
- The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
- 99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Like Fantasy, I’m pretty open in this genre as well and looking for things on the darker end of the spectrum. However, I prefer my Sci-Fi to not overwhelm me with too much technical jargon. If your book requires a twenty-five page glossary of terms, I’m likely not the right mentor for you. I’m open to near-future Sci-Fi, space operas, whatever. As long as your story is hitting on my main points above, I will be more than interested! Bonus points for any very well done time travel, and if you’re going the post-apocalyptic route or anywhere near a dystopic society, I really, really need to see a unique spin there. Oh, and I would absolutely die for anything that can be comped to Westworld!
- Legend Series by Marie Lu (Side note: this series had one of the best endings I’ve ever read)
- All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
- The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
- The Fever King by Victoria Lee
This year I’m going to go a little more broad in this genre. Really what I’m looking for here are Angels, Witches, Ghosts, Vampires, and possibly made up creatures. Sorry, but it’s a no from me on Werewolves and Shifters.
Angels are my Achilles heel. I’d love to see an Angel story that isn’t specifically wrapped up in the Heaven/Hell struggle. Or a main character that’s some type of monster hunter that diverges from the typical hunter story line a la Supernatural with a twist. For Vampires, I’m looking for really fresh twists and anything that’s really outside the box (along the lines of iZombie for example). Another thing I’d go crazy for? A YA retelling of Meet Joe Black or similar stories that focus around Death.
- Penryn & The End of Days by Susan Ee
- The Rephaim Series by Paula Weston
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THINGS THAT ARE JUST NOT FOR ME
- Anything that has to do with or touches on child molestation. This is a hard no for me.
- Animal death. If your character is hunting to eat, that’s fine as long as it’s not overly graphic. But if your character kills puppies, or a lot of animals die in your manuscript, this will just ruin a story for me. Sorry.
- Stories featuring toxic romantic relationships that are touted as “sexy.”
- Anything written in third person present or second person.
Well guys, that about covers it. If you have any questions at all, please leave me a comment or come talk with me on Twitter. I promise, I am more than happy to chat with you. Honestly? It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most!
While I can’t take any specific pitches, if you have any general concerns or if there’s something I didn’t mention that you’re wondering about, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous mentors down below (but still pick me!).
THANKS FOR VISITING AND GOOD LUCK!
Pitch Wars 2019 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
- Kelsey Rodkey and Rachel Lynn Solomon
- Nancy Werlin
- Olivia Hinebaugh
- Abigail Johnson
- Rebecca Schaeffer
- Rebecca Coffindaffer (Accepts NA)
- Laurie Dennison
- Sam Taylor
- ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
- Brenda Drake and Kyle T. Cowan (Accepts NA)
- Carrie Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
- J. Elle
- Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
- Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
- Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
- Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre
- Julia Ember (Accepts NA)
- SA Patel
- Kat Dunn (Accepts NA)
- Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie
- Jesse Q. Sutanto
- Ray Stoeve
- Aty S. Behsam and Kylie Schachte
- Cole Nagamatsu
- Rachel Griffin
- Adalyn Grace
- Adrienne Tooley and Kelly Quindlen (Accepts NA)
- Ciannon Smart and Deborah Falaye
- Kristin Lambert, Sasha Peyton Smith
- Kimberly Gabriel and Dawn Ius
- Lyndsay Ely
- Jamie Howard
- Jenna Lincoln (Accepts NA)
- Jen Marie Hawkins and Anna Birch (Accepts NA)
- Judy I. Lin
- Leila Siddiqui
- Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
- Hoda Agharazi
- Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
- Liz Lawson and Jeff Bishop (Accepts NA)
- Lindsey Frydman (Accepts NA)
- Chelsea Hensley (Accepts NA)
- Isabel Ibañez