Hey there, Pitch Warriors!
I am so excited to be back mentoring for Pitch Wars for a fifth 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.
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:
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, here’s what I’m really hoping to find in my inbox:
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. Give me characters whose villainy is underlined by their intelligence like Ivar from Vikings. I have always been Team Damon, but don’t think I wasn’t also rooting for Klaus (and also hoping for a redemption arc for Kai). 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. If morality were a white to black scale, I prefer my characters to be a middle gray at least.
I am a huge sucker for atmospheric settings and lyrical writing. Especially if that setting happens to be creepy or spooky (think House of Salt and Sorrows). I adore settings that feel like characters and world-building that showcases quirky elements of a town/place. Give me your pretty prose and worlds so real they leap from the page.
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.
“UNLIKABLE” 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. Female characters deserve just as much as male characters to make bad decisions and behave badly and sometimes just be terrible people.
I am here for all your troubled and complicated relationships. Bonus points if a 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. I want all the angst. And this doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships! Give me your knotted sibling rivalries, friendship breakups, multi-generational spats. If the relationships in your book can be described as challenged or twisty, you have come to the right place.
Literary retellings, fairy tale retellings, Greek mythology retellings, all the retellings. I’d particularly love to see non-mainstream retellings that haven’t been done before, especially any from non-Western or underrepresented cultures. 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 with a bit of a speculative angle, has a fantastical spin, or a paranormal twist, I want them in my inbox.
OTHER ELEMENTS I’D LOVE TO FIND
- Books that make me cry
- Books that make me want to set them on fire with rage
- Alternating timelines
- Unreliable narrators
- Genre blending
- Epistolary formats
- Other unique formats
- Stories featuring twins
- Enemies to lovers, or lovers to enemies, or any combination thereof
- Love triangles
- Anything that can be comped to On the Jellicoe Road or Bone Gap
- Unusual or unexpected settings
- Small towns
- Creepy forests
- Anything with a fall/autumn vibe
- Psychics/fortune tellers/tarot card readers
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? I am open to both low and high fantasy, though I will say that my tastes skew a bit more toward low fantasy and away from epic.
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
- Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
- A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- The Wicked King by Holly Black
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
- The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
- The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
- Furyborn by Claire Legrand
I am open to all sub-genres of horror be it occult, gothic, etc. I think this is one genre in particular where you might see (and I’d love to see!) some genre blending. Does your horror have a side of historical? Awesome. Is there a bit of fantasy thrown in with your horror? Sweet. Maybe a pinch of paranormal to go with your horror? Lovely. The only thing I am not looking for here is gratuitous gore. If you frequently spend time describing the color and texture of peoples’ entrails, I am likely not the best mentor for you. Oh, and if you have anything that can be comped to The Craft I am absolutely here for it!
Some favorite books/shows:
- Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
- House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power
- Haunting of Hill House, Netflix TV show
- Locke & Key, Netflix TV show
- Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters
- Ten by Gretchen McNeil
- The Alienist, TNT TV show
- The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
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 or dystopian route, I’d love to see unique spins there.
- 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 Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
- The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
- The Fever King by Victoria Lee
I have been devouring thrillers recently, so I would love to see some of these in my inbox this year. I particularly love stories that revolve around dark academia, boarding schools, secret societies, and cults. If you have a twisty, keep-you-guessing kind of thriller that is something I’d love to get my hands on. I know I mentioned it above, but I’ll say it again: I am definitely looking for unreliable narrators if you have them!
- If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
- Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
- One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
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, Selkies, 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. I’d also love to see anything in the vein of The Library of the Unwritten, or any stories with a completely unique take on the paranormal world.
- Penryn & The End of Days by Susan Ee
- The Rephaim Series by Paula Weston
- The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
- Lucifer, Netflix TV show
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.
- If your story takes place in a contemporary setting, nothing relating to or about The Mob/Mafia.
- Werewolves, shifters, selkies.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME
So, I’m Jamie (she/her), *waves*. For my day job, I work in Pricing & Contracts for a large medical device company. I’m that person who adores spreadsheets and have been recently dabbling in Power BI. I live in perpetual chaos with my husband and four children in New Jersey, along with our three ridiculous rescue 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 focused on my YA Fantasy and Speculative projects currently.
I mentored YA in Pitch Wars from 2016-2019, and have been able to work with four incredible writers. In 2016, I got to partner with the inimitable Kristen Clouthier. 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 stories, Serpent & Dove and Blood & Honey, are now both NYT bestsellers! In 2018, I mentored the incredible Kaitlin Bartlett and her breathtaking story featuring two “unlikeable” girls and the heartbreaking consequences when their friendship implodes. Then in 2019, I got to team up with the extraordinary Ava Tusek whose story about a messy, manipulative conartist sucked me in from the very first page. As for 2020? 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, Westworld, Friends, The Vampire Diaries, Stranger Things, Grey’s Anatomy, Ally McBeal, Locke & Key.
- 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 Call of Duty, 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 6.
- I never, ever bother matching my socks. Ever.
- If you’re a Myers-Briggs type person, I am INTJ.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ME AS YOUR MENTOR?
We will tackle all the big picture issues first and then work our way down to the smaller things like scene edits and line edits. As we get closer to the agent showcase, we will work on your query, synopsis, researching agents, and developing a querying strategy. 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 gushing compliments.
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. As for my communication style, I am always available via e-mail, DM, or text, and would happy to hop on a Zoom call if that’s your preference.
Pitch Wars lasts several months, but it’s my expectation (and hope) to continue working with my mentee long after that!
Well, friends, 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 2020 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
- Sarvenaz Tash (Accepts NA)
- Chloe Gong and Tashie Bhuiyan
- Abigail Johnson
- Kit Frick and Carlyn Greenwald
- Sonora Reyes (Accepts NA)
- Laurie Dennison
- J.Elle and Emily Golden
- Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
- Emily Thiede (Accepts NA)
- Amanda Panitch
- Allison Saft and Ava Reid (Accepts NA)
- Emery Lee (Accepts NA)
- Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
- Shannon A. Thompson and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
- Adiba Jaigirdar and Gabriela Martins
- Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
- Tash McAdam
- ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
- Maiya Ibrahim and Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
- Meg Long and Xiran Jay Zhao (Accepts NA)
- Margie Fuston
- Jamie Howard
- Nova McBee
- Amelia Diane Coombs and Sophie Gonzales (Accepts NA)
- Rachel Griffin
- Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre (Accepts NA)
- Ciannon Smart
- Sasha Peyton Smith and Kristin Lambert
- Lane Clarke (Accepts NA)
- Lyndsay Ely (Accepts NA)
- Anna Sortino (Accepts NA)
- Jennieke Cohen
- Bethany Mangle (Accepts NA)
- Sunya Mara (Accepts NA)
- Kat Dunn and Daphne Lao Tonge
- Sheena Boekweg and Alechia Dow (Accepts NA)
- Liz Lawson and Dante Medema (Accepts NA)
- Sarah Dass (Accepts NA)
- Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
- Hoda Agharazi (Accepts NA)
- Dawn Ius and April Snellings (Accepts NA)
- Kara McDowell and Kimberly Gabriel
- Kylie Schachte (Accepts NA)
- Deborah Falaye
- Rona Wang (Accepts NA)
- Becca Mix and Grace Li (Accepts NA)
- Aty S. Behsam (Accepts NA)