I’m beyond THRILLED to be participating in Pitch Wars as a mentor this year! I can’t wait to get started! All the fantabulous Pitch Wars details, including how and when to submit, can be found on Brenda Drake’s website by clicking this link.
So a little about me!
My business card, if I had one, would say I’m a teacher by day and writer by night, which is the nice way of saying my head is in two different worlds at all times! Luckily, I teach middle school so no one ever notices. I live in southeast Tennessee with my amazing family which includes a sports fanatic husband, a visual arts major daughter, a hyper Australian Shepherd, and a fluffy calico cat who’s really the boss of us all.
Okay, back to business. I’m represented by Taylor Haggerty of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. My entire querying journey can be found in posts on my blog here and here. In short, it was my second completed manuscript that caught my agent’s eye and, even though I credit contests and the writing community with helping me get my manuscript where it needed to be, my agent pulled my manuscript from her slush pile.
Contests work, querying works, and combining the two is kind of like supercharging your chances of finding the right person to champion your words.
So what am I mentoring and why should you pick me?
I’m over-the-moon ecstatic to be mentoring MG this year! And maybe it’s that I enjoy revision more than drafting, but pulling on the strings of a manuscript until it sings is something I’m more than a little passionate about. Critiquing allows me to be completely objective about a story and all the nuances that make it unique, and that’s something we all absolutely need if we want our stories to be their best.
Let’s make your book baby shine!
- Many of the Pitch Wars mentors are involved in different aspects of the publishing world. For me, I maintain my blog, Accidental Writer, and am one of the founding members of Kick-Butt Kidlit.
- I was also a judge in Michelle Hauck’s most recent Query Kombat and found that I really love digging into query letters and first pages more than I ever imagined possible.
- My most recent adventure is Taking 10, a new interview series on my blog that asks newly agented and published writers the ten main things I wanted to know when I was querying.
- While I can’t promise feedback to everyone who submits to me, if I request additional pages from you I will be offering brief feedback once choices are released.
If you’re still reading, I hope you think we’d be a good fit and that means you’re probably wondering what I’m looking for. Bring me your PRETTIES!
For starters, send me all your creepy, fantastical, twisted, laugh-out-loud, Middle Grade!
What do I mean by that? Well, to get started, how about some of my favorite middle grade books?
- Just about anything written by Neil Gaiman
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
- Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Crimes by Emma Trevayne
- The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter goes without saying, of course.
What about adult and young adult titles I’d like to see MG versions of?
- The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger (she does have a YA series but I like the humor in her adult works better).
- Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
- The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
- WICKED by Gregory Maguire
- The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
And finally, to round out my tastes, here are some of my favorite television shows and movies!
Oh, and I can’t leave out one of my all time favs, The Frighteners!
Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie. Stop reading now, go watch it, and come back. It’s okay. I’ll wait.
So what catches my eye?
- VOICE is my first love. I’m a sucker for a voice that grabs me and won’t let go. So even if your MS doesn’t perfectly line up with my wishlist, if it’s dripping in voice, I want to see it.
- Aside from voice, I hope to find something that makes me laugh while scaring the bejesus out of me at the same time.
- Comedic horror is seriously right up my alley (think Barbara Park meets Supernatural, for tweens and early teens).
- Almost all of my writing features some level of Steampunk aesthetic, so I’d also be a good fit for those works as long as it’s about the characters and not the technology.
- I love magic and dragons and things that go bump in the night, but I’m a science teacher by day. It has to be plausible. If your character can fly, you’ll need to be able to explain to me how it’s possible in your world. Magic is freaking fantastic, but make sure you understand and adhere to the rules of your world.
- I have a serious soft spot for well written Southern fiction. Bring me magnolias, sweet tea, lightning bugs, and a delicious Southern drawl. Bonus points if there’s a ghost, or a witch, or something else creeping in the shadows.
- I’m also a sucker for the underdog—especially the antagonist. I absolutely loved WICKED, so I’d love to see a story where we’re seeing things through the villain’s eyes. Stories that turn the usual tropes on their heads are definitely something I want to see.
Oh, and it should definitely be written for an upper MG audience.
I also put together two Pinterest boards that might help you decide if we’re a good fit. One contains a few books I’ve read and enjoyed enough that I would recommend them to others. The second board is a collection of books I haven’t read, but think I would enjoy based on their covers.
If you think your book would have a cover similar to any of these, please send it to me!
At this point I’m figuring if you’re still reading I’ll probably have serious grabby hands for your manuscript. I mean, the likelihood is pretty darn high.
But if you want to be completely safe, here are a few things I’m definitely not a good fit for.
- Talking animals. I don’t do talking animals. You’d have to be stinking bloody brilliant to get me to read a talking rabbit.
- I’m not particularly fond of contemporary works either, except for those with enough voice to knock over a fully grown moose.
- Stories that deal with child sexual abuse aren’t for me.
- I’m also not looking for fairy tale retellings unless it meets the criteria listed in what I’m looking for (i.e., from the villain’s POV). You really have to turn it on its head for me to fall for a retelling of anything. If you’re telling me Cinderella’s same story, again, but are merely using another character’s eyes to do it, I’m not a good fit.
- I also wouldn’t be interested in stories written for an extremely young audience, so no lower MG for me.
A Few Important Details
Each mentor will approach working with a manuscript a bit differently, so I thought it might be best to at least give a brief outline of how I plan to approach this. Keep in mind, this is merely an outline and is definitely open to change depending on the needs of the manuscript.
- If I’m interested in your query and pages, I will most likely request a larger sample, up to the entire manuscript. I can’t imagine me choosing a mentee based on the query and original sample pages alone, so if I do we’ll be surprised together! 🙂
- I swore I would never type the words I’m about to type (I’m so sorry, please don’t throw things at me) but given that I don’t know how many writers might submit to me, there’s a possibility I might request a brief synopsis. I don’t plan to do this, I’m just not ruling it out.
If I do break down and ask for a synopsis, please don’t stress over it. An outline of the major events and resolution will be absolutely fine. What I’m wanting to know is how the main plot line progresses and ends, without having to read the entire manuscript up front. And there happens to be a very important reason you don’t want me to do that…
- Each time you read a MS, especially without sufficient time to let it rest in between, your reading will be less focused and the chance of something slipping by increases ten-fold (at least it does for me). So if I read an entire MS just trying to make a decision, then again to do a revision letter and in line notes, and then again to check the revisions…all within the span of about six weeks…guess what’s going to happen? With each pass I run the risk of doing a disservice to my mentee and their manuscript. Obviously, I don’t want to do this. I’ll most likely skim various chapters to make sure the writing is consistent, and look to a synopsis for plot and arc.
- With that said, my revision letter will contain detailed notes and overall impressions of what’s working well and what we’re going to focus on.
- I’ll also use Word’s track changes function to make line by line notes throughout the manuscript. It might be a little overwhelming at first, but I’ll walk you through how to break it down into chunks so that you don’t feel like you’re drowning.
- Once you receive my notes feel free to ask questions or clarify things as needed. I teach full time during the day, so I probably won’t be able to answer you immediately but I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.
- I’m thinking I’d like to have a weekly Skype chat or something similar with my mentee just to see how they’re doing and to answer any questions they might have. But only if this is something my mentee is interested in doing and it works for both our schedules.
- After you’ve completed the revisions, there will be certain areas I’ll want to see again. Probably the first three to five chapters and any other areas I specifically say I want to see again in my revision letter. However, I won’t be reading the entire manuscript a second time. My mentee should go ahead and arrange for a trusted CP to do a final read for them shortly before the agent round.
So, without further delay, if you’re still reading, SUBMIT TO MEEEEEE!
Ready to check out some of the other awesome Pitch Wars mentors? Just use the link below to hop over to their blogs! No matter which mentors you choose to apply to, I wish you the best of luck in Pitch Wars 2015!
To see the rest of the amazing Pitch Wars mentors, click here!