Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pitch Wars 2017 Wishlist!

Do you love middle grade? Me too! That’s why I’m so excited to mentor again this year (though this is my first time choosing a mentee and writing a wish list!) If you can’t tell, I’m a little giddy. Don’t be surprised if I break into a rendition of My Favorite Things as we go along here.

Ahem. Let’s begin. First, you may want to know a little about me and my background. I have been involved with Pitch Wars in many different capacities. In 2013, I applied and got a whopping zero requests from mentors.

Of course, at the time, I was crushed. But I did receive lots of encouragment and discovered a whole new writing community I never knew existed! So I spent the next two years working on two more MG manuscripts. By 2015, my goal was to have a MS ready to submit to Pitch Wars before I ever sent a single query.

That's NOT a requirement, by the way. But I had seen enough of the PW world to know that the mentors mean business, and I wanted to make my MS as strong as possible before jumping back into the trenches.

An incredible thing happened: I got in! And not only that, but super-guru Joy McCullough-Carranza chose me!

I revised like crazy, and when the agent round went live, I got an offer three days later.

While that sounds like a dream come true, faster isn't always better. Although it is exhilarating to get requests, not every agent requesting will be the perfect fit for you. Long story short (I'll do an agent post another time), I ended up leaving that first agent and started querying another manuscript right around this time last year.

This time, the stars aligned and I signed with my amazing agent, Jim McCarthy!

Meanwhile, I was offered the chance to be the MG scavenger hunt mentor for PW 2016 and jumped at the chance. I got lucky in that my mentee was someone I absolutely would have chosen, and she ended up taking my suggestions and running with them, cutting two POVs and adding depth.

This year, I get to choose a mentee, and I could not be more excited!

My critique style is positive in tone, but I usually have a lot of suggestions on how to make your manuscript stronger. I have a journalism degree and I'm a language arts teacher, so revising and editing are second nature to me at this point. I'll usually start with an edit letter addressing the big revision points and then do a round of line edits closer to the agent round if we still have time.

You will work hard, but I'll be right there, cheering, "You CAN do it!" I'll also help you shine up your query and synopsis so you're ready to spring into agent inboxes as soon as we get the go-ahead.

Now the part you’ve been waiting for: what am I looking for?

Let’s start with what I don’t want, shall we? First off, lice. That’s just gross. But book-wise, I’m not the best match for horror, ghost stories (unless it’s more of a fun, humorous take rather than scary), high fantasy, or super sad stories. I love when a book makes me cry, I just would prefer the takeaway feeling to be uplifting or hopeful.

You'll find some of my favorite MG books later in this post, but it may also be helpful to know what my tastes were when I was a kid. Ready?

Devoured: Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, The Babysitters Club series, Sweet Valley Twins series

Enjoyed sometimes: Nancy Drew

Never read: Goosebumps

That should tell you a lot about me as a reader to this day. 1) My age (Old? Young? It all depends on how old you are. Relativity, people) 2) I read more contemporary than anything else. The Harry Potter series came out when I was an older teen and they're some of my favorite books of all time, but overall I tend to read more contemporary than fantasy.

Besides a great voice, a fun, twisty plot, and characters I can root for (because who DOESN’T want those things?), here are some things I LOVE:

Sibling stories, family, friendships
Anything to do with the performing arts
Mistaken identities
Kids trying to do something outside of their experience/age level (like in All Four Stars, mentioned below, when Gladys writes restaurant reviews)

I appreciate own voices books and diversity of all kinds.

Some of my favorite MG books:

Besides the books pictured, I loved ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman, OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate, HOOK'S REVENGE by Heidi Schultz, WONDER by R.J. Palacio, THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, EL DEAFO by Cece Bell, and too many more to mention.

When in doubt, ask! I like to hang out on the Pitch Wars hashtag on Twitter, so if anything I've written here needs more clarification, please reach out.

Looking forward to a great Pitch Wars season! And now, check out the other amazing mentors!

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