Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's Pitch Wars Time!

I'm so excited to be participating as a MG mentor in this year's Pitch Wars contest! Don't know what Pitch Wars is? You can find all the details here. Basically, it's made of rainbows and puppies and writerly dreams with a sprinkling of stardust.

I write YA & MG books and I'm represented by the amazing Mandy Hubbard of the D4EO literary agency. My debut novel, a YA contemporary called CHEESUS WAS HERE, will be released summer 2016 by Flux.

Reason's you want ME as your Middle Grade mentor:

1. I am insanely obsessed with books. This means I read a LOT and I'm very familiar with the YA and MG markets and what's popular.

2. I spent six months in the query trenches before landing my dream agent. I have a great eye for queries and I know the pitfalls to avoid and just the right way to catch an agent's attention. My request rate for fulls and partials was 3 times higher than the average Query Tracker user according to QT statistics.

3. I was a Pitch Wars entrant last year so I know the excitement, anxiety, heart-ache and sheer insanity you are going through right now.

4. I kick-ass at critiques. Seriously, I've got references and everything. I'm a details kind of girl and I can spot a plot hole at fifty paces. I eat awkward sentences for breakfast and spit them back out all pretty, if a bit spit covered. That metaphor got away from me.

5. I own two hedgehogs. There is nothing more therapeutic than a cute hedgehog pic when you want to pull your hair out because you've edited the same sentence 500 times in a row. Cat pics are cool, but hedgehog pics bring the true adorable to town.

6. My nerdy t-shirt collection is awesome and faintly disturbing.

7. I can curl my tongue. It's a talent.

8. My hair is teal (not green, don't listen to those pro-green people telling you lies). Teal hair is cool. So are bow ties.*

9. When I'm annoyed I get a British accent because I lived in England for five years when I was a kid. British accents are adorable so even when I'm pissed off, which isn't often, no one takes me seriously because I sound like I just want tea and biscuits.

10. If you pick me as your mentor, we will work together to make your novel kick literary ass. Your query will shame all other queries with its sheer amazingness.**

What I'm looking for:

I have a soft spot for fantasy and excellent world building.

I love a good mystery.

Voice will win me over every time (and yes, I know we're all tired of hearing about voice, but it's here to stay.)

Spooky stories were my bread and butter growing up and I still own every Christopher Pike book ever written.

I love a good twist.

Some of my favorite MG books:
the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series, May Bird & The Ever After by Jodi Lynn Andersson, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, anything written by Diana Wynne Jones (but especially the Chrestomanci series & short stories), Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, the Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer, The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, Doll Bones by Holly Black, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher, The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski, The Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley, The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, The Water Glass by Kai Meyer, Savvy by Ingrid Law, The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black, and Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFluer. I could honestly keep going for pages and pages, but this should give you a good sense of what appeals to me. There's a little bit of everything as you can see. I warned you I have a book obsession.

What I'm NOT looking for:

There's pretty much nothing, other than erotica (and who the heck is writing MG erotica?) that I'll say a flat out "no" to. However, there are a few things that may not be the best fit for me. Never say never because for every rule there's some book I've fallen in love with that falls into that category.

Hard sci-fi. If there are spaceships and aliens, your novel is going to have to work extra, extra hard to capture my heart.

High/Epic fantasy. This means sword & sorcery books. Think Eragon. Again, there are books I've loved that fall in this category so nothing is set in stone.

Anything over 90,000 words. Even for MG fantasy, that's pushing the boundaries.

Books in Verse.

Anything that is poorly written or with a ton of grammar mistakes. I don't expect your book to be perfect (if it is, you shouldn't be entering PW anyway, go sub that thing to agents!) but I do expect that you've taken the time to make sure it's not riddled with spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes that make me feel like I'm reading something Google translate just spit out. This is a deal breaker.

Books written by my CPs, betas and friends. I already critique for you guys! Go flood my inbox via normal channels.

What you can expect if I pick you as my mentee:

You will work your butt off on revisions. I'll provide broad feedback as well as detailed, inline notes on your manuscript. We'll both be working hard to make your novel as polished and perfect as it can be. Whether we win Pitch Wars or not, your novel will be ready to wow agents and publishers and your query will be poised to win requests.

My critique style is very thorough. Your novel will likely bleed red when I hand it back to you, so please don't pitch me if you're not willing to work hard on revisions or if you can't take constructive criticism. I will cheer you on and listen when you need to complain about the evils of commas and I can cheerlead with the best of them, but I will also push you to do your absolute best. I will ask a million questions about your novel and I'll tell you bluntly if something isn't working. I put in a lot of time and energy when I critique a manuscript and I'm sure you'll do the same when you revise.

For submission guidelines, go to:

Make sure to check out all the awesome mentors helping out with Pitch Wars this year:

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!
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*I don't wear bow ties.
 **amazingness is difficult to quantify, but your query will also kick ass.


  1. Okay, you officially sound like an awesome mentor!

  2. One submission coming your way. It's a biography on George Schneider, the inventor of the electric toaster. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but most of all, you won't be able to put it down. I don't know how I fit it all in 250,000 words, but somehow I managed (lots of heart-wrenching cuts!). I think you'll really . . . no wait, that's my other book. Never mind.

  3. I love hedgehog pics. I'm sold! We have a 37 pound Newfoundland puppy right now, lots of action in our house. Anyway, I'm super excited to try Pitch Wars and just wanted to say hi. I'll be the writer trying to pitch a story about pre-historic animals (giant sloths and stuff) rampaging through a small mountain summer camp. Let the pitches begin!

  4. Hi JC, we've critiqued each other's work on Scribophile before!

    I'm very interested in Pitch Wars, but have no idea how to sign up. I've contacted Brenda and will hopefully hear back soon. Fingers crossed I can still enter!