So, I was never a Pitch Wars mentee, but I did enter my book (now about to debut with HarperCollins) in one of the Pitch Madness contests, and it was the rush of attention from agents during that time that ultimately got me my agent now. I think what Brenda Drake does is basically revolutionary. I love the community of it, the hustle of so many hopefuls working hard on their craft. I love the way it really does feel a little like putting on armor and chest-bumping each other before going into the fray. I am truly honored to be able to participate as a mentor this year, and so, without further ado—
The real reason you’re here (ie, not to hear me blather):
(Ha ha, get it? Because yaay is like a YA sandwich?)
- magical realism (think A.S. King and Andrew Smith more than Leslye Walton)
[*Speculative, IF high concept (examples: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Every Day by David Levithan, The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness) –> in other words, typical fantasy will be hard sell for me, but I do like books that seem to defy genre because they’re based on one “what if?”-type idea.]
GENRES (more specific)
- Alternate history/history with a modern spin (example: My Lady Jane)
- Unconventional love stories
- Diversity (I’m particularly interested in characters who struggle with dualities of nature and/or culture; characters who straddle two different worlds)
- Villain origin stories
- Gothic in the vein of Penny Dreadful or Crimson Peak
THINGS I LIKE
Semi-recent contemporary books I’ve loved:
- Tell Me Three Things by Julie Bauxbaum
- Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
- Mosquitoland by David Arnold
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Warning: I do love contemporary books, but I’ve been subbed a lot of them recently, and your voice will have to slay, because I am getting the tiniest bit burnt out on them.
(S is for Slay)
Magical realism books I love:
- Anything by A.S. King
- The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
- Whimsical and family-centered books, like Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman
- Magical realism/mental illness blends: like Andrew Smith, or Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes, or Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Historical books I love:
- Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
- Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
- Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
- Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (historical-ish)
Sidebar: I’m feeling the history right now, guys. My own debut is set in the 1920s. If you have a historical novel, I AM A REALLY GOOD BET. Bonus if it has: gangsters, LGBT characters, girls who misbehave and make history.
Do you have a sci-fi/fantasy/horror book that you think I would just love, even though I didn’t list those as genres I represent? Can you submit them to me anyway?
I’m giving you fair warning that it will be more of a roll of the dice with me, and your chances narrow considerably with those genres, but there are exceptions.
Here’s an idea of what might be a good fit with me.
Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies I’ve recently enjoyed (things they have in common: a bit darker, complex and mature in plot, not overly romance-heavy, unique brand of “magic”):
- The Winner’s Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
- The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Seriously, write me the YA version of this book, and I’m sold.)
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies that I can completely understand why people love, and are totally great books, I’m sure, but I tried and just really not to my taste because I’m not a big fantasy reader guys sorry:
- The Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
- The Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
- Snow Like Ashes, by Sara Raasch
- City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
- Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
CURRENT NON-BOOK OBSESSIONS THAT SPEAK TO MY TASTE
Hamilton (the musical)
Saga (the comic series)
Whew. And now, if you still think you have a book that would mesh well with my taste and specialties, a little about me:
I am an acquisitions editor with Jolly Fish Press, a small press publishing house, and some of my recent titles and projects include: JERKBAIT by Mia Siegert, SEEKING MANSFIELD by Kate Watson, WELCOME HOME, an anthology curated by Eric Smith, and THEY CALL THIS PLACE HERE by Donna Hill. I also have experience working as an assistant at A+B Literary Agency, and an editorial intern at the Friend, a children’s magazine.
I’m a young adult author, and my debut, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in Fall 2017—it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in Prohibition-era New York. I’m represented by Katie Grimm, of Don Congdon Associates.
I live in downtown Salt Lake City with a huge white German Shepherd. If I’m not editing or writing, I’m working at the Salt Lake City Public Library, which I humbly consider one of the best libraries in the world.
I love the theater (even though I have no talent for it myself), and traveling. I recently got back from a trip to the San Juan Islands to study orcas for my next YA book, and I will talk your ear off about it. I’m a believer in traveling as a mode of research, and will absolutely talk you into taking that trip you’ve been wanting to take. #sorrynotsorry
I have two other talents besides books, and those are: eating, and doodling. I got my associates in Illustration, and if I hadn’t become a writer, I would have been an illustrator, with a focus on character design and graphic novel work. I’m definitely out of practice, but I still love it. (Do mentees get a drawing of their mc? Why yes, even if they don’t want it.)
I hope that we become grand friends, truly—but I’m busy, and you’re busy, and we’re going to W-O-R-K on that book, not exchange gifs for two months.
My wish is for you to take yourself seriously as a writer, if you don’t already. Sorry to be a cliché and quote Stephen King, but when I was a very young writer, it was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it, so I share it all the time:
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
I am thorough—you will get an edit letter, a phone call (if you want one), in-document comments, and then probably line edits—and occasionally I will suggest things that might fix the problem areas I see, but I like hearing your solutions even more. I like a good brainstorming session. If I choose your manuscript, I guarantee there was something about it I couldn’t pass up. I will celebrate and make sure you know the ways your book is beautiful and unique—however, if your book is pretty fresh off the friends-and-family feedback glow, I’d still love to see it, just, you know, brace yourself for slightly tougher treatment.
Also you might reconsider pitching to me if you love social media and want a similar presence from your mentor. I think this is a commendable quality to have, but my general attitude toward it lately is:
Okay! I think that’s it?
*Alexander Hamilton voice*: Let’s go.