Pitch Wars Wish List!

Welcome, Pitch Warriors! You’ve found the wish list of the mighty YA co-mentoring duo Rachel Lynn Solomon and Kit Frick. Which means, you’re in the right place if you want to work with the most kick-ass mentoring team on the planet. *Throw furtive glances at other awesome YA mentors.* *Get super soakers ready.*

WHO WE ARE

Rachel Lynn Solomon

Hi there! This is my third year as a Pitch Wars mentor, and I love this contest so, so much — I look forward to it all year! I’m also very excited to be co-mentoring with Kit, a majorly talented writer and editor. I’m the author of two upcoming contemporary YA novels from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. My debut, Fingers Crossed, will be out in spring of 2018. You can add it on Goodreads here! I’m represented by the brilliant Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency. 

My own road to publication has been rocky (you can read more about that here), and I find so much joy in working closely with other writers. I love passing on what I’ve learned so far, both about writing and the publishing world in general. This is a tough business, and I want to support my mentee through all the ups and downs. If you end up working with us, our relationship doesn’t end after the contest. We want to build lasting connections with other writers. 

Speaking of community (a word that gets tossed around a lot when it comes to Pitch Wars), that’s actually my favorite part of this contest. Many of my closest friends are mentors — though I’m ready to throw down if we want the same manuscript! And I’ve been so lucky that my past mentees have become more than mentees; we’re now critique partners and close friends. Both my 2014 mentees received multiple offers of rep just days after the contest ended, and one mentee’s Pitch Wars novel will be published by Penguin in early 2018! 

Fun facts: I’m a tap dancer, a former NPR producer, and a Guinness World Record holder for the most natural redheads in one place! I’m a Seattle native, which basically makes me required to love rainy days (which I do). I’m slightly obsessed with my adorable 8-pound rescue dog, Wally. In high school, I fronted an all-girl punk rock band, but these days, I only sing karaoke. My go-to songs: “Surrender” by Cheap Trick and “Train in Vain” by The Clash. You can follow me on twitter @rlynn_solomon.

Kit Frick

Well, hello! This is my first year as a Pitch Wars mentor, and I am so thrilled to be co-mentoring with YA bad-ass Rachel Lynn Solomon! We met through this very contest last year: she was a mentor and I subbed to her as an entrant. I didn’t make it into the contest (*loud, pitying sobs*), but then I picked myself up and dove into revisions with my Pitch Wars manuscript. Even though I did not become a mentee, I did meet an awesome group of people through the 2015 contest — mentors, mentees, and fellow mentee hopefuls like myself. At first, I totally didn’t get what everyone was talking about on the hashtag last year about “the community.” I thought, “OK, maybe I’ll make a few new Twitter friends. It can’t be that big of a deal.” Wrong! When I finished revising my manuscript and was ready to query in December, I didn’t enter the trenches alone. Because of Pitch Wars, I had a whole group of new writer friends who were right there with me, and believe me it made the ups and downs of querying SO much easier!

In March, I signed with my agent, Erin Harris at Folio/Folio Jr, on the YA contemporary psychological suspense novel I’d entered into Pitch Wars. I’m currently writing my second YA psych thriller.

When I’m not writing, you can find me editing chapbooks for Black Lawrence Press and editing for private clients through Copper Lantern Studio. I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and have studied with book editors, copyeditors, and literary agents through NYU’s Center for Publishing. I also write poetry (I have two chapbooks published through Slope Editions and Rye House Press), love to cook (the slow cooker and microplane are currently my two favorite kitchen tools), get really into Eurogames (Seven Wonders and Dominion are my two current obsessions), and spend a lot of time snuggling with my two adorable cats. You can follow me on twitter @kitfrick.

And head over to my blog to grab a letter for the scavenger hunt!


WHAT WE WANT

We are looking for YA in the following genres: contemporary realistic, contemporary magical realism, contemporary suspense/mystery/psychological thrillers, and contemporary with speculative elements. 

Here's a sampling of things we love!

  • Anything that makes you wonder, "can I do this in YA?"
  • Complicated, flawed characters who make mistakes
  • Female characters who could be called unlikable
  • Characters with unique or unusual hobbies/interests
  • Artistic characters and art in general
  • Diverse main characters, diverse casts of characters, #ownvoices. Racial diversity, LGBTQ+ characters, characters with disabilities
  • Realistic high school relationships and sexual experiences
  • Romances with tons of delicious tension and chemistry
  • Toxic friendships
  • Unreliable narrators
  • Complex family dynamics 
  • Books that play with structure/timeline in any way; any kind of nontraditional narrative structure. We LOVE nonlinear books!
  • Moral gray areas, books that take risks, books that aren't afraid to mine the dark depths of the human soul. We love dark and gritty. 
  • Twists and turns we didn’t see coming; sophisticated suspenses; thrillers that use emotion, character, and setting to create page-turning tension 
  • Gorgeous writing that reels us in
  • A voice that grabs us and won't let go
  • Transportive settings 
  • Bittersweet endings

Obviously, your manuscript doesn't need to contain every single element on the above list. That would probably be impossible! But this should give you a good sense of our YA interests and what we’d love to find in our inbox!

FAVORITE BOOKS, MOVIES, AND TV SHOWS

Rachel

  • Favorite authors: Nina LaCour, E. Lockhart, Courtney Summers, Hilary T. Smith, Corey Ann Haydu, Amy Reed, Morgan Matson, Katie Cotugno, Emery Lord, Lauren Strasnick, Rachael Allen, Jenn Bennett, Abigail Haas, Jandy Nelson, Jennifer Mathieu, Aisha Saeed
  • All-time favorite books: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara, Hold Still by Nina LaCour, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, Forever by Judy Blume, Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott, One Day by David Nicholls, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Favorite movies: Rushmore, Sixteen Candles, Before Sunrise, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Ghost World, Groundhog Day, You’ve Got Mail, Heathers
  • Favorite TV shows: Gilmore Girls, The Fosters, Felicity, Party Down, Veronica Mars, Parks and Rec, Jane the Virgin, Broad City

Kit

It’s probably not a shocker that my list has a lot of overlap with Rachel’s! So, I’m going to challenge myself to not repeat favorites TOO MUCH. But hint hint, I also love E. Lockhart, Courtney Summers, Prep, Before I Fall, Felicity, Before Sunrise--and about 15 other things on here. See, I already cheated!

  • Favorite authors: Stephanie Kuehn, Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Curtis Sittenfeld (I would read ANYTHING by these four rockstars)
  • All-time favorite books (in YA): Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn, Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul, More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Favorite movies: Reality Bites, Zoolander, The Princess Bride, Romeo + Juliet, Father of the Bride, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, When Harry Met Sally, Can’t Hardly Wait
  • Favorite TV shows: My So-Called Life, Dawson’s Creek, Alias, The OC, The Americans, 30 Rock, Orange is the New Black, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

 

NOT FOR US

There are a few things that we definitely know aren’t right for us. You have a limited number of mentors to sub to, so if you’d describe your book in one of the following ways, it’s best to know upfront that it’s not going to be right for Team Rachel + Kit. Fortunately, you have a long and awesome list of YA mentors to choose from! We are not looking for:

  • Plots that revolve around sports as the book's central focus. (We know of at least a few YA mentors that are dying for sports books, so send them their way!) Athlete MCs are great if sports are secondary to the main plot, though! We’d happily consider a book about dance, since dancers are both artists and athletes.
  • Light, humorous fare (which can of course be fantastic, but we wouldn't be the best mentors for those projects)
  • Anything involving violence toward animals

OUR MENTORING STYLE

If you work with us, here’s a sneak peek at what your next couple months will look like:

Rachel

Kit and I will split up your edits, so definitely plan on two rounds of work! Round one will be big-picture notes and an edit letter, and round two will be line edits. As a mentor/editor, I'm tough but extremely encouraging! I never tell someone, "change this" or “I don’t like this.” Rather, I give suggestions, ask questions, and turn it into a discussion. You can expect novel-length emails, chats, Skype calls, telegrams, Morse code messages — whatever works best for you! We WILL push you because we know you can take your amazing book to the next level. 

Kit

My agent likes to say — and I agree — that editing is a collaboration, not a dictatorship. That said, Rachel and I will absolutely push you to do the work necessary so that your manuscript is the best version of itself and ready for the agent round/querying. You'll have a great team behind you, providing guided feedback and encouragement. 


If you submit to us, feel free to include a line about why you picked us. It can go at the end of the query.

That’s it! We’re SO excited to see all your awesome, gritty, risk-taking YA books in our inbox this year!

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Honesty, Perseverance, & How Book 5 Became My Debut

I started writing seriously in the middle of the night.

It was the summer of 2011, and I'd just graduated from college with a journalism degree. I'd landed my first full-time job as the producer of a morning news radio show. The show started at 5 a.m., and I had to be at the station at 2 a.m. For a couple hours, I was the only person in the newsroom, which meant I fielded more than a few creepy calls from people who like to call radio stations late at night. 

So I played loud music and composed long emails to myself (I shared a computer with the other producers and didn't dare save anything personal on it) - scenes of what would become my first finished novel. 


I've always yearned to tell stories: as a kid writing strangely morbid books on stapled-together construction paper, as a teen writing song lyrics, as a college journalism student. It hadn't actually occurred to me until the summer after college to try to get something published, though I knew my odds of success were probably slimmer than a paper cut. That's why I view that time as when I "got serious" about writing - it's when I started writing with the goal of publication.

I worked on that first book for about a year, though I didn't really know how to decide that I was "done."  I joined a critique group I found on Meetup, and every cell in my introvert body protested as I submitted two chapters of my book and braced myself for feedback. 

They didn't hate it. I didn't exactly know how to classify the book - women's fiction, or maybe new adult, though that didn't exist yet - but one group member told me my voice felt very YA. That sparked something in me. I hadn't read YA since my early teen years, when I devoured Meg Cabot and Laurie Halse Anderson and Margaret Peterson Haddix. So I decided to catch up on what I'd missed since then - and oh my god, I fell in love. What I related to most was this ache, this longing that so many books had. A longing to be loved, to fit in, to achieve something, to discover who you really are. I like to think all my books have a strong sense of longing - it's my absolute favorite emotion to write. It's so painful and beautiful, and it's something many of us feel deep in our bones.


After incorporating some feedback from my critique group and obsessively reading Query Shark, I decided to start querying Book 1. I sent around 30 queries and received only one partial request. I felt pretty strongly that YA was what I wanted to be writing, though, so I shelved Book 1, which I now refer to as my "practice book," and moved on.

Book 2 was a YA about an all-girl band, loosely based on my experience in a band in high school. It had four POVs, and I  had no idea how to structure it. I hired a freelance editor, who pointed out to me that my writing was mainly telling instead of showing. This was hard to swallow at first, especially because, growing up, teachers had always told me I was "a good writer." But I could get better. I wanted to get better, to learn, to push myself. I revised Book 2 some more. I entered it in contests and sent more than 120 queries. I had about a 10 percent request rate, and a few of those requests turned into R&R's that were ultimately rejected. But something great had happened while I was querying that book - I leaped into the writing community on Twitter, and I connected with friends and CPs I'm still close with. 

While I was querying Book 2, I drafted Book 3, a YA contemporary about a girl with Tourette's syndrome and small-town political scandal. I sent 10 queries to start and received a couple full requests right away, which made me feel INCREDIBLE. I'd never gotten that many responses so quickly! One agent replied back with an R&R a few days after I sent her the full, and after we talked on the phone and exchanged a few emails about how to change the direction of the book, I revised it. She offered representation in June of 2013. 

No matter how many times you hear that "your first book probably won't sell," you think you'll be the exception. Book 3 was on submission for a year, and it didn't sell. And the only thing I could do at that point, since this was now something I knew I wanted more than I'd ever wanted anything, was write another book. 

While on submission with Book 3, I wrote Book 4, a tragic story about a roller derby girl with PTSD. I was in a dark place emotionally, and that made its way onto the page. I revised and revised and revised while rejections on Book 3 trickled in. 


Since I was young, I've struggled with depression, anxiety, and OCD. A lot of that has gone into my books, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. I've tried medication and therapy and have finally found a combination of both that's put me in a good place, but it took a long time to get there.

While writing is an incredible outlet, the rejection takes a toll. The waiting takes a toll. The best thing I can recommend if you're struggling with something similar: have another outlet besides writing. For me, that's dance. Several nights a week, I can completely clear my mind and focus on the movement and the music. I'm not fantastic at it, but I love it.

Still...I had moments of hopelessness. Haven't we all? You will never get published, my mind told me, and I started to believe it. I started to believe that all the "just didn't connect with it" rejections meant there was something wrong with my writing I might never know how to fix. 


Book 4 went on submission in spring of 2014, and I started working on Book 5. It was without a doubt the toughest thing I'd ever written, but I loved the characters. While I was drafting Book 5, Book 4 received a vague R&R from an editor. I switched gears and started working on that, but I'd forgotten how dark the book was. While most of my writing is dark-adjacent, some of it was so personally upsetting that I was having trouble even opening the document. So after Book 4 had been on sub for six months, and without completing the R&R, I asked my agent to pull the remaining submissions. I felt so much more strongly about Book 5, and I wanted to devote all my energy to it. And wow, did it require a lot of energy.

I rewrote the book from scratch twice because I couldn't get the voices right. Couldn't get the pacing right. Couldn't get the ending right. I'd never rewritten anything from a blank page before. It was daunting and exhilarating. My CPs loved it, and my agent and I revised it a couple times before going on sub with it in summer of 2015. It only went out to a handful of editors, and when my agent and I had differing visions for it, I decided it would be best if we parted ways. The split was amicable.

The book had only been seen by a few editors, and it hadn't been queried. Some friends who'd recently left agents found new ones within weeks. That...was not the case. Fortunately, I happened to know a lot of other writers querying for the second or third time, and their support was amazing. There are people I texted and IMed and DMed with every small victory. It's so, so important to have people who will celebrate those little victories with you. 

I set my first queries in October of 2015, and in March of this year, after I'd sent about 80 queries with a 1/3 request rate, I accepted an offer from Laura Bradford. We did one revision before going on sub with Book 5, now titled FINGERS CROSSED (though that is going to change), in early April, and in late May (we accepted the offer a few minutes before the Memorial Day holiday weekend!), this happened:

I cried a lot. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. I cannot wait to hold this book in my hands (pet it, hug it) and see others' responses to it. People talk about the book of your heart, and this one absolutely is mine. I put everything in it that I love and wanted to see more of in YA: ambitious girls with sharp edges, flawed characters confronting guilt and mortality, practicing Jews, which I rarely saw in books when I was growing up. Romance is a big part of the book too; there's both a doomed forbidden romance and a sweet first love. 

The two sisters each hold a piece of my soul. Tovah is, in many ways, similar to who I was in high school. Adina is everything I was too scared to be in high school. She's all the thoughts I had but never acted on.

Here's a collage I made to give you a better idea of what it's about:

You can also add it on Goodreads.

Another exciting thing is that Simon Pulse also acquired the book I drafted while querying Book 5! It's about a girl who donates a kidney to her guy best friend. She's been in love with him for a while and now thinks because she's made this tremendous sacrifice, he owes her to be in love, too. But now that he's healthy, he's experiencing many aspects of life for the first time, including falling for a guy, which is thrilling and confusing. It's tentatively titled A YEAR OF BAD IDEAS, and it's due out in 2019. You can add it on Goodreads, too!

Now it's time for the Oscars speech. Thank you to my incredible agent, Laura Bradford, who made me feel so comfortable with her during our very first call, who I've already learned so much from, who is a wonderful advocate. My editor at Simon Pulse, Jennifer Ung - her excitement (and the whole Pulse team's excitement) for this book has made me teary more than a couple times.

I owe a hundred thank-yous to this book's many readers in all its many iterations. Thank you to my dear friend Rachel Simon, a talented, selfless individual with whom I have a bizarre amount of things in common, including our names. You are such an unwavering champion of my work and of so many others' work. Thank you Paula Garner, Natalie Williamson, Natalie Blitt, J.C. Davis, Jeanmarie Anaya, Nikki Roberti, Tracy Gold, Maya Prasad, Richelle Morgan, Jamee Kuehler. And an enormous thank-you to Jen Hawkins. Jen, had it not been for your insistence that this story needed to be heard, I may have given up on this book. Also thank you to wonderfully supportive writer pals Helene Dunbar, Joy McCullough-Carranza, Kit Frick, Sarah Glenn Marsh, Heather Ezell, Tabitha Martin, Rachel Griffin, Megan Lally, and the entire Pitch Wars mentor group. 

If you've read to the end of this, or if you just skimmed all the way down - if getting published is what you want more than anything in the world, DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep writing. Keep reading. Take a risk. Write something new. Write something that scares you. 

Keep writing. Keep writing. 

There is someone out there who needs to read that story.