Rachel's 2017 Pitch Wars Wishlist

Welcome and a little about me

Thank you for checking out my wishlist! This is my fourth year mentoring YA for Pitch Wars, and I look forward to this contest every year. My mentees are so much more than mentees — I am lucky to call every one of them a close friend and CP! Basically...I am difficult to get rid of ;)

Part of why I've built such incredible friendships through Pitch Wars is that for me, the mentor-mentee relationship lasts beyond the contest. Ideally, I'd love to build a long-lasting CP relationship/friendship!

I write contemporary YA, and my debut, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, will be out from Simon & Schuster's Simon Pulse imprint on January 2, 2018! (You can add it on Goodreads here, if you wish, and it's on Amazon here.) My second book contracted with Simon Pulse will be out in 2019. My work is represented by the fantastic Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency

My own road to publication hasn't exactly been straightforward (more about that here). I queried two books before finding an agent with my third. Over the next two and a half years, we went on submission with that book and two subsequent ones I wrote. None of them sold. None of them even came close. After deciding to part ways with my first agent, I queried for 5 months before signing with Laura, who sold You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone in a two-book deal after being on submission for 6 weeks. I share this story for a few reasons: 1) because I hope it illustrates that leaving an agent is not a step backward in your journey, and 2) publishing is unpredictable, and you never know who's going to connect with your words. Publishing is a lot of waiting combined with occasional whiplash. Patience and perseverance are crucial traits. We only have control over what we put into the world and the connections we form with other writers, because they're the ones who will build us up when this business feels impossible. Hence: Pitch Wars.

I'm passionate about working with writers who have been at this for a while and aren't sure why agents aren't connecting with their work. Conversely, I'm also interested in working with early-career writers just beginning to navigate the publishing world — and anyone in between! Really, what's most important to me is finding a mentee with ambition and a unique voice

In my spare time, I tap dance, buy too many tubes of red lipstick, and snuggle my sweet rescue pup, Wally. I live in Seattle with my boyfriend of 8 years. I studied journalism at the University of Washington, and I worked in both commercial and public radio, in addition to freelancing for newspapers, for several years.  I currently work full-time from home in the education field. I love new wave music, Indian food, gloomy weather, and dresses with pockets! 

My strengths and mentoring style

If we work together, here's what you can expect. We'll do one round of big picture edits, and I'll give you an edit letter shortly after picks are announced. Then we'll do a round of line edits closer to the agent round. We'll also work on your query letter, synopsis, and discuss agents and querying strategy.

It's so important to me that your book remains true to your vision. I would never tell a mentee "you need to make your MC a centaur" with no explanation of why a centaur MC would be a good choice because that's not helpful! Rather, all my notes are phrased as questions and suggestions so both of us can think critically about your work and the story you're trying to tell. 

I excel in figuring out how to make a book stand out in a crowded market. I want to draw out the elements that make your book unique and find a way to pitch it that makes an agent go, "I need it NOW!" I'm great at identifying pacing issues and solidifying character arcs, plus digging deeper into your protagonist's psyche. I love adding more conflict and tension, both at a micro and macro level (individual scenes as well as the entire book) to make your book impossible to put down. We'd work on squeezing the maximum emotion out of every scene. I am GREAT at amplifying romantic tension and chemistry. I'm also a whiz with queries. 

As a mentor, I'm encouraging but honest, extremely hands-on and available for whatever you need: video chats, novel-length emails, texts, DMs, etc. Given my journey, I'm not pessimistic about this industry, but I am realistic. Some of my past mentees have agents. One has a book deal. Others are still querying or working on new projects. I can't guarantee you'll have an agent or book deal right after Pitch Wars ends. I wish I could. I don't feel that's the sole marker of Pitch Wars success — and there's no way of knowing which book is The Book. What I hope you'll come away with is a renewed passion for and confidence in your manuscript and your ability to revise, plus an expanded knowledge of the publishing industry. 

I am so grateful that I've been able to do this for four years now. I've forged incredible friendships, not just with my mentees, but with other mentors, their mentees, and entrants. I will provide all writers who submit to me with a couple lines of constructive feedback after mentees are announced. Sometimes, as frustrating as it is, the feedback will be that I just didn't connect with the pages. This business is so subjective, but I know how much time you put into selecting your mentors, and I so value your thoughtfulness and dedication.  

What I'm looking for

This year, I am ONLY looking for contemporary YA. I'm open to any subgenre of contemporary, as long as the book takes place in our world. Wherever your book falls on the contemporary spectrum — light and fun, dark and edgy — I'm into it! My debut and my 2019 book are dark-ish and emotional, but I'm working on a YA romantic comedy right now. 

Number one on my wish list: books that push boundaries and take risks. If you wonder, "Can I do this in YA?" then PLEASE SEND IT TO ME! I want something FRESH, something I feel I haven't read before, and I read a lot of contemporary YA! I'd also love to see something that takes a well-known plot or trope and casts it with a queer or POC protagonist. 

A few of my favorite things (by no means a comprehensive list)

  • A focus on female sexuality, feminism, female bodies (or a protagonist discovering these things!)
  • Girl protagonists who could be called unlikable
  • Diverse casts of characters (a contemporary YA novel in 2017 should not have an all white, all allocishet cast) 
  • ROMANCE. I love it, especially with tons of chemistry and tension. A good slow burn is my fave
  • A voice that grabs me and won't let go
  • Protagonists with a passion, especially something unique, like an MC who loves bird-watching or foraging for wild mushrooms
  • Characters who think they hate each other but deep down really want to make out with each other
  • Realistic high school relationships and sexual experiences
  • Sex positivity
  • Unique narrative structures or devices 
  • Anything that revolves around art or music
  • Queer protagonists
  • Anything quirky or unusual
  • Moral gray areas
  • Bad decisions 
  • Taboo relationships
  • Geeky/nerdy characters
  • Outcasts
  • A glimpse into a world (a culture, a setting, a group of people, a hobby) most people know little about
  • Anything that feels like a challenge to the current administration 
  • Unreliable narrators
  • Unrequited love
  • Banter
  • Fun friend groups
  • Friendship breakups, couple breakups 
  • The feeling of longing
  • The feeling of disillusionment
  • Complex family dynamics
  • Wholly immersive settings 
  • Bittersweet endings 
  • Something that will break my heart (and possibly put it back together)

An incomplete list of books I love:

  • Hold Still and The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
  • Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
  • Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  • Even When You Lie To Me by Jessica Alcott
  • Amy & Roger's Epic Detour and Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
  • 99 Days by Katie Cotugno 
  • Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
  • The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
  • Making Pretty and The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
  • Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu 
  • Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler
  • Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • Wild Awake and A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
  • The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Not the best fit for me:

Because you have a limited number of mentor slots and there are so many fantastic mentors to choose from, here's a list of what I'm not looking for this year:

  • Anything that isn't contemporary YA (there are so many awesome mentors looking for SFF, historical, etc.)
  • Good girl/bad boy trope (but I am HERE for bad girl/good guy match-ups) 
  • Domestic abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Missing girl stories (I've just read too many of them this year)
  • Anything hugely centered on sports where "the big game" is an important plot point (UNLESS it's an unusual sport, one not commonly played in high school)
  • Main hook focused on a parent who is an addict or alcoholic, or a parent with mental or physical illness (so if you would pitch the book as "a girl dealing with her mom's depression," it's probably not the right fit)
  • Sexual assault, unless the book discusses (and dismantles) rape culture
  • Bigotry in any form

Thank you for reading, and I can't wait to see your words in my inbox! Lastly, you might need this for the scavenger hunt: 

SHARP
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