I always want to kick this off with something witty, but each year, I wind up staring at the screen for 20 minutes before settling simply on "hi." So...hi!! I'm a koala clinging to the Pitch Wars tree branch — this is my fifth year as a mentor, and I'm thrilled to be back! I'm also part of the Pitch Wars committee serving as the agent liaison.
I truly love Pitch Wars. It's my favorite part of the online writing community, mainly because for me, it's turned into a real-life support system. No exaggeration: all my Seattle friends are people I met through PW (mentors, mentees, entrants) ❤
About me + my mentoring style
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, which means I love the rain and start melting if the temperature climbs above 72°. I live in Seattle with my fiancé and tiny dog. In my spare time, I tap dance, listen to Bachelor/ette podcasts, and dream of sweater weather. If I could, I'd subsist only on tortilla chips and salsa verde.
In high school, I was an honors kid moonlighting as a punk rocker. It's entirely possible that the angry songs I wrote back then paved the way for my YA career. I have B.A. in journalism, though for the past four years I've worked in the education field. And I'm leaving my day job at the end of August to write and freelance edit full-time!
My debut YA novel, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, came out earlier this year from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. It's a dual POV YA contemporary about twin sisters who receive opposite results from a genetic test for Huntington's disease. It was a winter 2018 Indies Introduce title and Top 10 Indie Next Pick. My next book, Our Year of Maybe, will be out on January 15, 2019. It's also dual POV and follows two best friends in the aftermath of a kidney transplant, complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. It's about identity and obsession and unrequited love, and I'm so excited for it to be out in the world soon(ish).
S&S also recently acquired two more books from me; the first, a YA romantic comedy that takes place in 24 hours called Today Tonight Tomorrow, is slated for 2020. A little less heavy than my first two books, but still hopefully filled with plenty of Feelings! My agent is Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency. If you're curious, you can read more about my publishing journey here.
Working one-on-one with other writers is my absolute favorite thing, and I'm honored when anyone trusts me with their words. As a mentor, I'm encouraging, honest, and extremely hands-on. I'm here for video chats, DMs, texts, phone calls, or novel-length emails — whatever you feel most comfortable with! I'll be reading your manuscript at least twice. We'll do a round of big-picture edits first, and then a round of line edits closer to the agent showcase. We'll also work on your query, synopsis, and discuss agents and querying strategy. Some of my strengths: amplifying stakes, squeezing emotion out of every scene, heightening romantic tension, tightening pacing and character arcs. You'll always get plenty of gushing in my notes, too :)
It's so important to me that your book remains true to your vision. This is YOUR BOOK — I'm just here as a guide. I would never tell a mentee "you need to give your love interest purple hair" without an explanation 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.
Top 5 things I'd love for you to get out of Pitch Wars as my mentee:
- A book you're proud of and can't wait to send out into the world
- The ability to draw out the unique elements of your book to pitch it in the most need-to-have-this way possible
- Stronger revision skills and the ability to adapt what you've learned for future books
- A deeper understanding of the wild, wonderful world of publishing
- A friend — I've been so lucky in that I've remained close with my past mentees. We'll show you the matching tattoos later. They're super cute.
My wish list
This year, I'm only looking for YA contemporary and YA historical post-1950 (near historical). I'm open to all sub-genres: romance, mystery, thriller, etc., but the book must take place in the real world without any speculative or magical elements. I would love to work with a writer from a marginalized background, especially a Jewish author (as that's what I am) or an author of color.
Specifically, I'd love to see...
Books that explore sex, sexuality, and desire. This is always at the top of my list because I'm extremely passionate about sex-positive YA.
ROMANCE and authentic high school relationships. I'm here for all of it: slow burn, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, forced proximity, fake dating, forbidden love. Queer romance, too. If your YA is romance-heavy, I want it.
Fiercely unapologetic protagonists. Give me unlikable girls, ambitious girls, girls who are trying their best, girls who make mistakes. Give me moral complexity. Give me girls who are sick with desire — for someone, for something, for the person they want to become. Yearning is one of my very favorite things to read.
Soft boys. I adore guy characters who are sweet, caring, and shy, especially as love interests. Girls with sharp edges matched with tender, timid boys? Yessss.
Thoughtful examinations of gender dynamics. I'm always eager to see books that challenge traditional gender dynamics or subvert tropes. I'm also interested in books that explore the gender spectrum.
Unique or complex family dynamics. If family plays a big role in your book, I'd love to see it. I always enjoy reading about unconventional families (including found families) in YA. I also love present parents/good parents in YA!
Setting as a character. There are few things I love more than descending into a vividly drawn setting. Small towns, big cities, everything in between — if it has a personality, show me!
Protagonists with interesting hobbies. I love when I can see the protagonist's passion for her hobby, even if (and sometimes especially if) it's something I'm unfamiliar with. Give me all your acrobats and soap makers and stamp collectors . I'm especially drawn to artistic, musical, and anachronistic hobbies.
Subculture. Somewhat related to the above, but if your book explores a subculture we don't see often in YA, especially if it's quirky or offbeat, I'd love to see it. Maybe it's an underground poetry club, or a secret society, or a fandom. Basically, if your characters are into something unusual, I'm probably going to be into it too.
Humor and banter. Books are the best escape, and so often when I turn to them, I hope they'll make me smile.
Friendships. I'd love to see supportive and/or complicated (not always mutually exclusive) female friendships. I also enjoy YA with large friend groups, especially mixed-gender groups.
Multicultural stories. I'm very interested in books that explore non-white, non-Western cultures and/or minority religions.
Unusual narrative structures or devices. Epistolary novels, novels in verse, novels told entirely through texts or transcripts or telegrams, multiple timelines, multiple POVs, books told through found objects, books that go backward in time...! If your book does something weird, I want it!
Twisty thrillers. Especially anything comparable to Kara Thomas' or Caleb Roehrig's books.
Boundary-pushing YA. I put this on my list every year, too — basically, if you've ever wondered "Can I do this in YA?" about your book, I hope to see it in my inbox!
Some recent favorite books...
Not the right fit for me...
- Fantasy, sci-fi, historical pre-1950, or anything else that isn't contemporary
- Main character struggling with addiction, abuse, or mental illness — so if you would pitch your book as "a girl trying to overcome [one of those things]," it won't be the right fit
- Parents struggling with depression or addiction
- Violence, including sexual assault
- Good girl/bad boy trope — but yes please to bad girl/good guy pairings
- Toxic masculinity — unless the book is about challenging/dismantling it
- Organ transplants — my 2019 book centers on a kidney transplant, so I'm just too close to the topic at the moment
Thank you so much for considering me as a mentor! I can't wait to see your submissions. If you have questions, feel free to @ me on Twitter. I'll also be participating in the #askmentor Twitter chat on August 16 from 8-10 p.m. ET!
Here's a link back to the main Pitch Wars blog hop post, and you can check out the rest of the YA wish lists below: