My Pitch Wars Wishlist!

PW logo 1Hello and welcome to all who love Pitch Wars and YA! 

What I’m looking for: My favorites include many YA contemporaries, such as Eleanor and Park, Anna and the French Kiss, All the Bright Places, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Mexican White Boy, and We Were Liars (I kind of have a love-hate with that one, because *SPOILER ALERT* the end is devastating).

book covers for blogSo, if you’ve written a YA contemporary with an honest, captivating, authentic voice, please DO send your entry my way! I especially love contemporaries with a twist of something unique, or a surprising element—even a little genre-bending, or a splash of fantasy or sci-fi. However, I’m also open to “quiet” contemporaries, but they must be very special and compelling.

I also have favorites among other genres, such as fantasy and sci-fi, including The Scorpio Races, Feed, House of the Scorpion, and of course, the Harry Potter series. What’s most important to me is that fantasy and sci-fi novels have, at their core, an authentic human voice, and genuine human emotion and experience. I do also like fairy tale and classic lit reimaginings.

I’m NOT usually a big fan of mystery or thrillers, but you never know—I’m open to surprises. Except horror. I like stories that have a little creepy element (Anna Dressed in Blood, Warm Bodies), but I’m NOT the right mentor for serious horror. Similarly, I like “dark” stories, but I prefer them with at least a splash of hope and light. I’m probably not the right mentor for unrelenting darkness.

In any genre, I would also love to see under-represented perspectives and voices (“own voices”), unique settings or worlds, humor, romance, and lovely writing (whether literary, or simple and clean).

So, to recap: *YES* to YA contemporary, YA fantasy, YA sci-fi, YA fairy tale and classic retellings, genre-bending YA, and YA magical realism—all with authentic human experience and emotion at heart. *YES* to “own voices,” unique settings, humor, romance, and lovely writing. Above all, *YES* to authentic human emotions and experiences.

*NO thanks* (generally speaking) to mysteries and thrillers, hard-core horror, and super-dark stories. (However, I’m open to surprises, so if you have a hunch that I’ll love your manuscript, go ahead and take a chance!) Also, since I’m an animal lover, *NO thanks* (in most cases) to violence against animals, unless it is coupled with a strong anti-violence-against-animals message.

About meI was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2014 and it was the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to pay it forward by mentoring this year!

I write (and love) YA! In addition to writing, I also teach high school English and work as a book coach/editor for Author Accelerator.

Things I love besides writing and editing include (in no particular order): Dogs, songwriting, English breakfast tea, vanilla-scented candles, my family, British period TV series (Grantchester), reality TV that centers on creativity (So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway), avocado, my dogs, other animals, and did I mention my dogs?

As an editor, I love figuring out what is and isn’t working in a manuscript on both a big picture and detailed (nit-picky) level.

Several of the writers I’ve read for have gone on to obtain agents and/or book deals. My name appears in the acknowledgements of These Gentle Wounds, by Helene Dunbar; If I Fix You, by Abigail Johnson; Arrows, by Melissa Gorzelanczyk; and the Frosh series, by Mónica B. Wagner.

Below are comments from a few writers I’ve critiqued: 

I don’t know what I’d do without Susan as my CP. Her editorial eye is amazing, the kind that explains to you well what’s not working, and you’re like, Whoa, I can SEE it now. Whatever was I thinking writing that in a scene? It’s crazy how she can put her finger on exactly what’s not working for her–like, she’ll never say something like “this part is boring me” and nothing else. She’ll say why exactly it isn’t working and will give you options to fix it. She’s the sweetest gal ever, too! She’ll tell you what she loves in your MS, and she’ll root for you. You want her as your mentor! She truly is amazing! – Mónica B.W. 

Susan is a truly wonderful editor. Precise, kind, whip-smart, and knowledgeable, she’s the sort of editor you feel really lucky to have. She knows the craft backwards and forwards—how to tell a great story with all the right elements that go into making a polished novel, from the super small to the super big. Her line edits are amazing; even when you think you’ve been over your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, she catches problems that need to be fixed to make your novel shine. Her sense of a story’s timing and story arc, as well as of a character’s development, are fantastic. She has a kind of deep-seeing when it comes to the art of the story—she asks all the right questions to help you understand what motivates your characters and how to drive your story forward. Not only that, but she has the knack for giving tough feedback that somehow makes you feel good about your writing (a rare gift, indeed!). Susan is a generous editor with a really big heart and I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to have her as an editor. – Karen Halil, Ph.D. in literature; previously, Lecturer in English at Harvard University and Boston University; presently, YA writer 

Susan is a fabulous editor! She has an eye for detail such as grammar mistakes and missing words, but is also able to identify larger issues regarding plot and clarity. She’s exceptionally thorough, giving pointed, detailed advice in an honest and direct tone, while remaining positive and encouraging. Susan’s opinions on my manuscripts have been invaluable, and I’d highly recommend working with her! – Andrea Contos 

Susan was my mentor, along with Monica Bustamante Wagner, back in 2015. Susan has an amazing editorial eye, pointing out not just what doesn’t work, but explaining why in a kind and supportive way. Any time I had questions, she would respond quickly, even if my questions were more of a panic-fest. My writing is stronger for having known her–and I’m proud to count her among my writer friends now! Any writer should leap at the chance to work with Susan! – Kerbie Addis 

My editing style: I plan to read my mentee’s manuscript twice–once for big-picture issues, and once for line-edits. I believe that feedback can and should be honest and constructive. (With all due respect to Simon Cowell, in my opinion honesty does not need to be brutal.) I think it’s helpful to comment on what DOES work as well as on areas that need improvement, and I’ve been known to include hearts and smiley faces in my comments. I will also try my best to respond with some feedback to all entries.

♥ Links to some of my posts on writingCapturing Voice, Opening Scenes, Writing Tips from YALLwest, Hope in the Face of Rejection, Four Qualities of Good Writing, Is it Time to Put that Manuscript in a Drawer? (with Kelly deVos), Interview

What I’m looking for in a mentee: I’m hoping to work with a writer who’s open to feedback, who can communicate honestly, and who will work their fingers to the bone to make their manuscript the best it can be. I’m also looking for someone who can tolerate some stress and who understands that each writer’s journey is unique.  I can’t promise an instant ticket to publishing success, but I can guarantee that, with the right attitude and lots of hard work, you’ll come away from Pitch Wars with a stronger manuscript and unbeatable writer-friends!

I can’t wait to read entries and find my 2017 mentee!

Scroll down for links to the other mentor wish-lists, but first, my beloved writing companions:


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