Hello! So happy you're taking a peek here!
I'm thrilled to be a new MG mentor this year. I didn't come from the #PitchWars trenches, but I'm lucky in my writing life to have wonderful mentors who've taught me how to dig deep, and how to find the heart & voice in my work. You can read my writing bio here. (Pssst, Scavenger Hunters, "YOU" just may find what you're looking for!)
My Pub Journey (in a nutshell!)
My MG debut is the first kid-lit novel I ever wrote (I talk a little more about it here!). After MANY revisions, I sent it out to a handful of dream agents (10 to be exact). A couple weeks after that, I ended up with multiple offers! My gut led me to signing with powerhouse-ninja-unicorn-agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. With Sarah's help I revised the novel (again) and not long after, we sold my book in a pre-empt to Wendy Lamb at Penguin Random House. Wendy has published incredible writers I admire including Newbery winners Rebecca Stead (WHEN YOU REACH ME) and Christopher Paul Curtis (BUD, NOT BUDDY), so needless to say I was over the moon.
But guess what? Now that the book has officially sold and I'm working with a fancy-pants publishing house and editor, I've still had to revise my novel A BAJILLION MORE TIMES. (Notice a pattern here??) I've gained much insight during this journey that I'm excited to share with my MG mentee!
The Longer Road
These “stats” might sound somewhat breezy—I feel lucky not to have been in agent/editor submission-limbo for very long—but it really wasn’t so quick. Here's why: I've spent over a decade working on craft.
My background is as a writer; I've written for different organizations (my day job is as an editor for a parenting website). I've also studied playwriting, spent time writing "coverage" for screenplays (which taught me story structure), and have published lots of non-fiction. But let's back up to all those years ago when I had an idea for my first (adult) novel. I dove into writing it, but a couple chapters in I quickly realized I had no clue what I was doing. That launched me into creating my own learning path. I took a ton of creative writing classes (mainly at the UCLAx Writers' Program) where I discovered the art of “workshopping” (learning how to give/receive thoughtful feedback). I was also awarded a few life-changing opportunities including a PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellowship where I got to learn even more.
That first book never went anywhere, but it taught me how to write something that would get published. I took time off of my novel-writing goals (because: life!) and when I finally came back to it, those years had given me an arsenal of tools and support. I think there's always something to learn and improve about your craft, so I continue to take classes. If you're making the commitment to #PitchWars, this is part of your own learning journey. It's also why I think #PW is so cool—I learn from this process, too, so it goes both ways!
How Can I Help?
We'll look at "bigger picture" story issues:
- Is it clear what your character wants?
- Is there something clearly at stake?
- Is the voice fully MG?
We'll also drill down to line-level and look at things like:
- Are there a ton of cliches? (Cut or revise—they weaken your story & writing!)
- Repetition? (Same thing... cut/revise!)
- Does the dialogue sound natural? (Important for middle grade!)
I'm also a firm believer that CHARACTER = PLOT. A novel isn't just a series of events—there should be an emotional push to every scene (however subtle) that drives your story forward. Plot comes from the choices your characters are making. Voice comes from your main character's attitude, feelings, and opinions.
Simple: I read your ms and give you constructive feedback.
I won't do the work for you, but I will bring up tons of Qs and suggestions to help you figure out how to take your book to the next level. We'll talk about what works in your book (that's what you should do more of!), and what's not working. I'm very frank with my notes and cut right to the chase (though in the most constructive, thoughtful way!). I do hope that if we go on this journey together you're at a point where you know your work well enough to take the notes that resonate most with you, and to simply disregard the ones that don't (without taking it personally). We'll do as much back and forth as necessary and I'll be cheering you on the whole time.
Pitch Me These Genres:
I love any realistic, literary, and contemporary MG that makes readers feel. MG with heart. MG that makes you cry—or laugh—or think! I love funny, quirky, charming stories. But I love dark, messy MG, too. I love and appreciate books that pay close attention to language and prose. I also want to work with a story that has (or will eventually have) nuance and layers. I guarantee that if you write a book that resonates emotionally with your readers, you'll find your dream agent and editor (and they'll find you).
Diversity on bookshelves has always been important to me. In fact when I wrote the adult novel that I mentioned above, I had a line in my query: “There are so few Filipino-American voices on contemporary bookshelves. One of my goals as a writer is to change that.”—Can you believe this still holds true all these years later?! Send me a ms that come from your deep experiences. Readers need & want these stories.
Pitch Me If:
- You love writing & language that has a melody to it.
- You've already put in the time to learn your craft (through classes, SCBWI, writing groups, ETC.).
- You're ready to jump in, revise, and do the hard work!
- You love books like:
*THE THING ABOUT JELLY FISH (Ali Benjamin)
*WALK TWO MOONS (Sharon Creech)
*COUNTING BY 7s (Holly Sloan Goldberg)
*THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (Kat Yeh)
*BROWN GIRL DREAMING or ANOTHER BROOKLYN (Jacqueline Woodson)
*AMERICAN SON (Brian Ascalon Roley)
*This list could go on forever but these are a few recent faves off the top of my head! :)
Please DO NOT Pitch Me:
Magical realism, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, historical, thriller, or books with main characters who are talking animals. I love reading these genres but I'm not the best author to give feedback for them.