TJ's 2019 PitchWars Wishlist
Welcome #PitchWars hopefuls! I’m so excited to be a 2019 MG mentor, and I am looking forward to working with my future mentee! For those stumbling on this post and who may not know, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns (that’s me!) choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.
You can visit the Pitch Wars site for the rest of the mentors’ wishlists at (or click the links at the bottom of this post): https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-2019-mentor-blog-hop/
WHO I AM and HOW I’LL MENTOR
In my work life, I’m a children’s bookseller and store manager. I assist with reading many upcoming books, running events, and finding the right books for children and teens of all ages. If you want to learn anything about the lay of the land of how an indie bookstore operates, I’m your person. Previously, I’ve been an editorial intern at Bloomsbury Children’s books, and I am currently an intern at a literary agency.
First I wanted to say as a mentor, I am here to invest in you and in your writing. One of my key goals in this process is to not only hone into the heart of your Pitch Wars manuscript, but find your own editor’s heart (if you aren’t there yet already!). We’ll create tools for you utilize for future stories, so that even once this one is finished we feel positive about working through future ones. To get there, we’ll be asking important questions like “what does your writing life look like?”, “are there areas where you want to improve on in your writing habits?”, and “what are you reading that makes you happy or want to write?”
For me, being a mentor will involve asking the right things to help you along your journey. So be prepared for lots of targeted plot, character, and concept related questions in that editorial letter!
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:
One major focus of mine as a bookseller, and now 2019 Pitch Wars mentor, is finding queer ( LGBTQIA+) stories for our MG readers. These past few years have seen an uptick in amazing and impactful MG books with queer themes (The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy or The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake). I would especially love to see queer MG that breaks genre boundaries, like the elements in Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
While I am particularly interested in #Ownvoices, please do not feel pressure to call your book #Ownvoices in your query if you are uncomfortable doing so. Also, if you are okay mentioning your novel is #Ownvoices but would like that info to remain between us, just let me know.
WHAT I LOVE:
Genre Smashes: If your book is a mix of contemporary with magical elements or a bit of sci-fi and/or is hard to categorize, I’m your person. If it’s a book that mixes traditional narrative with verse, screenplay (I went to film school!), musical elements, letters, etc, let’s make the pieces work together the best they can. I love challenging structures, and am ready to help make each element sparkle.
I’ll bring the glitter.
Contemporary with magical or surreal elements I have loved recently include:
Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King (also all of A.S King’s books)
The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu
The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca Ansari
I am also extremely interested in creepy or space related submissions, ranging from sci-fi, mystery, or horror. I want something with the creep or mystery vibe of a Lois Duncan or Joan Lowery Nixon novel, but for the MG audience. If you are inspired by them or R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike, I would love to see it.
Note: I’m always hoping MG horror will find more space on bookstore shelves. It’s what I read (and watched) as a young kid. Give me all the creepiness. Even if your book doesn’t fit into the above ideas, I would love to see any horror MG.
For a more modern take on creepy, I really enjoyed Small Spaces by Katherine Arden.
CONTEMPORARY (with no surreal elements):
I also enjoy more straightforward contemporary and am open to stories ranging from humorous to ones dealing with more intense themes (even better if there’s a balance of the two).
If your story feels like any of the below titles, please consider sending it to me:
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (or her other books!)
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Some Places More Than Others By Renée Watson
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
A SMATTERING OF THINGS I WOULD LOVE TO SEE:
*#Ownvoices, diversity, intersectionality
*Trans and non-binary voices and/or stories
* Novels in Verse: I may not be a poet, but I love reading these types of stories and would love to assist anyone writing one
*Messy families, but finding healthy ways to cope and live in that mess
*Queer friend groups
*Body Positivity *Neighborhood or small town creepiness and/or mystery *Creepy Clowns, scarecrows, evil horses, demented dolls,
*Baking (Magical Baking ++)
*Middle Grade version of Veronica Mars
*Heavy topics, yet handled at times in humorous ways (à la The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James, The One and Only Ivan, Ghost, etc.)
*Competition (Skating, Olympics, baking competition, reality show, etc.)
WHAT I DON’T WANT:
*Historical (unless light historical like Planet Earth is Blue, which holds one of my biggest sob fests from reading a book this year)
*Villains being the fat/overweight characters * Queer figures (family, friends, etc) dying so people close to MC can now accept them being queer.
I hope the above has been helpful. Thanks for checking out my wishlist! Good luck to all those pitching when submissions open! If you have any questions, I'll be participating in our upcoming #AskMentor MG mentor chat on Monday September 16th at 8pm. And I'm available on Twitter @OhlerTJ
Note: To visit other wishlists, right click and open link in new tab for easiest accessibility.