TJ’S 2021 YA Mentor Wishlist
Welcome #PitchWars hopefuls! I’m so excited to be a 2021 YA 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 or assistants (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.
This year I’ll be mentoring all genres in YA except for historical. I’m also open to college-set NA with YA appeal. I would especially love to see horror (marginalized creators especially), romance, sci-fi, contemporary with speculative elements, and any story that will break my heart while also making me laugh.
You can visit the Pitch Wars site for the rest of the mentors’ wishlists or click the links at the bottom of this post.
For a downloadable version of the wishlist, click below:
WHO I AM and HOW I’LL MENTOR
In my work life, I’m an assistant at a literary agency, where I’m working with two senior agents. Previously, I had various publishing internships and was a children’s bookseller and store manager for four years. I’ve assisted 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 on how an indie bookstore operates, I’m your person.
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 to find your own editor’s heart (if you aren’t there yet already!). We’ll create tools for you to 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! I’m also looking for a mentee who will be okay with weekly check-ins and will be able to meet the rigorous editorial schedule. I will most likely have you re-outline your novel for revision and/or establish weekly or bi-weekly progress updates to make sure we’re on track with revision.
This can be an intense editorial process and I’m here for you along the way! Communication between my mentee and me is key. If my mentee wants, I would love to be there for all the random thoughts or brainstorming through various forms of communication (whatever platforms you prefer)! I can be your sounding board. Let’s make your story shine while also talking about your favorite TV binge of the week or favorite recent read. During these times, I find enjoying the things we love to be equally important as the writi
WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR
Normally, I end my wishlist with my “don’t” category, but this year I’m switching it up so we can end on a more positive note. As I mentioned above, I’m not looking for historical submissions. However, if your novel has a contemporary time period and includes a historical element that somehow impacts the present timeline, I’m open to that.
Other things I’m not looking for as a mentor include:
· Princes and Princess based fantasy (though open if it’s queer or intersectional)
· Stories where the villain is fat
· Stories that have consistent fat-shaming, though if there’s a solid exploration of body positivity a la Julie Murphy books send my way.
· Queer figures (family, friends, etc) dying so people close to MC can now accept them.
· Aliens as villains solely (would love to see some nuance or twist of aliens are always evil)
· While I love witch stories, I don’t think I would be the best mentor for them.
WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR
Now for the fun part. I’m open to pretty much every other genre in YA. Send it all! Below are some specifics:
Contemporary (especially if they have a speculative or fantastical component):
Contemporary is a genre I gravitate towards the most in my everyday reading life, though it will often have some sort of genre mix (contemporary with horror, speculative elements, fantasy, etc.). I’m open to the lighthearted to the more serious stories.
Some contemporary elements I would love to see:
· Trans and non-binary voices and stories
· Neurodiverse characters
· Healing from trauma in a thoughtful way, sometimes through friends and/or magic
· Ways to play with structure, either through art or other mediums.
· Anything involving competition
· Teens working in every day jobs (bookstores, fast food, at the mall, etc.)
· 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. Think Elizabeth Acevedo or Joy McCullough.
· Messy families, but ways to cope or find healthy ways to live in that mess
· Characters, especially underrepresented ones, trying to find their place in the world
· Found families
· Queer friend groups
· Body Positivity
· Heavy topics, yet handled at times in humorous ways
JACK OF HEARTS AND OTHER PARTS by L.C Rosen
FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY by Candice Montgomery
THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julie Drake
ON THE COME UP or THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman
GIRL MANS UP by M.E. Gerard
THE SKY BLUES by Robbie Couch
Speculative or genre:
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera
THE ART OF STARVING by Sam J. Miller
DIG. By A.S. King
IF THESE WINGS COULD FLY by Kyrie McCauley
CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas
LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds
THE WALLS AROUND US or 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma
AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi
I love most romance related YA, but tend to gravitate towards high concept or “hooky” titles. If you could sum up your book in a line or two and have people sending “take my money” gifs, then send my way.
Romance tropes I love normally include:
· any sort of childhood friends reunite and fall in love,
· second chance romance,
· enemies or rivals to lovers,
· stuck together trope, think elevator or ski lodge, etc.
· a one day kind of romance a la Gayle Forman’s JUST ONE DAY,
· fake dating
· slow burn
. grumpy sunshine pairing
· YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson
· DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy
· THE BOY AND THE MISH by Gary Lonesborough
· XOXO by Axie Oh
· WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord
· TOKYO EVER AFTER by Emiko Jean
· Anything Julian Winters
· THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE by Stacey Lee
· A Talia Hibbert for teens (can’t wait for her YA debut!)
These genres produce some of my favorite content. I love horror of any kind. From the body horror of WILDER GIRLS to the slasher vibes of SCREAM. I’m interested in all sub genres of horror so if you think I’d be a good fit as a mentor, I would love your submission.
Some elements I’d enjoy seeing:
· BIPOC, queer, disabled, and other marginalized voices in this space.
· Neighborhood or small-town creepiness and/or mystery
· Serial killers
· Solving a murder or missing persons case
· Podcast elements, or other plays on structure like SADIE or GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.
· A cozy mystery
· One day thriller or short time frame set-up
· Seaside town stories, pool related, something aquatic, etc.
· Creepy Clowns, scarecrows, evil horses or goats, haunted objects, etc.
· Queer/BIPOC Veronica Mars
· Anything that could be comped to SCREAM, GET OUT, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Some authors I love in these genres:
Joan Lowery Nixon
Fantasy and Sci-Fi:
I can be picky when it comes to my fantasy and sci-fi interests, but what I’m looking for at the heart of any submission is engaging characters and a strong sense of place. As long as I feel invested in what’s happening, I will dive into any world.
Elements I love:
· Isolated either on a ship or another planet. Think THE MARTIAN.
· Space opera
· Dark Academia
· Competitions (Note: I’ve been working on my own “space race” novel for the last few years, so if it involves space racing another mentor might be a better fit!)
· Cool alien characters or worlds
· Superhero or elemental magic
· Interesting or unexpected magical systems
· Setting as character.
· ASHLORDS or NYXIA by Scott Reintgen
· THE BRILLIANT DEATH by A.R. Capetta
· THE DISASTERS by M.K. England
· SCYTHE by Neal Shusterman
· HERO by Perry Moore
· NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson
· WANT by Cindy Pon
For me, I’ll consider submissions that take place in a college setting, and I’ll work with the author to make it as commercially viable in the YA market. I love college novels. EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H.K. Choi is one of my favorite books of the last few years. I recently enjoyed FRESH BY Margot Wood, partially because I’m a fellow Emerson Alumni.
I'm also open to NA about teens that aren't going to college, but the manuscript will have to have a strong hook and/or themes that work in YA space.
Note: I’m open to graphic novel submissions in any of the above categories, though I prefer working with an author/illustrator.
I hope the above has been helpful. Thanks for checking out my wishlist! Good luck to all those pitching when submissions open! Please feel free to reach out through Twitter @OhlerTJ if you have any questions!
Please follow the links below to check out other mentor's Pitch Wars Wishlists!