Welcome, prospective #PitchWars mentee. Here's I'm looking for this year:
Historical fiction, fantasy, or literary ghost stories
Pitch Wars writers, congratulations on writing and polishing your manuscript. Even more fist-bumps for dedicating yourself to learning more about writing. If that lovely manuscript of yours is either historical fiction, literary-styled fantasy, or literary-styled paranormal, I'm really hoping you'll send it to me! (If that's not you, check out more of our fantastic mentors at the blog-hop homepage.)
This is my second year doing PitchWars, and I'm so excited to be back here interacting with other writers and talking shop. If you're considering submitting to me, it might help to know that I write and edit as part of my day job, I have published numerous short stories in literary magazines around the country, I'm a senior editor with a book review, and I am represented by Shannon Hassan of MarsalLyon. A day cannot pass without at least four cups of tea. Let's be honest -- six.
But let's talk about YOU, or rather, your manuscript. Chances are, I am most likely to fall in love with your historical fiction. That's what I write, and it's approximately half of what I read. But I'm open to fantasy and paranormal stories as well (last year I mentored one historical, one fantasy), and am hoping to find a story that has:
- Characters you love and I can fall in love with, be they ghosts or humans or some fantastical beast.
- A rich setting. I adore textured world-building, and I want you to transport me. Take me back in time or deep into that haunted house or across the magical world of your own imagining.
- A conflict that's at least hinted at from the beginning. I don't need a plot-heavy book, but there has to be some conflict.
- A story that surprises me, in concept and setting. I'm not worried about hitting market trends, but I am wary of reading things that I've seen too much elsewhere (World War II is going to a difficult one for me, for example). In that vein, retellings really have to knock my socks off.
- Sentences that reflect a professional-level understanding of grammar and style. This is mostly because we just don't have time to fix the sentences and the book's structure.
- An ambitious story that has something to discuss (but not preach) about human life. This is really important. That means plot-heavy pot boilers aren't the best fit for me. But note above how I also want to see some plot there too.
- Tears? If you can choke me up, I'm putty in your hands.
- Art or war. I mean really, if you have a story about an artist or a war (or, dear lord, an artist in a war), I will keel over if you don't send it to me. I particularly love stories about painters, sculptors, and musicians. I have some favorite wars, but really, they're all fascinating.
- Also, it should go without saying, but just to be certain -- I'm definitely up for #ownvoices and all sorts of diversity. Love love love.
You have a lot of wonderful mentors to choose from, so I hope it helps you narrow your list if I mention a few things that I don't like. These are quite subjective, and there's a very good chance that the next mentor around the corner is looking for the exact same things that do not float my boat. (In fact, I know they are!)
- There are exceptions (including among the books listed below), but first-person POV is a hard sell for me. This is not an insta-reject, just something I thought you should know.
- I will not swoon for swooning. Which is to say, I'm not interested in story lines that are primarily romantic. There are amazing romance mentors in this contest -- I'm not one of them. (A sprinkling of romance is fine; I just don't want to see that as the main conflict.)
- I wish this weren't true, but I am apparently too stodgy to really get into humor writing. And even if I fell in love with a humor manuscript (which I can imagine doing, if it's knock-your-socks-off good), I probably wouldn't know how to help it.
- Religious stories aren't my cup of tea (and I do love tea, did I mention that?). I don't mind curiosity about questions of faith or worlds where religion is a key part of the social tapestry, but I am not a church-goer and wouldn't be helpful for inspirational or faith-based writing.
What would I love to see in a mentee? Oh, I'm so glad you asked.
- Someone who makes the time to read. We're all busy, but we make time for the priorities. Writers who don't read are like people who talk all the time and never pause to listen.
- Someone who has the time and energy to work hard on revisions. My two amazing mentees last year worked their tails off for the two months of PitchWars and got an incredible amount of work done.
- Someone who can take tough feedback. I'm very serious about PitchWars being a learning experience. This isn't about winning a golden lottery ticket to fame and riches -- it's about meeting a critique partner who wants to work with you on making your novel even better. It's ok to need a little cheerleading every once in a while (we all do), but that can't be the primary purpose of our partnership. (Most PitchWars entrants are phenomenal on this front -- they come ready to roll up their sleeves and work. You all rock.)
Hopefully that clarifies things, but I know I left a lot out. I would love to answer your questions on Twitter. Of course I can't say exactly if your story about the 19th century Polish explorer who loves to bake muffins will be a good fit for me, but I'm happy to answer general questions. Or give general advice about writing. Or just be a supporter if you need one! We all need encouragement; this is a tough business.
(No really, please feel free to interact on Twitter. I know it might feel weird -- I was a prospective mentee once, lurking in the shadows -- but it's fun for us to interact with you all. We're here to make connections, so please say hi and ask any questions you might have.)
Speaking of interacting, I hope you'll join me and some of the other Adult mentors on Monday, July 24 at 9pm EDT for a Google Hangouts live show - come watch and ask questions! (Look for details on Twitter or on Brenda's page.) It's always a lot of fun.
Above all, good luck and have fun! Don't stress. Be gentle with yourself. You're amazing for living a creative life and opening yourself up to constructive feedback!
A modest selection of books I love, and which I'd fall head over heels for in my inbox:
- The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
- Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- Slade House by David Mitchell
- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
- Song Yet Sung by James McBride
- Uprooted by Naomi Novak
- Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
- Grudging by Michelle Hauck (yes, PW mentor Michelle!)
- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
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