My #PitchWars Wishlist!

Hello! Thanks prospective #PitchWars mentee for stopping by!  For those who are cruising past, here's a quick-and-dirty of what I'm looking for:

Adult fiction

Historical fiction, literary fiction, or literary fantasy

First, a teeny bit about me (more on my editing style here). For #PitchWars purposes, you might be interested to know that I write and edit as part of my day job, I have published short stories, I'm a senior editor with a book review, and I recently signed with the fantastic Shannon Hassan of MarsalLyon. I've got two littles, one spouse, and two furries. A day cannot pass without at least four cups of tea. 

Photo by Erica B. Tappis Photography

Photo by Erica B. Tappis Photography

But let's talk about YOU, or rather, your manuscript. I love historical fiction. That's what I write, and it's about half of what I read. But it's not all I read, and I'm open to falling in love with a manuscript that speaks to the other things I adore in literature. More specifically:

  • A vivid protagonist who wants something.
  • Appealing primary character(s). I need to love some attribute of the folks I'll be spending a hefty amount of time with. Send me your dreamers, downtrodden good-guys, sweet-and-sour bad-asses, grumpy charmers ... just not meanies. 
  • A conflict that's at least hinted at from the outset. I don't need (or even want) a plot-heavy book, but there has to be some conflict.
  • Sentences that reflect a professional-level understanding of grammar and style. I want to work with a mentee on structure and character, not on passive voice and the excess use of adverbs. I'm happy to do some polishing, but if the words need help, the story probably needs even more.
  • A broader theme that reaches for literature, not just plot. I'm looking for 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.
  • Bonus, but not necessary -- stories that are set in places other than the United States. Also, I'm up for all the stories, be they queer, non-queer, alien races, various human races. Whatevs.

And I can't help but mention a few things that I don't like.  It's silly and subjective, but hey, that's publishing.  There's a very good chance that the next mentor around the corner is looking for the exact same things that are an insta-reject for me.  (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. I know this goes against the current grain, but that's my preference.  This is not an insta-reject, just something I thought you should know.
  • Kissing is lovely in real life, but I'm looking for more in my books.  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'm also a squishy wuss, so lots of blood and gore are going to make me squint my eyes and wait for it to be over.  
  • Protagonists whose primary characteristic is his or her rage will not tickle my fancy.
  • I'm not interested in manuscripts that espouse a particular religious line. 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.
  • In terms of historical time periods, I am open to just about anything ... except Biblical (see above) and recent (1940s and on).  Yes, that means I'm not a huge fan of World War II fiction.  (That said, just about any other war in the history of humanity is going to be pretty intriguing for me, especially the lesser-known ones. I have a master's degree in International Relations with a focus on strategic studies.  However, the story still has to be about people, not guns or arrows or armored personnel carriers.)

I think that covers it!  To round out the post, I'm going to list a few of my recent favorite reads.  And feel free to ask me questions on Twitter if you're agonizing over which mentor to submit to and want to know more about my preferences.  I won't tell you if I'm "interested in an examination of the life of Christopher Columbus's sister and her adventures with her enchanted parrot in 15th century Rome," but I can clarify anything I outlined above.

Oh, I'm joining other lovely adult mentors (a pox on their submission inboxes) on July 28 at 8pm EDT for a Google Hangouts live show - come watch and ask questions!

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 recently-adored and some all-time favorite books:

  • A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
  • How To Be Both by Ali Smith
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • The Man Who Walked Away by Maud Casey
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
  • The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Scavengers, where R you ...

Scavengers, where R you ...