I am super excited to be mentoring YA for PitchWars Class of 2019!
WHAT IS PITCHWARS? | Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns 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 request to read more. More on Pitchwars here. As an applicant, you’ll get to pick four mentors to send your application materials to. Thinking about submitting to me? Below I detail what types of manuscripts I’m looking for!
I’m over the moon excited to mentor one of you in the agent showcase and beyond! Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my manuscript wishlist. I view mentorship as a long term thing. So hey, you, future mentee–I’m in this for the long haul! <3 <3 <3
Okay, okay! On to my wishlist!
P.S.: This is long, I didn’t know how to GIF, but I use lots of pretty colors & try to be funny. So there’s that.ENJOY!
FANTASY | DYSTOPIAN | ROMANCE | CONTEMPORARY
I have a wide mix of tastes in reading, so this was HARD to narrow down. I can say the #1 thing that grabs me in a story is VOICE. Beyond that, my interests and what holds me in a story, vary quite a bit! So, I’m open to seeing a lot of things. Below you’ll find a little blip on each of my genre preferences, where I further clarify what I’m looking for in that genre. I also discuss what the editing process will be for my mentee and me, my style of feedback, and what happens if we don’t agree on the vision for the story.
Near the very bottom, I have two little tidbits to leave with you whether you sub to me or not, so don’t miss those. Thanks for popping by!
Let’s DIG IN.
Give me YA FANTASY! I enjoy both high and low fantasy, but I do tend to read more and love more on the lower fantasy side of things. I’m drawn to simpler magic but enjoy vast (deep, not necessarily slow) worldbuilding. I also loathe slow pacing, so if you have 150 pages of worldbuilding before things get started, I’m not the best fit for that. That said, rich, lush, atmospheric writing is going to pull me in headfirst and make me forget what time it is.
EVERY. TIME. atmospheric writing gets me!
But!! I’m a sucker for simpler prose too. (Told you this was hard.) I guess truth be told, I enjoy all styles of prose. I swooned at the flowery writing of A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. I was immediately hooked by the strong sense of place in HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS. SORCERY OF THORNS pulled me in from page one with its magic system and beautiful writing. WE HUNT THE FLAME transported me to an entire world and I couldn’t look away until I was nearly 50 pages in. Oh, and I would love stories rich with mythology and lore. Ultimately, my tastes do tend to be a bit more narrow in high fantasy. But if you have something deeply atmospheric or inspired by well-researched mythology, GIMME! GIMME! GIMME!
I’m not the best fit for elves, faeries, or werewolves. I had a hard time getting into SIX OF CROWS and THE CRUEL PRINCE, as another example. (I know. I know!) I’m also not usually into assassins unless there’s a revenge bit woven in there. But I am down to see witches, vampires, sea monsters, mermaids, even just people with magical ability. I’m looking for an atmospheric vibe, a strong sense of place. I want to be able to taste, smell, and see your world. (However, I am looking to see how your worldbuilding compliments your character in a cohesive way. Don’t give me pages upon pages of setting description that doesn’t tie in purposely to the story in any way. I want to see worlds that are cohesive and well thought out.)
But!! I also really really really love contemporary worlds with magic!
Give me ALL!!!!!! the YA stories about magic in the modern world. I realize the line between low and high fantasy can be blurry. So don’t overthink it. Just know that I look for voice first, premise second, and worldbuilding third to pull me into any story, but especially a fantasy story. CITY OF BONES, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, RED QUEEN, THE QUEENS RISING, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, THE BELLES, SHATTER ME, OH MY GODS, A BLADE SO BLACK, SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD, THE FIFTH SEASON (really anything by N.K. Jemisin) all grabbed me. I’m a little exhausted on princess-style stories centered around a monarchy. But, if it weaves in multiple elements I like, I’d be curious to see it.
Not sure if it fits? Keep reading! More clarification on my preferences ahead.
Hard sci-fi isn’t my jam, but YA DYSTOPIAN is my weakness! *melts* And I’m still salty it’s “over.” I am hopeful a fresh take on dystopian unlike anything we’ve seen before could break through the “no more dystopian” messaging we keep hearing. I mean Collins has another Hunger Games world book dropping in 2020 sooooo, I’m of the opinion if she can–why can’t we? (Don’t actually overanalyze and try to answer that. Just go with it.) So! I am complete trash for dystopian. I mean these are the books that keep me up until 5 am reading. These are the stories whose themes dominate my thoughts and discussions for days, weeks, MONTHS! So, if you have a dystopian story–ESPECIALLY with POC characters—SEND IT TO ME.
NOTE: I am not a great fit for hard sci-fi, so if you have a dystopian novel that’s also hard sci-fi, that won’t work for me, unfortunately. I might read it if I saw it in a store, but I’m not the best person to edit alongside you.
YA contemporary stories are my staple go-to. I never tire of a fresh contemp with a voice that pulls you in, and either makes me literally LOL, or walk away having learned something about the world we live in. I love both more serious tone contemps and playful contemps. Really any contemps. HA HA!
I really enjoy a romantic subplot in contemporary, but it’s not an absolute must. I also love when said romance subplot doesn’t progress the way it normally does. Flip some tropes. Surprise me!
Specifically, I’m looking for a fresh voice in YA contemporary stories, with an equally fresh premise. I want the fun stories, the cry stories, the laugh while crying stories. And don’t worry if your story doesn’t have flashy comps! I’d LOVE to see a story that is fresh and damn hard to comp because it’s that cutting edge.
I love stories that are deeply atmospheric and immerse me in culture, family, or town. Some favorites: WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH, T.H.U.G., THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS, ODD ONE OUT, SLAY POET X. They can be contemp-leaning-romance or not romance oriented at all. (More on YA romance below). Give me stories with food, dance, gymnastics, horses, dogs, annoying siblings, summer vacations, wise Grandma’s, sassy Aunty’s, something else? Got a story that takes place in a nail shop? Hair salon? Tattoo shop? Take me somewhere I haven’t been on shelves and suck me in. Make me love your character so deeply, I grieve the things they grieve and love the things they love. Rip my heart out and stitch it back together. Or don’t. I’ll have Kleenex ready!
Side note: I really like 1st person pov 🙂
YA Romance!!!!!! *heart eyes emoji* So I love a good YA romance, but I’m looking for romance that has an added message of something to say about the characters internal growth and how it relates to our world. My FAV YA romance is actually not published yet, ha ha. Technically it’s still a manuscript. So mentioning that wouldn’t help lol. (It’s Tashie Bhuiyan’s book in case you’ve read it. EEEEP! So good.)
What typically draws me into any story is voice and being completely immersed in a character’s culture and world. I want to see, taste, feel, love from their perspective, understanding the external factors that weigh on them. Give me complex, robust couples with deep flaws that fit together like a puzzle. WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, TO ALL THE BOYS, and THE SELECTION (books 1&3) stole my heart in an “I can’t put this down sort of way.”
I love romances that have something subtle to say about the world around them. I’d prefer something outside the traditional school setting. I’d love to spend the bulk of the novel somewhere else. Give me sweet, fast, heart-breaking summer romances, for example. Or a road trip like Kristina Forest’s I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE. Give me romances wrapped in a mystery or lush fantasy. Ultimately, I want romances that show the power of love and that everyone deserves to be loved.
ABOVE ALL I WANT TO SEE REP IN ANY STORY I MENTOR.
DIVERSE! REP. REP. REP. – Give me stories with REP we don’t see nearly often enough. If your story doesn’t have a single person of color in it anywhere, I’m probably not the best fit. I am looking to mentor a manuscript that reflects the diversity in the world around us. #WeNeedDiverseBooks could be tattooed on my forehead, tbh.
Here are random things that may not fit neatly in the above categories, but I’d still love to see:
MYSTERY: I love a good mystery subplot in YA. It keeps me hungry to turn the page! But if you have a traditional YA mystery story (as opposed to cozy mystery) I’d love to see it. A few recent mystery/thrilling stories that had my eyes GLUED to the page are: Undead Girl Gang, Mondays Not Coming, Sadie, Girl On A Train, One of Us Is Lying. Got a murder mystery? I’d love to see it.
RETELLINGS: Reimagined YA retellings on literary classics or fairytales are so fun. I’d love to see more than a main character gender swap or ethnicity change. I want fresh worldbuilding, flipped tropes, evidence of how the departure from the original has reshaped what the story is about at its core because the changes to the narrative are so well grafted into the story. Do you have a Cinderella story in an urban setting where Cindy isn’t even feeling Prince Charming, but uses him to take down the monarchy? I wanna see it! Or a modern-day Wuthering Heights with a diverse cast of characters? Gimme!
ADVENTURE–but I’m picky about this! I haven’t found a YA adventure novel that I’ve loved since the dystopian era ended. *sad face* I love courageous heroines and impending doom. Give me badass main characters in wildly fresh lands, working against a metaphorical doom we can all relate to. I’d also love a road trip adventure-y romance that defies all trope-y expectations and still makes me swoon.
STEM-INSPIRED: Stories with kids who love science, engineering, or aviation always grab me. I see this more in MG, but if you happen to have some YA with the president of the robotics club squaring off against the head of the wrestling team, and somehow they fall in love, I’d be curious to see it. LOL (That’s a joke. I mean… unless?) I’d love to see STEM worked into a romance somehow. I’m not looking for sci-fi, more so STEM used as a vignette to the story.
GRAPHIC NOVELS: These are all the rave right now! Give me all your YA graphic novels!
I am always gonna be extra excited about stories with (in no particular order):
- stories from marginalized perspectives
- Black girl magic
- Black male protagonists
- Black joy
- a diverse cast of characters
- stories with a deeper message about society
- atmospheric writing with a strong sense of place
- enemies to lovers trope
- romantic subplots (can be subtle or overt, I’m flexible!)
- revenge plots, particularly when social justice is involved
- angry girls
- inspired by lore/mythology we don’t often see on shelves
- anything rooted in Louisiana or creole culture
- anything where food plays a key role
- main characters with a laugh out loud no-nonsense voice
- creative structure, such as weaving in reports, poems, interviews… books that play with structure
- 1st person really close POV !!!!!!!!! (But I am definitely open to 3rd. Sometimes 3rd is just the better fit for a particular story and I get that!)
- thrilling/suspenseful undertone
- found family
- highly commercial hooks
- mash-ups of recent (last 3 yrs) comps
- stories inspired by current public affairs
- bits of historical influence woven into fantasy worlds
- simple, but innovative magic systems, akin to Sorcery of Thorns
- complex, layered characters
- unreliable narrators
- magic schools
- hidden worlds
- stories with wise, older Grandma-like side characters
- *YELLS* DYSTOPIAN w/ a POC lead
Be it voice, plot, characters, writing style, worldbuilding, themes, here are some recently published books that hooked me from the opening pages:
I definitely believe having the right champion for your manuscript is better than having any champion for your manuscript. So, below I’ve laid out some info on my editing process/approach, feedback style, and how we’d handle things we don’t agree on. If you have questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or tag me in a question on Twitter. Be sure to use the #PitchWars hashtag in case others have your same question. (Don’t forget I have two juicy tidbits for you at the bottom of the post. So keep scrolling.)
…WHY ME? | I’VE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE, RECENTLY! …
I know what it feels like to be shouting into the void, “SOMEONE PLEASE LISTEN. THIS STORY IS GREAT. PLEASE, GIVE ME A CHANCE.” Spoiler alert–that doesn’t work. Advocates can help. Community can help. Chocolate may even help. Jury’s still out on that. But, one things for sure: sending out another query when the other 95 ended in zero page requests and 100% rejections won’t work. I’m here to be an advocate, to take an objective look at your story and help you bring it to it’s fullest potential while strengthening your grasp of the craft in the process.
…WHY ME? | I’VE REVISED WITH EDITORS AT LARGE PUBLISHING HOUSES…
I’ve worked on revisions with more than one Big 5 editor and have a solid idea of the quality of work editors are looking for. I hold a Bachelor of Journalism, which came with a good amount of editing training, and I’ve also taught creative writing among other subjects. So, I’m comfortable making the mentorship experience instructive, so that you come out the other end a stronger writer overall.
…WHY ME? | I HAVE A STRONG EYE FOR PITCHING, FINDING A STORY’S HOOK…
I pitched my own story in #DVPit and it earned over 22 requests from editors at publishing houses, along with more agent interest than I’d even dreamed of. (Still humbly grateful at all the support & love from Writing Twitter that day and since. *cue the tears*)
That book recently sold to Simon & Schuster and is a lead title for their Spring 2021 season.
I also served as a mentor for Author Mentor Match. One of my AMM Mentee’s participated in #pitmad recently with the pitches I crafted and I’d say it went pretty well… 🙂
…WHY ME? | I REVIEW QUERIES & EVALUATE STORIES FOR AGENTS …
I spend 20 or so hours each week, working for P.S. Literary Agency as an Editorial Intern, where I evaluate queries, partials, and full manuscripts for agents and make a recommendation on whether or not to offer representation. Specifically, I assess stories for marketability, writing style, voice, pacing, tension, stakes, worldbuilding, dialogue, plot development, characterization, and overall story structure. I also spend time researching comp titles, finding a story’s strongest marketability angle, and crafting pitches for submission to editors.
An agent at PS Literary whom I work very closely with said: “J.Elle’s editorial feedback never fails to impress me. She is always enthusiastic about the things a manuscript gets right, and exceptionally professional, smart, and thorough when providing constructive criticism. I truly appreciate and trust her opinions on what makes a story work.” -Maria V., agent, P.S. Literary
In fact, my own literary agent said: “Jess has an incredibly analytical approach that results in thoughtful, thorough editing. She knows how to spot raw talent, particularly in voice, and works tirelessly to research and read comps to analyze and apply to her edits.” -Natalie Lakosil, Bradfort Lit
Outside of my own experience as an intern at PS Literary, my own writing, AMM, and PitchWars, I regularly critique queries and manuscripts for peers in the Twitter #WritingCommunity. Most of which have gone on to get agents.
…MY MENTORING STYLE…
“I loved having Jess work on my story with me because she never said anything was “bad.” Instead, she pointed out ways I could take my work to the next level while making sure my voice was never lost in the editing process.”
– Kristen Lee, one of my Author Mentor Match mentees
My Feedback Style | I am kind in my critiques, but honest. I’m not doing you any favors if I’m not honest about what needs to be fixed. I do, however, make sure to respect that *you’re the artist.* I will, however, be candid in the places I believe the manuscript falls short of being query-ready and together we can figure out any edits that don’t align with your vision. If I do give you something to fix, I almost always share an example of how to fix it, so you at least have an example to go off of.
What If We Disagree? | Communication is key. The short answer is, it’s your story. But, I will always be candid with why I suggest a particular edit. I always want to discuss anything that gives you major pause. This is a partnership. I’m your advocate, cheerleader, and pseudo-editor… but, I am not the artist. That’s you and I’ll always respect that.
…WHAT’S MY EDITING PROCESS LIKE?…
DEVELOPMENTAL EDITS| We will start bigger picture with what’s called development edits. These are usually structural edits for pacing, plot threads, characterization, etc. These are usually the most time consuming and can involve the most rewriting. You may be adding scenes, deleting scenes, deleting entire points of view, entire plot threads. *BREATHE* because I know you’re panicking. I know that all sounds scary, but remember we have the same goal–to make this story as strong as possible while maintaining your vision and voice. Once you have an agent you’ll revise more. And once you have a book deal and editor, you’ll revise even more. So get used to changing your story, understanding that you are refining it each time, which makes it shine brighter and brighter.
LINE / COPY EDITS | After developmental edits, we will do line edits and copy edits, likely in one pass. That’s where I’ll come through and leave comments in the document. You’ll go through each of my comments and address them. Once that’s done, you’ll do a final read through and we’ll prep for the Showcase. I plan to show my mentee how to draft a killer query, synopsis, and research agents. Together we’ll go into the Showcase prepared for the best! Regardless of how the Showcase goes, my mentee and I will continue querying, together. This is a long-term partnership as far as I’m concerned.
So, I could go on I guess, but talking about myself honestly feels a little weird. LOL. The best way to show you what type of advocate I would be for your manuscript is probably by sharing comments from others whom I have worked closely with. Here are a few quotes from writers and industry professionals I’ve worked with very closely.
. . . WHAT HAVE OTHERS SAID?. . .
“Jess has that great marketing eye to determine when key plot points need to happen and when certain characters need to appear, guiding the rest of the story into place.”
-Mahjabeen S., Booklist reviewer & querying writer
“Jess has such a keen eye–for both large developmental issues as well as sentence-level ones. Her speed is awe-inspiring, her notes are clear, and her suggestions are usually nothing short of brilliant.”
-Sarah J., author mentor & agented writer
“Jess has a great attitude and is generous with her time. She gave a thorough explanation of all of her suggestions. She described the changes she recommended, explained the writing principle behind it, and gave examples to illustrate the point. She is a clear and considerate communicator and happy to answer follow-up questions.”
-Trish S., querying writer
“Jess provided specific insightful suggestions about plot, pacing and emotional depth of character that helped make my manuscript stronger. She’s an amazing cheerleader who boosted my confidence and provided additional feedback on my synopsis and query as I prepared to let the project go out into the world.”
-Christina A., querying writer
“Jess is straight-up masterful at helping fix a plot. If plot is getting you down, J.Elle is your Wonder Woman.”
-Rosie V., querying writer
Jess is honest without being demeaning; insightful instead of heavy-handed; she’s a cheerleader but not a coddler. And she’s committed to helping anyone share their story with the rest of the world.”
-Jumata E., Pitchwars Class of 2018, agented writer
“Jess’ instinctual knowledge on what makes a story snap on the page. Whether it’s voice, tension, or the IT factor that will make agents and editors swoon, this girl will enhance it.”
-Jess F., Pitchwars Class of 2018, querying writer
“Jess has a great eye for pacing!”
-Taj M., agented writer
Okay, on to my list of No’s Thank You’s…
These are all HARD PASSES for me:
- On the page rape
- On the page violence to a young child
- On the page suicide
- Any gratuitous violence that’s especially gore-y. Kill Bill or Sin City as a book wouldn’t work for me. And as much as I enjoyed GRRM’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, that level of war/gore isn’t what I’m comfortable mentoring. However, the violent act in the early chapters of Ash Princess, for example, is well within what I’m comfortable reading/mentoring. (I don’t mind grit! I like grit, actually.)
- I’m also not a good fit for stories with Fae, elves, werewolves, books with more than 4 POVs (1-4 POVs is fine. Over 4 is a likely pass), space operas, or hard sci-fi.
…CONFUSED ON IF YOURS FITS THESE?…
Okay, listen! I remember obsessing over wish lists last year and wondering if my story had any of the “please don’t send me” items for the mentors I wanted to sub. And I think I stared at the list so long my brain went fuzzy and my eyes crossed. LOL. Even still, I wasn’t completely sure if a scene my story hinted at qualified as a NO-NO for a mentor. And the LAST THING I wanted to do was piss a mentor off, lol. It was stressful. I remember that! So first, breathe. LOL. It’s gonna be okay. Mentors are human. (Well, I mean there may be a few werewolves and a couple of witches in the group, maybe even a few dragons… I digress.) We are people! Don’t be nervous to just talk to us. Ask!! Sometimes that’s just easier than stress-guessing.
I’m completely comfortable answering you in blog comment down below or on Twitter. I promise I don’t bite. 🙂
Wishing you so much luck!
…I WANT TO LEAVE YOU WITH TWO TIDBITS…
1. YOU’RE DOING A BRAVE THING | By submitting to PitchWars you’ve already taken a HUGE step in seriously pursuing your writing. Be proud for putting yourself out there. So that’s my first tidbit for you–after you submit, celebrate! You *have* to cling to the small successes in this industry because it’s a long journey wrought with rejection, but each step does count. This is a BIG step. So celebrate! And I wanna hear how you chose to celebrate! Comment down below or share a pic and tag me on Twitter after you submit, so I can celebrate with you. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!
2. CONSIDER WRITING THE WAIT | It’s a long several weeks waiting to hear from PitchWars. If you get requests for a full that only makes the time pass SLOWER. As you probably know, I didn’t get into PitchWars last year, but I did get a few full requests. And MY GOODNESS the time slowed wayyyyy down. I think I refreshed my email inbox literally every hour. Check out the #writethewait hashtag on Twitter and consider working on a different project in the meantime. I did that! And guess what? It turned into my debut, a lead title out with Simon & Schuster in Spring 2021. So, I’d say writing the wait was positive for my mental health AND pretty damn productive! 🙂
And I’d appreciate it if you’d CLICK —->ADD WINGS OF EBONY ON GOODREADS!
Pitch Wars 2019 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
- Kelsey Rodkey and Rachel Lynn Solomon
- Nancy Werlin
- Olivia Hinebaugh
- Abigail Johnson
- Rebecca Schaeffer
- Rebecca Coffindaffer (Accepts NA)
- Laurie Dennison
- Sam Taylor
- ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
- Brenda Drake and Kyle T. Cowan (Accepts NA)
- Carrie Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
- J. Elle
- Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
- Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
- Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
- Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre
- Julia Ember (Accepts NA)
- SA Patel
- Kat Dunn (Accepts NA)
- Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie
- Jesse Q. Sutanto
- Ray Stoeve
- Aty S. Behsam and Kylie Schachte
- Cole Nagamatsu
- Rachel Griffin
- Adalyn Grace
- Adrienne Tooley and Kelly Quindlen (Accepts NA)
- Ciannon Smart and Deborah Falaye
- Kristin Lambert, Sasha Peyton Smith
- Kimberly Gabriel and Dawn Ius
- Lyndsay Ely
- Jamie Howard
- Jenna Lincoln (Accepts NA)
- Jen Marie Hawkins and Anna Birch (Accepts NA)
- Judy I. Lin
- Leila Siddiqui
- Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
- Hoda Agharazi
- Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
- Liz Lawson and Jeff Bishop (Accepts NA)
- Lindsey Frydman (Accepts NA)
- Chelsea Hensley (Accepts NA)
- Isabel Ibañez