Monday, August 13, 2018

My 2018 Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist!

Woo! It's time for another round of Pitch Wars! Here are the rules of the wishlist game: Pull up a seat (have a snack, just—no double dipping in the nacho cheese, please), grab a card, and if it matches your Middle Grade manuscript, I'd love for you to add me to your deck of potential mentor picks! I'm thrilled to be back for my third year of mentoring—here's what I want to see in my inbox this year...

Give me your heartwarming, tear-jerking, laugh-out-loud-in-all-the-right-places contemporary. Make me feel all the feels! I want sincere, relatable characters—with personalities and voices that leap off the page—and I'm open to heavy issues handled with honesty and grace.

Examples of contemporary styles I'd love to see: Front Desk; The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street; The Charming Life of Izzy Malone; Lemons; The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher; The Meaning of Maggie.

Contemporary w/Magical Elements (Magical Realism)
I love when the bit of magic in the midst of everyday life is the thing that gives the MC hope and/or is part of a strong emotional journey. As with contemporary, I'm open to weighty themes, and my favorite characters are the ones who never give up, even if things don't turn out the way they thought they wanted them to.

Examples: Where the Watermelons Grow; anything by Natalie Lloyd; Hour of the Bees.

In this dish, I'm looking for very specific ingredients. The key seasonings: humor and heart (are you sensing a pattern yet?). If you have a rollicking fantasy adventure with quirky characters, kooky settings, and/or over-the-top villains and heroes, order up! Badass heroines also a plus. I do enjoy more serious quests, but I connect most when they involve family and/or friendship, with a strong character arc. And I am open to animal/non-human MCs! But, I prefer the stylings of Fenway and HattieThe Wind in the Willows, or The Wild Robot. Stories in the vein of Wings of Fire or Warriors aren't really my cup of tea.  

Examples: The Mad Wolf's DaughterFortunately, The Milk; The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates; Pugs of the Frozen North; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Flora & Ulysses; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Any and all conundrums—whether a lost treasure, a brain-tickling puzzle, or a whodunit murder mystery. My favorites have larger-than-life characters/settings and a compelling emotional backdrop.

Examples: The Flavia DeLuce novels (I know these are technically adult, but the MC is 11 and I adore them); The Mo and Dale Mysteries; Last in a Long Line of Rebels; Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library; The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Comp Title Highlight!
One of my absolute most favorite reads of the last year was The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. This book showcases some of my favorite things: It's part contemporary, featuring a well-handled weighty topic (the death of a parent), part...let's call it "science-fantasy" (aka a pet black hole), with a ton of laugh-out-loud humor and tear-jerking heart. It's also set in the 70s—while I'm not looking for historical fiction per say, I love books set from 1970-1990s if that setting serves an important purpose or tone in the story (in this case, the space program played a pivotal part in the plot). If your book can be comped to this...I WANTS IT.

What I DON'T Want
Super dark scary/horror/paranormal. Scooby-Doo- or Ghostbusters-level, goofy ghost stories are okay (à la The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing), but if your book is meant to be the middle grade version of The Shining, it's going to be a pass from me. Good news: There are plenty of other mentors on the hunt for chillingly creepy novels. 

A few last wish list notes...
• Genres are listed in no particular order. 
• #OwnVoices welcome! I'm also open to diverse topics not written from an own-voice author, if they've been well-researched. For example, if you submit a novel to me with a bipolar character and you are not bipolar yourself, I will ask what sources you've used, people you've talked to, and whether you've had it read by a sensitivity reader.
• No matter which of these genres your book falls in, the biggest hook is going to be voice, voice, voice!

And now that you know what I'd love (and not love) to see in my inbox, a little bit about me...

Hi! My name is Ashley. I write middle-grade, (fantasy and contemporary), and I'm represented by Marietta B. Zacker of the Gallt-Zacker Literary Agency. I'm also a graphic designer and homeschooling mama of two. I prefer tea over coffee, I love anything lavender (the flower/flavor/scent, not the color), and my favorite Netflix binge is Parks and Recreation. I'm a bit obsessed with personality typing—I'm an INFJ/Enneagram 1w2/Hufflepuff, in case you were wondering. (Although *technically* I'm probably a RavenPuff, but my heart belongs to Hufflepuff and the sorting hat says I get a say, so...) 

Some of My Mentor Strengths:
• Increasing tension
• Pacing
• Cutting passive voice
• Chapter endings
• Consistency in character voice/actions
• Sentence structure/flow
• Angry llama defensive skills (Seriously, I have experience with angry llamas. It turns out you really don't put Baby in a corner, even if you're just trying to groom her.) This fact brought to you by fellow mentor, Michael Mammay.

What You Can Expect From Me:
• Edit letter with overview of revision suggestions + recommended resources
• Line edits for entire manuscript
• No less than two full read-throughs (one prior and one after revisions)
• Help with query + synopsis + pitch
• Cheerleading and encouragement!

Thanks so much for reading and for considering me as a mentor! I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 and my book went through plenty of revisions—so I know how hard and nerve-wracking and exciting and terrifying this process can be. I also know how much it means to have someone believe in you and your story, and I can't wait to come alongside you and cheer you on! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or hit me up on Twitter (@papergram).

Now go check out the other mentors' wish lists!







  1. Beautiful doodles! Would you mind giving a quick breakdown of 'lower middle grade' vs. 'upper middle' grade--in terms of both reader's age and word count? Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hi, Nancy! This is an oft asked question and I'm not sure there's really one definitive answer. :) It's generally said that lower MG readers are about 7-10, while upper MG readers are about 11-13 (with overall MG commonly referred to as the 8-12 age range). There's not really one word count standard to rule them all - it depends on the story. The best word count guide I've come across is this one: Lower MG is often toward the lower end of the scale. I hope that helps!