Click below for a plaintext version of my wishlist.
It’s Wish List time, Pitch Wars hopefuls. One of my favorite days of the year! For those of you new to Pitch Wars, it’s a mentoring program that matches unagented writers with writers who are a little farther down the publishing path and/or have editing/publishing experience. As a mentor, it’s my job to help my future mentee make their manuscript the best it can be over the course of a few (very intense) months of revision so it’s ready for the Agent Showcase and querying.
I’m Susan (Sus to almost anyone who’s known me longer than five minutes). I was a mentee in 2014 (with the book that got me my first agent and two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press) and have been an adult mentor 2016-2019 (four of my five mentees are agented, and two found a publisher for their PW book!). I had to take 2020 off from mentoring as I was moving home from living in Scotland for 15 months. This year, I’m switching things up to mentor in the Young Adult category.
If you have a Young Adult Magical Realism, Contemporary (lighter side, please!), Romance/Rom Com, or Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy book that’s been revised and polished (no first drafts, please!) and you’re ready to do some major work to take it to the next level, I want to see it.
WHO I AM…
I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our kittens, Whisky and Peat. Aside from writing, I obsess over swoony fictional boys and baked goods; spend all my spare money on books, art, and going to hard rock concerts; and fangirl over quirky TV shows, most of which got canceled way before their time (and I have a wax lion to prove it!). My drinks of choice—depending on the time of day—are coffee with cream and sugar, a good saison or sour style beer, and whisky/bourbon on the rocks.
I write magical southern fiction, including women’s fiction books THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES (Sept 2016/Thomas Dunne Books) and DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE (Feb 2018/St. Martin’s Press). My YA debut, THE HOLLOWAY GIRLS, comes out June 7, 2022 from Sourcebooks Fire.
I am represented by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency. I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and love that I can truthfully say I use my degree for my day job as well as being a published author.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR…
Now, let’s get to the heart of things. The books I’m most drawn to have a voice that jumps off the page, characters I want to be friends with, complicated relationships, big hearts, and stunning words. Give me layered friendships and family drama and characters I can root for, flaws and all. Most of all, I want to be awed by your story. Specifically, I’m looking for…
Magical Fiction/Magical Realism
Yes, there is a difference between contemporary magical fiction and traditional magical realism. I love both! Give me your whimsical, quirky, fairytale-esque, magical stories grounded in the real world. This means anything similar to:
- The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore
- Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
- Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
- The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffith
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
- The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacy Lee
- A Million Junes by Emily Henry
- Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
- If you have something like the movie Penelope, I need it yesterday
Give me relatable characters in emotional situations. I want family drama or friendships that feel like family and found families. And MCs finding or reinventing themselves and grabbing onto their little slice of happiness amidst the teenage angst. I’d love to see books like:
- I’ll Give You the Sun and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
- Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
- Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert
- Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
- The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
I like my books to have a happy(ish) ending. That doesn’t mean there can’t be heartbreak and death in the story, I just like to have hope at the end, please!
Rom Coms and Romance
I’m a sucker for love stories and HEAs (or at least happy for now). For me there’s not much better than wanting to hug a book when I’m through with it because I loved it so much. Bonus points if you can make me cry from the epicness of the relationships! (I’m talking Logan and Veronica level epicness, you know, before the last few minutes of Veronica Mars Season 4.) Send me your swoony, first-love stories like:
- Anna/Lola/Isla books by Stephanie Perkins
- All books by Emma Lord (Tweet Cute, You Have a Match, When You Get the Chance)
- Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
- Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
- Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
- Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (but YA)
Romantic tropes I love: friends to lovers, second-chance romance, fake-dating-turned real, bad boys with a heart of gold. Feel free to ask me about others!
LBGTQA relationships welcome.
This could be lumped in with the magical books, but for me these tend to be a little weirder/darker. My main ask is that the focus of the story is on the characters–how they relate to each other and how the weird brings them together. When it comes to my strengths in these areas, I’m more of a weird science/magic in our reality or an alternate universe that feels like our reality kinda girl rather than a high/epic fantasy kinda girl. If it’s recognizable as our world with a twist, I’m all in. Send me books like:
- All books by Victoria/V.E. Schwab (across age categories she writes in, she is just brilliant at mixing reality with the strange)
- Laini Taylor everything
- The Raven Cycle books by Maggie Stiefvater
- The Lynburn Legacy books by Sarah Rees Brennan
- The Colours of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty
- Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule
- The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
- Caraval by Stephanie Garber
- The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones
- House of Salt & Sorrow by Erin Craig
I love Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkowski too, so would be open to something similar even though they’re higher on the fantasy scale. Sorry, no creatures/shifters/aliens/robots/fae, please. Other mentors are much better suited to mentor those epic worlds than I am!
Random Things I Love: stories that feed my love of food (magical food all the better!), music (hard rock is my genre of choice, but music/musicians of any kind in stories steals my heart), sister/sibling stories, small town-settings especially in the South, stories set at the beach/small islands. Stories that fit one or more of these will probably grab my attention even if they don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above.
I am ALL FOR diverse books and #ownvoices stories. Stories featuring diverse cultures, LBGTQA, disabilities written by authors with direct experience? Yes, please!
WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR…
To clarify things a little more, I’m NOT looking for:
- Adult or MG
- Graphic novels
- Hard SFF
I’m just not a good fit for those types of stories as I don’t read much in those genres. I’m willing to look at NA submissions, but I’d probably ask the mentee to age it down to YA. If you’re not sure, give me a try. I’m open to having my mind changed by spectacular writing and unforgettable characters.
WHY YOU SHOULD PICK ME…
Think your book fits one (or more!) or the items on my wish list? Fantastic!
Now, here’s where I tell you what I can give you as a YA mentor:
- A critical eye on character motivation, stakes, and consistency (and a whole mess of other topics!). I ask a lot (like hundreds) of questions in a manuscript I’m critiquing. I nickpick tiny details that can throw a reader and I also look at overall character arcs to ensure there is growth, both emotionally and story-wise. If you don’t have an outline, I will probably (read: definitely) make you develop one so we have a clear picture of the whole story and what needs fixing. Revisions will be intense. And it will mean cutting some darlings and writing whole new scenes and rethinking the core of your manuscript at times. If you’re open to that kind of whole-book makeover, it will be worth it. I’ll give in-documents comments and track changes as needed and I’ll also provide an edit letter at the start with what I love and think is working well and a detailed discussion of what I think needs to be reworked and why. It will be lots of emails and phone/Skype calls (if needed/wanted) after that as we work through the manuscript. It’s a definite team effort. I have a day job and a husband and a cat that require my attention, but I will give you as much of my time as you need during our few months together.
- Brainstorming and discussion. I know writing can feel like something that’s done in a vacuum, but there are times when bouncing ideas off someone is exactly what’s needed to get the creative juices flowing again. So, if I comment on something you don’t agree with or aren’t sure how to tackle, we can talk about it and find a way to make it work. It’s not an all or nothing situation with me. This is your book, not mine, so we’ll work on issues together until you are satisfied with the end result. The main goal of Pitch Wars (for me at least!) is to help my mentee grow as a writer. Yes, we’ll make the manuscript better and hopefully get it ready to snag an agent, but the end goal is to make my mentee a stronger writer moving forward.
- An insider’s perspective. As I mentioned above, I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor before. I cannot stress this enough, Pitch Wars will be HARD. And it will go by so fast you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get done in time. I know how that within two weeks of starting on your revision with me you might be cursing my name and wondering why you ever thought you could handle something as intense as Pitch Wars. Believe me, I’ve been there. And I got through it. I’ll make sure you do as well, with your sanity intact and (hopefully) with a manuscript you love even more than when we started. As a fourth-year mentor, I have been through this a few times with amazing, hard-working mentees and can honestly say it if I pick you, it’s because I believe in you and your book.
- A cheerleader beyond Pitch Wars. I’m in this writing life for the long haul. And I fully believe that one of the best ways to continue to grow (and stay sane) is to have a community of writers who support and love you and buoy you when it all feels like too much. Once Pitch Wars is over, I will still be here cheering from the sidelines, offering advice (when asked, of course!) and celebrating the victories.
Also, I *highly* recommend using the Pitch Wars Forums to get feedback from fellow writers (and some mentors too!) and ask questions of the mentors who have AMA posts (like mine here!). It’s a great way to find new critique partners (CPs) and get your submission elements all shiny before the submission window opens. I’ll definitely be popping in to give notes on queries and first pages as I have time.
You can find links to the rest of the YA mentors wish lists below:
Pitch Wars 2021 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Mary E. Roach (Accepts NA)
- Amelia Diane Coombs (Accepts NA)
- Diana Urban
- Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
- TJ Ohler (Accepts NA)
- Laurie Dennison (Accepts NA)
- Justine Pucella Winans (Accepts NA)
- Zoulfa Katouh and Molly X Chang (Accepts NA)
- Sonora Reyes (Accepts NA)
- Abigail Johnson
- Rosiee Thor and Emily Grey
- Carlyn Greenwald (Accepts NA)
- M.T. Khan (Accepts NA)
- Sarvenaz Taghavian
- Emery Lee
- Margie Fuston (Accepts NA)
- Aashna Avachat (Accepts NA)
- Allison Saft (Accepts NA)
- Fiona McLaren
- Jessica Lewis
- Brianna Bourne (Accepts NA)
- Jamie McHenry
- Meg Long and Rochelle Hassan (Accepts NA)
- Laura Weymouth (Accepts NA)
- Natalie Crown and Angelica Monai (Accepts NA)
- Skyla Arndt and Alex Brown (Accepts NA)
- Charity Alyse and Cimone Watson (Accepts NA)
- Emily Thiede and Lauren Blackwood (Accepts NA)
- Anna Sortino and Annika J. Cosgrove (Accepts NA)
- Jenny Perinovic and Kyrie McCauley (Accepts NA)
- Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
- Jamie Howard and Meredith Tate (Accepts NA)
- KL Burd (Accepts NA)
- Jennifer Yu (Accepts NA)
- Hoda Agharazi and Lyssa Mia Smith (Accepts NA)
- Em X. Liu and Grace D. Li (Accepts NA)
- Carly Heath (Accepts NA)
- Kiana Krystle (Accepts NA)
- Sarah Underwood and Kat Dunn (Accepts NA)
- Joel Brigham (Accepts NA)
- Dante Medema and Liz Lawson (Accepts NA)
- Aty S. Behsam and Maedeh B. Saaina (Accepts NA)
- Kylie Schachte (Accepts NA)
- Gabi Burton (Accepts NA)
- Aaron Cole and Tamara Cole (Accepts NA)
- Hannah V. Sawyerr and Olivia Liu (Accepts NA)
- Bethany Mangle (Accepts NA)
- Lane Clarke (Accepts NA)
- Sunya Mara (Accepts NA)
- Karen Bao (Accepts NA)
Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2021 Mentors’ Wish Lists. To view the wish lists by genre, visit this link.