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 a mentor since 2016 (all three of my previous mentees are agented, and one had her PW book debut in 2018). I’m mentoring in the Adult category again this year.
If you have an Adult Magical Realism, Contemporary Women’s Fiction, 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, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME.
WHO I AM…
I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our orange tabby cat, Pippin. Though we’ve temporarily relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland while Mark is in grad school for brewing and distilling! 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 other Belgian style beer, and bourbon on the rocks (currently it’s less bourbon and more Scotch whisky).
I write magical southern fiction, including THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES (Sept 2016/Thomas Dunne Books) and DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE (Feb 2018/St. Martin’s Press), as well as magical YA. 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. I particularly love stories that include food, magical realism, and strong women. Most of all, I want to be awed by your story.
Specifically in Pitch Wars submissions, 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:
- Sarah Addison Allen novels
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell
- Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore (but for adults!)
- If you have something like the movie Penelope, I need it yesterday
Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Give me relatable characters in emotional situations. I want family drama or friendships that feel like family and found families. And women finding or reinventing themselves and grabbing onto their little slice of happiness. I’d love to see books like:
- The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
- The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abby Waxman
- Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
- April & Oliver by Tess Callahan
- Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
- Jandy Nelson novels (but for adults)
- Also, Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Hart of Dixie, Pushing Daisies, This is Us, and The Good Place are high on my TV fangirl list, so anything in the same vein will make me swoon.
Rom Coms and Lighter Romantic Stories: 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.) I’m LOVING the resurgence of rom coms lately, so please send me your book if it’s anything like:
- Christina Lauren novels
- Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
- 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.
Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy: I’m also very open to fringe-y sci-fi stories like Fringe, Lost, Haven, Doctor Who, The 100, and Orphan Black. But make sure the focus of the story is on the characters–how they relate to each other and how the weird brings them together. I read a lot of YA fantasy (Leigh Bardugo, Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, Marie Rutkowski, and Sarah Rees Brennan, to name a few) but not as much in the adult arena. 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 mirrors 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. Like all books by Victoria/V.E. Schwab (across age categories she writes in, she is just brilliant at mixing reality with the strange) and The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones.
- Sorry, no creatures/shifters/aliens/robots/fae or full-on fantasy worlds, 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 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, craft beer/distilling, and fandoms (I’m a Marshmallow, a Ravenclaw, a Pie-holer, a Whovian, a Browncoat, and too many more to name) 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:
- 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 up to adult. 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 an Adult 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 that 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. 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 adult mentors wish lists below:
Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Paris Wynters
- Kathleen Barber (Accepts NA)
- Ian Barnes
- Mary Ann Marlowe (Accepts NA)
- Elizabeth Little
- Hayley Stone and Erin A. Tidwell
- Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
- Maxym M. Martineau (Accepts NA)
- Katie Golding (Accepts NA)
- Ava Reid and Rachel Morris (Accepts NA)
- Carolyne Topdjian
- Natalka Burian
- Tim Akers
- Alex Segura
- Michelle Hauck and Carrie Callaghan (Accepts NA)
- Laura Brown (Accepts NA)
- Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
- Kerbie Addis and Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
- Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
- Kelly Siskind and Heather Van Fleet (Accepts NA)
- Janet Walden-West and Anne Raven (Accepts NA)
- Kate Lansing (Accepts NA)
- Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
- Alexa Martin and Suzanne Park (Accepts NA)
- Gia de Cadenet (Accepts NA)
- Rob Hart
- Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
- Michael Chorost (Accepts NA)
- Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
- Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
- Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
- Samantha Rajaram
- Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
- Rebecca Enzor (Accepts NA)
- Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
- Denny S. Bryce (Accepts NA)
- Meryl Wilsner and Rosie Danan (Accepts NA)
- P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
- Gladys Quinn (Accepts NA)
- Diana A. Hicks (Accepts NA)
- Damyanti Biswas
- Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)