PitchWars 2018 #WishList

August 12, 2018


This is my 2018 list. For my 2019 list, please see the post "PitchWars 2019."




Hello possible PitchWars Mentees! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've tried to be as thorough as possible below so you'll know who I am, what I'm looking for, and how I will work as a Mentor, but if you have any Qs feel free to contact me on Twitter, @NicWritesBooks, or leave a message below. While I have a few things on my "nope" list that I won't consider, if something's not included on my #Wishlist it could very well be that I just didn't think of it, so don't let that get you down if you think we might be a good fit. I'm open to surprises! Thanks! 




 I'm Nicole!


*waves awkwardly*
(but excitedly)

I was a PitchWars Mentee in 2016 and am thrilled to be part of the PW crew as a Middle Grade Mentor for 2018.


My PW submission was a Middle Grade manuscript, Planet Earth is Blue. My Mentor was the awesome Ellie Terry, author of Forget Me Not. You can find it a link to her website at the end of this post, where you will also find a link to the #Pitchwars official site, which explains what PW is and how it works. I was fortunate because Ellie truly loved, believed in, and understood my book. She helped me get both the manuscript and the query letter into shape, and not too long after PW ended, I signed with my fantabulous agent, Katie Grimm, from Don Congdon Associates, site also linked below. Planet Earth is Blue is due out from Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House) in May, 2019, which I am totally thrilled about! I can't wait to share it with the world. You can find more about it by clicking on the BOOKS page here on my website.


When I’m not working on Book 2, I do theatre, write fanfiction, play board games, watch cooking competition shows, craft with the kiddos, swim, and travel. Favorite destinations have included Hawaii, Alaska, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Spain, Vatican City, the Bahamas, San Diego, Savannah, Salem, and Seattle. I love all things Disney and my goal is to visit every Disney park within five years – I only have the ones in Asia left, which I hope to tour in 2020. I have a cat named Shakespeare and two new kittens arriving in about a month - we've already named them Dickens and Beckett (two of my other kittens, Poe and (Mary) Shelley, have recently passed due to FIP). Obviously, we have a theme going with their names!


Oh, and I’m definitely a Ravenclaw... though most of my favorite HP characters are Death Eaters.




Because once you're my Mentee,

you're my Mentee for life.

Just kidding. Nothing that dramatic. But I would like to stay in touch after PW closes, maybe even become critique partners if you're interested, and to continue to be a champion for you and your work!


Basically, I loved being a Mentee in 2016, and want to help another writer have the same positive, constructive experience I did two years ago. I am familiar with reading the work of others and giving comprehensive critique, asking the right questions, and whipping queries into shape. I’m not the type to tell another writer that something should be done in a specific different way. I prefer to ask questions and give gentle suggestions, such as, “What if you were to try this in an active voice, rather than passive?” or “What is the protagonist’s motivation in this scene?” (Though I’ll also tell you if something reads awkwardly or is redundant, inaccurate, or unnecessary.)


And, perhaps most importantly, I’ll let you know what I think is really working and why.


I rely on both my theatre and academic backgrounds during the editing and feedback processes, and am not insulted if an author chooses to ‘stet’ (leave as-is) anything I’ve suggested might benefit from change, though I’m looking for a Mentee who is willing to listen to feedback and put in the work – both Mentor and Mentee want the manuscript to be the strongest it can be, and for the query letter to grab an agent’s attention and refuse to let them go!


Now for the awkward borderline-braggy stuff where I try to convince you I’ve got credentials…


I entered the Children’s Literature MFA program at Hollins University in 2012, through which I have exchanged work with a number of talented writers and also learned from incredible professors, most of whom also write middle grade fiction, including Lisa Rowe Fraustino and Hillary Homzie. I recently returned to Hollins for a weeklong Writing Intensive for post-grads, lead by Nancy Ruth Patterson, and thanks to school I’ve received feedback on my work from National Book Award Winner Kathryn Erskine, Newbery winner Nancy Willard, and Printz Award winner MT Anderson, among others.


My editing style is heavily influenced by that of Nancy Ruth Patterson and my editor at Wendy Lamb Books, Wendy Lamb (and her assistant, Dana Carey). Nancy uses a color-coded system - Green for things that are particularly excellent, Yellow for things that the reader has questions or concerns about, and Red for things that may be problematic, like song lyrics that require permission - while Wendy writes an in-depth edit letter to start, then utilizes Track Changes with notes in the margins that suggest possible changes, correct minor issues, or ask questions. I’ll go much more into detail with this with my Mentee so we’re on the same page.  

I look forward to finding a Mentee and working with him/her/them to make their manuscript and query letter as strong as can possibly be, just as Ellie did with me. I can’t wait to start reading submissions and get to work!




It's a mystery.

No, not really.

But I do like mysteries.


*Both upper and lower Middle Grade, which should generally fall between 30,000-75,000 words, but could be shorter (especially if in verse) or longer (but not more than 85,000, please).


*First, second, or third person POV. I want to feel connected to the main character and see the world through his/her/their eyes, but it doesn’t have to be in the first person for that to happen.


*Heartfelt, poignant novels that make me cry while avoiding being sappy, saccharine, or unnecessarily tragic (no tragedy for tragedy’s sake). I love to cry while reading, especially if it’s more because I’m moved than because something’s just sad. I love hope as a primary theme. See the below Favorite Books list to get a better idea.


*Contemporary, especially emotional contemporary realism.  


*American Historical, but nothing set during WWII, around 9/11, or in the 1980s. I’d love an early ‘90s novel that explores the grunge scene, a story that explores early pioneer life in a new way, or one that takes place during the Great Depression.


*Historical set outside the US. Again, nothing that takes place during WWII, please, but I’m open to any other period, taking place in any other country. (Just make sure you’ve done your research! If your book is set in Japan in 1702, you need to know all about Japan in 1702, because Mentoring – for me – doesn’t include fact-checking your entire manuscript for accuracy, especially if it takes place during a time and place with which I am unfamiliar.)


*Mysteries. Could be contemporary or historical, serious or funny.


*Ghost stories or horror, especially ones that will have me afraid to turn off the light, provided they’re still written with Middle Grade readers in mind. I prefer depth to campiness. Think more “Dollhouse Murders” or “The Graveyard Book” than “Goosebumps.”


*Unconventional formats, including mixing styles.


*Novels in verse.


*Diary or journal entries.


*Epistolary. Could be written entirely in letters, or with letters interspersed with verse or prose.


*LGBTQIA characters shows in a positive light. Could be a protagonist, could be the parents of a protagonist, could be the protagonist’s bffs. Bonus points if there is more than one LGBT+ character, and double bonus for upper middle grade manuscripts featuring girls who aren’t romantically interested in (or crushing on) boys; lesbian, bisexual, demi-sexual, and/or asexual representation are of particular interest.


*Stories of girl friendships. I grew up on the Babysitters Club series!


*Diversity, specifically as it relates to disabled characters, mental illness representation, and/or neuro-diversity, especially if the author shares the diagnosis or marginalization. In particular: OCD, autism, sensory issues, depression, ADHD. But ALL diversity welcome, especially if it's also #OwnVoices.


*Tween girl protagonists' firsts. First periods. First crushes. First friendship breakup. First realization that parents are people too.


*Unreliable narrators.


*Stories inspired by Shakespeare (including retellings).


*Baking or cooking competitions or kid chefs as part of the plot.


*Creative tween protagonists who are into painting, drawing, theatre, dance, singing, playing an instrument, and/or other art forms.


*Multiple points-of-view and/or multiple protagonists.


*The struggle to balance standing out and fitting in, set in middle school.


*Characters dealing with serious issues, including: eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal thoughts/attempts (or what happens after a loved one’s suicide), illness, parental divorce, domestic violence, losing a friend, non-graphic assault or abuse, etc., provided it’s handled in a sensitive, not harmful way and is well-researched.


*Literary fiction (I’ll look at genre/commercial fiction too, but prefer the more literary).




See below for

a few things I'd like less than

Tom Riddle likes The Chosen One...

*Any other age range. Please, if your book is YA, ONLY submit to YA mentors. Your submission will not be read if you send it to someone seeking MG! If you feel your book can reach both an upper MG and a lower YA audience, choose ONE.


*Science-fiction, fantasy, dystopian, magical realism. While a couple of my favorite books do fall into these categories, they are not what I’m used to reading and I would not be the best Mentor for you. Because of this and time constraints, I won’t be able to read any sci-fi, fantasy, or magical realism submissions. Other Mentors are thirsting for them, though!


*Books with heavy sports themes. I won’t say no if your protagonist happens to be a baseball player or a gymnast or a big fan of competitive ice skating, but if one of the main themes of your novel is sports-related, I’m probably not the best pick for you.


*Animals as main characters (no “One and Only Ivan,” “Charlotte’s Web,” or “Flora & Ulysses” types).


*Graphic novels.


*Memoirs or non-fiction.


*Humor. (Though I appreciate humor within other genres.)


*Fairy tale retellings.


*Short story collections.


*Vampires, witches, werewolves, mages, ghouls, etc, unless submitting a ghost story/horror genre manuscript.


*Absolutely no books featuring homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, or ableist themes, ‘white savior,’ or ‘tragic gay’ tropes, or manuscripts with heavily religious/didactic narratives and/or morality tales. No on-the-page sexual assault or graphic references to it. 


*No entries that feature grandparents who are sick and/or dying. As my beloved grandmother just passed away last week, I don’t think I can handle working on a story like that at this time, even though I think they’re important. (If a manuscript references a grandparent who has already died, that’s fine, so long as it’s not a major theme.) Similarly, nothing dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, please.





If any of these are among your comp titles,

I may be the Mentor for you!

*When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

*One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

*Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

*Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

*The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

*The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

*Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

*Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

*Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

*The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

*So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

*Kit Kittredge: A Thief in the Theatre by Sarah Masters Buckey

*The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore  

*Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia-McCall

*Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

*Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter

*The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

*Three Times Lucky by Sheila  Turnage

*You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

*Worth by Alexandria LaFaye





Click the links below...

and I'm sure you'll find answers to

all of your most important questions!

PitchWars official site:



PitchWars Blog Hop page:



Planet Earth is Blue on Goodreads:



Don Congdon Associates: 



Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Kids:



Ellie Terry's official site:










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