PitchWars 2019

September 8, 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. Thanks! 


I'm super excited to dive in. This PW year is going to be...

 Let's begin. 




 I'm Nicole!


*waves awkwardly*
(but excitedly)

I was a PitchWars Mentee in 2016, a middle grade Mentor in 2018, and I am super thrilled to be a middle grade Mentor again this year.


In 2016, my PW submission was a Middle Grade manuscript, Planet Earth is Blue. My Mentor was the awesome Ellie Terry, author of Forget Me Not. Then, last year, I was the mentor of Susan Vizurraga, whose moving, historical, middle grade novel-in-verse, The Cure for Infinity, is now agent represented – I can’t wait until it debuts in bookstores in the future, because I want everyone to read it. 


When I’m not working on Book2 and Book3, both historical middle grade, I do theatre, write fanfiction, play board games, watch cooking competition shows, craft with the kiddos, swim, and travel. I have three cats, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Beckett, and split my time between Brooklyn, NY, northeastern CT, and Roanoke, VA.


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


So... why choose me? 




Because I will do my best to help you make your manuscript the most amazing book it can be, and also stay connected with you even after PW ends, championing your work! I loved being a mentee and want to help another writer have the same positive, constructive experience I did then, as I hope I did last year for my mentee and as I will work hard to do for you!


Thanks in great part to my experiences in Hollins University’s Children’s Literature MFA program, 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, 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…


My debut novel, Planet Earth is Blue, was published in May 2019 and has earned several distinctions since, including starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal. It received a Gold Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, was one of eight Washington Post KidsRead summer book club selections, and is an IndieNext pick, in addition to landing a spot on several lists of Must-Read Middle Grade, best debuts of 2019, and great books about space, among others. I have a second middle grade novel forthcoming from Wendy Lamb Books, currently untitled, which I hope to be able to share more about soon.




Someone who is open to suggestions and committed to editing. I want to know up front what you won't be willing to wiggle on (it's totally fine to have some things you know you won't change!) and also know where you think your manuscript needs the most work. Most importantly, we must be able to communicate openly and honestly to get as much as we can out of the PitchWars experience. 


So... let's get to the part of the blog post you're actually here for, right?

The Wish List.

(I know what you're thinking.)


It's a mystery.

No, not really.

But I do like mysteries.


Below are both the short version (just a list) and the longer, which is more detailed and should, I hope answer any Qs you might have.


Wish List - the Short Version






Realistic ghost stories

Upper Middle Grade

Lower Middle Grade



LGBTQ+ characters

Friendship stories

Multiple POVs


Unreliable Narrators


Not Seeking:


Science fiction


Magical Realism

Graphic novels



Animal stories

Non-fiction or memoir

Comedy (as genre, within other genres is fine!)

Fairy Tale, myth, or Shakespeare retellings

Sick grandparents or grandparent death

Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or cancer

Autistic protagonists unless they're #OwnVoices


Wish List - the Longer Version

(These are the things I want more than the Dark Lord wants to defeat Harry Potter.)


*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, the Civil War, the 1970s, or the Great Depression, please.


*Historical set outside the US. Again, nothing that takes place during WWII, 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, but realistic ones. I prefer depth to campiness and poignancy to horror. Think more “Ghost Boys” or “Just South of Home” than “Goosebumps” or “All the Lovely Bad Ones.”


*Unconventional formats, including mixing styles.




*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 neurodiversity, 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.


*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).




(These are the things I'd like about as much as Dumbledore enjoyed his last earwax-flavored Bertie Botts bean.)


*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, though if you have something like “The Simple Art of Flying,” with multiple POVs including humans, I’d be open to it).


*Graphic novels.


*Memoirs or non-fiction.


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


*Fairy tale retellings, including Shakespeare 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. 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

*Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

*The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

*Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

*Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

*Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

*The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

*The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo

*Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

*The Story That Cannot be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

*The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

*Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai

*The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

*Super Jake & the King of Chaos by Naomi Milliner

*Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia-McCall

*Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

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

*Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

*So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

*The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

*The Prophet Calls by Melanie Sumrow

*You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly



Click the links below...

and I'm sure you'll find answers to

all of your most important questions!


PitchWars official site:



Planet Earth is Blue on Goodreads:



Don Congdon Associates: 



Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Kids:





Thank you! 














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