Showing posts with label pitch wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pitch wars. Show all posts

Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 Pitch Wars Wish List

The two of us hamming it up at Cindy's Portland book launch!



Welcome to the wish list for #TeamMascaraTracks! 

(That’s Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin.) Sit down and draw up a chair. We've got chocolate, lots of episodes of The Good Place, and—of course—a bookshelf chock full of crying books.



First off, a little about us:

Amanda Rawson Hill: I grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out my back gate. I was one of those “gifted” kids. Smart, overachiever, played a couple instruments, speech and debate. You know the type. I never dreamed of being a writer until after I had kids! I got my degree in Chemistry and now live in Central California with my husband and three kids. My debut middle grade novel, The Three Rules of Everyday Magic, will be published at the end of September by Boyds Mills Press. WHICH IS SO CLOSE!!!


Cindy Baldwin: As a kid, my favorite things to do were either explore the woods behind my North Carolina home, dreaming of fairies and hidden castles, or curl up with a book to read stories that filled my imagination with wonder and magic. In middle school, I kept a book 
under my bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing my hair or brushing my teeth, and I dream of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without! These days, I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. My debut middle grade novel, Where The Watermelons Grow, was published by HarperCollins in July. In addition to receiving starred reviews from SLJ, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness, it was also an Indies Introduce and Indie Next title for 2018.
After reading and loving each other’s work, and then signing with the same agent, we decided to make the writing twin thing official and become Pitch Wars co-mentors. Destiny sealed the deal when we both got book deals with planned publication dates in the same year. These days, we're child-raising, book-writing, fast-talking, emotion-loving BFFs. Amanda even flew to Portland to MC Cindy's book launch, and Cindy is excited to get to return the favor soon! We don’t shy away from total sincerity and talking about feelings. We love big and we love hard. Cindy is Anne Shirley. (She once really did end up stranded in a river, clinging to bridge pilings, and had to be rescued. It's a long story.)

Amanda is Leslie Knope. 

Together, we head up Team Mascara Tracks. This is our third year as Pitch Wars mentors. 80% of our past mentees are now agented, and two have books coming out soon! Here are some of our success stories:

In 2016, we mentored Kit Rosewater and Cory Leonardo. Kit's entry had the most request of any middle grade manuscript in the contest. Both had agent offers right off the bat, and both are doing awesome things! You can check out Cory's Pitch Wars novel, The Simple Art of Flying, in just a few months—it releases in February from S&S/Aladdin in the US and Scholastic in the UK.

In 2017, we went really overboard and mentored THREE writers: author/illustrator Remy Lai, Karen S. Chow, and Kirk Kraft. Remy's fantastic graphic-prose hybrid novel, Pie in the Sky, sold immediately in a pre-empt to Macmillan/Henry Holt, and will be out in the spring. Karen's heartbreakingly beautiful story about moving on after loss found a passionate agent advocate as well. And Kirk worked incredibly hard to revise his humor-and-heart-filled manuscript while also being one of the most positive and encouraging people on the PW feed.

While we can't promise requests, agents, or book deals, we can promise care, attention, and endless cheerleading. Over the past two years, we've walked mentees through not only revisions and the Pitch Wars agent round, but also deciding between multiple agent offers, navigating an agent breakup, dealing with a querying journey that went beyond the contest, handling nerves on submission, and many other ups and downs that come with a professional writing career. As mentors, we believe strongly in sticking around long after the agent round is over. We've forged good friendships with all our past mentees, and still keep in touch with each of them regularly.

Here are some of the things our past mentees had to say about working with us:

"I had never received such detailed notes on even a page of any manuscript I’d written, and here I’d received a comment on all of it. Comps. Concerns. Structure. Plot. Pacing. Characterization. Theme. Big picture. Small picture. Resources. Everything. I was astounded that they took the time and had thought about my book so deeply and thoroughly….Every. Single. Thing Amanda and Cindy said, every one, was right on. Over the next few months, I grew to trust their instincts more and more. They were always right, and every time I took a little while for their comments to sink in, I’d come to the same conclusion, make the necessary changes, and every time the book was better."
-Cory Leonardo, Pitch Wars 2016 mentee, author of The Simple Art of Flying (Aladdin, February 2019) 

"Amanda and Cindy have the unique ability in plucking key emotions, interactions, and symbols from a text, and carrying those gently forward while rearranging all the trappings around them. Though nearly every word of my manuscript was switched around and deleted and rewritten by the time the agent round arrived, it felt more like my vision than ever. Cindy and Amanda knew what I was after in my writing, and helped me to maintain the things I found most important, even through completely fresh drafts. This is a vital skill to have in the process of revising, and one I shall carry with me forever."
-Kit Rosewater, 2016 Pitch Wars Mentee, MG Agent Round Winner

"Amanda and Cindy are the best!"
-Remy Lai, 2017 Pitch Wars mentee, author of Pie in the Sky (Henry Holt, Spring 2019)

"When I chose Amanda and Cindy as potential Pitch Wars mentors, I had no idea what a huge impact they would have on my writing journey. No idea! Besides helping polish my query and manuscript, they helped me craft pitches for #pitmad and #dvpit (from which I found my agent). They were cheerleaders when I had partial and full requests, encouragers when I doubted my craft, rock-strong supporters when many other mentees found agents and book deals quickly. They understand everything, all of the emotional ups and downs, all of the ins and outs of writing. They’ve answered countless questions (and questions from other mentees) about agents and the publishing biz. (And if they don’t know, they find answers.) They do it all with humility and grace. I was so SO honored to meet both of them in person, and they are as authentic as they are over email. When they say they’re stuck with you for Pitch Wars and beyond, they mean it. And I’m forever grateful to have them in my life."
-Karen S. Chow, 2017 Pitch Wars mentee

"My mentors put me through the wringer but the knowledge I gained and the depth of revision I was forced to complete made me a better writer."
-Kirk Kraft, 2017 Pitch Wars mentee


If that sounds like what you are looking for in a mentor, then let’s go on to what you really want to know!

Our Wish List

Our favorite genres are MG contemporary, Magical Realism (both true magical realism—which comes from traditionally marginalized communities and is aware of the Latinx traditions from which it draws—and literary contemporary with elements of magic), and 20th-century historical. Within those genres we are particularly looking for stories usually labeled, quiet, character driven, heartfelt, and literary. The comedic and quirky is not really in our wheelhouse. That’s not to say that we don’t want a book that has quirky or comedic elements (we love those!), but that shouldn’t feel like the main focus or strength of the story. We want FLORA AND ULYSSES, not DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. We are particularly looking for stories the revolve around big, hard, real-world problems. If somebody has ever said, “Wow, isn’t that a little heavy for MG?”—we want it. If somebody has ever said, “This is really sad!"—we want it. We want to feel something. We want to bawl our eyes out. We want to see beautiful, powerful prose or poetry. We want books that exemplify the quote “When a subject is too hard for adults, I write it for children.” We want books that tackle tough subjects in a hopeful and life-affirming way. We want big philosophical ideas handled with the grace, wisdom and innocence of this age group.

This year, we're not accepting sci fi or fantasy, and likely won't read excerpts that are sent to us in these genres. If you're confused about whether your manuscript would be considered "fantasy" or "magical realism/contemporary with magical elements," feel free to Tweet us! Our list of comp titles, below, might also help clarify what we're looking for.

We also have strong preferences when it comes to historical fiction: We’re not the right mentors for stories where the history or world-building plays a larger role than the character’s arc. We love historicals that focus on one small, character-driven story against the backdrop of larger events that really happened, without spending too much time or detail on those larger events. Basically, if you have the next THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, well—send it our way! If, on the other hand, you love writing historical because you get lost in the details of the period you're describing, and the period itself is as important as the character arc, we're probably not the right mentors for it. For us, emotions and character arcs are always going to be the biggest draw.



Other things we especially love to see:
  • Diversity (#ownvoices in particular—if you're submitting a story with a marginalized protagonist whose marginalization you don't share, please make sure to do your research and employ sensitivity readers!)
  • Characters influenced by faith but not in a faith-based story
  • Homeschooling!
  • Unique structures and formats (some examples include letters; journal entries; verse—we've both written verse novels and LOVE the genre!; and graphic novels—neither of us have a background in art, but it's definitely in our wheelhouse to work with the text, story structure, character arc, and scene blocking. Two of our previous mentees have had manuscripts in unusual hybrid formats, and they're some of our favorite-ever books! So, if you’re doing something experimental with format, we definitely want to see it!)
  • Chronic illness and/or disability, especially nuanced, disability-positive portrayals that don't end with magical cures
  • Verse! (We realize we said that above, but please. We're nuts for verse! Send us your verse!)
  • Bittersweet endings
  • Anything involving the ocean
  • Strong, vibrant settings
  • Science incorporated in a beautiful, meaningful way! (THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. or THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.)
  • An own voices refugee story (Please!)
  • An own voices story with a Muslim main character, whether or not the plot is about being Muslim (Triple Please!)
  • Books set in countries that don't get as much MG screentime (please, send us the next AMAL UNBOUND!)
  • A story about someone trying to immigrate to America across the Southern border (legally or illegally) or who has just recently done so. Think a modern-day ESPERANZA RISING meets FRONT DESK.


If any of these could be a comp title…grabby hands!

Front Desk, Kelly Yang
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, Anna Meriano
The Penderwicks series, Jeanne Birdsall
Some Kind of Happiness, Claire Legrand
Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed
The Night Diary, Veera Hiranandani
Paper Chains, Elaine Vickers
Anything by Kate Dicamillo, Sharon Draper, Lynda Mulally Hunt, or Sharon Creech
The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin
Paper Wishes, Lois Sepahban
The Key to Extraordinary or A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd
Counting By 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan
Love, Aubrey, Suzanne LaFleur
The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Hour of the Bees, Lindsay Eager
Amina's Voice, Hena Kahn
Summerlost, Ally Condie
Forget Me Not, Ellie Terry
Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, Shari Green
Echo, Pam Muñoz Ryan

And, of course, reading Cindy's book, Where the Watermelons Grow, could give you a good idea of our tastes as well! You can also check out a few pages of Amanda’s book, The Three Rules of Everyday Magic, on Amazon. Between the two, you’ll get a pretty good idea about what we love in a voice.

A Note On Animal Stories

Our first year, we took on an “animal story"—Cory Leonardo’s The Simple Art of Flying, about a curmudgeonly parrot. And while we love, love, love her book, we’re going to continue to say the same thing we have said for the last two years. Animal stories are a hard sell for us. They have to be done very well, with a great voice, something unique (Cory’s had gorgeous poetry), and lots and lots of heart. Basically, you need to be able to compare it to FLORA AND ULYSSES and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. Cory did, and the comparison held up. We’re definitely NOT the mentors for animal stories that are more humor or adventure than heart. 



Other Hard Sells
  • Sports stories (There are other mentors LOOKING for this. We just don’t love it. Sorry.)
  • Historical fiction from earlier than the 1900s.
  • Anything more plot-driven than character-driven.
  • Anything that could be described with the word "adventure," especially combined with "fantasy." Unless your character's adventure is lived out largely in their own head (a la Bridge to Terabithia or Some Kind of Happiness—SEND US THOSE!), we are just not the best mentors for that! Really, if your query contains words like epic, journey, battle, quest…you should probably not send it to us.


What Will Really Draw Us In?

Voice and beautiful writing are probably the number one thing that draws us to a manuscript—though a great hook doesn't hurt (last year, the fact that Remy Lai's story of two brothers secretly baking cakes together was utterly charming was the thing that made us look twice at her query). We can help you change everything else. But the voice reigns supreme.

We can’t wait to read your work! Putting it out there is such an act of courage and vulnerability. We promise to treat your entry with the respect and love that creativity deserves. We feel so honored by every person who decides to share their story with us. We are excited to meet all of you and your characters.

Check out the rest of the Pitch Wars MG mentors here!



1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.