Welcome, mentee hopefuls! I could not be more excited to be mentoring YA for the second time this year in the greatest contest on Earth, AKA Pitch Wars. (If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are looking for all the contest details, please visit the Pitch Wars site.) Last year, I teamed up with mentor extraordinaire Rachel Lynn Solomon (and yeah, okay, you should check out her awesome wish list, too), but this year I’m flying solo and ready to fight to the pain for all the YA awesomeness. Before I get into what I want to see in my submission inbox, first a bit about me:
My debut novel is See All the Stars, a YA contemporary suspense about four best friends, one beautiful boy, and a deception that ruined everything, coming in summer 2018 from S&S/McElderry Books. I’m beyond excited to share my first book with all of you, so you’d better believe when fun stuff like cover reveals and pre-orders are happening, I’ll be shouting it out on Twitter. I’m currently working on two psychological thrillers–one for teens, and one for adults–and I’m represented by the inimitable Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.
When I’m not writing, I’m probably editing: I edit chapbooks for Black Lawrence Press, I edit for private clients through Copper Lantern Studio, and I’m also a Book Coach through Author Accelerator. That’s right–editing is literally my job, and you can read more about my editorial work right here. I’ll be bringing that editorial acumen to my mentee’s manuscript, so that’s definitely one of the reasons you want me as your mentor.
Speaking of which, you’re probably wondering about my mentoring style. I approach my mentees’ manuscripts with the same dedication, passion, and savvy red pen with which I edit my clients’ manuscripts. (OK, red pen is a metaphor–we’ll do edits electronically cause it’s 2017!) We’ll start with an editorial letter, which will provide global (big-picture) feedback on your manuscript. We’ll also do a second round of fine-tuning edits. Be ready to dig in deep and really revise. I will push you in a positive and guided way to do the work necessary to shape your manuscript into the best version of itself for the agent round and querying.
What else do you need to know? I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and have studied with book editors, copyeditors, and literary agents through NYU’s Center for Publishing. I also write poetry (my debut poetry collection is also coming out in 2018!), love to cook, can kick your butt at Eurogames like Seven Wonders and Dominion, and spend a lot of time snuggling with my two adorable cats. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest @ kitfrick.
WHAT I WANT
I’m looking for YA in two specific genres, so lean in close:
Contemporary with Magical or Speculative Elements
First, let’s talk about what I’m looking for in YA Thriller/Mystery/Suspense, which is really an umbrella for several sub-genres, so let’s get specific. No matter what classification you’d choose for your manuscript (murder mystery, psychological thriller, contemporary suspense, etc.), I’ll be asking the same key questions: Are there twists and turns I didn’t see coming? Is the suspense well-crafted and sophisticated? Does the narrative use emotion, character, and setting to create page-turning tension? Is there a mystery at its core? Does it keep readers guessing until the end? Yes? Then gimme, gimme, because I need to read it!
Here are a few recent YAs that do suspense really well. If you can see your manuscript on book shelves with any of these titles, you should probably send it my way:
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (everything by Stephanie Kuehn)
One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
FYI I am not looking for YA horror, which can certainly be thrilling, but it’s not for me. So if your YA is a horror story, check out the wish lists of mentors looking specifically for horror.
Now, let’s talk about what I mean by YA Contemporary with Magical or Speculative Elements. YA contemp is a big genre with many, many sub-genres, and I’m looking very specifically for manuscripts that introduce a magical or speculative element into an otherwise real-world, contemporary setting. Think magical realism (with the caveat that I’m not super comfortable using that as a genre classification unless it refers to Latinx literature) or “contemporary with a twist.”
Here are a few recent YAs that do what I’m talking about. Because this genre is a bit slippery to define, I’m going to use each of these books as a case study to exemplify what I mean, which I think will be more effective than trying to describe it broadly as a genre.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Popular high school senior Samantha Kingston dies in a car crash on the way home from a high school party–until she wakes up the next morning. During the course of the novel, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, making a series of mistakes and changes.
The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman
When Ari’s boyfriend Win dies, she goes to the Hekamist who lives behind the high school in her Cape Cod town to buy a spell that will erase her memories of him. (Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) Every wish comes with a cost, and Ari’s sets off a terrible chain of events among her and her friends.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
The months after his father’s suicide have been hard for 16-year-old Aaron, but he’s trying hard to get back his happiness. When Aaron’s girlfriend leaves town for a couple weeks and he starts to develop feelings for Thomas, the new kid in his Bronx neighborhood, Aaron turns to the Leteo Institute, whose revolutionary memory-alteration procedure holds the promise of fixing everything.
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Violet has clawed her way to the brink of a breakout career in ballet. Amber has been locked inside the walls of a juvenile detention center for years on a manslaughter charge. Ori is the girl who touches both of their lives, whose own story may be over before it’s even begun. Questions of guilt and innocence become tangled and unwound in this contemporary ghost story, where supernatural elements intersect with the worlds of teen ballerinas and juvie.
FYI I am not looking for contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, or light sci-fi. If you’re not sure how to categorize your manuscript, ask on the #PitchWars hashtag, ask peers who read and write in those genres, or @ me directly on Twitter!
For manuscripts in both genres, I’ll be looking for:
- Gorgeous writing that draws me in; a voice that grabs me from page one; an immersive, evocative setting
- Three-dimensional characters with flaws and fully-realized personalities
- Complicated character relationships & friendships, especially among teen girls (toxic / fiercely good / nuanced / intense / obsessive / withstanding / destructive)
- Risk-taking (with narrative structure / by exploring moral gray areas / by getting gritty and dark / by trying things not often seen in YA)
Diversity in all its forms needs to be well-represented and thoughtfully researched. That applies to all representations of diverse characters, #ownvoices or otherwise.
I’m beyond excited to read your mysterious, thrilling, evocative, twisty, risk-taking submissions!
Want to stay in touch beyond the contest? Signing up for my brand-new newsletter, These Little Secrets, is the best way to get insider access to book stuff, plus monthly editorial tips and a behind-the-scenes look at the writing life–things of interest to Pitch Wars mentee hopefuls! The first issue will go out this winter, but signing up now gets you immediate access to exclusive content from my books. 🤩
And that’s a wrap! Don’t forget to check out the wish lists of the other amazing 2017 YA mentors. (I mean, don’t do that, they’re the competition!) But really do.