Welcome, Pitch Wars hopefuls! I'm thrilled to be a mentor this year. I'll be accepting upper middle grade sci-fi & fantasy submissions. Below, I'm going to share a bit about who I am, my editing style, and the details of what I do and don't want to see in my inbox.
Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns help unagented writers revise their manuscript over the course of three months. It ends in a showcase where agents can review a pitch and excerpt of each mentee's project and request to see more if they're interested. For more information, click here.
I'm Rochelle Hassan, author of THE PRINCE OF NOWHERE (Harper Children's, Summer 2022). It's a Howl's Moving Castle-inspired middle grade fantasy involving mysterious letters, a boy who can turn into a crow, and a place called Nowhere. Most of all, it's about the power of our choices and our responsibility to shape the future.
I think this is a raven. It's hard to find good crow gifs.
I'll be evaluating your manuscript for structure, pacing, and character development. That means – just for starters – making sure the right turning points are happening at the right times, the story has momentum, and the protagonist grows, changes, and is being challenged in the ways that they need to be challenged.
Me reading your MS and wondering where the pictures are.
I'll start off by sending you an editorial letter, and we'll discuss it over a phone/video call or email so that I can help you figure out a revision plan. While you revise, I'll be available to help by answering questions, talking through any problems, offering moral support, and brainstorming with you if needed (via email or twitter DMs).
I'll read the manuscript again before the showcase to evaluate your progress, make sure the changes worked, and help you with any last-minute edits. This will be a lighter read. There won't be a second edit letter or a line edit, but I'll include comments and general thoughts focused on smaller issues, continuity, polishing, etc. I'll also work with you on your showcase and submission materials: a 300-word pitch and excerpt, your query, and your synopsis.
Teamwork mandatory, head-butting optional.
As a mentee, you should be prepared to work hard, and be open to making large changes to the story. These may include (for example) cutting and/or adding scenes, cutting and/or adding subplots, reworking major plot points, rewriting whole chapters, rearranging events, fleshing out characters/POVs and/or removing them. You might end up scrapping thousands of words and writing thousands of new ones from scratch. You're never required to make the changes your mentor suggests, but if you don't agree with their recommended solution to a problem, you should challenge yourself to think of other ways to address the issues they've pointed out. Whether or not you land an agent with your Pitch Wars book, the goal is to come out of the program with a stronger manuscript and better revision skills.
What I'm Looking For
I want upper middle grade science fiction and fantasy.
Upper MG books are aimed at the older end of the MG age range, and the protagonists are usually 11-13 years old. I'm open to all SFF subgenres. Second world fantasies, contemporary fantasies, portal fantasies. Paranormal, fabulism, retellings. Space adventures, cyberpunk, dystopias. High-stakes or low. Dark & serious or soft & lighthearted. Anything with a speculative element (with a few exceptions I'll go over in the next section).
This is pretty much what I expect my inbox to look like.
Most of all, I'm looking for characters I can fall in love with and writing that is solid on the line level. I want to feel like you've made intentional choices with the prose – whether it's descriptive and lyrical, or quick and funny, or something in between. The speculative element is also important to me, and should be important to the story. For example, while I'm technically accepting "contemporary with a hint of magic," if you could take away the magic and still have essentially the same story, then I'm not as likely to be hooked.
Do NOT Send
I am not the right mentor for:
1. Anything other than MG! This year, I am only accepting MG submissions.
2. Anything other than SFF! I will have to auto-reject without reading.
3. Novels in verse, epistolary novels, or graphic novels. I like them, but I wouldn't know how to help you revise them. However, I'm open to seeing manuscripts that incorporate elements of these things – some poetry, illustrations, letters, or documents interspersed through the text is fine.
4. Books with animals as protagonists/POV characters. But animals as supporting characters are fine with me.
5. Time travel + books with a magical forest as the main setting. This is because I'm staying away from reading anything too similar to projects I'm currently working on. If you send me something that feels too close to my own work, I will sadly have to pass without reading.
Things I Love
This is not a list of requirements – you're still welcome to send me your submission even if none of the points listed below apply to your book. I won't know exactly what I want until I see it in my inbox, and it could turn out to be something completely different from what I expected to choose.
But here are a few things that tend to grab my attention:
- Adventure! Quests, competitions, battles of good vs evil, etc
- Found families/team-as-family
- M/F friendships
- Morally grey characters
- Unique magic systems & world-building
- Plot twists and mystery elements
- Spooky things
And here are some stories I love!
🌟 BOOKS 🌟
🌟 SHOWS 🌟
Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your submissions! Continue the blog hop:
Pitch Wars 2020 Middle Grade Mentors' Wish Lists
- K.C. Held and Shana Targosz
- Jessica Vitalis and Julie Artz
- Erin Entrada Kelly
- Rochelle Hassan
- George Jreije and Long Quan Nguyen
- Lisa Moore Ramee
- Sofiya Pasternack
- Sylvia Liu
- Rebecca Petruck
- Rajani LaRocca and Remy Lai
- Reese Eschmann and Christina Li
- TJ Ohler
- Darlene P. Campos
- Gail D. Villanueva
- Chad Lucas
- Shakirah Bourne
- Eric Bell
- Kim Long
- Adrianna Cuevas and Sarah Kapit