Thursday, May 18, 2017

CP Match-up - All Genres, All Categories!

Okay, friends. After last year’s Pitchwars, I did a critique partner match-up, and I want to do it again now. But it’s for anyone, not just Pitchwars entrants. All categories, all experience levels.

This isn’t going to be the sort of match-up where you post comments and then you reach out to whoever interests you. I did those in the past and got one terrific CP (hi, Sharon!), but only because she reached out to me. I was always too shy!

So I’m going to do this like I did the Pitchwars match-up. If you are interested in potentially being matched up with a CP, send an email to Include the following:

·      Your query (don’t worry if it’s not agent-ready; I just need an idea of your story)
·      Your first chapter. (Again, it doesn’t have to be 100% polished)
·      Clearly state your age category and genre
·      A brief explanation of where you’re at in your publishing journey. I want to try to match people up who are at similar levels.
·      A brief explanation of what you’d like to get out of a critique partnership and what you feel you have to offer.

I’ve had people who are on sub tell me they don’t feel like they fit in w/other writers on sub, because the others are all new and shiny, and they’re on sub for the fourth time. (Solidarity, friend, I went on sub five times before I sold!) Other writers who’ve had agents but either were dropped or chose to leave their agents are in a different place than writers just starting out with querying. So I’m hoping to hear from people at all levels and match you up accordingly. 

I can’t make any guarantees. When I did this for Pitchwars, it was only with people who’d subbed to me, so they’d all subbed an MG manuscript that matched my wishlist. This made it easier. This time around, I might get one adult romance writer and no one else to match them with. Or even if you are matched on paper, you  might not be a personality match. But it’s worth a try!

I just want to put this out there and see if a few matches can be made. With the Pitchwars round it went really well!

Feel free to share this around Twitter or wherever you share things. I’m not going to make a hard deadline, in case some submissions come rolling in over time, but I will probably wait about a week before I try to start making some matches. If I can’t find a match for you, I will respond and let you know.

Any questions? Comment here, or hit me up on Twitter!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pitchwars Matchmaking!!!


We’re in that strange in-between time when you’ve chosen your mentor picks and sent in your submission and now you WAIT. And some of your hopes might be falling, if you haven’t gotten a request yet.

If so, 1) there is still hope. Requests are still going out.

and 2) While getting picked is awesome, I hope you’ve realized by now that one of the very best things about Pitchwars is the community. And hopefully you’ve already enjoyed and grown from this new writing community.

I can only mentor one of you, but I want to do something for people who subbed to me (though I can’t guarantee a timeline on it). If you would like me to play CP matchmaker for you, I will send you a CP suggestion from the pool of people who subbed to me. I don’t know you guys personally, so I can’t vouch for how everyone will be as a CP—I will only be matchmaking based on your submissions. And of course, I can only do this for people whose subs are in my inbox.

I will only give out names as potential matches of people who have given me permission to do so.

SO, if you submitted to me and would like me to make you a match, leave a comment here with the title of your submission. These will come AFTER picks are announced, and it will be a one-time thing. I won’t be able to find you someone new or field complaints if someone isn’t a match, etc. After I’ve taken care of my post-picks emails, I shut down the account until the next Pitchwars. So it’ll just be a one-time thing that hopefully yields a few successful critique partnerships.

So if you’d like me to try to work some magic, leave a comment here with the name of your manuscript!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pitchwars 2016!!! I want your MG!!

It’s PitchWars time again!!!!!

(We start the storytelling early in my house.)

I love this contest. Highest of fives to you for taking your work seriously enough to even consider entering. This road can be long, but there’s no reason it has to be lonely, and PitchWars is an AMAZING way to plug into the writing community.

Last year, I had three Pitchwars mentees. (Long story, unusual circumstances.) My mentee Eric Bell “won” the contest with 25 requests in the agent round, ultimately selling his MG contemporary ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD at auction to Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins. (Though I really think anyone who participates in Pitchwars wins, even if you’re not selected by a mentor. That’s not a rah-rah everybody-gets-a-ribbon mentality. It’s my experience heading into my fourth year as a mentor, seeing what writers can get out of this contest if they truly invest themselves in the community that’s offered.)

Also last year, my mentee Shanna Rogers signed with Julia Weber of JAW Literary Agency, and mentee Amanda Rawson Hill (who’s a mentor this year) signed with Elizabeth Harding of Curtis Brown. I expect we’ll hear great news from both of them soon.

Here's what those three mentees from last year had to say about working with me: 

The best thing about Joy is that she is able to see right down to the heart of your story and knows just how to draw it out. I learned so much about how all the pieces of a story should fit together from her. It has fundamentally changed the way I write. 
Amanda Hill, Pitchwars mentee 2015 

Joy is the master of all mentors. Yes, I am biased, but I can't imagine anyone else approaching this process with the care, love, and skill that Joy brings. She is a multi-year veteran and her experience shows. Joy pushed me to go deeper with my characters than I ever had before, and her insights left me thinking, Why didn't I think of that? She sees right through to the heart of a story.  
Shanna Rogers, Pitchwars mentee 2015

Working with Joy was an incredible experience. Her enthusiasm and love for my book were boundless, but it didn't stop her from taking an objective editorial approach to revisions. She helped build up the good parts and honed in on key areas that needed to be strengthened. Joy was available at every step of the process: she helped with my pitch, my query letter, and with general advice and questions of all kinds. Submit to Joy—she will be your biggest cheerleader and your fairest critic, and she will take your manuscript to the next level!
Eric Bell, Pitchwars mentee 2015

That's my first PW mentee's book!
My mentees from previous years include current MG mentors Laura Shovan and Ellie Terry, who both got agents and book deals with the Pitchwars books they worked on with me. You can buy Laura’s THE LAST FIFTHGRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House) now and pre-order Ellie’s FORGET ME NOT (Feiwel & Friends/ Macmillan) here.

I LOVE this contest, because I have seen the results and built relationships that have lasted. I have one previous mentee who has not signed with an agent yet, but I have seen the growth in her work too. I continue to read for her and encourage her along the journey. It’s different for everyone and I know the long road better than most.

That's the MG reader who lives in my house, in her reading nook.


I'm a ghostwriter, freelance editor, and MG writer represented by Jim McCarthy. I have a degree in theater and also write plays. I spent more time in previous wishlists explaining my credentials, and you can see those here and here

I LOVE MIDDLE GRADE. Most especially realistic contemporary, verse, multicultural, and magic realism. I LOVE funny and heartbreaking, and if you can manage it – both! I’m wide open to “quiet” and literary, but also love the commercial and adventurous. Diversity of all kinds is always welcome. Above all, it has to have TERRIFIC VOICE.

If your manuscript has anything in common with these MG titles, PLEASE send your submission my way!!

ROOFTOPPERS by Katherine Rundell
FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo
THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall
MAY B by Caroline Starr Rose
LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech
MATILDA by Roald Dahl
THE WINNIE YEARS series by Lauren Myracle
A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

Some personal elements I’m likely to connect to in a manuscript (or chatting with you on Twitter) – performing arts, bicultural families, homeschooling, Latin America, dogs, feminism, social justice issues, and chocolate. (In no particular order!)
Oh look! Some books fell off my shelves 
and just happened to land in an 
interesting shape! Is that a letter…?    

(But maybe your manuscript has none of the above and that’s TOTALLY fine. If it’s got great HEART and VOICE, I want to see it!!)

I'm open to a touch of magic but I’m not your best bet for sci-fi, horror, or high fantasy (elves and witches and systems of magic and whole other kingdoms). I’m also not your best bet for animal main characters (unless you’re Kate DiCamillo. And if you are—can you mentor me???).


You don’t have to have ANY credentials, aside from stellar promise in your manuscript, as long as you’re willing to dig in and do the work. If I choose your manuscript, there’s a good chance you’ll have major revisions ahead of you. Previous mentees have added or cut major plot elements and entire characters, changed POVs, and pretty much worked non-stop for the entire revision period. (But you won’t be required to implement any revision suggestions that don’t resonate with you. It’s YOUR book, after all.) So I’m looking for someone who’s willing to WORK, who’s not precious about changes, who’s in this for the long haul, and who wants an agent, a book deal, AND a sense of community.

I can’t promise you the first two, but I’ll throw everything I’ve got into getting you there. And I CAN promise you as much support and encouragement as you can possibly stand!

I LOVE to watch my kids unlock whole other
worlds, build empathy, and become more creative,
intelligent, compassionate people through the stories
they read and tell. 

Here's where you can check out the rest of the amazing MG mentors!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pitchwars 2016 is almost here!!!

I know it's almost Pitchwars time again when my blog starts getting traffic. (Also because I work with Brenda behind the scenes and we've been at it for months.) When it occurred to me that hopefuls might be dropping by my blog to get a sense of me, I also thought about the fact that the most recent post was last year's wishlist. So feel free to read on to the next post, but just be aware that was my wishlist from LAST YEAR. This year it might be different.

In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter, where I'm quite active, especially on the #Pitchwars hashtag or on my website.

The 2016 wishlists go live on July 20th, so that's when I'll be able to tell you all about what I'm looking for this year. For now, all I can say is that I'm mentoring Middle Grade again, and I can't wait to get started!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Pitchwars Writers! Let Me At Your MG Manuscript!!

I’m so excited to be back as an MG mentor for Pitchwars! Whether you’re chosen by a mentor or not, you’re going to develop some amazing relationships – if you make yourself available for that. And you should! We all need more support on this writing journey!

That’s me in playwright mode, but you can imagine my eagle
eye on your manuscript, rather than on actors.

You have a lot of great mentors to choose from. Here’s why I hope you’ll consider me. I know the road well—you can read about my agent journey here. I’ve been a freelance editor and ghostwriter for many years, and I assist a NYT-bestselling middle grade author. I made the longlist twice for the Chicken House/Times of London’s International Children’s Fiction prize, and I was a playwright for many years before turning to middle grade fiction.

Here’s what some of my critique partners have to say about working with me. Maybe you've read some of their books?

Joy's critiques are always intelligent, super helpful, tactful, and thorough. Her feedback makes me think about both the technical and emotional aspects of creating an authentic story. Without Joy as a critique partner, I would not be a published author. There is no doubt in my mind that Joy's guidance-based feedback and spot-on critiques throughout my writing journey have pushed me to become a better writer. Joy has an impeccable eye for identifying what works and what doesn't, how to eliminate manuscript baggage, and how make your pages shine. 

Jessica Lawson (The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, Nooks & Crannies, Simon & Schuster)

If you have a chance to have Joy to critique your work - take it! Joy will help you find ways to make your WIP stronger, all while making you feel good about what you’ve accomplished so far. She’s done it for me, on multiple occasions. She is genuinely supportive and insightful and wonderful and great. If she had critiqued this endorsement, it would have been written so much better, but she didn’t, so...

Sheila Grau (Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, Amulet/Abrams)

Joy McCullough-Carranza is my fairy book mother. She was a supportive coach through the final revision of my middle grade novel. Why “final”? Joy is such a thorough critiquer and adviser that when an agent asked for a resubmit a few weeks after Pitch Wars, my manuscript was ready. I signed with my dream agent and the book went on immediate submission. Joy brings a playwright’s three dimensional understanding of character to her critiques, but she also knows how to tweak a story until it sparkles. You’ll work hard with Joy as your mentor, knowing she will guide you in making your book the best it can be.

Laura Shovan, (2013 Pitchwars mentee, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2016)

Don’t choose Joy for her query Jedi powers, although she certainly has those. And don’t choose Joy for her knowledge of the MG market or for her supportiveness, although you will be endlessly grateful for these. Choose Joy because she will take your story seriously. She will see through to why you had to write the story you wrote and she will find opportunities to make your story even more of what you dreamed. 
Ki-Wing Merlin (Weaving a Net Is Better Than Praying For Fish, Balzer + Bray, 2016)

Joy is so much more than a mentor. She's a cheerleader, a friend, a fairy godmother, an excellent brainstormer. I'm pretty sure she's smarter than Einstein and I'm certain my query and manuscript would not have garnered the attention it did without her expert critiquing skills. Joy as your mentor > winning a million dollar lottery.

Elliah Terry (2014 Pitchwars alternate, 
I Am Calliope June, Feiwel & Friends, 2017)

You are in this for the long haul. If you choose me, you might not “win” Pitchwars - as in, get the most requests in the PW agent round - because I don’t always pick the biggest, splashiest manuscripts. Hopefully you’ll get requests from Pitchwars agents, but I’m in it to be sure you’re ready to query effectively, too. Please don’t submit to me if you already think your manuscript is near-perfect and just needs a few commas moved. I’m likely to suggest some big changes. My mentees and alternates from previous years have all dug into really major revisions – strip out a POV, raise the stakes in a major way, develop (or cut) a whole subplot.

I entered PitchWars at the last minute, but I could not have found a better mentor for me if I spent a million years researching the different mentors--all of whom were fabulous! Joy helped me uncover the real vision for my book by providing insightful feedback and asking hard questions. I learned so much from Joy, not just about craft but about surviving the inevitable ups and downs of this crazy business! I am so grateful for her continued friendship and support. If you write MG, pick Joy! You'll be glad you did. I know I was.

Elizabeth Dimit, 2014 Pitchwars mentee, 
still on the agent-hunt!

In years past, I’ve been greedy for aaaaaaall the middle grade, hesitant to limit whole genres. After all, there are always exceptions I adore!! This year, though, I’m going to do it. So, first of all, no fantasy, no science fiction, no horror. I’m sorry! You are awesome – go forth and seek the right mentor for you!

Everyone else, to get a feel for what I love, you can see the list below of some of my favorite middle grade books. I love contemporary, from serious issues to light and fun. I love magic realism (but again, no fantasy) and I tend toward the literary. While I could certainly pick something big and splashy and commercial, you’ll also find a welcome harbor for the “quiet” manuscripts here. I’m open to verse. And a big YES, PLEASE to diversity.

Here are some of my favorite books:

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
Splendors & Glooms, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, and The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
The Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Unusual Chickens for Exceptional Poultry Farmers by Kelly Jones
A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshish
Walk Two Moons and Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
The Winnie Years by Lauren Myracle
Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate by Tim Federle
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Allison Levy
Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai
When You Reach Me & Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 
The Boy In the Dress by David Walliams
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

UPDATE: I blog about the difference between magic realism and fantasy here

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post or find me on Twitter @JMCwrites and I’ll happily answer. Putting your work out there takes so much courage and I applaud all of you who submit, whether to me or any of the other mentors. Good luck! And if you aren’t chosen – stick with it! I got my agent through traditional querying, and I know if you stick with it, you’ll connect with the agent who’s right for you.

So if you're excited and ready to go, here are all the details at Brenda's site about what's next! And here are the rest of your awesome mentors! 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Pitchwars 2015 is almost here!!!

There’s been an uptick in visitors to this blog of late, and with the Pitchwars contest approaching, I’m guessing most of you are doing some preliminary mentor research (since I barely ever use this blog for anything else). I can’t post my bio and wishlist until August 3rd, but while you’re getting to know me, you could check out this post about my writing process, or this interview with me about the difference between writing novels and plays. I'm looking forward to getting to know you once the contest is underway.

My 2013 Pitchwars mentee Laura Shovan has repeatedly called me her Fairy Bookmother.
So I made myself an appropriate costume.

And if you’re still on the fence about submitting to Pitchwars at all, DO IT. I got my agent through traditional querying and that option is open to everyone. But what I adore wholeheartedly about Pitchwars is the relationships formed. Even if you’re not chosen by a mentor, through the Twitter hashtag you’ll have the chance to connect with other writers at the same stage of the game (and with mentors, too). I have developed some wonderful friendships and critique partnerships through Pitchwars, and we all need more friends along this journey. So I say do it!

And I’ll see you back here on August 3rd!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Telling Stories

Telling stories is powerful.

This is something I’ve known for a long time, of course. I wouldn’t have dedicated the last fifteen years of my life to making plays and novels otherwise. But the point has been starkly illustrated in my own life recently as Live Girls Theater produces my play Blood/Water/Paint. I wrote about the play’s long journey to production here.

Simply put, it is the story of my deepest pain. And to watch as a tremendous group of artists honors that story with their time and their talents has been tremendously validating.

Daniel Christensen and Alex Highsmith in Blood/Water/Paint
at Live Girls Theater, Joe Iano Photography

Especially with stories of sexual abuse and assault there is so much invalidation. The disbelief, the flat-out accusation of lies, the fear or shame around telling one’s story. And not everyone is willing or able to tell their story to their loved ones or authorities. But they still deserve to be heard, and have their story believed and honored the way Live Girls is currently honoring my story.

So I want to begin to gather the stories of other survivors of sexual abuse, assault, harassment, incest. My goal is to ultimately take these stories and create a documentary theater piece in the style of Twilight: Los Angeles or The Laramie Project, using the actual words you use as you tell me your stories.

I don’t yet know what the play will look like, exactly, at this point. I’m just in the earliest stages of gathering the stories. I’m not even sure what the story-gathering will look like yet. I think, as much as possible, I’d love to do in person interviews, recorded with permission to use the subject’s exact words. For those not in the area, or not comfortable with an in-person interview, I will develop a written questionnaire. And perhaps Skype/Facetime can play a role.

At this point, I’m gathering interest – people who would like to share their stories with me, to have their stories honored as source materials in a documentary-style play. So if that sounds like something you’re interested in, email me at . Let me know if you’re in the Seattle area and would be comfortable with an in-person interview. If not, let me know if you’d be open to video interview, or if you’d prefer only written communication.

Around mid-March, I will begin contacting people, with questions and logistical details worked out. Please share this with anyone you think might connect with the mission and would like to have their story honored. I would love to reach well outside my own circle of friends. So many people have stories to tell. I’d love to help find an audience for those stories.

Thank you for your courage as you even consider sharing your story.