I have a confession to make: I didn’t think anyone would want me for a mentor.
So when I opened my PitchWars folder to 65 submissions, I was FLOORED. So completely honored by your trust, astonished by the quality, and so daunted by the task of picking just three.
I’ve gotten so much out of doing this so far, but the biggest thing I’ve gotten is a vastly greater understanding of how agents have to ABSOLUTELY FALL IN LOVE with something to sign it. There were so many things that were completely solid—very good, even—that I passed up without even hesitating.
Early on in my query reading, I read two that just absolutely grabbed onto me and wouldn’t let go. After those two, it got much easier to wade through my inbox. Because while there were many—SO MANY—submissions that were great, if they didn’t grab me more than those first two, they got moved out.
I’ll try to do another post on observations from the inbox in a few days, but first I want to tell you about Team JOY – I am so excited about these three manuscripts and their fantastic writers, who I am so excited to get to know!
Of those first two queries that stood out so strongly above the rest, one went to another mentor (because I can’t hog ALL the awesome), and one was my top pick, Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY. I’m honestly a little nervous about “mentoring” this gorgeous contemporary verse novel, because what’s a lot more likely to happen is Laura’s going to give me a master class in poetry. I just hope I can share a useful tidbit or two about middle grade and/or the agent game before Laura shares this baby with the world. It’s so crazy-gorgeous, you guys. You’re going to love it.
One of my alternates actually didn’t catch my eye at first. The query didn’t grab me, mostly because superheroes aren’t really my thing, and I set it aside. But then one of the other mentors started championing it, and I went back and took a closer look. And boy did I feel ridiculous for having missed the fantastic voice in the pages of THE RISE AND FALL OF A HALLWAY SUPERHERO by Davy Degreeff. (Pages trump queries, always!) From the first pages, I completely trusted Davy to take me on an awesome ride—and make me fall in love with superheroes.
My other alternate is an excellent example of how you never know when something will strike an agent or an editor, even if they didn’t seem like they were looking for what you’ve got. I’m really not into creepy. I’ve never seen a horror movie. I won’t even go on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. But Lyudmyla Mayorska’s NANNY MORTO would not get out of my head after I read the first pages. She calls it Mary Poppins meets The Graveyard Book, and that’s SUCH a perfect description.
So overall, my top pick wasn’t a surprise. That I would go for something a little bit quieter, a contemporary verse novel with rich, gorgeous language, probably could have been foretold from my bio/wishlist. But that I would go for superhero + creepy to round out my team? Completely unforeseen. But I’m so excited to work with Laura, Davy, and Lyuda and grateful that they’ve trusted me with their awesome manuscripts!
Please know that just because I didn’t choose you doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough. It just means this wasn’t the opportunity for you. (Or it was—and another mentor fought for you!) There will be more opportunities. In the meantime—keep writing!
I hope you’ll cheer my awesome writers on. Go Team JOY!