Welcome to #PitchWars!! This is my second year as a young adult mentor, and I am so excited to be part of this talented and dedicated group of writers and mentors. First, a jump up and down and hearty round of applause for Brenda Drake and her uber-fantastical crew!
So who am I and why should you submit your entry to my inbox? I am a Creative Writing teacher and librarian, as well as an author of YA/MG/A fiction and a professional editor. Whew! That’s a lot of work! No wonder I’m so tired! Now I
Let’s break down my hats down, shall we?
As a teacher, I take editing my students’ work seriously, and that transfers to my editing clients as well. It is always my goal to educate the writers I work with on the basics of self-editing. Think of working with me as a learning opportunity, as well as a manuscript revision! I am committed to helping writers learn those self-editing skills. If I make changes to a manuscript, I explain why, and give examples of how sentences could be structured better, word choice could be clearer, and how to write for great flow. These are essential skills but they take practice, and it’s my job as an editor (and educator) to help the writers I work with begin to see their work as I do. It’s my goal to help you learn from this process.
Next, I’m a librarian. I read. A lot. Like, a real lot. Enough said.
In my author career, I’ve had agents and I’ve done it alone. I’ve had offers I turned down and regretted later. Writing is an educational experience like no other, and as a mentor, I’ve walked about a thousand miles in your shoes. I know what it’s like to be where you are, right now. Currently, I am querying a new project that I LOVE. I can’t wait until it debuts in the world.
And, as a professional editor, I’ve had the opportunity to work with two very talented authors in different capacities to bring their words to the world. Dawn Husted subbed to me last year in PitchWars, and we’ve become colleagues in the release of her book, THE SCYTHE OF DARKNESS. https://www.amazon.com/Scythe-Darkness-Dawn-Husted-ebook/dp/B071D3MWZ6 I am thrilled to be listed as the editor for this book, and loved working with her!
Second is the brilliantly talented, Cindy Dorminy, who recently signed with the Purcell Agency. YAY!!! (queries and back cover edits for Cindy)
Here’s what I am looking for in a mentee this year:
Young adult fantasy (light sci-fi and/or urban) and magical realism with one foot firmly grounded in the real world. Compelling contemporaries or thrillers where the characters drive the plot and not the other way around. I love strong, damaged female leads (think Celaena Sardothien) who survive and kick ass either with a sword, their brains, or their own two hands. Give me characters who engage with the reader, who are not flat on the page but who leap off and drag you down into their dark, unforgiving worlds. Hit me with your visuals. Show me you understand how to use description to immerse the reader, but not burden the reader with details. Hook me on the very first page and don’t let me go.
If your story is about a world that only exists in your head, I need enough information to ‘see’ what you see. Give me details. What catches your character’s eye? See the world through their lens and feed those great character development pieces back to the reader.
My perfect mentee will be an excellent writer who has read, edited, and proofed his/her work for passive voice, and who accepts suggestions and critique with an open mind. My mentee will brainstorm with me via text, chat, DM, and for an hour on the phone as we work through plot issues together as a team.
My favorite books reflect my MSWL in sci-fi & fantasy: THE HUNGER GAMES, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES (love, love, love this book), ALL SOULS TRILOGY by Deborah Harkness (adult), THRONE OF GLASS SERIES (YA), THE HISTORIAN (adult), HARRY POTTER (YA), THE FEVER SERIES (adult), DIVERGENT SERIES (YA).
On the contemporary side, WE WERE LIARS, EVERYTHING EVERYTHING, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, SPEAK and the list goes on and on.
I want writing that drags me between the pages and characters who I can cheer for even when they get their hands dirty. I want survivors that are willing to risk everything, everything (see what I did there?) for what they believe in and who they love.
Show me motivation. Show me love. Show me what your character is willing to risk, give up, or walk away from. Let them snark because we all need a little sarcasm in our lives. Again, strong female leads are important, but the guys can’t be pushovers either. Think like a teenager and write what is the truth for them. They suffer from heartbreak, depression, addiction, broken homes, homelessness, and indifference. Show me their successes and failures so that my students learn something about themselves when they read your books.
Now for what I don’t want this year (Sorry. I can’t take them all even if I want to!):
I’m not the right choice for high fantasy (LOR), military-based books, or books set on other planets/in space. Age appropriate to YA, please, even though we all know this boundary continues to be pushed. I’m going to say no to dystopian (contemporary spec fiction is OKAY), even though my students still come in and relentlessly ask for it (AND VAMPIRES!).
Did you hear that publishing gods?
Please do not send me manuscripts that you have not thoroughly edited for typos, passive voice, and the correct form of ‘your or there.’ (It’s a teacher thing) Show me you have done your homework. Romance within the story is A-OKAY!
And, finally, follow the #PitchWars submission guidelines. Send me your query letter and first ten pages.
What to expect from me: I will read your query and pages. I may ask for a partial ms (50 pages) and a synopsis. Make sure you have those ready to go. I may ask for your full. When I select my mentee, I will provide a detailed edit letter which discusses character, plot, motivation, style, dialogue, word choice, you name it! We will dig deep, looking for the best ways we can work together to make your writing shine.
If my process sounds like we might be a match, send your query my way. I’m looking forward to meeting you and your story in person!
Kelly Ann Hopkins