Note: Before we begin, you can find a plain text version of my wishlist here
and this post is NSFW (well, there's swearing, but I wanna play it safe!)
Hello and welcome, 2021 mentee hopefuls! My name’s Carlyn (she/her) and I could not be more excited to be mentoring YOUNG ADULT this year! This is my second year mentoring YA and my first year mentoring solo, and I cannot wait to read your wonderful words should you choose to submit to me. I was a mentee in 2016, when I worked on a YA contemporary/thriller with the incredible Kit Frick and Rachel Lynn Solomon. If you’re here and wondering what Pitch Wars is all about, it’s a mentoring program for unagented writers where you and a mentor work together to revise your book, prepare querying materials, and participate in an agent showcase. If you have any more questions, look no further than the website for contest description, details, and deadlines.
Caption: SpongeBob and Patrick throwing arms up in excitement
Now, before we get into my wish list, a little more about me…
I hail from a beach suburb of Los Angeles famous for being featured in the transitions between scenes in Hannah Montana. I attended USC and studied English/Film, Screenwriting, and Criminology, and I recently graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing from The New School with an emphasis in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I’ve been an intern for various literary agencies as well as film production companies where I primarily worked in reviewing books for TV/Film adaptation.
I currently work in LA as an administrative assistant at CAKE Creative, do a little freelance editing and tutoring, and continue to write. My work is represented by Janine Kamouh at WME. I’m primarily a YA thriller/contemporary writer, but also work in YA fantasy and graphic novels along with Adult contemporary romance. My works tend to include queer/Jewish/mental illness/disability rep, fast pacing, some humor, and cinematic writing. (I’m still working on that brand thing…) I also write screenplays (features and pilots), still chasing the high of being a semi-finalist in the CBS Writers Mentoring Program. I have a podcast on which my friends and I recap Netflix’s The Crown and other British Royal Family media called Crowning Around.
Fun facts about me:
I have 2 dogs and a cat, although technically they’re my parents’ pets so I have to travel to see them. Still, they’re eternal parts of my life.
One of my favorite pastimes is watching YouTube videos. I’m a frequenter of Theme Park, Pop Culture Analysis/Theory, Weird Cooking Show, LGBTQIA+, and True Crime/Paranormal YouTube among other spaces.
I’m not a good gamer, but I love video games of all kinds ranging from arcade games to console games. My lasting childhood favorites are mostly the Sly Cooper franchise and Jak and Daxter, and my more recent favorites include Assassin’s Creed(s), Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Fortnite, and Animal Crossing. Any third person adventure/stealth games are my shit.
I love cartoons and animation in general and one of my dream goals is to develop my own animated series one day.
I’m a pretty big pretentious abstract modern art fan.
I cannot ski, despite about 12 years in ski school.
I tend to cycle among hyperfixations and can just prattle off hours of random facts.
I never left my emo phase.
Now, for my wish list…
The general theme for what I’m looking for is DARK YA, including submissions within mystery/thriller, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, historical, adventure, and darker contemporary. There are so many incredible mentors who’re looking for romcoms and fluffy contemporary, and I adore those people and those stories, but I really want to focus on this niche. It’s where a majority of my writing/expertise is and I would love to champion a work for teens that balances darker themes/elements with the energy and hope that only YA provides.
Caption: gif of two goth girls saying "I'm Raven, your acid bath princess of darkness"
Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: YA thrillers have always been my ultimate passion and most of my writing exists in this space, so I’d be over the moon to welcome a fellow YA thriller writer under my wing. Give me your murder mysteries, your heist gangs, your teen criminals, unreliable narrators, locked rooms, and twists that’ll leave me breathless! I especially adore stories where it feels like the writer went “what if I took X action movie and made it for teens?” This includes mystery/thriller/suspense that includes a speculative element!
Examples: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe, Sadie by Courtney Summers, anything by Kara Thomas, Mindy McGuinness, Kit Frick, and Tiffany D. Jackson, Cruel Summer, The End of the F***ing World, Twin Peaks, Knives Out, Bad Times at the El Royale, Oceans 8, Gone Girl, Tiny Pretty Things
Gif: Marge Simpson saying "that's illegal"
Horror: I’m always here for a good scare! Give me your haunted houses/hotels/restaurants/saw mills/abandoned hospitals, etc. I’m a huge fan of ghost hunting and paranormal shows, and anything that puts me in a world where I’m either wondering if ghosts/monsters are real or not, I’m so down. I’m also a huge fan of horror that stems from folklore and urban legends, anything that brings the setting and people of a story alive in a visceral, terrifying way. Bonus points for the extra gothic vibes, where it’s the morally repugnant people who’re the real monsters. With that said, I’m also into real monsters and would love to see a horror angle that brings back any of our beloved paranormal creatures like vampires, werewolves, fae, etc.
Examples: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrend, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Wilder Girls by Rory Powers, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Get Out, Us, Candyman, Haunting of Hill House/Bly Manor, Midsommar, Buzzfeed Unsolved, The Shining, IT
Gif: muppet bear with the caption "the horror"
Sci-Fi: I love all types of sci-fi, ranging from Star Wars inspired space operas to stories set mostly within our world, but with a sci-fi twist. Bring me your cyborgs, your spaceships, your vivid collections of planets, your locked spaceship thrillers, that little piece of tech that gets me thinking more about the world we live in now. Note: if your sci-fi/fantasy novel takes place on another planet/in another world, I’m going to be the best fit if there’s also a strong mystery/thriller/horror element attached to it.
Examples: Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor, The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling, anything by Adam Silvera, Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Gif: Princess Leia with the caption "Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!"
Fantasy: Another genre I adore writing, fantasy of all kinds has a soft place in my heart. I’ll be accepting all kinds of fantasy, from high fantasy to contemporary fantasy. Throw in all the monsters, curses, powers, and court politics! Bonus points if it somehow comps to Six of Crows and/or a gimmick or plot I’ve never seen before in the fantasy space! I also adore villains and if your story has a villain and/or villain protagonist, yes please! Note: Same as with sci-fi, if you’re submitting fantasy that doesn’t take place on Earth (contemporary or historical), I’m going to be the best fit if there’s also a mystery/thriller/horror element.
Examples: Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Gif: The Darkling with the caption "fine, make me your villain"
Action/Adventure: So this one can kind of falls under thriller and/or fantasy, but I wanted to pay special mind to the action/adventure story. Give me your harrowing survival stories through the woods/arctic tundra/desert/island/sea, your pirates and explorers. This can be historical or contemporary!
Examples: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall, The Terror (AMC)
Gif: Brie Larson in survival gear sharpening a machete
Historical: I’m a huge history buff and have always adored the fantastic historical novels within the YA space. I do best with anything from the 1850s-2000s, with a special interest in anything post-WWII and/or from a lesser known time period or place/people in a given time. (But if you have YA The Terror, I will make an exception!) Give me your vividly drawn historical worlds, your marginalized protagonists butting up against the societies surrounding them, and all the adventure, glamor, and pain that comes with each specific time period. Combine any of these elements with a genre listed above and whew, I’m hooked.
Examples: anything by Ruta Sepetys, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Terror, The Borgias
Gif: Midge on Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with the caption "If that's not a deterrent for nuclear war, I don't know what is"
Contemporary with Darker Themes/Suspense Elements/Dark Comedy: If your novel has dark themes, but doesn’t exactly have the hallmark signs of the genres above, I’m interested! Give me your beautifully rendered contemporary settings, vivid, complex characters with messy relationships and mistakes to be made. Basically, if your book could make me cry and feel something, please sign me up. Also, sometimes suspense stories don’t necessarily have a murderer lurking behind every door, but still keep you guessing. Also, dark comedy/black comedy! A dark book doesn’t necessarily have to be joyless (and shouldn’t be!), but I am absolutely here for the darkly absurd and something that’ll make me laugh out loud.
Examples: See All the Stars by Kit Frick, The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, anything by Akemi Dawn Bowman, anything by Jennifer Brown
Gif: George Michael from Arrested Development walking sadly
In ANY SUBMISSION, Some Tropes I Love:
unusual, evocative settings - I’m such a sucker for weird Americana, so anything that involves circuses, carnivals/theme parks, conventions, weird museums, roadside attractions, rundown chain restaurants, seaside tourist traps in the off-season, those mansions that get turned into historical places tourists go through will have me hooked.
road trip books!!!! (which also includes bike/horse/walking/motorcycle books and boats, planes, and trains as settings and/or plot devices too)
Unusual structure (short timeline, dual timeline, multi-POV)
Multi-media stories! If it also involves a podcast script, video transcript, interviews, newspaper clippings, letters, etc, sign me up!
main characters with unusual hobbies
anything to do with Hollywood/celebrities
sex positivity! Whether you’re submitting a novel with a major romantic element, exploring the ace/aro experience, and/or just have an unabashedly horny protagonist, I think it needs to be in YA and welcome it!
weird small towns, especially if there’s some horror or mystery in there
I know I already said this, but morally ambiguous, ambitious characters! Especially girls!! If a reviewer would describe your character as childish, destructive, toxic, unlikeable, obsessive, or downright evil, I will love them and cherish them, give them to me
retellings of all sorts, from the classics to some obscure old piece of media that you’ve done an incredible facelift to
ENEMIES TO LOVERS. And I mean the kind where they want to murder each other at first. I’m such a sucker for a carefully spun arc taking characters at their worst and watching them bloom to a place where they show each other their best. (bonus if it’s queer enemies to lovers)
Villains!! whether they stay villains or get redemption arcs, I’m here for them!
Anything that involves the rock/punk/emo scene, whether in historical or contemporary
QUEERNESS. Look, if your protagonist is anywhere in the world of LGBTQIA+, I want them! Bonus points if they’re a total asshole or morally ambiguous
With that said, I’m always looking for books that craft inclusive worlds, books that reflect the diversity of the real world. This includes sexuality and gender, race, socioeconomic class, immigrant status, religion, neurodiversity, and disability, among other marginalizations. (Diversity in all its forms needs to be well-represented and thoughtfully researched. That applies to all representations of diverse characters, with shared experiences as the author or otherwise! I won’t ask you to disclose and will give the same weight to entries that don’t use an #ownvoices label as the ones that do)
if your book can be described as weird
A NOTE ON NEW ADULT: I love “new adult,” or whatever we’re calling stories exploring the experiences of characters aged 18-24ish. I read it, I write it! And I’ll be accepting it for Pitch Wars! But the first thing I’ll probably ask is to make the book work for the YA market, which may include changes like aging down characters and slightly adjusting theme/voice. But I absolutely would’ve loved first year after high school YA as a teen and I think it’s so important to make it palpable for traditional publishing, so it’s welcome in any of the above genres.
NOT FOR ME:
Please note, this is personal preference and there are so many mentors, many of whom who will likely adore your work! And none of these are completely hard and fast rules, so feel free to @ me or DM me if you want any clarification!
Memoir (or any non-fiction)
Graphic novels (even though I love them, I just don’t know enough about them!)
rom coms or fluffy contemporary
Really fluffy SFF
SFF that’s more world-driven versus character driven (I just don’t quite have the brain to improve the next Lord of the Rings!)
I’m not the best mentor if your book contains a ton of graphic animal violence (a little in survival stories is fine!)
I’m not the best mentor for excessive gore/gore for the sake of gore/stories that rely on body horror
Here’s what you can expect as my mentee:
I’m a huge proponent in making sure my mentee knows why they were chosen. Revisions can be brutal, and the industry as a whole definitely is. It’s so important to be able to tuck away all the praise and know who believes in you on this journey, so I’ll make sure you know. I’m talking endless cheerleading, aesthetics, playlists, and my own head canons you didn’t ask for about your work. This is going to include sections in my edit letter and in the in line comments where I point out what’s working well in the book so you know what’s going right as much as what needs improvement.
The first round we’ll do is an edit letter. In it, I’ll detail aspects of characters, arcs, plot, structure, tension, setting, etc. that can be improved. This could involve weaving in new storylines, combining characters, eliminating chapters and/or adding new ones, the really big picture changes. I’ll encourage you to take a day or two to digest the feedback and come back to me to discuss anything that is confusing or doesn’t feel true to your vision. We can do that over texting, video chat, or email, whichever method makes you most at ease, and I can do this throughout the process. Then, you’ll do your big picture edits and give the manuscript back to me. Then, I’ll do a line edit, where we work on a scene-by-scene, line-by-line level to make sure your tension/characterization is as vivid as possible so readers won’t be able to tear their eyes off the page. From there, I can look at smaller sections of the manuscript, but it’ll pretty much be ready to go. We then move on to the pitch and query materials.
My feedback style is very encouraging and collaborative. I try to give solutions to big problems I note, including a sort of good cop/bad cop situation where I’ll give a radical suggestion and then come up with another solution that’d involve less of a huge change but still has the spirit of the note. As they teach you in screenwriting, you have to find the “note under the note” and I’m always happy to do so. Ultimately, it’s your story and I’m just here to help you raise it to its highest potential!
Thanks for coming through! To follow the YA Mentor Blog Hop, visit my friends’ wish lists: