WHAT IS PITCH WARS?
Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months with revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more. Details about the program and information about how to submit can be found at https://pitchwars.org/
THIS YEAR I’M A YA MENTOR. YES!
WHAT I’M ACCEPTING
I’ll accept the following genres in the YA age category:
GENRES ARE GREAT, BUT WHAT WOULD PUT A BOOK HIGH ON MY LIST?
If it’s Young Adult . . .
Give me a murder during a formal dance, a protagonist I can’t trust, an anti-hero with a soft heart, or a conspiracy at the Junior Science Championship. If it happens during high school and it’s bad, I’m interested.
If your book is dark and twisted, and not everyone makes it out alive, I might be in love with your book already.
If you’ve got a YA GONE GIRL or GIRL ON THE TRAIN, send it to me. I love psychological thrillers and want more of them for YA.
How about a light hearted and current love story? I’m not all about murders and thrillers. Sometimes, you’ve got to get the FEELS. Please punch me in the gut with great emotion.
Diverse stories. I’m excited to discover stories from diverse narratives and am especially drawn to characters and experiences written by voices with direct experiences within these communities. Note: I won’t ask if you share your characters’ diverse narratives and will not expect you to tell me.
Have problems with faeries sabotaging the Homecoming game or demons using the school cafeteria as a portal? I’d be interested in that.
Since I was awkward and forgotten growing up, send me your story about a character left behind who makes the best of things in a comedic way. We can relate.
Supernatural characters or abilities. Check.
Complex relationships. Always.
Romantic plots (and subplots) involving any and all representation. Of course.
Retellings done in a unique and different way. YES!
Give me all the tropes. I’m not picky. When written well, I love them all!
Twists. If you set up a twist right, and I mean perfectly (a little foreshadowing, the right mix of confusion, and a satisfying shock that makes me drop my iPad because I should have seen it coming), I’ll be your fan forever.
STEM Girls. They’re going to save the world, did you know? Well, they are, and their stories are fantastic. If you’ve got a book about one, send it to me. (PS-my Pitch Wars book was about a chemistry genius who might—or might not—have used those skills to poison her best friend.)
PLEASE DON’T SEND ME
Discrimination or bigotry exhibited by the POV character, or any that goes unchecked.
Sexual assault or rape on the page.
Abuse or deliberate death of domestic animals.
SEVERAL BOOKS I’VE ENJOYED
While this isn’t a complete list, perhaps these books relate well with your project? Maybe they could serve as possible comp titles. If you’ve read and enjoyed books like these, we’ve got similar tastes.
A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
The Cousins by Karen McManus
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Under the Dome by Stephen King
QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT I’D LOVE OR WON’T LOVE?
Here are a few questions and my answers:
- Will I accept Horror? YES. YA Horror is definitely welcome.
- Will I accept Sci-Fi? It depends. Anything taking place in space is a no for me.
- Will I accept High Fantasy? Yes. High Fantasy is welcome.
- What are my thoughts about prologues? I enjoy them if they're short and introduce the story well. If the prologue in a book is longer than 3 pages, I'll skip it and start on chapter 1.
WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR IN A MENTEE?
Delightful commitment to their story and the process. That sounds simple and since everyone who enters Pitch Wars has written a book, it seems obvious that they’re committed to it. But here’s the thing: Pitch Wars is hard work—there are physical demands and there are emotional demands. The process of getting a book ready for the showcase takes time, effort, and (maybe) a few tears. I’m looking for a mentee who is excited and determined to make their story better. A positive attitude will be crucial.
MY MENTORING STYLE
Since I’ve been a Pitch Wars Mentee before, I’ve got a pretty good understanding about what future mentees are about to experience. For me, Pitch Wars was a roller coaster ride of emotions. I anticipate this year’s mentees to go through something similar. My role as a mentor is to help my mentee navigate and enjoy every part of Pitch Wars.
I’ll be honest but never brutal. If you’re chosen as my mentee, understand that I’m going to do what I can to help you make your book the best it can be while also having fun. I know, I know—I didn’t put cool gifs on this post or fun, exciting memes. I seem kind of boring and dry on the page. Fear not, future mentee, I’m everything but boring and dry. When we’re working, I’ll share what I feel needs to be fixed, based on my experience, and give details about why. And I’ll always be kind about my feedback. My personal belief is that writing is a journey and this is one exciting part of that. Enjoy the moment. I don’t have all the answers, but I can find them. If I choose your book, I know I can help it.
This is your project and I respect that. If there’s something I’ve recommended that you don’t want to change, so be it. You won’t have to explain why to me, either. I’ve worked on revisions with editors and agents and have held my ground before so I know what that’s like.
Depending on how much work will be necessary, getting your book ready for the showcase can feel daunting. I’ll be here to inspire you and keep you moving forward. If you’ve never done revisions with a deadline before, we’ll work together and establish some benchmarks to fit your schedule. Know, however, that it will be hard work. Sometimes you’ll need to put in the hours and sometimes you’ll want to step away to refocus—with both, I’ll help you hit your goals.
Whatever type of communication you’re comfortable using, we’ll make it happen. Because of my job, I’m usually connected at most times of the day/night. Whether Zoom calls, DM’s, email, chat, or whatever, you’ll be able to reach me. Got a question about a midnight epiphany, I can respond quickly.
A BIT ABOUT ME
Hi, I’m Jamie. Always have been. In 2017, I was a Pitch Wars mentee and my book, I KILLED BRENDA MORRIS, helped me connect with my agent during that year’s agent showcase. I wrote that book for fun after taking a class about unreliable narrators and discovered my writing voice through the project. While that book is still looking for a home, which is fine, I keep busy by writing new things, learning new skills, and helping other authors.
YA mysteries and thrillers are my current love, though I’ve been known to pen some speculative words now and then. I also wrote some light fantasy, once upon a time. My most recent revision project is a mystery involving a high school bus trip in the desert, a violent thunderstorm, and a dead body. My current WIP has witches and warlocks.
I’m a character driven writer and enjoy writing deep POV. Long ago, I learned that pouring my emotions onto the page makes me feel better. So that’s what I do. When my characters make you laugh, that's me on the page. When they make you cry, know that I was crying first.
WHAT ABOUT NON-WRITING STUFF?
Animals have my heart. Give me a choice between a room full of people and a room full of pets and I’ll choose the pets every time. And I might not ever leave the room.
Simplicity is my jam. I enjoy spending time with my kids and my dogs, listening to vinyl records, exploring the outdoors, stargazing, watching movies, reading, testing new recipes, and writing. I work hard at balancing my time because I believe that it’s possible to burn out on all things.
I speak French so I guess that’s interesting. I lived in France for a couple years and got pretty good at the language. Okay, I was fluent at the time. Un peu. Sadly, though, my skill has dropped off due to lack of practice.
During the day, I work as a Retail IT Manager for a fashion and jewelry catalog. This company is great and everyone there has supported my writing since I started there. Several years ago, they let me start a library in their call center so that the employees have books to read when they’re not busy. A couple of my old, self-published books are there (of course!) and it’s fun to wander over and see folks reading my stuff. A couple of my books were actually 100% written while at work.
Lastly, I’m just a nice guy trying to enjoy this writing journey. I’m not loud about much and will shy away from confrontation most of the time. (Although, if I love your Pitch Wars entry, I will fight for it. Know that.) I try to do the right thing as often as I can, but I’m also mischievous so I’ll sometimes play a prank or two.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND OTHER RESOURCES
Still have questions? Find me @JamieMcHenry on Twitter or Instagram. Reach out any time.
Are you still reading this? Wow, good on you! Here’s some bonus material:
My Pitch Wars entry from 2017. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they write. I think this says a lot about me:
I wanted to make this list accessible for everyone, so that’s the reason it’s text only. If you’d like a visual idea of who I am and my tastes, you can find a handful of helpful boards on Pinterest. I've even created a visual wishlist there:
The other YA Mentors’ wish lists are below