Heather Cashman and McKelle George
McKelle: So, I was never a Pitch Wars mentee, but I did enter my book (now about to debut with HarperCollins) in one of the Pitch Madness contests, and it was the rush of attention from agents during that time that ultimately got me my agent now. I love the community of Pitch Wars, the hustle of so many hopefuls working hard on their craft. I love the way it really does feel a little like putting on armor and chest-bumping each other before going into the fray.
Heather: I was never a Pitch Wars mentee either. I did enter one year, was rejected and didn’t hear a peep from any of the mentors. I didn’t immerse myself in the community at all, because back then, I didn’t have Twitter. Determined to find out why I wasn’t chosen or why my queries weren’t getting full requests, I applied for a few jobs in the publishing community. Over the years, I became Managing Director of Pitch Wars, ended up becoming an agent intern, and finally an editor with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. I fell in love with editing and Pitch Wars. I’ve seen and helped mentees get agented, get book deals, find amazing CPs, and felt the support and encouragement of literally thousands of Pitch Wars contestants. I love you guys!
Today we are truly honored to be able to participate as co-mentors this year, and so, without further ado—
The real reason you’re here (ie, not to hear us blather):
(Ha ha, get it? Because yaay is like a YA sandwich?)
- magical realism (think A.S. King and Andrew Smith more than Leslye Walton)
- high concept/speculative*
[*Speculative, IF high concept (examples: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Every Day by David Levithan, The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich, The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness) –> in other words, portal or magic fantasy will be harder sell, but we do like books that seem to defy genre because they’re based on one “what if?”-type idea.]
GENRES (more specific)
- Alternate history/history with a modern spin (example: My Lady Jane; And I Darken)
- Unconventional love stories
- Diversity (I’m particularly interested in characters who struggle with dualities of nature and/or culture; characters who straddle two different worlds)
- Villain origin stories
- Gothic in the vein of Penny Dreadful or Crimson Peak
THINGS WE LIKE
Semi-recent contemporary books we’ve loved:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
- You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Garber
- Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
- Rainbow Rowell books
Warning: We do love contemporary books, but I (McKelle) been subbed a lot of them recently, so we’re really looking for something gritty, real, fearless, and unapologetic about its story.
If you’re an artist WE WOULD LOVE to see ways we can integrate your art with your manuscript.
Magical realism books we love:
- Anything by A.S. King
- The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
- Whimsical and family-centered books, like Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman
- Magical realism/mental illness blends: like Andrew Smith, or Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes, or Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Again, if you’re an artist WE WOULD LOVE to see ways we can integrate your art with your manuscript.
Historical books we love (including alternate history!):
- Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
- Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
- Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
- Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- And I Darken/Now I Rise by Kiersten White
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Sidebar: (McKelle) I’m feeling the history right now, guys. My own debut is set in the 1920s. If you have a historical novel, I AM A REALLY GOOD BET. Bonus if it has: gangsters, LGBT characters, girls who misbehave and make history.
We don’t want to mislead those with high fantasy books, but there are a lot of unique, rich, political, awesome books we wouldn’t want to miss out on by banning the genre. So!
Here’s an idea of what we do like:
Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies we’ve recently enjoyed (things they have in common: a bit darker, complex and mature in plot, not overly romance-heavy, unique brand of “magic”):
- The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
- The Raven Cycle and Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
- Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Seriously, write me the YA version of this book, and I’m sold.)
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik
- The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
- Any books by Victoria Scwab
- The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies that we can completely understand why people love, and are totally great books, but we tried and just really not to our taste so if your book is more along this vein, we might not be the best bet:
- The Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
- The Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
- Snow Like Ashes, by Sara Raasch
- City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
- Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
- The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Do you have a sci-fi/fantasy/horror book that you think I would just love [for example: (Heather really loves Maas’s books, so we STILL might be a good choice after all, never say never], even though we’re not strictly looking for that genre? Can you submit them to me anyway?
Like we said, what we’d really love to find is something that no one has ever done before, so please send to us!
CURRENT NON-BOOK OBSESSIONS THAT SPEAK TO MCKELLE’S TASTE:
Hamilton (the musical)
Saga (the comic series)
Monstress (graphic novel)
THINGS THAT HEATHER LIKES TO REVISIT:
Whew. And now, if you still think you have a book that would mesh well with our tastes and specialties, a little about us:
McKelle: I was formally an acquisitions editor with Jolly Fish Press, a small press publishing house, and now work as a contract editor with Flux Publishing. Some of my recent titles and projects include: JERKBAIT by Mia Siegert, SEEKING MANSFIELD by Kate Watson, WELCOME HOME, an anthology curated by Eric Smith, and NOTHING BUT SKY by Amy Trueblood. I also have experience working as an assistant at A+B Literary Agency, and an editorial intern at the Friend, a children’s magazine.
I’m a young adult author, and my debut, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Sept. 19, 2017—it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in Prohibition-era New York. I’m represented by Katie Grimm, of Don Congdon Associates.
Heather: I’m Managing Director of Pitch Madness, Pitch Wars, and #PitMad (and occasionally #PitMatch). I was an editor with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy as well as a Pitch Wars Mentor for two years. I’ve helped agented authors prepare manuscripts for submission, as well as helped unagented authors land agents.
McKelle: I live in downtown Salt Lake City with a huge white German Shepherd. If I’m not editing or writing, I’m working at the Salt Lake City Public Library, which I humbly consider one of the best libraries in the world.
I love the theater (even though I have no talent for it myself), and traveling. I have two other talents besides books, and those are: eating, and doodling. I got my associates in Illustration, and if I hadn’t become a writer, I would have been an illustrator, with a focus on character design and graphic novel work. I’m definitely out of practice, but I still love it. (Do mentees get a drawing of their mc? Why yes, even if they don’t want it.)
Heather: In my spare time I love marathon TV, kayaking, bicycling, and cooking. And eating. I love to eat good and interesting and new types of food. Especially if it’s a recipe by Paul Hollywood.
We’re thorough—in addition to two eyes and opinions on your ms, you will get an edit letter, a phone call (if you want one), in-document comments, and then probably line edits—and occasionally we will suggest things that might fix the problem areas we see, but we like hearing your solutions even more. We like a good brainstorming session. If we choose your manuscript, we guarantee there was something about it we couldn’t pass up. We will celebrate and make sure you know the ways your book is beautiful and unique—however, if your book is pretty fresh off the friends-and-family feedback glow, we’d still love to see it, just, you know, brace yourself for slightly tougher treatment.