Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#PitchWars Picks!!

Pitch Wars has been one awesome whirlwind, and today our picks are live!

It was a tough choice, and I want to thank each and every one of the writers who sent me an application because they felt I would make a worthy mentor for their hard work. I truly appreciated the personalized queries and the time you took to research what made me tick. Unfortunately, time constraints didn't allow me to write personalized feedback to each one of you, but it came down to this:

I could only choose one, and it had to blow me away. The end.

And so, without further ado, the manuscript/author I am SO excited to mentor is......


I was drawn to this one right away. The concept made me sit up and take notice, and to say the sample pages didn't disappoint is an understatement. 

My two alternates are:

CLOUD NINE by Sara Biren

These were fabulous, humorous YA contemps that I fell in love with, and still hope to read (wink wink, ladies).

Congratulations to all the Pitch Wars mentor/author teams, and a big thank you to Brenda Drake for putting this contest together! Looking forward to the agent round!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Introducing The #PitchWars Agent Lineup!

Pitch Wars ... the agents!

Are you ready for this? We have 16 incredible agents vying for our Pitch Wars team manuscripts. We're so excited to see what pitches they fall in love with, and what teams will win the coveted Pitch Wars Most Requested Manuscript title.

And, in no particular order, here are the agents...

Louise Fury
L. Perkins Agency
Twitter: @louisefury

Louise is seeking teen Sci-Fi and Young Adult horror. She's also on the hunt for deep, dark contemporary YA and select Middle Grade fiction with a literary feel--it must be realistic and thought provoking and the characters must be authentic and original. Louise loves horror and romance, especially Regency and Victorian.

Jessica Sinsheimer
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Twitter: @jsinsheim

Jessica is seeking Literary, Women's, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction.

Twitter: @Natalie_Lakosil

Natalie is looking for commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-teen), romance (contemporary, paranormal and historical), and upmarket women’s fiction. Specific likes include historical, multi-cultural, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, and middle grade with heart.

Twitter: @BookaliciousPam

Pam represents young adult and middle grade children’s book authors, and adult romance authors.

Twitter: @bluedragonfly81

Jordy is on the look out for Romance (contemporary, historical/Regency, and paranormal). YA contemporary/historical or dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy with romance elements. She's also open to YA GLBT within those genres. She'd love to see unique, well-developed plots featuring time travel, competitions, or travel.

Andrea Somberg
Twitter: @andreasomberg

Andrea's looking for the following categories: Fiction; literary, commercial, womens fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, middle grade.

Jennifer Mishler
Twitter: @literarycounsel

Jennifer is seeking Young Adult Fantasy, Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Literary, and Young Adult Historical.

Suzie Townsend
New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
Twitter: @sztownsend81

Suzie represents adult and children's fiction. In adult, she's specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens' she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

Victoria Marini
Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc.

Victoria is looking for literary fiction, commercial fiction, pop-culture non-fiction, and young adult. She is very interested in acquiring engaging Literary fiction and mysteries / suspense, commercial women's fiction (romantic suspense, sci-fi, fantasy), and Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ).

Kerry is looking for Young Adult and Middle-Grade fiction, both commercial and literary. She tends to shy away from werewolves, zombies, faeries, and the like, but she’ll read anything with a fresh voice and compelling characters. She is particularly keen on contemporary YA, quirky MG, books with a strong cinematic element.

Drea is currently seeking: fiction, memoir, crime, non-fiction and YA. Her roster consists of British, American, and Canadian clients. International talent is welcome.

Katie Shea

Katie specializes in fiction and memoir, especially women’s fiction and commercial-scale literary fiction, and realistic YA. She is most interested in coming-of-age stories and stories of unique relationships.

Elise Capron

Elise is interested in serious character-driven literary fiction, well-written narrative nonfiction, and short story collections. (Note: She is not interested in Fantasy, young-adult/middle-grade, picture books, romance, and sci-fi.) She aims to work with writers who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience.

Jodell is interested in YA, MG (especially funny) , fiction and nonfiction, book proposals, and picture books. She will also coach writers wanting to self publish. She simply loves a well-paced story that moves her between joy and tears.

Brittany and Michelle are teaming up to look for Adult, YA, and MG manuscripts.

Michelle Johnson
Twitter: @MJsRetweet

Michelle’s published one novel, The Footloose Killer, and edited several others for publishing houses and private clients. She also is a Script/Story consultant on an independent film in Halifax, NS, Canada, and enjoys working closely with writers to help them develop their voice and craft.

Brittany Howard
Twitter: @brittanydhoward

When reading, Brittany loves to be introduced to new and interesting people and places. She looks for strong voice, good storytelling, and fascinating relationships between characters—romantic or otherwise. More than anything, she loves when a book surprises her.

There's just one more day to get your applications in for Pitch Wars. Make sure to check out this post here to get all the details.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My #PitchWars Wish List And Deets On How To Submit!

Can I just tell you all (again) how beyond excited I am to have the opportunity to mentor in Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars contest? Because I am!

And... Today is the day when I get to share my wish list! It's like Christmas up in here!

But first, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

Tis I.  Touched up? What? Who said that?

I am a writer and avid reader of young adult novels. I sometimes (okay, quite often) prefer books to the company of real people. Smallville is my favorite TV show of ever, or at least the first six seasons were. I believe everything tastes better fried and/or covered in chocolate. Related: I hate to cook, but my Ipod and the spontaneous solo dance parties I have in my kitchen make it bearable. I am the World's Slowest Drafter, known for cracking up or crying at my own writing, and prone to the occasional egotistical outburst on Twitter (all in good fun, promise). I'm going to my first SCBWI conference in February, and I am represented by John M. Cusick at the Scott Treimel agency. You can read about the YA Contemporary romance he signed me for here.

What to expect in a critique from me:
-Honesty, first and foremost.

When I absolutely luuuuurve something about your manuscript, I don't hold back the praise. But I will also be honest, in the most constructive way possible, about anything that might need tweaking in order to make the novel work better.

- Checks on grammar, repeated phrases, correct use of "who" vs. "that" etc.
(I was an English major, I can't help myself.) Also?

- Demands for more kissing

Totally kidding about this one. Sort of.

And now......In the Categories of Young Adult and New Adult...... Please pitch to me your:

-Contemporary and Contemporary Romance!
I want something that will make me do this:



ALL IN THE SAME BOOK! I want to feel like I just ran through an obstacle course of searing, burgeoning teenage emotion. Or new adult emotion. I like sexy, smart, and funny. Romance is my bread and butter.

-Thrillers and Psychological Thrillers with a Strong Romantic Element
If your book can keep me on the edge of my seat or make me question my own sanity while still making me swoon, consider my interest piqued. In other words, THIS:

Plus THIS:

= Gina coming after you with Grabby Hands

Paranormal Romance
Yes, I'm still a fan of paranormal. I don't mind creatures, though I admit I prefer my paranormal elements to be ghostly rather than vampirical or lupine. But Imma post a picture of Taylor Lautner's abs anyway. You're welcome.

Looking forward to seeing what you guys are working on and helping you make it the best it can be! (And if you'd like to know some specific books that make me tick, check out my "Books We're Thankful For" post on the YA Misfits Blog today!


Submissions start today (11/26) ! The cut off time to get your applications (query & first five pages of manuscript) in is 8PM EST on December 5

Send your applications to Writers can apply for up to 3 coaches. The coaches' categories are set. Coaches can only consider the categories they've signed up for. Writers cannot apply for a coach who is not in their category.

For additional information about this contest go HERE 

·        This is open to finished manuscripts only.

·         You may only enter one manuscript.

·         Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.


Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title (Example: Pitch Wars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name

Genre: The genre of your manuscript

Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here  (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.


REMINDER: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.

Check back soon for a complete list of the amazing agents participating in the contest. There's over a dozen!
Today all the coaches are posting bios/wish lists on their blogs. So before choosing your top 3 picks, check all the coaches' posts in your category before deciding which coach to submit. To jump from blog to blog, just click on our pictures below. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pitch Wars Details!

You guys! I am so excited to be part of the fabulous Brenda Drake's newest contest! It'll be hosted at the YA Misfits blog, my home away from home, and it's coming SOON!

We're extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where  agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here are the deets...

·         The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.

·         November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They'll be very specific genres. (*COUGH* YA Romance and YA Romantic Thrillers for me *COUGH*) Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts. 

·         November 26 through December 5 at 8PM EST: Aspiring writers will submit 3 "applications" to their top choices for coaches to the contest email ( That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach.

·         December 5 through December 10: Coaches will read the applications and pick teammates.The coaches don't have to pick from their applications. If a coach passes on an application, it is then up for grabs and another coach, if they haven't connected to their applicants, can snatch it after notifying the applicant and if the applicant chooses the coach.

·         December 12: Teams will be announced. On the announcement post there will be instructions on how the winners must send their work.

·         December 12 through January 16: Each coach will read their teammate's manuscript and give general notes on any issues they find. The coach will help their teammate get his or her pitches ready for the agent round.

·         Note: The material for the agent round will be a 3 sentence pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. Coaches will read manuscripts and query letters only once and give notes. It is up to the writer to use the notes from their coaches to get the manuscript and query letter in as best shape as they can to send to requesting agents. The coaches will critique the three sentence pitch and first 250 words. The coaches will read them as many times as they deem necessary. In no way will writers expect the coaches to read the manuscript and query letter more than once or the pitches more than twice.

·         January 20: Coaches will submit shined pitches to the contest email.

·         January 23 and 24: Agents will read and make requests on the pitches they like (it is likely that not all participants will get requests).

·         January 25: We'll announce the team with the most requests and who will take home the winning prizes (an amazon gift card for each).

·         This is open to finished manuscripts only.

·         You may only enter one manuscript.

·         Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.


Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title (Example: Pitch Wars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name

Genre: The genre of your manuscript

Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here  (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.


REMINDER: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.

Our mentors ...

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Monday, November 12, 2012

When Life Imitates Art: Changes in the Wind

I'm finding it pretty ironic lately that I wrote a novel about a girl who can't wait to get away from her hometown.

Especially since the hometown in said novel - despite the made-up name - basically *is* the town I've lived in for a good chunk of my life. I always thought that, like my main character, Kelsey, I'd jump at the chance to move somewhere more glamorous, someplace a little further from my roots.

Until the opportunity hit. Like a freaking tidal wave.

My husband's company announced last month that they're closing their corporate office in Connecticut and relocating to Georgia.

We knew it was a possibility though, granted, we didn't expect it to happen this soon. I'd always told my husband that if he was offered a position in Georgia, I'd move without question.

I was wrong.

The realization of how alone I will be has been hitting me like a hail storm. My entire family is here, and I'll be down there. By myself. Working from home while my husband goes to the office every day. Granted, I will probably get a ton of writing done this way but...

I can't watch movies with my sister anymore

When my whole family is gathered at my grandmother's house every Sunday for lunch, I won't be there

My little nieces and nephews will barely know me

If I finally have a child, no one from my family will be there to watch him or her grow up. Or help me.

I will literally be ALL. ALONE.

When I wrote LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE, I wrote it with my high school mentality that change was awesome (and yes, it can be). It's escape. It's a new chance, a new start, especially if circumstances haven't been the greatest. And honestly, if I'd been presented with this opportunity when *I* was in high school, I would've jumped just as quickly as Kelsey did.

But while I know this move could be a fantastic thing for myself and my husband, I can't help but marvel at how my adult worries and fears have made my reality so much different from my young adult fantasies.

Funny how things change in the real world, eh?

Have you ever found yourself facing a situation similar to one you'd written? Would you make the same decision as your character? And for the love, can anyone out there tell me some relocation stories with happy endings?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Freak Storms and Freak Outs, Oh My!

So those of you who follow my random rants and rambles on Twitter know that Hurricane Sandy hit Connecticut pretty hard. We were without electricity from Monday afternoon until Friday night - and strangely enough, it happened one year to the day after the Freak October Snow Storm of 2011 that also left us without power for days, which I blogged about here.

Being holed up at my in-laws house for three days left me with a lot of time on my hands, or at least more than I'm used to. And you know what?

I was less productive writing-wise than I would've been if I'd had to lie, cheat, and steal for time like I normally do.

I'd like to blame it on being cold and tired and out of sorts, all of which were factors, but the truth is...

It seriously freaked me out to have time to write.

Some people work better under pressure, and apparently I'm one of them. My words only want to cooperate when they're forbidden fruit, being covertly clicked out between phone calls and purchase orders and cooking meals and scrubbing toilets. Which begs the question - What the hell is wrong with them?

Is it just me, peeps? Or do any of you find that the moments you *can* write are the moments you'd rather do anything but?

On a more serious note, I'm well aware that four days in the dark is nothing compared to what some people faced after the storm. Many homes were destroyed, flooded, or vandalized. Here are some photos taken around my town - my heart goes out to those who lost much more than electricity.

This house is about two miles from mine. The worst damage I saw.

Tree in the power lines

Uprooted tree in front of my old house. I lived here during high school.

Mammoth branch that fell in our backyard - thankfully that was all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Blog Hop!

Happy Halloween, peeps!

Today the lovely Valerie Cole is interviewing me on her blog as part of the YA Misfits Halloween Blog Hop.

We're talking about everything from getting an agent to respecting the fluff to the best Halloween candy. Come over and say hello, and don't forget to check out the other Misfits interviews too!

Friday, October 26, 2012

When Plotting Meets Pantsing

Good Morning and Happy Friday all!

Today I'm over at the YA Misfits blog talking about being a Plotser - a Plotter/Pantser hybrid.

Hop on over and tell us about your writing style!

Monday, October 22, 2012

For the Love of Metaphor

I love finding metaphors in stories - it amazes me when something common or unassuming represents a much deeper meaning for a character as his or her story unfolds.

One of the recurring metaphors in my recently-completed ms, SHADOW PARK, is the sunset. And with a title like that, I should probably be embarrassed to admit that it was unintentional until the very end of the novel.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know it makes sense that I'd find a way to make this everyday occurrence into something significant to my beloved main character, whether I meant to do it or not. Why, you ask?

Because I'm a little obsessed. And I have the pictures to prove it (All of these were taken with my cell phone):

Every night I stand by my front door and watch the sun sink into the horizon. It never fails to enthrall me. Stunning pinks and golds, clouds that appear lit from within, colors changing and shifting and igniting until the light finally dies. And I get to witness a new version of it, every. Single. Night.

The same and different, all at once. Endings and beginnings. Time moving forward.

Metaphor? YES PLEASE.

Your turn, peeps - tell me all about your favorite metaphors you've incorporated into your stories. Was it intentional, or happy coincidence?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Get Your #PitchOn Workshop 2 - DREAMHOPPERS

Hi Everyone!

Here's pitch #2 for our Get Your Pitch On workshops!

Remember to leave your (kind, helpful) critique in the comments and check out the other hosting blogs here!


Genre: YA Fantasy/Adventure

Word-count: 61,500

Can a dream open a door to a different reality? Alex finds himself sharing the same dream night after night with a group of young teens he's never met before. While struggling to make sense of the eerie phenomenon, he and his nocturnal companions undertake a harrowing adventure of mystery and danger to save a boy’s life. Before the surprising conclusion, they bond and become forever DreamHoppers.

Gina's Notes:

I think this pitch has a lot of potential. I love the idea of dreams opening up doors to different realities, but I'd have to strongly advise you to:

- Get rid of the rhetorical question. As someone who's done her share of querying, I know it's a huge pet peeve to many a publishing professional. The pitch should be formulated so that the reader is left asking *themselves* the big questions - namely the ones that will make them want to keep reading. Posing a question they can't answer doesn't help them to know more about why they want to read your story, so you don't lose anything by chopping it.

- The second sentence is great. I love that he finds himself in a recurring dream with people he knows, but at the same time, doesn't know. It's actually a great way to open the pitch.
My only question is how he knows they're real people having the same dream, as opposed to people he just happens to dream of every night.

- The last two sentences need to paint a clearer picture of the conflict. Saying the boys take on a harrowing/mysterious/dangerous adventure is telling, when we need you to show us.
            For example, why is it dangerous? Why does this particular boy's life need saving? How is he related to their mysterious dream phenomenon? What is it that throws a wrench into everything? A few words about the meat of the conflict will create much more interest than non-specific adjectives and nouns.

- Same thing for the last sentence. We're not really aware what a DreamHopper is or does, or even how or why they'd be one "forever." But using the word forever allows the reader to assume that becoming a DreamHopper *is* the conclusion of the story, which negates the promised "surprise" aspect of the next sentence. Again - show us what's surprising, rather than telling us.

Other than that, fabulous concept that definitely has the potential to wow. Best of luck!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Get Your #PitchOn Workshop - SATELLITE HEARTS

Get Your Pitch On workshops have officially started!

Once again, you can find the list of participating blogs here. Please hop around the other entrants' pitches, and remember to be kind and helpful with your critique! (And also, there are incentives!)

Here's the pitch we're spotlighting at Gina's Writer's Blog today:

Genre: YA Sci-fi
Word-count: 95,000
At sixteen years old, Zahra’s only purpose in life is to kill and then die. Zahra is a synthetic human (Prog) genetically designed by her father and encrypted with instructions to assassinate his recent project, Sycorax, a deadly Prog. Declared property of her father’s genetic alteration company, Zarha is exiled from her country to Antarcion, a prestige Facility that offers intense training for Progs. There she meets her target victim.

Gina's Notes:

I really love those first two sentences - cyborg assassin? Yes, please! I'd suggest streamlining them a little, removing some extra words for the sake of flow, and also to eliminate confusion. Like so:

Sixteen-year-old Zahra's only purpose in life is to kill. 

- I removed "and die" from the sentence, because I think it creates a lot of questions - for example, does she die immediately after her kill is made, like some kind of black widow mating ritual? Why does she have to die just because she kills? Does she become someone else's target? Etc. I think it's strong enough without the mention of dying.

Zahra is a Prog, a synthetic human designed by her father and encrypted with instructions to assassinate his recent (*) project-gone-wrong, Sycorax. 

Here, I took out "deadly Prog," because it seems to me that deadly kind of comes with the Prog territory. And I'd love a word or two added about *WHY* Zahra has to kill Sycorax. Is it because he's actually her father's (*) project-gone-wrong (I made this up and stuck in the pitch as an example)?" Something to indicate what's at stake, rather than making the killing sound random or for sport.

The last two sentences are where things get tricky - or at least they're supposed to. Here's how they're written now:

Declared property of her father’s genetic alteration company, Zarha is exiled from her country to Antarcion, a prestige Facility that offers intense training for Progs. There she meets her target victim.

What we need is a sense of conflict - Zahra being sent off for training doesn't seem important except for the fact that it's where she meets her target - and then what? What is the aspect of this story that turns everything on it's head? 
- Does Zahra fall in love with Sycorax? Does she find out there's another reason she has to kill him, one that she never suspected? Is Sycorax simultaneously hunting her?

These last sentences should really make the reader *NEED* to find out what happens to this character. The problem is, we can assume we already know - Zahra is assigned a target, kills him/her, and dies, because that's what you've told us she was born to do, and there's nothing to indicate otherwise.

End on something really juicy, and people will be chasing this pitch with a fork and knife. At least I know I would!

Okay, your turn, peeps! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All the Cool Kids are Doing It...

Wanna know what it's all about?

More important - want one of your own?

Hop over to the YA Misfits blog right now and chat Contemporary Romance with us! See you there, peeps!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Get Your Pitch On!

Hey guys!

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that starting October 1st, this little old blog will be one of the host sites for Get Your Pitch On workshops!
Here are the deets:

Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado, will be poised and ready to take your pitches both on Down Under Wonderings and the YAtopia blog on October 15th.

Marisa is looking for YA in any genre and is accepting submissions from any where in the world. It’s your chance to skip the slush pile and put your pitch right under the nose of a fantastic editor. There’s even better news – there is no limit on how many requests Marisa will make from the contest.
Here are the rules:
  • Your manuscript must be complete, polished and ready to query – this means no first drafts or almost finished manuscripts.
  • It must be YA.
  • When the contest goes live on October 15th, post your entry details in the comments section of either YAtopia or Down Under Wonderings – each blog is accepting 100 entries only.
  • Your entry detail needs to include a 50 – 70 word pitch.
  • You can enter more than once if you have more than one complete, polished, ready to query manuscript.
Your contest details should be formatted like this:

Name: Sharon Johnston
Email: smjohnston [ @ ]
Country of residence: Australia
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Word-count: 58,000

Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Mishca Richardson is a sleeper soldier with a weak heart. She has no idea that a life saving heart transplant has accidentally triggered her programming. In the search for answers, she discovers the truth and that her creator, Wirth, has classified her remaining “sisters” from her experiment group as defective, scheduling them for termination. Mishca sets out to save them before they’re eliminated.

Just as it’s important to get someone else to look over your manuscript before you query, it’s a good idea to get feedback on your pitch before you post. We have about twenty blogs who are ready to help you hone your pitch. These workshops start on October 1 and you can find the list of blogs participating here.

Also – make sure to use the #PitchOn hashtag on Twitter to follow all the news now and be part of the excitement during the contest.

Ready to Get Your Pitch On, peeps?