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Pitch Wars Wishlist!

Hello there! We are middle grade authors Kit Rosewater and Ash Van Otterloo, and together we make up the MG Pitch Wars mentor duo, #TeamRainbow!

Gif of animated bunny with sparkly happy rainbow appearing behind them.

What is Pitch Wars?

Pitch Wars graphic announcing Kit and Ash as Middle Grade Mentors for 2019

Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. The submission window for applicants opens in late September, mentees are announced in the beginning of November, and the mentoring process spans from November through January. The program ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where literary agents can read the polished pitch and first page of mentee manuscripts and request to read more. To learn more about Pitch Wars, click here!

A little about us…

Scene from roller derby film Whip It with two players giving each other a hearty fistbump.

Kit: I’m a middle grade writer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, though pieces of my heart still reside in Austin, Boston, and along the Oregon coast. In elementary school I was surrounded by a zoo of imaginary animal friends, including a flying horse that walked me to the bus and a bright pink dog that curled up under my desk. My favorite books were ones that made me think magic really could exist. While I still love reading eerie or exciting books with hints of magic, most of what I write is about the other main part of my childhood: groups of friends getting into all sorts of shenanigans. The first book in my debut middle grade series THE DERBY DAREDEVILS comes out in March 2020 through Abrams and is about two best friends who decide to put a junior roller derby crew together in downtown Austin, TX.

Scene from Hocus Pocus featuring the three Sanderson witch sisters.

Ash: I’m a story lover and middle grade writer with roots deep in lower Appalachia (most recently East Tennessee), and have recently moved to the Washington coast with my family, two cats, and one loyal dog. My childhood was filled with books about adventure, lab-produced bigfoots, gentle giants, brave friendships, difficult puzzles, and everything fantastic. I was delighted to find that the insides of books looked a lot like the inside of my head, and that experience helped me feel seen and accepted by the universe. (Is that corny? Ah, well. It’s true!) Books were letters from one soul to another, and all I wanted to do was learn how to write back. My first published “letter,” CATTYWAMPUS, a story about two fledgling rival witches who accidentally resurrect a graveyard, comes out via Scholastic in summer 2020!

What we can offer our mentee...

Scene from Big Hero 6 where Baymax, the inflatable robot, gives their friend a hug and nice headpat.
Giving our mentee ALL the love & support

Aside from giving all the love in our hearts, #TeamRainbow is out to help strengthen our mentee’s voice as a writer and lead our mentee through a revision that deepens emotional character development, pacing, and tension.

Our revising process uses the chosen manuscript as a guide, but the skills and craft we’ll hone will come in handy for every subsequent narrative our mentee undertakes. We’re out to find a writer we connect with, and a story we can support and assist.

As authors, we’ve both gone through our fair share of hefty revision. Kit was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016, and rewrote her entire manuscript for her main revision round. Even though her PW book never went on submission, she used the skills cultivated from Pitch Wars to write what would later become her debut. Ash worked on revisions for her debut with her agent for nearly two years, deepening her understanding of both her own work as well as general character arc and narrative structure. We are big believers in the power of hard work and revision. Between the two of us we have a multitude of resources and knowledge on how to take a manuscript from good to OUTSTANDING. We’re ready to share our spellbook of secrets with a mentee and extend our efforts working behind the scenes to propel new voices into the world.

What we’re looking for in our MG manuscript submissions…

Scene from Murdoch Mysteries wherein a detective examines an object with a magnifying glass.

Mystery—Whether your manuscript is a cozy mystery about an eccentric relative, a traditional whodunit middle grade, a spooky mystery about a haunted house, or even a modern mystery rooted in cryptic web codes, we want to read it! We’ve done our homework in deciphering secret messages and sussing out the bad guys. We want to pick up the clues you’re laying down!

Scene from The Addams Family where the daughter, Wednesday, is cautioning others to "Be afraid, be very afraid."

Horror/ Gothic—We are absolute suckers for all things that creep and go bump in the night. Haunted dolls? Unruly spirits? Buildings no one goes to after dark? WE WANT IN.

Scene from The Hobbit where Bilbo leaves his home and runs after the dwarves, yelling "I'm going on an adventure!"

Adventure—Take us on that quest with you! As long as we’re rooted in the real world, we want to travel over land and sea, winding our way to find that one missing thing or bring back that person or prove the truth that needs to be proved! We’ve got our suitcase and binoculars packed!

Scene from Hey Arnold! where Phobe sits at her schooldesk and remarks "I find it deeply gratifying when my contemporaries achieve success."

Contemporary—We want your coming-of-age stories, your stories about new friendships and deteriorating friendships, about siblings and unique families and school and clubs and fitting in and standing out and ALL THE GROWING UP THEMES. Extra points for contemporary stories that deal with these universal themes told through the lens of intersectional and marginalized characters.

Gif of animated girl staring into the woods while her sweater becomes the woods around her and shimmers.

Elements of Magic—For our *magical* submissions, we’re specifically looking for urban/contemporary fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism.

  • Urban/contemporary—We love narratives that take place in the real world with specific elements of magic. Could magic be real? We want to find out!

  • Paranormal—Give. Us. All. The. Ghosts.

  • Magical realism—We’re also looking for narratives rooted in Latinx culture and tradition that blur the line between reality and fantasy. Check out this article to learn more about magical realism. We’re specifically looking for #ownvoices writers of these stories.

Gif of black & white cartoon-style animated man being chased by a dinosaur one direction, then riding the dinosaur off in the opposite direction.

Graphic Novels—GNs are more of a format than a genre, meaning your graphic novel manuscript could be a mystery, contemporary, adventure, horror, or low-fantasy story. But we have significant market research and formatting know-how for graphic novels, and are eager to see submissions that include graphic novel scripts!

Other things we like…

Diversity—we’re committed to finding and boosting underrepresented voices: writers of color, queer writers, writers with disabilities, and most importantly intersectional marginalized writers

Fresh concepts—this can mean a surprising or fun element that’s rarely explored in middle grade books, or even turning an age-old cliché on its head!

Scene from Moonrise Kingdom where Khaki Scout Sam enters his yellow tent.

Atmospheric details and unique settings—does your story take place in a ship? a caravan of tricycles? a secret fort in the woods? a town or city dripping with character? We want it!

Humor—while burping and farting jokes aren’t really our jam, laughing while reading is! Give us that MG perspective on life that makes us snort at the subtext or laugh alongside the characters.

Scene from The Sandlot where the team of boys peeks over the top of a fence.

Friend groups—the best way to get to know main characters is through their interactions with other people, especially other kids! We want to see friend groups, enemies, classmates, teams, neighbors… if there’s a crew in your story, we want to meet them.

Gif of stage production ensemble throwing out jazz hands and then taking a bow.

Productions—our inner theatre nerd might be coming out, but we adore all the antics of kids making a scene, whether it’s a play, film, web video, protest, or anything else you can think of!

Nature—doesn’t matter if it’s thick, evergreen trees, the pale sage of the desert, or the rolling angry tide of the ocean. We love nature!

Some of our favorite books:

  • The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

  • Doll Bones by Holly Black

  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman

  • Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

  • All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

  • Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

  • Echo by Pam Muños Ryan

  • Holes by Louis Sachar

  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

What we’re not the best match for…

  • High fantasy—taking place in another world

  • Portal fantasy—sending characters from our world to another world

  • Science fiction

  • Historical fiction

  • Books where an animal dies—we cannot relive Where the Red Fern Grows

  • Contemporary heavy issue books centering on addiction, abuse, assault, or mental illness

Gif of animated girl in pink listening on her headphones and sitting on a raining cloud as a rainbow forms behind her.

That’s it! If you have any questions on what we’re looking for, feel free to reach out to our handles for clarification over on Twitter. And please check out the other mentors and mentor groups on the Pitch Wars blog hop page and below!

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