Team KrakenBee’s Wish List of Dreams, Part 2

Hello Krakens, Bees, and Potential Mentees!

Without further ado, welcome to PART 2 of our wish list—this time with even more krakens, bees, and gifs. If you’ve missed part 1 of our #PitchWars wish list, check out Kim’s blog post here!

If you’ve stumbled across this page by happy accident, Pitch Wars is an intensive mentoring competition ending in an agent round. You can read all about it here.

Scroll on to find Tropes We Love, What We’re Not Looking For, What We’re Looking For in A Mentee, and so many gifs!

TROPES AND OTHER THINGS WE’D LOVE TO SEE IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT 

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AN EMOTIONAL ARC!

This isn’t a trope, but we LOVE a good inner journey for your main character. In almost all of our favorite stories, the main character is fighting two battles: an internal one and an external one. Whether your MC conquers the kingdom or the spelling bee**, we’d love them to be figuring out something about their place in the world, their friendships, or their families. So send along stories of siblings figuring out how to get along as they rid their middle school of aliens or a kid dealing with a friendship breakup during the National Crossword Puzzle Championship.

**That wasn’t even supposed to be a bee pun. THEY JUST HAPPEN.

Here’s Moana’s inner journey in GIF form. Should she do what is expected of her OR should she chase her own dreams?

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OH! And don’t freak out if you don’t have one or if you feel your character’s inner journey/emotional arc is a bit slight. That’s why we’re here! If you’re willing to put the work in to revise and add an inner journey or expand on your main character’s emotional drive, please sub to us and we will work on it with you!

🔥 DRAGONS 🔥

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We love friendly dragons, fierce dragons, and lady dragons toppling the patriarchy. Let’s put it this way— if you have a book with dragons, and you don’t sub to us, we’re going to find out, and this is going to happen:

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ENEMIES WHO HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER

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Make these two do a class project together. Have them run the Hogwarts Newspaper. Where is that sequel?

GIRL POWER

Send us your girl bosses leaders, your leaders, your unapologetic feminists!

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(Apologies to all readers. This is the part of the wish list where Kim couldn’t convince Jennifer to use a “reasonable amount of Harry Potter gifs.” Jen did not understand the assignment.)

FOOD, FOODIES

giphy-12.gifEverything from food trucks to restaurants to picnics to bakeries to secret ingredients to long-lost recipes that need to be re-created, food stories are our jam. (BWAHAHAHAHA! Jam–get it?) It could be magical food, like that secret ingredient extracted from red toadstools that make wishes come true. (You have heard about that, right?) Or non-magical mouthwatering culinary dreams, like a kid competition Chopped Jr. or MasterChef Jr.

Jen’s going on sub with a book that is basically an ode to Italian food, and in Kim’s books, food often plays a critical role.

So yeah, we’re here for the food. 

KRAKENS & BEES

OK, this might seem obvious, but if you have a manuscript that features krakens and/or bees and you DON’T sub to #TeamKrakenBee, we will die of embarrassment. Actual footage below:

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WHAT WE’RE NOT LOOKING FOR

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Portal fantasy will be an uphill battle for us, simply because there is a lot of it out there. We’ve read so many of them at this point, and it’s very hard to stand out in a crowded market. Unless there is something totally weird or unique about it, we probably aren’t interested. And here’s an unfortunate tip—after reading a lot of them in a row, agents and publishers tend not to be interested either. It really does have to have a unique concept to make our ears perk up.

Sick/dying/diseased kids, parents. Not for us. Jen needs to stop crying on the subway. It is becoming a problem.

Animal main characters. UNLESS it’s a sidekick to a human.*

giphy-11.gif(*This is the Phib exception, named after Diana DeBolt’s frog, Phib, in her Cinderella retelling. Diana was Kim’s mentee in 2017. If you have an animal sidekick and wish to sub to us, make sure to thank @DianaDebolt and the snarky Phib.)

Graphic novels. We love these, but we don’t know what to do with them! There are other awesome mentors actively looking.

If you are NOT a person of color, a book with a POC as the sole main character will be a tough sell for us. Please read this for a breakdown on the lack of POC authors in publishing.

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR IN A MENTEE!

We want to fall in love with a story. Voice, yes. Concept, yes, and then . . . a mentee who has a polished manuscript, but is open to revising and even gutting characters or sub-plots if it makes the manuscript better. Declining a suggestion/revision because it’s too much work is not acceptable to us. Please do not sub to us if you really are not open to considering massive revisions or changes.

The revising period this year is nearly four months. If you’re entering to just change a few commas or move a couple paragraphs around, you don’t need Pitch Wars. Just go ahead and query!

(For example, last year as a mentee, Jennifer rewrote about a third of her manuscript. She removed one subplot, added two more, cut six characters, and reworked her MC’s emotional arc. It was a journey.)

Pitch Wars is for writers who are seeking developmental help with their manuscript, whether it’s pacing, plot, character arc, or overall structure. We want a mentee who will listen to our suggestions and then run with them. We’ll shine a light on things that need revising, whether that’s adding an inner journey, an outer journey, a plot element, solidifying the emotional aspects, or whatever the fix is. We’re not going to tell you what to write. We’re going to tell you why something isn’t working. We are so happy to brainstorm revision ideas with you, but the story is yours. We’ll never say: you must revise this way.  

We love helping writers. Outside of Pitch Wars, we are critique partners. We bounce revision ideas off one another. As our mentee, we want you to join our team.

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Basically, you are awesome for writing a book, and you are awesome for wanting to improve your manuscript! We will never forget that this is YOUR journey and your book. While we will make suggestions, we are open to discussing each and every one with you. If you disagree, prove us wrong! In the end:

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Finally, all we can say is:

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Sub to us!! If you have any questions about our wish list or seek clarification, hit us up on twitter @KimLongMG and/or @itsjennylbrown. #TeamKrakenBee Don’t be shy!

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https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-2018-mentor-blog-hop/

How I Got My Agent in 30 Easy Steps!

  1. To my grand surprise, I finally finished writing my very first novel. This novel took me YEARS to write. I wrote it between acting gigs. I wrote in audition waiting rooms and on trains. I scribbled ideas for it in scripts and while I was supposed to be paying attention in acting class. And lo and behold, I FINISHED!
  2. I edited that book.
  3. I decided it was ready!
  4. It wasn’t. I edited it more. I aged it down from YA to MG, which made so much sense for my voice and story. Sadly, it was now WAY too long. #whoops
  5. I cut SO MANY WORDS.
  6. It was still too long.
  7. I did Query Kombat in 2016 with that book. My query and first page made it to the top 16 queries! Also, I met some amazing MG writers who became my CPs.
  8. I submitted to Pitch Wars with that book, hoping a mentor would choose me and tell me what to cut. To distract myself during the Pitch Wars submission window, I dove into my second novel.
  9. I got totally wonderfully distracted. I loved writing in 1st person. I loved my narrator, a girl everyone called Lisa Pizza who lived with her dad above her family’s Italian restaurant. I loved the elaborate word games she played with her best friend and the neighborhood seance she dragged him to where a whopper of a curse landed on both their heads.
  10. I didn’t get into Pitch Wars 2016, but I launched into the fall with so much energy. I made more friends through Pitch Wars who became CPs. A few mentors who didn’t choose me were kind enough to offer great feedback on my still-too-long first novel, but I was too distracted to apply those notes immediately.
  11. I was too busy drafting Lisa Pizza.
  12. It took me YEARS to finish a draft of my first novel. I had a working draft (with only one “insert scene here” comment) of Lisa Pizza’s Pernicious Curse in December.
  13. I sent Lisa Pizza to my CPs. I got notes!
  14. I edited!
  15. I sent it to more CPs!
  16. I edited more and queried a little to test the waters. I got some requests! But I knew I could make my story better.
  17. I entered Pitch Wars in 2017, and a fabulous team of mentors—Jenna Lehne and Tara Creel—chose to work with me and Lisa Pizza.
  18. One day, I will write a love letter to my Pitch Wars mentors. For now, I will say Jenna and Tara had such a beautiful vision for my story. In two months of intense editing and emotional eating, I cut six characters. I removed an entire subplot and I added another. Lisa’s emotional arc got even stronger, and, because I am me, I added more jokes.
  19. I finished Pitch Wars with a shiny draft and the supportive, wonderful Pitch Wars community/army at my back. My mentee class is filled with champions. I found some writing soulmates. I finally felt brave enough to query.
  20. I queried some awesome agents, including Alyssa Jennette at Stonesong Literary. Alyssa is fierce and DM’ed me on Twitter, asking me to query her after she read an interview I did for the Pitch Wars website. So thanks twice, Pitch Wars!
  21. I got a full request from Alyssa!
  22. I dove into a new WIP.
  23. I queried more. I did PitMad. I got more requests. And rejections. My inbox came down with a case of the crickets.
  24. I wrote more chapters of my WIP. I edited CPs’ novels. I read a lot. I rewatched all of Parks and Recreation. I wrote more. I took a cruise with a friend and called it a “Writer’s Retreat.”  I did lots of “research” for my WIP, which included playing lots of video games since my MC Gussie is a gamer.
  25. I read more and wrote more and CP’ed more. I got more requests. I got more rejections. The loudest crickets in the world invaded my inbox.
  26. I attended the SCWBI NYC winter conference, learned loads, and met some of my Pitch Wars loves IRL.
  27. I did the Whole 30, so I would stop eating sugar when I got good or bad news.
  28. One day in March 2018, I got an email from Alyssa asking to schedule a phone call to talk about my writing career.
  29. We talked, and guys, she is great—editorial, insightful, and kind.
  30. We signed!

Pitch Wars Here I Come!

I got into Pitch Wars!!!!

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I am so jazzed to revise my story, LISA PIZZA’S PERNICIOUS CURSE, with a team of amazing mentors, Tara Creel and Jenna Lehne. They are beyond awesome, have oodles of wonderful ideas to make my MS shine, and are more supportive than I can possibly express in one blog post.

LISA PIZZA’S PERNICIOUS CURSE is a middle-grade novel about a twelve-year-old girl who attends a seance, get cursed, and suffers some truly dastardly consequences. She and her best friend become Curseologists, fighting back against the curse before it tramples her family’s restaurant and their friendship in its wake.

Follow the adventures of #teamcurseologists on Twitter!

More MG Reading Adventures

It’s 2017. I wrote a new novel! I am editing another one! And I have been doing A LOT of middle grade reading, which means even more ugly-crying on NYC public transit. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are some recent favorites:

  1. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
  2. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  4. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  5. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  7. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
  8. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  9. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
  10. The Seven Wonders Series, Books 1-5 by Peter Lerangis
  11. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
  12. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  13. Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
  14. The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  15. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  16. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
  17. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
  18. The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
  19. The Scandalous Sisters of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
  20. The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates by Caroline Carlson

Books that made me laugh out loud: almost all

Books that made me cry: at least a third

Books that made me cry while taking public transportation: 3

My Latest MG Reading Adventures

In my search for comp titles for my novel, I have been reading lots of books about awesome 12-year-olds on fantastical adventures. Here are 20 recent reads, an embarrassing number of which made me cry on the NYC subway:

  1. My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  2. The Keeper of the Lost Cities  by Shannon Messenger
  3. Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  5. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
  6. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  7. Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
  8. The Thickety by J. A. White
  9. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  10. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
  11. The Expeditioners by  S.S. Taylor
  12. The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
  13. Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy
  14. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
  15. Pegasus: the Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn
  16. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  17. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  18. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  19. Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sister by Lesley M. M. Blume
  20. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

This Query Worked (and so did another one)!

This query caught the eye of my agent. She requested the full and then made an offer. In truth, though, I had two main versions of my query. One that focused a little more on the plot and another which gave a little more weight to Lisa’s emotional arc.

Secret time: both queries worked. I got full requests from both versions. There is no magic combination of words that is going to unlock the perfect way to capture your story. Agents don’t offer to represent queries. They offer representation for authors and stories. All your query needs to do is tell your reader who your MC is, what they want, and what is in their way. Incorporate voice and specifics to make an agent’s ears perk up and want to read more!

Here’s the version I sent to my faboo agent Alyssa:

When Dad sells a jukebox —the only thing Lisa has left of her mother— Lisa is crushed. So crushed she drags her best friend Marshall to a séance. But instead of contacting Mom’s spirit in the shimmering smoke, the séance goes horribly wrong and a terrible curse crashes down on Lisa and Marshall’s heads.

At twelve, they are too old to believe in curses. Probably. But within days, they’re facing cruel and unusual detentions, viral video infamy, and the most fearsome 6th-grade teacher on the planet. All the while, Lisa’s scar—the one she got after her mother died—itches more than it ever has before, like a warning of horrible things to come.

Lisa and Marshall become Curseologists, studying the science of curses, but nothing they learn or try lessens the curse’s power. Instead, the curse attacks the two things Lisa loves most: her family’s restaurant, home of the best garlic knots in New Jersey, and her friendship with Marshall. If Lisa doesn’t figure out how to break the curse, her best friend will move away and her beloved restaurant will close its doors before she can spell ‘doomed.’

LISA PIZZA’S PERNICIOUS CURSE is a middle grade contemporary novel with a twist of magic complete at 49,000 words. This manuscript was selected for Pitch Wars 2017, an intensive writing mentorship program culminating in an agent showcase. The book combines the magical thinking of Kate Messner’s The Seventh Wish and the humorous cursed consequences of Wendy Mass’s 11 Birthdays.

On Rejection

Ok. I’ve been an actor for MANY years, which means I’ve been rejected from jobs ZILLIONS of times. If you don’t want to read an actor’s thoughts on rejection, skip this post! But if you’re querying or on submission and feeling a little blue, perhaps you might find this helpful.
 
Unlike querying, when you are auditioning for a play, you get to watch people’s faces as they decide to reject you. For example, you are singing a song in an audition, literally in the middle of a note, and the director decides the lunch menu on his desk is more interesting than you. So you keep singing while he ponders whether or not to order a turkey sandwich [this is a true story].
 
Another true story: I audition for a world premiere of a new play at an awesome theatre. The play is clever and funny and the role is PERFECT for me. My audition goes well. I get a callback! I spend all day at a callback, while the casting team winnows people down. I get kept all day. I’ve also been joking around with the casting team. They like me! They think I’m funny in the role and as a human. This magic is going to happen! Except, it doesn’t. And I’m crushed. I get no explanation. I get the theatre equivalent of a cold query form rejection.
 
A few months later, I’ve booked another job and am having a fantastic time (playing Amy in Company for the musical theatre savvy). One of my castmates has a friend in the world premiere play, so we road trip to the theatre on a day off.  We see the play, and the girl they cast in my part is wonderful. She’s also 5’2” and blond. I am a 5’7″ brunette. As I watch the show, I have this incredibly healing moment. Because I had thought my form rejection from this show (and to be honest, a lot of shows in the past) meant that this creative team had found my talent lacking in some way. I was walking around for months believing they must have thought I wasn’t good enough to cast. But as I watched the tiny blond girl, I realized their decision wasn’t about my talent at all. 
 
For my part, I am trying to revive this mentality for querying. There are so many external factors going into an agent’s decision. Is the book similar to something a client is working on? Is the market saturated with that kind of story? Did they read your query on an empty stomach? Does a character in your book remind the agent of their ex? [Seriously, this also happened to me as an actor. I couldn’t figure out why a director HATED me. In a drunken confession from him years later, he told me I reminded him of an ex-girlfriend.]
 
So focus on what you can control (your book!) and develop a hide like a rhino. Also, if you want to hear more hilarious rejection stories, message me. I HAVE TONS.

Will All of My Blog Posts Be Lists?

Answer: Definite Maybe. Because I love lists!

Today’s Topic: Strangest Google searches I have undertaken as a writer of middle grade fiction. Here are ten recent gems:

  1. Videos of Swan Attacks (Dear Reader, should you want to waste an afternoon, this is a particularly fruitful youtube wormhole to explore).
  2. Common Haitian Pet Names
  3. Science Behind Feet Falling Asleep
  4. Do Guinea Pigs Recognize Their Owners?
  5. Underbed Dioramas/Art Installations
  6. Steampunk Bunkbed
  7. How to Pop A Dislocated Shoulder Back In
  8. Vanish in a Poof of Dust Sound Effect
  9. Properties of Superconductors
  10. Restaurant Quality Whipped Cream Dispenser