Krakens, Bees, and Potential Mentees,
Welcome to PART 2 of our wishlist—let’s get this gif party started. If you’ve missed part 1 of our #PitchWars wishlist, 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.
Without further ado, scroll on to find concepts we love to see, no matter the genre, an exclusive Peek Behind the Curtain of our submission process, and a note from our 2018 mentee, Summer Short!
THINGS WE’D LOVE TO SEE NO MATTER THE GENRE!
AN EMOTIONAL ARC!
We LOVE a strong 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 figure out something about their place in the world, their friendships, or their families along the way. So send 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 (place the rock on the pile and accept her role as leader) OR chase her own dreams?
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!
ENEMIES WHO HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER
Draco and Harry at dueling club, seen in all their gif glory above, simply isn’t enough for #TeamKrakenBee. Make these two do a class project together. Have them run the Hogwarts Newspaper. Where is that sequel? Send us your stories of MG enemies and frenemies battling for supremacy (and maybe even possibly figuring out how to work together in the process).
Send us your girl bosses, your leaders, your unapologetic feminists! Send us stories of powerful sisters and strong female friendships!
(Apologies to all readers. Kim couldn’t convince Jennifer to use a “reasonable amount of Harry Potter gifs.” Jen did not understand the assignment. Instead, she chose to include this gif of Hermione punching Draco.)
A WORKABLE WORD COUNT
We got so many questions about word count last year that we decided to add a section about it to our wishlist. A concrete idea about the “correct” word count for middle grade can seem as elusive as the KrakenBee. We think the word counts listed on Jen Laughran’s blog post are a pretty good starting point. Outliers exist, of course. But if you are well above or well below the numbers listed here, be prepared to cut or add a bunch if you sub to us! Last year, our awesome mentee cut about 10K working with us and then her agent had her cut even more before they went on sub!
A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN
For some insight into our submission process, follow us for a Peek Behind the Curtain!
When we submitted to Pitch Wars (Kim never was selected, Jennifer was in 2017!) we always wondered, “WHAT ARE THE MENTORS DOING?” after we hit that “Send” button. Now that we’ve been through one year as Pitch Wars mentors together, we thought we’d tell you a little bit about how we handled our inbox last year. Though please note every mentor/mentor team does things differently! This is #TeamKrakenBee specific!
Last year, we received 178 entries from hopeful mentees over the submission window period. We entered every entry on our Spreadsheet of Dreams with columns for each of us to add notes. Then, because we did get quite a few more entries than anticipated, we asked two CPs (a former Pitch Wars mentee and former Pitch Wars mentor) to take a look at the query/first pages, too, just to make sure we weren’t missing something.
Of those 178, we asked for additional material (partial or full manuscript) from about 20 hopefuls throughout the reading period. Note that we relied on the actual pages, not the queries, in making this decision. From there, we both read 25-33% of each manuscript and made more notes.
After that, we narrowed it down more, and then more. In the end, we read about 5-6 full manuscripts. We emailed hopefuls and asked some questions about their revision thoughts, issues they were having with their manuscript, and what kind of help they were looking for. After all of that, there were a few we just couldn’t stop thinking about! In the end, we chose a weird, STEM-y, magical manuscript by Summer Short!
Why Summer’s? Fact is, it just clicked with both of us, and we both had a clear idea about how we could help/strengthen it. That’s not always the case. Sometimes one of us loves something, and the other doesn’t. Sometimes, we both love something and think it needs a fix, but aren’t sure what that fix is. For Summer’s, all of those little things weren’t an issue. We had a #TeamKrakenBee mind meld!
There were plenty of solid, great manuscripts to choose from, but we can pick only one. As to what the “it” factor was, Summer’s manuscript had a few things that caught our attention right away: a strong female main character, a science element, and adventure! PLUS, it was something we hadn’t seen before—mutant mushrooms!!
Now, as to how it was working with us, everyone please meet our 2018 Mentee, SUMMER SHORT!! Summer received a handful of agent requests in the agent showcase, and through those and more queries she sent on her own, received an agent offer last spring and THEN a few months later, sold her book to S&S!! We are excited that her wacky, scary, mushroom-y book will be released in Fall 2020.
It’s time for a proper GIF mushroom dance party:
And now, a testimonial from the fabulous SUMMER SHORT:
Maybe right now you’re feeling overwhelmed scrolling through oodles of wishlists, stalking potential mentors on Twitter, and then staring back at your own manuscript, stomach churning, trying to figure out who you should sub to. It’s nerve-wracking. A year ago, I was in the same place. But as I researched I had a growing feeling that Kim and Jennifer were the pair that I desperately wanted to be mine. Their knowledge of the industry, the kind of books they enjoyed, and their love for the quirky (I mean, their mascot is a hybrid mythical creature, how awesome is that?). Plus, their GIF game was strong.
So I subbed to them. And I’m SO glad I did. When I got a request for the full, I squealed. I phoned my husband. I danced a jig (this part may not be 100% factual). When I found out a month later they’d selected me, I was elated. They were my dream team, and they’d plucked me out of the slush pile!
Working with Kim and Jennifer made a huge impact on my life as a writer. Throughout the process, they gave me amazing feedback that helped me revise, tighten, and revamp my manuscript. They were a fresh pair of eyes and a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. As a plus, they always had a fresh mushroom GIF or fungus joke whenever the moment called for it.
When the agent round arrived, they helped me refine my query and synopsis, and later walked me through how to respond to agent offers. When my book sold, they were there to cheer me on, answer my questions, and remind me to take a deep breath. We’ve become more than mentors/mentee. We’re friends. I’m so thankful I took the leap and entered Pitch Wars, and especially that I subbed to Jennifer and Kim. It’s been an amazing ride, and I can still hardly believe everything that’s happened since.
So if you’re standing on the other side, wondering if you should sub to the KrakenBee, let me just say: YOU SHOULD. Right now…DO IT…okay, well, you actually need to wait for the window to open and all that. But when it does, you know what to do. You WANT the Krakenbee. You NEED the KrakenBee. You just GOTTA HAVE that KrakenBee!!!
Finally, please know 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:
This bee says it best. You are all the bee’s knees.
Sub to us!! If you have any questions about our wishlist or seek clarification, hit us up on twitter @KimLongMG and/or @itsjennylbrown. #TeamKrakenBee
Don’t be shy!
Pitch Wars 2019 Middle Grade Mentors’ Wish Lists
- K.C. Held
- Kit Rosewater and Ash Van Otterloo
- Amanda Panitch
- Graci Kim and Karah Sutton
- Sarah Suk and Julie Abe
- Erin Entrada Kelly
- Rebecca Petruck
- Adrianna Cuevas and Sarah Kapit
- Kim Long and Jennifer L. Brown
- TJ Ohler
- Eric Bell
- Lacee Little and Bronwyn Clark
- Jessica Bayliss
- Shakirah Bourne
- Sean Easley
- Nicole Melleby and A.J. Sass
- Julie Artz and Jessica Vitalis
- Maria Frazer and Meera Trehan
- Rajani LaRocca and Remy Lai
- Nicole Panteleakos