Krakens, Bees, and Potential Mentees,
Welcome to PART 2 of our wishlist. As a reminder, we are middle grade mentors looking for something speculative (science fiction and fantasy). If you’ve missed part 1 of our #PitchWars wishlist, check out Kim’s blog post here!
If you’d like a PDF of Part 2 our wishlist, please click 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 notes from our 2018 and 2019 mentees, Summer Short and L.K. Frank!
TROPES AND CONCEPTS WE LOVE 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 solves the secret formula for invisibility, 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 while fending off a shoal of squid during an underwater adventure.
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 your story doesn’t have an emotional arc or if you feel your character’s inner journey 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
Catra and She-ra, Zuko and Aang, seen in all their gif glory above, simply aren’t enough for #TeamKrakenBee. 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! Does your main character have to be a girl? No, of course not! But if your manuscript features four boys on a quest with no girls other than an “annoying” little sister, do yourself a favor and skip submitting to us. Quests are not gender specific.
A WORKABLE WORD COUNT
Word count is something that still flummoxes a lot of people. 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! Our 2018 mentee cut about 10K working with us and then her agent had her cut even more before they went on sub! Our 2019 mentee also cut her word count by about 10,000 and then her agent also made her cut more before going on sub. #TeamKrakenBee has a good feeling for pace–trust us on word count!!
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 a couple years 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!
In 2018, we received 178 entries from hopeful mentees over the submission window period. Last year, it was about 150. We entered every entry on our Spreadsheet of Dreams with columns for each of us to add notes. In 2018, we were a tad overwhelmed (lol) and asked two CPs (a former Pitch Wars mentee and former Pitch Wars mentor) to take a look at the query/first pages, too. Our readers actually led to us taking a second read on some entries and requesting more! This year, we may or may not use trusted additional readers, but it is a possibility. Please know that if we do go that route, no one will tweet about your entry or share it with anyone. Last year, we tackled the inbox on our own and worked from opposite ends of the spreadsheet, writing notes to each other with our thoughts. We read every entry regardless of what we think about the query. We appreciate your words and will show you the respect you deserve for choosing to sub to us.
In both years, we asked for additional material (usually the full manuscript) from about 10% of our submissions. We made these requests in waves throughout the reading period. Note that we relied on the actual pages, not the queries, in making these decisions. 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! We talked about which ones we felt we could help the most, which ones could likely be revised in the Pitch Wars revision window (which takes place over the holidays), and which one we wouldn’t mind reading a few more times!
In both years, we came to a pretty easy agreement on which one we wanted to mentor. Both years, one story reached out and kept calling our names. It was the one that Kim kept mentioning to her mom. (She specifically recalls her mom saying, “Just take the mushroom one” for Summer’s.) It was the one Jen wouldn’t stop quoting. (Yes, Jen, we know that in L.K.’s world, STEM stands for sewing, tapestry, embroidery, and mending.) Both just spoke to us! There were plenty of solid, great manuscripts to choose from, but we can pick only one.
As to what the “it” factor was in 2018, Summer’s manuscript (then called Maggie Stone and the Spore King) 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!!
Summer had seven requests in the agent round, went on to sign with an agent in a couple of months, and sold her book a few months later in a two-book deal. We are thrilled and proud and excited and (insert all adjectives here) that THE MUTANT MUSHROOM TAKEOVER releases on September 22, 2020! Please order Summer’s book here.
Here’s what she says about her experience working with #TeamKrakenBee:
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. 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!!!
We are totally blushing.
Fast forward one year later. We picked our 2019 mentee, L.K. Frank, because we could not get her manuscript GOLNICK AND KIRA SEARCH FOR A HEALER (But Get A Bit Sidetracked) out of our minds. This other-world fantasy was chock-full of humor, puns, STEM, and some steampunk, all wrapped in a unique adventure we’re STILL talking about. L.K. had 9 agent requests and signed with an agent a couple months after the showcase. She is currently on submission.
Here’s what she says of her experience working with #TeamKrakenBee:
Congratulations for making it this far! You’ve read through countless wishlists and checked out various mentors, and now you’ve hit the hard part. Deciding. OMG, HOW TO CHOOSE?! So many lists. So many mentors. Your eyes are probably glazing over. All those wonderful-sounding options have long since blurred into one big Amorphous Mentor Blob ™.
Me? I was lucky. A year ago, I read Team KrakenBee’s wishlist, and it was like they’d written it just for me. (They hadn’t. We didn’t know each other back then. That would have been weird). But as perfect a match as they sounded for my manuscript, there was still a question mark—what were they like as mentors? As people? Were they a match for me?
So here’s the thing. Kim and Jen are the loveliest people ever, and they have this mentoring thing down.
Not only did they immediately pinpoint what my manuscript was missing, they were full of brilliant suggestions for how to elevate it. They knew when to listen, they knew when to push, they knew if I’d been bad or good (so be good for goodness sake). Importantly, they also always made sure to note the aspects and revisions they loved—for a writer with impostor syndrome (that’s all of us, right?), the positive reinforcement was priceless. They’re always open to brainstorming and are great communicators (wonky time zones are no match for the KrakenBee!).
Nutshell: If you’re looking for an insightful, encouraging mentoring team with a proven track—and who possibly moonlight as Santa—submit to Team KrakenBee!
Thank you so much, Summer and L.K.! We’re so lucky to have you in our lives. You’re our heroes, not unlike this cartoon mushroom in a flowing cape and this flashy dragon.
A NOTE ABOUT NUMBERS
Finally, a note about numbers. During Pitch Wars, you will hear a lot of people talk about numbers. Number of submissions, number of requests from mentors in the reading window, and later, number of requests in the agent showcase. Please don’t let these numbers intimidate you.
Here’s a secret: Someone we know (let’s call her Jennifer) applied to Pitch Wars twice. In 2016, she got a bunch of requests, and no mentor ultimately chose her. In 2017, with a new shiny manuscript in hand, she received fewer requests and got in. (In 2018 and 2019, she had incredible catharsis as a mentor when she realized that she and her co-mentor passed on entries for all sorts of reasons, so many of which had nothing to do with talent, but that is a story for another time. Also, is it weird that I’m writing this in third person?)
Ultimately, the numbers don’t matter! Only one mentor team can choose your story. Later in your career, you can only sign with one agent. You can only sell your book to one publisher. Finding your match is the point, not the number of entries, requests, or offers. This year and every year, we’re looking for our match, an entry and an author that best suits our specific skill set as mentors.
In the end, you are awesome for writing a book, and you are awesome for wanting to improve your manuscript! Sometimes, you will—despite knowing comparison is the thief of joy and measuring your journey against others only leads to heartache— compare yourself to others and feel you are behind. It might even happen in the submission window. You aren’t behind. You wrote a book, and to repeat, that is awesome.
#TeamKrakenBee 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!
Sub to us!! If you have any questions about our wishlist or seek clarification, hit us up on twitter @KimLongMG and @itsjennylbrown. #TeamKrakenBee
Don’t be shy!
Pitch Wars 2020 Middle Grade Mentors’ Wish Lists
- K.C. Held and Shana Targosz
- Jessica Vitalis and Julie Artz
- Erin Entrada Kelly
- Rochelle Hassan
- George Jreije and Long Quan Nguyen
- Lisa Moore Ramee
- Sofiya Pasternack
- Sylvia Liu
- Rebecca Petruck
- Rajani LaRocca and Remy Lai
- Reese Eschmann and Christina Li
- TJ Ohler
- Darlene P. Campos
- Gail D. Villanueva
- Chad Lucas
- Shakirah Bourne
- Eric Bell
- Kim Long and Jennifer L. Brown
- Adrianna Cuevas and Sarah Kapit