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Kristin Lambert & Sasha Peyton Smith’s 2019 Pitch Wars wish list!

Welcome to Team Salem’s Pitch Wars wishlist! YA authors Sasha Peyton Smith and Kristin Lambert are working as a team to mentor one writer in the YA age category. We chose the name Team Salem because we both like witchy and historical books, but also because this gif of Salem is us:

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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. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.

Who we are

Sasha and Kristin met in 2017 when we were paired together as Pitch Wars mentee sisters under our fabulous mentors Heather Cashman and McKelle George. We hit it off right away and were both thrilled to quickly sign with agents after the 2017 Agent Showcase. We’ve been through everything that’s happened since together, and have become each other’s biggest sounding boards, cheerleaders, and middle of the night “is this idea any good?” text message recipients.

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Sasha

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Hello!!! I’m Sasha Peyton Smith, author of [REDACTED] (info coming soon, y’all. I promise!) What I can tell you is; it’s a historical fantasy novel about a school for witches disguised as a tuberculosis sanitarium, in the gritty magic underworld of 1911 New York. It’s got all my favorite things; powerful, messy, angry girls, intense friendship, loving descriptions of historic dresses, boys with curly hair, and magic. I’m represented by the wonderful, brilliantly smart Hillary Jacobson at ICM. 

I’m a scientist by training. Beyond being the copy editor of my high school literary magazine (so much bad poetry about boys who didn’t like me back when I was 17 exists in the world and it haunts me late at night), it took me a little while to figure out I couldn’t ignore the stories bouncing around in my head and commit to writing seriously. Science taught me a number of skills I still apply to my writing career; how to research, how to teach yourself something new, and how to get used to things turning out differently than what they looked like in your head. I also know a lot about mouse immune systems, but that figures less into my writing than one might think. 

I’m from Utah (there’s nothing I love more than a spooky forest) but currently live in Washington DC, where my hair and I are constantly fighting humidity. 

My other interests include: bad reality tv, warm cookies, road trips with curated playlists, and getting emotional about art alone at all the Smithsonians. 

Kristin

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I’m Kristin Lambert, author of THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS, a YA historical mystery coming in Summer 2020 from Viking. It’s about a switchblade-toting bi girl and her drag queen best friend teaming up to solve a murder in 1930s New Orleans, while also navigating their various crushes on attractive humans at their speakeasy hangout. I’m represented by Victoria Marini at Irene Goodman Literary, and we have some other YA and MG projects in the works!

I moved around a lot as a kid (always in the South), so I’m drawn to stories about people who don’t quite fit in, especially stories about people who’ve finally found a group where they DO feel at home. I have two daughters and a tendency to be everyone’s mama -- the kind of mama who crushes you in a hug when you’re hurt but also wants to kick the ass of whoever did the hurting. (I really like revenge stories. Yes, I am a Slytherin. Why do you ask?) 

I wanted to be a novelist from the time I was eight years old, but I didn’t actually get serious about writing until I was 29! It took me the usual struggles to get my agent and book deal, so I know all about the query trenches and can’t wait to help our mentee navigate all that stuff!  

I studied journalism in college and worked as a magazine managing editor for five years, so I also bring the boring punctuation and grammar skills, plus a knack for rearranging sentences and paragraphs to pack the biggest punch.

When I’m not writing, my hobbies are dancing a lot and then being embarrassed about it later, and singing along to musicals but being too scared to actually audition for any. I’ve been to Disney World an upsetting number of times, and I like the villains better than the princesses.

What we’re looking for

We are open to a lot! We both wrote historical feminist books (with murder!) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all we’re looking for (though we are DEFINITELY open to historical feminist murder books.) We’re looking for an “I CANNOT PUT THIS DOWN” feeling more than anything. We’ll follow a compelling character anywhere. But here are some things we’d love to see in our inbox:

  • Female driven stories (ensemble casts! female friendship! mothers and daughters! sisters! girls in love!) 

  • Anything with a bit of an edge. We don’t necessarily need a whole gritty thriller, but we love a little darkness. Something rippling just beneath the surface. A perfect family, but for some reason the oak tree on their lawn keeps weeping blood would be extremely our sh*t

  • Magic that doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen before 

  • Southern Gothics

  • Spooky forests

  • Historical fiction!!! Any time, any place, particularly if it’s new to us

  • Time travel/time slip fantasy

  • VOICE! A narrator with a voice we can’t get out of our heads. Prose that keeps us up at night

  • We are suckers for a love story. The book itself doesn’t necessarily need to be a romance, but we love a romantic subplot to root for (we also love a love triangle...shhh) 

  • Ghosts

  • Mythology! Give us vengeful gods and the mortals caught up with them

  • Royalty! Celebrities! The terrible consequences that come with being in the public eye 

  • Visceral descriptions of relationships that make us want to curl up on the floor and cry and then text our friends that we love them

  • A really, really great twist we didn’t see coming but definitely should have seen coming 

  • Characters who are prickly, stabby and damaged

  • Found families, and groups of friends coming together for a common cause, especially when some of those friends start out kind of enemies but learn to work together/appreciate each other by the end

  • Revenge stories

If it’s helpful, here’s the full list we said we were open to mentoring (keep in mind, these should all be YA, as we are YA mentors)

  • Romance - Contemporary

  • Romance - Fantasy

  • Romance - Paranormal

  • Romance - Romantic Suspense

  • Romance - Historical

  • Science Fiction - Dystopian / Post Apocalyptic

  • Science Fiction - "Soft"

  • Science Fiction - Time Travel

  • Science Fiction - with romantic subplots (any subgenre)

  • Fantasy - Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

  • Fantasy - Magical Realism

  • Fantasy - Paranormal

  • Fantasy - Historical

  • Contemporary - Light or Funny

  • Contemporary - serious or issue-driven

  • Contemporary - Dark

  • Historical

  • Alternate History

  • Women's Fiction

  • Thriller/Suspense

  • Mystery - Traditional

  • Mystery - General/Other

  • Mystery - Cozy

  • Retellings (of any one or more genre(s))

  • Gothic (of any one or more genre(s))

Our mentoring style 

We hope to be coaches, guiding lights, and sounding boards. The Pitch Wars revision process is INTENSE and we want to make sure we make ourselves available, while still giving you the space you need to create. We’re open to facetiming, g-chatting, creating one giant google doc, whatever works for you! 

Expect one very long initial edit letter. But we think it’s just as important to talk about what IS working in addition to what needs development. Inside the edit letter will be lots of compliments and general screaming as well as plenty of questions, suggestions, and big-picture edits. After that, we’ll give you the space you need to work, but check in to make sure everything is going smoothly. Once the first big revision is done, we’ll do a second read-through to make sure all of the changes are working. From there, we’ll work on your pitch, synopsis, and query letter! 

What will it be like working with two mentors? We will work together to ensure that you’re getting exactly the same information from both of us. We’ll never put you in a position that’s like, “well Sasha wants me to kill off the villain, and Kristin thinks I should keep her alive, what should I do??”

Our mentee will get the collective power of our hive mind. We’ll collaborate closely on your edit letter, synopsis, query, and second read-through, so when our mentee gets notes from us, it’s all in one document that we’ve both read through. 

What we’re looking for in a mentee

We’re looking for someone willing to work hard, who isn’t afraid to rip things apart to make them better. We both rewrote huge chunks of our manuscripts during our Pitch Wars year, and we want an ambitious mentee like us who is willing to do what it takes to make their manuscript sing. We want a mentee who has a strong vision for their project and what they want it to say, and we’ll collaborate with them to make that happen. We think it’s our role as mentors to sharpen the story YOU want to tell, but we also want a mentee who comes into this experience with an open mind and a willingness to discuss ideas for improvement.

We’d probably work best with someone who has patience for gif-filled emails, can write on a deadline, and can tolerate us clucking over them like proud moms. One day, we want to send you crying emojis and all-caps messages celebrating your success!

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Some of our favorite recent YA Books

Lovely War, The Wicked King, Wilder Girls, The Hazel Wood, Sadie, The Best Lies, Six of Crows, These Witches Don’t Burn, The Weight of Our Sky, Salt to the Sea, The Girl With the Red Balloon

What we’re not the best fit for 

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  • While we are definitely open to magic and Soft fantasy, we are not the best fit for a high fantasy manuscript. If there are dragons and castles, we’re probably not the best mentors for you

  • Please no graphic sexual violence

  • We can’t handle animals dying. Sasha read Where The Red Fern Grows in the 5th grade and never recovered emotionally

  • No excessive gore. (We’d love a creepy book, but are a little too squeamish for a full on horror novel) 

  • Sports books 

  • We’re not the best fit for religion-themed stories. Religion IN the book is totally fine, but not ones where the book is ABOUT religion

  • We are both working on witch books and while we LOVE witches, we imagine it would be hard to mentor another witch book at the same time as writing one. If you think we’d be good mentors for your book and your witches are VERY different from ours (for example, no schools for witches or psychically connected sister witches), we’d be open to it. But we’re putting this disclaimer here. We realize this is kind of a confusing disclaimer, so if you wrote a witch book and are thinking you’d like to submit to us (thank you, we’re very flattered!!) we’re more than happy to discuss this more via our Twitter DMs. It’s just something we have to be careful about

In conclusion! 

  • We don’t know if we need to say this, but we will say it anyway! We absolutely encourage writers from underrepresented backgrounds to apply if you think we’d be good fits as mentors. The world (especially the teens of the world!) needs your stories

  • We’re so thrilled you’re considering applying for Pitch Wars! We encourage you not to self-reject; it’s okay if your manuscript isn’t perfect, ours weren’t either when we applied years ago! 

  • See the end of this post to continue blog hopping! Click on any of the mentors’ names to get to their wish lists

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