Welcome, welcome, Pitch Wars hopeful! I am so excited to be volunteering as a mentor this year! For those who aren’t familiar, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one mentee to work with on a specific manuscript for an agent showcase that will be on February 8th, 2019!
A Little about My Work
I write contemporary YA that balances humor, difficult family dynamics, identity struggles, and romance. My debut, AMERICAN PANDA, was released from Simon & Schuster’s Simon Pulse imprint earlier this year and received four starred trade reviews, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and Indie’s Next Pick, and was nominated for several awards including YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adult.
AMERICAN PANDA follows a Taiwanese-American MIT freshman whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a preapproved Ivy Leaguer despite the fact that she hates germs, is falling asleep in biology lectures, and is falling for her forbidden Japanese classmate.
My second standalone novel, MISALIGNED, will be out from S&S fall 2019. It follows a teen outcast who is simultaneously swept up in a whirlwind romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Taiwanese family moves to her small, predominantly white Midwestern town.
I’m represented by the fabulous Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
A Little about Me
I graduated from MIT and was previously a dentist before finding my way to writing. I am proof that to get published, you do not need to have studied writing, have connections, or have grown up with a book in your hands dreaming of becoming an author. It’s quite ironic that someone who didn’t read through their teens became a young adult author, but perhaps I would have found my way here earlier if YA existed back then and my AP English curriculum wasn’t all old, dead, white dudes (and if you’re wondering how I got through AP English without reading: SparkNotes. I know, the shame).
I volunteer as a PitchWars mentor because I want to give back to this community. I’m hoping I can help my mentee bring their manuscript to another level while also saving them from learning a few things the hard way. And I want to help my mentee own what makes them unique. At first, I saw my strange path to writing as an obstacle, as the world telling me I wasn’t allowed to write, but it wasn’t until I started using these in my writing—i.e. telling the reader what gross anatomy labs smell like (spoiler alert: pickled Fritos) and how MIT students like to play pranks involving putting police cars on their iconic hundred-fifty-foot-dome—that I really found my voice. I hope to help my mentee find/polish their voice.
I used to be a competitive dancer and a black belt in kung-fu before it was drilled and suctioned out of me (but I still love writing and reading about them!). Now, in my spare time, I enjoy curling (yes, the weird sport with the ice, brooms, and Canadians), board games (Takenoko, anyone?), DDR, and searching for authentic soup dumplings. I live in Chicago with my very supportive husband who was the first to suggest I try writing.
And without further ado…the reason you’re here…
For those of you who have read American Panda, I think it will be obvious what I’m looking for and what my preferences are. But here’s a breakdown of my wishlist and what you can expect from me:
What I am Looking for: Contemporary young adult fiction
What I believe I can help my Mentee with:
Finding/polishing your voice
Some of my favorite things:
Positive body image portrayal
Unlikable voices (think Hawthorne from The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett)
Strong voices (think Adam Silvera, Nicola Yoon, Becky Albertalli)
Unique narrative structures done well (think The Sun Is Also A Star)
Moral gray areas where there’s no obvious right or wrong answer
Realistic experiences and realistic endings
Tough family dynamics
Struggle with identity
Child of immigrant stories
Romance (but it doesn’t have to be the focus), witty banter an extra plus
Portrayal of something unique that isn’t seen much (either a culture, religion, hobby, group of people, etc)
A sample of my sense of humor:
A non-comprehensive list of books I’ve loved that will give you an idea of what I’m looking for (in no particular order):
YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon
THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT by Chelsea Sedoti
THE STRANGE FASCINATIONS OF NOAH HYPNOTIK by David Arnold
THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END by Adam Silvera
TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Stephanie Kate Strohm’s books, especially IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU
Maurene Goo’s books
My Communication Style:
I am a strong believer in telling you why I believe there’s an issue, giving an example or two of a solution if I have one, but letting you decide the best direction to take the story in. However, the caveat is that my vision for the manuscript needs to be in line with my mentee’s for this to work (more below).
I prefer to communicate through email, with phone calls after edit letters to discuss and brainstorm.
What I am Looking for in a Mentee:
Someone who is so passionate about writing they’re willing to put in the work. I want the mentee who is so excited about finding that answer to the hurdle they’ve been up against that they’re up for the revision, even if it means rewriting the entire draft. It’s completely okay if you’re not this kind of writer, but we may not be the best team.
The revisions I suggest for the manuscript must be in line with the mentee’s vision for the book. There may be the temptation to say “yes” just to be selected, even if you don’t agree with my vision, but I promise that is in everyone’s worst interest, especially for the mentee. As someone who tried for a year to make a proposed change work even when my gut was telling me it was wrong, I strongly urge all mentees to put their vision for their story above a potential yes from someone who is not a good fit. The latter will only lead to months of counterproductive grueling work and many frustrated people.
I’m looking for a mentee who doesn’t need their hand held. I am not the kind of mentor who will look at every line of every email you ever exchange with a potential agent, and I don’t have the time to answer questions that can be Googled.
I am not a good fit for stories primarily about
And I’m not a good mentor for novels written in verse.
I believe that there are other mentors out there who are better fits for these manuscripts.
To everyone who submits to Pitch Wars, you are brave and amazing. To everyone who writes, regardless of what stage, you are brave and amazing. For those of you who choose to submit to me, thank you for trusting me with your work: I know how scary this can be and view this as an honor.
Happy writing and happy submitting! Can’t wait to hear from you all!
To return to the Pitch Wars main wishlist post, please click here.
To continue the blog hop, please check out the other amazing mentor’s wishlists below!