The Silver Lining | Pitch Wars WISH LIST


Hi future mentees! Just a few months ago, back in April, I was in your position entering contests to try to help me get a new agent. I found those contests so valuable that when I signed with an agent a month later, I wanted to “pay it forward” and help other writers get where they need to be. Now only a few months later, I’ve signed with the amazing Jim McCarthy at DGLM for a YA sci-fi. It’s been a whirlwind and I intend to make the same whirlwind happen for you too!

For purposes of this contest, I’ll be mentoring Adult and NA only. Don’t worry, I’m an avid reader in both genres and I have both an NA and Adult manuscript in varying stages of revision.


Here’s all the reasons why you want to pick me:

I work in digital publishing in NYC at a well-known publisher, so I know the ins and outs of the publishing world and how to take a manuscript from shitty first draft to so-good-even-commas-don’t-need-editing.
Prior to working in publishing, I spent 8 years in the TV industry as a computer animator. It was often my job to come up with commercial concepts and write pitch treatments. I am excellent at writing pitch letters. My own queries had a nearly 95% request rate each time I queried. I’ve also critiqued tons of queries for writer friends and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM went on to get an agent. This is totally because of me (okay, maybe it’s because their books were awesome as well)! Anyway, I know how to take a query from confusing/shitty to make it sparkle in a way that forces an agent to sit up and pay attention.

I am a very editorial when it comes to critiques. I’ll give you a big picture edit letter as well as line edits. I make a lot of comments. If something isn’t working for me, I explain why it isn’t working and offer suggestions on how to fix it when possible. I give compliments when appropriate as well but I don’t sugar coat. My goal is to help you make your book as good as it can be, and therefore lying to you to stroke your ego will not do you any favors.

I’ve had not one but TWO books dedicated to me by authors I’ve critiqued. That’s how valuable they found my edits!

I love to brainstorm and would be happy to discuss revisions with you. Sometimes talking it out and bouncing ideas off someone else is the best way to choose the right direction, not the wrong one.


In other words, here is my wish list!

  • I especially love when genre fiction is combined with literary writing. Lush descriptions, gorgeous sentences, but also witty banter to round it all out. I’m a sucker for a great one-liner.
  • I love bad boys who choose to turn good (Damon Salvatore, Spike, Logan Echolls, for example).
  • I want to root for the protagonist and love interest to get together, but the romance should not be the main plot. It can be as subtle as a thread weaved throughout or a fully fledged subplot.


Adult Sci-fi

Sci-fi is my first love and I am eager to find the next great one! I’m looking for stuff that’s more like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, INCEPTION, THE HOST, ORPHAN BLACK, IN TIME, etc and less STAR WARS, BLADE RUNNER, JURASSIC PARK, AVATAR. So basically, no interplanetary wars but yes to mind fucks! I prefer character-driven over plot-driven. Contemporary sci-fi or futuristic, both are a go. I’d love to find something with a really cool concept that hasn’t been done before. I love books about technology that can do cool new things. Would love something in the vein of EXTANT (or in a similar vein, CONTACT by Carl Sagan).

Give me great relationships on top of the sci-fi elements, like Rose and Ten on Doctor Who, or even Sarah and her clone sisters on Orphan Black.

Anything goes really for me in sci-fi though virtual reality and aliens invasions aren’t really my cup of tea (but I loved the unique spin on extraterrestrials that THESE BROKEN STARS had). I’d prefer to stay away from books involving mind-uploading since my YA sci-fi tackles that and I view it as a conflict of interest.

Retellings that fall under this category are welcome.

Adult Magical Realism

I am a big sucker for magical realism, something grounded in reality but with a slight magical twist. This can range from the contemporary fun type of magical realism (13 GOING ON 30, GROUNDHOG’S DAY) to the serious and beautiful (BENJAMIN BUTTON, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell, THE RETURNED by Jason Mott, LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkins, IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma).

I’d love to find something that plays with novel structure or something really quirky. A voice that pops off the page will get you far with me. Wacky plots too. I’d prefer stories that are more grounded in contemporary than magic, with the magic just being the catalyst but not the plot driver (the above are all examples of this).

Retellings that fall under this category are welcome/

College-set Contemporary NA:

I’m interested in a romance set in college with a unique, high-concept hook. I want to be swept up in the story and root for the protagonist and love interest to get together. But I prefer some other plot or subplot that also drives the story besides the will-they-or-won’t-they.

Voicey is best, as is 1st person POV (but it can be dual). I love books involving the arts. I’m not that into sports plots. I am interested in stories involving college Greek life (fraternities and sororities). I want to drool over your sexy love interest, but sexy can come from charisma OR brains. Nerdy love interests are hot too! I recently loved FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell, and for an oldie but goodie (before NA was even a thing), I love I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS by Tom Wolfe. Light contemp NA is great. NA doesn’t have to be all about sex.

Unfortunately, since the NA market thrives mostly on contemp, I will focus on that, but I love a good sci-fi, so if you wow me with one, I’m interested! Retellings are welcome as long as they are contemp but please no Pride and Prejudice.

Exceptions to the Above

If you have a mind fuck of a book that’s outside the above categories, GONE GIRL, for example, or S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, I might be the girl for you! I’m a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk-type books as well. FIGHT CLUB is one of my all-time faves (as well as his earlier works, SURVIVOR and INVISIBLE MONSTERS). I want something that breaks all the rules of the genre in a smart and unexpected way. Something that’s never been done before. Something that will make be sit up and go WOW. Again, Adult or NA only.

I love a good mystery so keep me in mind for those!


  • High Fantasy or Urban Fantasy (I might be willing to look at Contemp Fantasy as long as it’s not too heavy on the fantasy-part).
  • Paranormal
  • Historical fiction other than a retelling
  • Dystopian
  • Gory violence
  • Horror
  • Religious themes
  • Memoir
  • Erotica or something that compares to “Fifty Shades of Gray”
  • Contemporary that focuses only on marital problems
  • Books involving mind-uploading (due to a conflict of interest in my YA sci-fi).


Please go to Brenda Drake’s blog for instructions on how to submit to me. Personalized queries aren’t allowed this year, but if you are interested in me, please shout out via twitter, the comments, or my email!

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11 Responses

  1. Do you like Fantasy components in your sci fi as well? Mine is an Sci/Fi fantasy with strong romantic elements. I like to think of it as Roswell meets Lost in Space but no robots. =P

  2. Shana,
    I was planning on submitting to you my NA manuscript about college students mindhacking, think Inception meets War Games. Then I discover that your YA sci-fi is also about stealing memories. Does the similarity of my manuscript and your WIP mean an automatic pass or that we’d work great together because great minds think alike? Thoughts? Thanks, Ruth

    • Hi Ruth,

      The reason I put the disclaimer at the end about not subbing to me with mind-uploading books is because I think for legal reasons, it’s best if I avoid reading projects that are too similar to my own. Your concept sounds fun but I suggest you submit to other mentors just in case. I’m really sorry!

      • Yeah, right after I posted that question I realized it would be a bad idea to work together. I don’t know how I missed that disclaimer but am glad I realized the conflict before I submitted. I do think you would be an awesome mentor. Best Wishes, Ruth

  3. Are you planning on giving feedback to all of your potential mentees? I know I would appreciate even just a line or two. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your time and expertise!

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