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2019 #PitchWars Wishlist

*Accessible Version: Here


If you’re reading this, hopefully it’s because you’re preparing for Pitch Wars 2019, a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript with. It ends in February 2020 with an Agent Showcase, where literary agents can read a pitch + first page and request to read more!

Whether this will be your first time entering Pitch Wars, or you’re a veteran hoping this year’s your year, welcome! I truly believe that participating in writing programs can connect you to some wonderful people within the writing and publishing communities. As your potential mentor, I’m here to help you do just that and more!

When you enter Pitch Wars, you can select up to four mentors to review your submission package, so it’s important you pick the best fits for you! Here, I’ll tell you a bit about me, and then you can decide if we’d be a good fit!


I have over four years of editorial experience on a number of writing platforms reading and providing in-depth critiques of young adult fiction.

As an alpha reader (someone who is reading your work as both a fellow writer and as a reader), I have a keen eye for detail and consistency. Several writers who I’ve worked with one-on-one have since gone on to sign with fantastic agents!

I’m a holistic mentor — I’m not just going to help you strengthen your manuscript, I’m going to share every tip and trick I’ve learned to help you master:

  • How to write a captivating pitch.

  • How to write a memorable opening line.

  • How to write an irresistible first page.

  • How to write a great query letter.

  • How to write a tight, concise 1-page synopsis.

  • How to find and query great agents!

  • How to find and use stand-out comps!


I will probably make a vision board for your story, or two.

I will cheer loud and long for your characters, even the villains—okay, especially the villains.

I will write live, in-text reactions like “AHH!” when something in your story strikes me.

I will send you songs, pictures, and quotes from Pinterest that remind me of your story.

Basically, I will be obsessed with your story and forever hyping you.

Communication Preferences:

As your mentor, I always want you to be comfortable, so we can communicate as often or as little as you need. I live in the US on Eastern Time, but because I have friends and family all over the world, I’m fairly flexible on timing. Here are just some of the media through which we can chat:

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • iMessage

  • Skype

  • Email

  • Google Docs

  • WhatsApp

Now that you know me, here’s what I’m looking for in my Future Mentee. Keep in mind that this is just a quick list of favorites; generally, I'm open to anything YA or NA (though I may ask you to consider aging your NA down)!

Pitch Wars Wishlist

These are things your MS does not have to have at all, but that I’d sure love to see!

Protagonists from Marginalized Backgrounds: whether that marginalization relates to race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, economic status, body type, or any other marginalization across the spectra. Think: Six of Crows (Bardugo)

Enemies-To-Lovers/Opposites-To-Allies: this is my favorite trope to read! I love situations in which two people who either hate each other or are on opposite sides of society must band together and end up friends (or more) at the end. Think: An Ember in the Ashes (Tahir)

Court/Geopolitical Intrigue: Does your story feature a long lost exiled monarch trying to reclaim their throne, an evil uncle who wants to be king, several kingdoms warring for one throne or lost artifact? A character falling in love with a prince/princess? Give me all of it! Think: Everless (Holland)

Ambitious Worldbuilding: This is the thing that, for me, is the difference between a good book and great book. I want whatever world you’ve built in your story (whether fantastical or not) to absolutely pull me in and not let go. For me, it’s all in the details—I want to know and feel it all! Think: Strange, the Dreamer (Taylor)

Although I am absolutely open to most YA genres and subgenres, my soft spot is for things with a dash (or huge dollop) of magic. Whether that's magical realism, high fantasy with elves and goblins, or low fantasy in magical worlds that feel familiar, I'm for it! And even if your book isn't fantasy, if the world can carry me away, I'm down to read it!

Pitch Wars Anti-Wishlist (What I’m Not Looking For):

These are things that I’m very sure I won’t be able to mentor, for varying reasons.

Racially-based violence: While stories about racial discrimination and brutality can be poignant and important, as an African-American woman who has experienced/seen racially-based violence, this hits home for me, so I'm not the best mentor for stories that feature this. If something bad happens to a character in your story and they happen to be of color, that’s fine. If something happens to a character in your story because they are of color, that’s not something I can read.

Ex. A Black boy is beaten up by the school bully for being scrawny and shy. - Yes.

Ex. A Black boy is beaten up by the (racist) school bully for being Black. - No.

Hard Science Fiction/Military Science Fiction: I don’t mind a world influenced by technology, but when the technology overpowers the plot or becomes too complex, I struggle to follow along, which means I wouldn’t be able to provide great feedback for you.

Angels and Demons: Stories with fallen angels and half-demons are cool, but I’m probably not the best fit for them!

If you still have questions about whether or not I’d be a good fit for your manuscript, please feel to reach out on Twitter @AyanaGray or contact me via my website. If you reach out on Twitter, please @ me instead of sending a direct message so that others with the same potential question can see my answer! If you have a sensitive question you don’t want to share publicly, reach out via my website!

Good luck out there! May the odds be ever in your favor!



Check out the other fabulous YA #PitchWars mentors below! Keep in mind, it may be easier to right click and open up their blogs in a different tab!

Lastly, a HUGE shoutout to Brenda Drake, Pitch Wars' founder, and its amazing leadership team for putting this together--this is happening because of the magic they work behind the curtains!

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