About me (Why you should pick me):
Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of eighties music. If you become my mentee, I will most likely discuss the great artists with you. And maybe force you to listen to a song or two. One of my life goals is to get hugs from Neil Patrick Harris and Wentworth Miller. I’m a huge fan of Friends (Chandler is the best), Supernatural (Dean! Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing a YA book like this show), Christmas music, bookstores, all things Paris, road trips, and long walks on the beach (not really, but it makes for a nice ending).
Now that my infomercial stuff is out of the way…I interned at Entangled Publishing for a while before becoming Lydia Sharp’s editorial assistant. Which means I get to spend my days reading and eating bon-bons, right? I’ve worked with a lot of YA for Entangled, as well as for separate clients. I was a mentor in Nightmare on Query Street (of 2015) where I went over the query/first 250 for both mentees. Both signed with agents shortly after the contest. They were that awesome. I had three mentees in Pitch Wars last year and so far one of them (Lindsey Frydman) has since signed with an agent, and I have total faith my other two will sign as well. I also mentored in a contest in early 2016, where my chosen mentee ended up with several requests through the contest. He signed with an agent just a week later. Because he’s awesome, he kindly had this to say about his experience working with me:
“No matter how many times you look over your own manuscript, there are going to be areas of need you don’t see. Judi was amazing at seeing where I needed to develop on big picture area (character development, theme), the craft of my words (I think she had ‘show, don’t tell’ pasted on repeat) to mechanics of the English language I was embarrassed to have misused (tenses…wow). My manuscript wouldn’t be what it is today without her help. She pushed me and that is exactly what you want in a mentor. Besides that…Judi is a fan. If she is your mentor, she is a fan of your work and a fan of you. It’s a pretty great feeling to have someone like that in your corner. This isn’t something she does on the side, writing finds its way into every facet of her life. If you are lucky enough to be partnered with Judi, your manuscript and writing in general will flourish.”
-Adam Schmitt (represented by Marcy Posner)
If you need more than that, Lindsey, one of my 2016 PitchWars mentees had this to say about me: (I didn’t even have to bribe her for this)
“Cliche as it may sound, Judi was the best mentor any mentee could ever ask for! She went above and beyond, reading my manuscript 4 times, and helping to edit my query more times than I can count. Even after Pitch Wars was officially over, she was still there for me. She helped me brainstorm, cheered me on endlessly, and was always around when I felt like giving up. She upheld her promises of what to expect from her as my mentor – including my favorite line: “Basically when the picks are announced, you may meet your new best friend.” (Which she now is!) Judi’s big-picture edits were fantastic, pointing out all the things my story was missing. When it came to line-editing, she was stellar with those as well! “How does he feeeeel?” became a consistent note, showing me the areas where more emotions were needed. I could go on and on about all the amazing things she did to help turn my story into the best it could be, but the bottom line is this: Judi is an amazing editor and exactly the kind of person you want in your writing corner. I’m immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her. Without her help, I would have given up on my story, and it would never have found me an agent. <3″
-Lindsey Frydman (represented by Naomi Davis)
If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. So let’s move on to the good part.
What I’m looking for:
I’m a YA mentor this year, so I can only accept YA manuscripts. Please don’t waste one of your mentor picks on me if you’re subbing anything other than YA. If you need submission guidelines for this year’s Pitch Wars, you can find them here.
Contemporary—I love dark, angsty stories. I love mystery and thriller and romance (your book doesn’t have to have romance for me to pick you.) I love realistic contemporaries that show the gritty side of life. I don’t shy away from abuse/assault stories, as long as the crimes are shown as being wrong. I’m very up for dark subject matter: kidnappings, trafficking, death, abuse, torture, runaways, etc. I sound like a sadist, but send it to me!
Fantasy—I’d really like to see more dark fantasy in my inbox this year. For fantasy, I want pretty much the same as contemporary (especially the dark subject matter). My favorite fantasy books are ones that are very character driven, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Epic fantasies are not right for me.
Low sci-fi—same thing as fantasy (with dark subject matter). I love, love stories that are character driven, so give me characters I will fall in love with. Think I Am Number Four.
Horror—I love character driven horror as well. Very high stakes, and have-to-flip-the-page urgency. Nothing’s really too dark for me.
Basically, I’m very open to a lot of things. I’m open to characters with disabilities, LGBTQ themes, characters of different races, etc. AND if you have a book that’s dark, but also humorous, I’m more than up for that, as long as I can fall in love with the voice. The book that made me choose to mentor Adam Schmitt centered around death, with a voice that was humorous, poignant, and impossible to walk away from.
Voice is very important to me. I’m sure you guys have seen that a lot, but it’s true. I have to connect with the voice of the story, and to me that (and characters I love) is more important than anything. We can fix dialogue and pacing and weird plot holes big enough for someone to fall through, but voice and characters are really important to me. I love to see characters survive something horrible/terrifying and how they deal with the aftermath.
I’m a fan of layered characters that have to make difficult choices but have the voice that’ll make a reader still love them. I love strong characters who pop off the page and leave me wanting to read more into their lives, even after the book is over. I am definitely fine with language, sex, and violence, but your characters don’t have to do all these things to make me love them. My list of favorite books below were 85% chosen because I love the characters in them.
I love stories set in big cities like New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Chicago, L.A., etc. If it’s set in a small town, I like it to feel like a small town. I like road trip stories and circus/carnival stories, but I also like books that don’t focus on travel. I told you guys I was open for a lot of things.
What I won’t read:
So this will be a short list.
Don’t send me a book where a little boy dies. Last year I said if the book opened and he was already dead, that was okay, but I’m changing that this year. No dead little boys at all. If he’s older than like 13 and dies, that’s fine. Younger than 13 and he dies, I don’t want to see that. I’m fine to see them hurt or in peril, but if he dies, you’ve lost me.
I’m not the best for epic fantasies and/or books that revolve heavily on sports. If your character is part of a sports team, but it’s not the main focus of the story, I’m up for that. If it’s a big part of his/her life but not THE biggest part, I’m up for that too. Think the characters of One Tree Hill.
I may also not be the best choice for historicals, unless they’re very character-driven. I will take books based in the 60s-early 2000s.
Lastly, nothing with a preaching message. I don’t read to be taught some kind of lesson, so please don’t submit books like that to me. This includes books that are based on any type of religion (if your character is religious, that’s fine, but I don’t want a book where that’s the sole focus.) This also includes books based on the political climate. IF you have a book based in the political world (for example: two senator’s kids with a forbidden love) that’s totally fine.
And that’s it! Told you the list would be way shorter.
What to expect of me as a mentor:
Other than my awesome emails at two in the morning? If I choose you, I’ll do at least one pass through your manuscript and query letter. This includes line edits as well as a letter of big picture edits I feel need to be addressed. We’ll do a second pass if we have the time (I did it for all my mentees in the past). I’ll help you brainstorm. I’ll cheer you on. I’ll be around when you feel like giving up. I’ll be there for you long after the agent round is over. Basically when the picks are announced, you may meet your next best friend. (It happened with one of my 2016 mentees, Lindsey!)
Favorite books (in no order):
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (I would LOVE a submission like this)
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (Would also LOVE a submission like this)
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
You Don’t Know Me by David Klass
Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
To name a few. But if you don’t see anything similar to what you write on here, don’t fret. I have about two hundred other books I don’t have room to list and I never know how much I’ll love something until I actually read it.
I’m going to try to offer some type of feedback to those who submit to me. It may not be detailed, and depending on the number of subs I receive, it may not be feasible, but I will try my hardest. If I request a full MS from you, and don’t end up choosing you, then I will offer feedback definitely on it. *If I request a manuscript from you, I will be asking for a synopsis too so please have those handy!
Check out the other YA mentors below, and the total list of PitchWars mentors here. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post or find me on Twitter @judi__lauren and I’ll give you an answer. Sending your work out takes a lot of guts for every one of you, whether you submit to us in PitchWars, or find another path. Good luck to all submitting!
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Jennifer Castro says
I’ve got 2 questions for you.
Are you open to boarding school as a main location?
What do you mean by dark?
Judi Lauren says
I think you’re the one I answered over on Twitter, but yes, I’m totally open to boarding schools as the main locations.
When I say dark, I mean a dark undertone and dark themes/voice. Think The Accident Season, The Assassin’s Heart (dark YA fantasy), and the I Hunt Killers trilogy (the hero is a serial killer’s son, so it has murder, mentions of rape, abuse, and just a creepy, dark undertone that sets the whole mood.)
J.H. Mac'Al says
I love what I’ve read here about the dark themes and what you’ve said concerning abuse. Does a depressed MC fit your guidelines of dark themes? (Pretty, pretty please, the book is very humorous)
Judi Lauren says
Hi! Yes, I will take books that have a depression story line, but it also depends on voice and execution for me 🙂
Hello! Thanks for doing this. 😀 What are your feelings on paranormal? More specifically werewolves? I actually hate even stuffing my MS in that box, but there you have it. It’s different, I swear. 😉
Judi Lauren says
Hi! Yes, I am open to paranormal and new twists on werewolves, but it also depends on voice and execution for me 🙂
I have a main character who is a courtesan (and enjoys it) and I am wondering if that would be too dark for you/YA Fantasy? Or something that would fit with the “dark ya” theme?
Judi Lauren says
That’s definitely not too dark for me 🙂 But it would depend on execution and voice for me 🙂
Vera Raven Snow says
Many PitchWars Mentors (like yourself) are looking for Contemporary YA. Can you please tell me what Contemporary is? The internet seems to have many conflicting definitions so I am hoping you can clarify it for me! 🙂
So Excited about PitchWars!
Judi Lauren says
Contemporary pretty much means the book is set in this modern day and age. This explains it too 🙂 http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/07/genre-questions-what-is-contemporary.html
Vera Raven Snow says
Thank you so much! I’ve found it hard to get straight answer until now. I was looking in wrong place. 🙂
By the way, I too am a huge fan of eighties music too!
Thank you for being a mentor! Are you open to a portal fantasy with contemporary elements, betrayal, and kidnapping?
Judi Lauren says
I am open to portal fantasy with contemporary elements, but whether I love it or not does depend on execution 🙂