Welcome PitchWars hopefuls! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
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.
Firstly, I just want to make sure you know that you’ve achieved SO much already. Think about all those people who say “I want to write a book someday” – well, you’ve done it! Now I’m here to help make your wonderful story even better. I’m just as nervous as you are because we’re going to start this journey together, and I’m going to make sure I’m there to give support and be your cheerleader every step of the way.
The first thing you should know about me is that I’m terrible at talking about myself. My official bio/writing credits/awards are all listed here: www.shakirahbourne.com/bio
To summarise, about 10 years ago I quit my job to pursue writing as a career. In that time, I self-published a short story collection (literary/mainstream), co-edited an anthology (creative non-fiction), published short fiction in numerous literary journals, wrote four feature films (comedy/thriller), wrote musicals (fantasy), plays (drama/magical realism), radio dramas (historical) – basically I dabbled in most forms of storytelling and genre. Eventually, I decided to write a children’s middle grade book (fantasy) and fell in love!
Experimenting with several forms of storytelling has helped me to develop a keen, critical eye. Writing literary fiction allowed me to explore human emotions and understand how to create authentic voices, scriptwriting taught me how to write visually, radio/playwriting helped to improve my dialogue skills and teaching writing developed my ability to dissect a story and give critical feedback.
I’m so excited to work with a story that deserves a chance to be shared with the world. As a black, female Caribbean writer living outside of the US, I’m eager to work with #ownvoices and underrepresented writers, especially those with stories in non-Western settings and BAME protagonists. So let’s get to my wishlist, shall we?
Things I can’t resist
Folklore/Folklore Retellings/ANYTHING Folklore
I’m fascinated by all of the world’s folklore, legends, myths, fables, and superstitions. That tale that your great great grandmother passed on, and your MC discovers there’s some truth to the story? I want to read it! If you follow #FolkloreThursday on Twitter, we’re already on the same page.
I’ve always been a sucker for fairy tales. I squealed when I saw the Tangled animated series on Netflix. *shame* I’ve you’ve taken on a familiar tale, given it a unique spin by, for example, changing the setting or telling the story from a villain’s POV (Wicked!), then I want to read it. I retold Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Caribbean (some Brits still haven’t forgiven me lol) so I’m up for anything. Bonus points if you’re retelling or highlighting a tale from a non-Western country.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a fishing village in Barbados, or maybe it’s because I used do most of my writing on the beach, but ocean-related stories make me perk up in my chair. I’m here for all the water-related settings, themes, plots and characers – sea witches, mermaids, underwater cities, whales, pirates, boats, rivers, lakes, glasses of water – ok, I’m joking with the last one…kinda. I just bought a book, Seaglass by Eloise Williams because it had the word “sea” in it! Sigh. It’s an obsession. Indulge me!
Make me laugh and your job is half done. I may not remember all the details for every book I’ve ever read, but I always remember how they make me feel. If you think your story will make me smile whenever I think about it then I want to see it in my inbox. My humour can be verrrrryy corny – PAUSE. Why don’t people play poker in the jungle? CLICK TO REVEAL *dies laughing* I will always laugh at silly jokes but my humour can be dark and ironic too (think Series of Unfortunate Events). This doesn’t mean that I don’t want stories with sad moments, but if you can turn my tears to joy, then I’m sold.
I want to scream whenever I read “they had dinner” or “ate a quick breakfast” What did they eat? I do have a thing for cozy mysteries set in bakeries or restaurants. Baking competitions, cooking contests – like young Hell’s Kitchen or MasterChef, magical ingredients that turn your MC’s life upside down. Food stories are delicious!
I love stories where MCs have to navigate complex relationships with their parents, siblings, best friends, teachers or even enemies. I want to read about them making tough choices and trying to preserve deep, compelling relationships. I love magic and adventures, yes, but a quiet story about a character’s inner journey can be just as exciting.
I have a penchant for misunderstood characters, mischievous but loving, the loners, the geeks and nerds, the fearsome grannies, so-called villains, or enemies that have to work together. I want to read about characters that aren’t normally in the spotlight – the extras, the princess’ lady in waiting, the powerless MC in a superhero world, or the one who wasn’t chosen but decided to save the world anyway.
Let’s move on to genre. I’m interested in:
- Fantasy – Low/Urban/Contemporary/Magical Realism: clever concepts, monsters or stories set in our reality but shifted in a creative way
- Thriller/Suspense/Horror: the weird and spooky, ghosts, twisty plots and the unknown, trapped in spaces, bizarro worlds (Twilight Zone!)
- Adventure: spies, magic/training schools, quests
- Mystery: clue solving and twist endings
- Contemporary: heartfelt, humourous stories
ANY MASH-UP OF THESE GENRES – As long as you have a distinct and interesting voice, I want to read it.
Speaking of VOICE…
If you have that distinct, compelling and interesting voice, then it will be hard for me not to fall in love with your story. I do have a preference for first person, but I’ve fallen hard for third person and experimental writing styles too. We can work on any issues with plot, character and pacing during the revision process, but if I don’t connect with the voice (ugh! can’t believe I’m using that phrase but it’s true) then we won’t be a good match.
I may not be the right mentor for you if your story is:
- “Hard” Science Fiction: I read it but I wouldn’t know what to do with it
- Serious/Issue-driven Contemporary: anything with dying kids or kids with deadly diseases. I don’t like to be depressed.
- Novels in Verse
- Full of gore
Some of my favourite MG Books
Matilda by Roald Dahl
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Aru Shah and the End of the Time by Roshani Chokshi
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Jumbies Series by Tracey Baptiste
Goosebumps Series by R.L Stine
Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
Spy School Series by Stuart Gibbs
Animorphs Series by K.A Applegate
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My Ideal Mentee
I would like to work with a writer from a marginalized community. I want to encourage them to share their diverse stories! I can keep screaming it on my social media but as a mentor, I can take a more active role in developing these stories to help them secure representation from an agent.
My ideal mentee will be very openminded to revisions, and willing to experiment and challenge themselves. They’ll be a person who will go “ooooooooo” at the craziest of suggestions, and have fun running with them even if they cut them from the manuscript later. They will be ready to have long discussions about their characters, themes and plots, and willing to cut or add subplots to improve their manuscript. If they’re expecting to just move around a couple commas or paragraphs, then they definitely don’t need to be part of Pitchwars – I recommend querying an agent!
Even when we disagree, my ideal mentee will remember that we both have the same goals – to make the manuscript better and secure agent representation. My ideal mentee will always be comfortable sharing their opinions with me, and we will have a trusting and honest partnership.
What to expect from me…
I jumped into the US children’s book industry at the end of 2017 with a good but unpolished manuscript, and absolutely no clue what to expect. I made a lot of mistakes but my agent took a chance on me and brought me closer to my dream, and I’d really like to do that for someone else.
Over the next few months, we’re going to work hard to get your manuscript as polished as possible for the agent showcase in February. And though I’ll be making suggestions, always remember that YOU will make all final decisions because it is your story! I won’t be telling you what to write, but I will ask you to justify your choices, I’ll tell you when I don’t think something is working and together we can brainstorm ways to fix every scene, plot hole or character arc. I’ll be reminding you about what I adore about your manuscript and why I chose it in the first place, and we’ll work on adding even more of those wonderful elements to the story.
And after the showcase, no matter the result, I’ll continue to be a big cheerleader. We will continue revising and trying. We will not give up! I’m not joking! You will continue to receive calls from me, and we’ll continue brainstorm and support each other on this wild publishing ride.
Expect to get someone who loves and believes in your work. I’d say that’s worth pressing “Send”. Take a chance 🙂
If you have any questions about my wishlist, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on twitter @shakirahwrites.
Looking forward to reading your work!
Pitch Wars 2019 Middle Grade Mentors’ Wish Lists
- K.C. Held
- Kit Rosewater and Ash Van Otterloo
- Amanda Panitch
- Graci Kim and Karah Sutton
- Sarah Suk and Julie Abe
- Erin Entrada Kelly
- Rebecca Petruck
- Adrianna Cuevas and Sarah Kapit
- Kim Long and Jennifer L. Brown
- TJ Ohler
- Eric Bell
- Lacee Little and Bronwyn Clark
- Jessica Bayliss
- Shakirah Bourne
- Sean Easley
- Nicole Melleby and A.J. Sass
- Julie Artz and Jessica Vitalis
- Maria Frazer and Meera Trehan
- Rajani LaRocca and Remy Lai
- Nicole Panteleakos
Pitch Wars 2019 Mentor Blog Hop