Hillary Jacobson at ICM Partners

YA Fantasy

In Revision

Akshaya Raman fell in love with writing when she wrote her first short story at the age of ten. Though she majored in biology, she wrote all through college, and gave up a career in science to pursue writing seriously. She lives in California with an actual scaredy cat, and in her free time she enjoys baking, traveling, and watching way too much reality TV.

Though I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t know what kind of writer so I dabbled in poetry, screenwriting, and journalism while in college. I ultimately returned to my prose roots after I graduated and moved home. Over the course of two years, I wrote two YA fantasies and a space opera, but I ended up tabling all three of those projects without querying them. Though those books didn’t go anywhere, they taught me how to write/revise and helped me find my writing community. I started working on a fourth book, another YA fantasy, in the summer of 2016. I pitched the project during #DVPit in 2017–where I initially connected with my agent–but after receiving additional feedback, I decided to revise again. I queried widely in June 2018, and ended up signing with my agent a few weeks later.

Over the last few years, I’ve found an amazing network of critique partners, many of whom are agented and/or have book deals. I’ve worked closely with them on several projects, brainstorming, giving big picture feedback, line editing, and critiquing query letters. I’m also a regular contributor to Writer’s Block Party, a group blog about craft and publishing that I co-run with my critique partners, and have written guest posts for Publishing Crawl. In addition to that, I’ve got a background in biology (specifically neurobiology and physiology) so I will not only comment on character motivations and plot beats, but also on the nutritional content of meals or the physiological effects of injuries.

I was fortunate enough to have a lot of guidance over the course of my journey. Over the last four years, I’ve had countless CPs, friends, and mentors who have been there for me, helping me push my writing to the next level, giving me industry advice, or just being a shoulder to lean on through the ups and downs of the writing process. I told myself that as soon as I was in a position to do so, I would pay it forward and help other writers.

When I first started writing seriously, I knew absolutely nothing about the writing community. I kept writing and tabling projects because I was trying to make my book perfect. It’s only because of amazing friends and critique partners that I’ve learned more about the industry, improved my craft, and learned to let go. I’m so grateful for that support, and I would love the chance to help another writer in the same way. I’m hoping to find someone who is hardworking and passionate about storytelling to work with over the course of the next few months.

I love books that feel classic even as they explore modern themes and ideologies. I don’t necessarily need romance, but when it’s there I want messy, complicated and real relationships that make me feel all the things! I live for heart-wrenchingly beautiful prose (think Roshani Chokshi, Renée Ahdieh, Traci Chee, Laini Taylor). Dynamics where the main characters banter or fight often are my kryptonite, as are stories with “unlikeable” girls and complex female friendships. I’m here for heartbreaking moments–betrayals, breakups, deaths–but moments that always, always make me cry are reconciliations. I love worlds where magic serves as a source of plot or character conflict. And this is a bit specific, but I also love books that have present-day concerns as their central conflict, explored in a fantasy world–themes like accesses to resources, barriers to immigration, economic collapse etc.

I’m a character first writer, meaning that I develop my characters before I figure out my plot. If you’re struggling with character arcs or motivations, I’m the mentor for you! When reading, I look for voice and strong writing–everything else can be fixed. Revision is my favorite part of the process, and I believe in big overhauls and starting WIPs over if needed. I’m not saying I’ll always give a lot of notes that require major rewrites, but I think it’s important to approach revisions with the mindset of making your book as strong as it can possibly be. Ultimately it’s your book. I just want to help you make it the best it can be!

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Own Voices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

I’m open to all subgenres of fantasy, and in particular I’d love to see some dark contemporary and urban fantasy. In sci-fi, I really only want books set in space or futuristic, character-driven stories like REBEL SEOUL by fellow mentor Axie Oh.

I love stories that take any familiar YA tropes and spin them in surprising ways. A few tropes I always love: found families, revenge stories, ensemble casts, complicated family relationships, villain origins, unreliable narrators, hate to love, lovers to enemies, slooowwwww burns, love triangles, fake dating. A few tropes that aren’t for me: girl hate, slut shaming, alpha males, soulmates/fated love interests, any romance where choice/consent is absent.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat

I start with big picture/developmental edits. I think edit letters are helpful so I will definitely provide one, but I’m a huge fan of Skype/phone calls because I feel there’s a lot of benefit to being able to talk through ideas in real time. It’s also great to flail in person! I am a big advocate of talking about the things that are working as much as the things that still need work. Once the heart of the story is in place, we can move onto line edits, query letter, synopsis etc.

In general, I’m pretty hands on and goal oriented. For me, mentoring isn’t about just about critique, but overall support and cheerleading. I’m not going to disappear after giving you notes. That said, like in all relationships, mentorship is about communication and the key is to figure out what works best for the specific relationship and adapt accordingly.

My ideal mentee is someone who is hard working, serious about publishing, and open to critique, but also unafraid to fight for the heart of their book. I’m not looking for perfection–the point of mentorship is to work on craft together! But you have to be willing to invest time in the revision process.

I’ll start by saying that in all things, I want to see marginalized voices regardless of if you’re writing an #ownvoices story or not. I also want to say that many of my favorite books are books I didn’t necessarily pick up myself but ended up surprising me. This is all to say: please don’t self reject! Even if you don’t see things specific to your book below but think we’d be a good fit, send it to me!

Here is a non comprehensive list things I always love:
– Atmospheric, layered worlds with fleshed out cultures
– Stories for and about diaspora communities
– Pretty much anything set in space–especially if it’s got fantasy elements or a really fun adventure vibe like Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok etc.
– Stories dealing with immigration, colonialism, or revolution
– Love triangles!!!!
– Multiple POVs / group casts
– Contemporary/urban fantasies set in non-Western cities or featuring mythical beings from other cultures
– Stories that emphasize friendships–especially female friendships–as much as romances
– Non-linear timelines or stories within stories (THE READER is one of my favorite books!)
– Witches!! In all sub-genres but especially contemporary fantasy
– Mythology, folktales, fairytales, urban legends–I’m open to retellings but I want to see what unique spin the author brings to the table
– Journey/quest stories–bonus points if set in space!

Please don’t send me stories with suicide/self-harm, sexual assault, or any kind of abuse/violence against women. I’m also not the right fit for stories with a fully white allocishet cast or stories in which marginalized characters are killed to further the arcs of white allocishet characters.

In terms of supernatural creatures, I’m not really a fan of stories featuring elves/fae/werewolves/aliens etc. The exception, of course, is something from a non-Western culture as I mentioned above (and vampires! I’m always here for vampires).

I grew up obsessed with Inkheart, Ella Enchanted, The Princess Bride, Jane Austen, Enid Blyton books, and Nancy Drew. I love atmospheric books with worlds that make me want to live in them like The Wrath and the Dawn, The Girl at Midnight, Ace of Shades, and Uprooted. Some other favorite authors include Julie Dao, Leigh Bardugo, Tara Sim, and Susan Dennard. When it comes to TV, I love casts with a great dynamic full of banter and angst, such as The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, Veronica Mars, and The Vampire Diaries/The Originals.