Zoe Sandler at ICM Partners

Middle Grade Contemporary

IF THIS WERE A STORY (August 28, 2018)
Untitled MG (2019)
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

I completed my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University in 2016, focusing on fiction for young readers. I’ve taught writing as an adjunct and worked in Writing Centers. I’m currently a proposal editor. Connecticut is home. Some of my favorite things are libraries, pho, football, cranberry-lime seltzer, & sweatpants. I actively try to like Mondays. This is my third round as an AMM mentor!

I’ve wanted to be an author since kindergarten. As a five year old, I didn’t quite realize how much rejection comes with that path. As a new MFA graduate, I learned that pretty quickly. I started querying my thesis, a YA Contemporary, with a ton of confidence that my dream was about to come true. Six months later, that confidence was gone. But all the advice I’d seen about querying told me to work on something new, so I started a MG project. It pretty much spilled out of me. It felt like the book I was meant to be writing. I queried again, this time with so much more knowledge about the process. I found my agent, Zoe Sandler, about a month later. We went on sub, and almost exactly one month later we had connected with the perfect editor and I announced my book deal. My debut releases August 28!

This is my third round of mentoring with AMM! I learned how to read with an editorial eye through my MFA experiences. A huge component of the coursework was reading other writers’ work and offering developmental suggestions. This was one of my favorite parts of the program. As an alumni, I’ve tried to give back by reading manuscripts for those hoping to start querying upon graduation. I’ve also started mentoring in the 1st5pages Workshop through Adventures in YA Publishing.

I have a favorite quote from the movie Cool Runnings. It’s “peace be the journey.” I think the word journey applies so uniquely to the writing process, from the moment a writer realizes that publishing is their dream to the day they get a book deal. I kept this quote close to me at the hardest parts of my journey, and there were many. I want to be a mentor because I want to be a source of support at those difficult stages, at the moments when giving up seems easier. I want to offer to an aspiring writer whatever hope or knowledge I have.

I am unbelievably excited to be a part of AMM. If you have a coming of age MG with lyrical prose and elements of magic, I’d love to read it. If you feel like a MG reader can find a character like themselves in your novel, please send it! I can’t wait to hear your voice and fall in love with your story.

  • Contemporary
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Own Voices
  • Verse

I’m not much of a trope person. I can be into any kind of story as long as the voice pulls me in.

Beautiful prose is what drew me to reading and writing. I think such memorable and vibrant observations can come from literary writing.

While I’m not the best fit for fantasy, I love stories with elements of magic that add a unique layer to the story.


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

My first edit letter was seven pages long, completely eye-opening, and I could not have handled my revision process without it. This worked for me because as I read through the novel again, it was a more guided reading. I knew what I was looking for and where the notes I’d received could apply. As a mentor, I’d love to offer that same kind of guidance on a big-picture scale. With any further passes, a line edit would probably be used. I use line edits to point out places that can be pushed further, that may confuse a reader, that are telling too much. I used to be a little afraid of phone calls before I dove into this publishing journey. Now I know that phone calls are a huge part of how decisions get made, so I’d love to talk to a mentee on the phone to clarify notes. However, it is all about the mentee’s comfort, so if email is the preferred communication than that’s what we’ll do!

My ideal mentee knows in their heart that their story has potential, and understands that fully committing to the revision process is a necessary step on the path to publication. This mentee should be eager to hear a reader’s perspective. This mentee should be self-reflective of their work. This means that the mentee may already have an idea which parts of their story need more attention, and is ready to ask questions. This also means that the mentee is able to interpret notes and apply them to their work in a way that makes sense to them. Overall, my ideal mentee is ready to get lots of compliments, but also work hard and revisit the story they already love.

If you have a literary, emotional, voice-driven MG, I want it! Think THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

I also love multiple POV’s and unique structures. Think WONDER.

Fabulism that is still very grounded in reality. Think WHEN YOU REACH ME.

Coming of age stories please, please, please.

Friendship stories, family problem stories, bullying stories.

I love when main characters have a unique interest/ talent that becomes another layer of the story/theme/prose. Examples: art, music, a cool collection, astronomy, etc.

I’m not the best for fantasy or sci-fi that requires heavy world building.

TV: The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Rec, Game of Thrones, The Bachelor/Bachelorette