Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group

Magical Realism, Contemporary Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

Scholastic Press

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipina author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Gail’s debut middle grade novel, MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY, will be published in 2019 by Scholastic Press. Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group is her literary agent.

My middle grade debut, MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY, is the second novel I’ve finished and queried, the book that caught the attention of my agent, and the first one we went on submission with and sold. Alyssa’s amazing, so we didn’t take too long on sub. But I’ve been querying for over a year and a half before I signed with her. I learned a lot, and I feel like I’ve become a better writer with every rejection and revision I’ve done on both books. During that time, I also had three generous mentors (Kate Messner, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Anica Mrose Rissi) who helped me hone different aspects of my writing—structure, style, and editing. Their training prepared me for further (and intense) revisions with my agent, and eventually, with my editor at Scholastic.

I’ve been on both ends of mentoring—as mentee and mentor.

I’m a proud protégé of middle grade maestro, Kate Messner, whom I met through the Writing in the Margins mentoring program in early 2016. I’ve worked with Erin Entrada Kelly and Anica Mrose Rissi too, and learned a lot on the craft of writing and the publishing process from them.

I was a mentor for Author Mentor Match Round 2 and Round 3. One of my Round 2 mentees, Sarah Kapit, now has an agent and is also mentoring in AMM—I’m so proud of her! Since I took on the role of Technology Director, I’m not mentoring in Pitch Wars this year. But in 2017, I co-mentored MG with my writing BFF, Isabelle Adrid.

In addition, I critique for both agented and un-agented authors. I believe it’s primarily their hard work and perseverance that got them representation offers or book deals. Still, I’m glad to have been part of their journey. I also do sensitivity reads every now and then, focusing on the portrayal of Filipinos and the Philippine culture in fiction.

Since I’m open to Graphic Novels and Graphic Novel Hybrids this round, I figured I might as well include my qualifications in that aspect. I have 23 years of web and graphic design experience, and I run a home-based creative agency with my husband where I serve as the creative director. My main task entails signing off our studio’s output—words, graphics, designs, codes, and the like—so I dish out critiques on a regular basis, and have dealt with the most sensitive of artistic types.

I love being a mentor for two reasons. First, I want to pay it forward. I became better as a writer through the generosity of my own mentors. I’d love to do the same for my mentees, sharing with them all I’ve learned and more. Second, I want underrepresented kids to see themselves in books. I rarely saw myself in the books I’ve read when I was growing up, and I’d love to change that. Through mentoring, I hope to help an author polish a manuscript which can one day be a lifeline to marginalized children.

I love all things MG—well, almost everything. I tend to shy away from high fantasy. I’m easily scared, so I’m not the best mentor for horror stories. But generally, I’ll take in a manuscript with a strong voice that I can connect to, and make me feel like a kid again. #Ownvoices preferred, but not required. Bonus points for unique settings and family stories. Extra bonus points if you can weave in social issues and cultural constructs seamlessly, and without being preachy.

More than anything, I want a mentee who is willing to work as hard as I intend to, and be able to handle criticism well. Together, we’ll do what we can to make your manuscript and submission materials shine.

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Own Voices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Graphic Novels

I love books that can make me feel, especially the ones that handle grief and recovery well.

In SFF, I love Historical Fantasy, Alternate History, Light Science Fiction, and Steampunk.

I really do not like the “White Savior” trope. As a brown Filipina living in her native, post-colonial country, the idea of “white savior” stories (ex. a displaced Caucasian character ends up living with natives/POC and becoming their greatest warrior/leader who alone can save them) irritates me. Say what you will, but if your book has this trope, I’m definitely not the mentor for you.

I don’t feel quite as strongly about the “Chosen One” trope as the White Savior one, but I am tired of it. I’m not looking for the next Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Katniss Everdeen. I want protagonists to earn the mantle of resolving the plot through character development, not just because “the prophecy said so.”


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

I usually read manuscripts once as a reader, to enjoy it and see how everything falls into place. I leave comments on my second read, noting both the things I love and those I feel can be improved. I’m not mean, but I am straight to the point.

My editorial letters are very detailed and organized—they tend to run long. I include resource links if I need to, and book recommendations if applicable. I’ll explain to you why I think something doesn’t work, and let you decide to take the suggestion or not (of course, I’ll do everything to convince you if the issue in question is hurtful or offensive).

I do at least two rounds of editing. First, the structural and big-picture edits. Once you’ve nailed those revisions, we move on to the next round, where I’ll give you line-edits.

Thing is, it doesn’t really matter how many times we go back and forth. I’m in this for the long haul—I want to be there to see you reach your goal, no matter how many manuscripts, query letters, or pitches it will take.

My ideal mentee is hardworking and willing to learn. They’ll have a sense of humor, a positive outlook, a thick skin, and a drive to succeed.


  • MG with emotional punch (if you can make me laugh and cry, that would be awesome)
  • Family and friendship stories
  • Sibling stories
  • STEM / STEAM themes
  • Food magic
  • LGBTQi* main characters
  • Protagonists with disabilities
  • Filipino main characters
  • People of Color as primary protagonists
  • Neurodivergent main characters (#ownvoices preferred)
  • Plots with pet dogs/birds
  • Stories set in South East Asia
  • Magic based on Filipino folklore and mythology
  • Steampunk in non-European settings
  • #ownvoices

Gimme your MG graphic novel / graphic novel hybrid please! 🙂

NOTE: I won’t require you to disclose sharing a marginalization with your main character if you’re not comfortable. And while I prefer #ownvoices, it’s not a requirement. However, I do want my mentee to be willing to ensure respectful representation, and get a sensitivity/targeted reader should the need arise.


  • Horror
  • High Fantasy
  • Centaurs (sorry, I just find a half-man, half-horse way too weird)
  • Novels in verse
  • Violence towards animals

My favorite MG books at the moment are: Hello, Universe (Erin Entrada Kelly), Finding Perfect (Elly Swartz), The Gauntlet (Karuna Riazi), Amal Unbound (Aisha Saeed), The Exact Location of Home (Kate Messner), and You Go First (Erin Entrada Kelly).

My all-time favorite books: The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear, A Wrinkle in Time, Wonder, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Thing About Jellyfish, and The Joy Luck Club.

I don’t read much YA, but I enjoyed the sister sub-plot of The Hunger Games, and the amazingness of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.

My husband and I are movie freaks, so it’s really hard to pinpoint a favorite film. I can watch re-runs of Chuck, Supergirl, and The Flash on TV all day, while intermittently tuning in to the Food Network, National Geographic, and History channels. I’m also one of those weird people who find Dr. Pimple Popper videos gross but oddly satisfying.

I adore animals—dogs and ducks, in particular. One of my Pekin ducks, Quackie, has her own Tumblr blog.