Alexa Donne works in international television marketing in Los Angeles. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Magazine Journalism from Boston University, and previously worked at EF Foundation for Foreign Study, where she managed a bustling Southern region, finding homes for high school foreign exchange students. An avid pop culture fan, Alexa spent many years in Harry Potter fandom, including several positions on staff with convention group HPEF (HP Education Fanon). She coordinated a YA Lit track for HP con Ascendio in 2012, and has been on the YA Lit staff for DragonCon since 2012. Her latest project is Leviosa, a Harry Potter and YA Literature convention. Because she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Alexa is also a mod for /r/YAwriters, co-host of the podcast Upvote YA, a mentor with WriteGirl, and a Senior Advisor with College Essay Advisors.
In pop-psychology terms, I am both a Maven and a Connector–I connect deeply with ideas and projects and LOVE deep dives into information… and then I thrive from connecting people/things/ideas together, using what I have in my toolkit to push the projects/people in which I believe to success. So if I love your book, I will dedicate myself to it–and to you!–and do what I can to guide you to finding an agent, and beyond! As much as I love & derive satisfaction writing, my compass frequently points me back to editorial (I think it’s why I enjoy revision + helping others with their books). As such, I have many critique partners and friends whom I’ve championed and have been thrilled to see sign with agents, sell their books, and become bestsellers!
I’ve been in the YA publishing community for a long time now, and feel I can offer myriad advice. I started lurking on Twitter and in the MSFV community starting in 2010/2011, did the contest rounds in 2013 (Pitch Madness and The Writers Voice) and have experienced some of the bumps, as well: signing with an agent, going on sub and not selling, shelving two books, leaving previous agent (amicably!)/writing new book/finding new agent… and now I’m back on sub. I’m pragmatic and have lots of knowledge to share.
On the “technical” side, I have a bachelor’s in journalism and my day job is television marketing, so I’m “classically trained” (ha) and thus value good, thorough research, crisp detail but not overly flowery writing, an appreciation of AP Style (I have feelings about Harvard commas and I am not sorry), clean pitch copy (ie: query letters! I can help!), etc. I’ve mentored teen girls in writing since 2014, and I’m also a freelance college essay advisor.
For round 2, I’d love to find something fantasy/sci-fi that feels really fresh–a clever spin on “overdone” tropes, a unique/well-crafted execution (non-linear storytelling, unreliable narrator, etc… surprise me!), and characters who really pop. I will follow great characters with strong voice basically anywhere. A strong romantic through-line is important–I find myself drawn to stories with slow-burning romance (UST!) that compliments the main story hook/character arc. Give me rich worlds with a vivid voice and complex characters who are both easy and difficult to care about. I love “difficult” women, and villains you love to hate.
Nine times out of ten, I prefer books with female POV characters, so I’m likely not the best fit for “boy YA” (such as you might term it). I also tend to shy away from adventure/quest novels, BUT a fresh spin (especially a high stakes/character driven one!) on an adventure/quest storyline might change my mind. Things that are almost always auto-nos for me: creature fiction (fairies, succubi, demons, shapeshifters, mermaids, etc.), cultural appropriation, one dimensional female antagonists, first person present tense (90% of the time I don’t like it).
Books should reflect both the world we live in, and the world we SHOULD live in (if we’re not in our world). Meaning: fantasy and sci-fi should be as diverse as a contemporary book. While I am not the best mentor for a contemporary “issues”/identity book (but there are many mentors who are!), I’d welcome any genre books that explore identities beyond white/cis-het/able-bodied in either the MC or in central supporting characters.
Some beloved tropes across genres: fiesty women, banter, flirting, magic, royalty, intrigue, spies, technology, strong friendships, oblivious love interests and/or those who deny their feelings and result in delicious UST, complex psychological profiles, twisty (BUT LOGICAL) plots, humor, fish out of water syndrome, upstairs/downstairs dynamics, bi love interests
Some evergreen time periods/topics I love: Downton-era anything (upstairs/downstairs!), WWII, Regency, Korean/Japanese historical anything (see: historical kdramas), COLD WAR ERA, Russia pre/post revolution, clever “reimaginings” of real life historical figures/royalty
Above all: if you have strong (polished!) writing with vivid characters & atmospheric voice, I may be interested. My below thoughts on genres are just a guide.
I like fantasy that is rich and inventive but doesn’t feel like the kitchen sink was thrown in, nor the wheel reinvented. Historical fantasy is an especial love for me because it feels grounded in something real and specific, and adding a unique historical twist to a strong fantasy (or sci-fi, re: time travel) premise can make for magic. For the same reason, I’m always interested in fresh contemporary fantasy. I am not the person for high fantasy (elves, fairies, made up languages, etc.), but otherwise I’m open to most anything.
Character-driven light sci-fi is my bread & butter. Complex but not complicated. Doing spins on sci-fi tropes/approaches that are appropriate for the current YA market.
Weird/creepy/hooky magical realism is up my alley. I loved IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma and BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.
High-concept, commercial historical YA, whether it’s smashed with genre (fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, etc.) or a “realistic” historical.
Over the years, I have developed a gentle but honest editorial style, in large part through my mentoring work with teenagers. I favor the compliment sandwich: I will always open with what I love, then dig into what issues I see, and close with DO NOT FORGET I LOVE YOUR BOOK.
My style is to read the whole book and then write an edit letter, like you would receive from a trad-pub editor. To give an idea: my round one mentee received an 11 page edit letter. However, sometimes I will streamline my thoughts into a Google chat, instead (my other round one mentee got a Google Hangouts brainstorm sesh). Generally, I’m not the person to do copy edits/in line edits in a Word Doc, though I will spot line/copy edit specific sections of your book as needed, ie: first chapter, last third, etc. I enjoy giving detailed feedback that focuses on story and character arcs, pacing, worldbuilding, and logic. I’ll pose questions that I had, so you’ll know where there might be plot holes/issues.
I’d love to gchat with my mentee, to discuss ideas, the industry, brainstorming, etc. I’ll point you towards my favorite resources, share knowledge I have that may be useful, suggest agents I think would love your book… and of course I’ll help with your query. I LOVE writing query letters/querying. Think of me as your guide and sounding board… and hopefully friend!
You are: somewhat industry savvy (know the basics), but not a know-it-all. Open to working on your manuscript, but also confident in your work–know when to push back and stand your ground! Not whiny or negative. Able to walk away from a book if needed (and/or has done so in the past), and someone with more than one idea/project up your sleeve.
Fave sci-fi movies/TV shows: Gattaca, Contact, Battlestar Galactica, Oblivion (yes, the Tom Cruise movie DON’T JUDGE ME), Ashes to Ashes (BBC), Lost, Westworld
Fave fantasy movies/TV shows: Stardust, The 10th Kingdom, Ever After, Outlander, My Love From The Star
(Some) Books I <3: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY and TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard, THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken, THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray, Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, NOTHING TO ENVY: ORDINARY LIVES IN NORTH KOREA by Barbara Demick
Non-book things I’m into: kpop/kdrama, dark comedies (BoJack Horseman, Arrested Development, Difficult People), character-driven dramas with layered characters/fuzzy morality (BSG, Lost, Hannibal), Harry Potter/fandom/conventions, disaster movies for funsies (Deep Impact, Dante’s Peak, 2012, etc.)
Random things I know a good deal about (in case you have a book about it): ballet, college admissions, natural disasters, journalism, East Germany, plane crashes, the Titanic, MI5 & Cold War era spy games, sociopaths. (I’m fun a parties, haha)
- Something set in the world of competitive, pre-professional ballet
- All things Hallyu! If you’ve written something with k-pop or k-drama at the center, I’m your girl (or something inspired by k-drama)
- Something set against the backdrop of competitive college admissions
- sci-fi retelling of a classic
- a clever/fun/high concept retelling in contemporary
- anything with FANDOM at it’s heart (+1000 for slash)
- an ace protagonist (especially demi!)
- bisexual male protag and/or love interest
- overweight/fat protag who loves themselves and/or at least has realistic feelings about themselves ie: it’s not the easiest being overweight and a teen might have feelings, but no “she loses the weight and is magically happy/gets the guy!” stories or other such cautionary tales. Health at any size and all that.
- generally would love to see characters who defy typical body standards/types/beauty conventions in YA, ie: tall/big girls, short guys, girls who legitimately are not insanely (secretly!) beautiful. Would love to see this in both contemp and genre
- give me your: complex, “unlikeable” heroines, layered villains (and villainous love interests), moral gray areas and ethical quandaries (esp. in sci-fi), non-linear timelines, dual/multi-POV