Suzie Townsend

YA Contemporary

12 STEPS TO NORMAL (Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown)
March 13th, 2018

Farrah Penn was born and raised in a suburb in Texas that’s far from the big city, but close enough to Whataburger. She now resides in Los Angeles, CA with her gremlin dog and succulents. When she’s not writing books, she can be found writing things for BuzzFeed and sending texts that contain too many emojis. 12 STEPS TO NORMAL is her first novel.

I’m not an “overnight success story.” My journey to publishing was a long one, so I have much admiration and respect for persistent writers! This industry is so tough, y’all. I’ll try and keep this quick: I queried a contemporary in 2010 that didn’t get any bites, then wrote a dystopian YA in 2011 that landed me my agent, Suzie Townsend. That dystopian YA was on sub for several months with a R&R that didn’t go anywhere, so I decided to move on and ended up writing a mystery YA in 2012. That also got one R&R, but no offers. I started working on a contemporary in 2013-2014, but basically decided I wasn’t emotionally ready to finish it. After a big move and job changes, I slowly tinkered with another book that seemed to want to pour out of me. That was 12 STEPS TO NORMAL. Luckily Suzie loved it enough to help me work on *much* needed revisions, and we decided it was ready to go out September 2016. 22 days later, it’d sold! I’d love to do my best to help you on your journey, too.

I’ve never mentored before, so I guarantee I’m just as nervous as you! I do have editing experience and am lucky enough to write creatively as my day job. I’m extremely familiar with both agent and editor revision/editorial letters and would say I can give pretty great feedback as far as what’s working and what’s not. I have a few critique partners that I’ve been able to help out in this way, too. I also like to think I’m good at giving both big picture and small detail revisions and edits as well!

I’m Farrah, and on top of having a healthy obsession with my dog, I also have a healthy obsession with YA books! I read all across the board, but I’m mainly a contemporary addict. I love swoony moments, witty banter, and characters I’ll want to follow to the very last page. I also love mystery, suspense, and unexpected twists. Stories that move me and grab on tightly to my emotions have a special place in my heart. I’m open-minded and positive, but can be found hugging my dog on a bad day. I am also fluent in emoji.

UGH, IT’S SO TOUGH OUT THERE. I truly wish I had someone to turn to when I was in the beginning stages of writing and querying. The internet is a beautiful place that is able to offer us blogs, vlogs, and breakdowns on tons of topics in the industry, but it feels different coming from someone who knows you and your story, you know? I feel like it can make a huge difference giving encouragement during the lows and sharing in the joy during the highs. More than that, I want to help make your story stronger *without* diminishing your voice. I’d love to help in any way that I can! (Even if it’s in the form of providing puppy gifs on a bad day, tbh.)

  • Contemporary
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Romance

What I love:
Voice-y characters (think Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway)
Witty/banter (think anything by Stephanie Perkins, tbh)
Emotional journeys (less like the Bachelor and more like The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon)
Swoony moments that don’t feel cheesy
Character depth that makes me FEEL (anything by Adam Silvera and Jeff Zentner)
Immersive setting (anything by Julie Murphy)
Suspenseful pacing
Unexpected twists, but in a way that makes sense (Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson)

What I dislike:
Not getting to know characters on a deeper level
Outcomes that don’t payoff
Anything anti-feminist or weak woman characters


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

Providing a big picture edit letter is a good way to start, I think. Once desired changes are made based on the edit letter, I’m happy to give line edits! This is how I work with my agent and editor, and it’s worked well for me. I hope it works well for you, too!

Open-mindedness is SO important to me. Listen, I am the most stubborn and defensive person I know. It’s tough to get critiques on your work that you’ve already put so much into. But a mentor-mentee relationship will only work with me if you’re willing to take some time to mull over my suggestions and at LEAST think on them. Communication is also important to me. I truly do want to hear any concerns, worries, or questions you have through this so we can try and work through it together!

ANYTHING THAT IS YA RIVERDALE-ESQUE. (Omg I love that show so much don’t @ me)
Strong female characters.
Anything that feels like THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN.
Stories involving grief or overcoming grief.
I love imperfect characters. YOU’RE THE WORST is one of my favorite shows. If you can get me to love them through their imperfections and follow them wherever they go, you’re on the right track!
Queer romance.
#OwnVoices stories.

Anything not set in this world (I truly do love and appreciate stories like this, but I am absolutely not the right mentor for helping with worldbuilding/rules!)

Favorite authors: Nicola Yoon, Stephanie Perkins, Sarah Dessen, Julie Murphy.

Favorite shows: You’re The Worst, Orange Is The New Black, Insecure, Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, Parks & Rec, Superstore, Young & Hungry, Gilmore Girls, Stranger Things, Game Of Thrones, Broad City.

Favorite movies: V for Vendetta, Up, The Edge of Seventeen, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, She’s The Man, Harry Potter (duh) …probably more I’m forgetting.