Alysa began her career in New York as a playwright before getting waylaid by a career as a casting director for TV, theater, and movies. But she could only avoid the hard work of being a writer for so long, after having kids she realized what she really wanted to do was write for the smartest people around — kids.
Alysa’s MG debut, THE VERDIGRIS PAWN will be out in Spring 2021 from Harper Collins
Alysa lives in NY’s Hudson Valley with her husband, 2 mostly-grown kids, 2 dogs, and 3 cats. She believes upper middle-grade readers deserve stories that challenge and inspire them while keeping them grounded in childhood.
When she isn’t writing she’s probably walking the dogs, trying to lift heavy weights or seeing as much theater as she possibly can.
I began writing novels back in 2009. I like to refer to the first many years of my writing career as a very inexpensive and very poorly organize MFA. I queried my first novel in 2013, but after ten or so rejections I pulled it back and hired an independent editor. While her notes were smart and right on target, in retrospect, I realized I didn’t have the tools to do what was required to fix that book. I started a new book and started to feel like I was finally finding my voice. As I worked on the novel I was very lucky to learn from some amazing writers – Laura Ruby, Anne Ursu and Peter Lerangis. With their guidance I honed my craft and my novel, and went out on query on November 3, 2016 – yup just a few days before the 2016 election. Even so, I wound up with two competing offers and signed with my amazing agent in Feb 2017. After two rounds of revisions we sold what will be my 2021 debut to my beyond amazing editors in July of 2018. And here’s where things got interesting. After meeting with my editor and receiving her first editorial letter, we agreed that I would white page the book, a process that took about 7 months. While this might sound like a horrifying proposition to some, I count myself as very lucky to be working with an editor who supported me as a writer and my story enough to invest this time. Mine is a very long tale with many, many revisions, but each and every one has been worth their weight in gold.
I’ve been very lucky to belong to some amazing writing groups and to learn the art of the helpful critique from very smart, generous and kind writers. I’ve worked with CP’s through every stage of their writing journeys and have been thrilled to watch as many of them signed with agents and sold their books. And I’m looking forward to October 2020 when I will be on the faculty of “Pushing the Limits: Writing Experimental Fiction For YA & Middle Grade Readers” at the Highlights Foundation, helping our workshop participants tackle some common manuscript problems such as pacing and character development.
I would never have sold my book without the generosity and wisdom of my mentors and CPs. This writing life is hard, and it can be very lonely at times, yet the community I’ve found in the world of kidlit is unmatched. While I do think it’s my responsibility as a member of this community to pay it forward, more than that I love working with other writers on their stories; helping to untangle knots, seeing around the corners of problems and sometimes discovering what’s hiding in plain sight.
Selfishly, I always learn so much by reading other people’s work, and I feel it’s an honor to be able to provide honest and clear feedback. But most of all, MG readers are hungry for new works, new words and new worlds, I can’t wait to help you bring story out into the world for them.
I am open to middle grade in any genre but am best suited for upper middle grade with either a historical and/or fantasy bent. I love rich language and lush world-building, surprising takes on old stories, and daring twists of form.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
I won’t be the best match for books with a ton of action or battle sequences, anything too scary (though I do like my worlds dark and dangerous), and while I love super clever humor it’s not a strength of mine.
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
- Whatever works best for the two of us
As a mentor I will be very editorial while leaving room for you to explore and grow. We’ll work on character development, plot and world-building all as a means to help you hone and polish the story only you can tell. I’ll ask lots of questions and will work to help you dig deep for answers.
I prefer to read with the entire manuscript first, then will provide in-line edits and an editorial letter. But I’ll always be open to working in whatever way will best serve you.
I will not be a great copy editor, however, so please don’t look to me for more than the broadest strokes in that direction.
I’ve been through the query trenches and will be happy to help in whatever way I can when the times comes, even if it’s just cheering you on on the rough days and celebrating with you on the good ones. And believe me, if you put in the work and have patience the good ones will come.
My ideal mentee is someone who is ready to do the work, who understands what it means to see through editorial notes and who is determined to write the best book they can. I’ll be very honest with you and will expect you to dig deep and be honest about your book as well. I’m looking to work with someone who knows this can be a long game, but is dedicated to getting there. And I’ll be there with you as long as it takes.
Literary upper MG with lush world building, unique or experimental story structure, magical or fantastic elements grounded in the “real” world. Mostly I want to be swept away in the world of your story, whether it’s a contemporary or historical time period. Conflicted protagonists and characters whose journeys takes them deeper into their hearts and souls. I want to laugh and cry and be stunned by the depth of the human heart. Mostly I’m looking for an understanding of craft and a voice that demands I sit up and take notice.
DO NOT SEND ME:
I’m not the best match for romance or anything really scary (horror) or broad comedies.
If I could ever write anything nearly as perfect as JoJo Rabbit, I’d be a very happy person. The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge is possibly my favorite MG novel, although I just finished Queen of the Sea and am in awe. I love period pieces, esp those that take place in real or imagined pre-industrial times like The Inquisitors Tale, The Book of Boy, The Passion of Dolsa, and the fantastical world of Branwain Spurge. My taste in TV runs the gamut from The Great British Bake-Off, to Schitt’s Creek, Better Things, Fleabag and GLOW. And I’m a sucker for gravel crunchers (you know, the period dramas from the BBC),
Regardless of genres, my favorite books, TV shows, movies and plays are the ones that leave me mad jealous of the gorgeous writing and determined to push myself ever harder.