Laurel Symonds

YA Fantasy and Historical Fiction



Christine Calella majored in English and History at Lafayette College before going on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She now lives in New York City and works as a publicist for adult nonfiction at one of the Big 5 publishing houses. Her body runs primarily on a steady flow of chai tea lattes and goldfish crackers, and on most days you can find her humming entirely too many Broadway showtunes.

I’ve been writing for a really long time, at a rate of probably one manuscript per year since my freshman year of high school. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I felt my writing was ready and I started to seriously seek representation. I applied to be a R1 Author Mentor Match mentee with a YA Fantasy about a princess, a lady-in-waiting, and a ghost—and I ended up getting in! I had a really rewarding experience revising that manuscript with my mentor, Mara, and when we felt the story could stand on its own, I went out into the querying trenches for the first time. Ultimately, I had some decent interest in the manuscript, but no offers, and without a clear idea of how to revise the book again, I decided to shelve it (an experience I think was really helpful for me in the long run.) I landed my wonderful agent Laurel with my next manuscript, a YA pirate fantasy, which we went on sub with last year. With my next manuscript I decided to go a little out of my safe zone and write something totally wild, and I’ve just been having an absolute blast as Laurel and I work on revisions!

Having received my MFA in Creative Writing and taken a thesis workshop based specifically on novel-length work, I’m by now an old pro at giving constructive critiques. As far as craft goes, I feel like I specialize in helping critique partners level up their dialogue, quicken their pacing, and make all the separate gears of the plot coalesce. I was a R1 mentee and a R6 mentor for AMM, so I intimately know how it feels to be on both sides of this relationship. Also, I have a long history of helping friends polish their queries (my experience in publicity makes me pretty good at designing a compelling pitch), including the query for my recent mentee Tashie Bhuiyan’s debut novel, who lucky for all of you because she’s wonderful, is also a mentor in this round!

For most of us, our publishing journeys require a limitless supply hard work and patience. The only things that spice up the endless waiting are the writer friends we make along the way! I want to help a mentee enter into our writing community and pay forward all the help and guidance I received when I was starting out. I want to make it so that no matter how much time my mentee’s journey takes, they never feel alone.

I’m hoping to find a fantasy (whether high fantasy or contemporary) or historical fiction novel that blends humor, darkness, and heart. I’m a sucker for stories of all stripes that are influenced by history and, of course, female characters with agency. I would be willing to stray from fantasy for the right story about a plucky young detective solving a murder. Ultimately, what I want most of all is a fast-paced read you can’t put down, and characters you’d root for even if they’re in the wrong.


  • Fantasy
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

Tropes I love: found family, snark-to-snark combat, cinnamon roll boys and monstrous girls, when the team has to dress up all fancy and infiltrate a decadent party

Tropes I hate: love triangles where one of the people never really stood a chance, rebellions whose members spend most of their time wandering aimlessly in the woods, and that thing where the protagonist goes, “but if I kill this genocidal villain, I’ll be just as bad as he is!”


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

If I become your mentor, I’m definitely going to become your biggest cheerleader—but I’m also going to push you hard to do the introspection and the work to keep improving your writing. I am a big believer in the concept that critique is a writer’s best friend. Critique is how good writers become great writers, so I will always be honest about what is working and what isn’t. After the MFA, I’ve become very analytical in terms of how to construct a cohesive YA novel, and to be honest, if you match with me you can probably expect some charts and graphs included in your edit letter to teach you about emotional beats or webs of character interactions! I’m very much a plotter, so if you’re a writer straddling the gap between plotter and pantser and want to be pushed toward the former, I’m your gal. I am very flexible in the ways that we communicate, so I’m open to finding whatever options work best for you! Regardless of everything else, I will definitely be providing one big edit letter in conjunction with line edits toward the beginning of our relationship so you will have a sense of where to begin with your edits, but moving on from there we will find whatever mode of communication feels most useful. Most of all, I want to be there for you when the emotional work of revising is done and we move on to the even more emotional work of querying!

My ideal mentee dreams big, but has the patience and dedication to back it up. Publishing is a long game where one of the only elements we really control is craft, so my mentee should not only be open to constructive criticism, but eager for it, because they are always looking to level up their writing skill. An optimistic realist would be a real plus: someone who is knowledgeable (or looking to become more knowledgeable) about the obstacles in the industry, but has the enthusiasm and drive to never let anything get them down!


  • fantasy with ruthless, angry girls
  • quirky alternate histories
  • a book where the villain offers to let the hero rule with them and the hero says yes
  • major characters who are ace!
  • a fresh take on witches
  • twisty mysteries, either as the subplot or the main drive
  • books that aren’t afraid to go dark
  • conversely, books that aren’t afraid to be funny!
  • a redemption arc that includes the hard work part of redemption
  • a book that puts a new spin on court intrigue fantasy
  • charismatic villains you love-to-hate, or hate-to-love
  • female friendship and found family
  • contemporary fantasy that blends magic with the modern


  • pirates or anything to do with Prohibition (too close to recent projects of mine)
  • books that are more atmospheric and lyrical than plot-heavy (those kind of books are lovely, I just don’t think I’d be the best person to help!)
  • sci-fi isn’t my area of expertise
  • books where the main plot is romance (though I love books with a romantic subplot that doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the tale!)


TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Good Place (really anything by Mike Schur), Anne with an E, Reign, Bob’s Burgers, Derry Girls, Veronica Mars, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Galavant, Avatar: the Last Airbender

Movies: The Princess Bride, Clue, Knives Out, Little Women, Spiderman: Homecoming, Matilda, Holes, A Knight’s Tale, Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Bonus: Anything and everything to do with musical theatre!