Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Middle Grade Fantasy


Mary Averling is a fourth-year student at the University of Victoria, where she majors in Literature and Creative Writing. Her short fiction won the Rosalind Hulet Petch Memorial Award and has appeared in multiple journals, though her heart forever belongs to children’s novels. She lives in British Columbia surrounded by mountains (of books and the regular kind) and her megalomaniac rabbit, Oliver.

My first book, complete at approximately eight words and fully illustrated, was a rather strange story about a ghost-lion in space. Needless to say, it received very little industry interest. I continued to write through my childhood and into high school, which led to six (more appropriately lengthed) novels. In 2016, I began to write my seventh novel, a dark YA fantasy about two girls and a monstrous forest. Something felt different this time around. However, it was still not quite right. After stumbling back into some of my old MG favorites, I realized that the voice and story was far better suited for a younger audience, and I rewrote the entire thing as middle grade. It was infinitely better—but something was still missing. I entered the manuscript into AMM R4 in spring 2018, where I was lucky enough to be chosen as Heather Kassner’s mentee. We rewrote the entire second half, creepified the villain, and streamlined the magic system over a three-month period. I queried slowly throughout the summer and beyond. By the year’s end, I received multiple offers of representation, and signed with my agent shortly thereafter. I’m currently in revision with her, with the intention of going on submission soon!

Having gone through AMM myself as a mentee, I understand what the process looks like from both sides of the table. Since then, I’ve honed my editorial skills with CPs at a wide variety of levels, many of whom have gone on to query successfully, and undergone vigorous revisions with my agent. I will bring everything I’ve learned from my mentor, agent, and peers to help my mentee reach their own highest potential.

It’s a cliche, I know, but participating in AMM as a mentee really did change my life. It was the validation I needed to persevere through multiple gruelling revisions, and it introduced me to a community of the warmest, most talented people in the universe. No exaggeration.

Don’t tell my professors, but I truly believe I learned more about craft from my mentor than from four years of university. I’m incredibly excited to give back to this wonderful program, and to offer someone the same guidance that lead me to my agent. Writing can be a lonely, disheartening endeavour, but we don’t have to go at it alone. I’m ready to fall in love with my future mentee’s wonderful words and find my new favourite story!

I’m eager to find a book I can lose myself in, whether it’s a clever mystery, breathtaking fantasy, or spine-tingling horror. Though I like my stories dark, that doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom – if you’ve mixed in a good dash of hopefulness and beauty, I want to read it! Give me your intricate world-building, voice, and pitch-perfect atmosphere, with the sort of capital-F Feelings I won’t soon forget. But above all, I’m looking for *potential.* I’m ready to roll up my sleeves if you are!

Middle Grade

  • Fantasy
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • #ownvoices*
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

I’m open to most tropes, when done well. Some of my favourites are:

  • redemption arcs
  • villain protagonists
  • enemies-to-friends (and vice-versa)
  • found family

I’m equally open with genre, though I’m often drawn to magic; whether it’s subtle or flooded across the page. If you’re convincing, no matter what strangeness you whip up, I’m willing to follow!


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

I like to start my edits with a big-picture letter. There will probably be plenty of gushing, because I do think it’s helpful to know what IS working in a manuscript, then we’ll discuss what might need to be changed. I’m happy to be as hands-on as you want, whether that includes a phone call or brainstorming session, and I’ll remain a DM away as you work through. From there, we’ll do a couple of line edits or smaller revisions to tighten the manuscript and make it as rejection-proof as possible. If you would like a partner during your querying journey, I am more than willing to guide you through the trenches!

Much of my editing is done through questions, with whys and hows and what-ifs. I like going as deep as possible into plot, atmosphere, character, world, etc. We’ll make sure there are no loose threads at risk of unravelling, and the best parts of your manuscript are given their chance to shine.

You’re passionate, self-reflective, and willing to put in the work to strengthen your manuscript. You know your characters inside and out, and you’re ready to dive even deeper into what makes them tick. Perhaps you still have plenty of questions or uncertainties, but you are open to critical feedback and have a good comprehension of your audience. Ultimately, I want this to be a fun, magical experience! This means you understand the ups-and-downs of the industry, and you love your book enough to ride through to a long-term career.

I’d love to find something high-concept, fresh, and sparkling with magic. I gravitate towards darker stories with strong voices and clever humour, though I would especially like to read:

  • A creepy, elegant fantasy in the vein of THE BONE GARDEN or THE NIGHT GARDENER.
  • A story that explores grief, or loneliness, or trauma through a magical lens, such as THE LAND OF YESTERDAY.
  • A fast-paced adventure with a mystery at its core, preferably steeped in atmosphere. MALAMANDER, WINTERHOUSE, and THE STORM KEEPER’S ISLAND come to mind.
  • Monsters, monsters, monsters!
  • Fairytale vibes that are entirely new. I’m a hard sell on traditional retellings, but I’m a huge fan of more obscure folktales and legends. THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS is one of my all-time favourite examples.
  • Morally-gray protagonists with great voices. Think THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE or PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW.
  • Friendship stories, sister stories, enemy stories, or anything that explores complex relationships.
  • Lyrical, achingly beautiful prose.
  • Wild (yet convincing) world building! Give me your carnivorous trees, sentient puddles, or houses with attitude. I love books that make the strange familiar.

I am not the best mentor for books without any speculative elements. Additionally, please do not send me stories with animal protagonists, excessive violence, or sports/video game themes.

Adult: Vicious, The Bear & the Nightingale, Wayward Children, Night Circus, If We Were Villains, Circe, The Toymakers, The Chosen Maiden, Sisters of the Winter Wood, Neverwhere, Lady Hotspur, Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Essex Serpent.

Young Adult: Strange the Dreamer, Tess of the Road, Jane Unlimited, The Waking Forest, House of Salt and Sorrows, The Light Between Worlds, And the Trees Crept In, A Sorcery of Thorns, The Devouring Gray, Vassa in the Night.

Middle Grade (not mentioned in my MSWL): Monstrous, Sweep, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, Whichwood, Where the Woods End, Begone the Raggedy Witches, Goldeline, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, A Box of Bones, Cogheart.

My taste in other media is all over the place and probably not helpful; however, I’d love to see a manuscript compared to a ballet, opera, folktale, or even an art style!