Holly Root (Root Literary)

YA Contemporary Fantasy

BAD WITCH BURNING (Delacorte, 08/24/21)

Jessica Lewis is a writer from Alabama. She graduated from Auburn University with a BS in Animal Science and an BA in English Literature. Her debut novel will be out in spring 2021. She loves dogs, anime, and watching cooking or HGTV-type shows (they’re really relaxing!).

Though I’ve always loved writing, I didn’t seriously consider publishing until my senior year of college. I wrote a zombie novel over the course of two years, and entered the query trenches with the brazen confidence only a new writer can have. Sadly, I was taught a brutal lesson: market. Zombie novels weren’t selling, and my precious book wasn’t anywhere near break-into-dead-market ready. After 64 rejections, I shelved my zombie book and vowed to do it “right” this time. I interned with a publishing company, beta read/critiqued everything I could, and practiced query-writing/pitching skills. I wrote another novel, sure this was my time. However, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, and I put querying on hold to grieve and take care of her. When she was declared cancer-free, I was so happy I wrote a third book in one month, and that third book is my now-debut! That third book opened so many doors for me: Pitch Wars (class of ’18!), three offers of rep, one fabulous agent, and a book deal. But that third novel could not have existed without the zombie book, the second failed book, all the tears from rejections and my hard work studying craft and pitching. I wasn’t ready for books one and two, and I’m glad I was forced to take time to grow. Now I feel ready to take on whatever is next for me in publishing!

My BA is in English Literature, but I also took every creative writing class my school had to offer. I interned with Filles Vertes Publishing for a year, and I learned what makes strong writing, the importance of market, and what stands out to industry professionals. I was a Pitch Wars mentee, so I’m familiar with the mentee experience, and working with my editor for my debut novel has taught me so much about publishing/editing. My major strength is in pitching; through intense self-study, I learned how to write a mean query letter, and I love to help others with theirs. My query was even featured on Query Shark as a FTW (#320)!


I *love* mentoring. I love reading a book that has huge potential and helping take it to the next level. I love puzzling out plot, characters, and themes, and making them shine. But most importantly, I love helping people reach their goals. I was so lucky to be chosen as a mentee in 2018; it truly changed the trajectory of my life. I want to give back what was so generously given to me, over and over and over.

This is the year for the SAPPHICS!! I am wholeheartedly on the hunt for f/f books, in horror and fantasy especially. I’m also really drawn to friendship stories, anything that involves nerd culture (especially anime because I’m a weeb), and cooking. I would also LOVE to mentor a comedy! Genre-mashing is welcome as well. Smaller, personal stakes>world ending stakes, for me.

  • Sci-Fi, Mystery/Thriller
  • #ownvoices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Comedy as a genre-mashup (ex: fantasy-comedy or horror-comedy)

Speculative fiction is my jam, but only the “soft” kind. So no high stakes, world ending second world fantasy or space travel to different planets please! The exception is time travel–I LOVE time travel books, so if you have one, send it my way! Also, this year I do NOT want romance if it’s a main plot point. Some romance is okay, but if it’s over 50% of the book, it’s not for me. The exception to this is anything Sapphic, which I will happily and eagerly read all genres for.

As far as tropes, I think all tropes can be done well! Everything can be spun in new and interesting ways.

Some of my favorites:

  • found family
  • cute dogs!
  • strong friendships
  • complicated family dynamics


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

I like to work like an upside-down pyramid. Big things first—plotholes, setting, characterization, POV, etc. Then we’ll move on to medium edits and finally line edits. The first edit letter you’ll receive will be about big picture edits. We’ll talk on the phone to discuss these (I’m not scary on the phone, I promise!), and then I’ll check in at least once a week to discuss your progress. But we can check in more often if you’d like! After the first edits are finished, I’ll check it over and we may have a second, smaller edit letter, or we might move on to line edits. After line edits, we’ll get your query package together and send it away! I’ll be there through the query process, and future books too if we’re a good fit!

I am a tough mentor, so be ready to work hard! But I’ve also been in mentee shoes, so I’ll be kind and encouraging as well. Expect plenty of tough discussions on how to take your book to the next level, but also memes!

Someone who is open to new ideas, but knows their vision for their book. If you don’t like one of my suggestions, speak up, and we can find a better one we’re both happy with. I’m here to help improve your project, not make it into my own. That said, I deeply sympathize if you don’t have thick skin and you need time/space to think before starting edits. I don’t have thick skin and I’ve cried buckets over every single edit letter I’ve received! But then I wiped my tears and got to work. If this describes you, I understand, and we’ll probably work great together!

I also want a mentee who is in this for the long haul. If the first book doesn’t work out, I want to be there for the next one. Once we reach your goal, I want to help you reach another one. I will be your annoying (yet hopefully endearing) Auntie for the rest of your publishing career!


  • Genre mashups! Fantasy-comedy, Sci-fi horror, mystery-fantasy, etc.
  • Sapphic books but the romance is actually on screen and not just a rushed kiss at the very end (looking at you, certain very popular TV show!!)
  • Speculative girl gangs!
  • Complicated family relationships!
  • Horror! Scare me!!
  • Comedy! Make me laugh!!
  • Surprise me! My taste is very eclectic and I truly read all sorts of things. If you think we’ll be a good fit, send your book my way!


  • NO SEXUAL ASSAULLT OF ANY KIND. I can’t stress this enough. No tragic backstory, no vague maybe-it-was-a-dream, *certainly* not on page. If it’s in the book, I can’t read it.
  • No vampires unless they’re scary. If they’re the love interest, they’re not for me.
  • No fae/fairies please
  • I love horror, but body horror might be a bit much. If there’s any damage to eyes or nails, I have to pass!!
  • No toxic romantic relationships (unless you’re willing to overhaul them to make them wholesome! Or if they leave each other in the end)
  • No books about horses. I am NOT a horse person at all lol

BOOKS: Wilder Girls, Jackpot, Girl Serpent Thorn, The Henna Wars, You Should See Me in a Crown

MOVIES: Holes, Ironman, The Fox and the Hound, Your Name, Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version), Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

TV: Santa Clarita Diet, Stranger Things, The Good Place, any and all game shows, HGTV

ANIME: My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan (but less season one and more season 2-3, you feel me), Spice and Wolf, The Promised Neverland, Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Toradora