Sarah is a writer of middle-grade fiction. She holds a PhD in History and geeks out on all things history-related. During working hours, Sarah is a freelance content marketing writer. She lives in Santa Barbara, California with her husband and always-goofy cat. When she’s not writing, she can be found knitting, watching baseball on TV, and drinking too much coffee.
I’m one of those people who alway dreamed of being a writer when I was young, but as I got older I started to believe I wasn’t creative enough to actually write fiction. So I stuck to academic prose and ended up getting a PhD in History from UCLA. After I didn’t get an academic job in my field, I started writing fiction as a way to escape the dreary hellscape that is the academic job market. My first book was hopelessly flawed—but I learned that I could actually finish things. So I started writing more books. My second book was selected for AMM round 2, and I received guidance from a wonderful mentor that really taught me how to revise. At around the same time, I started work on my third book, which is completely the book of my heart. I entered that book into Pitch Wars 2017 and was selected as a mentee. Again, a terrific mentor provided spot-on editorial notes and helped me to hone my skills. In January 2018, I signed with my fabulous agent Jennifer Udden through querying.
This is my second round as a mentor in AMM. My wonderful R4 mentee has completed one round of revisions with my help, and I intend to provide guidance through the querying process. So if we’re matched, you’ll be stuck with me for quite a while.
Having been a mentee in both AMM and Pitch Wars, I’ve seen what great mentorship looks like and try to replicate it when I mentor. I’ve also been a critique partner for other MG writers, several of whom are now agented and/or have book deals.
I’ve also taught college courses in History and Gender Studies, where I terrorized students with my tough grading. (Kidding. Well, mostly.) When I was a teacher, I worked extensively with students on improving their skills as writers and researchers.
Getting into AMM Round 2 changed my writing life. For the first time, I had someone on my side who believed in me as a writer and who went through my work with care and thought. That experience taught me how to revise deeply and think about my work more critically. Now I want to pay it forward and provide another writer with that same kind of support. I really enjoy helping other writers to see their work in a new light and brainstorm new possibilities.
I am a middle-grade writer mentoring in AMM for the second time. While I mostly write contemporary stories, I’m open to MG across multiple genres: fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, and historical. I want to work on a manuscript that kids will love—the kind of book that will have a kid staying up past their bedtime just to read one more chapter. Great disability and/or LGBT+ representation will get me super-excited.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Own Voices
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
Within the listed genres, I’m open to a wide variety of stories. Give me an authentic middle-grade voice and I can go along with a story.
Tropes I love—
-Unlikely friend groups
-Boarding school shenanigans
-All coming-of-age tropes
-Kids saving the day
Tropes I can’t stand—
-Disabled friend/sibling who exists only to teach the non-disabled main character a Very Special Lesson
-Any middle grade designed with the primary purpose of teaching a Very Special Lesson
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Freestyle in chat
I tend to be a pretty blunt person in general, and when I mentor someone I will be honest about what I love about your work and what I think needs more work. I am encouraging—but I also want my mentee to have the best possible book and I won’t hold back on my critique. Typically, I’ll start by providing you with an extensive edit letter that covers general issues related to plot, character, and worldbuilding. I may also offer a chapter-by-chapter breakdown that includes scene-specific suggestions and compliments.
After the edit letter, I talk everything out with my mentee via email or chat. It’s totally fine if we don’t agree on everything, but I like to know more about my mentee’s vision for the book and how I can help them to realize it. Together we’ll come up with a plan for revision. During that time, I’ll be available to answer any and all questions. I’m happy to look at a revised outline, worldbuilding documents, and anything else that helps with the revision process.
Once my mentee completes a new draft, I’ll take a look at that and provide additional feedback. When the manuscript is query-ready, I can offer my thoughts on the query letter and synopsis. I also want to help my mentee target the right agents in querying.
I want to work with a writer who is serious about craft and willing to think critically about their own work. My mentee needs to be open to criticism and prepared to make heavy-duty revisions. It’s also important that they are an avid reader of recently-published middle-grade fiction. This is invaluable for understanding the current middle grade market. Publishing is a business as well as an art, and I want to work with someone who is willing to make adjustments as necessary.
I am looking for MG books in my chosen genres with great voice, character, and ALL OF THE FEELINGS. I want to laugh, cry, shudder, and squirm in my seat.
Please note that while I 100% support #ownvoices, it is not necessary to identify yourself as an ownvoices writer if you aren’t comfortable doing so.
Some story elements I’d especially love to see:
- Books of any genre that prominently feature disabled characters, including neurodivergant characters
- LGBTQ characters, especially as main characters
- Stories that have something to say about the world around us, presented in an accessible and enjoyable way for middle grade readers. For a great example, see how THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA deals with gentrification.
- Complex family relationships. I’d particularly love sibling relationships.
- Stories that capture the messiness of middle school friendships. Friendship break-ups, make-ups, all of it!
- Stories with epistolary format—letters, diary entries, all other in-world documents. Other alternative forms also welcome.
- Sports stories that aren’t just about sports (like Jason Reynolds’ TRACK series)
- Time travel!
- Historical settings, with or without fantastical elements -Flawed, complex protagonists who are nevertheless lovable
- Unique fantasy settings, especially if they incorporate worldbuilding elements outside of the usual Western European mythology
- Anything that relates to space travel, other planets, etc.
- Quirky schools of any kind
- Protagonists with deep and unusual passions (i.e. ALL FOUR STARS, I AM DRUMS, or THE SOMEDAY BIRDS)
- Kids breaking with traditional gender roles and participating in non-conventional activities. Give me your boy knitters and girl wrestlers.
- Books that are about history in some way, even if they take place in the present-day. (Example: THE NOT-SO-BORING LETTERS OF PRIVATE NOBODY)
- Anything that can be comp’d to something on my favorites list
DO NOT SEND ME:
- World War II settings (Note: I am absolutely open to historical books—just not WW II/Holocaust stories.)
- Superhero stories
- Greek/Roman mythology.
- Excessive use of bathroom humor. A few poop jokes here and there are okay, but if that’s your whole book I’m probably not the mentor for you.
- Anything super-sad. It’s fine to explore more tragic themes, but if the entire book is about someone dying I’m not a good fit.
- Pet deaths
- Stories about disability or chronic illness that are ONLY centered around the protagonist being disabled or sick. I definitely want disabled characters, but they should have more to do than just sit around being disabled.
THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE
THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE
THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA
MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY
ALL FOUR STARS
MY DIARY FROM THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE
UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECTS
I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS
THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU
ALL’S FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES
TV: The Good Place, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99, The Bold Type, GLOW, Gilmore Girls, Avatar: The Last Airbender