Wendy Schmalz, Wendy Schmalz Agency

MG Contemporary/Literary

THE WILD SIDE (Winter 2020)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR/Macmillan


I’m Filipino and Spanish by birth, but spent my childhood in three continents—Asia, Europe and North America. When I graduated from high school, I moved to Boston and attended Boston University, where I studied Screenwriting and English Literature. Over the course of eleven years, I’ve worked as photo editor in children’s educational publishing, owned my own photo studio and freelanced as a writer. I am now a full-time author, residing in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila, with my husband, daughter and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In my free time I grow my own food, bake sourdough bread and read.

When I turned 38, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a published author. I wrote my first book, a YA Fantasy, that admittedly, was pretty bad. At the time though, I had high hopes for it and queried over 100 agents. Even though I received several full requests, at the end, it became clear to me that fantasy was probably not my genre. My second book was a YA Contemporary, and it was that book that snagged me my agent. Unfortunately, that book was shelved after several torturous submissions rounds with a few close calls. After that, I wrote a YA Mystery, which was also shelved after a few rounds of submissions. When I was getting feedback on that particular book though, a well respected editor-in-chief from a Big 5 publisher sent this note to my agent: “The writing here is beautiful, and the book extremely compelling. However, I did struggle with who the audience was, the voice feels almost Middle Grade, although of course the content is more YA/adult.” That got me thinking. Had I been writing for the wrong age group all along? So I decided to try my hand at an MG contemporary. After only two rounds of submissions, that book, THE WILD SIDE, received an offer from the editorial director of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. It will debut, Winter of 2020.

This is my first round mentoring with AMM. My past experience is mostly as a critique partner and beta reader for other aspiring authors. Additionally, I mentored a high school senior, who wrote a YA novel for her thesis. I also believe that my degrees in Screenwriting and English Literature, my well-rounded knowledge of world literature, and my 11 years of experience working in the children’s publishing industry in New York City, will be helpful in the mentoring process.

Now that I’ve finally gotten a book deal, I want to give back to the writing community by mentoring an aspiring author. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, so ideally, I would love to give someone who has struggled, the opportunity to make their dreams come true. It sounds corny, I know. But nothing would make me feel better than to help a mentee get an agent and eventually land that elusive book deal.

I have a favorite quote by Kurt Vonnegut:

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

I want stories that take chances, stories where protagonists fall, but learn to fly somewhere along the way.

Same goes for my ideal mentee. I want someone who will take chances, and develop their wings by learning—always learning every step of the way.

  • Contemporary
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Own Voices

My all-time favorite tropes are coming-of-age and fish-out-of-water. Others I’m fond of are friendships stories, complicated families, serious issues such as death, bullying, illness, anxiety as well as sad books that make me use up an entire box of tissues.

I much prefer contemporary stories, but I also enjoy historical books from more recent decades such as the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Though I tend to read more contemporary fiction, I’m also a fan of fabulism—stories grounded in realistic settings with touches of magic realism.

MG mysteries set in contemporary times are also a good fit.

Bonus if stories feature diversity and #ownvoices. I also want to see characters from different walks of life, from different countries, from different belief systems. LGBTQIA is always welcome.

I’m probably not the right mentor for fantasy or science fiction.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)

After reading my mentee’s manuscript, I will provide an edit letter, anywhere from 2-5 pages, highlighting what I loved, what worked, as well as the big picture issues—problems with structure, plot, pace and characterization. In addition, I will provide basic line edits and comments throughout the manuscript.

For me the best working scenario would be to provide my mentee with the edit letter + line edits/comments and then have a few back and forths via email to clarify or discuss. While my mentee tackles the revision, I’m always open to receiving emails with questions, or if some encouragement is needed. Though, I would rather not to see the manuscript again until it’s fully revised.

I would prefer a mentee who can take critique well, and doesn’t need too much hand holding. When it comes to mentoring my approach would be kind but firm. I always like to highlight what I love, but I’m not afraid to be tough on crucial issues.

I’m also happy to assist my mentee with the query letter, and suggest some agents that might be a good fit!

My ideal mentee is really passionate about their story. But he/she/they should also be passionate about making it the best story it can be. I’m looking for a mentee who is fully committed to the revision process—someone who is in it for the long haul. The path to publication can take forever, so I would want a mentee who is patient, who understands that every step requires more work and more revisions. I want a mentee who is fearless, yet thoughtful about how he/she/they tackles the editing process. Overall, my ideal mentee is ready to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that will make their story into the best one imaginable.


I would love to see some emotionally driven, voice-y manuscripts with a literary edge. I’m also a fan of prose that’s beautiful but also sparsely written.

I adore protagonists with a passion for something specific, like cooking, art, science, music etc. Send me your misunderstood and awkward main characters. I’m a sucker for anxiety-filled kids.

If you have a story that takes place in an unusual setting or a different country, PLEASE send it to me! I am hungry for protagonists who travel, or move around a lot.

Anything that’s fantasy or science fiction or with too much world-building is not for me. Multiple POVs are fine as long as they do not exceed 2-3. Also anything too juvenile, or in the lower end of the MG age bracket would likely be a pass.



Recent favorite MG books include: Echo’s Sister, Where the Watermelons Grow, Just Under the Clouds, Front Desk, Hello, Universe, and The House that Lou Built.

Other MG Favorites: The Thing About Jellyfish, Counting by 7s, See You in the Cosmos, Someday Birds and Fish in a Tree.

Favorite Classic Children’s/Teen Movies: Stand By Me, Space Camp, The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Heathers, The Outsiders, Say Anything, Ghost World.

Favorite Adult Movies: Memento, Lost in Translation, Little Miss Sunshine, Boyhood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fargo, Napoleon Dynamite, Whiplash, Safe, My Own Private Idaho, Donnie Darko, Short Cuts, Moonlight.