Zoe Sandler

MG Contemporary/Literary

IF THIS WERE A STORY (Simon & Schuster)
Fall 2018

I completed my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University in 2016, focusing on fiction for young readers. I currently teach writing at the same university and absolutely love working with first year college students. Southeastern Connecticut is home. This is my first time as an AMM Mentor.

My path to publishing started when I was in kindergarten and decided that my dream was to be an author. I find myself feeling grateful for that hopeful little five-year old. I started querying my MFA thesis, a YA contemporary, with so much confidence that that book would be the one to land me an agent and a book deal. Six months later, that confidence was just about shattered after query rejections, and several full requests that all led to rejections. I took the advice that I’d gleaned from the writing community on Twitter and started working on something new. My debut MG spilled out of me, and then I took some time to make sense of that spill and tie up loose ends on my first project before starting to query again, this time with so much more knowledge on the process. I found my agent a month later, we went on sub, and I connected with my editor soon after.

I learned how to read with an editorial eye through my MFA experiences. A huge component of the coursework was reading other writers’ work and offering developmental suggestions. This was one of my favorite parts of the program. As an alumni, I’ve tried to give back by offering thesis suggestions and query critiques to those hoping to start querying upon graduation. I also gained perspective on mentorship by being mentored myself on my thesis project, and observing the different approaches each mentor would take.

I am unbelievably excited to be a part of AMM. If you have a coming of age MG with lyrical prose and elements of magical realism, I’d love to read it. If you feel like a MG reader can find a character like themselves in your novel, please send it! I can’t wait to hear your voice and fall in love with your story.

I have a favorite quote from the movie Cool Runnings. It’s “peace be the journey.” I think the word journey applies so uniquely to the writing process, from the moment a writer realizes that publishing is their dream to the day they get a book deal. I kept this quote close to me at the hardest parts of my journey, and there were many. I want to be a mentor because I want to be a source of support at those difficult stages, at the moments when giving up seems easier. I want to offer to an aspiring writer whatever hope or knowledge I have.

  • Contemporary
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Literary/Verse

I am a contemporary reader through and through. I’ve always been a big fan of the realistic, of the relatable. When it comes to contemporary, I’m looking for those everyday struggles that readers can see themselves in.

I also love literary writing. Beautiful prose is what drew me to reading and writing.

That being said, I also love stories with elements of magical realism that add a unique layer to the story.

I’m not much of a trope person. I can be into any kind of story as long as the voice pulls me in.


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

My first edit letter was seven pages long, completely eye-opening, and I could not have handled my revision process without it. This worked for me because as I read through the novel again, it was a more guided reading. I knew what I was looking for and where the notes I’d received could apply. As a mentor, I’d love to offer that same kind of guidance on a big-picture scale. With any further passes, a line edit would probably be used. I use line edits to point out places that can be pushed further, that may confuse a reader, that are telling too much.

I used to be a little afraid of phone calls before I dove into this publishing journey. Now I know that phone calls are a huge part of how decisions get made, so I’d love to talk to a mentee on the phone to clarify notes. However, it is all about the mentee’s comfort, so if email is the preferred communication than that’s what we’ll do!

My ideal mentee knows in their heart that their story has potential, and understands that fully committing to the revision process is a necessary step on the path to publication. This mentee should be eager to hear a reader’s perspective. This mentee should be self-reflective of their work. This means that the mentee may already have an idea which parts of their story need more attention, and is ready to ask questions. This also means that the mentee is able to interpret notes and apply them to their work in a way that makes sense to them.

Overall, my ideal mentee is ready to get lots of compliments, but also work hard and revisit the story they already love.

If you have a literary, emotional, voice-driven MG, I want it! Think THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.
I also love multiple POV’s and unique structures. Think WONDER.

Magical realism that is still very grounded in reality. Think CRENSHAW.

Coming of age stories please, please, please.

Friendship stories, family problem stories, bullying stories.

Any story that incorporates a Hispanic culture. I am Puerto Rican and would love to read something that makes me feel like I’m surrounded by my family.

I love when main characters have a unique interest/ talent that becomes another layer of the story/theme/prose. Examples: art, music, a cool collection, astronomy, etc.

I’m not the best for humor-driven stories, a lot of gross humor, etc.

If the magic elements require a lot of world building, I am probably not the best to help develop that.
Pet stories.

I rewatch The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and Parks and Recreation on a constant loop. Katherine Applegate is my MG inspiration. I learned my most important lessons from Judy Blume. Favorite YA authors are Rainbow Rowell and AS King. My favorite movie will always be 500 Days of Summer. I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. I believe there are few things better than a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel.