Victoria Marini

YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Running Press Kids (Hatchette)
Running Press Kids (Hatchette)

Tessa Elwood is a Midwestern web-designer obsessed with stories, coffee, and running shoes. She writes YA sci-fi and is particularly fascinated by messy lives and complicated loyalties.

Got my first agent with my third book, my second agent with my fourth. Sold a duology to Running Press, which became Hachette before the second book’s launch. I’ve wracked up a lot of interest and a lot of rejections over the years. Current projects are a change of pace, a harder scifi and a straight-up fantasy.

I’ve navigated edit letters from both editors and agents. Written a book on deadline, rewrote a story from a blank page, and reimagine ideas on a daily basis. I’ve had smooth revisions, bad ones, and several flavors inbetween.

I moonlight as a paid editor, have critiqued stories I love and found value in ones I didn’t. I’ve run in-person groups through SCBWI, and was a mentee myself (way back when) in NV’s mentor program with Holly Black. I’m usually the one my CPs hit up when they have an agent/editor letter they need help translating, or when they consistently get the same feedback and can’t figure out why.

It’s good to know you’re not alone in the process, that some is routing for you. I want to give back, provide the kind of help I wanted/needed starting out.

It all comes down to characters and voice. A good character will carry me through a boring world, but even the most amazing world and incredible plot will not make up for a boring character. This is a human journey (or an alien’s journey, I’m not picky :), and I’m most interested in the humanity of it. The mystery, the emotion, the hope. I love fluff, but I’m especially drawn to stories and people that run deeper. Make me think. Or laugh or smile.

I love working through stories, helping people tell the story they want with as much emotional punch as possible. It’s fascinating, and I always learn something. I grow as much as my mentees.

Also! I respond to everyone who queries to me 🙂

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Own Voices
  • Romance
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

Scifi, fantasy, mysteries, urban fantasy, speculative, romance—anything genre. I’ve a soft spot for underdogs, and fundamentally good characters that everyone maligns. I like secrets and people and mysteries that surprise me. Being a badass is great, but I also appreciate the subtle and shy. Light and funny rocks, but so does dark and tainted.

I’m not a fan of most portal stories, though I loved Narnia as a kid. I intensely dislike the Lady Land trope (all female societies where the men are evil) and the Persecution Flip, and can go on at length as to why.

I’m also not into gratuitous abuse, especially when only included for shock value. Sexual or emotional violence is not a short hand for “”pity my characters.”” If it’s in the story, I want to see it dealt with in a real and honest way. (Some of my favorite stories involve badly abused characters handled well.)


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat
  • Marco Polo

A lot of good feedback really boils down to good translation. Everyone assimilate information differently, and I do my best to make my edits accessible. If someone isn’t grasping a concept, I’ll approach the idea from a different angle—walking them through their own logical process so the concept will make sense.

Encouragement is half the battle. Dumping a laundry list of faults on a person isn’t going to make the story better—which is the whole point of critique. So I look for the 2-3 big things that will best improve the story. I can nitpick if you like, but have never found it helpful for myself or fellow CPs.

I write edit letters organized by sub-sections, which could be anything from characters to plot points. I’ll start with things I liked, but won’t restrict the good notes to one section—be prepared for praise throughout!

Once sent, I like to do video chats via google hangout or Skype, or video messages via Marco Polo. This gives you a chance to ask questions, and lets me know what you love best about the story—which will sometimes reframe/alter my feedback. I’m also happy to chat or text.
If you’ve had a lot of similar feedback (for this story or others) or feel like you’ve hit a wall, I’ll piece out the potential issues to dig up the practical reasons behind it. I work with big picture edits, the plot and character arcs and themes. I’ll comment in the MS to point out specifics that relate to the big picture.

Someone who is motivated and ready to work, and open to new ideas. There are a thousand roads to get from point A to point B in a story. The ideal mentee will take a deep breath, seek out and explore those roads, even when it’s terrifying. I was terrified. Trust me, it’s worth it. Just because this is how a scene is written, doesn’t mean that’s how it has to go down. You are the god of your written universe. Sometimes you just have to smite.

All things genre! Decent people in sticky situations, less-than-stellar people who make me laugh, nearly broken people who refuse to give up. Silly, fun, dark, romantic, a little crazy, a little tortured. I like thoughtful work and stories with heart. I love heart. Give me Dark Triumph or Persuasion or a dance number to defeat the ultimate bad. The quiet moments that move mountains. And if the world is only blackness, I’d prefer a slice of hope but I’ll take that, too.

Protagonists who can’t put two and two together (unless they’re Inspector Clouseau). The Great American Novel with Impossibly Epic Prose. Slice of life stories that don’t go anywhere.

Dark Triumph by LaFevers, Old Man’s War by Scalzi, Terry Pratchett, Alyssa Cole The Abhorsen series by Nix, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Georgette Heyer, Holly Black, Sara Zarr, and about a dozen others

Other stories
Violet Evergarden, Mob Psycho 100, Crazy Rich Asians, Yuri on Ice!!!, Dragon Age, the Expanse, the Uncharted series, Stardew Valley, the Fifth Element, Persuasion (with Amanda Root), Dominion, Pokemon, Infamous, Leverage, Gosford Park, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Roxanne.

Life stories
Running, knitting, crochet, polymer clay, Yellowstone, yarn dyeing, art fairs, and taco tuesdays.