Mary Katherine Pagano has been reading and writing stories ever since she learned how. After writing with varying degrees of seriousness for about ten years, she signed with Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown lit last year and is currently on submission with her first novel, a beachy YA thriller about messy, insecure girls, strong friendships, and very bad decision-making. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found in Jersey City hanging with her husband, baby, and two cats, day-jobbing as a social media and content director, and squeezing in as much reading as she can.
I’ve been writing my whole life, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I actually finished a novel and began to query it. I truly thought this first book I’d ever written was amazing and would land me a huge book deal. Oh, sweet summer child! I queried that first book for a year, then gave up and wrote something else. My second book I entered into AMM, and it got a much-needed almost total rewrite thanks to my incredible mentor. THAT was the book that landed me my agent. After even more revising, we’re currently on submission for the second time. In the meantime, I’ve finished three other novels, and at any given time I can be found revising one of them or working on one of the dozens of stories I have wandering through my brain.
Over the years I’ve been a part of a lot of critique groups, done manuscript-swaps, and done beta reading with writers of all experience levels and have really learned how to hone in on what’s missing or needs work in a story. Several of my CPs are now agented and published.
I’m a former mentee turned mentor, and I’m here to pay it forward! I am truly not sure I would have landed my agent without AMM. Sometimes there are problems with your work you just cannot see for yourself no matter how many times you revise. Critical eyes who’ll provide brutal feedback are crucial to my process. I want to be that person for someone else.
AMM gave me a mentor who provided me with some much-needed brutally honest feedback that gave me the motivation I needed to kill my darlings and whip my beloved manuscript into shape. Without my mentor, I’m not sure I’d be on submission with that story, or even agented, right now. I truly believe that honest feedback (as well as a lot of revising) is crucial to the writing process. I’m thrilled to be here to give back to the program and work with a writer who’s in need of what I so badly needed earlier on in my writing journey.
As a mentor, I’ll give you my honest big-picture assessment of your work, telling you what I love, but more importantly, what needs fixing. I’m looking for a mentee who’s not afraid to kill some darlings and work hard to get their story to the best place it can be. While I have a lot of tropes and other things I love to see in a story, what I’ll look for above all else is a strong voice, command of prose, and willingness to work hard to improve.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I write mainly contemporary/thrillers, but read and critique pretty widely across genres (contemporary of course, but also fantasy, paranormal, romance, mystery—pretty much anything but horror.) My main caveat is I strongly prefer a character-driven story. So feel free to sub to me even if you’re not contemporary, just know that for me, the characters have to be the center of the story. Diversity is really important to me as well and I’m interested in reading more #ownvoices stories.
Tropes I love: friends-to-lovers (especially childhood friends to lovers), enemies-to-lovers, found family, strong female friendships, slow-burn romance with lots of sexual tension. I also like fake dating, rampant insecurity, anti-heroes and heroines, raging introverts, “ugly” heroines (please no ‘beautiful girls who don’t know they’re beautiful’), and love triangles (when done well!)
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
I think big-picture edits are the most important, so we’ll start with that. I’ll tell you all the things I love, but will also be honest about what I think needs work. I work best with mentors and critique partners who don’t sugarcoat their criticism of what isn’t working in my manuscripts, so I don’t do that, either. Be prepared for brutal honesty!
I prefer to read the full manuscript all at once to start, but will also be available throughout the revising process for questions or to read excerpts. While I’m good at big picture feedback, I’m also excellent at line edits, as editing is part of my day job. I’m also here to help with querying.
I need to work with someone who is open to honest feedback, isn’t afraid to cut things they love, and is willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to make their story the best it can be. I’d also love to develop a lasting writer-friend relationship with my mentee, like the one I currently have with my mentor. I’d love to continue being your biggest cheerleader throughout our writings lives.
- Super voice-y stories (think We Were Liars, The Spectacular Now, The Book Thief, The Chaos Walking Trilogy) with strong prose
- Characters I can really empathize with, especially anti-heroes (and anti-heroines!)
- Stories about strong friendships and found family—I love a good group dynamic, especially if it’s kinda weird (think The Secret History, The Likeness, The Raven Cycle).
- Bonus points if it’s a friendship story that includes friends-to-lovers and slow burn, can’t-turn-the-page-fast-enough sexual tension
- Enemies-to-lovers is also up there for me.
- An insecure protagonist (especially a female one) who slowly learns their own worth
DO NOT SEND ME:
- Horror, gore, graphic violence, animal abuse, on-the-page rape or graphic sexual assault—all of these things are not for me. I’m also not in the space right now to read about pregnancy loss, stillbirth, anything horrible happening to young children, or a parent with a terminal disease.
Books: A Wrinkle in Time, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Were Liars, All the Bright Places, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, I’ll Give You the Sun, The Chaos Walking trilogy, The Raven Cycle, The Infernal Devices, Tuck Everlasting, The Likeness, The Stand, Circe, Never Let Me Go
Authors: Tana French, Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, Rebecca Barrow, Jandy Nelson, Jenny Han, Nicola Yoon, John Green, Patrick Ness, Leigh Bardugo, Victoria Schwab, Lauren Oliver, Marcus Zusak
TV shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl
Movies: Before Sunset, Garden State, Stand by Me, Sleepers, My Girl, Lost in Translation, The Russian Dolls