Mentor Akshaya Raman


Hillary Jacobson (ICM Partners)

YA Fantasy

THE IVORY KEY (Jan 4, 2022) HMH

Akshaya Raman fell in love with writing when she wrote her first short story at the age of ten. Though she majored in biology, she wrote all through college, and gave up a career in science to pursue writing. She lives in California with an actual scaredy cat, and in her free time she enjoys baking, traveling, and watching way too much reality TV.

Though I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t know what kind of writer so I dabbled in poetry, screenwriting, and journalism. I ultimately returned to my prose roots and over the course of two years, I wrote two YA fantasies and a space opera. I ended up tabling all three of those projects without querying them. Though those books didn’t go anywhere, they taught me how to write/revise and helped me find my writing community.

In the summer of 2016, I started working on another YA fantasy which would eventually become my debut novel THE IVORY KEY. I pitched the project during #DVPit in 2017–where I initially connected with my agent–but after receiving additional feedback, I decided to revise again. I queried widely in June 2018, and signed with my agent a few weeks later. We revised for another year and a half before going on sub, and the book sold in early 2020.

Over the last few years, I’ve found an amazing network of critique partners and friends in the industry, most of whom are agented, have book deals, or are published. I’ve worked closely with them on several projects, brainstorming, giving big picture feedback, and critiquing query letters (I LOVE queries!). I’m also a contributor to Writer’s Block Party, a group blog about craft and publishing that I co-founded with my critique partners. This is my third time mentoring in AMM.


When I first started writing seriously, I knew absolutely nothing about publishing. But I was lucky enough to have a lot of guidance over the course of my journey from countless CPs, friends, and mentors. They have pushed my writing to the next level, given me industry advice, and just been a shoulder to lean on over the years. I’m so grateful for that support, and I told myself that as soon as I was in a position to do so, I would pay it forward and help other writers. I’m hoping to find someone who is hardworking and passionate about storytelling to work with over the course of the next few months.

When reading, I look for voice and strong writing–everything else can be fixed. Revision is my favorite part of the process, and I believe in big overhauls and starting WIPs over if needed. I’m not saying I’ll always give notes that require major rewrites, but I believe it’s important to approach revisions with the mindset of making your book as strong as it can possibly be. Ultimately it’s your book. I just want to help you get closer to what you envision it to be!

I love books that feel classic even as they explore modern themes and ideologies. I don’t necessarily need romance, but when it’s there I want messy, complicated and real relationships that make me feel all the things! I live for heart-wrenchingly beautiful prose (think Roshani Chokshi, Renée Ahdieh, Traci Chee, Laini Taylor). I’m here for heartbreaking moments–betrayals, breakups, deaths–but moments that always, always make me cry are reconciliations. And this is a bit specific, but I also love books that have present-day concerns as their central conflict, explored in a fantasy world–themes like accesses to resources, barriers to immigration, economic collapse etc.

  • Fantasy
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • #ownvoices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

I’m open to all subgenres of fantasy—and I truly mean it when I say all subgenres! I love high fantasies that feel classic and timeless and immersive, but I’m just as drawn to stories that blend genres and feel totally fresh and different. You can find more detailed examples in my MSWL!

I love stories that take pretty much any familiar YA tropes and spin them in surprising ways. A few that I always love: found families, revenge stories, ensemble casts, complicated family relationships, villain origins, chosen ones, unreliable narrators, hate to love, lovers to enemies, slooowwwww burn romances, love triangles, fake dating. Especially coming from marginalized creators, no trope is overdone and I want to see your take on it!!



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

I start with big picture/developmental edits. I think written edit letters are helpful so I will definitely provide one, but I’m a huge fan of Skype/phone calls because I feel there’s a lot of benefit to being able to talk through ideas together.

In general, I’m pretty hands on and goal oriented. For me, mentoring isn’t about just about critique, but overall support and cheerleading from revising to querying. I’m not going to disappear after giving you notes. That said, like in all relationships, mentorship is about communication and the key is to figure out what works best for the specific relationship and adapt accordingly.

My ideal mentee is someone who is open to critique and willing to put in the work, but also unafraid to fight for the heart of their book. Open communication is so important to me and you should never feel afraid to reach out or ask questions. I’m not looking for perfection–the point of mentorship is to work on craft together! But you have to be willing to invest time in the process.

I’ll start by saying that in all things, I want to see marginalized voices regardless of if you’re writing an #ownvoices story or not. And please don’t self reject! Even if you don’t see things specific to your book below but think we’d be a good fit, send it to me!  I am only looking to mentor fantasy but I’m open to literally every subgenre and a very broad interpretation of fantasy!

Here is a non-comprehensive list things I always love and things I’d love to see:


  • Fantasy Knives Out! Magic! Murder! Family drama!
  • Something that feels like a dark and twisted fairytale (I loved GIRL, SERPENT, THORN)
  • Stories with a romantic main or subplot (bonus points if it also has lots of romantic ANGST!!) I love lighthearted romcom-ish banter but I’m equally drawn to complicated, messy dynamics like THE CRUEL PRINCE or WHERE DREAMS DESCEND
  • A fantasy that feels like a CW show
  • Stories that are just a bit wild and weird and unpredictable (think BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL)
  • Witches!!! I’m dying for a witchy YA so if you have one please send it to me! It can be in any subgenre, but I’d love a contemporary/urban fantasy!
  • Second world fantasies set in worlds inspired by modern time periods (like ACE OF SHADES) 
  • Stories that blend genres—supernatural romcoms, noir high fantasies, scientific magic systems, second world spy thrillers etc.
  • Anything with a campy/self-aware sense of humor (What We Do In The Shadows for example)
  • Atmospheric settings that feel like a character of their own (MEXICAN GOTHIC was a recent favorite)
  • Stories dealing with immigration, colonialism, or revolution (THE GILDED WOLVES explores these themes wonderfully
  • Historical fantasies set during the early 20th century or set outside the US (THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS for example)
  • Love triangles!!!! I’m so ready for these to make a comeback in YA
  • Anything that’s lighthearted or has low stakes—dark and gritty is always great, but give me a fun adventure with great banter and complex relationships!
  • Multiple POVs / group casts
  • Stories that emphasize friendships as much as romances (I love the concept of threadfamilies in the Witchlands books!
  • Non-linear timelines and stories within stories
  • Mythology, folktales, fairytales, urban legends–I’m open to all retellings but I want to see what unique spin the author brings to the table (I recently loved LEGENDBORN)


Please don’t send me stories with suicide/self-harm or sexual assault. I’m also not the right fit for stories with a fully white allocishet cast or stories in which marginalized characters are sidelined or killed to further the arcs of white allocishet characters.


I grew up obsessed with Inkheart, Ella Enchanted, The Princess Bride, and I’m always drawn to fantasies that feel classic in that way. I love atmospheric books with beautiful prose and worlds that make me want to live in them like The Wrath and the Dawn, The Girl at Midnight, and Wintersong. When I’m not reading YA, I’m usually reading romance, and some favorite authors include Evie Dunmore, Talia Hibbert, Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, and Helen Hoang.

I’ve recently gotten into D&D podcasts and listened to all of The Adventure Zone: Balance earlier this year. I’ve watched almost everything on the CW, but I’m currently making my way through Reign for the first time and wow it’s a wild ride! In general, I love casts with a great dynamic full of banter and angst, such as The Good Place, Veronica Mars, Schitt’s Creek, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and The Vampire Diaries/The Originals. I’m a big reality TV fan (The Bachelor, Real Housewives, GBBO, Selling Sunset, Next in Fashion etc.) as well!