Janna Bonikowski

YA Contemporary

NOT OUR SUMMER (5/11/2021) with Running Press Books/Hachette

Casie Bazay is former middle school teacher who now works as a freelance writer and editor. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, spending time at the barn with her horses and goats, reading, and watching movies (especially young adult novel adaptations). Casie lives on a hay farm in northeastern Oklahoma with her husband and two children but loves traveling to new and exciting destinations whenever she can.

My path to publication hasn’t been easy (but then again, is it ever?). I began writing with the intent to get traditionally published in 2012 and have written a total of five novels: one YA speculative fiction, one contemporary MG, and three contemporary YA’s. My fourth novel (NOT OUR SUMMER) is the one set for publication next May.

I spent four years querying the first four books (racking up over 300 rejections), and though I had some agent interest in all of them, I ended up landing a publishing offer from a Big 5 imprint through #pitmad in December, 2019. It was super exciting, but I knew I still wanted an agent to help guide me through the process of traditional publishing. Fortunately, I was able to do one last quick round of querying after getting the pub offer, and ended up with two offers for representation. I’m now repped by Janna Bonikowski of The Knight Agency!

I know I haven’t had the “traditional” path to publication, but it’s been an exciting one, nonetheless, and I look forward to selling more books with Janna (hopefully, my fifth book will end up being my second to be published–fingers crossed!).

I’m a former middle school science and English teacher (grades 6-8), and have lots of experience as far as working with others to improve their writing. After leaving the teaching profession in 2010, I began writing freelance, and more recently, have begun freelance editing as well. In 2016, I had the opportunity to work with an editor when I landed a spot in the Pitch2Pub contest (now known as Revpit, I believe).

I’ve been a beta reader and critique partner for dozens of manuscripts over the last five years or so, a couple of which have gone on to be published: ‘The Secret of Mowbray Manor’ by Jude Bayton and ‘In a Jam’ by Cindy Dorminy. My specialty is helping writers with their queries and synopses, and I’ve done a number of query critique giveaways on Twitter. Several writers have told me that after I helped them with their query, they began getting more requests. 🙂 I also taught a synopsis-writing workshop at my local writers critique group earlier this year (pre- COVID).


The writing community is truly one of the best communities there is. Over the years, I’ve had numerous writers offer advice and help with queries/synopses/first chapters, and the support I’ve received in various online writer groups has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve made *real* friends through some of these groups, and I treasure those friendships far beyond just the aspect of writing. I knew, at some point, I wanted to be able to give back to the writing community, and mentoring in AMM sounded like the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m excited to offer my skills and experience to help another writer improve their story and hopefully move forward with their path to publication.

I’m looking mainly for character-driven YA novels that pack an emotional punch. I love romantic elements in YA, but it’s not absolutely necessary–however I really want books with some sort of focus on relationships. I enjoy all types of YA contemporary, light sci-fi, speculative fiction, as well as historical fiction. I also love humor in books! However, in my opinion, a good story is a good story, no matter the genre, so that’s what I’m looking for, first and foremost.

  • Contemporary
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Historical

I’m pretty open to most tropes. Within the romance genre, I especially love enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, forbidden love, and who could forget the love triangle? 🙂

Two tropes I don’t particularly care for are 1.) the chosen one and 2.) instalove, but other than that, I’m not overly picky about tropes.


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

I will definitely read through the entire manuscript and provide in-line notes and edits. I will also send my mentee an edit letter with overall feedback. After that, I’m open to most forms of communication: email, private messaging, phone calls, etc. and no question is a bad question! I’m here to help as much as I can. 

My ideal mentee is someone who is open to feedback and willing to make changes to improve their story, but who is also confident enough in their writing to say ‘no’ when they really have strong feelings about a suggested change. I recommend letting the edit letter and feedback sit for a day or two before making any major decisions, but if you have a strong gut feeling about something, please speak up and tell me. It’s your book after all.


  • books set in nature or with strong nature themes (romance in nature? even better!)
  • strong female characters who aren’t afraid to speak their mind
  • books with characters who love animals
  • books with boys who are equal parts soft and “masculine”
  • books with a twist that readers don’t see coming
  • books with humor


  • fantasy
  • horror
  • anything with animal abuse
  • space-based sci-fi
  • hard sci fi with robots or aliens


As I’ve already stated, I’m a sucker for romance. Some of my all-time favorite YA romances include (older): Twilight series, Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi, the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. (Newer): You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn, Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, As Many Nows as I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl.

Other favorites, including non-YA’s: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, pretty much anything by Ken Follett (especially The Pillars of the Earth series), Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Favorite movies/shows: the entire Twilight saga, Titanic (am I showing my age here?), Napoleon Dynamite, The Kissing Booth (both movies), The Pillars of the Earth series, Game of Thrones, Dancing with the Stars, and I have a love/hate relationship with The Bachelor/ette (right now, I’m loving it).