Mentor Alyssa Colman

Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic

Fantasy, Historical

THE GILDED GIRL (2021) Farrar, Straus & Giroux
(2022) Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Alyssa Colman is the author of THE GILDED GIRL, which Publishers Weekly called “a thoughtful and imaginative exploration of friendship, internal change, and perseverance” in a starred review. Alyssa lives in northern Virginia with her family.

I began writing novels in mid-2015 after several years of writing plays. I entered my first manuscript, a YA sci-fi into PitchWars in 2016, but wasn’t selected. Fortunately, a kind PW mentor gave me some feedback that helped me revise. I scrapped everything but the main characters and did a complete rewrite that got me into AMM in 2017. Sadly, I ended up shelving that book after two long rounds of querying and a handful of requests. Around that time, I attended the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop with several other AMM mentees. One of the agents there helped me realize that my voice and story ideas were a better fit for middle grade. I started reading recent middle grade books and discovered it was also a better fit for my heart! I wrote my first middle grade in early 2018 and queried it in the fall. This time, I had a fast and high request rate, ended up with multiple offers, and signed with my agent. THE GILDED GIRL sold in a 4 publishing house auction and published 2 years later. One month before it published, my agent unexpectedly left the business. I found myself querying again at the same time as I was debuting, but it all worked out and I found my wonderful second agent. My second book, THE TARNISHED GARDEN, comes out in April 2022 and I’m currently drafting a third novel.

I honed my kind and constructive critique style through years of playwriting workshops, in college writing classes, and at UCLA. I work with CPs at all stages in their publishing journey. Most of my CP’s have signed with agents and sold books during the time we’ve worked together. I mentored a MG contemporary novel writer in R6 of AMM.

AMM gave me three things that I couldn’t have gotten to this point without: courage, craft, and community. I’ve learned so much not only from my mentor but from my fellow mentees, many of whom have become close friends as well as CPs. I view this as a chance to give back to the writing community and pass on what I have learned. I love helping others with their stories and will happily spend hours talking through plot holes and snowballing ideas. I can’t wait to fall in love with my future mentee’s book!

The first thing I notice about a story is the voice and the character. I want to find a voice that sticks in my head and a character I love and root-for long after I turn the last page. I’d love to find a cozy or emotional historical novel like A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON or ECHO MOUNTAIN. When it comes to contemporary, I tend toward stories that involve bigger world issues a la tackling gentrification in TAKE BACK THE BLOCK or life experience such as how PIE IN THE SKY handles grief. I love fantasies set in immersive worlds like A WISH IN THE DARK, GREENGLASS HOUSE, or THE LAST WINDWITCH.

As a mentor, I’m very editorial. We will dive into character, plot, and world-building to not only figure out what will best help your book, but also why. My critique style involves asking you lots of questions to force you to go deeper into every element of your story. I am open to middle grade in any genre except horror. What I’m looking for above all else is a strong voice and a desire to grow and improve.

Middle Grade

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism

I love stories about family and friendship. I’m not a big fan of plots that hinge on a misunderstanding. I love truly vile villains and a great chase sequence.



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

I’d describe my mentoring style as a warm hug and a kick in the pants. Kidding…mostly. We’ll likely start with a phone or video call so I can get to know you and get a sense of your familiarity edit letters. After I send your edit letter, we’ll set up another call to talk through it, brainstorm, and devise a revision plan. Revisions are my favorite part of the writing process (yeah, seriously) and I’ll teach you my streamlined system to revise faster and smarter. Be prepared, I will ask you tons of questions to force you to dig deeper into your characters, plot, and world. .

I prefer to read full manuscripts rather than chapter by chapter, but will make myself available for questions during the editing process. If you want me there, I am happy to be by your side during the querying process to help you in your agent research and submission material prep.

I do want to be upfront that I have small children at home and can’t always respond immediately, but I promise to always get back to you. So if you’re looking for an always-on-call mentor, I am not the right fit.

My ideal mentee understands that the revision process is an essential step on the path to publication and is entering AMM in order to grow and learn. As my mentee, you’ll be self reflective about your work and open to feedback. You probably already have a general idea of how to interpret notes and apply them, but you may need help putting together a revision plan. Overall, I’d like to develop a lasting working relationship and friendship with my mentee and be there to celebrate with you throughout your career.


Above all, I’m looking for a strong MG voice. My favorite middle grades have been in a wide variety of genres, but I gravitate towards books with heart and humor. I’m open to surprises, but I’d really love to find:

  • Historical books that speak to the current time. With magic or without. If you can comp to Karen Cushman, send it my way.
  • I love quirky kids and complex friendships in any genre.
  • Retellings that aren’t Grimm’s fairy tale inspired. Are you retelling a classic story or mythology? I feel I have solid experience to help in this area.
  • Funny books. Can you make me laugh out loud like NEVERMOOR or STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG did?
  • Books that explore science and/or play with form like THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS and SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS.
  • Heartfelt books that hit you in the gut like THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS


  • Scary or horror stories. I’m a wimp. Please don’t give me nightmares.
  • Vampires, ghost, or werewolf books (unless humorous)
  • Grimm’s fairy tale inspired stories.
  • Novels in verse or graphic novels. While I love to read them, I’m not the right mentor for them.


TV – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek, the new All Creatures Great and Small series, Anne with an E, How I Met Your Mother, The new Babysitter’s Club, BBC Period dramas.

Movies – The Emperor’s New Groove, Ever After, Mulan, Enola Holmes, The King’s Speech.

Plays/Musicals – The Drowsy Chaperone (musical), Hamilton (duh), Next to Normal (musical), Proof (David Auburn), Antigone (Sarah Ruhl), Circle Mirror Transformation (Annie Baker)

National Parks – Zion, Acadia, and Sequoia. I really want to go to Glacier and up to Banff in Canada.