Mentor A.Y. Chao

Jamie Cowen, The Ampersand Agency

Adult Fantasy


Indie – SOUL AFFINITY (2022) Pixiu Books

Alice writes Chinese diaspora flavoured fantasy from her North London bolthole. She’s a recovering lawyer and xiaolongbao enthusiast. Between hot or cold, she’ll take frozen nostril hairs, champagne powder, and bluebird skies every time. She knits to soothe anxiety and has a deep abiding love for Hobonichi planners and kawaii planner stickers.

TLDR: After revising with AMM R8, I signed with my agent after two months of querying and four offers of rep. However… this sound-byte version is incredibly misleading because it makes it sound like a magical overnight journey.

Reader, it was not.

In total I’ve written three novels over eight years, queried two of them, and was rejected by 103 agents, at least half of them twice and some three and even four times. I am nothing, if not persistent. (And maybe a teeny bit of a glutton for punishment.)

Novel #3–Shanghai Immortal–was written at the height of the pandemic while grieving my second novel. I started to query #3 at the end of 2020. While reception was positive, fulls were coming back with the dreaded ‘didn’t connect’ and I feared another repeat of novel #2. So when AMM R8 opened for subs, I entered.

I will be forever grateful that Lia Ryerson chose me as her R8 mentee. In Lia, I found a brilliant, generous mentor with informed, genre specific advice, actionable, on point feedback (she is an utter genius at developmental edits), and on top of all that? She is the greatest cheerleader and supporter I could have hoped for. With the help of her insight, I sharpened up my manuscript and eight years and four months to the day I embarked on my writing journey, I signed with my agent.

In writing, there are three things I’m passionate about: honing my craft, creating space for marginalised writers in the publishing world, and paying forward the generous support I’ve received from the writing community.

For the first, I tend to always have a craft book on the go, looking for new approaches and innovative perspectives to fold into my own toolkit. I’ve taken developmental editing courses from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading in the UK as well as the Editors Freelancers Association in the US, and am always on the lookout for high calibre courses on craft (Clarion West and Writing the Other are two of my favourite go-tos).

For the second, I’ve been very fortunate to have been a mentee for AMM, Pitch Wars, Gold Dust, and SFWA. Through those experiences I continue to learn a great deal about the publishing world and work within the communities I’m part of to actively support marginalised writers.

Lastly, I wouldn’t have gotten this far if not for the generosity of the writing community, so I’m big on paying forward that positive karma. I help writers improve their queries and CP with writers at all different stages of their writing journeys–from published to new emerging authors. I’ve also offered #predv pitch help and done submission package critique giveaways for #dvpit and the Write Team Mentorship Program.


My AMM mentor was an absolute dream, and I want to pay that forward. I hope to share my experience and knowledge to help a marginalised writer have an awesome AMM experience *and* get their foot in the door of publishing.

I’m looking for a natural voice with a personality that echoes in my mind long after I’ve put down the book. I love immersive cinematic world building, multi-dimensional characters who make my heart sing, and a story I just can’t put down.

I love all kinds of fantasy, high, low, secondary world, *urban, portal, sci fi and am excited to find something fresh, diverse, and memorable.

*For urban fantasy my taste lands firmly towards the fantasy side–ie Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, and Tendai Huchu’s Library of the Dead–not the paranormal romance side.


  • Fantasy
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

I love a vulnerable bad ass, settings as characters, retellings, fresh takes on myth and folklore. I love a character with brains, chutzpah and humour.



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

If you are a Becca Symes fan or know the Gallup 34 strengths, my top five are Strategic, Developer, Individualization, Achievor, and Activator. In a nutshell–I’m great at brainstorming, identifying tangles from a bird’s eye view, getting things done, and encouraging you to find the way that works best for you.

My mentoring style is open-ended and collaborative. I want my mentee to feel comfortable working with me. I believe in praise, positivity, and honest (never brutal) critique. If we brainstorm, I will toss ideas out at a million miles an hour but it’s important you know these are all only suggestions, not mandate. Your story, your words, always.

I like to use the comment function on Word for things like my real-time beta impressions, general screaming about how much I love your work, questions, and flagging awkward word choice.

I’m stealing my AMM mentor’s line because she said it so well: “I’m not here to change your MS, I’m here to help you make it the best version of the book YOU set out to create.”

My ideal mentee is committed to working hard and honing their craft. Revision is where the magic happens, and it’s a very different beast to drafting. I’m looking for a pragmatic mentee who embraces critique as a tool to strengthen weaknesses.


  • Give me strong voice and irreverent humour! Think Tamsyn Muir, Terry Pratchett, TJ Klune, Xiran Jay Zhao, Tendai Huchu.
  • Send me stories driven by interesting, complex, nuanced characters–in the vein of NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, Shelly Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun
  • I love a sense of place that lives and breathes and sputters and stinks–cinematic and synesthetic a la Fonda Lee’s Jade City or Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings
  • 120% YES to diverse rep


  • Rape as a plot device
  • Animal cruelty
  • Toxic masculinity for funsies
  • Glorified patriarchy/colonisation/oppression/misogyny
  • Whitewashed settings
  • Tokenised diversity


Books: Iron Widow, Jade City, Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth, Broken Earth Trilogy, His Dark Materials, The Chosen and the Beautiful, The Bone Shard Daughter, Everything I Never Told You, Crazy Rich Asians, Neverwhere, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Shadow of the Wind, The Library of the Dead

Shows: Fleabag S2, Healer, Hotel del Luna, My Love from the Star, What We Do in the Shadows (TV S1&2), The Little Mermaid (Japanese version with Marina who dies), Wandavision, The Witcher, Goblin the Great and Lonely God, Good Omens, True Blood, Supernatural

Movies: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987 HK version), Avengers, Shang Chi, Empire of the Sun, Peter Jackson’s LOTR, Romeo + Juliet, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Princess Bride