Mentor Esme Symes-Smith

Megan Manzano, D4EO

MG Queer Fantasy

SIR CALLIE 2 (2023) Labyrinth Road

Once upon a time, in the Southwest of England, Esme Symes-Smith wanted to be a knight. Except it was 2002, so they decided to be a writer instead. Pen and sword and all that!

They cut their teeth on a steady diet of fanfiction before wandering up to Wales to complete their degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. Then one day on Tumblr, they met a cute girl and promptly moved continents to get married.

Now they live with their wife and fur-babies in Missouri where they wrangle kiddos as a preschool teacher in between scribbling.

I started writing seriously in 2005 when I was 13 and quickly became addicted to telling stories to a captive audience with fanfiction. From there, I studied Literature and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University in Wales, all of which I subsequently un-taught myself through NaNoWriMo. I drafted my first original novel during my first NaNo in 2013, and spent the next six years rewriting and revising as I worked out what it was supposed to be in between other NaNo novels. I eventually signed with that 2013 book in 2019 with Megan Manzano after it had undergone a metamorphosis from a 7 PoV YA hot-mess to a single PoV MG novel. Whilst on sub and in quarantine, I wrote and revised SIR CALLIE which we sold in March 2021.

I have been deeply involved in the writing community for several years, and assisted in more manuscripts than I can count, both as a beta and a more involved CP, many of whom have had success querying and gone on to get book deals. My specialty is sub packages and finding the hook in quiet narratives.

I love watching writers grow with their drafts and reach their full potential. This industry exists on others’ experiences and word-of-mouth advice, and I feel in a place where I have enough of my own to be able to pass it along.

I am looking for Queer MG stories packed full of heart! Whether it’s quiet contemporary or epic fantasy, I want to see character driven stories about kids finding their place and their people. If you’re worried that your story is too much of a heart-book to be marketable, send it to me!

Middle Grade

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

Adore: Found family; friendship stories; family stories; sunshine/raincloud dynamic; swords and magic; angst/fluff

Dislike: I enjoy most things if they’re done well!



  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat
  • I will leave comments on the doc, but I won’t be editing for grammar/spelling

I will read the MS and leave in-line comments as I go, then compile my thoughts into a word doc. After the mentee has sat with it for a week or two, we will either call, zoom or chat and come up with a plan for next steps together. I will repeat this process once more. When the mentee is ready to query, we will focus on the submission package.

Someone who has been dedicated to their goal and craft for several years, with a strong voice and an excitement for all the steps in publishing–the good, the bad AND the ugly. Someone who is willing to get their hands dirty and really dig into their MS to make it shine.


  • They/Them MCs
  • Kids finding their found-family
  • Stories about home-life
  • Swords and Sorcery!
  • Lush settings, especially by the sea
  • Zuko-esque characters
  • Anything that can be comped to THE OWL HOUSE


  • Romance
  • Sci-fi


  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • The Owl House
  • Anne with an E
  • Tamora Pierce
  • Ana on The Edge by A.J Sass
  • A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo
  • How To Be A Planet by Nicole Melleby
  • Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski
  • The Circus of Stolen Dream by Lorelai Savaryn
  • The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth