Mentor Mary Averling


Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Middle Grade Fantasy


Mary Averling has an MPhil in children’s literature from Cambridge University, where she won the 2021 Florence Staniforth Fiction Prize. She has worked as a tour guide, ice cream scooper, college lecturer, and freelance editor, though she cannot seem to avoid being a student for long. Mary grew up across England and Canada and now lives in British Columbia, surrounded by mountains — of books, and the regular kind.

I began seriously writing in middle school, and somehow managed to churn out six novels over my time at high school. As a teenager, I always tended to write about teenagers, and so my seventh novel was also supposed to be YA—but once the draft was completed in 2016, something just didn’t feel right. The voice wasn’t working. After rediscovering a collection of middle grade favorites from my childhood, I decided to try rewriting as MG—and finally, finally, a missing piece clicked into place! This new project, about grieving sisters, a dark forest, and a city with a mind of its own, didn’t feel like the others. It felt special in a way I couldn’t quite explain, and I decided I wanted proper help to revise. I entered the manuscript into R4 of Author Mentor Match in 2018, and I was lucky enough to be selected by the incomparable Heather Kassner (THE BONE GARDEN, THE FOREST OF STARS). We revised much of the book, and in January 2019, I signed with my agent after receiving four offers of representation. Of course, the journey didn’t end there! What followed was a near total rewrite, axing characters and increasing tension until I felt I could recite the book in my sleep. And then … submission, which turned out to be the most treacherous process of all. I am currently finishing up revisions on my second MG, about bogs and museums and in-between places; we shall see what happens next!

I’ve taken part in Author Mentor Match from both sides of the table, both as a mentee in R4 and as a mentor in R7 and R8. Working with both my mentees continues to be an incredible privilege, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to find another story to fall in love with! I’ve honed my editorial skills through university workshops, revisions with my mentor and agent, beta swaps with critique partners at a variety of levels, and with freelance clients, many of whom have gone on to secure agents and (major) book deals. I also study MG literature academically, working alongside a fantastic cohort of industry experts, and I’m looking forward to sharing this knowledge with my future mentee!


Watching a book sharpen and glimmer as it reaches its potential is, in my opinion, nothing short of magic! This industry can feel very lonely and disheartening at times, and the sheer frustration many of us feel when writing doesn’t make it easier—but we don’t have to embark alone. I want to offer support and give a fellow writer the best possible boost toward success, no matter how loopy or treacherous that path may seem.

I’m eager to find a book I can lose myself in, whether it’s a clever mystery, lyrical contemporary, breathtaking fantasy, or spine-tingling horror. Though I like my stories dark, that doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom – if you’ve mixed in a good dash of hopefulness and beauty, I want to read it! Give me your intricate world-building, unique voice, and unforgettable atmosphere, with the sort of capital-F Feelings that will make my heart ache. But above all, I’m looking for POTENTIAL. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves if you are!

Middle Grade

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

I’m open to most tropes, when done well! I especially love redemption arcs, stories about stories, found family, antiheroes, sibling tales, and complicated relationships of all kinds. I’m similarly open with genre niches—I like to be surprised! If you’re convincing, no matter what strangeness you whip up, I’m willing to follow.



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

I like to start my edits with a big-picture letter. There will probably be plenty of gushing, because I do think it’s helpful to know what IS working in a manuscript, then we’ll discuss what might need to be changed. I’m happy to be as hands-on as you want, whether that includes a phone call or brainstorming session, and I’ll remain a DM away as you work through. From there, we’ll do a couple of line edits or smaller revisions to tighten the manuscript and make it as rejection-proof as possible. If you would like a partner during your querying journey, I am more than willing to guide you through the trenches!

Much of my editing is done through questions, with whys and hows and what-ifs. I like going as deep as possible into plot, atmosphere, character, world, etc. We’ll make sure there are no loose threads at risk of unravelling, and the best parts of your manuscript are given their chance to shine.

You’re passionate, self-reflective, and willing to put in the work to strengthen your manuscript. You know your characters inside and out, and you’re ready to dive even deeper into what makes them tick. Perhaps you still have plenty of questions or uncertainties, but you are open to critical feedback and have a good comprehension of your audience. Ultimately, I want this to be a fun, magical experience! This means you understand the ups-and-downs of the industry, and you love your book enough to ride through to a long-term career.


I’d love to find something high-concept, fresh, and sparkling with magic. I gravitate towards darker stories with strong voices and clever humor, though I would especially like to read:

  • A creepy, elegant fantasy in the vein of THE BONE GARDEN, CORALINE, or THE GIRL AND THE GHOST.
  • A story that explores mental health, or loneliness, or trauma through a magical lens, such as THE LAND OF YESTERDAY or QUINTESSENCE.
  • Strange hobbies, fascinations, or obsessions.
  • A fast-paced adventure with a mystery at its core, preferably steeped in atmosphere. MALAMANDER, WINTERHOUSE, and WILDERLORE come to mind.
  • Monsters, monsters, monsters! (Seriously, please send me monsters).
  • Fairy/folktale or classic novel retellings, like THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS or A WISH IN THE DARK. Bonus points for unusual, non-Western settings.
  • Stories set in isolated, high-pressure environments, like boarding schools or conservatoires. Dark academia, but make it middle grade?
  • Witty, world-bending adventures comparable to SAL & GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE!
  • Ghostly paranormal stories like CITY OF GHOSTS or THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET that contain just the right amount of horror.
  • Lyrical, achingly beautiful prose that sings, same as TURNAWAY GIRLS or GOLDELINE.
  • Quirk! Strangeness! Bizzarity! Give me your carnivorous trees, sentient puddles, or houses with attitude. If your pitch includes “whimsical,” I want to read it!
  • Realistic historical or contemporary that isn’t afraid to crush my heart into a thousand pieces … then heal it again. Maybe. Think HOW TO BECOME A PLANET or WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU MANGOES.

I am not the best mentor for books where the primary themes involve sports, illness, animal protagonists, video games, or excessive violence.


Adult: Vicious, The Bear & the Nightingale, Wayward Children, Night Circus, If We Were Villains, Circe, The City We Became, Ten Thousand Doors of January, Ninth House, Piranesi, Mexican Gothic, Freshwater, Gideon the Ninth, Queens of Innis Lear, Middlegame

Young Adult: Strange the Dreamer, Legendborn, The Light Between Worlds, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, Hazel Wood, The Dead and the Dark, Ace of Spades, Down Comes the Night, Cemetery Boys, Jane Unlimited, Ghost Wood Song

Middle Grade (not mentioned in my MSWL): Monstrous, The Language of Ghosts, Whichwood, The Memory Thief, Begone the Raggedy Witches, The Wolf of Cape Fen, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, Mary Underwater, The Verdigris Pawn, The Circus of Stolen Dreams, Pet, October October, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna