Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic
YA Fantasy, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, Thrillers & Romcom
SHIPPED (2021) Penguin Teen
THE LAST CONFESSION OF AUTUMN CASTERLY (2020) Penguin Teen
THE RED LABYRINTH (2019) Flux
FREEDOM TRIALS (2018) Page Street
Meredith is the author of four published young adult books, including FREEDOM TRIALS, THE RED LABYRINTH, THE LAST CONFESSION OF AUTUMN CASTERLY, and SHIPPED, as well as an adult book titled MISSING PIECES. She grew up in Concord, New Hampshire where she fell in love with her two passions–writing and traveling. Meredith earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire before deciding to switch career paths and pursue her true dream of telling stories. She moves around a lot, and has lived in New York, Boston, London, St. Louis, Zurich, and Houston. Meredith recently relocated back to St. Louis, where she lives with her husband and their spoiled rescue dog. When Meredith’s not writing, she loves photography, playing the piano, trying new recipes, and chasing her dream of seeing every continent (four down, three to go!).
My publishing journey has been a roller coaster! I started querying my first manuscript in summer of 2011 and signed with my first agent in summer 2012, only to part ways a year later. In 2013, I started querying my second book and sold it to a small press. While launching that book, I was querying my third completed manuscript and writing my fourth manuscript. I signed with my second agent and we went on submission with my fourth manuscript, but the book in question didn’t to sell and is currently shelved. At the start of 2017, I parted ways with my second agent and sold my third manuscript, FREEDOM TRIALS (2018), to Page Street and my fifth manuscript, THE RED LABYRINTH (2019), to Flux. While working on edits for those books, I signed with my amazing agent for my YA speculative thriller, THE LAST CONFESSION OF AUTUMN CASTERLY, which sold to Penguin Teen at auction in May of 2018 and came out in February 2020. The second book in my contract, a YA romcom called SHIPPED, came out in May 2021. If I could go back in time and tell myself in 2011 that in 2021 I would have five published books, I never would have believed me!
I’ve had many different publishing experiences: I’ve published with a small press, midsize presses, and a big 5 publisher; I’ve been on submission multiple times, in one circumstance going on sub for months without selling and in another circumstance selling at auction two weeks after going on sub; I’ve parted ways with agents; I’ve gotten multiple agent offers on a manuscript; I’ve gone through formal editing for all of my books through different publishers; and finally, I’ve gotten around 400 (not a typo) rejections over the years. I’ve been in and out of the query trenches since 2011, so you could say I’ve been around the block a few times and know what to expect! I’ve loved mentoring in R7, R8, and Pitch Wars, and can’t wait to find another story to fall in love with!
I would not be where I am today if not for all the help, support, and generosity of other writers in the community. I want to give back to the amazing writing community that has helped me so much over the years!
I love YA across genres, and I always love to be surprised with something I’m not expecting! My preferences lean toward high-stakes speculative fiction with a big hook (fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism, contemporary with speculative elements, etc), romance, and thrillers, but I’m open to everything. If you write YA and think we’d be a good fit, I hope you sub to me! I can’t wait to read your words!
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I read just about everything and am open to YA in basically any genre! Here are some ideas, but I also really don’t want to limit you; if you think we’d be a good fit, please sub to me regardless of this list! This is just to give you an idea of my taste, but really, a strong voice and a fresh concept will hook me more than anything. I love to be surprised!
In addition to these genres, I love genre blending stories and crossover. If you’ve got a science fantasy, a contemporary with speculative elements, a sci-fi thriller, a fantasy romance, etc, send it my way! Also, I LOVE twists– if you’ve got a twist that will make me scream and throw your book across the room in a fit of rage, I need it.
Fantasy: I love fantasy in most sub-genres! Send me all your epic fantasy, your second world fantasy, your contemporary fantasy, your urban fantasy, I want to see all of it. I don’t want to specify too much here, because I want to get ALL your fantasy subs! Whether dark and bloody or light and fluffy or somewhere in between, send them all my way! Especially if there’s a hint (or a heaping dose) of romance.
Some YA (and adult) fantasies I love: THREE DARK CROWNS, FIREBORNE, ECHO NORTH, HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS, THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, SERPENT AND DOVE, SEAFIRE, THE CRUEL PRINCE, SIX OF CROWS, THE BELLES, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, EVERLESS, GAME OF THRONES, THE POPPY WAR, A CURSE OF ROSES, WINTER WHITE AND WICKED, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, FOR THE WOLF. If you’ve got a romantic fantasy romp in the vein of “Tangled,” I need it!
Sci-fi: I love sci-fi across sub-genres, but I am not the right fit for very science-heavy “hard” sci-fi (it breaks my brain, I’m sorry!). I am looking for “accessible” sci-fi that can be read and enjoyed by anyone, even those who don’t have an extensive understanding of physics or math. I am generally more into “grounded” sci-fi rather than space sci-fi, but I’m open to stories set in space, too! Some ideas:
-Time travel written in an accessible manner (think ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill or OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS by Justin A Reynolds)
-Dystopian is one of my favorite genres, and I’d love to see it make a comeback. If you’ve got a fresh take on this genre, I would love to see it! I think super bleak futures might be a hard sell right now (I mean let’s be honest, it’s been a rough two years), but I’m still a huge dystopian fan and would love to read a dystopia that feels different and fresh (think THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND). Ditto post-apocalyptic fiction, another favorite genre! Show me teens protesting and fighting oppressive systems, interesting scenarios and futuristic tournaments, a dystopian romance like THE SELECTION, fights to the death, anything with LEGEND or THE DARKEST MINDS vibes, effects of climate change, a found-family road trip across a post apocalyptic landscape, I want it all!
-Near-future sci-fi, or even sci-fi that almost feels contemporary (think MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS, EAT YOUR HEART OUT, NEVER LET ME GO, Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Black Mirror). I love books that explore the dark side of futuristic technology, those “what-ifs.”
-I love sci-fi/dystopian “road trip” stories–think “Logan,” “Mad Max,” THE DARKEST MINDS, THE SOUND OF STARS etc.
-I’d love a fun space opera with a big, rag-tag misfit cast and the found family trope.
-I’d love a big a sci-fi adventure featuring a disabled MC
Thrillers: I love a good thriller, but I want it dark, with high stakes that keep me guessing and on the edge of my seat until the end. Even better if there’s a jaw-dropping twist I never see coming! I’m an excellent guesser, so I am eager to be fooled! Some tropes I love include:
-“I know what you did, and if you don’t do what I say, so will everyone else”
-Games that go too far
-Small towns with something to hide
-I’m always up for a traditional “whodunnit.”
-If you’ve got an escape thriller like SURRENDER YOUR SONS, I want it!
-I love thrillers that keep me questioning who I can trust and second guessing myself! I always love guessing twists when I read, and I LOVE when I’m wrong.
Some thriller authors I enjoy are Kara Thomas, Diana Urban, Karen McManus, Adam Sass, and Tiffany D Jackson.
Romance: Any gender pairing! I love all romance genres and sub-genres: laugh-out-loud contemporary romcoms, sweet romance, darker romance, fantasy romance etc. I want it all! Some tropes I love, across all genres:
-Enemies to lovers/hate to love/rivals to lovers (if there is an enemies-to-lovers full of banter that doesn’t find its way into my subs I will be very sad)
-“You’ve Got Mail”/online romance (much like my book, SHIPPED, this is one of my favorite romance tropes!)
-Romance during a school trip, family vacation, summer camp, study abroad, etc.
-Friends to lovers
-Next door neighbor
-Second chance romance
-24 hour romance (if you can comp Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist or TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW, I want to see it!)
-Two people who clearly have feelings for each other but aren’t together yet due to circumstances (think season 2-3 Jim and Pam from The Office)
-Duty vs Love (this trope ALWAYS breaks my heart in fantasy)
Some YA romances I’ve loved: MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT, TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN, WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU, THE PASSING PLAYBOOK, HEARTBREAKERS AND FAKERS
Contemporary: I am probably not the best fit for “quiet” contemporary. I generally am looking for contemporary with a big commercial hook and high stakes! That being said, the stakes don’t have to be life-or-death or “world ending”–big emotional stakes are great, too!
-Retellings of classics with a contemporary twist (think Ten Things I Hate About You etc.)
-Mysteries that have me solving it alongside the characters (I loved THE INHERITANCE GAMES–if you have that as a comp, I want to read your book!)
-Mistaken identity stories
-Anything that can comp Netflix’s “Sex Education”! I love sex positivity in YA, especially when it’s inclusive and not strictly allo/cis/het.
-Messy, complicated relationships (not just romantic relationships! Give me complicated friendships, friendship breakups, messy siblings, estranged sisters, complex familial relationships etc.)
-Romcoms with a big hook (the plot setup of MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT is right up my alley)
-“Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars” vibes
-Stories touching on grief
-Stories featuring therapy, mental health, and mental illness
-Something that makes me laugh out loud
-Contemporary with speculative elements (BEFORE I FALL, LAYOVERLAND, OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, IF I STAY, etc)
-Teens are messy and sometimes make bad choices; I love to see this on the page. I want characters who are messy and make mistakes–but then learn and grow. If you can see adult reviewers someday complaining on Goodreads that your main character acts too much like a teen, I want this book!
-Stories that make me cry
-I am not really big into historical fiction, but if you’ve got a dual-timeline contemporary mystery that also delves into the past (think HOLES), I want it!
-I am also open to YA in college settings (or featuring post-high-school 18/19yo MCs who chose a different path besides college)
Some contemporaries I love: BEFORE I FALL, THE INHERITANCE GAMES, THE HATE U GIVE, MOXIE, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME, HOW TO BE BRAVE, SADIE, YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW, FIRSTS, GROWN, IF I STAY, ACE OF SPADES
I’m looking for atmospheric and creepy here. I love gothic horror like Erin Craig’s SMALL FAVORS and HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS, and sci-fi horror like WILDER GIRLS! Some recent horrors I also enjoyed are THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON and HOUSE OF HOLLOW, and anything created by Jordan Peele. Force me to turn my light on when I’m reading! Creep me out! Make me think!
-I love creepy small towns, haunted houses, abandoned buildings, legends of hauntings, and unsettling places. I love reading a seemingly “normal” situation that gives me some unsettling vibes, but then takes a turn for the totally weird and creepy.
-Creatures of the darkness. Things that go bump in the night. Vengeful ghosts. Monsters.
-Psychological horror that makes me think.
-Creatures that prey upon your worst fears
-Horror with “Twilight Zone” vibes, perhaps even sci-fi elements like “Black Mirror” and/or WILDER GIRLS
-Got a horror in a carnival, circus, or amusement park? I ABSOLUTELY want to see it! (I’m counting down the days until I can read Kiersten White’s upcoming HIDE)
-If you’ve got a YA “Midsommar,” I want to see it!
-If you’ve got a YA with “Coraline” vibes, send it my way!
Across all genres, I am always open to stories by authors from underrepresented backgrounds, including but not limited to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disabled authors (including neurodiversity and chronic illness, too). The world needs your stories, and I can’t wait to read them!
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
I consider this to be a collaborative partnership! We’re in it together, and I’m here to help with whatever you need. My mentoring style is a cup of encouragement, a dash of brainstorming, and a pinch of tough love. I want to help you make your book the best it can be. Every book and author is different, so we would first discuss a plan that works best for you and your story.
We’d start by talking about your manuscript. I’d want to get to know you, your writing style, and your publishing goals. Next, I’d send over an edit letter full of my big-picture observations, questions, thoughts, and suggestions – things I liked, and things I think could be stronger. We’d look at things like pacing, plotting, and character arcs here. If you want a mentor who will tell you honestly and up front what isn’t working — but will also add a GIF or two, make memes about your characters, send you dog pics, and squee over all their favorite lines, characters, and ships in your book — then we might be a good fit!
This book is YOUR book. I’ll never get mad if you don’t like my suggested edits. We’re in it together, and if you don’t like my revision ideas, we can chat and brainstorm alternatives. For example, let’s say I suggest an alternate ending, and you hate my ending idea! That’s totally fine, but maybe we could brainstorm together *why* the original ending doesn’t work the way it is, and come up with a great way to fix it that aligns with your vision.
I’ll be as involved in the revisions as my mentee wants me to be – whether you want to take the time to tackle those edits entirely on your own, or bounce ideas and chat about them as you go, I’m here! I’ll always be there to answer questions, brainstorm, and help out in any way I can.
Afterward, we’ll focus on line edits including word choices, sentence structure, scene-level edits, typos, etc. We’ll make sure it’s nice and polished before you query! I’ll be your biggest cheerleader when you query and help you hone your query letter, synopsis, and agent query list. Ideally, I’d love to chat with my mentee over email, text, or WhatsApp, but I’m open to Zoom/FaceTime or phone calls, too. My R7 and R8 mentees and I still chat regularly!
My ideal mentee is in it for the long run, and they’re willing to put the work in! After all, publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, and I want someone who is serious about pursuing traditional publishing. I want to work with a writer who is willing and eager to dive into revisions, and one who knows editing and rewriting are vital steps of publishing. I want to help you polish your manuscript and make it the strongest it can be! This might mean there’s a chance I’ll suggest large-scale revisions and/or rewrites. This book is YOUR book, and I would never push a revision that did not resonate with you. I’ll never get mad if you don’t like the revisions I suggest. That being said, I would want my mentee to try to be open-minded and willing to seriously consider suggested edits. I’ll always be here to talk through them and bounce ideas with you! Basically, I’m going to work hard as your mentor, and I want a mentee who is willing – and eager – to work just as hard as I am!
This is by no means a definitive list, but here are some elements I especially love to read about, across genres. But if your story doesn’t have any of these things, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I won’t love it – please sub me anyway! In previous rounds, I got a lot of subs that had me thinking, “wow, I LOVE this and can’t believe I didn’t think to add this to my MSWL!” so please don’t worry if you don’t see your specific tropes on this list. 🙂 In the end, a fresh concept and a strong voice will hook me more than anything.
- Genre-blending stories!!! Speculative contemporary, science fantasy, fantasy romance, sci-fi thrillers, etc etc etc I want them all!
- Antiheroes/Antiheroines! If your main character(s) lean toward the morally gray, are power-hungry, sometimes do the morally-questionable, are driven by revenge, or can be compared to Jude Duarte, Jyn Erso, Arya Stark, James Howlett, or Kaz Brekker, I can’t wait to meet them. Can you envision reviewers complaining about how “unlikable” the girls/women in your book are? I love them already!
- Enemies to lovers! If you’ve got the next Cardan/Jude, Jaime/Brienne, Roslin/Adama, Nina/Matthias, or Lou/Reid, I want to ship them! Are they supposed to kill each other, but fall for each other instead? Yes please! Give me all the snark and banter, all the angry flirting, all the begrudging “ugh, maybe they aren’t so bad after all” angst!
- VILLAINS! If your main character’s arc revolves around their slow descent from hero into villainy, I NEED to read it. If your manuscript features an evil queen, I’ll be super bummed if it isn’t sent my way. Romance between the hero and the villain? Yes please! Examining what it means to be a villain vs. a hero? Give me! Got a retelling of a classic story but from the villain’s POV? I need it immediately! Villains who think they’re the good guy? Well-rounded villains we love to hate? Morally gray villains we aren’t rooting for, but also kind of get where they’re coming from? Yessss!
- Anything that can be compared to “Logan,” “Labyrinth,” “Deadpool,” “Mad Max,” “Suicide Squad,” “Black Mirror,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Tangled,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or “Pan’s Labyrinth”
- MCs that actively dismantle the patriarchy
- Anything dealing with feelings of regret
- A well-earned redemption arc (but please, no redemption arcs for dictators committing genocide, rapists, slave owners etc)
- Retellings, especially of lesser known or non-western fairytales, mythology, or folklore
- “I got everything I thought I wanted, but it isn’t what I thought it would be”
- Circuses, carnivals, amusement parks. Bonus points if they’re magical and/or creepy.
- Marching band, theater, piano lessons, and all performing arts kids
- Teens involved with unusual hobbies or clubs
- Creepy forests, creepy board games, creepy mirrors, creepy birds, creepy masks, creepy small towns with sinister traditions. Can you tell I like creepy stuff?
- Fandom, fan fiction, cosplay, conventions, etc — give me all your nerds!
- Books that remind me of The Twilight Zone, with a similar eerie atmosphere and huge twist at the end
- Anything that reminds me of the show “Lost”
- Mazes of any kind–mirror mazes, hedge mazes, carnival mazes, corn mazes, creepy mazes, fun mazes, magical mazes, give them all to me. I love a good labyrinth!
- Roadtrips, study abroad, backpacking adventures, and travel of all kinds. I love when a book’s vivid setting comes alive on the page and transports me to a place I’ve never been before!
- oh no, there’s only one bed!
- High-stakes competitions and tournaments, even better if they’re life-or-death (think THREE DARK CROWNS, A RIVER OF ROYAL BLOOD, “Squid Game,” THE HUNGER GAMES, etc)
- Speculative contemporary or light-sci-fi about what happens when technology goes too far (think Black Mirror)
- Truth or dare. Tag, but make it creepy. Hide and seek, but make it creepy. Games that escalate out of control.
- When you’re supposed to fall for Person A but accidentally fall for Person B instead
- House parties or sleepovers that don’t go as planned
- Snappy dialogue. If your MC is always whipping out the one-liners, I need to meet them!
- I have always been intrigued by the classical piece “In The Hall of the Mountain King,” and I’d love to find a YA version of it.
- If you’ve got a YA “The Good Place” (like LAYOVERLAND), send it my way!
- Betrayals we never see coming that break our hearts
- Feminist Medusa retellings
- Anything similar in tone/mood to CARAVAL
- Characters who burn oppressive systems to the ground
- Natural disasters, climate issues, weather
- Brilliant outspoken older women in mentorship roles
- If Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” was a YA book
- If Taylor Swift’s “folklore” was a YA book
- Also Taylor’s “All Too Well”
- Any Taylor Swift really
- Witches, ghosts, potions, spells, curses
- Revenge stories!
- Prom, masquerades, school dances
- Drama and angst!
- Pets and animals in general (that don’t die!)
- Whirlwind romance that takes place over the course of one day
- The dark side of social media (or just social media in general)
- Found Families
- Boarding schools
- As a hard of hearing author, I would love to find a story in any genre with a d/Deaf/HoH main character, written by a d/Deaf/HoH author!
DO NOT SEND ME:
I don’t want to limit too much here, as I’ve been surprised before! If you have one of these but still think I’m the right fit, please feel free to sub to me anyway, regardless. However, I am probably not the best fit for:
- Historical fiction (historical fantasy/horror is fine!)
- Anything heavily dealing with COVID (I’m sorry, I’m just not there yet lol). I’m talking more contemporary COVID stories here–if you’ve got a dystopian, sci-fi etc about a virus, that’s totally fine. Also, if there’s a contemporary that happens to take place during the pandemic and mentions it but isn’t *about* COVID, that’s fine too. (For example, the latest season of “You” takes place in 2021 and they mention COVID and the pandemic happening, but the season isn’t *about* COVID).
- Contemporary where the main conflict revolves around sports
- Greek Mythology starring Zeus/ Hera/ Aphrodite/ Poseidon/ etc (I’m open to Greek mythology featuring lesser known gods, goddesses, and characters, and I always love retellings starring Hades)
- Romance between a human and an alien/shifter/werewolf
- “King Arthur” retellings/lore (I’m sorry, I know this is a popular one, but it just isn’t for me!)
- Novels in verse– I LOVE these, but I don’t read enough of them to be a good mentor for them.
- Graphic Novels- same as above. I love graphic novels, but I just don’t read enough of them to be a good mentor.
However, I do have some hard lines I am absolutely not the right fit to mentor:
- Please DO NOT send me stories featuring on-page child sexual abuse / pedophilia
- I am open to books that explore rape and sexual assault, as these are very real and prevalent issues today, if these themes are explored respectfully and center the victim. Please DO NOT send me books that center the rapist or use rape in a throwaway scene to show that a villain is Really Bad, and DO NOT send me rapist redemption stories. Survivor stories are welcome.
- Please DO NOT send me animal cruelty/animal death (hunting animals for food and/or killing in self-defense is okay if it’s not overly graphic). I get a lot of questions on this point every round so just to clarify, I do not want to see characters who hurt/kill animals for fun, or scenes where animal abuse is used to show that a villain is Really Bad. I am also not the right fit for stories where a major plot point hinges on a family pet being tragically killed or dying (think I AM LEGEND, OLD YELLER, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN etc). Please don’t send me these, I find these stories very upsetting. Simple rule: if the MC has a dog, the dog should still be alive and thriving at the end of the book. If the MC is riding a horse into battle, I don’t want to see the horse get injured. This goes for fantasy creatures, too– I don’t want to watch a pet dragon get torn apart either!
The Cruel Prince
Six of Crows
An Ember in the Ashes
The Darkest Minds
Three Dark Crowns
Eva Evergreen, Semi Magical Witch
The Darkest Corners
The Hate U Give
Serpent and Dove
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
House of Salt and Sorrows
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Crazy Stupid Love
Silver Linings Playbook
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
10 Things I Hate About You
Game of Thrones (not including season 8, which is dead to me)
The 100 (seasons 1-2)
Heroes (seasons 1-2)
Songs to play on the piano:
Toccata in D by Bach
In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
Rondo Alla Turca by Mozart
Exile by Taylor Swift
Let it Go from Frozen
Vienna by Billy Joel
Hello by Adele
Champagne Problems by Taylor Swift