Sarah Kapit is the author of the middle-grade novels GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN! and THE MANY MYSTRIES OF THE FINKEL FAMILY. VIVY COHEN was named a Schneider Family Honor title and received the Washington State Book Award. In her previous life, Sarah earned a PhD in History from UCLA. She lives with her family (and a goofy orange cat) in Bellevue, Washington. Her hobbies include knitting, PC strategy games, and watching bad TV (plus occasionally good TV).
I started writing books around 2015 after finishing my graduate degree and not getting an academic job. My first book was a YA historical fantasy that was, in retrospect, a mess. I proved to myself that I could finish something, but I had no idea how to revise it to make it readable. So I didn’t even try to query it.
For my next manuscript, I switched to middle-grade and found that my voice was more of a natural fit there. I entered AMM Round 2 and was selected. My wonderful mentor taught me a ton about how to revise and critically evaluate my own work.
I started sending out queries for my new and improved book. At the same time, I started working on a new project. I just had a feeling that this new book was better than anything I had written previously. With my AMM mentor’s encouragement, I entered it into Pitch Wars 2017. I got in and once again learned a ton about revision from working with a great mentor.
Although I did Pitch Wars, I was not one of those people who got an agent offer three days after the agent showcase. I signed with my first agent about three months after Pitch Wars ended. We went on sub with that book and sold it to Penguin as my debut: GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN! (Then it came out at the very beginning of a global pandemic–fun story!) My second book, THE MANY MYSTERIES OF THE FINKEL FAMILY, came out in March of 2021, also from Penguin.
After my first agent left the business, I signed with Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency and have been with her for a little more than a year.
I have been a mentor for Author Mentor Match four times before this year, and a co-mentor for Pitch Wars three times. Some of my past mentees are now agented and have book deals. I have also worked with critique partners, some of whom have gone on to become published middle-grade authors. My long-time critique partner Adrianna Cuevas is a 2020 Pura Belepré Honor recipient.
For me, mentoring isn’t just a one-time deal. I stay in contact with my mentees and am very willing to provide feedback on additional manuscripts if they want it. I know from my own experience that the AMM book might not be “the one,” but you’ll still learn a ton about writing and revisions that will serve you in the future.
It’s no exaggeration to say that being selected as an AMM mentee changed my writing life. For the first time in my life as a fiction writer, I had someone who believed in my abilities as a writer. My mentor encouraged me, and showed me how I could revise my work and make it even better. Without the mentorship I received, I might not have ever learned how to really revise a book from the ground up.
I want to pay it forward to other writers by offering them the same kind of guidance. It can be really overwhelming to revise a book on your own. An edit letter points you in the right direction and provides the necessary tools to get started. I find it incredibly rewarding to see my mentees improve their writing with my guidance. I am honored to play a role in my mentees’ improvement in their skills, though all of their success and general awesomeness is entirely their own.
I strongly believe that writing is one of those skills that requires you to constantly level up and learn new things. Critiquing others’ work, much like reading, is one way to indirectly develop writing skills. And it’s something that I very much enjoy doing!
I enjoy developing my relationships with my mentees over months and years. I have even relied on them to offer me feedback on my own work. Publishing is a hard business, and relationships are so important for getting through it all.
Mentorship helped me to become the writer that I am today. I want to help others develop their skills as a writer and better achieve their creative vision.
As a mentor, I am tough but encouraging. I may ask my mentees to make pretty significant revisions, with an eye towards improving skills and preparing a manuscript for the querying process. I never want my mentee to make a change that doesn’t feel right for their book, but I do ask them to remain open to different possibilities.
My work as a mentor continues throughout the querying process and beyond. I want to be there to strategize, commiserate, and otherwise help my mentees get through what can be a pretty difficult industry. Writing for publication is hard, but it is so much more enjoyable with guidance from someone who has been there.
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I am looking for contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction stories. Across all of these genres, I want to mentor a book with a strong voice and memorable characters. I like books that are fundamentally hopeful.
For fantasy, I am looking for fantasy with a real-world setting, whether that be contemporary or historical. I am not the ideal mentor for secondary world fantasy. Contemporary stories with just a hint of magic are also great (which may fall under the umbrella of magical realism or fabulism).
If you have anything that can be classified as a “fun” contemporary, I would likely be interested. I am also open to books that explore identity or social/political issues in a way that’s kid-friendly and accessible. (My list of favorites include many such examples.) However, I am not the best fit for super-serious contemporary books.
I love novels in verse and graphic novels, but I am not the best fit to mentor them. Novels with graphic elements are great, however.
Some MG tropes I love: boarding school, found family, quirky families, sibling rivalry, twists on fairy tales, kids learning how to be friends despite big differences, first crushes.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
The way that I mentor varies a little depending on my mentee and what their manuscript most needs. Usually, I begin by giving my mentee a pre-revision assignment. I may ask some clarifying questions, or ask my mentee to write a reverse outline. We might brainstorm new plot ideas together. This really helps mentees to get into the mindset to begin major revisions.
Next, I send an edit letter. I typically break my edit letter down into several big sections: plot, character, worldbuilding, and writing. For each section I will provide my thoughts and offer some possible suggestions for improvement. I always make it clear that my suggestions are only possible solutions. If my mentee has another idea for improving their work, fantastic!
If my mentee has any questions about the revision letter, I’m happy to talk it out with them. Once they’re feeling good about the revision plan, I let them get to work. (Though of course I’m happy to answer questions, serve as a sounding board, and offer encouragement from the sidelines!)
I read my mentee’s new draft once it is complete. Usually, I have some additional suggestions for how to make it stronger, if my mentee would like them. I will read additional drafts. Usually, my editorial feedback gets lighter the more we work on a manuscript together.
When my mentee is ready to query, I read their query letter and advise on querying strategy. If my mentee wants to continue working with me on additional manuscripts, I’m happy to do that also (and have in the past).
I want to work with someone who is eager to improve their writing abilities and willing to put a lot of work into their revisions. They should be open to feedback and making major changes to the manuscript, if necessary. It is totally okay to not know exactly how to fix a manuscript, and it is also okay to disagree with me! But I want my mentee to at least be open to exploring different possibilities.
Self-awareness is an asset as a writer, so I’d like for my mentee to have some idea of where their strengths are as a writer and where they’d like to improve.
My ideal mentee loves middle grade. If they don’t already read recently-published middle grade books, then I would like for them to be open to reading more of them.
In general, I prefer fun, kid-friendly middle-grade. For examples, take a look at my favorites list. If you can comp your book to anything on my list, please send! Basically, I want books that kids want to read–books that will leave them smiling. I am not the best fit for sad books where the dog (or a parent) dies.
Here are some elements that I’d particularly like to see–though I am definitely open to concepts that don’t appear here.
- Disabled main characters written by disabled writers (including neurodivergent characters)
- Unlikeable female characters
- LGBTQ+ main characters
- Jewish stories across all genres, especially from writers who are typically underrepresented in Jewish kidlit (Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, Jewish people of color, disabled Jews, and LGBTQ+ Jews)
- Fantasy and sci-fi stories exploring cultural mythologies that have been underrepresented
- Sports stories that aren’t just about sports (think GHOST or ANA ON THE EDGE)
- Stories in epistolary format
- Stories with graphic elements (though I’m not the best fit for full graphic novels)
- Outer space adventures
- Any kind of historical fantasy
- Whimsical magic
- A new twist on old fairytales, folktales, and creatures
- Contemporary stories with just a touch of magic (such as THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ, written by my critique partner Adrianna Cuevas)
- Stories that blend fantasy and sci-fi elements (like SAL & GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE)
- Reality TV or a wacky competition of some kind a la THE CANDYMAKERS or THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK
- Body positivity and fat characters
- Anything that offers the same kind delightful fun as the Enola Holmes Netflix movie
- Messy friendships
- First crushes
- Anything arty–visual arts, music, theatre, comedy, culinary arts, fashion, fiber arts, poetry, filmmaking, underwater basket-weaving, etc., etc.
- Kids with quirky and unusual interests
DO NOT SEND ME:
- Drug abuse
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Death of a parent as a major plot point during the novel
- Greek/Roman mythology
- Books written in verse
- Animal protagonists
- Stories that center around solving puzzles
LOVE SUGAR MAGIC
THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ
SAL & GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE
STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!
IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHINS
STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN
WE’RE NOT FROM HERE
THE BEST AT IT
THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN
DEAR SWEET PEA
ANA ON THE EDGE
THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA
AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS
Recent YA and adult books:
NOT HERE TO BE LIKED
ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKE
SOME GIRLS DO
YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN
TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW
RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE
THE KINGDOM OF BACK
ALL OF US VILLAINS
THE OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS
THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS
FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS
THE EXPANSE series
Movies and TV: The Good Pace, Only Murders in the Building, Gilmore Girls, Knives Out, Netflix Babysitters’ Club, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Hacks, Rutherford Falls