Shana Targosz is a MG/YA/PB author who writes about magical girls, budding friendships, ghosts who may or may not be friendly, and fiercely-held hope. She is the 2021 Edna L. Holmes Fellowship recipient through Oregon Literary Arts. With an MFA in Drama/Costume Design, Shana is also an award-winning designer of stage and film. When not writing or reading through a stack of books, she spends her time playing Zelda, building LEGO creations with her son, crafting one-of-a-kind items, and dreaming up different worlds.
Growing up, I was surrounded by books. My father collected children’s books, and he passed his love of emerald cities, Wild Things, and hundred-acre woods to me. Immersed in these worlds, I dreamed of writing stories of my own one day. But I had no idea how to start. In my head I thought writing a manuscript meant sitting down and typing out a perfect draft that read like a published book. It was incredibly daunting (and wow was I completely wrong).
When I heard of NaNoWriMo (and learned that a first draft did NOT need to be perfect), I figured I’d give it a try. That November I wrote 68K toward my first manuscript. It was a hectic, messy beast, but it was MY hectic, messy beast. With input from CPs, I tore the manuscript apart and stitched it back together. After querying that book (it had a good request rate, but no Yeses), I shelved it and wrote a new one.
My third manuscript got me into AMM Round 6 as a mentee and eventually caught the attention of my agent. Overall, it took three years and three manuscripts to find my agent match. Since early 2020, I’ve been on submission with several different projects. I’m now on submission with a MG book, a picture book, and a chapter book series, and am cautiously hopeful! Currently, I’m working on a new MG contemporary fantasy set in the Underworld.
I’ve been part of the AMM Fam as both a mentee (R6) and mentor (R8) and am grateful for the opportunity to mentor for Round 9! In early 2021, I was deeply honored to be named the recipient of the Edna L. Holmes Fellowship through Oregon Literary Arts. I’m continuously seeking ways to improve my craft, including taking workshops, CPing manuscripts across a wide range of genres (some of my CPs have major book deals!), and reading as many craft books as possible. I’m also a freelance comic book editor, an editor for indie tabletop games, and previously edited short stories for a popular online gaming-comic for several years. I hope to share the knowledge I’ve gained from all of these experiences with my future mentee.
I love helping writers discover new ways to make their books shine. As a CP and mentor, one of my strengths is clarifying and deepening the emotional journey a character takes over the course of a book. I also have an eye for mystery-building and can spot a too-obvious plot twist a mile away. I love to brainstorm and help others find the heart of their story, as well as offering suggestions on how to heighten tension. The AMM community has been instrumental in boosting my writing craft and getting me one step further down this career path, and I hope to provide the same for a future mentee!
My hope for Round 9 is to find a mentee whose writing and story I swoon over. I’ll strive to provide any insight and craft knowledge I can to support my mentee as they work on revisions, help them craft a query and synopsis, and cheer them on as they journey through the query trenches.
As a mentor, my goal is to support authors on their publishing journey. This is a hard profession to embrace and willingly throw yourself into whole-heartedly. With the amount of rejection we face at every level, having allies and a support network is vital in reminding us why we’re chasing this dream in the first place. My own mentor was a huge part of my writing journey and I want to provide that same level of support (and cheerleading!) to my AMM mentee.
I’m hoping to find a manuscript that is full of heart with emotions that spark from the page, an immersive atmosphere, and a voice that grips tight and won’t let go. I enjoy a broad range of genres, but please take my anti-MSWL into consideration before submitting to me! I adore fantasy in all shapes and shades (from high-fantasy to low-fantasy, and from light to extremely dark), speculative fiction, mystery, and graphic novels. If your story features a new twist on a magic system, secrets, treasure, monsters, curses, riddles/puzzles, diverse characters, ghosts/hauntings, complex relationships, unusual locations, lush atmospheres, or all-round spookiness, I hope you send your work to me!
Putting your work into the world and sharing it with others takes a lot of bravery and I admire everyone who takes the leap to apply to a mentorship program. I read each submission carefully, knowing how much heart and precious time it takes to craft a book. It took me seven tries to get into a mentorship program, so I know how much it means to take the chance and submit to mentors. I’m honored to be a part of AMM both as alumni and a mentor and can’t wait to welcome my mentee into the AMM Family.
Middle Grade, Accepts Graphic Novels
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
Tropes/Genres I love:
Fantasy – all genres, particularly whimsical fantasy or dark fantasy.
Contemporary Fantasy/Fabulism – I get heart-eyes when reading stories set in a familiar world with a magical twist.
Historical Fantasy – I’m a history nerd and love to see fresh, magical stories weaving in historical events and/or set during an interesting/unusual timeline.
Mystery – twisty, cozy, or bonkers-fun—I love it all.
Speculative Fiction/Horror – Is your story about necromancers? Does it feature cosmic horrors? YES PLEASE! Give me all the creepy vibes!
S.T.E.M. – I love a brilliant MC with an interest in science/tech/game dev/engineering, particularly in a fantasy-esque world.
Graphic Novels – I’m most interested in stories with a splash of fantasy (or completely drenched in it), or a contemporary story with mystery elements. Author/Illustrators only, please.
Found Family – I ADORE found family stories, the more heartwarming the better!
Tropes/Genres I don’t love:
Issues books, particularly those focusing on self-harm, drug addiction/alcoholism, or suicide.
Toxic relationships (this includes mean girls where the mean girl doesn’t change/experience growth).
Overall, I love friendship stories, villain stories, heroes who may or may not be heroic, treasure hunts, ghost stories, complex family/friend relationships, stories featuring diversity, LGBTQIA themes, tales featuring monsters, unusual lore, and MAGIC. Anything that can be comped to a Studio Ghibli movie will win my heart!
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
Know that if I choose you as my mentee, it means that I LOVE your story and believe you have what it takes to make your book as strong as possible for the querying trenches. My feedback will be brutally honest about what needs the most work, but will also include lots of gushing about what made me fall in love with your story in the first place.
My mentee will receive one big-picture edit letter broken down into sections identifying areas that need revision. I’ll ask lots of questions that will help you tie up loose threads and get ideas flowing so you can dig deeper into every aspect of your novel. I also give homework and share craft resources that help identify ways to strengthen character development, stakes, pacing/tension, structure, and world-building. Once the edits are done I’ll read your manuscript again and provide feedback as needed.
As your mentor, I will be here to guide you and offer support. My goal is to help you discover revision skills you can apply to future projects. I will be available via email/DMs to talk through the edit letter and go through any questions you may have. Together we’ll make a plan and craft a timeline with deadlines as we move forward. I’ll be here to cheer you on during revisions and through the querying trenches.
My ideal mentee will be excited about diving back into revisions, be open to feedback and brainstorming, and be willing to dig deeper into their characters’ emotional journeys to craft a stronger, unputdownable book. I’ll be asking my mentee to do homework (including beat sheets, outlining the MC’s emotional journey, and world-building Q&As). My mentee should be willing to ask questions and be open to big structural changes. If sweeping changes are needed in order to make the plot/story work, my mentee must be open to hearing those changes and brainstorming ways to fix the issues, and then implementing those edits and possible rewrites. Finding critique partners if you don’t already have them is a must! CPs are absolutely worth their weight in gold.
I love fresh, fun concepts with a dash of whimsy and a spark of magic. Voice is oh-so-important to me. Give me a character to root for and you’ll win me over! I adore lyrical storytelling, richly imagined worlds, unusual structures/formats, and am always on the lookout for manuscripts from marginalized authors and underrepresented voices. I’m hoping to find stories that grab hold and won’t let me go, along with characters I’d follow to the ends of the earth.
Other elements I gravitate toward:
- Stories with a dash of whimsy and a MC who messes up (and works hard to fix it), such as the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett, and the Eva Evergreen series by Julie Abe
- Spooky, atmospheric tales with lurking danger and creeping darkness, such as The Lockwood & Co. books by Jonathan Stroud, The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, or The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner
- Horror with fantasy elements, such as a MG-version of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir or terrifying, Lovecraftian-inspired stories (love those cosmic horrors!)
- Contemporary or fantasy settings with lore woven through it, such as When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, or The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson
- Historical fantasy with a magical thread, such as Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier, Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty, or The Blackthorn Key series by Kevin Sands
- Stories that feel like fairy tales from another world entirely (perhaps featuring MCs that may or may not be heroic), such as The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz, The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, or Iron-Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill
- LGBTQIA themes with a dash of magic, such as Cattywampus by Ash Otterloo, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu, and The Witch Boy series by Molly Ostertag.
- Mystery! I adore mysteries in all shapes and forms. If you can comp the A Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens or anything akin to a MG Knives Out or Only Murders in the Building, please send to me!
- For Graphic novels I adore stories with a hint of the speculative or all-out fantasy, such as This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, Séance Tea Party by Reimina Yee, or the Lumberjanes series (Please note I’d prefer to work with an author-illustrator for graphic novels!)
- Hybrid novels (using both illustration and prose as seen in Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and K. G. Campbell, or Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai) or novels told through unconventional methods (texts, journal entries, etc)
- S.T.E.M books in a fantasy setting or mystery (is your MC an inventor? Or a chemistry genius? I want it!). A good comp would be My Hero Academia (the character Mei Hatsume is the perfect example) and Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston.
- Steampunk (gimme all the airships & intriguing inventions)
- Sister stories, enemy stories, friendship stories, villain stories, or any compelling story with family/friendship at its heart
- Settings that are atmospheric and enchanting and a character on their own
- Addams family-esque stories (eccentric families are my jam!)
- Unconventional families and found families
- Anything that can be comped to a Studio Ghibli movie (No really, if you comp a Studio Ghibli film you will have my full attention!)
DO NOT SEND ME:
- Contemporary that does not have a magical/fantasy element or mystery. I love straight contemporary, but there are other mentors who are much better suited to mentor contemporary this round
- Graphic Novel scripts if you are not also the illustrator. I’d prefer to work with an author/illustrator for GNs
- Stories that focus entirely on a sibling/parent/best friend’s death, mainly when their death happens as the book unfolds
- Mean girls used as a trope (Enemies to friends is fine, or where the mean girl goes through a positive change. I’d rather celebrate female friendships than see toxic relationships represented)
- Gross-out humor
- Animal death
- Sexual abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Drunk driving
- Stories where religion is the main focus
- Cockroaches. Please don’t send cockroach stories.
Favorite movies/TV: Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Your Name, Avatar: the Last Airbender (animated), The Mandalorian, Knives Out, Atomic Blonde, Only Murders in the Building, Pushing Daisies, Great British Baking Show, My Hero Academia
Authors I admire: Laini Taylor, Grace Lin, Angie Thomas, Leah Johnson, Jonathan Auxier, Megan Whalen Turner, Elizabeth Acevedo, Raina Telgemeier, Jason Reynolds, and Terry Pratchett
Books I adore (other than those mentioned in my MSWL): Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson, The Boy, the Bird, & the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods, Liesel & Po by Lauren Oliver, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri, Clues to the Universe by Christina Li, the Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke, A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat, From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera, Gideon the Ninth/The Locked Tomb Series by Tamsyn Muir, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.