Mentor Wen-yi Lee

Isabel Kaufman, Fox Literary

YA & Adult Fantasy


Wen-yi Lee is from Singapore and likes writing about girls with bite, feral nature, and ghosts. Her speculative work has been published by or is forthcoming with Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine and Anathema Magazine, among others, and has been featured by Tor. She can be found on Twitter at @wenyilee_, and otherwise at

I’ve been writing novels since I was a kid, but started seriously writing to publish short fiction in 2017. In mid-2020 I learned about publishing in the US and started revising an old manuscript with the intention to query it, which is also when I started making my first short fiction sales. I started querying my first novel, a YA fantasy, in January 2021. It received several requests that ultimately turned to rejections; I realized it wasn’t ready, and shelved it at the end of May 2021. At the same time, I broke through my writer’s block with a YA speculative/horror idea that I feverishly drafted over the course of June 2021, and after good feedback and minor revisions ended up querying that at the start of August. With the help of SFFPit, I ended up with multiple offers of representation and signed with my agent at the start of October. I’m now in revisions and preparing to go on submission!

I’ve sold multiple SFF short stories, which particularly means I’ve learned to spot and cut down a story to its core, and identify what is and isn’t important to the story in a limited number of words, as well as balance character and worldbuilding. Through the writing community I’ve picked up a couple of close critique partners and wonderful beta readers, and several have gone on to get agents and book deals. I’ve held or will hold guest reader/editor positions with two speculative fiction lit mags, as well as run my own youth-focused magazine. I’ve worked with manuscripts at an indie publishing house as well as done the marketing side, so beyond my querying experience I’ve also gotten a chance to hone my pitch writing skills and figuring out how to frame books.

Finding a writing community has made all the difference in my querying and writing journey. Specifically, I managed to find a couple of close friends and CPs who I could regularly reach out to to brainstorm, yell about good news, network information, or just commiserate and talk each other off ledges. Having a point of contact and friendship like that was pretty much a crucial part of helping me get agented, and I want to be able to be that for someone who needs it. Querying is a lonely, confusing, sometimes unfairly opaque process, and I want to help make it a little easier and less absolutely draining. When I was applying for mentorships, I was also always drawn to mentors who were BIPOC and/or international, and hopefully if that’s you, you’ll consider subbing to me!

Broadly, I’m looking for fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and all flavors of genre-blending speculative, especially anything with rich prose, unique mythologies, diverse casts, and heavy sense of setting or atmosphere. For stories based in our world, I’d especially love anything that takes place outside of the US! I love angry girls, diaspora feels, creepy nature, indulgent worldbuilding, stories seeped in myth, and slowburn romances. I want yearning that makes me scream, places I can feel, magic and questions that make me think or that prise open bits of emotion I wasn’t prepared to feel.

Young Adult

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

I’m open to pretty much all subgenres of SFF, but probably wouldn’t be the best fit for very hard scifi (I am Not A Woman In STEM). That said, I’m all in for soft sci-fi and science fantasy in the vein of Star Wars or GIDEON THE NINTH. My tastes tend to skew darker. Standard medieval European style worlds will probably be a really hard sell for me. I will happily take contemporaries with speculative elements, ranging all the way to the weird and surreal. I love retellings, but it has to be something unexpected or something from a fresh perspective. I love speculative fiction that uses its speculative element to explore a real-world issue, and horror that has something to say. I want to see worldbuilding that’s thought about how the magic or technology has a meaningful impact on the world’s economy, politics, society, etc.

Tropes I love:
-Found family
-The slowest of burns
-Girls with knives, people with swords
-Rivals to lovers, especially when it’s a one-sided rivalry (Anne x Gilbert are the blueprint)
-Character going feral because love interest gets hurt
-Forehead touching
-Grumpy warrior/loner ends up becoming surrogate father for child (Geralt/Ciri, Mando/Baby Yoda, Hound/Arya)
-Corruption arc



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

I’m fairly direct with my feedback, but I’m a big believer in delivering critique in a way that’s not imposing and is open to further brainstorming, as well as in a way that’s hopefully encouraging. That said, I absolutely gush when I want to gush and I regularly send memes as in-line reactions. My critique tends to be thought-out analytical paragraphs or keysmashes, there’s not a ton of in-between.

We’ll start with an edit letter that covers big picture edits, ironing out big plot, character and worldbuilding issues (I’m thorough about my worldbuilding, and will ask questions and point out places where things don’t make sense); because I love leaving in-line comments, you’ll get those along with the first edit letter as well. After that we’ll move on to line level work. I love prose that clearly has a rhythm and deliberate language choices; I can be very thorough with my line critiques, if that’s what you’re comfortable with. I’m also a big visual person and I have some graphic design experience that I tend to foist onto my friends, so you can absolutely expect unsolicited Pinterest boards, edits and moodboards. Finally, I’ll help you look at your submission package, agent list, and be there to talk about querying!

I’m not based in the US so timezones might make calls a little tricky, but I’ll always be available through texts or emails, though, and I’ll likely respond within the day.

My ideal mentee is communicative and confident in their own vision for the story. I want to help bring out *your* vision to its fullest, so I’d want a mentee who knows what that vision is, as well as a mentee who’s both open to feedback and willing to be honest with me if that feedback doesn’t match their voice and vision, so we can work out something that does. That said, while I’ll always be available to brainstorm and give advice, my mentee is also ideally someone who’s willing and able to put in work independently. I’d also love someone who can have fun and who I can be friends with in the long term!


  • Asian SFF! And more specifically, if you have something Southeast Asian inspired, I’m already in.
  • Lush, atmospheric writing; anything steeped in worldbuilding and atmosphere; setting as character
  • Commentary on history, colonialism and identity like Chloe Gong’s THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS
  • Feral youth energy (bonus points if girls, bonus points if sapphic, a la Zoe Hana Mikuta’s GEARBREAKERS)
  • Nature settings, magic, motifs, metaphors; environmental themes; anything about a connection to the land
  • Anything that can comp to Taylor Swift
  • Dark and horror elements — body horror, eco horror, ghosts, things that just Aren’t Quite Right
  • Queer kids and queer friend groups
  • Unlikeable, angry girls
  • Dark academia and/or scholar characters or plots that deal with knowledge and learning
  • Stories about healing, recovery, and living with trauma
  • Diaspora and immigration stories
  • Quiet/introspective post-apocalypse stories like Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN, especially if it features huge, abandoned, mysterious cities/places, like Tsukumizu’s GIRLS’ LAST TOUR
  • Unexpected retellings/retellings with a twist

Of course, I’m always surprised by things I didn’t know I liked, so if you think we’d work well together, consider subbing to me anyway, regardless of whether you match this list 🙂


  • Main plot is romance — romantic thread is fine and much beloved, but I wouldn’t be the best mentor for anything focused primarily on a romance!
  • Fae, werewolves, vampires or angels, unless you have an unconventional spin on them
  • White savior stories
  • Girls that hate other girls; girls that Aren’t Like Other Girls
  • I’m open to, but may not be the best fit for, lower YA
  • Romanticized toxic men
  • Unchecked or glorified abuse, racism, sexism, queerphobia, etc, anything that perpetuates hate and harm towards marginalized communities


Some recent and all-time favorites:

Books: The Poppy War trilogy, the Green Bone saga, the Stormlight Archives, anything by Nghi Vo, Black Water Sister, the Locked Tomb saga, anything by Amanda Lee Koe, Station Eleven, This Is How You Lose the Time War, Kyoshi novels, These Violent Delights duology, The Dead and the Dark, Legendborn

Movies/shows: Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke & Spirited Away, especially), The Legend of Aang/Korra, the Star Wars universe, Sex Education, Orphan Black, The Half of It, Birds of Prey, Teen Titans, Arcane

Musicals: Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Hamilton, Les Miserables, Fun Home, Hadestown, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, In The Heights, RENT