• Rebecca Petruck

Pitch Wars MG 2020 Wish List!

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Pitch Wars MG Mentor logo. The adorable owl Poe drinks hot cocoa and holds a book.

Hi, there! I’m so excited to begin my sixth year as a Pitch Wars MG mentor and meet my seventh mentee (thank you, wild card!).


If you’re here, you probably know what PW is, but just in case:

Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more. Learn more at pitchwars.org.

A little about me: I’m the author of two MG novels, Steering Toward Normal and Boy Bites Bug, both with Abrams/Amulet. I have an MFA in creative writing from UNC Wilmington, and I also have been a mentor for SCBWI Carolinas for five years, working with six mentees, and Writing in the Margins for two years, working with two mentees. Basically, I’m a mentor geek who loves helping writers take their writing to the next level!

Read the PW stories of my previous mentees, a few craft posts I wrote, and watch the PW MG mentor chat I participated in here.

How I work with mentees is always to begin with a conversation via online chat or phone. I follow up with emailed notes, but I like to discuss things IRL to be sure we’re on the same page, the changes I suggest make sense, and are in line with your vision for your book. This is always your book. I will always listen to concerns and will make adjustments in my own thinking to be sure we’re drawing out the very best of what you want for your book.

Team: A small cast of people recruited for complementary skills, not meshing personalities, who hold one another accountable, have common purpose, and sense of urgency.

What I look for in a MS is good bones. This means elements that I feel are compelling and go together with a character I care about. Then we can rearrange and expand elements where needed. I’m very good with the big picture, structure, and how the emotional arc weaves in with the external arc. Though I’ve been called a plot wizard (thanks, Joy McCullough!), it’s always in service to the character arc, to make sure readers get that emotional catharsis they want in the end.


#OwnVoices: Like most of us in kidlit, I’m passionate about supporting diverse voices. Personally, I have experience with mental health, autism, weight and eating disorders, and physical disability. I've also worked with many authors from other traditionally marginalized communities. Basically, I’m 100% open to working with any #OwnVoices writer.

Contemporary: I like a story with a lot of heart. If an author can make me laugh and cry, I’m in! Think: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai, The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein, Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry, and Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos (which technically is “historical,” but I’m in denial).

So On Point It Stings: I love books that comment on a social issue without feeling only like social commentary. Think: Godless by Pete Hautman, Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, and Damsel by Elana K. Arnold.

With regard to ghosts, while we have never believed in them, we have always been afraid of them.

Contemporary with Fantasy Elements & Horror: Some of my favorite-ever books are realistic with a light magical element, often creepy/beautiful. Think: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh, The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, as well as the more humorous Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas, and Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell.

Dragons! Generally, I do not want fantasy, but I love a good dragon story. Think: the “realistic” feel of something like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

Sci-Fi, Disaster, and Dystopia: I group these together because disaster and dystopia stories often have a science element, which is something I look for. Think: Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith. I also love The Martian by Andy Weir and the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick--zombies!

Sports: I played rugby, rowed crew, swam, and, while writing my second book, learned a lot about wrestling. I’m interested in the less-featured sports, so anything except football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Unless it's girls in sports, and then I'll take anything—go, Team XX!

Graphic Novels: I've written a GN script, and I first got serious about writing by working on screenplays and stage plays, which use similar formats to GNs. I’m not sure I’m qualified to help someone who is an author/illustrator, but I’d love to help someone with a GN text.

Other Interests: 80s! Cons and heists! Memoir!

Animal MCs: Ah, the great "Animal MC Debate." I read them! As long as it fits in one of the other categories, I’m interested.

If you're not challenged, you're unlikely to create brilliance.

Historical: Though I read significantly more contemporary and near-future novels, I am interested in historical stories from 1950 - 2010. (Yep, for MG readers, 2010 is basically historical and I'm old and how have I not crumpled to dust yet?) I was in NYC during Sept. 11, so I have a very personal interest in MSs that deal with that in particular.

A few things specifically I am NOT interested in:

I strongly support #OwnVoices. If you’re a cishet white person writing a marginalized POV, we won’t be a good match.

Additionally, I’m not interested in:

- WWII stories,

- portal fantasies,

- epistolary novels, or

- novels in verse.

If you have questions, please @ me on Twitter, my DMs are open, too, or email me via the Contact form.

To review all the MG mentors' wish lists, please use the links below. There are so many fantastic MG mentors to choose from, thank you for considering me!

Good luck!


#PitchWars #middlegrade

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