• Rebecca Petruck

Pitch Wars MG 2021 Wish List!

Pitch Wars Owl: Middle Grade

Hi, there! I’m excited to begin my Lucky Seven year as a Pitch Wars MG mentor and meet my eighth mentee.


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. I love helping writers take their work 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.

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

How I work with mentees is 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.

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.


Own Voices / Writers from marginalized communities

I’m aware of WNDB’s decision to stop using Own Voices, as well as discourse from other writers about why they plan to continue to use it. I’ll follow your lead!

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 POC and LGBTQ authors and others from traditionally marginalized communities.

While I’m not the right one to read high fantasy for you, I’ll read low fantasy and everything else.

Girl Power

If it’s feminist, I’m here for it.

Spec Fic

I really loved Jelly by Clare Rees, The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, and The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Mind-bending and intense is my jam.

Sci-Fi, Disaster, and Dystopia

I’m interested in the more serious end of the spectrum and near-future stories; space hijinks are not for me. Think: Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith, and The Martian by Andy Weir.


I like a story with both humor and 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, and Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein.

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. Don Marquis

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, as well as the more humorous Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas, and Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell.


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.

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

Animal MCs

Ah, the great "Animal MC Debate." I read them! BUT, big caveat: I’m only interested in those that explore social inequities or injustice. According to a CCBC survey, animal protagonists outnumber POC MCs, which is appalling. I appreciate that novels with animal characters have a powerful history of highlighting social wrongs, so those are the only MSs I’d support.


Though I read significantly more contemporary and near-future novels, I am interested in historical stories from 1980 - 2010. (Yep, for MG readers, 2010 is historical.) Think Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos.

A few things specifically I am NOT interested in:

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

I don't think about success in terms of recognition, I think success is being proud of what you do every day. Chef Enrique Olvera

Additionally, I’m NOT interested in:

- WWII stories,

- high fantasies and portal fantasies,

- epistolary novels, or

- novels in verse.

If you have questions, please @ me on Twitter. My DMs are open, too.

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!


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