It’s finally time. Are you excited? I know I am!
I’m Steph aka ST Sterlings and I’m super excited to be a Pitch Wars YA mentor for 2020! We all know 2020 has been an endless trash fire. Looking forward to this contest is one of the few good things that has made it bearable for me. This is my third year as a mentor and I’m just as excited as the first time!
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.
In case you haven’t seen my bio, I’ll tell you a little bit about me.
I’m an agented, queer writer of YA, middle grade, and adult fiction. My agent is Rachel Brooks of BookEnds Literary. I have a couple of master’s degree (English—Technical and Professional Communication and Library and Information Science) and a bachelor’s degree (English with a minor in Communication). Before the pandemic, I was a librarian.
I love writing. I’ve been writing short stories ever since elementary school. As I got older, I fell into the world of fanfiction. I’ve written fanfiction for video games, movies, anime, and TV shows. A few years ago, I was encouraged by my readers to start writing original fiction, and it was the best decision of my life.
Why You Should Submit to Me
I am both a big picture and fine details person who has plenty of experience in rewriting and revising. Dialogue, characterization, and plot development are some of my strengths. I love brainstorming and I’m usually a sucker for characters first and story after. I’m pretty analytical, which helps with figuring out pesky plot holes.
I’m extremely easy to talk to and very open-minded. This is YOUR story. I’m only here to help you strengthen it. I will never boss you around or bully you. I’m a natural helper and genuinely enjoy helping others.
In addition to an edit letter, I like to figure out what’s working and what may need help chapter by chapter.
I’m adaptable so whether you prefer communication a couple of days a week or only when you run into issues, I’ll be there. If you want to become best friends and talk every day, that’s cool too! With feedback, I’m honest, but never rude. Rudeness is a pet peeve of mine so you’ll never get that from me. I usually gush about favorite lines and lovely prose as I think it’s important to be told what you’ve done well in addition to what may need a little work. I’m a proud fangirl and if you’re doing something I love, I’m going to tell you!
While I won’t demand that you make changes to your manuscript, I will give you my best input and suggestions on what I think will strengthen your story overall. All in all, I WANT you to succeed and I will try my very best to make that happen.
Best of all, I have no life, and unfortunately, I have no job so I’m almost always online. I’m not kidding. I’m always around.
What I Expect from My Mentee
My potential mentee should possess the following:
~An open mind
~A willingness to work hard
~Be naturally respectful, kind, and honest
And most importantly…
~You will need to acknowledge that getting into Pitch Wars does not guarantee an agent. I repeat, GETTING INTO PITCH WARS DOES NOT GUARANTEE AN AGENT. Sorry about the Caps Lock. I promise I’m not yelling at you. I just want to make sure you are fully aware of this. Another sobering tidbit, even if you do get an agent, it doesn’t guarantee a book deal. I do not say this to discourage you. I want Pitch Wars to lead to you getting an agent and a book deal. But I also want to be transparent and realistic. It is hard.
Hard, but not impossible.
If you can understand and accept that working with me does not promise to land you an agent and/or a book deal, but that it may better your chances of acquiring those things, then by all means, please read on.
What I Want
I’m looking for a manuscript with a voice I can’t ignore! We can work on everything else, but the voice has to resonate with me. I’m almost always drawn to voices that are sarcastic, darkly humorous, or adorably awkward. Even if yours isn’t, come out swinging with that first chapter. I want stories where I can tell the author left a part of themselves on the page.
I also want super dynamic characters. Remember, I’m a fangirl. I LOVE characters more than anything. Give me personality. Give me characters who feel like real people. Characters where it doesn’t matter what setting they’ve been dropped it, they’re personalities don’t change.
And now, what you came for…
Potential mentee, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, oh, oh
Ok. That was awful. Sorry. Moving on.
In No Particular Order, I’m Looking for:
Romance (Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, etc.)
I am a sucker for a good romance, especially enemies-to-lovers. Friends-to-lovers is a close second. Awkward first times, taking a chance, accidental romances, and underdog romance stories own my heart. Have a sex positive story? I want it! A subplot of romance mixed with other genres is fantastic. I won’t turn down a book that doesn’t feature any romance, but I do love to have a romantic element in a story.
Fantasy (Urban/Contemporary, Paranormal, etc.)
I prefer light/dark/urban/contemporary fantasy where there is a world that is still sort of grounded in reality. You can take me to a new world, but it should still feel somewhat familiar to ours. I have a weakness for paranormal fantasy. I love vampires, demons, and werewolves. But they MUST be different. Give me something entirely new!
Believe it or not, horror is my favorite movie genre. I ADORE horror movies. I’ve watched just about every horror film on Netflix, alone, in the darkness of my bedroom. I’ve seen all the tropes and I don’t scare easily. Give me something creepy. Something that I’ll only be willing to read during the day.
I’d love a good, twisty mystery. Something along the lines of Monday’s Not Coming where it’s not easy to figure out what happened and who did it. Something super suspenseful. For some weird reason, anything dealing with a character worried about someone discovering buried bodies in their house/yard is one of my favorite things (I blame “The Tell-Tale Heart”).
Contemporary (Light/Funny, Dark, Issues, etc.)
Contemporary stories with characters that are larger than life. Something that highlights settings other than high school would be great (ie. work, community service, a library, a museum, etc. though a high school setting is fine). Issues*, dark, funny, light, I want it all!
I love a good retelling, especially if it’s of dark. I would die for any retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story, especially The Tell-Tale Heart! A retelling of Frankenstein or The Picture of Dorian Gray would also be amazing. Oh, and The Addams Family! I would kill (well, maybe not kill, but I’d definitely consider it) for this, especially if it’s super diverse.
There is absolutely nothing to gothic (or goth for that matter) for me!
There is a high chance that I will request any New Adult manuscript be revised and classified as YA.
Other Stuff You Should Know About What I Want
I’m happy with first or third person point-of-view as well as dual or multiple POVs. Unreliable narrators and stories told in the POV of the antagonist are also great. I love a great villain story. I love villains. In fact, some of my favorite characters of all time are bad guys (Dio Brando and Kira Yoshikage for example)! I’m 100% for sex positive YA. I don’t mind profanity at all. I love a good plot twist and complicated family/friendship dynamics. Badasses, antiheroes, little firecrackers, gentle giants, sensitive sweethearts, lovable geeks, class clowns, charming jerks…I love them all!
Also anything dealing with demons, hotels/motels, diners, carnivals/circuses is a big ol’ YES. The creepier the better, but even if they’re not creepy, I want them. I especially love motels/hotels–anything with lots of doors.
***I would LOVE OwnVoices stories!!! Additionally, please send me DIVERSE stories. Different races, different cultures, and LGBTQ+ characters. Black girl magic and Black boy joy. Please, please. PLEASE. Give it to me!!!***
I’d love to see fat characters in my inbox—fat girls, fat boys, fat gender neutral characters, fat trans characters, etc. I’d also love to see stories with characters that have mental illness, physical disabilities, or characters who are Neurodivergent. I strongly prefer that these stories be ownvoices (though I will not ask you to reveal this information), and that these things are a part of the character but NOT the sole focus of the story. I want to see a character living her life and it just so happens she’s in a wheelchair, not a fetishization of a wheelchair user.
It may also be helpful for you to know that I love sharks, snakes, the ocean, dinosaurs, and demons. Anything with sharp, scary teeth makes me happy.
Stuff I’d Really LOVE to See (this is by no means and exhaustive list!):
~DEMONS – I AM DYING FOR A YA DEMON STORY. Something where the demons are fun and unique. A bit dark or hilarious or both! I’m not interested in angels or demon hunter stories as much but stories where the demon is the main character
~Escape room gone bad
~Dark and gritty gang story—I ALWAYS WANT A GANG STORY. ALWAYS.
~Anything dealing with water—sharks, aquarium setting, submarines, underwater worlds, etc.
~A funny contemporary where the MC has an undesirable job (store/brand mascot handing out coupons in front of the store, etc.)
~Something where the setting takes place at a juvenile detention center/prison
~Dealing with fame (actors, singers, suddenly popular YouTube personality, gamer, etc.)
~Something where the MC explores abandoned places
~Something where the MC works at a morgue/funeral home or has a job in biohazard and crime scene cleanup
~ANYTHING that takes place at a circus or carnival (this can be creepy but doesn’t have to be)
~A story told in the POV of a stalker/serial killer (Something along the lines of You or Dexter)
~A DIVERSE Addams Family retelling. Pleeeeease!
What I’m Not Interested In
I don’t really like to turn down genres. I truly believe that a good story is a good story. However, I’m not a good fit for the following:
~Heavy/Hardcore Science Fiction
~Anything dealing with sports (if a character is on a sport’s team, that’s fine, but if a really sports heavy story, I won’t be interested)
~Stories that lack diversity
~Kill/bury your gays trope (if you only have one LGBTQ+ characters and they end up dying, that is a problem. If you have multiple LGBTQ+ character and one or more—but not ALL—die, it’s fine)
~Cops/detectives (I’ll make an exception for this IF it’s a funny YA story where teens are detectives)
~Religious/Christian fiction (your characters can be religious, but I don’t want a story that is based heavily on religion)
~School/event shootings–a shooting could have taken place, but the story shouldn’t happen during the shooting
~LGBTQIA+ and/or race/culture bashing books
~Stories about suicide
~Any character dying from cancer (a character could have already died from it, but it shouldn’t happen during the story)
~Novels in verse
~Stories about a Black (or POC) character falling in love with a racist
~Stories where the protagonist is a bitter incel and changes their behavior when someone treats them kindly (regardless of how the incel treats others beforehand). Just to be safe, don’t send me stories about bitter incels
~Stories where a Black character is shot by the police (note* I really can’t handle one of these types of stories right now. Please don’t send me anything where any Black character is murdered by the police. In fact, don’t send me any stories about the police murdering anyone, or about the police in general)
~Anything other than YA (NA is an exception)
~Angels vs. Demons (I’m here for the demons. Angels, not so much—unless the angels are gritty, badass, and DON’T have wings.)
~Any story where non-Black characters use the N-word (Please do NOT send me this)
Here’s a List of a Few Things I Love and Wouldn’t Mind Seeing Elements of in My Inbox
Makeup Retro/vintage style (specifically 1950s–I love the aesthetic–diners, drive-in theaters, the fashion, the decor, everything except the racism and sexism and all the other -isms)
American Horror Story
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Mob Psycho 100
If you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Check out the other YA mentors below!
Pitch Wars 2020 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
- Sarvenaz Tash (Accepts NA)
- Chloe Gong and Tashie Bhuiyan
- Abigail Johnson
- Kit Frick and Carlyn Greenwald
- Sonora Reyes (Accepts NA)
- Laurie Dennison
- J.Elle and Emily Golden
- Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
- Emily Thiede (Accepts NA)
- Amanda Panitch
- Allison Saft and Ava Reid (Accepts NA)
- Emery Lee (Accepts NA)
- Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
- Shannon A. Thompson and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
- Adiba Jaigirdar and Gabriela Martins
- Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
- Tash McAdam
- ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
- Maiya Ibrahim and Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
- Meg Long and Xiran Jay Zhao (Accepts NA)
- Margie Fuston
- Jamie Howard
- Nova McBee
- Amelia Diane Coombs and Sophie Gonzales (Accepts NA)
- Rachel Griffin
- Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre (Accepts NA)
- Ciannon Smart
- Sasha Peyton Smith and Kristin Lambert
- Lane Clarke (Accepts NA)
- Lyndsay Ely (Accepts NA)
- Anna Sortino (Accepts NA)
- Jennieke Cohen
- Bethany Mangle (Accepts NA)
- Sunya Mara (Accepts NA)
- Kat Dunn and Daphne Lao Tonge
- Sheena Boekweg and Alechia Dow (Accepts NA)
- Liz Lawson and Dante Medema (Accepts NA)
- Sarah Dass (Accepts NA)
- Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
- Hoda Agharazi (Accepts NA)
- Dawn Ius and April Snellings (Accepts NA)
- Kara McDowell and Kimberly Gabriel
- Kylie Schachte (Accepts NA)
- Deborah Falaye
- Rona Wang (Accepts NA)
- Becca Mix and Grace Li (Accepts NA)
- Aty S. Behsam (Accepts NA)