It's something you should enter if you have an unpublished novel in need of an agent.
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Who am I?
I am Mike, a brand spanking new Pitch Wars mentor. I have one face, two elbows, and ten toes. Nothing else. Just those thirteen things stuck together and tap-dancing down the street.
Actually, I'm this guy...
I’m a neurodivergent middle grade author, father, musician, and fifth grade teacher. I take all four jobs one-fourth seriously so they equal one whole when stacked together. I write contemporary middle grade, and my debut novel, I AM DRUMS, is about a girl who can't sit still because she hears rhythms in her head all day long.
Here's my book cuddling with my drum set. My guitar amp might be in the background somewhere.
I love writing and recording music. I multitrack so that I can be the full band. Here's a song I recorded this summer.
Sometimes I draw silly pictures and post them with the hashtag #ICantDrawEither.
I also make videos where I play drums on random things. I call them #TheWorldIsADrum videos. Here are a few of me playing on newspapers, kid toys, pizza pans, and pizza dough.
But really, though, I'm just a guy trying to make the query trenches a little less lonely. I knew zero people in publishing the day I got “The Call” from my agent. I didn't even know Pitch Wars was a thing until long after I'd sold my first book. I became a mentor because it's something I'd have embraced. Writing is a lonely job, and I want to help someone discover their middle grade voice outside of that bubble.
What am I looking for?
The stories that hit me the hardest aren't the ones I ask for -- they're the ones I never knew I needed. That makes it tough to write a wish list, but hey, I've got to try.
I gravitate toward contemporary middle grade, and I'm a rock solid voice guy. Your premise might be the coolest thing ever, but 9 times out of 10 the reason I put a book down is the MC doesn't feel authentic. As a father and fifth grade teacher I spend more time with kids than adults, so I want to hear the way kids really talk and act in your dialogue and narration.
I also love characters that help kids feel less alone. I'd love to mentor a heartfelt book that feels like it was written for “that one unique reader”.
Quirky characters are fantastic as long as they're authentically crafted, fit the story you're trying to tell, and don't feel forced. The same goes for funny books. Authentic humor is tricky, but a joy to read when an author can pull it off. Well written and researched neurodivergent characters will catch my ear if you can do it respectfully.
One of my teaching beliefs is that all behavior is purposeful, so I have a soft spot for complicated antagonists who might have been protagonists under different circumstances. The same goes for protagonists who make terrible mistakes and characters who walk somewhere between the two.
What are your favorite middle grade books?
My favorites change constantly, but at 7:45 AM on July 18th they are/were the following:
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Call Me Hope by Gretchen Olson
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
What are you NOT looking for?
Funny books that aren't actually funny. I swear I don't mean this as snotty as it sounds! :) It's just important to acknowledge how much it hurts reader immersion when a joke falls flat. It's harder to make kids laugh than most authors realize, and forced humor and/or absence of comedic timing sticks out (and not in a good way). Comedy, like voice, should feel natural, and if you know for certain how it's done then you're probably doing it wrong.
So send me your humorous submissions. Just ask yourself if a real kid who isn't related to you would laugh at it first! :)
I'm also not a fan of unnecessary words and details, so if your manuscript is at 200k words I'm probably not your guy.
Okay, you're looking for contemporary middle grade. Anything else?
The right sf/f story will pull me in if I want to hang out in the world and chill with your characters. Their personalities should reach well beyond what the plot and world require.
I look forward to seeing all of your hard work! Good luck with your manuscript, and remember that no matter what happens, you wrote a book and were brave enough to put it out there!
Head back to the main mentor blog hop post on Brenda Drake's site.