Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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My 2020 Pitch Wars Wishlist

I am a 2020 Adult Pitch Wars Mentor

I am so excited to be back mentoring in the Adult category for Pitch Wars this year! Welcome to my 2020 wish list.

In case you don’t know, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program for unagented writers. Agented/published authors or industry interns spend three months working with one author to get their manuscript in the best shape they can, ahead of an agent showcase. All the information you need can be found right here.

Click here if you prefer a text-only version of this wishlist.

And here’s a version with gifs.

Tom Petty - The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Tom Petty – The Waiting is the Hardest Part

You’ve been following along on the hashtag, checked out the forums, communed with other writers. Maybe you’ve even started your own list of potential mentors. Waiting is hard, y’all! But wait no longer: the mentor blog hop is finally here, so you can see what we’re all looking for. Read along with me from top to bottom, bottom up, sideways, or whichever way suits your fancy. You can always follow The Ramones to the links that’ll lead you right to whichever part rocks your socks. You’ll be able to navigate to all the 2020 adult mentor wishlists at the bottom of this post.

The Ramones

The Ramones lined up against a brick wall

About MeI Want…I Don’t Want…My Ideal MenteeHow I WorkGot Questions?

🎶🎶🎶

 

Please allow me to introduce myself…

I’m a man of wealth and…oh, wait, that’s Mick Jagger. I’m Gwynne.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger from The Simpsons

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger onstage, from The Simpsons

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creating worlds and characters to inhabit them. If you’ve run across All The Kissing (ATK), a community by and for romance writers, you’ve probably seen me there ( I’m one of the co-founders). I’m also the one to thank, blame, or cheer for the #FridayKiss prompts on Twitter.

After failing to make the cut in 2015, I was chosen as a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (I might have danced in celebration).  In 2018 I was a Golden Heart® finalist in contemporary romance. Last year was my first year mentoring Pitch Wars. I loved it so much, I’m back for Round Two.

I’m a USA west coast person, in case you’re concerned about time zones. If you want to know even more about me, feel free to check out last year’s wish list or my Pitch Wars mentor page. Or just nose around my blog. There’s a fairly eclectic assortment of things to read. And if you’re curious about what I mentored last year, here it is!

You can also find me on Pitch Wars Live on YouTube on September 18, and on the #askmentor Twitter chats on September 12 and September 16. You can find the full schedule right here.

In case you haven’t yet figured it out…

 I want YOU to want ME!

Robin Zander from Cheap Trick

Robin Zander from Cheap Trick

🎶🎶🎶

 

Bring it on home to me

What do I want? World peace, harmony, an end to hunger and disease, a better environment, to start with. For Pitch Wars, though, you should understand that first and foremost, I believe that love is love is love. I’m LGBTQ+, #ownvoices, and diversity-friendly.

I am only accepting manuscripts in the Adult category. Like last year, I am open to a lot! I adore ghosts. If you have one in your story and it fits one of my requested genres, send it to me! I also really love magical realism and elements of the fantastic, in any genre.

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke onstage

Because I’m a rebel (nothing less would make sense with a name like #TeamRebelCats), the genres I’m accepting this year are listed in reverse alphabetical order: Please know that I am equally open to all of these genres.

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WOMEN’S FICTION

Heads up, women’s fic writers! Do you have a story that doesn’t read like an autobiography and that overflows with an undercurrent of strong emotion? Please send it to me. I love women’s fiction that’s cathartic, strong, with a defined plot and character arc. If I can understand your main character and her motivation—if you make me want to root for her success, no matter how flawed she might be—that’s the book for me. My favorite main characters in this genre can be anything from insecure to strong, quirky to traditional, but there has to be a viable emotional character arc. I need to see your characters grow. My preference is for deep single POV, and while the ending doesn’t have to be party-all-the-time, I’d like something on the more optimistic side. I am less likely to go for family saga WF than a story focused more on the individual or on a featured relationship, whether it’s friendship, siblings, or romantic entanglement.

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URBAN FANTASY

You know what I love best about urban fantasy? When it blends the commonplace with the magical in a seamless way. My favorites are books where the worlds are provided as-is, without apology and often without much explanation. I’m good with sprites, fae, dream characters, elves, spectres, shifters, warlocks and witches, mages—you name it. As long as the world-building and magic are rock solid, I’ll happily read it. As with all my other requests, I definitely want to see emotional growth for your character(s).

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SCIENCE FICTION

I’m only interested in soft science fiction. I want to be more (or at least equally) swept away by the story than by the science in it. I don’t necessarily need to know the whys and hows, only that the technology works and makes sense within the scope of the story. I’m a big Star Trek fan and have been all my life, so things on that level, where the focus is less on the precise temperature required to sustain the warp core and more on “seek out new life, new civilizations, boldly go”  will appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong–I love it when people geek out about science! I do it myself all the time. But when it gets too technical, I lose interest. I’m also a big fan of fun and light-hearted science fiction where the reader can go along for a fast-paced ride. So…less doom-and-gloom apocalypse, more “Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!”

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ROMANCE

There are rules to romance novels. I know because I’ve tried and failed to break them. If you’re writing romance, your story needs to follow the romance arc, and the romance must be the central plotline of the book. If it doesn’t end in either a HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now), it’s not a romance. Please don’t break my heart by misrepresenting the genre.

In general with romance novels, I do not love the alpha male archetype. You would be better served bringing your Navy SEALs, motorcycle club leaders, and all those other bad boys to a different mentor. However, I do want all your strong, opinionated, flawed, sassy female characters! I love almost all the tropes, but am especially fond of enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I’m good with any heat level from sweet to steamy, but I’m not the right mentor for inspirational romance or erotica.

I’m only accepting these romance sub-genres:

  • Contemporary Romance. I love contemporary romance. It’s my comfort food. As long as your characters are believable within their tropes (I know, how is a sexy single lonely kind-hearted non-cutthroat billionaire believable?), there isn’t much I want to exclude from this category. However, I’m a former stage manager and roadie so if you’re writing about rock musicians or the music industry, you’d better know what you’re talking about and your storyline needs to be extremely unique. I do adore contemporaries set in unusual places. If you’ve got a rarely-used highly atmospheric setting, I am all for it. Haunted houses, anyone?
  • SciFi Romance. Send me your space pirates, your post-apocalyptic frenemies, your androids, your unusual scientists. As long as the romance is the main crux of the story, I like just about any near-future or futuristic setting. I prefer soft science in my science fiction. I don’t need to know the quark count or a detailed explanation of why transporting matter works. I only need to be able to accept that it does.
  • Fantasy Romance. The same world-building rules apply for me here as they do for SciFi romance. If the romantic arc is highlighted against a backdrop of a unique world, and I don’t need a glossary to understand your fantasy terminology or a family tree to follow the lineage, send it on!
  • Historical Romance. I love a good historical, and am a stickler for details in this sub-genre. Unless it’s steampunk, I prefer that my historicals aren’t filled with anachronisms. Historical romance goes beyond Regency for me, although I love a good ballroom- and intrigue-filled tale. Witty banter is a must! I am not accepting Highlander or Viking romance, or historicals written in dialect.
  • Western Romance. Bring on the cowboys and cowgirls. Cowdogs, cowcats, modern-day quirky western characters, especially the ones stuck somehow in or on the past. My favorite western romances have settings as important as the characters—I want to feel immersed in the wide-open western space.
  • New Adult. In this sub-genre, I prefer characters with high stakes and a lot to learn—and a plot and arc that shows their growth. Lots of sex is fine as long as that’s not all there is, and that it furthers the plot. I may ask that you age the characters up to adult, if that makes sense given the plot.

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RETELLINGS

Got a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that takes place at an American Idol-like singing competition? A version of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is the beast? Or maybe one where Cinderella is an actress and the stepsisters are rivals from another studio? My favorite thing about a retelling is when it’s so well disguised that I don’t recognize its source story right away. Like Romeo & Juliet in a zombie apocalypse, I adore smart and unexpected retellings and reimaginings of classic tales. Not just Western, but from all over the world. 

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LITERARY

I love, love, love literary fiction, especially the kind that tackles life’s bigger questions: who am I, why are we here, what is the meaning of life, of love, of death? Beautiful writing is my catnip in literary fiction, along with characters I either love to love or love to hate. The plot definitely needs to have a defined arc since I’m not a fan of literary novels where mostly only internalization happens (unless you’re James Joyce in which case HELLO), and the characters need to draw me in so much that I can’t stop thinking about them.

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GOTHIC

In gothic I’m looking for a story on the emotional/scare level of the Coven season of American Horror Story. Something on the edge, something campy, something not without humor (although there was plenty not to laugh about in AHS Coven). I prefer gothic that’s over the top and isn’t afraid to flaunt it, with a cast of characters that’s both quirky and relatable. P.S. Ghosts.

🎶

CONTEMPORARY FICTION

This year, I’m only looking for light-hearted or amusing contemporary fiction. Your story doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I’ll be tickled if it is! With this type of novel, voice is key. I’d love something that’s engaging, hard to put down, and with well-rounded characters. While I’m not sure I’m ready for pandemic stories…if you’ve got one that’s suitably forward-looking, has a sense of humor, and doesn’t end in tragedy, I’m game.

🎶🎶🎶

 

Eddie Vedder stage diving

Eddie Vedder mid-air

I try to keep my “do not want” list small, but there are a few things I respectfully request you don’t send me:

  • Please don’t send me stories with rape, abuse, incest, torture, gratuitous sexism, or nonconsensual or violent acts, even if those things happen off-screen. Likewise, don’t send me stories that are racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-anybody.
  • No 9/11 stories, tragic pandemic stories, or stories that are politically-based.
  • Stories written in second person POV are almost never my preference.
  • In general, my interest in stories about bakeries, vineyards, chefs, and cruise ships is low—unless they’re in a spectacularly new setting or set of circumstances. For example: struggling bakery? No. Struggling haunted bakery in a dilapidated mansion? Yes. A chef who yells at contestants on reality TV? No. But a passionate chef possessed by the spirit of Julia Child? You get the picture.
  • I’m not the right mentor for stories about religion, traditional angels or demons, or Biblical retellings.
  • If I’ve worked with you on your Pitch Wars manuscript before and you haven’t drastically revised it since, please submit to a different mentor.
  • If your genre isn’t specifically listed on my wish list, that means I’m not the right mentor for it. When in doubt, ask!

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You know how to use what you got

Are you my ideal mentee? 

Joan Jett, Original Badass

Joan Jett, Original Badass

You’ve written your book. Worked hard at making it as polished as it can be. You’ve had a critique partner and beta readers look it over, but you know it needs something more. Now you’re entering this manuscript into Pitch Wars to get that final shine and polish. That’s more than half the battle–congratulations! What you’re applying for are a few frantic months of rework, editing, rewriting, learning writing tips and tricks (some of which you’ll undoubtedly hate, but others that might give you that “aha!” moment), lack of sleep, laser focus on revision revision revision, and lots of support. Be prepared to jump feet first into the fire!

If you’re willing to put in all the work required, are open to feedback, want to learn, laugh, and grow together, and won’t get tired of being cheered on, you’re the kind of person I want to work with. A keen sense of humor is a must, and will serve you well not just during Pitch Wars but throughout your publishing career.

🎶🎶🎶

 

Hello, I’ve waited here for you

Do you know what a Pitch Wars mentor really is? Someone who loves your story and has ideas on how to make it even better. We’re all volunteers who love to help other writers and have a strong desire to pay it forward. 

If you’re looking for a mentor who can teach you how to make your words and story glow, look no further! You’ve found me. Welcome to #TeamRebelCats. 

Dave Grohl waving hello

Dave Grohl waving hello

If we work together, you’ll get to take advantage of my years of experience as a professional copy editor, technical editor, and proofreader. Together, we’ll polish your grammar to a shine, pay attention to story flow and internal and external arcs, and to your pacing. My biggest strength is in helping you to hone your author voice, your characters, and your characterization. We might have differences of opinion, and that’s okay. From start to end, this is your story, not mine. I don’t need you to love all of my suggestions. I only ask that you give them due consideration.

I’ll provide my mentee with an edit letter up front and a thorough read of your manuscript at least twice during the course of Pitch Wars. If we decide to work together, we’ll figure out the best communication method, whether it be email, video chat, phone calls, or something else. I’ll give you a schedule with major milestones so you can stay on track. I’m good at brainstorming plot points and characterization suggestions, if that’s something you need. 

I will never slam your work outright. My concrit always comes with suggestions on how to fix the problem. Warning: there will be homework! By the time we’re finished, we’ll have done our best to start the story at the right point, made sure the pacing stays on track, and turned your characters from words on the page into people who seem real. I’m a non-stop cheerleader, so you can expect an abundance of manuscript love coming your way. We’ll also work on your query and showcase pitch, along with your synopsis if time allows.

If you’re looking for a low-drama-high-compliment mentor who can help you kick ass and get sh*t done, here I am. Let’s work together.

🎶🎶🎶

 

But what I really want to know is

Lenny Kravitz onstage

Lenny Kravitz playing guitar

If you have any questions about what I’m looking for or whether your story is right to submit to me, please ask.. You can hit me up on Twitter at @gwynnejackson (my DMs are open there until the submission window ends) or at my AMA on the Pitch Wars forum. Please don’t email me directly with Pitch Wars questions unless you can’t use either of the other contact methods. Thanks!

The Beatles bowing in unison

The Beatles, bowing in unison

Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  2. Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
  3. Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe
  5. Rachel Lynn Solomon
  6. Anna Kaling
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  9. Rachel Howzell Hall
  10. Lyn Liao Butler
  11. Michael Mammay and AR Lucas
  12. Paris Wynters (Accepts NA)
  13. K A Black (Accepts NA)
  14. Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
  15. Hudson Lin (Accepts NA)
  16. Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie (Accepts NA)
  17. Taj McCoy (Accepts NA)
  18. Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
  19. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  20. N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
  21. Elizabeth Little
  22. Anne Raven and Janet Walden-West (Accepts NA)
  23. Charish Reid and Denise Williams
  24. Kalyn Josephson and Kat Enright (Accepts NA)
  25. Gladys Qin (Accepts NA)
  26. Tanen Jones (Accepts NA)
  27. Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
  28. Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
  29. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  30. Denny S. Bryce and L. Penelope
  31. Roselle Lim and Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Morgan Rogers (Accepts NA)
  33. Samantha Rajaram
  34. Rob Hart
  35. Damyanti Biswas (Accepts NA)
  36. Maria Heater
  37. Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
  38. Gia de Cadenet
  39. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  40. Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
  41. Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
  42. Carly Bloom and Sam Tschida
  43. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  44. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  45. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)
  46. Alex Segura and M. J. Soni
  47. Roma Panganiban (Accepts NA)
  48. Tricia Lynne (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors’ Wish Lists


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My 2020 Pitch Wars Wish List, GIF-style

I am a 2020 Adult Pitch Wars Mentor

I am so excited to be back mentoring in the Adult category for Pitch Wars this year! Welcome to my 2020 wish list.

In case you don’t know, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program for unagented writers. Agented/published authors or industry interns spend three months working with one author to get their manuscript in the best shape they can, ahead of an agent showcase. All the information you need can be found right here.

Click here if you prefer a text-only version of this wishlist.

🎶🎶🎶

 

Tom Petty singing "The Waiting is the Hardest Part"

Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part”

You’ve been following along on the hashtag, checked out the forums, communed with other writers. Maybe you’ve even started your own list of potential mentors. Waiting is hard, y’all! But wait no longer: the mentor blog hop is finally here, so you can see what we’re all looking for. Read along with me from top to bottom, bottom up, sideways, or whichever way suits your fancy. You can always follow The Ramones to the links that’ll lead you right to whichever part rocks your socks. You’ll be able to navigate to all the 2020 adult mentor wishlists at the bottom of this post.

Hey Ho, Let's Go!

Line art of The Ramones: “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”

About MeI Want…I Don’t Want…My Ideal MenteeHow I WorkGot Questions?

🎶🎶🎶

 

Please allow me to introduce myself…

I’m a man of wealth and…oh, wait, that’s Mick Jagger. I’m Gwynne.

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards asking Homer Simpson if he'd like to join them on stage

From The Simpsons. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to Homer: “How would you like to join us onstage?”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creating worlds and characters to inhabit them. If you’ve run across All The Kissing (ATK), a community by and for romance writers, you’ve probably seen me there ( I’m one of the co-founders). I’m also the one to thank, blame, or cheer for the #FridayKiss prompts on Twitter.

After failing to make the cut in 2015, I was chosen as a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (I might have danced in celebration).  In 2018 I was a Golden Heart® finalist in contemporary romance. Last year was my first year mentoring Pitch Wars. I loved it so much, I’m back for Round Two.

I’m a USA west coast person, in case you’re concerned about time zones. If you want to know even more about me, feel free to check out last year’s wish list or my Pitch Wars mentor page. Or just nose around my blog. There’s a fairly eclectic assortment of things to read. And if you’re curious about what I mentored last year, here it is!

You can also find me on Pitch Wars Live on YouTube on September 18, and on the #askmentor Twitter chats on September 12 and September 16. You can find the full schedule right here.

In case you haven’t yet figured it out…

 I want YOU to want ME!

Robin Zander from Cheap Trick: I Want You to Want Me

Robin Zander (Cheap Trick): “I want you to want me.”

🎶🎶🎶

 

Bring it on home to me

What do I want? World peace, harmony, an end to hunger and disease, a better environment, to start with. For Pitch Wars, though, you should understand that first and foremost, I believe that love is love is love. I’m LGBTQ+, #ownvoices, and diversity-friendly.

I am only accepting manuscripts in the Adult category. Like last year, I am open to a lot! I adore ghosts. If you have one in your story and it fits one of my requested genres, send it to me! I also really love magical realism and elements of the fantastic, in any genre.

Sam Cooke onstage

Sam Cooke onstage

Because I’m a rebel (nothing less would make sense with a name like #TeamRebelCats), the genres I’m accepting this year are listed in reverse alphabetical order: Please know that I am equally open to all of these genres.

🎶

WOMEN’S FICTION

Heads up, women’s fic writers! Do you have a story that doesn’t read like an autobiography and that overflows with an undercurrent of strong emotion? Please send it to me. I love women’s fiction that’s cathartic, strong, with a defined plot and character arc. If I can understand your main character and her motivation—if you make me want to root for her success, no matter how flawed she might be—that’s the book for me. My favorite main characters in this genre can be anything from insecure to strong, quirky to traditional, but there has to be a viable emotional character arc. I need to see your characters grow. My preference is for deep single POV, and while the ending doesn’t have to be party-all-the-time, I’d like something on the more optimistic side. I am less likely to go for family saga WF than a story focused more on the individual or on a featured relationship, whether it’s friendship, siblings, or romantic entanglement.

🎶

URBAN FANTASY

You know what I love best about urban fantasy? When it blends the commonplace with the magical in a seamless way. My favorites are books where the worlds are provided as-is, without apology and often without much explanation. I’m good with sprites, fae, dream characters, elves, spectres, shifters, warlocks and witches, mages—you name it. As long as the world-building and magic are rock solid, I’ll happily read it. As with all my other requests, I definitely want to see emotional growth for your character(s).

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SCIENCE FICTION

I’m only interested in soft science fiction. I want to be more (or at least equally) swept away by the story than by the science in it. I don’t necessarily need to know the whys and hows, only that the technology works and makes sense within the scope of the story. I’m a big Star Trek fan and have been all my life, so things on that level, where the focus is less on the precise temperature required to sustain the warp core and more on “seek out new life, new civilizations, boldly go”  will appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong–I love it when people geek out about science! I do it myself all the time. But when it gets too technical, I lose interest. I’m also a big fan of fun and light-hearted science fiction where the reader can go along for a fast-paced ride. So…less doom-and-gloom apocalypse, more “Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!”

🎶

ROMANCE

There are rules to romance novels. I know because I’ve tried and failed to break them. If you’re writing romance, your story needs to follow the romance arc, and the romance must be the central plotline of the book. If it doesn’t end in either a HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now), it’s not a romance. Please don’t break my heart by misrepresenting the genre.

In general with romance novels, I do not love the alpha male archetype. You would be better served bringing your Navy SEALs, motorcycle club leaders, and all those other bad boys to a different mentor. However, I do want all your strong, opinionated, flawed, sassy female characters! I love almost all the tropes, but am especially fond of enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I’m good with any heat level from sweet to steamy, but I’m not the right mentor for inspirational romance or erotica.

I’m only accepting these romance sub-genres:

  • Contemporary Romance. I love contemporary romance. It’s my comfort food. As long as your characters are believable within their tropes (I know, how is a sexy single lonely kind-hearted non-cutthroat billionaire believable?), there isn’t much I want to exclude from this category. However, I’m a former stage manager and roadie so if you’re writing about rock musicians or the music industry, you’d better know what you’re talking about and your storyline needs to be extremely unique. I do adore contemporaries set in unusual places. If you’ve got a rarely-used highly atmospheric setting, I am all for it. Haunted houses, anyone?
  • SciFi Romance. Send me your space pirates, your post-apocalyptic frenemies, your androids, your unusual scientists. As long as the romance is the main crux of the story, I like just about any near-future or futuristic setting. I prefer soft science in my science fiction. I don’t need to know the quark count or a detailed explanation of why transporting matter works. I only need to be able to accept that it does.
  • Fantasy Romance. The same world-building rules apply for me here as they do for SciFi romance. If the romantic arc is highlighted against a backdrop of a unique world, and I don’t need a glossary to understand your fantasy terminology or a family tree to follow the lineage, send it on!
  • Historical Romance. I love a good historical, and am a stickler for details in this sub-genre. Unless it’s steampunk, I prefer that my historicals aren’t filled with anachronisms. Historical romance goes beyond Regency for me, although I love a good ballroom- and intrigue-filled tale. Witty banter is a must! I am not accepting Highlander or Viking romance, or historicals written in dialect.
  • Western Romance. Bring on the cowboys and cowgirls. Cowdogs, cowcats, modern-day quirky western characters, especially the ones stuck somehow in or on the past. My favorite western romances have settings as important as the characters—I want to feel immersed in the wide-open western space.
  • New Adult. In this sub-genre, I prefer characters with high stakes and a lot to learn—and a plot and arc that shows their growth. Lots of sex is fine as long as that’s not all there is, and that it furthers the plot. I may ask that you age the characters up to adult, if that makes sense given the plot.

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RETELLINGS

Got a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that takes place at an American Idol-like singing competition? A version of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is the beast? Or maybe one where Cinderella is an actress and the stepsisters are rivals from another studio? My favorite thing about a retelling is when it’s so well disguised that I don’t recognize its source story right away. Like Romeo & Juliet in a zombie apocalypse, I adore smart and unexpected retellings and reimaginings of classic tales. Not just Western, but from all over the world. 

🎶

LITERARY

I love, love, love literary fiction, especially the kind that tackles life’s bigger questions: who am I, why are we here, what is the meaning of life, of love, of death? Beautiful writing is my catnip in literary fiction, along with characters I either love to love or love to hate. The plot definitely needs to have a defined arc since I’m not a fan of literary novels where mostly only internalization happens (unless you’re James Joyce in which case HELLO), and the characters need to draw me in so much that I can’t stop thinking about them.

🎶

GOTHIC

In gothic I’m looking for a story on the emotional/scare level of the Coven season of American Horror Story. Something on the edge, something campy, something not without humor (although there was plenty not to laugh about in AHS Coven). I prefer gothic that’s over the top and isn’t afraid to flaunt it, with a cast of characters that’s both quirky and relatable. P.S. Ghosts.

🎶

CONTEMPORARY FICTION

This year, I’m only looking for light-hearted or amusing contemporary fiction. Your story doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I’ll be tickled if it is! With this type of novel, voice is key. I’d love something that’s engaging, hard to put down, and with well-rounded characters. While I’m not sure I’m ready for pandemic stories…if you’ve got one that’s suitably forward-looking, has a sense of humor, and doesn’t end in tragedy, I’m game.

🎶🎶🎶

 

I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky

Eddie Vedder hanging from the rafters at a Pearl Jam concert

Eddie Vedder swinging on the rafters at a Pearl Jam concert

I try to keep my “do not want” list small, but there are a few things I respectfully request you don’t send me:

  • Please don’t send me stories with rape, abuse, incest, torture, gratuitous sexism, or nonconsensual or violent acts, even if those things happen off-screen. Likewise, don’t send me stories that are racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-anybody.
  • No 9/11 stories, tragic pandemic stories, or stories that are politically-based.
  • Stories written in second person POV are almost never my preference.
  • In general, my interest in stories about bakeries, vineyards, chefs, and cruise ships is low—unless they’re in a spectacularly new setting or set of circumstances. For example: struggling bakery? No. Struggling haunted bakery in a dilapidated mansion? Yes. A chef who yells at contestants on reality TV? No. But a passionate chef possessed by the spirit of Julia Child? You get the picture.
  • I’m not the right mentor for stories about religion, traditional angels or demons, or Biblical retellings.
  • If I’ve worked with you on your Pitch Wars manuscript before and you haven’t drastically revised it since, please submit to a different mentor.
  • If your genre isn’t specifically listed on my wish list, that means I’m not the right mentor for it. When in doubt, ask!

🎶🎶🎶

You know how to use what you got

Are you my ideal mentee? 

Joan Jett smiling

Joan Jett smiling — ’nuff said.

You’ve written your book. Worked hard at making it as polished as it can be. You’ve had a critique partner and beta readers look it over, but you know it needs something more. Now you’re entering this manuscript into Pitch Wars to get that final shine and polish. That’s more than half the battle–congratulations! What you’re applying for are a few frantic months of rework, editing, rewriting, learning writing tips and tricks (some of which you’ll undoubtedly hate, but others that might give you that “aha!” moment), lack of sleep, laser focus on revision revision revision, and lots of support. Be prepared to jump feet first into the fire!

If you’re willing to put in all the work required, are open to feedback, want to learn, laugh, and grow together, and won’t get tired of being cheered on, you’re the kind of person I want to work with. A keen sense of humor is a must, and will serve you well not just during Pitch Wars but throughout your publishing career.

🎶🎶🎶

 

Hello, I’ve waited here for you

Do you know what a Pitch Wars mentor really is? Someone who loves your story and has ideas on how to make it even better. We’re all volunteers who love to help other writers and have a strong desire to pay it forward. 

If you’re looking for a mentor who can teach you how to make your words and story glow, look no further! You’ve found me. Welcome to #TeamRebelCats. 

Dave Grohl waving

Dave Grohl waving hello

If we work together, you’ll get to take advantage of my years of experience as a professional copy editor, technical editor, and proofreader. Together, we’ll polish your grammar to a shine, pay attention to story flow and internal and external arcs, and to your pacing. My biggest strength is in helping you to hone your author voice, your characters, and your characterization. We might have differences of opinion, and that’s okay. From start to end, this is your story, not mine. I don’t need you to love all of my suggestions. I only ask that you give them due consideration.

I’ll provide my mentee with an edit letter up front and a thorough read of your manuscript at least twice during the course of Pitch Wars. If we decide to work together, we’ll figure out the best communication method, whether it be email, video chat, phone calls, or something else. I’ll give you a schedule with major milestones so you can stay on track. I’m good at brainstorming plot points and characterization suggestions, if that’s something you need. 

I will never slam your work outright. My concrit always comes with suggestions on how to fix the problem. Warning: there will be homework! By the time we’re finished, we’ll have done our best to start the story at the right point, made sure the pacing stays on track, and turned your characters from words on the page into people who seem real. I’m a non-stop cheerleader, so you can expect an abundance of manuscript love coming your way. We’ll also work on your query and showcase pitch, along with your synopsis if time allows.

If you’re looking for a low-drama-high-compliment mentor who can help you kick ass and get sh*t done, here I am. Let’s work together.

🎶🎶🎶

 

But what I really want to know is

Lenny Kravitz onstage

Lenny Kravitz wailing away on a Flying V guitar

If you have any questions about what I’m looking for or whether your story is right to submit to me, please ask.. You can hit me up on Twitter at @gwynnejackson (my DMs are open there until the submission window ends) or at my AMA on the Pitch Wars forum. Please don’t email me directly with Pitch Wars questions unless you can’t use either of the other contact methods. Thanks!

The Beatles, bowing in unison

The Beatles, bowing in unison

Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  2. Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
  3. Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe
  5. Rachel Lynn Solomon
  6. Anna Kaling
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  9. Rachel Howzell Hall
  10. Lyn Liao Butler
  11. Michael Mammay and AR Lucas
  12. Paris Wynters (Accepts NA)
  13. K A Black (Accepts NA)
  14. Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
  15. Hudson Lin (Accepts NA)
  16. Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie (Accepts NA)
  17. Taj McCoy (Accepts NA)
  18. Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
  19. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  20. N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
  21. Elizabeth Little
  22. Anne Raven and Janet Walden-West (Accepts NA)
  23. Charish Reid and Denise Williams
  24. Kalyn Josephson and Kat Enright (Accepts NA)
  25. Gladys Qin (Accepts NA)
  26. Tanen Jones (Accepts NA)
  27. Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
  28. Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
  29. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  30. Denny S. Bryce and L. Penelope
  31. Roselle Lim and Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Morgan Rogers (Accepts NA)
  33. Samantha Rajaram
  34. Rob Hart
  35. Damyanti Biswas (Accepts NA)
  36. Maria Heater
  37. Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
  38. Gia de Cadenet
  39. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  40. Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
  41. Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
  42. Carly Bloom and Sam Tschida
  43. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  44. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  45. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)
  46. Alex Segura and M. J. Soni
  47. Roma Panganiban (Accepts NA)
  48. Tricia Lynne (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors’ Wish Lists


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Love Now More Than Ever

Photo by @judebeck on Unsplash

The world is a frightening place these days. I’ve been alternately watching the news and occupying my time focusing on other things. Creativity hasn’t been a problem; I can find plenty of creative things to do. Most of them haven’t been writing this winter. Like a lot of people, my motivation has been low. Mine was pegged on a couple of hopeful things that didn’t pan out, but between being caregiver for my injured partner and the sole driver in this house, keeping everything going, making sure we’ve had enough supplies, taking care of the cats, and watching the eternal Seattle winterscape change slowly from gray to blue, my days have been pretty full. I’ve had a regular weekly Zoom writing date with a fellow writer, and during my burrowing in have finally finished a revision pass on an older book.

It’s a romance. Reworking it makes me happy right now. Rereading it makes me happy right now. Thinking about people being happy makes me happy right now. In these contentious times, it’s my firm belief that we need love more than ever.

I write more than romance. The last romance novel I finished was a year ago in December. I’m sure I have more of them in me, but I also have other genres I’m having fun exploring. Everything I write has love in it, though. Why? Because it’s a fundamental part of the human condition, something we recognize. Whether it’s love for a parent or a child or a partner or a pet, we’ve all experienced it to some degree, and we’ve also experienced its loss. Love is relatable. Maybe fairytale romance love less so, but we can all appreciate the pattern of it.

So I will keep on writing, and keep pouring romance into my work. Every time we send love out into the world these days, that’s a good thing. We could all stand to have more of it.


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Attention Romance Writers!

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

2019 Pitch Wars managing director Sarah Nicolas has organized a fairly massive romance writing critique giveaway for queries and/or pages over on Twitter. I’m signal boosting here, not just because I’m offering critiques but because giving back to the romance writing community is one of my favorite things to do.

You can find all the info on Sarah’s Twitter. Be sure to read the whole thread. Lots of Pitch Wars mentors are offering critiques. Best of luck if you decide to enter!

 


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Review: Kind of Famous by Mary Ann Marlowe

What would you do if you had the opportunity to meet the rock stars of your dream but for very good reasons decided they could never know you ran a huge online fansite for them? That’s the dilemma met by midwesterner Layla Beckett when she moves to New York City to work for the industry darling Rock Paper. Starting on day one she comes face to face with fame, and must decide how to deal with it.

Layla’s journey is both exhilarating and one she has to think about every step of the way, especially after she meets–and falls for–drummer Shane. He’s not with the band for which she’s a superfan, but he’s close enough, sexy enough, witty enough, and kind-hearted enough. The two fall for each other hard, and things move a little too quickly for Layla’s comfort. When Shane’s jealousy and lack of faith in himself kick in, the fragile web they’ve started to build fractures.

Deeper than it seems on the surface, Kind of Famous explores the treacherous natures of fandom, friendship, and love–and the explosions that can result when those three things collide. Author Mary Ann Marlowe‘s book is a sweet coda of a love song to the rocker universe she created in Some Kind of Magic and developed further in A Crazy Kind of Love. If you loved those books, you’ll cherish this one as well.

Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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Writing Romance & the RWA (my thoughts on it all)

RWA (Romance Writers of America) is a mess right now. It’s hard to take a turn without hearing more about what a shambles the organization is in. So naturally, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I’m not here to rehash the scandal. You can Google it, or read any syndicated newsletter, or check out Twitter. But there are a few things, personally, I want to say.

  • The RWA needs transparency. So much of its operation is carried out behind closed doors. No, I don’t want to watch a live stream of board meetings, but I do think it’s important that members are kept informed about what happens. As a voting member, I don’t want the redacted version. I don’t want the recap.
  • The RWA needs accountability. The “explanations” they’ve sent out have largely pointed fingers at other members, accusing them of acting inappropriately. Excuse the fuck out of me, but why should any organization that won’t take responsibility for their own actions be listened to when they chastise their members?
  • The RWA needs a total overhaul at the top. There’s a lot being said about current president Damon Suede. I only met him once and he might be a really nice guy or he might not. What I do know is that he’s the one at the top. That means he’s the one who needs to speak on behalf of all RWA and he needs to do it well and eloquently. So far, he’s done neither. Dude, you’re a writer. Take a note from Hamilton and write your way out if you must. But please note that we are also writers, and we’re onto all the tricks. Sometimes, for the greater good, a person has to let go of their own power position. Yes, I did sign the recall petition.
  • Romance writers don’t need to belong to RWA to write, read, or become published. RWA is a professional organization currently acting in a wholly unprofessional manner. As a result, I’ve decided that I don’t need them. I don’t need their annual conference. I don’t need to renew my membership to keep writing my stories. I don’t need their half-assed attempts at explaining their poor behavior. I don’t need their promises to work on stopping the long-standing racist nature of the organization. I don’t need to stand behind them any longer. What I do need is for them to effect change immediately. A new charter, a new board, a new openness.

I realize that not everyone will agree with me here, and that’s fine. But when those accused of harmful behavior decide it’s better to do some tone policing than to admit their faults or complicity, I say the time is up. Would I love to see RWA reinvent itself? You bet your ass I would. But I can no longer support or be part of an organization whose leadership tells us one thing and does the opposite.


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On Giving and Receiving Feedback

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

When I read manuscripts for people, I always offer feedback. I also always hesitate before doing so, because I never know how it’s going to be accepted (or whether it’ll be accepted).

From me, feedback on writing isn’t a declaration or proclamation. Sometimes, it’s the start of a dialog. This is a really good thing—the feedback I give as a reader is just one person’s response to to the words. It should help the writer understand how their story is being seen, at least by one reader. This is a little fraught with peril, because as writers we know exactly what we’re trying to get across. To hear that it didn’t work, or that it only worked in part, can sting. A lot. But I decided a long time ago that as much as it hurts to find out that I didn’t get my point across, or didn’t do it well, or left a completely different impression from the one I intended, or that someone didn’t understand my character or plot point or whatever, the critique will always make me a better writer.

I’m much more accepting of concrit now than I used to be. I still look on my characters and stories as my babies, and to me they are perfect. But I’ve also learned to look on my writing as a skill, and all skills have room for improvement. I’m not perfect by any means. I don’t write a perfect first draft that leaves readers reeling in wonder and excitement. That comes in the revision phase, if it comes at all, and for that, I need reader feedback.

So when I send out feedback to people (especially those I don’t know well), I always hold my breath a little and hope they’ll take the feedback in the spirit it was intended. Not as criticism but as suggestion, ways I think their work can be improved. It’s all just suggestion! It’s all subjective! What I like, another reader might not. What I can’t stand, another reader might love. We can’t please everyone, but we can at least learn to please ourselves with our writing.

I’ve been sending out lots of feedback lately. I love when I get impassioned responses to it on a point-by-point basis, especially when the author disagrees. Why? Because if the author feels strongly enough to debate my concrit, it means I have them thinking about their approach to the story, character, or scene. That’s the kind of thing that for me as a writer, I think about for days and days until I either decide the feedback-giver was absolutely right or absolutely wrong. More often than not, I realize they were right, and then my brain can start solving the puzzle of how to fix that piece.

Yesterday I got a response from someone who (I’m paraphrasing) said they were thankful because the feedback I gave not only fit with what other people had been telling them, but that it made something click and they figured out how best to revise. That made me so happy. Because so often when I send feedback I have my fingers crossed and hope the author will understand where I’m coming from, and so often I never hear a peep. Did they get it? Do they hate me now? Was I at least a little bit helpful?

Hearing back like that made me smile. So for everyone who’s ever bothered to read my work and send feedback, a giant thank you. And for everyone who’s read my feedback and had even a tiny “aha” moment, another giant thank you for taking my thoughts into consideration. No writer could possibly be where they are without their readers and critique partners.


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Choosing is HARD, y’all.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In 2015 I entered my novel in a little contest called Pitch Wars, hoping to be mentored. I didn’t make it. There’s something absolutely devastating about seeing that list go up, scanning for your name, and not finding it listed. I was hurt, but I got some good feedback, let it settle, and kept on writing.

In 2016, I tried again. This time, my name was on the list of mentees, even though through careful denial and self-preservation instincts, I’d told myself it wouldn’t be there. I was much happier. Little did I know exactly how busy I was about to be.

Pitch Wars went by. I made it to the agent showcase. I got requests. All around me, mentees were excitedly sharing the offers they’d had. I didn’t get one.

A year went by. I still didn’t have an offer. What I did have were some fantastic critique partners, one of whom asked a simple question about one of the secondary characters in my Pitch Wars manuscript. I don’t think she knew at the time that she was going to spawn a dynasty, I mean, a four-book series, but that’s exactly what happened. I wrote the second book, had it edited (yay!), entered it in the Golden Heart contest, and entered it into #KissPitch and the March edition of #PitMad.

I started getting requests.

At the end of March 2018, more than a year and a half after the agent showcase, that Pitch Wars sequel was named a Golden Heart finalist, and I received a number of offers of representation. Also in 2018, I applied to be a Pitch Wars mentor.

I wasn’t accepted.

Rejection in all its forms never really gets easier, but I figured it was not meant to be. I kept writing. I wrote the other two books in my series (just a note for those of you thinking of doing the same: I am all for following our passion when it comes to writing. However, wisdom states that we probably shouldn’t go about trying to write sequels when the first book hasn’t sold. Fair warning, that’s probably right, as I sit here with three years’ worth of unsold series, although your mileage may certainly vary).

In 2019, I initially waffled about applying as a Pitch Wars mentor. Like I said, rejection never gets easier. But finally I shook off the self-doubt and imposter syndrome that follows me around like a bad shadow regardless of the weather, took the plunge, and applied again. This time, I was accepted.

Just like before, when I was a mentee, I had no idea how much work was ahead of me and how busy I’d get. I thought, well, I’m a first-time mentor. I’ll be lucky if I get a few submissions.

Holy cow, y’all. I got snowed under with submissions. It was a veritable avalanche of subs. But I’m nothing if not persistent, so I dug out from under and read them all. I explained my process on Twitter, if you’re interested in reading it.

I didn’t talk numbers there, because my mama and papa always taught me talking numbers was rude. But here, I’ll be confessional. I got 250 submissions. Out of those, I requested 23 manuscripts, either full or partial. I read 8 complete manuscripts, did not quite finish 6 other complete manuscripts, and read the partials on 9 more. That was a lot of reading.

Imagine going trick-or-treating. You come home with 250 unique pieces of candy you like, but you only get to keep ONE. There are so many favorites, so you sort them. You agonize over your favorites. You go back and forth–this one! No, THIS one! No, this–until you just can’t think any more. Yet people are waiting for you to choose, and each of those candies has feelings that you will hurt by not picking it.

That’s what it’s like, being a Pitch Wars mentor and having to choose one manuscript/one mentee out of the whole submission field. It’s daunting. It’s damned near impossible.

All in all, I got a blend of everything I asked for–and more. Here’s the breakdown by numbers, purely in alphabetical order:

Contemporary Fiction – 17
Contemporary Romance – 49
Cyberpunk – 1
Fantasy – 9
Fantasy Romance – 6
Gothic – 4
Historical Fiction – 7
Historical Romance – 12
Horror – 1
Literary Fiction – 15
Mystery – 1
New Adult Contemporary – 5
New Adult Fantasy – 4
New Adult Fantasy Romance – 2
Paranormal – 6
Romantic Comedy – 6
Romantic Suspense – 1
Science Fiction – 8
SciFi Romance – 5
Thriller – 1
Urban Fantasy – 9
Women’s Fiction – 81

Those of you who are mathematically inclined can figure out the percentages! Make sweet pie charts! Color code it!

Once again, thank you ALL for submitting your work to me. It’s been an honor having the opportunity to read, agonizing having to choose, and an all-around wonderful experience.


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My Pitch Wars Wish List

I am a Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentor

This is my first year as a Pitch Wars mentor, although I’m not new to mentoring. I’m so happy to be here. Pleased to meet you, and you, and you.

Peter Quill (Star-Lord) and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy circling one another

If you’re not familiar with Pitch Wars, it’s a writing mentoring program. Agented/published authors or industry interns spend three months working with one author to get their manuscript in the best shape they can, ahead of an agent showcase. All the information you need can be found right here

About Me | Genres I’m Accepting | Please Don’t Send | My Ideal Mentee | My Mentoring Style

Hello, My Name Is…

  • Gwynne, or G.L. professionally. I’m a co-founder of All The Kissing (ATK), a community by and for romance writers. I help moderate the ATK Facebook group and am mostly to blame for the #FridayKiss twitter prompt party.
  • I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016, and a 2018 Golden Heart® finalist, both in contemporary romance.
  • I write primarily contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction. Regardless of genre, all my characters are bound by love. I prefer writing complex, imperfect people who manage to find peace with themselves despite their shortcomings and obstacles. I’m definitely a character-oriented writer. But don’t let that fool you. I can work a mean plot and hit the necessary beats.
  • I live off the coast of Seattle and there really are brazen local sea otters that hang around our yard (you can see videos of them on my Instagram feed). I lived in the Bay Area for four years before moving here, and in Oregon for a long time before that. I run on US west coast time.
  • I’m an energy worker and was a licensed massage therapist for a dozen years. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
  • I love astrology (Scorpio, Gemini ascendant, Pisces moon), tarot (Queen of Swords), Enneagram (2w3), Meyers-Briggs (ENFP), Hogwarts sorting (Gryffindor), numerology (6), piña coladas (blended), and getting caught in the rain (Seattle).
  • I’m represented by Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary, and am currently on submission.
  • I could tell you stories about getting caught on a river in a torrential downpour in Belize or being offered a handful of cash for my baby’s NY Knicks sweatshirt in China or waking up in the middle of the night in the Bahamas staring at the barrel of a machine gun. Life is a carnival. But enough about me. Let’s talk Pitch Wars!

What I’m Looking For

It should go without saying right up front that I’m LGBTQ+, #ownvoices, and diversity-friendly, but I’m saying it anyway. Love is love is love.

I am only accepting manuscripts in the Adult category.

Also…

If you have a ghost in your story and it fits one of my requested genres, send it to me!

A ghost passing in front of a plantation (from Scooby Doo)

Here are the genres I’m accepting, spooky or not:

ROMANCE

I love romance. I love the craft of it, the skill of taking that arc and making it new and special. I love the characters who fall in love and fight for their happiness. Romance must be the central crux of the story, and it needs to follow the romance arc. If you’re questioning whether that breakup at the end doesn’t count because the book is 99% romance and that’s enough, you’re wrong. The book must end on a satisfyingly optimistic note—with the love interests together either happily ever after or happily for now—or it’s not romance.

  • I am not a fan of alpha males, although I love reading about alpha females. Bring me your betas, your gammas, your cinnamon roll heroes.
  • I’m not the right mentor for sports romance, inspirational romance, or erotica.
  • For heat level I’ll take anything from sweet to steamy.

These are the only romance sub-genres I’m looking for:

  • Contemporary Romance. Any trope (friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, and found family are favorites), as long as it has a central romance and ends happily. Beautiful, thoughtful writing and an engaging voice are a must for me with contemporary. PSA: I also love a good rom-com!
  • Scifi Romance. I prefer soft scifi, where the focus is on the romance more than on the science. However, I need enough scifi elements to make your world stand out and be noticeably different from ours, even in near-future novels. Think Vivien Jackson’s Wanted and Wired series. And yes, superhero romance counts here!
  • Fantasy Romance. Fantastical worlds are wonderful, but the world-building needs to be seamless and believable for me. If you’ve got a magic system where things happen “just because,” I’m not your best mentoring choice. Likewise, if you have to set the scene with a thousand years’ worth of history and name all the names, I’m not your best mentoring choice. I’m looking for stories where the romance is the focus, and the fantasy elements are more delicious gravy than main course.
  • Historical Romance. I don’t just mean Regency, although if you can get my panties in a twist over a duke, earl, or duchess, I’ll take it. I love historical romances that take place in all eras and countries (like Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace). But I’m definitely not the right mentor for Viking or Highlander romances. Ach, sorry, lads and lasses. 😦
  • Western Romance. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys 🎶 unless you’re going to send me their stories. I’m a sucker for cowboys who are loners, who have something to prove, or better still, something to hide. If your western setting doubles as a character on its own, I will love you forever.
  • New Adult. I am accepting New Adult, especially if there’s more plot than sex, but I might ask you to consider aging your characters up to adult.

Cowboy cracking a flaming whip

WOMEN’S FICTION

I’m looking for powerful, intimate stories that follow the main character’s emotional growth through the course of the novel. With women’s fiction, attention to characterization is something I need to see amped way up. I love strong women, I love quirky women, and I also love reading about a female main character who is broken but at least begins to heal as the story progresses. A central romance is not required (though it will make me happy). Emotion is key for me in women’s fic—I want to be able to crawl into your character’s heart and understand why it beats the way it does. I want to feel your main character’s pain, her joy, and her tears (Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune). I prefer deep single POV and more optimistic endings in women’s fiction.

CONTEMPORARY FICTION

For contemporary I like everything from light yet compelling (The Descendants) to issues-driven to dark. But I don’t want to dwell on gruesome details about murder or sexual violence or satanic rituals, and I don’t want psychological thrillers masquerading as contemporary fiction. In this genre I’m a fan of multiple POVs (A Brief History of Seven Killings), stories that hop back and forth in time (The Time Traveler’s Wife), and old mysteries that have new light shed on them in later times (The Historian). Bottom line: intrigue me with your plot and premise, then give me a character I can root for with a voice that wows me. Did I mention I love ghosts?

URBAN FANTASY

My preferred flavor of urban fantasy is a story where the fantasy element is so much a part of everyday life that we simply accept it and get lost in the storytelling. There are reasons Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere are two of my most re-read books. I like urban fantasy from light to gritty (Mishell Baker’s Borderline). Make me believe all these worlds exist side by side with ours. Bonus points if your urban fantasy contains some light-hearted elements, or at least well-thought-out characters of all stripes.

RETELLINGS

Oh, I love a good retelling! I don’t just mean “I named him Cinderfella and gave him evil stepbrothers,” though. My favorite retellings are the ones that retain the basic elements of the original story, but twist them on their sides so that the story takes on a life of its own (Cinder or Warm Bodies). Even if we can’t tell what work it’s based on until the end, I find these stories remarkably lovely and will gobble them up (no zombie pun intended).

R and Julie (Warm Bodies) holding hands

LITERARY

I’m on the lookout for character-driven literary fiction with an imaginative plot and a fascinating, unusual narrative voice. Single POV, multiple POV, any era, doesn’t matter as long as the characters are compelling. Make it heartfelt, make it beautiful, make it so I can’t put it down. Give me a happy ending or a sad ending. Make me care so much about your characters that it hurts. Make me care so much about your characters that I can’t stop thinking about them for weeks. Months. Years. Favorites include Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and almost anything by Louise Erdrich.

SCIENCE FICTION

Please note right up front: for hard sci-fi, I am not your best mentor choice. My preference in science fiction is for soft sci-fi stories with romantic subplots, even if the romance isn’t the central theme of the story. Bring me your near-future, your superhero worlds, your outlying other colonies. Or okay, bring me a character like Mark Watney and convince me he could survive, or even a total nihilist like Spike Spiegel and show me what drives him (we all know it’s love). Again: soft on the hard science, big on the human emotion side.

Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) shooing kids away from his ship

Please Don’t Send Me:

  • Stories where the central action revolves around abuse, rape, incest, torture, or other nonconsensual or violent acts
  • Stories that are racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-anybody
  • Thinly-veiled diatribes about politics
  • Biblical retellings
  • Stories about angels or demons

If I’ve worked with you on your Pitch Wars manuscript before and you haven’t drastically revised it since, I respectfully request that you submit to a different mentor.

If your genre isn’t specifically listed here, I’m not the right mentor for it. If you’re still not sure, ask me. You’ve got four mentor picks—choose wisely.

My Ideal Mentee

  • is willing to put in the hard work Pitch Wars demands to make their manuscript better
  • can take feedback, absorb it, not get hurt receiving it, and work with it in their own way
  • has a healthy desire to learn
  • has a healthy sense of humor
  • has a healthy sense of self
  • will not get sick of being cheered on

Bottom line, I’m not looking to work with someone who thinks they have to do everything I say just because it’s Pitch Wars and I’m their mentor. It’s a partnership, a give and take. At my core, I’m just another writer who happens to love your story.

Sam from iCarly on reading a book: "These things are great! It's like TV in your head!"

My Mentoring Style

I believe in mentoring as a partnership rather than me telling you what you must do (unless that relates to schedules, where I might pull rank). I’m a former professional copyeditor, technical editor, and proofreader, so we’ll polish your words to a shine. We’ll pay attention to story flow and arc, and in hitting the beats at the right time. Most of all, we’ll pay attention to voice, characters, and characterization. By the time we’re through, your characters will be so distinct and realistic they’ll be ready to jump off the page.

Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes flying blissfully through the air

If you’re my mentee, you’ll get an edit letter up front, with a thorough read of your manuscript at least twice during the course of Pitch Wars. I’m happy to read anything you need along the way as well. I can think up a dozen story scenarios at any moment off the top of my head if brainstorming together is something you’d like.

I won’t rewrite your book. I won’t put words in your characters’ mouths. But I will give you the tools you need to revise your book your own way and in your own words, so that your story and characters and settings sparkle in the sunlight. (See what I did there, Twilight fans?)

I believe in constructive criticism and outright I LOVE THIS SO MUCH squeeing. Remember, if I pick your story, it’s because I already love it, see untapped potential in it, and want to help you make it the best it can be. I will never give you the full-on Simon Cowell treatment (unless it’s a standing ovation). There will probably be homework. I will help you pull your plot together, find the right starting place, see to it that the pacing is good, that you don’t let your story sag in the middle. I’m also fluent in queries, pitches, and synopses.

Simon Cowell applauding & giving two thumbs up

I work best using email, DMs, and other written communication. I’m not phone-phobic so if you’re into phone or video chats that’s cool and I’ll do it, but most of my communication will be via email or DMs. I’m really good about responding ASAP and happy to hear from you by text message as well.

Also, I’m pretty nice and chill. Easy-going, and low drama. That doesn’t mean I won’t be all excited about your work, running around with my hair on fire. I will. I’ll just do it quietly.

Dexter (Dexter's Lab) running around DeeDee with his hair in flames

So what are you waiting for? Let’s work together.

If you have any questions about what I’m looking for or whether your story is appropriate to submit to me, please ask. I’m always happy to answer. You can hit me up on Twitter at @gwynnejackson and at my AMA on the Pitch Wars forum.

Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Paris Wynters
  2. Kathleen Barber (Accepts NA)
  3. Ian Barnes
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe (Accepts NA)
  5. Elizabeth Little
  6. Hayley Stone and Erin A. Tidwell
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Maxym M. Martineau (Accepts NA)
  9. Katie Golding (Accepts NA)
  10. Ava Reid and Rachel Morris (Accepts NA)
  11. Carolyne Topdjian
  12. Natalka Burian
  13. Tim Akers
  14. Alex Segura
  15. Michelle Hauck and Carrie Callaghan (Accepts NA)
  16. Laura Brown (Accepts NA)
  17. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  18. Kerbie Addis and Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  19. Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
  20. Kelly Siskind and Heather Van Fleet (Accepts NA)
  21. Janet Walden-West and Anne Raven (Accepts NA)
  22. Kate Lansing (Accepts NA)
  23. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  24. Alexa Martin and Suzanne Park (Accepts NA)
  25. Gia de Cadenet (Accepts NA)
  26. Rob Hart
  27. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  28. Michael Chorost (Accepts NA)
  29. Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
  30. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  31. Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Samantha Rajaram
  33. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  34. Rebecca Enzor (Accepts NA)
  35. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  36. Denny S. Bryce (Accepts NA)
  37. Meryl Wilsner and Rosie Danan (Accepts NA)
  38. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  39. Gladys Quinn (Accepts NA)
  40. Diana A. Hicks (Accepts NA)
  41. Damyanti Biswas
  42. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)