What I Am Looking For
In a manuscript: My genre is literary fiction. Just what exactly do I mean by literary fiction? To borrow Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Examples of literary fiction can be found in all genres: Science Fiction (Frankenstein), Speculative Fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale), Horror (The Haunting of Hill House), Ghost Story (Beloved), Graphic Novel (Fun House), Historical Fiction (Pachinko), Romance (anything by Jane Austen), Thrillers (A Map of Betrayal), Detective Novels (Motherless Brooklyn), Humor (A Confederacy of Dunces)…
In literary fiction, prose, structure, and message take precedence over plot. While plot is important, it is but a vehicle to showcase the writer’s strong voice, distinctive wordsmithing, unique viewpoint, and subtly wrought themes.
To give you a better sense of books that I have liked and why, please see these reviews: A Separation by Katie Kitamura; Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout; Exit West by Mohsin Hamid; The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies; The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery; The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka; A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki; The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis; and The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.
Also, for books that really turned me off, see: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk, Taipei by Tao Lin.
In a writer: Ideally, I am looking for a writer who feels like she was born to write the work she is submitting (though I use feminine pronouns, I absolutely welcome submissions from all genders). I want a strong, assured voice and an authentic story.
As an adoptee, I was frustrated at the recent wave of novels about transracial adoption which were not written by adoptees and which sometimes trafficked in clichés, whereas my own adoption novel could not find a publisher. I would love to mentor someone with a manuscript that similarly defies accepted conventions on her subject matter, and to work together to shape it into something that will appeal to agents and editors while staying true to her own voice.
I want a writer who is confident in her own story and her right to tell it. I want exceptional prose, an unusual story, and an authorial sense of mission.
E-mail, always. I’ll reply promptly, even if it’s just to say that a full response is forthcoming. I’m a regular visitor to social media, but I don’t live there. I am deathly allergic to GIFs.
Pros and Cons
Pros: As a prolific book reviewer, I know how to critique a book. Having taken a very long and winding road to publication, I have a lot of insights to share about the journey. The query letter will be the easy part—I’ve landed two agents and my book deal with query letters.
Cons: The hard part is the revision, and I might ask more of you than you want to give. I’m a blunt critic with high standards. I’m a newcomer to Pitch Wars, and am not that active on social media.
My goal is the same as yours, to work hard on your manuscript, polishing it into a thing of beauty that will be irresistible to that one, special agent. In my experience, that means revisions, revisions, and more revisions, so if you’re ready to spend long, lonely hours toiling over your novel, I’m ready to help you.
Thanks for reading. Investigate the other adult mentor wishlists below or return to the Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop.