Monday, July 18, 2016

Hello, future mentees: Behold—My Pitchwars Wish list...

Greetings, aspiring writers of YA! I am Lisa Amowitz and this my very first year as a Pitch Wars mentor, so I’m kind of a newbie at all the protocol stuff.

However, I am far from a newbie in this publishing game. Though my first book BREAKING GLASS was published in 2012, behind that moment was a long, long road of skill building, rejection, and loads and loads of constructive feedback to wade through. Behind that moment are three different agents, heartbreak, meltdowns. Many times I was ready to give up, but crawled and scratched my way back to the writing chair.

Why? Because I had stories in me, pushing to get out. Stories I had to tell myself. And if I wanted to tell those stories, I reasoned, maybe someone else might want to read them if I worked hard enough.

To do that I realized, I needed to develop the hide of a dinosaur and the steady determination of the ocean tide. I had to continue while watching others succeed as I did not. 

I had to tell myself this:

comparison is the thiEf of joy...

There is always someone out there who strikes gold while you only get coal.

The process took me years—and it’s still ongoing.

Does that sound like you? Are you just itching to get your story out there, not for fame and money, but just because it deserves to be read?

Then I’m here to help.

Heck, I’m a professional helper. I’m a Professor of Graphic Design—I help people learn for a living.

I have no formal degree in writing, just an MFA in Fine Art. My writing cred comes from the internet and the countless people whom, over the years helped me polish my craft. I’ve seen many of these transform from hesitant beginners to accomplished authors because THEY DID NOT GIVE UP.

As best I can, I’ve tried to give back. How do I work?
I am tough. I’m less about line edits (though I am kind of a sentence structure geek), and more about pacing, plotting, deleting slack scenes and extra words. If you are delicate about your ms and sensitive to red ink—I AM NOT YOUR MENTOR. I may be tough—but I am kind. I will let you know what shines, and help you cut out what is dragging down your manuscript.

If you have the passion, drive, and stubborn determination to prevail, no matter the amount of setbacks (there are ALWAYS setbacks in publishing. It really never ends…just saying) then


So what kind of submission am I looking for? I am YA only—it’s what I read, what I write, and what I am best suited to work with you on.

I lean toward urban fantasy, clever dystopic, mystery/thriller/ghost, magical reality, historical fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, and some contemporary.  Love QUIRKY.
I am a looking for books that are lyrical in their use of language and imagery, detailed in their world-building, genuine in the crafting of  true and unique characters. I enjoy some romance, but I do not think a book whose sole emphasis is on romance is for me. I like depth—and growth. I crave deeper themes to be explored—though I am also, very, very plot driven. I love action, suspense, mystery like plants love the sun.

I’m looking for textured, beautiful, magical YA with a distinctive voice.

Maybe, to give you a better idea of my tastes I will list my favorite authors/books:

1. Of course, it’s no surprise I love HARRY POTTER and the HUNGER GAMES. But that’s been done. If you could come up with some new twist on it, fine—I’m your mentor.

2. One of my favorite books of all time is THE BOOK THIEF, by Marcus Zusak. This book literally changed me as an author. It taught me the power of voice. Yes, it is somewhat magical reality, as it is narrated by Death! Yep—falls right into my zone.

3. Maggie Stiefvater’s RAVEN CYCLE. Maggie is my patron saint. Her finely detailed characters, her creepy bad guys, her incredible sense of place, coupled with the wonderfully original blend of myth and magic in her stories, makes her most definitely, my Goddess of All Words.

4. Alexandra Bracken’s PASSENGER. Here you have my love of history, fantasy, and voice all rolled into one single wild adventure of a book. I also loved her DARKEST MINDS series.

5. Patrick Ness: I kind of worship this guy. He is the king of voice and totally original narratives, combining depth, humor and total strangeness. THE CHAOS WALKING trilogy is right up there in my pantheon. Also, I am a huge fan of MORE THAN THIS. Confession: I have not yet read A MONSTER CALLS.

6. Ransom Rigg’s MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. Twisted, dark strange: Love, love LOVE!

7. Leigh Bardugo: SIX OF CROWS. How do I love this book? Let me count the ways: Character—so intricate—all interwoven with their own secrets and pasts. Storyline? Tense, suspenseful—unpredictable. All of this pulled together with deft, vivid prose. SWOON!!!

8. Ruta Sepetys: SALT TO THE SEA Strictly historical, it’s really not that different in structure from SIX of CROWS in that it unfolds in four POVS and follows the character’s converging story lines. Very human, very dark—Gorgeous prose you can eat with a spoon. It hardly gets better than this.

9. ILLUMINAE, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’m not always a big reader of sci-fi, but I am a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan, so any YA that has all of the above features and is set in space or the future works for me. This book was so original and amazing. I actually listened to the audio book which was performed like an old fashioned radio play. Incredible.

Other authors who have made an impact on me: 
Anne Rice: INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE; Stephen King: THE STAND, STAND BY ME; Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land; Marie Lu: Young Elites; Victoria Schwab: Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic; John Green: Looking for Alaska.

In summation: I am looking for unique and original YA with strong voice, lyrical prose, finely wrought characters with depth, mystery, intrigue. If your manuscript have those ingredients then I WANT YOU:

But most of all, the thing I most want to see from you, my potential mentee is


Lisa Amowitz is an award winning author of three fantasy/thrillers for young adults, UNTIL BETH [Spencer Hill Press, 2015], VISION [Spencer Hill Press, 2014], and BREAKING GLASS [Spencer Hill Press, 2013].

She is also a cover designer and Professor of Graphic Design at Bronx Community College.

She is represented by Shannon Hassan of
Marsal-Lyon Literary Agency 

Twitter: @lisa_amowitz
Instagram: @lisa_amowitz

Learn about her books:




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  1. I love most of the books on your list of favorites, so just reserved the rest through the library. It seems we have very similar taste! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Yay! Awesome. Not sure if you're doing #PitchWars, but if this helps you select reading material, then that's great.

  3. Hi Lisa! I am doing #PitchWars. My MS is an YA mystery/adventure set in space. I say it's sci-fi because of the setting, but it's very soft sci-fi. I saw in point #9 above that's not necessarily out of your range - are there any elements of sci-fi that are a particular turn-off to you?

    1. By the way - I'm @alybcolman on Twitter if you're wondering who I am. I noticed clicking on my name here doesn't link to anything!

  4. Thank you for the wishlist! I'm participating in PitchWars, and I'm really excited. I also really like your approach to writing and comparison. I have to remind myself sometimes that joy should come from the craft itself :-)

  5. Hey Lisa, I am but one of the hopeful Pitchwar candidates that chose you above all others. When I was researching potential mentors I connected with the journey you expressed on your mentor page—the process of trying to figure out how to get your story out there to be read. Like you, I discovered my passion for writing later on in life. I’m achieved my BFA in Fine arts (2-d painting and drawing) and then proceeded to earn my MFA in teaching. And like you, I won’t give up.
    I chose you because I want a mentor that will tell it to me straight—a mentor that doesn’t have the typical background for writing and persevered in this tough industry. I didn’t start writing for anything other than to creatively express myself in the hope of someday inspiring others. This is my one goal in life because nothing in life was ever achieved without inspiration, and stories like yours are inspirations for us all. Thank you for being a mentor on Pitchwars and giving back to a community of authors’ who are trying to help inspire others.


  6. Hi Lisa.

    Tweeting focusses the mind, but you just can't say it all. And I write because I have so much to say, so here I am on your blog too.

    Initially, I chose you because you love The Book Thief. If I ever want to cry, I reread that book. It is simply the most poetic, beautiful thing. Whilst I don't begin to pretend my book is a patch on Zusak's, I'd like it to be. I guess that means I have the stubbornness and drive you are looking for. I can take brutally honest feedback - heck I've had enough of it (I showed the beginning of my MSS to some of the young adults I teach).

    I know historical fiction is a little way down your list, but I wouldn't have submitted The Divided if I didn't think its true characters and their tough journeys to adulthood would appeal.

    My goal with with your help? To earn the right to put in my query that The Divided might appeal to readers of The Book Thief.

    Thanks so much for mentoring.

    Joanna Kurlbaum

  7. I don't think mine went through, so I'm typing again...Apologies if this appears twice!

    I picked you, Lisa, because 1) Your excellent taste in books 2) Your lovely blog post about comparing ourselves and how joy comes from focusing on the craft (I don't think humans hear this enough!) 2)Your willingness to offer feedback on everything (I know I can become a better writer through pitchwars even if I don't become a mentee) and 4) Your education/MFA background. I'm an educator also (English teacher in S Korea) and your background really interested me. Finally, 5) Your emphasis on voice. I really want to develop better voice in my writing, and I really admire lyrical, lilting prose. I'd love to write that someday.

    Thank you for helping us newbies and hopefuls!

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  9. (sorry, something glitched in the original)

    Hi, Lisa! I picked you as one of my mentors because of the genres included in your wishlist, but specifically for your preference of character growth over romance. Also your struggle in getting your work out in the world resonates with me, as I'm approaching that spot in my life where I know I'm almost there, but am missing that "it" in my novels and it discourages me. I'm inspired by your endurance dealing with all the roadblocks, and I know even just reading your general advice and submitting will make me a better writer.

    Also, your twitter image. Like, seriously.

  10. Hi Lisa,
    I chose to submit to you in part because I think my ms will be a good fit for your tastes. You mention that you enjoy books that are lyrical in language and imagery and that explore deeper themes; I think these are strengths of my work. Also, your editing style will help with the weaknesses of my book. I don't so much need help with line edits as pacing and plotting. I'm also submitting to you because I'm at that stage of my writing where I'm getting a few requests from agents, but far more rejection. You've been there too, so you know how frustrating it is. I would love your assistance in keeping on through the difficult times and in bringing my writing up a notch. At this point, I need both encouragement and someone to rip my ms to shreds so I can make it better.

  11. Hi Lisa!
    I picked you as a mentor! I thought we’d be a great fit when I read the styles of books you like: The Chaos Walking, Hunger Games, John Green books, and Scott Westerfeld. I’m headed to buy Six of Crows and Raven Cycle today. Plus, your journey to publication resonated with me, and I knew you’d have a lot to teach. Thanks for the opportunity! Either way, I’ll stay connected with you through twitter and learn as much as possible!

  12. I subbed to you because of the genres in your wishlist (and because you liked a writing sample on my blog :)

    You seem to appreciate that when a writer learns those hard lessons, when they invite every opportunity to up-level, only then can they truly grow. I can tell from your tweets that you're all about nurturing the writer community rather than feeding the writer ego. You thank people, you pay it forward, and you expect the same from your peers. There need to be more writers like you. I need to be around more writers like you.

    You appear to be a patron of tough love. All of my greatest mentors through life have dealt tough love out to me in spades, be that writing mentors, art mentors or just good ol' life mentors and friends who took zero shit from me and made me a better person for it. I wrote for one of the most hard to please directors in the animation industry. I wish I kept my scripts that were just littered with red pencil and suggestions that I should reconsider my dayjob. It was a trial by fire, and while I didn't emerge unscathed, my writing skin is not so easy to puncture these days.

    Finally, all of your writing strengths are areas I'm specifically weak in. If the mentor/mentee relationship is symbiotic, then it doesn't get much more true to definition than that. :)

  13. Hi, Lisa! You had me at ILLUMINAE. :) I love that you're writing your own space opera, and I would be delighted to have your mad squirrels put to work in helping me take my YA space opera--THE LAST RELIC--to the next level. I love revisions, and I'm not afraid of hard work (I've already spent years on this, so what's another few months?). :D

    Also--thank you so much for keeping it real. Your honesty about the industry and the long journey ahead speaks volumes about you. I can tell you're an awesome person and would love the opportunity to work with you. Thanks for considering me!

    Mikki Tolley

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