My 2016 Pitch Wars Wish List

Jul 19, 2016 Latest, Main blog 6 comments
Letter T 2
SCAVENGER HUNT: Here’s a “T” for “Be on my TEAM!”


I am VERY excited to be a returning mentor in this year’s Pitch Wars!

I will be accepting middle-grade submissions only. I love to read and write MG and I consider these books to be every bit as important and compelling as those for older kids. So I am hopeful you will send your manuscripts to me!

I’ve been in many contests myself and I know how scary and intense it can be. But I promise that if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll emerge on the other side an even stronger writer.

I’m here to help you do that. Yes, YOU!


So, Who The Heck Am I, Anyway?




I’m Julie, but friends call me Jules and so can you!

I am an MG/YA author represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency. The book Tamar signed me with was mentored by N.K. Traver, author of DUPLICITY, and Stephanie Garber, author of CARAVAL, in the 2013 Pitch Wars. So I’ve been right where you are!

I’m a New England girl and a proud Vietnamese-American on the lookout for diverse writers and diverse books. I love running, cooking, eating, and wearing pajamas around the house at all hours of the day. I enjoy anything written by J.K. Rowling, Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, and Philip Pullman. Name any BBC period drama and I have most likely seen it!

I am a rabid fan of The Lord of the Rings (Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are my high fantasy counterparts) and I can quote any line from the movies on command. In high school, my best friends bought me a life-size cardboard Legolas for my birthday and I will forever regret recycling him before college.

I adore Harry Potter (proud Ravenpuff here!) and make it a point to reread the series every other year.



What Manuscripts Am I Looking For?


Here’s a look at what I want to mentor this year!

OwnVoices MG. I want to see a manuscript that includes POCs in important, dynamic, vibrant roles. I want to see these characters’ experiences written in a beautiful, dignified, nuanced way. The book does not have to focus on their diversity. Funny, realistic stories about regular kids growing up – like the show Fresh Off the Boat – are 100% awesome, too! Diverse writers, send me your stories!

MG Horror/Gothic/Suspense/Mystery. Give me your ghosts, your ghouls, your huddled goblins yearning to freak me out! I love anything atmospheric, where the setting could be a character itself. I like locked rooms, old mansions and boarding schools, and windswept moors. I like whodunnits, noir-ish thrillers, and supernatural-tinged action/adventure. Right now, I am reading THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier, which is a perfect example of what I’d love to mentor. Basically: CREEP ME OUT, PLEASE.

MG ContemporaryI’m craving some good ol’ middle-school stories. I want to see characters forming friendships, learning about themselves, and dealing with conflict on field trips, the playground, awkward school dances in the gym, classrooms, the library, the cafeteria, etc. Bring me back to those days!

MG Magical Realism. I would love to see a gorgeous magical realism that tugs at the heartstrings, like HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eager. Something with the whimsical, timeless flavor of Big Fish, The Night Circus, or Amelie, but for the younger crowd. Does it exist? Have you written it? SEND TO ME!


Other things I like in my MG:

– Stubborn, determined kids with big dreams and goals. Characters who are passionate about something!

– Books that make me FEEL THE FEELS, whether it’s laughing or crying.

– Strong relationships that shape a character’s life. These could be with a friend, grandparent, teacher, pet, etc. (but please, human protagonists only).


If you write fantasy/science fiction and your manuscript doesn’t fit any of the above criteria, please check out the other mentors first. I bet you’ll find someone who is specifically looking for these! I will prioritize the manuscripts I asked for above, but if you feel strongly that I’m the mentor for you, go ahead and submit your fantasy/science-fiction to me and I’ll consider.

I am not interested in mentoring the following: dystopian/apocalyptic, religious/spiritual, or non-ghostly paranormal (like vampires, werewolves, angels, demons).

Please note that I will not be giving feedback for every single submission, as I did last year. I am so sorry! I have too much going on this summer and I only have time to give feedback on the partials/fulls that I request. Just thought I would mention that in case it helps/affects your decision 🙂



Why Should You Pick Me? No, Really!


Here’s where I get to shamelessly brag about myself!

You should pick me to be your mentor because:


– Lorien Hallama, my first-ever mentee from Pitch Wars 2015, signed with an agent last month! She is so talented and it was an honor to be a part of her journey!

– I write a MEAN pitch and query. I signed with Tamar after #PitMad, and I also had an 80% full request rate at one point when I was querying.

– I have a big social media presence. Being a writer requires knowing how to present yourself online, and I will help you with this and promote you during Pitch Wars!

– I want to help you get an agent… if not now, then in the future. Remember: it doesn’t matter how many contest requests you get. All of my Pitch Wars teammates got more requests than I did, but I still got an AWESOME agent. It just didn’t happen until a year later.

– I have critiqued DOZENS of manuscripts over the years. Friends often tell me my critique matches point-for-point with what their agent or editor told them.

– I am a positive person. I will push you to work hard, but I will also encourage you when you need it. Writing is a brutal journey. My Pitch Wars mentors still send me advice/support, so that’s what I want to do for you.



What I Want In a Mentee


I am looking for:

A hard worker. This is an industry full of dark days and rejections. I want someone who is realistic and resilient, works extremely hard, and doesn’t give up easily.

Someone who is positive. I’m here to help and encourage, but you yourself should be kind, upbeat, and enthusiastic. No amount of cheerleading is gonna help if you’re gloomy and pessimistic!

Someone who is SERIOUS about getting published. You must be willing to do the research and grunt work yourself. This is an uphill climb and there are no shortcuts!

Someone who genuinely wants to get better at writing. My ideal mentee takes feedback in a graceful, mature way. If you can’t handle constructive criticism or think your manuscript is perfect, we won’t be a good fit.

Someone who is independent and works well alone. I’m here to be your advisor, but we are adults and I can’t baby you through every step of the process. You won’t learn anything that way! Also, please understand I am volunteering my time and am busy with my own writing.

Someone who reads this post carefully and sends me what I ask for.


If you feel you match this description, I would be honored to have you on #TeamHobbit! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing your submission!

Check out the complete list of the 2016 MG Mentors at Brenda Drake’s blog!



6 Responses to “My 2016 Pitch Wars Wish List”

  1. Chris Owens says:

    Would you lump Sasquatch/BigFoot in with vampires, werewolves, angels, & demons as something you’re not interested in seeing?

    • Julie C. Dao says:

      You know, I have never seen a BigFoot story. So no, I would not lump that in with those typical paranormal tropes!

  2. Brenda says:

    I have a book with Magic Realism, but it has bird main characters. They have their own struggles, fears, mythology and magic. I can’t tell if animal characters are a deal breaker for you.

    • Julie C. Dao says:

      As mentioned in my post, I prefer human protagonists, so yes animal main characters are not something I’m looking for.

  3. Melody says:

    OMG! A.) I’m jealous that you had a cardboard cut-out of Legolas and B.) I’m sad that you recycled him! He would’ve been the best writing companion for your office. I hate when our past selves do silly things like that! ;-P

    Go, #TeamHobbit! <333

Julie C. Dao