Pitch Wars Wish List for #TeamMascaraTracks

Welcome to the wish list for #TeamMascaraTracks! (That’s Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin.)IMG_2927

You’re obviously here because you write middle grade, right?

(Or maybe you’re looking for our word for the red quote. If so, here you go.)


First off, a little about us:

Amanda Rawson Hill: I grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out my back gate. (Which accounts a lot for how I turned out.) After getting my bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I became a homeschool mom, a knitter, gardener, and, of course, writer. I am passionate about books, Disneyland, and refugee advocacy. (For the last year I’ve been working with several newly-arrived families from Afghanistan and it has changed my life.) I’m represented by Elizabeth Harding of Curtis Brown LTD and my debut MG novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published in the fall of 2018 by Boyds Mills Press.

Random Facts:

Favorite Food: Lasagna (but only my mom’s recipe)

Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff

Favorite Classical Song: New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak

Favorite Disney Princess:  Belle

Favorite Book as a Child: The Ordinary Princess and Walk Two Moons

Favorite TV Shows:  Psych, Parks and Rec, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly (*shakes fist at the heavens*)

Cindy Baldwin: I’m a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. I grew up in North Carolina and still miss the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, I used to keep a book under my bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing my hair or brushing my teeth, and I dream of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without! These days, I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. My debut middle grade novel, WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2018.Random Facts:

Favorite Food: If we’re not counting chocolate (the darker the better), then probably tamales (but I’m kinda “eh” on chocolate tamales)

Howarts House: Gryffindor

Random Dream: Living on a sailboat

Favorite TV Shows: Poldark, Grantchester, White Collar, Psych, Endeavor, Genius—basically I’m a fan of period dramas and quirky contemporary, I guess?


After reading and loving each other’s work, and then signing with the same agent, we decided to make the writing twin thing official and become Pitch Wars co-mentors. Destiny sealed the deal when we both got book deals with planned publication dates in the same year. Can’t beat that!



Other ways we are similar:

  • Same religion
  • Same feelings on makeup (almost never wear it)
  • Same taste in books
  • Both of our debuts are about a child dealing with the mental illness of a parent.
  • Currently both drafting books about wishes and stars (totally different everything, but still. Wishes and stars. Go figure.)
  • We are both extroverts who love to talk through things. We get very passionate. We feel everything deeply. We’re big on hugs (virtual and IRL). We don’t shy away from total sincerity and talking about feelings. We love big and we love hard. Cindy is Anne Shirley. Amanda is Leslie Knope.

Together, we head up Team Mascara Tracks. Last year we mentored two writers, Kit Rosewater and Cory Leonardo. Kit got the most agent requests of any MG entry in the agent round. Cory also did quite well and recently announced her book deal with S&S Aladdin. They both had agent offers within five days of Pitch Wars ending.

While we can’t promise that same level of success, we can promise the care and attention that went into the process. If you want to know what it’s like to work with us, each of our mentees wrote a blog post about it. You can read Cory’s here. And Kit’s here. But if you just want a short blurb to convince you that you TOTALLY SHOULD submit to us, then here’s a highlight from each.

I had never received such detailed notes on even a page of any manuscript I’d written, and here I’d received a comment on all of it. Comps. Concerns. Structure. Plot. Pacing. Characterization. Theme. Big picture. Small picture. Resources. Everything. I was astounded that they took the time and had thought about my book so deeply and thoroughly….Every. Single. Thing Amanda and Cindy said, every one, was right on. Over the next few months, I grew to trust their instincts more and more. They were always right, and every time I took a little while for their comments to sink in, I’d come to the same conclusion, make the necessary changes, and every time the book was better.  -Cory Leonardo, Pitch Wars 2016 mentee, author of CALL ME ALASTAIR (Aladdin, 2019)

Amanda and Cindy have the unique ability in plucking key emotions, interactions, and symbols from a text, and carrying those gently forward while rearranging all the trappings around them. Though nearly every word of my manuscript was switched around and deleted and rewritten by the time the agent round arrived, it felt more like my vision than ever. Cindy and Amanda knew what I was after in my writing, and helped me to maintain the things I found most important, even through completely fresh drafts. This is a vital skill to have in the process of revising, and one I shall carry with me forever.  -Kit Rosewater, 2016 Pitch Wars Mentee, MG Agent Round Winner

If that sounds like what you are looking for in a mentor, then let’s go on to what you really want to know!

https://giphy.com/embed/JDYE3DpqrW6mQvia GIPHY

Our Wish List

Our favorite genres are MG contemporary, Magical Realism, and historical. Within those genres we are particularly looking for stories usually labeled, quiet, character driven, heartfelt, and literary. The comedic and quirky is not really in our wheelhouse. That’s not to say that we don’t want a book that has quirky or comedic elements (we love those!), but that shouldn’t feel like the main focus or strength of the story. We want FLORA AND ULYSSES, not DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. We are particularly looking for stories the revolve around big, hard, real-world problems. If somebody has ever said, “Wow, isn’t that a little heavy for MG?” We want it. If somebody has ever said, “This is really sad.” We want it. We want to feel something. We want to bawl our eyes out. We want to see beautiful, powerful prose (or poetry). We want books that exemplify the quote “When a subject is too hard for adults, I write it for children.” We want books that tackle tough subjects in a hopeful and life-affirming way. We want big philosophical ideas handled with the grace, wisdom and innocence of this age group.

We’re accepting SFF as well, but tend to be much pickier about those genres. We love books that use a fantasy framework to tackle big, real-life issues. We love books that draw on mythology in interesting and classic ways. We love books that use their fantastic settings uniquely, to draw back the curtain on things in our own world. We’re less likely, however, to be the right mentors for adventure fantasy—think THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON or WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON rather than FABLEHAVEN or PERCY JACKSON.

We also have strong preferences when it comes to historical fiction: We’re not the right mentors for stories where the history or world-building plays a larger role than the character’s arc. We love historicals that focus on one small, character-driven story against the backdrop of larger events that really happened, without spending too much time or detail on those larger events. Basically, if you have the next THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, well—send it our way!

Other things we’d be excited to see:

  • Diversity
  • Characters influenced by faith but not in a faith-based story
  • Homeschooling!
  • Unique structures and formats (some examples include letters; journal entries; verse—we’ve both written verse novels and LOVE the genre!; and graphic novels—neither of us have a background in art, but it’s definitely in our wheelhouse to work with the text, story structure, character arc, and scene blocking)
  • Chronic illness and/or disability
  • Verse!
  • Bittersweet endings
  • Anything involving the ocean
  • Strong, vibrant settings
  • Science incorporated in a beautiful, meaningful way! (THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. or THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.)
  • An own voices refugee story (Please!)
  • An own voices story with a Muslim main character, whether or not the plot is about being Muslim (Triple Please!)

If any of these could be a comp title…grabby hands!

https://giphy.com/embed/CDoxe35inxhfOvia GIPHY

Anything by Kate Dicamillo, Sharon Draper, Lynda Mulally Hunt, or Sharon CreechTHE THING ABOUT JELLYFISHPAPER WISHESA SNICKER OF MAGIC














ECHOA Note On Animal Stories

Last year, we took on an “animal story”—Cory Leonardo’s CALL ME ALASTAIR, about a curmudgeonly parrot. And while we love, love, love her book, we’re going to continue to say the same thing we said last year. Animal stories are a hard sell for us. They have to be done very well, with a great voice, something unique (Cory’s had gorgeous poetry), and lots and lots of heart. Basically, you need to be able to compare it to FLORA AND ULYSSES and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. Cory did, and the comparison held up. We’re definitely NOT the mentors for animal stories that are more humor than heart.

https://giphy.com/embed/lZDb2PNgLXdoAvia GIPHY

Other Hard Sells

  • Sports stories (There are other mentors LOOKING for this. We just don’t love it. Sorry.)
  • Historical fiction from earlier than the 1800’s.
  • Anything more plot-driven than character-driven.

What Will Really Draw Us In?

Looking at last year’s Pitch Wars, we can tell you that voice and beautiful writing are probably the number one thing that draws us to a manuscript. We can help you change everything else. But the voice reigns supreme.

We can’t wait to read your work!
 Putting it out there is such an act of courage and vulnerability. We promise to treat your entry with the respect and love that creativity deserves. We feel so honored by every person who decides to share their story with us. We are excited to meet all of you and your characters.

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