LET’S HEAR IT FOR MIDDLE GRADE SPIRIT!
Welcome to Team TLC, future Pitch Warriors. Coaches Laura Shovan and Tricia Clasen here.
I’m Laura Shovan. I am a poet. And a middle grade author. So check me out.
I’ve been training hard for PitchWars, Team. I’ve been on both sides of the editor’s desk and will use my knowledge to help you make your MG manuscript worthy of the perfect cheer. My past experience includes: freelancing for such publications as the Baltimore Sun, editor in chief of a nationally recognized literary journal, and editing two poetry anthologies. My twin passions are writing and education. I’ve been a visiting poet-in-the-schools since 2002, so my rhymes are fine. (Can I get a high kick?)
In 2013, my PitchWars mentor Joy McCullough-Carranza helped me polish my middle grade verse novel to a shine. I signed with Stephen Barbara after the winter 2014 agent round. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary published in 2016. It was an honor to co-mentor with Tricia Clasen last year. We teamed up with mentee Jeanne Zulick-Ferruolo, who knocked it out of the park! Working as co-mentors requires us to be very thoughtful and choose our mentee CAREFULLY. Team TLC is looking for a project and a person we both feel strongly about and want to coach.
When I’m not writing books or reading I am a: poetry advocate, mother of two big kids and two dogs. I knit socks, and will occasionally break into Stephen Sondheim lyrics, ‘cause that’s how this girl spells R-O-W-D-I-E.
I’m Tricia Clasen. I debuted last fall. I’ll help you pitch. So check me out!
Hi team! (Does toe touch–and probably pulls a muscle). I am so filled with the PitchWars Middle Grade spirit, and I cannot wait to help you get pitch perfect. (Does backflip–and likely falls on head.)
I’m a professor of communication and an avid lover of stories. The majority of my editing experience falls in the non-fiction realm, but I thoroughly enjoy working with critique groups and serving as a beta reader for fiction. On Team TLC, you get the benefit of Laura’s detailed editing eye and my passion for making stories flow, for ensuring disbelief remains suspended.
In terms of PitchWars, I was a sideline cheerleader for a long time. (Claps hands and yells “whoo!”) Shortly after my first attempting at landing a mentor, I signed with my agent, Jen Linnan. My debut novel, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT published last October by Sky Pony Press.
In addition to reading and writing, I spend most of my time shuttling my two girls to dance class and planning vacations. (Hoists Laura up on my shoulders while she waves her hands and cheers.)
WHAT GETS US WAVING OUR POM PONS?
CHARACTER DRIVEN MIDDLE GRADE
Contemporary MG is our wheelhouse, but we are also open to humor, magical realism, and light fantasy, provided it is voice-driven. We are looking for projects that have a strong emotional arc. If elements such as plot and setting serve as the backbone for your main character’s growth, you’re trying out for the right squad. Team TLC is all about middle grade protagonists who journey from childhood into adolescence, the classic coming-of-age story. The heart of a story is first in our hearts.
At Team TLC, we don’t need megaphones to be heard. We value the power of a quiet book. Let’s pass the megaphone to our star player, 2016 mentee Jeanne Zulick-Ferruolo.
Working with Laura & Tricia changed everything for me. My MG manuscript, RUBY IN THE SKY had gotten great critiques, won contests even, but I still couldn’t find an agent and I knew it was because there was something missing. Laura & Tricia didn’t “tell” me what was missing — what they did was more magical. They expertly & lovingly navigated me down the path to find the true heart of Ruby’s story. This required a total re-write of a beginning that had received many accolades — and I won’t lie, it was HARD! But the thing was, I TRUSTED Laura & Tricia. I knew they were right and I listened. After that initial re-write, they combed through my manuscript AGAIN, identifying the tweaks and turns that brought RUBY to the next level. I didn’t even know that level existed until I met them!
RUBY tied for the most requests in the MG category. I signed with my agent soon after and RUBY sold in a two-book deal. There is no way that Ruby and I would have gotten to this place without Laura & Tricia. If you want to take your MG manuscript to the next level and you are willing to LISTEN hard and WORK hard, submit to Laura & Tricia and be prepared to see your story soar!
Jeanne impressed us with her work ethic. She’s a great example of how much deep revision an author can accomplish over several weeks. Read her PitchWars success story here!
A NOTE ABOUT DIVERSITY
#WNDB is more than a hashtag. It is reality for the schools and students Laura visits. Tricia’s primary teaching and research relate to gender and cultural issues. No matter which genre you write, middle grade readers are hungry for books that mirror their lives (Ghost by Jason Reynolds, George by Alex Gino, Star Crossed by Barbara Dee), but also for books that help them understand a broad range of human experiences (Wonder by R.J. Palacio, The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly). We will champion the heck out of submissions that include ethnic, socio-economic, and neuro-diversity as part of the deep fabric of the story.
TEAM TLC’S MIDDLE GRADE HALL OF FAME
Coach Laura’s First-Place Reads trophies go to:
GHOST, by Jason Reynolds
THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, by Christopher Paul Curtis
LOVE THAT DOG, by Sharon Creech
HOWARD WALLACE, PI, by Casey Lyall
SAFFY’S ANGEL, by Hilary McKay
PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban
ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll
GINGER PYE, by Eleanor Estes
(Notice a British theme? Laura’s mom is from England. She *loves* British kidlit.)
Coach Tricia’s First-Place Reads trophies go to:
THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, by Laura Shovan (had to be said)
OUT OF MY MIND, by Sharon Draper
WONDER, by RJ Palacio
THE HATE U GIVE, Angie Thomas
FINDING PERFECT, Elly Swartz
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE Series
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, by L.M. Montgomery
THE OUTSIDERS, by S.E. Hinton
ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY, by Mildred D. Taylor
(Notice a theme of realistic characters who overcome struggles?)
COMMITTING TO OUR TEAM
If you choose us, expect to work on two rounds of feedback. The first round will focus on the big picture (your overall dance routine) and will likely involve some global changes. The second round will include intensive line edits (fine tuning your moves) on your book. This is a team effort. We value Skype meetings during the editorial process because it helps us better understand your vision for your story and to communicate our ideas. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you clean up an almost-there manuscript, someone else will be a better coach for you.
There’s so much middle grade goodness to choose from. If Team TLC isn’t for you, check out the many wonderful MG Pitch Wars mentors at the end of this post. You’ll also find the link up for all PW mentors here.