Thank you for considering me as your Middle Grade fiction mentor. Pitch Wars is a mentorship program designed for emerging writers to work with industry pros to revise their manuscript, concluding in February with an agent showcase. At the showcase, agents will be on the lookout for new work, so it’s a great opportunity to make connections or even better – a chance to sign with a dream agent!
This is my first year participating in Pitch Wars, but I have lots of experience mentoring writers.
I graduated with my BA in English from the University of Houston (Go Coogs!) in 2013. Then I earned my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso (Go Miners!). From 2017-2020, I was a contracted novelist with Vital Narrative Press, an indie publishing house that focuses on diverse voices. After I completed my contract, I signed with Allison Hellegers of Stimola Literary and we’re currently shopping for a home for my next book, an MG historical.
As for the mentoring part, undergrad and grad school as a Creative Writing major is tons, tons, and tons of reading and giving feedback. From 2017-2018, I interned for Arthur A. Levine Books (which became the awesome Levine Querido) and Penguin Randomhouse, thanks to the RepMatters program. At this internship, I read manuscripts and provided my thoughts to the editors who then passed my thoughts to the writer. One of the books I read and critiqued was the incredible THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY by Hanna Alkaf.
Additionally, I work at a community college as a writing tutor and test prep instructor, so I read about a million essays a year and give my students advice on how to improve their writing skills. Lastly, I’m a co-founder of LatinxPitch, a Twitter pitch party dedicated to Latinx creators of children’s literature. Helping writers is something I LOVE, which is why I am so excited to be a Pitch Wars mentor.
WHAT I WANT
I adore books that make me laugh, especially in this horrible year we’re all having. If a book makes me laugh and cry, even better. In genres, I love graphic novels, historical, contemporary, and major bonus points if there’s a hilarious character, whether it’s the protagonist or a supporting character.
My favorite releases from recent years are PIE IN THE SKY by Remy Lai, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG by Jessica Kim, BECOMING BRIANNA by Terri Libenson, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY by Rebecca Balcárcel, HEY, KIDDO by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, FARRAH ROCKS FIFTH GRADE by Susan Muaddi Darraj, MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina, and WHEN THE STARS ARE SCATTERED by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson.
In the historical genre, I love WWI/WWII stories, the Cold War era (BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE by Eugene Yelchin is a total favorite of mine from this time period), Civil Rights Movement, and Irish Troubles (like ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST by Sarah Carlson). Little-known history stories from any time period are a plus!
For a better idea of my history taste, my favorite history show is Puppet History.
Last, I’m a religious studies student and I enjoy learning about world religions. If your book has religion (I’m fine with characters going to church, etc., but not characters being overly preachy in the story), that’s a good match. Close-knit families are wonderful, too. And of course, diverse characters, please.
WHAT I DON’T WANT
I’m not the best fit for the following topics:
-A pet dying. I lost a beloved pet earlier this year and I can’t read this subject matter right now.
-Excessive violence. A quick fistfight scene doesn’t bother me and neither does a little blood here and there, but if there’s a ton of blood and gore descriptions throughout the manuscript, I get queasy.
For a better idea of what I mean, I’m not a fan of the book A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE by Robert Newton Peck.
-Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Magical Realism, and Horror.
-Stories about sports.
-The “You’re Not Like Other Girls/Guys/People” trope.
-I adore history, but due to the current environment of 2020, please no pandemics/diseases/strange illnesses from the past.
-Shakespeare tragedy endings where everyone in the story dies.
MY CRITIQUE STYLE
The way I provide feedback is I start with the positive stuff first and trust me, even the worst draft on the planet has something good in it. Every book you love started out as a first, messy draft. I’m not expecting absolute perfection from you – in fact, I want some mess! You can fix a messy draft, but you can’t fix a blank page.
After highlighting the positives, I narrow in on the areas that could use improvement. This might mean cutting out scenes, adding scenes, enhancing dialogue, etc. I understand there are times when a writer might not feel super comfortable about removing a certain part and that’s okay – we can talk about it more and come up with a solution. I will read your manuscript twice – once to get an idea of the work needed to be done and again to see how you’ve taken charge of the revisions.
If you ever feel lost, such as you don’t understand a piece of feedback I provide, I will always be an email away. Don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll return your message ASAP.
As your mentor, I’ll work with you to get your manuscript so shiny, you’ll be able to see your face in it! Well, maybe not literally, but you get my point 😊.
If you have any questions regarding my wish list, don't hesitate to reach out through my contact form here on my site or on Twitter (@DarleneCampos91).
Pat yourself on the back for putting your work out into the world and best, best, best of luck!