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 and concludes with an agent showcase. At the showcase, agents will be looking 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 second 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 in 2016 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 three-book contract, I signed with Allison Hellegers of Stimola Literary in 2020 and we’re currently shopping for a home for my next book, an MG historical.
As for mentoring, 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 notes 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 once again!
WHAT I WANT
I adore books that make me laugh. If a book makes me laugh and cry, that’s even better. My favorite genres are graphic novels, historical, contemporary, memoir, and novels in verse. MAJOR bonus points if there’s a hilarious character in the story, whether it’s the protagonist or a supporting character. I love comic relief! If your story takes place in modern-day Texas, I’m interested, especially if it’s in Houston or Galveston!
My favorite releases from the last two years are CALL ME ATHENA by Colby Cedar Smith, WHILE I WAS AWAY by Waka T. Brown, ALMOST AMERICAN GIRL by Robin Ha, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY by Rebecca Balcárcel, SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS by Renée Watson, the FARRAH ROCKS series by Susan Muaddi Darraj, TOMBOY by Liz Prince, and TURTLE BOY by M. Evan Wolkenstein.
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), the United States Civil Rights Movement, the Korean War, 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.
I also enjoy world religions and have studied them extensively. If your book has religion or religious elements (please no preachy characters though), that’s a good match. Close-knit families are wonderful, too. And of course, diverse and multicultural characters are fantastic. Lastly, I’m multilingual – I’m fluent in English and Spanish and I’m elementary level in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German. When I was a kid, I grew up hearing English, Spanish, and Portuguese because my parents lived in Brazil before I was born. In fact, sometimes when my parents talk to me, they start in English, switch to Spanish, and finish in Portuguese! If your story has bilingual/multilingual characters, I would love, love, love to see it!
WHAT I DON’T WANT
I’m not the best fit for the following topics:
-A pet dying.
-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 because it contains all of the above.
-Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Magical Realism, and Horror. There’s nothing wrong with these genres at all! I’m just not well-read in them so I wouldn’t make the best mentor since I don’t have much knowledge on their styles.
-Stories about sports. I don’t know much about sports in general.
-Due to 2020 and 2021, please no pandemic stories at this time.
-Shakespeare tragedy endings where everyone 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 or you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, I will always be an email away. 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, just use my contact form here on my site or follow me on Twitter (@DarleneCampos91) to send me a DM.
Pat yourself on the back for putting your work out into the world and best, best, best of luck!