© 2019 by Carolyne Topdjian.

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P i t c h  W a r s  2 0 1 9

✣ W i s h  L i s t ✣

Hi there, welcome to my Pitch Wars wish list! If you’re new to the community and wondering what all the buzz is about…

Quick and dirty: Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each and guide them through a manuscript revision process over a three-month period. It ends with a Showcase where agents can browse your pitch/first page and can request to read more. 

 

Be sure to check out the program’s official website for full info!

 

Now on to the nitty gritty: I’m mentoring in the Adult category this year, accepting fiction in the genres of Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Magical Realism, and Low Fantasy/Speculative. As I’m requesting more than one genre, please read all my specifics below; that way you can best assess whether we might make a good team.

 

 

Stuff About Me

 

I’m a cross-genre reader/writer, suspense novelist, and essayist with a background in visual arts and philosophy. I've published scholarly essays on posthumanism, surrealism, and feminist body politics—all topics that influence my storytelling—in addition to short fiction in literary magazines.

 

On the fiction side of things, I write mash-ups of noir suspense and gothic tales. Think ghost stories. (Psst, for a taste of my work, this Firewords podcast features an audio recording of my short story, “The Wasp & the Willow.”) 

 

In a nutshell, I love braiding narratives with deep layers, ambiguous endings, and atmospheric settings—settings that breathe and become characters in their own right. Visceral prose and world building are two of my strengths.

 

I studied creative writing at the Humber School of Writers and have a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University. Currently, I’m a college professor in Toronto. I have years of experience teaching a diverse population of adults and love doing it—especially when it’s about writing. 

 

I also belong to several close-knit critique groups, the members of which I met through writing programs, conferences, and contests like Pitch Wars. Long story short, I nerd out when it comes to connecting and working with other writers! 

 

Otherwise, when not reading or plotting murder, I enjoy drinking tea, sniffing crispy stationary, and making lopsided pottery. Yep, you can see my odd mug as I periodically sip tea during this Pitch Wars Mentor Chat.

What I Want

 

I’ll be selecting an adult-category manuscript that is grounded in one genre I list and at least one element outlined below. At minimum you’ll want a check in each list—one genre and one element or more—to ensure a strong match with my interests and editing strengths.

 

If you find yourself thinking your novel fits into more than one genre I list, excellent! I love and welcome mash-ups. In fact, “fitting” your genre-blended novel into the market is something I can help you with. 

 

1. Genres wanted

 

Would you categorize your manuscript in one of the genres below? If yes, great! Please move on to part 2 of this checklist as you still need one additional check for a potential good match…

 

❐  Magical Realism

❐  Low Fantasy or Speculative

❐  Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

❐  Upmarket or Literary 

 

 

2. Elements wanted

 

If you answered yes to a genre above, does your manuscript *also* include one or more of the elements listed below?

 

❐  Surrealism; I love anything uncanny; give me unconscious layers and eerie dreamscapes brought to life. Displace me somewhere topsy-turvy. If you’ve written an alternate version of the contemporary world, yes please! (The OA is one of my favorite shows.)

 

❐  Trapped settings or small towns with dark secrets; hook me with a good, twisty whodunit like The Dry by Jane Harper or In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.

 

❐  Historical settings; go on, transport me back to the candlelit past.

 

❐  Noir aesthetic or gothic settings; I 🖤 smoky nightscapes and wrought iron.

 

❐  Light horror; this means stories that have frightening, creepy aspects without going over-the-top; e.g. Guillermo del Toro incorporates light horror in his films, Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water.

 

❐  Otherworldly encounters, especially ghosts and doppelgängers.

 

❐  Folklore or fairy-tales for adults, the darker and grittier the better; retellings welcome.

 

❐  Post-apocalyptic or dystopian stories when grounded in contemporary world and fused with mystery/suspense; for example, check out The Last by Hanna Jameson or the German series, Dark. I’d love an adult equivalent of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. 

 

❐  Romantic subplot; I’m not requesting genre romance, however, I love to champion romantic tension as an added layer when it’s not the main story conflict.

 

❐  Themes of feminism, body politics, and alternate definitions of beauty. Give me so-called ugly hags, drag, gender bending, and inwardly strong outcasts who subvert social stereotypes. Yes to underdogs and unlikely heroes!

 

❐  Themes of what it means to be human.

 

 

3. Novel Aesthetics wanted

Now that you’ve considered points one and two above, I’ve made an additional visual wish list for you to browse. *Some images may contain nudity and dark subject matter; you may want to avoid clicking the link at work. 

 

For those who are fans of inspiration boards and novel aesthetics, this visual component to my wish list provides an idea of the affect and mood I love to experience in storytelling.

 

If your novel “fits” one or more of these images—plus a genre/element I’ve noted—then I’d be thrilled to see your manuscript in my inbox!  

 

What I Don’t Want

 

There are amazing mentors this year accepting things that I’m not. As you only get four mentor choices, this list is to help you decide what not to send me, since I won’t be the best fit for stories that include the following: 

 

  • Vampires, werewolves, or zombies; mentors who are requesting urban fantasy are better suited for these.

  • High fantasy: please no mapped worlds with dragons, elves, goblins, warlocks, etc. 

  • Rape, on- or off-page.

  • Child assault or abuse.

  • The killing of the family cat/dog.

  • Complete hopelessness and despair. It’s okay to make me sad on and off over the course of your story. In fact, I appreciate bittersweet or unsettling endings; but if I need multiple tissue boxes while reading, or if I’m left with a morbid, depressing conclusion, I’m probably not the best mentor for you. 

 

 

Questions on anything I mention in my lists above? I’m happy to provide additional “wish” details. Feel free to send me a tweet @TopdjianC and I’ll do my best to clarify.

 

 

 

My Mentoring Approach

 

As my mentee, you can expect to receive my direct, honest critique on your novel via a detailed edit letter, in-line comments, and ongoing communication over the course of the contest. 

 

I’ll offer at least two rounds of revisions on your manuscript, along with tips and consults into the publishing industry. We’ll also roll up our sleeves and dig into the pitching and querying process. Each time, I’ll guide you on what you’re nailing and more so, what aspects you need to improve to get your story spic and span for agents’ eyes.

 

Depending on the shape of your manuscript, (not to mention your query letter and pitch), revisions could entail anything from structural to grammatical changes. Whatever the case, there’s a good chance my feedback will cover both your macro and micro writing habits. 

 

I’ll not only point out what needs fixing, but I’ll suggest proven methods for improvements. More importantly, this will be a two-way conversation. I’ll ask you plenty of questions to get a better sense of your vision. It’s your story, your career. I’m here as your enthusiastic guide/advisor, supporting you to achieve your short-term and long-term goals. So if you haven’t already picked up on this, I’m big on teamwork and communication!

 

Speaking of which, email will be our primary method for relaying feedback with an optional video chat to brainstorm over “meatier” subjects. If the idea of FaceTime makes you break out into hives, however, no problemo. We can stick to written contact, DMs, or whatever you prefer. The main point here is that I’m open and flexible to meet your needs.

 

Either way, once I know what you’re hoping to achieve, expect homework. I’ll make you read. I’ll make you comment on said readings. And I’ll make you write and revise and revise some more.  

 

Hopefully, this is why you’re here. To win. To work. To grow. And, future mentee, I couldn’t be more thrilled to help you achieve your dream. 

 

Good luck all! Thanks for stopping by. To quote somebody famous (David Bowie? 2Pac? Chester Cheetah?): “It ain’t easy.” So write on. I’ll be rooting for you, in my Pitch Wars inbox and beyond!

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Scroll inside the box below for links to browse another Adult mentor's wish list (42 in total).