pitch wars

Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist

I’ve spent some days sort of staring at this page, wanting to get it right, filtering in the correct amount of cleverness and professionalism for my first mentor wishlist. The result is a pre-coffee rambling littered with Bob’s Burgers gifs.

Teddy from Bob's Burgers wants you to know "This will either be fun or terrible."

Hello. I’m LeKesha. You can call me L. I’m mentoring in the Adult category and I’m primarily looking for sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction.

About me:

I’m 32, formerly a paramedic, currently a data analyst. In 2016, I was a founding creator of FIYAH Literary Magazine for Black Speculative Fiction. We’re now a World Fantasy Award finalist! Last year, I signed with my lovely agent Jennifer Azantian and published a novelette, CHESIRAH with FIYAH (reprinted with PodCastle 2018). This year, I was awarded a grant by the Speculative Literature Foundation. I also published my first novella A RUIN OF SHADOWS with Dancing Star Press. It has been gloriously well-received and I could not be happier!

What I’m into:

Excited Louise says "yes yes yes yes yes and yes!"

I use the umbrella term “speculative fiction” for SFF because I’m also into the works that are not exactly sci-fi and not exactly fantasy. I find the more warping or blending of spec fic’s subgenres, the less likely the work is to be derivative. Most of what I write is STEM-fantasy or science-fantasy anyway. So if you’re not exactly sure where your story fits, chances are I’ll not only like it, but I’ll know what to do with it.

I am absolutely here for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors and characters. I will not solely be considering stories by that demographic because a good story is a good story. But the desire to help get more representation out there is what brought me to Pitch Wars in the first place.

I like third-person narrative structure. First-person is okay, but the voice has to be entertaining. I’m not a good fit for second-person. Similarly, multi-POV is great! Each character is a different window into the world you’ve created and I love lush world-building. Multi-POV has to be neat, though, or else it’s a nightmare. I can help with that.

Louise Belcher says "A kiss is light a fight with mouths"Romance… I like my romance minimal or somewhat tortured. Unrequited or impossible (circumstances as obstacles) love are my favorite. Sweet, fluffy romance can be present but should not overwhelm or be central the central arc of the story. Similarly sex scenes are fine, but I’m not your best bet for erotica.

I love, LOVE compelling villainy and complex anti-heroes. If they’re the MC, even better.

Give me your queer-for-no-reason characters that I may love on them excessively. Extra points if you give them a world that loves them. This is SFF and there’s no reason to keep homophobia in our newly imagined worlds.

Profanity… it’d be weird if you didn’t have it. I am also unreasonably entertained by tame expletives (ie “fluffernutter” rather than “ah, fuck”) so not everyone has to curse like a sailor, but I don’t mind if they do.

8/23 add: Comp titles: I could not possibly care less. Truly, don’t stress about it as far as pitching me is concerned. The only time I’ve used them personally was in a DVpit pitch and neither of the titles were books. Didn’t even use them in my queries. There are so many other things I’d rather you stress about. 

IF YOU HAVE AN SFF AIDA RETELLING, (or other opera, really) SEND IT TO ME AND ONLY ME OMG. I mean… maybe not only me. But mostly me. Please.

Hard sells:

I wish I was more into werewolves, vampires, and zombies but I am not. I’m also not into fae and folkloric beings in the traditional European sense. I’m also averse to the High Fantasy™ style of naming things (too many consecutive u’s, violent, gratuitous use of apostrophes, q’s in weird places). This is not to be confused with Indigenous language naming traditions, which are glorious. If you do pitch those other things, though, just understand that the story has to be doing something special with them for my consideration in the long run.

8/23 add: Anything over 150k is going to be hard for me. 90k-120k is my preferred length, really. We simply do not have all the time in the world to work through the story, so if it’s a George R. R. Martin-esque 290K monster, it needs to be so close to perfect already.

Hard no’s:

smile on girl dressed as pink bunny gradually turns to frown

  • Sexual assault. There is nothing so special or different you can do with sexual assault that will make it palatable or —honestly— necessary.
  • Narratives which rely on the genocide/evisceration of marginalized cultures for character growth. Seriously. Come on.
  • Romeo and Juliet retellings

Other Considerations:

Life experiences dictate that I’m able to provide authentic feedback for the following additional content: bipolar disorder, queerness (cisgender bisexual woman), hoh/use of ASL, paramedic/mass casualty events. But I encourage everyone not to use this as your sensitivity read opportunity. That should be done already.

What to Expect:

Tine Belcher saying "I'm going to get you through this"I can be blunt, but it comes from a place of not wanting to waste our time and not because I hate you. I’m mission-oriented, I pay attention to details, I’ll probably have a thousand questions for you. All of that is intended to understand your voice and the core of your story so we can develop it without sacrificing what’s important to you. I have also been known to send support gift bundles of cookies, make playlists, and aesthetic collages for additional inspiration. I want you to win! I want you to have fun! And I want to fall in love with your creation.

Check out the other adult mentor wishlists here.






































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15 thoughts on “Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist”

  1. Pingback: Pitch Wars 2018
  2. So I’m sure I sound absolutely clueless but what’s an appropriate / expected way to mention I’m a POC? I’ve seen MSWL that express interest in specifically that but I have no clue how to casually mention that in a query. Ha ha. So I’ve opted to leave it out. However, my MS has hefty racial diversity undertones so perhaps my race is something some may want to know. All around lost on the topic! Any help would be awesome! Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can absolutely just drop it in the query, especially if you know the agent (or the mentor in this case) sees it as a feature and not a bug. I always did it in the last paragraph with the brief bio information. “I’m an [ethnicity/racial identifier][gender if disclosing], from/living in [wherever] where I [do a thing as a dayjob/hobby]. This would be my first published story/I’ve had [other stories] published in [other publications].” Or something like that is fine. Not a lot of fuss. Good luck! – L


  3. Hello! I have to ask because you said you aren’t interested in vampires/werewolves/zombies/etc but how do you feel about other supernatural type creatures? My MS features humanoid spider creatures with one of them as the MC. The MS is a contemporary fantasy/psychological suspense set in Hawaii with an LGBT relationship.



  4. I’m pretty excited by your wishlist… My MS currently has characters who are grown children of a hoh mom and know some ASL (it appears on page briefly). I’ve been thinking of cutting this element for PW because I haven’t had it sensitivity tested yet (or, tested for basic correctness) and I don’t want to offend. As someone who lists hoh/asl as something you could give feedback on, what would you recommend?


    1. I always encourage people to have their stuff sensitivity read (if applicable) before pitching a contest or sending off to an agent. The reason being that you may not end up with an hoh/HOH mentor or agent and then a book with potentially problematic representation gets closer to being put out in the world. If you do Pitch Wars, I’d make sure you mention this being a concern of yours so the potential mentors can be prepared to help you tackle it.


      1. Thanks for the quick reply! Yeah, that’s exactly my concern that this part hasn’t been reviewed as needed…. sounds like it’s safest to remove and then if I’m lucky enough to get a mentor we can discuss how to work it in and get it reviewed prior to the agent round.


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