Pitch Wars 2017 Wishlist

We WANT YOUR CONTEMPORARY YA!

Who We Are 

We’re Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley. We’re writing partners…and we’re a couple, which means we’ll be sharing our excitement and ideas about your manuscripts while we’re eating dinner, grocery shopping, or walking German Shepherds Hudson and Bishop. Our debut, Upstaged, is a contemporary YA romance with Shakespearean flavor, expected summer 2018 from Puffin. We’re represented by the wonderful Katie Shea Boutillier of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

We met in high school and started dating in senior year (which might explain our love for nerdy YA contemporary…) We graduated with high honors from Princeton (Emily) and Harvard (Austin), where Emily studied psychology and won honors for her research into preventing school shootings and Austin studied English (Shakespeare, really) and edited the newspaper. We live in Los Angeles.

We started writing together two years ago. Upstaged is the second book we wrote, and following two months (and hundreds of emails…) of querying, we were incredibly fortunate to find representation. In our first round on submission, Puffin bought Upstaged in a two-book deal, with a second literary-inspired contemporary expected spring 2019.

We can’t wait to work with you 

Fun Facts: Emily can name every episode of Buffy in order. Austin, while a journalist for The Hollywood Reporter, interviewed Emily Blunt and Eddie Redmayne and said hi to Chris Pratt once. Austin adores coffee and Emily hates it; the opposite is true of guacamole.

Why Us

  • We edit each other constantly (even when the edits aren’t exactly wanted…) We have extensive experience detecting problem areas and good ideas and crafting effective feedback.
  • We each have a different area of focus. We won’t just repeat every comment twice. Emily, who was brought up by screenwriter parents, focuses on plot and scene structure. Austin, an English major and former editor, works on voice, word choice and the sentence level.
  • We’ve read everything in contemporary. We have a good idea of the market, what fits in and what doesn’t, and how to play up your concept’s uniqueness. They’re lessons we learned in between our first, unsold book and our second, sold book.

What We Want

We’re interested in mentoring work like what we write: contemporary with a funny, upbeat flair. Give us your jokes, your banter, your unlikely romances!

There’s one other thing we need: a strong concept. For us to help your upbeat contemporary stand out next to flashy fantasies and heart-wrenching realism, you’re going to need a hook. (What’s a hook? Read our thoughts*)

Other things we’re excited about:

  • Retellings
  • Nerd stuff (from geek references to Gatsby references, fandoms to college apps and Revolutionary history)
  • Unconventional heroines/heroes…
  • …and unconventional love interests
  • Characters whose unique passions drive the plot forward
  • Unconventional school or camp settings (prep school! Quiz bowl! Space camp!)
  • A strong sense of place

We’re interested in books from every gender perspective and every sexual orientation.

Our favorite titles include: Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) Since You’ve Been Gone (Morgan Matson), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Han), Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins), Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli), All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven), Everything Leads to You (Nina LaCour), The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E. Smith), I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson)

What We’re Not Looking For

We’re not ideal for “issue” books. We love reading them, but we’re not certain we have the capabilities to mentor them.

Even though we request upbeat material, if your book deals with heavy subjects but has humor and moments of light (All the Bright Places is a great example), please don’t hesitate to submit!

*What’s a Hook?

We know it’s a weird, ever-changing idea. Everyone’s got their own definition, everyone’s definition is confusing, and there’s a whole lot of “we know it when we see it.” To make things even more confusing, we’re going to give you one more definition! Here’s what we’re looking for in a hook. A few categories of story element work wonders:

  • A unique structural device (i.e. Lara Jean’s letters in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sloane’s list in Since You’ve Been Gone)
  • An ironic central conflict (i.e. a girl who vows to kill the king falls in love with him in The Wrath and the Dawn)
  • A retelling or twist on an old story (i.e. Cinderella is an assassin in Throne of Glass, Austen’s Emma gets a makeover in Clueless)
  • A really unique, fun inciting incident (i.e. winning the lottery in Windfall)

 Bonus points if your hook includes more than one!

When we pitched our book to agents, here’s how we tried to incorporate them:

Upstaged: a girl who always ends up the Rosaline in her relationships—the girl every guy dumps before he finds his Juliet [retelling]—is cast as Juliet in her high school production of Romeo and Juliet [ironic central conflict] and, in becoming friends in between rehearsals [structural device] with the cast’s other theater novice, begins to notice a Romeo she never expected.

Find Emily on Twitter here.

Find Austin on Twitter here.

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