Pitch Wars 2017


Kristin Bartley Lenz 
Heather Smith Meloche

★★ Wish List and Mentor Info ★★



I’m a writer and social worker in metro-Detroit where I live with my husband, daughter, and two adorable, pesky puppies. My writing has been published by online literary journals, including Hunger Mountain and Great Lakes Review, and I manage the Michigan Chapter blog for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). The Art of Holding On and Letting Go is my debut young adult novel that won the 2016 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize. It was also a 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection, and has been chosen for the Great Lakes Great Books 2017-2018 state-wide literature program. Carrie Pestritto is my enthusiastic agent at Prospect Agency.


I’ve written for television, print media, advertising, and marketing, and she’s taught academic writing to international students at the college level. But my first love is writing fiction for young adults. My writing has appeared in Spider, Young Adult Review Network (YARN), and Once Upon A Time. I’ve placed twice in the children’s/YA category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition and won first place for Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Prize in 2011 for a YA short story in verse. I’m a wild fan of dark chocolate as well as kickboxing and running (to be able to eat all that chocolate!). I live in Rochester Hills, Michigan with my family. I’m represented by the amazing Heather Schroder at Compass Literary. Penguin Putnam released my contemporary young adult debut, Ripple, in September 2016.


Though both of us are YA Contemporary writers, we have very different styles of writing and we like to read very different styles of writing. You don’t need to pattern your style after ours or think we will reject you because your work is different from the books and stories we’ve written. Like every writer, we love to read books that vary from ours since it teaches us new ways of creating story, characters, and voice. Be yourself. Be that unique voice, that unique writer that will help us remember your work because you wrote it.

Having said that, our YA Contemporary Wish List includes these key elements:

  • Strong female characters that make us cheer and make us totally want to be in their tribe.
  • Uniqueness in character, setting, and/or plot – something fresh and interesting that makes us say, “Ooh, wow. Wish I’d thought of that.”
  • A skillful mix of humor and issues related to teen life – we want to laugh hard and cry even harder!
  • Add some romance – make it sweet, make the romantic tension strong, but keep the graphic stuff to yourself since we are Young Adult mentors not New Adult/Adult mentors.
  • Finally, keep it contemporary and stay away from fantasy and sci fi elements. 

Some of our Favorite YA Novels:

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Fangirl and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon and the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Lost It by Kristin Tracy
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols


Queries: Query letters are simply sales pitches for your book. In the query, hook us with your unique pitch, but don’t ramble on about every detail. Just give the savory meat of the piece, like you are writing the inside flap or back cover info of your book. Tantalize us! Try to add your unique voice into the query so readers get a sense of what’s to come in the manuscript. Read the query (and everything you write, for that matter) out loud, so you hear the way it would sound in a reader’s head. Often, the best editorial tweaking comes out of “hearing” your writing. 

Manuscript Pages: Again, hook us, and hook us hard! With those first lines on that first page we want to feel like a lasso is around us dragging us straight into the story as we read, so be careful of info-dumping and drowning us in too much background info or over-explanations of the set-up and characters. These first pages should drop us straight into the conflict of the book in a natural way. Rely on dialogue, showing not telling, and stay away from cliché beginnings like “I woke up one morning and everything was different” or “As soon as I walked into school, I realized everything had changed.” Give us uniqueness of character, place, and plot from the first pages. Then, as you go forward, strategically scatter the information the reader needs to know about your main character(s), plot, and setting so we get it gradually in the first several chapters of the book. Also, don’t feel you have to censor yourself with regard to language or even actions. If your character swears or does something that might not go down well in church, if it adds to the plot, go with it. The best YA portrays real life and has an honesty and authenticity that censoring yourself will stifle. 

If you have questions, send us a message:

Or you can find us online at:

Kristin's website            Heather's website
                Twitter                          Twitter
                Facebook                       Facebook
                Instagram                      Instagram

And check out the bios and wish lists of the other 2017 Pitchwars YA/Teen mentors. They are just as cool and wise as we are! 😉😊

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1 comment:

  1. When our soul leaves the body,
    we riseabove to meet our Maker,
    only four, last things remain:
    death, judgement, Heaven or Hell.
    And dats d'fak, Jak
    (...which is exactly what happened to me).

    Find-out what RCIA is and join.
    Make Your Choice -SAW