Sign up for my NaNoWriMo-Prep Webinar October 18!

Join me on October 18 as I share proven tips and tricks I’ve accumulated over the last five years for winning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

When: Wednesday, October 18

Time: 8:30 pm ET 

Cost: $20

Register here! And don’t worry if you’re not available on October 18. If you register, you’ll get access to the recording (and my handouts) to use when it best fits your schedule. Hope to see you there.

Using Fast Drafting to Silence the Inner Editor

Does your internal editor make it hard for you to complete a novel-length work? Do have a secret stock-pile of half-finished manuscripts that never seem to make it to done? Have you always wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo, but didn’t know how to get started? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this webinar is for you. Join seasoned fast-drafter Julie Artz in a session dedicated to proven fast-drafting techniques that will help you silence that inner editor, kick-start your creativity, and “win” NaNo this November!


Pitch Wars, #mgbookclub, Writing Emotion, and More!


The month of August has been frantic! Although it started out with a lovely vacation, since I’ve returned, I’ve felt a little bit like Lucille Ball in this gif, but without all the great chocolate.

First, the Pitch Wars submission window opened. And the inbox for #teamunicornmojo flooded with so much middle-grade goodness that we didn’t know how we were going to choose something. I won’t give any spoilers/teasers, but I’m pretty excited about the mentor announcements next week. I’m so honored that people chose to submit to us and to be a part of this amazing opportunity to give back to the writing community that has helped me so much over the past three years.

Speaking of Pitch Wars, I was over at Mixed-Up Files talking with the lovely Eric Bell (winner of Pitch Wars 2015) about his debut, Alan Cole is not a Coward, which comes out on September 5. If you act fast, you can enter to win a copy. If not, you can read the first chapter of Alan Cole is Not a Coward, and of course add it to your TBR list.

And I also made an appearance at The Winged Pen to talk with my pal Halli Gomez about my favorite writerly topic: Writing Emotion. This is an expansion of my writing emotion post on the Author Accelerator blog. Check it out!

My favorite moment of the week, however, was MG@Heart‘s #mgbookclub Twitter chat with Linda Jackson about her debut, Midnight Without a Moon. The horrifying events of Charlottesville were on everyone’s mind as we discussed this lovely historical fiction about a little girl growing up in the south during the time of the Emmett Till lynching. You can browse through the #mgbookclub feed for discussion questions you can use to start conversations with your children/students on this important topic. Talking about racism is the only way our nation can begin the long process of healing and end the hatred that is dividing us.

Pitch Wars Mentor Blog-Hop: Team Unicorn Mojo

Pitch Wars Mentor Blog HopHello and welcome to the Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Blog Hop!

We are so glad you stopped by. We’re Team Unicorn Mojo and we are here to sprinkle magical unicorn dust all over your middle grade manuscript! In this post, we’ll take turns introducing ourselves and give you the inside scoop about what we’re looking for in a mentee.

Although you’ll find the wish list for Julie Artz and Jessica Vitalis below, you should also check out Jessica’s Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop post, which will have answers to some frequently-asked questions!!

Updates: Julie was on the PitchWars LIVE Show, MG edition, on July 18. Check it out! And watch out next week for Jessica’s! Learn more about our mentoring style over on The Winged Pen!

Julie Artz

Hello Pitch Wars hopefuls! You are about to embark on the greatest of writing adventures, so pack your sticky notes, teapot, and highlighters and let’s go! First, I need to tell you something about my partner-in-crime, friend, and amazing co-mentor: I would never, ever consider sending words to my agent without the Jessica Vitalis blessing. She’s the sparkly unicorn dust that gives Team Unicorn Mojo its rainbow-vibes.

Hey, I’m not too shabby either. My critique partners have a running joke about my detailed edit letters and my knack for character arc and world building. I’ve worked as a writer and editor for almost two decades, most recently as a book coach for Author Accelerator. My own Pitch Wars experience in 2015 felt like going through an MFA program in two short months, and I plan to bring that same craft-focused intensity to our mentee in 2017!

I love geeking out on comp titles and movie references and middle grade voice from tweeny angst to hilarious pranks to awkward first almost-kisses to fart jokes*. Sub to us and you will get the power of the Wonder Twins, the magic of the unicorn, and the rigor that comes from having two experienced mentors to guide you through revisions.

*You laugh, but my family often accuses me of having an 11yo’s sense of humor and I think that shows not only in my writing, but in the energy I bring to critique.

Jessica Vitalis

Hey everyone! It’s pretty obvious that Julie is amaze-balls, so you are probably wondering what you stand to gain from a second mentor. You can read my bio (which includes 10 fun facts about me) over at my website, so I’m going to use this space to focus on what I bring to the mentoring table.

The most important thing you need to know is that I LOVE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS. (Yes, I shouted that last bit––because when it comes to middle grade books, I get really, really excited). I read middle grade, write middle grade, and mentor middle grade.  And I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty darn good at the mentoring bit. I’ve mentored four writers in PitchWars, and they’ve all gone on to get agents with the stories we worked on (and one already has a book deal)! *

*Of course I’d never guarantee that working with me will get you an agent or a book deal, but I do think it speaks to the fact that we won’t spend the next two months doing this:



In case you are still not convinced, here is what a couple of my previous mentees have to say about working with me:

“Jessica’s warmth, enthusiasm and knowledge of craft were just what I needed to take my writing to the next level. I had so many “ah-ha” moments as I read her editorial letter that I knew I was in good hands. I attribute the confidence and excitement I’m feeling right now as I jump into a round of revisions with my agent to my experience with Jessica and my growth as a writer under her mentorship.”

“Having Jessica as a mentor was a dream. She takes her job very seriously, massaging my manuscript into shape no matter how many times I bothered her or how many rounds of revision I needed. Anytime I was stuck with a plot point, she would think about it and get back to me with amazing ideas. I felt I had a real partner throughout all of my revisions, someone who respected my vision yet gave me so much wisdom and guidance. My manuscript was improved 110% through working with Jessica. I would never have found my agent a few weeks after pitchwars without her help. More than that I’ve become an inestimably better writer. I can’t recommend her strongly enough. Getting Jessica as your mentor is akin to winning the writing lottery.”

And now…

…the information you’ve been waiting for…

Team Unicorn Mojo’s Wishlist:

First and foremost we are looking for a story that has:

A unique premise:








“Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)” ~Amazon








“After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.”  ~Goodreads

A distinctive voice

Something like this:

“Dadima used to say I’d be as strong as a lion if I drank milk twice a day. She never mentioned I’d get as hairy* as one too. There should have been a disclaimer—bold letters and a voice-over with a list of side effects scrolling along the side of my grandma’s face whenever she handed me a cup of hot milk.” Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

“The summer before I turned thirteen, I held so still it almost killed me. I’d always been quiet. I’d even practiced it: holding my breath, holding even my thoughts still. It was the one thing I could do better than anyone else, but I guess it made me seem weird.” Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin

* Note that the word “hair” above is in RED 🙂

And writing that makes us swoon.

We are particularly interested in contemporary, fantasy, and #ownvoices and would especially love to see anything with…








Bonus points for under-represented voices (including LGBTQ), multi-cultural stories, fresh retellings, strong girls, and interesting parent/child relationships.

Here are some books representative of the type of work we’d love to see:

  • Rules by Cynthia Lord
  • The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
  • Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin
  • When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
  • Lockwood & Co. Jonathan Stroud
  • A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin


For More Information

For a list of what we’re NOT looking for, answers to some Frequently Asked Questions, and an amazing giveaway, check out Jessica’s Pitch Wars Blog Hop post.


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Introducing the Middle Grade at Heart Newsletter

Middle Grade at Heart newsletterThis month, you might have noticed something new on the blog: a link to the Middle Grade at Heart newsletter.

Myself and my pals Cindy Baldwin, Amanda Rawson Hill, and Kit Rosewater created Middle Grade at Heart to share our love of all things middle grade and to help bring some of our favorite new books to more readers.

Each month, we’ll choose a book to discuss and send fun content straight to your inbox. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

What is the Middle Grade at Heart Newsletter?

Middle Grade at Heart is a newsletter-based online book club all about middle grade books. We’re four middle grade authors who are passionate about great middle grade reads. Each month, we’ll be sharing a variety of fun content to complement our chosen read, including recipes, activities, discussion questions, and even sometimes author interviews!

The Someday Birds is our June Middle Grade at Heart Newsletter selectionIn honor of road trip season, our very first selection is Sally J. Pla’s quirky and heartwarming debut, The Someday Birds. Don’t miss out. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter today. We can’t wait to have you along for the ride!

Fantasy World Building – Today on The Winged Pen

Master Your Craft - Fantasy World Building with The Winged Pen



Fantasy world building is something I get a little obsessed over. Whether it’s analyzing the way the screen writers played with Greek mythology in Wonder Woman or looking up all the amazing mythology references in Harry Potter, I’m fascinated by the way creators bring the stories that came before them into their work.

So today, I’m over at The Winged Pen with my pal Gabrielle Byrne talking about our very different approaches to building fantasy worlds in fiction as part of the Master Your Craft series. You can read about my other craft posts here.

Additional Resources for Fantasy World Building

Here are some additional resources to help with your fantasy world building:

Guess who’s the new Regional Advisor for SCBWI WWA?

SCBWI Western Washington Yes, it’s true, this month I’m stepping up to be the co Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s Western Washington chapter. I’m so excited to step into this role alongside my amazing co-RA, Holly Huckeba. We’re already planning amazing things and are very lucky to have an amazing Advisory Committee working with us to continue to offer this large, vibrant chapter professional programming, support, and fun.

A Month of Blogging!

May certainly turned out to be a month of blogging for me! Today, I’m interviewing fellow Mixed-Up Files contributor Annabelle Fisher about her new middle grade, Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter. Check it out for a chance to win a two-book giveaway!

Earlier in the month, I wrote a couple of posts on writing craft including how to use a long-form messy synopsis as part of your pre-writing process as well as posts on using humor to lighten up tough middle-grade topics and my Pantser’s Guide to Character Development.

But it’s also the start of gardening season here in the Pacific Northwest, so I hope once you’re reading my posts from a hammock in the sunshine or some other outdoor locale. This summer is likely to be a quiet one for me in terms of blogging as we will be traveling quite a bit, but look for some news related to SCBWI WWA and Pitch Wars in the coming weeks!

Today’s Craft Post Two-For-One

Sometimes blog posts written days or weeks apart just happen to go live on the same day. Such was the case today! I blogged about how some of my favorite authors use humor to lighten up tough topics in middle grade at From the Mixed Up Files. AND I submitted my first contribution to The Winged Pen’s Master Your Craft series, a post on using three of my favorite craft books to make sure your plot arc and character arc are working together in your story.

Both of these topics are on my mind as I dive into revisions on one middle-grade story and wrap up a second one. So, as is often the case, the time spent away from them working on these blog posts was not wasted. I hope you enjoy them, and that you share them.


Check Out My Story on Quite the Query

The query letter for my middle-grade novel, The Elephant Tree, was featured on Amy Trueblood’s Quite the Query this week. Most writers agree that writing a succinct summary of an entire book in a one-page query letter is hard work. Whole blogs (my favorite of course being Query Shark!) are devoted to the fine art of writing queries that will catch an agent’s eye. But the thing I love about Quite the Query is that it shares real queries that landed an offer of representation.

And if you’d like to read more about my journey to signing with the lovely Jennie Dunham of Dunham Lit, check out my “Getting the Call” story on The Winged Pen.

Thanks for having me, Amy! And if you’re currently in the query trenches, hang in there. I know how tough it is (did you see the part where I queried FOUR manuscripts before I got an agent). Don’t lose hope. If you keep doing the work, you’ll find your way!

I’m a Mentor Twice Over!

TeenPit a mentor program for teen writersPitch Wars - A mentor opportunity for writers



I’ve been lucky to have many mentors–teachers, friends, other writers–guide me on my writing journey. So I’m always delighted when I can give back to the writing community in some way. That’s why I’m so excited to announce that I will be a mentor for both TeenPit and Pitch Wars this year. I’m particularly thrilled about TeenPit because helping kids goes right back to the heart of why I write in the first place. Best of luck to everyone who enters these two amazing contests–I can’t wait to meet my mentees and give them the same love and support that I have received over the years.