Team Unicorn Mojo’s 2019 Pitch Wars Wish List

Published by Julie on

Hello Hopefuls! Welcome to Pitch Wars* 2019!

#TeamUnicornMojo (Julie Artz & Jessica Vitalis) is back for a third year and we cannot wait to read your middle grade fantasy submissions!

*Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more. Learn more at pitchwars.org

About #TeamUnicornMojo

We both love going deep on craft and we’re very hands-on when it comes to the brainstorming/revision process. Jessica’s strength leans toward plotting and Julie loves character development; we both go wild with the red pen when it comes time for line edits and we promise to sprinkle lots of magical unicorn dust over our mentee’s manuscript before the agent round.

[Fairy dust falling on a young boy’s head.]

Our future mentee is going to get to know us very well, but in the meantime here’s a little more dirt on each of us:

Julie’s Bio: I’m thrilled to be back for a third year mentoring middle grade with my writing soul sister, Jessica Vitalis. After more than two decades of writing and editing corporate, technical, and non-profit materials, six years ago I turned my skills and experience toward publishing. Since then, I have worked with authors published by Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, and Boyds Mills Press, and have also helped clients formulate their queries and pitching strategies. My affiliations with SCBWI, AWP, and EFA, and my work with Pitch Wars/Teen Pit, all keep my industry knowledge current and sharp.

I excel at seeing the big picture and helping writers make what’s on the page as strong as what’s in their head and heart. Satisfying character arcs and vibrant world building are my super powers! I love teaching writers of all ages about craft. In addition to mentoring writers, I also contribute to The Winged Pen and Middle Grade at Heart, and I’m a Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Western Washington. In my free time, you’ll find me writing magical and geeky middle grade, pottering in the garden, out hiking in the glorious Pacific Northwest, or maybe in a hammock devouring a delicious new book.

So what can you expect from me? My critique partners have a running joke about my detailed edit letters and knack for comp titles and high-concept pitches. My kids claim I have the heart and maturity level of an 11-year-old, which is probably why I can channel that middle grade voice so well. 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 2019!

I love geeking out on comp titles and movie references and middle grade voice and magic systems. 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, compassionate mentors to guide you through revisions.

[Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!] via GIPHY

Jessica’s Bio: This is my fifth year mentoring Pitch Wars and my third year teaming up with writer/editor extraordinaire Julie Artz. Over the last four years, I’ve had six mentees (that’s not a typo; two years, I was lucky enough to land two mentees!), all of whom have signed with agents as a result of their Pitch Wars manuscripts.*

In addition, three of my mentees have landed book deals: Amanda Rawson Hill’s Pitch Wars manuscript The Three Rules to Everyday Magic has already debuted, her sophomore novel You’ll Find Me releases in 2020, Reese Eschmann’s Pitch Wars manuscript is coming out in 2020, and Kit Rosewater has two books coming out in 2020!

In addition to mentoring Pitch Wars, I write middle grade stories, freelance as a developmental editor, volunteer with We Need Diverse Books, and contribute to The Winged Pen. As a Columbia MBA-wielding author/editor, I first approach stories from a big-picture perspective, evaluating elements such as structure, plot, themes, character development, and voice and then turn my attention to individual scenes, paragraphs, and even sentences to make sure every element of the story works as a cohesive whole.

An American expat, I spend my spare time chasing my two precocious daughters around Ontario and changing the batteries on my heated socks. I apparently have a very twisted mind because I started out writing contemporary but have since found that my sweet spot is dark fantasy; I’m represented by the inestimably fabulous Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch.

*This is no guarantee that our future mentees will sign with agents and/or get book deals. I bring it up only to point out that I take this program very seriously and will do my best to help take your writing to the next level.

DRUMROLL Please…

Now that you’ve fallen in love with #TeamUnicornMojo, it’s time for our wish list…

[Kung Fu Panda doing his thing!]

This year, #TeamUnicornMojo is focusing exclusively on fantasy (including historical fantasy and contemporary stories with strong magical elements)!

Our goal is to find a story with a unique premise and beautiful writing. We prefer to work with an experienced writer who is immersed in the world of middle grade literature and regularly works with critique partners. No first drafts, please!

***Major bonus points for marginalized voices. Send us your #ownvoices and LGBTQ middle grade!***

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of the types of stories we love:


The Girl Who Drank the Moon: We love the gorgeous, atmospheric writing (and world), the tender relationship between Luna, Glerk, and Zan, and the light-hearted whimsy Fyrian brings to the story.

Orphan Island: An outstanding premise and a unique and magical exploration of the upheaval that comes with puberty.

My Fate According to the Butterfly: This sweetly magical story hit all the right notes for us.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter: This book is swoon-worthy on every level! The voice is sheer perfection, the plot and pacing keep the reader fully engaged, and Drest is a fierce main character every reader can root for (yay strong, determined girls!).

The Graveyard Book: Another fantastic premise with an internal story arc that’s as strong as the imaginative world building and page-turning pace of the story.

Whichwood: This book has it all: a unique premise, a lush, immersive world, and terrific characters.

Monstrous: This book feels both original and classic. Kymera is a wonderful protagonist, one the reader can’t help but connect with on page one.

The Nest: The perfect MG horror story! This is a unique premise that grips the reader and makes us grapple with big, dark issues in an age appropriate way.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: We loved the scrappy main character, the lush setting, and fabulous steampunk elements. 

A Monster Calls: This book gives us all the feels and uses figurative language and motif in a really masterful way.

Princess Academy: We love Miri’s quiet strength, how she grapples with her place in her family (and village), the well-drawn characters, and how the magic is organic to the story.

Bayou Magic: Even though this story has a real-world setting, the bayou is like a character in this story that is just magical.

The Jumbies: Dark magic and a unique setting make this fantasy adventure a page turner!

The Serpent’s Secret/Game of Stars: A fierce, demon-fighting Indian princess? Yes, please!

The Turnaway Girls: Lush prose and imaginative world building drew us to this original and unusual story.

The Bone Garden: This deliciously creepy tale features our favorite mix: a courageous, kind heroine and a powerful antagonist that come together in a touching, sometimes humorous story with lyrical, atmospheric writing.

The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom: We debated including this in our wish list because we’re not a fan of traditional, run-of-the-mill witches. But we love the unique narrator and the whimsical magic in this story, and the voice of the witch is so delightful that we couldn’t leave her out.

Rise of the Dragon Moon: This story’s kick-butt female heroine and amazing nerdy world building hit all the right notes for us. Plus: DRAGONS!

The Mortification of Fovea Munson: Hilarious! Although we tend away from the usual fart joke-style of MG humor, a dry, sarcastic voice like Fovea’s really made us laugh. Which is a good thing because her strong character arc made us cry!

A Curious Tale of the In-Between: A lush and haunting tale with vivid characters and a mystery full of twists and turns.

The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast: We love the themes and realistic portrayal of toxic masculinity in this beautiful story.

The Door to the Lost: Loved the tender friendship and the fantastic magic.

Wish Girl: We love the lyrical writing and the authentic friendship between the two main characters.

If your book comps with these types of stories, you are probably a great fit for #teamunicornmojo!

But if you are still uncertain or would like to know more, pop over to Jessica’s website, where we’ve answered frequently asked questions (including types of stories we are unlikely to fall in love with) and included testimonials from previous mentees and clients.

As a thank you for sticking with us this far, Jessica’s website also features the chance to earn a free query critique!

For more details about Pitch Wars, check out the main 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop post.

See you there!

Don’t forget to check out all the other amazing Middle Grade mentors:

Pitch Wars 2019 Middle Grade Mentors’ Wish Lists


    2 Comments

    Katey Thompson · September 12, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    A a unicorn fan, I love the team name-plus so many good books! My to-read list is growing even more…

      Katey Thompson · September 12, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      “As”! This is what happens when I get tto excited and forget to proofread. So embarrassing.

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