On Writing Emotion

The most frequent question clients ask me is “How do I write emotion?” We all know when we pick up a book by an author that’s gotten it right because we’re right there crying or raging or laughing alongside the main character. But how do we achieve that in our own fiction?

Having just spent time sobbing on the treadmill as I finished reading two books that really nail this–The Nightingale and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo–I had some thoughts on this topic.

So I’ve put together my top tips over on the No Blank Pages blog in a post titled On Writing Emotion. Check it out!

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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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.

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.

Lord Licorice – A spooky Halloween story for children

Spaceports & SpidersilkA couple of years ago, I wrote a spooky Halloween children’s story for my daughter and her friends as part of a Halloween slumber party. Now, I’m pleased to announce that it appears in the July 2016 issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk on Smashwords. It’s a fun little lower-middle grade adventure about girls who wake up in a land made of candy and have to battle evil Lord Licorice and foil his plans to build a licorice army. Check it out!