Welcome Pitch Wars hopefuls!!! We’re so glad you stopped by! Grab yourself a drink, get comfortable, and let’s chat about mentoring, wishlists, and why we love Pitch Wars so much. For those of you who don’t know about it, 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. To read this as plain text in a Google doc, click here.

The Beginning: Who We Are

This is a picture of Dawn and Kimberly in different frames side by side.

This is a picture of Dawn and Kimberly in different frames side by side.

Dawn Ius is the author the author of three young adult novels published by Simon Pulse—Anne & Henry, Overdrive, and Lizzie—16 educational graphic novels for Grades 4-6, and a contributing writer to the animated T.V. show “Rainbow Rangers,” now airing on Nickelodeon Jr. She is the Managing Editor of The Big Thrill magazine, a book coach with Author Accelerator, and she makes the most beautiful and innovative cocktails you’ve ever seen. Seriously, check out her twitter feed, and you’ll quickly see I’m not exaggerating. If I lived anywhere near Dawn, I’d be spending my Friday nights with her. And not just for the cocktails—Dawn’s fun and amazing. I should know. In 2016 she was my mentor in Pitch Wars. She picked my manuscript out of the slush, spent two grueling months with me revising and polishing it, and fast forward three years later, that manuscript is getting published with Blink/HarperCollins on November 5 of this year. Woo-hoo!! And Dawn’s been there with me to celebrate every step of this journey.

 As for me, I’m a 2019 debut author, a middle school literacy teacher, and a mom of three. I like to think of myself as a perpetual juggler (like most writers). This past year especially, my juggling skills have become quite impressive, except for when it comes to laundry. Laundry is my nemesis, my Achilles heel, and I will do just about anything to avoid it. My debut, Every Stolen Breath, (aka that Pitch Wars manuscript I mentioned earlier) is a YA thriller. It’s a 2020 Junior Library Guild Selection, and it was listed as one of Barnes and Nobles Most Anticipated Contemporary YA’s of 2019. I fervently believe Dawn and Pitch Wars was my springboard into the publishing industry. It is one reason I love this community so much, and I love giving back to it by hopefully creating that opportunity for someone else.

This will be our second year co-mentoring together— in part because we can’t get enough of each other.

Know who else we can’t get enough of? Our 2018 mentee Margie Fuston. Last year, we fell in love with her and her fabulous vampire manuscript. Margie’s a brilliant writer—seriously, watch out for her. But beyond that, Margie had everything it took to be successful in Pitch Wars—she was resilient, determined, and willing to work HARD. And she sent frequent Adam Levine gifs, which Dawn and I happen to love, but I digress. Because of her “never quit, never give up” attitude, Margie accepted representation by her dream agent, Rebecca Podos, within a week of the agent showcase. 

 So, what are we looking for this year? 

Our Wishlist: What We Want 



Magical Realism


High-concept horror. 

Basically we want anything with a great hook and the potential for TENSION. It’s kind of our thing. Romantic tension, family tension, guy-chasing-you-with-an-ax tension. If we should be biting our fingernails in anticipation, and dying to turn the page then that is the Pitch Wars young adult project we’re looking for. And let me make this perfectly clear. We’re looking for the potential for tension, because if you need help ramping it up, we’re here for that. It’s our strength. 

Let’s elaborate, shall we?

Dawn and I read a lot of genres (a lot!). In fact fantasy is one of my favorites, but we’re not the best mentors for that. Instead, thriller is our first love—a gripping, heart-racing, well-written story that makes us sit at the very edge of our seats and ignore our wine. 

But tension comes in many shapes and sizes. If you have a high concept contemporary, we would absolutely love to take a look. And if it has romantic tension in there, well that happens to be my personal fav.

Magical realism? Absolutely! We like books that bend the rules. Paranormal? Definitely! But we want something fresh. We love vampires, but please don’t dust off your post-Twilight manuscripts and send them our way. Give us something new and exciting! We also have a special place in our hearts for heist books. And while we’re at it, we’ll also consider high concept horror. We’d leap for something smart in the vein of Get Out. Oh, and it goes without saying, we definitely want to see your #ownvoices and books of diversity.

Not to repeat, but basically, if it makes our heart pound with excitement, anticipation, or fear then it’s on our wishlist.

What we don’t want to see, and please respect this: We like gritty—love it, actually—but we can do without the gratuitous gore all over the page, pleaseandthanks. We also can’t handle young kids dying or animal torture, and while we’re not afraid to tackle important issues like sexual abuse, we’d prefer it happened off screen. Think Mindy McGinnis. Think suspense. Think dark. Think psychological.

Bottom Line:

We don’t need or want perfection. Yes, pay attention to spelling and grammar, but it’s a-ok with us if you haven’t quite nailed the voice, ramped up the suspense, completed each character arc, figured out pacing. We can help with that!! We want to help you mold and shape and polish your book until it’s what you envision it to be. YOU. We want to be clear on that.

Yes, Dawn and I want to mentor you. We’re excited to work with you on your book. We expect you to work hard (anticipate at least two edit letters and if there’s time a third read-through before we hit the agent round) and to be open to learning. Make no mistake, we plan to kick your ass—but always with a loving hand, and always—always—keeping your vision in mind.

This industry is tough. We want to help you navigate it—and we’re in it for the long haul. BUT…if we’re not the mentors for you, no hard feelings. We wish you luck and much success. There are a lot of fantastic mentors doing Pitch Wars this year, the list of whom you can find below. (But, um, if you have an awesome YA thriller or high-concept contemporary, we’d really love to see it. Pretty please.)

See below for the links to visit other amazing YA Pitch Wars mentors!

Above is a picture of Dawn’s book covers and Kimberly’s book cover.