PitchWars Wishlist

Welcome, welcome to Kat and Daphne’s wishlist, a.k.a. #TeamVillian’s wishlist! We are looking for YA fantasy manuscripts for PitchWars 2020, so if that’s what you’ve got, keep reading!

If you have any questions, the fastest way to reach us is on Twitter – @KatAliceDunn and @daphlt

Can’t wait to see all your brilliant 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.

Banner saying 'we are 2020 young adult mentors' with a background of Poe wearing a mask.

Who we are

Kat is a fantasy author, whose YA debut DANGEROUS REMEDY came out in 2020. She was a PitchWars YA mentor in 2019.

After two degrees and jobs as a bookseller, nursing assistant and translator for NHK, she settled down to a career as a writer and editor, working in YA and children’s publishing, mental health and government web content.

She’s been editing day in day out for the last 8 years at work, in her master’s programme and working on her own manuscripts with her agent and editor. She wants to share with a mentee everything she’s learnt to make your manuscript shine, and navigate the highs and lows of publishing.

She grew up in London, and has lived in France, Japan and Australia. Back in London now, she lives with too many house plants and a mission to write as many sapphic books as she can fit into her life. Find her on twitter and instagram @KatAliceDunn.

Daphne is the founder and owner of Illumicrate, the UK’s first YA and crossover book subscription box. She’s also Marketing Director for inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of, an event chair, and a 2020 Kitchies judge. Previously, she was an award-winning book blogger from 2011-2018 and a judge for the YA Book Prize and The Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME award. 

While she’s not an author, she’s had plenty of first and second-hand experience in all aspects of publishing. Her day to day job of reading manuscripts for Illumicrate and sitting on judging panels has given her great insight into what makes a story work. She’s looking forward to working with a mentee to pass on everything she knows and shedding some light into the publishing process.

She’s a Chinese-Filipino born and raised in Manila and currently living in London. She can usually be found fangirling over first editions & fictional princes, and recommending books on social media @daphlt @illumicrate.

Wei Wujian from The Untamed wearing black, smirks against stormy backdrop

Our Wishlist

Here are some of the things we would LOVE to see in your YA fantasy manuscript:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Myth retellings
  • Non-Western inspired fantasy worlds – please please please!
  • Bi love triangles
  • Unlikable/villainous/morally grey female characters
  • Gothic vibes
  • Villain redemption arcs
  • Romance with ANGST
  • Dark academia
  • Anti-villains
  • ‘oh crap we have to get married for plot reasons but we HATE each other’
  • Where the setting is part of the plot/reveal
  • Necromancy and flirting with the dead/undead boundaries
  • Found families
  • School settings (teach them magic, or war, or how to be an assassin)
  • Relationships that straddle the friends/enemies axis
  • Himbos
  • Deals with the devil
  • College age (18+)
  • Epistolary/different format books
  • Mistaken/hidden identity

Things we aren’t the right mentor team for

  • Contemporary or pure sci-fi or historical. We are only looking for fantasy this year, although if you have a fantasy with some sci-fi elements that’s ok
  • Pure romance plots. We love a good OTP or romantic subplot in SFF, but if you’re interested in romance specifically as a genre, we’re not experienced enough in that sort of story telling to help. 
  • Circuses.
  • Paranormal
  • Dystopia
  • Magical realism
  • Pirates
  • Mermaids
  • Witches
  • Fae
  • Horror – gothic/creepy mood is fine, but not full on out of my skin scary horror please
  • Stories set predominantly in the woods/outdoors/nature settings
  • Fantasy quests – unless you are a marginalised writer who hasn’t had the opportunity to explore this trope
Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender is tied up and on her knees having been defeated, breathes blue flames around the room.

favourite books

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  • The Poppy War by R.F Kuang
  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
  • Vicious & Vengeful by VE Schwab
  • Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 
  • The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
  • The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
  • The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Favourite Media

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • The Untamed
  • Crimson Peak
  • Sailormoon (especially the Seiya/Usagi arc)
  • Fandom!Draco
  • Fushigi Yuugi
  • The Mummy
  • The Company of Wolves
  • Lore Olympus
  • The Princess Bride
  • Ten Things I Hate About You
  • Mulan (the original animated one)

Loki smirks evilly and says 'oh yes'.

Who we’re looking for

Someone ready to work hard. We’re not trying to scare you, but doing heavy edits is extremely hard work!

Books are big, unwieldy beasts and doing ambitious work on them is not for the faint hearted – especially on a tight deadline. We’ll be here to offer heaps of support, both practical and emotional, but ultimately you’re going to be the one doing the work so please make sure you’re really ready to make a commitment. 

We’re particularly interested in working with writers from outside of North America (especially marginalised writers from the UK – we need to do something about that awful 1% statistic). But please don’t feel like you have to disclose anything you’re not comfortable talking about when submitting. Of course, we’re still definitely open to writers from North America as well.

content warnings

We’re happy to accept books with ‘dark’ or ‘heavy’ themes, but please put a content warning in your submission for sexual abuse, assault or rape. 

How we work

We want to spend the majority of our time looking at big picture changes. This means really digging into your characters and plot and pulling them apart to understand how they all work together. Depending on what we agree together, this could involve a complete rewrite, or major structural changes if that’s what the book needs. 

We will send you a formal edit letter outlining what we think isn’t working, and probably with some suggestions for what you could do differently. We can then talk this through over Skype, email or DMs, whatever you prefer. Suggestions will only ever be that – suggestions. We may find it easier to explain what we think isn’t working by illustrating with an example of something that we think *could* work – that doesn’t mean we are right, or that that’s what you should do! We will only ever include things like that in the hope it might spark ideas for you. 

We might also mark up your manuscript if we notice anything in particular that’s confusing, or doesn’t work for us – but in general we won’t do a major line edit with you unless this is something you’re specifically concerned about.

You can see an example of Kat’s editorial comments on the Pitch Wars blog from 2019.

Spike from Buffy, saying 'let's fight that evil! Let's kill something!'

Thank you!

Thank you for reading through our wishlist. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or you can reach us on twitter @KatAliceDunn and @daphlt. You can view the same wishlist and leave a comment on Daphne’s website as well.

#TeamVillain will be joining the #askmentor chats on:

  • 12 September at 4pm EST – twitter chat (Kat)
  • 20 September at 1pm EST – video chat (Daphne)
  • 25 September at 8pm EST – twitter chat (Kat)

Good luck!

Pitch Wars 2020 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

You can get back to the full list of mentors’ wish lists through the blog hop link, or you can use the list of links to other YA mentors’ wish lists below.

  1. Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
  2. Sarvenaz Tash (Accepts NA)
  3. Chloe Gong and Tashie Bhuiyan
  4. Abigail Johnson
  5. Kit Frick and Carlyn Greenwald
  6. Sonora Reyes (Accepts NA)
  7. Laurie Dennison
  8. J.Elle and Emily Golden
  9. Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
  10. Emily Thiede (Accepts NA)
  11. Amanda Panitch
  12. Allison Saft and Ava Reid (Accepts NA)
  13. Emery Lee (Accepts NA)
  14. Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
  15. Shannon A. Thompson and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
  16. Adiba Jaigirdar and Gabriela Martins
  17. Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
  18. Tash McAdam
  19. ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
  20. Maiya Ibrahim and Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
  21. Meg Long and Xiran Jay Zhao (Accepts NA)
  22. Margie Fuston
  23. Jamie Howard
  24. Nova McBee
  25. Amelia Diane Coombs and Sophie Gonzales (Accepts NA)
  26. Rachel Griffin
  27. Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre (Accepts NA)
  28. Ciannon Smart
  29. Sasha Peyton Smith and Kristin Lambert
  30. Lane Clarke (Accepts NA)
  31. Lyndsay Ely (Accepts NA)
  32. Anna Sortino (Accepts NA)
  33. Jennieke Cohen
  34. Bethany Mangle (Accepts NA)
  35. Sunya Mara (Accepts NA)
  36. Kat Dunn and Daphne Lao Tonge
  37. Sheena Boekweg and Alechia Dow (Accepts NA)
  38. Liz Lawson and Dante Medema (Accepts NA)
  39. Sarah Dass (Accepts NA)
  40. Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
  41. Hoda Agharazi (Accepts NA)
  42. Dawn Ius and April Snellings (Accepts NA)
  43. Kara McDowell and Kimberly Gabriel
  44. Kylie Schachte (Accepts NA)
  45. Deborah Falaye
  46. Rona Wang (Accepts NA)
  47. Becca Mix and Grace Li (Accepts NA)
  48. Aty S. Behsam (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors’ Wish Lists

20 thoughts on “PitchWars Wishlist

  1. Hi!
    I have a question. On your do not want list, you have witches. I wrote a fantasy based on Puerto Rican mythology. Brujería is not supposed to be practiced on this island, but my main character is accused of being the bruja/witch stealing hope off the island. She’s a healer not a witch. Would you consider this submission, or does this fit in the witch category? Thank you!


  2. Would you be interested in a more lighthearted contemporary fantasy with a cinnamon roll best friend who eats tacos and tells dad jokes, or are you looking for something edgier than that?


  3. Hi, would you please clarify a bit more on quest fantasies. My story isn’t a quest fantasy in the sense where there is one main goal of getting somewhere like, say, Lord of the Rings, but there is a bit of travelling until the MC and his companions reach the ‘magical school’ type thing.


    1. Hi! I’d say that sounds fine – We’re really just thinking about super traditional western fantasy narratives we’ve seen 100 times before. Anything that gives a twist on that – whether setting, character, purpose of the quest &c – we’re very open to.


  4. Hi Kat!

    I’m thinking about submitting to you and Daphne but I just want to check if Dragon shapeshifter beings in secret magical societies sound like your thing? Dragons tend to be very polarising 😂😅

    Also, you mention in your anti-wishlist Mermaids and fae?

    In my book, the secret society is made up of dragons that have turned from all different races, which includes fairy-turned-dragons and merfolk-turned-dragons? Does that sound like a no-deal for you? Or is it only books where Mermaids and fae are the central theme that you don’t want?


    1. Hi! Thanks for getting in touch. Hmm, so while we’re definitely yay dragons, we aren’t keen on mermaids of fae this year, so I think it’s a bit of a judgement call for you to decide if they feature enough in the manuscript that it would ding our ‘no’ list. Sorry not to be more definitive, but as you know the manuscript so much better than us you’re definitely in the best position to make that call!


      1. Ok! Great! That helps actually. The focus is definitely the Dragon shape-shifters so I think it will be fine! Thanks so much for your quick reply.


  5. Hi, I had a question about paranormal/horror on your do not want list.

    My MS has a ghost, and straddles genres, with elements of horror (creepy factor, and a haunted house), romance (sub plot), and mystery (the MC teams up with new friends to find out who killed the girl haunting them). I have it listed as a supernatural thriller, and I’m currently using books written by Katie Alender, Alex Bell’s Frozen Charlotte, and Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House, as comps.

    Would you consider this a no go, or might it be okay?


  6. Hi! I’m slightly confused by one thing on the lists – there’s witches in the do not want list, but also necromancy and magic schools on the wishlist side of things. Is it a specific type of witch you’re not looking for?


    1. Ah good point! I’ve checked with Daphne as this is more of a no for her than me, and she says ‘witches that are more grounded in nature and natural magics (herbs, herblore, etc) are no for me’ – so I think there’s witch/magic varieties we’re open to, but the sort of forest-y nature-vibes witches are not the best match for us. I hope that helps!


      1. Very helpful, thank you 🙂 My MS is based on Finnish folklore, which is very grounded in nature, so probably not quite right for you guys, then.

        (Loved your book, btw! Thought I’d take the opportunity to say that.)


  7. Hi!

    I have two questions. First, I registered you weren’t looking for the ‘herbal tea’ kind of witch, but would the ‘potion-making-that’s-kind-of-a-drug-to-facilitate-creepy-summoning-rituals’ kind of witch be in your alley?

    Then, one is more regarding mentors’ personal preferences for the ten first pages. I have a short prologue which I enjoy, because it is more attention-grabby and sets the tone for the story’s external conflict, although the following first chapter is really what defines the main character’s internal conflict and sets the stakes. BUT I’ve read EVERYWHERE that prologues were generally disliked through the industry/seen as proof that the story doesn’t start at the most pertinent point. To ease my anxiety, I figured I’d ask mentors I was interested in what their take on the PROLOGUE question is. 🙂


    1. hey! thanks for getting in touch

      1. yes, we’re totally into those sort of witches!
      2. we’re both totally open to prologues. I think they’ve gotten a bad rap in the industry for a while because they became so ubiquitous and if they’re not done well can feel kind of pointless – but like most things, if it *is* done well and suits the book (for example, year of the witching uses its prologue smartly), then a prologue can be a great way to start.

      I hope that helps. good luck with your submission!


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