Hi! I am Julie Sondra Decker. You may call me Julie. (I also answer to "Fairy Princess of Queries" or just "Goddess.") I'm accepting Adult and New Adult applications this year in Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars contest! This is a contest for agent-seeking authors to get paired up with mentors who can help make their publishing dreams come true. Yes, we are in the business of granting wishes here! (Good thing I brought my wand.) If you want the particulars on how to submit your completed, edited, unpublished, ready-to-query manuscript to be considered by mentors, check out the details. Now on with the reason you're here: THE PITCH WARS MENTOR BIO THAT WILL MAKE YOU CHOOSE ME AS YOUR LEADER AND DIVINE RULER, I mean, your mentor. If you have questions about if your work is right for me, "me too!" comments, or want to introduce yourself, post a comment or say hey on Twitter (@JulieSondra)--personalized queries aren't possible this year so now's your chance. ;)
ABOUT ME: THE SHORT AND SKINNY FACTS
|Short and skinny, get it?|
I'm Julie. It's totally my mom's favorite name. I write everything except screenplays and stage plays: that includes novels, short stories, essays, rants, and bad poetry.
My fantasy/fairy tale retelling trilogy, Bad Fairy, is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary. (It's on submission.) My nonfiction book on asexuality, The Invisible Orientation, is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger. (It comes out September 2.)
I refuse to be married to one genre--I'm a free-spirited writer, for cryin' out loud!--but I usually end up writing stories in the speculative fiction field--fantasy, science fiction, and anything sort of weird. I do like writing YA fiction, but I primarily write for grown-ups. Here's what I've been reading!
I'm a music nerd and a soprano. I love musicals and was once a music major. I sometimes pretend to be an artist--I do two webcomics, and one's about the author life! I like baking bread and cake. I've been a beta reader and professional editor since 1999. I always wear two different colored socks. I have no desire to get married or have kids, but I'm the coolest aunt ever (and this is an objective fact). I've been a vegetarian for over 15 years. I have appeared in most of the types of media known to humankind, including movies/TV. I live by myself like a cool hermit. I am a fun-size tiny adult at just under five feet tall. I live in Florida. I love nostalgia. I enjoy playing Dance Dance Revolution. I love babies. I hate onions and will react violently if you try to make me eat them. I'm always too busy to take on any more projects, but I'm always taking on more projects. (Apparently I love pain.)
MY BRAGGING RIGHTS (AKA WHY YOU SHOULD SUBMIT TO ME):
- I am a little bit evil. But I serve the greater good. Meaning I take no crap from manuscripts that dare to offend my eyes by not being perfect. I will KILL all your typos, murder your bad grammar, and make your punctuation mistakes wet their pants. I dig in HARD and give sophisticated feedback--way beyond sitting there with a red pen circling all the times you wrote it's when you should've written its.
- What I do works. I am a query pro. The first query letter I ever wrote got requests from more than half the agents I pitched to, and it got better from there. I've signed two projects to two different agents, so it would seem I know what I'm doing. And speaking of which. . . .
- My advice works for others. My Pitch Wars mentee from last year, Whitney Fletcher, whipped his query and manuscript into shape under my guidance, and emerged with an offer of representation WITHIN TWO DAYS OF THE CONTEST. (I'm sure *some* of it had to do with him writing an awesome book, but hey, let me steal a ton of the credit!) And now he has a book on submission and is a mentor in his own right. You can read his success story on Brenda's blog.
- I give lots of feedback. I was a somewhat popular mentor last year--74 submissions--and I gave feedback to everybody, generating a total of 49,400 words/125 pages of feedback over the course of a week. This year I'll be busier (my book comes out during Pitch Wars week!), but I do plan to give some personal reactions to those who apply to me. If I don't pick you, I'll at least give you a few lines (maybe more) about how come, and maybe you'll walk away with a little bit of guidance as to what to do next time and how to query better in the future. And if I DO pick you, I edit extensively--not just your language, but I comment on your content, react to your dialogue, ask questions, and let you know what I'm thinking. I have also been known to talk back to characters while commenting in the margins.
MY GENRE PREFERENCES, FAVORITE SUBJECTS, AND PREFERRED STORY ELEMENTS:
- Fantasy in modern settings.
- Softer science fiction.
- Literary fiction with a clear plot trajectory beyond "she finds herself" or "he explores the human condition."
- Genres that defy easy categorization or are being pooh-poohed as "that's not selling right now."
- Characters struggling with identity.
- Cerebral characters who still have heart.
- Romance that doesn't become a character's sole reason for living.
- Queer characters.
- Characters from marginalized and/or rarely featured demographic groups--represented authentically in a visible fashion, but not as a token. (Meaning if your "diverse" character could have been a majority character without being written any differently, it's not what I'm looking for.)
- Real connection to the characters' thoughts, especially if it's first person.
- Characters who are recovering from a huge change or blow, coming of age, training for something, or transitioning to something new.
- Characters with history--they didn't start living on page one (unless they were born on page one).
- Characters who buck tradition and have a good reason to do so.
- Fat characters who remain fat throughout the story and definitely don't lose weight as a metaphor for becoming better or healthier or more worthy.
- Characters with "mixed" identities--are they human + magical creature? raised by a Jewish dad and a Catholic mom? born to a Chinese family but residing in South America? living as part of a multiple system (a.k.a. split personalities)? GIMME!
- Alternate realities/secondary worlds with natural worldbuilding that doesn't take over the story.
- Lots of dialogue. Artfully rendered so you can always tell who's talking even if you don't use cheap tricks.
- Character-led narratives. Give me PEOPLE (who do things or to whom things happen), not THINGS HAPPENING (oh yeah, to some people).
- Invented religious beliefs or spiritual beliefs that are solid and have weight.
- Elemental or nature-based magic.
- Mythology, folklore, or fairy-tale-derived inspiration.
- Magical realism. (Usually today's world with something odd about it and it's just no big deal.)
- Longish books that aren't self-conscious about taking their time. I'll wait. You're great.
- Characters with agency, full personalities, and compelling motivations.
I am not the best mentor for you if any of these describe your book:
- Major plot and action is geared toward a romantic relationship, without much else to it.
- "Will she play it safe or follow her heart?" She always follows her heart. If that's all there is, I don't need to read it now.
- Men use women as accessories to the point that the ladies don't seem like characters.
- Men are motivated by women (or by threats to "their" women) to get revenge, prove their worth as a mate, or engage in extended rivalry with other men. Basically if "win" or "avenge" the woman is the motivating force for a male character, I'm not into it.
- Traditional "quest" stories that feature an adventuring party.
- Distant storytelling style that does not allow me to connect with the protagonist(s).
- Historical fiction that depends heavily on knowledge of the period to figure out what's going on.
- Alternative historical fiction that changes the outcome of an event--or future dystopia fiction that creates a catastrophic event--only to lead to a majority group (such as white people, men, or straight people) becoming The Oppressed under a new world order.
- Dystopias with weak what-ifs at their heart.
- Steampunk and cyberpunk. I'm afraid I just don't get it. (I won't rule it out entirely if you promise your characters are awesome, though.)
- Anything heavily influenced by role-playing games or video games, as well as tropes, character roles, or quest motivation associated with gaming culture.
- Purple prose, especially scenery description. I'm not a very visual reader, so if your characters are constantly taking adjective baths, I will stop caring.
- White authors/white characters who include characters of color only incidentally as a vehicle for "color blind" or "look at me, I'm progressive" or "I don't see color!" narratives. If a character is a person of color, we SHOULD see their color, and it needs to be an authentic part of who they are, not written off as not mattering so you can highlight another character's "tolerance."
- Fantasy plots involving a person from our world traveling to another world and Saving Everyone because they're The One.
- Fantasy or alternate-world plots that primarily focus on warring clans and battle strategy, with a war hero at the forefront.
- Fantasy that heavily involves humans' magical bonds with dragons, horses, or animals. I know it's weird but I'm definitely not a dragon person or an animal person.
- Magic with cutesy or poorly conceived systems, or incredibly complex magical "rules" that are dumped on the reader through tiresome recitation.
- Plots depending heavily on a Chosen One or a prophecy.
- Plots depending on the "star-crossed lovers" trope to manufacture all or nearly all of their angst.
- Plots revolving around something really gruesome, gory, or horrifying. (Sorry, not a huge horror fan. Though I kinda like if you can horrify me with something psychological. Violence and battles are okay. Just as long as they don't dominate the storytelling.)
- Plots revolving around saving a trapped or kidnapped person (usually a woman or child).
- Plots that take shortcuts to motivate women or make them complex/tragic by throwing poorly realized sexual violence into their past.
- Plots that are "pure" mystery genre; clue-gathering whodunnits turn me off a lot, unless they're also funny.
- Stories that are only compelling if the reader is intrigued by erotic situations or the "hotness" of a protagonist/love interest.
- The world, plot, and concept are clearly more important to the author than the characters.
- The story and characters are only there to frame a spiritual or religious message, a political agenda, or a supposedly revolutionary philosophy.
- Characters do things--solving mysteries, winning fights, finding love, assuming responsibility--without experiencing any personal growth or change.
ABOUT YOU: MY IDEAL PITCH WARS MENTEE
- Your book is done. Honestly, actually done. It's not a first draft. It's not a second draft. You would never describe it as "rough around the edges." You aren't still deciding how to organize it. It's been read by your test readers and it's polished. It's ready to be agented. It's ready for professional feedback.
- You have fantastic language skills. You don't struggle with awkward prose or stilted dialogue or frequent typos or punctuation glitches. (Or if you do, I won't be able to tell.)
- You're serious and you want it badly. You didn't enter this contest thinking lol okay whatever. You have a passion for writing and a matching drive to get it out there.
- The beginning of your book does what it's supposed to: gets my attention and gets me invested. You realize that a book's first pages aren't for back story. You know I don't have to be here, that your reader has no obligation to humor you until it REALLY gets started, and that it's your job to pull me in and make me want to stay.
- You want my feedback. (Sounds obvious, but sometimes when I work with authors, they argue with my comments and defend their work instead of trying to improve.) You welcome criticism and you'll be dedicated to applying it.
- You're already almost there.
I value good execution over good concept, but I hope you have both. I am an editor but I'm not a literary janitor, and what I want to see is someone who's done their homework. I am very thorough in responding to a manuscript--and that means I tell you what you're already doing well as well as what you might need some work on. I am very friendly and fair, but I am also borderline merciless. You want me for your mentor if your baby could use some tough love along with the sweet talking.
I have stayed in touch with some of the people I met through Pitch Wars last year, offering and receiving help and support both publicly and privately. Even if you're not applying to me--or even if I don't pick you--feel free to be my pal on social media; I'm @JulieSondra on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
Despite the big talk we mentors throw around sometimes about crushing each other and leading the winning team to victory, this is ultimately a community; we're all writers helping writers. We cheer on the Pitch Wars success stories every year. We all want you to be one of them. I'm dedicated to the relationships we form during this contest, and to supporting writers during and after the contest. If you'd like to check out some resources I created during and after Pitch Wars last year--which may help you succeed this year!--check out a post in which I describe the most common problems I saw in last year's entries, some Pitch Wars hints for what makes me thumbs-up or thumbs-down your project, and Five Common Querying Mistakes. And if you have a question about any of my preferences or want to ask if I have an opinion on your genre, leave a comment and I will answer it!
Hey, future super-special mentee, are you out there?
Now onward and upward to visit some of the other mentors! HOP AWAY!
Hey, future super-special mentee, are you out there?
Now onward and upward to visit some of the other mentors! HOP AWAY!