Christine Calella is YA writer from Poughkeepsie, NY who uses her love of history to color all her fantasy worlds. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and stayed in the big city after graduation to pursue her dream of working in publishing. On the average day, you can find her humming Broadway tunes to herself and drinking more chai tea than is strictly necessary.
I’ve been writing about one novel-length book a year since high school, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I felt my level of craft was up to snuff and I actually tried to query one of them to agents. To prep that manuscript for submission, I entered R1 of AMM and ultimately became a mentee. Unfortunately, after a while of being in the querying trenches and getting a series of rejections for similar reasons (low stakes, uneven pacing) I realized I had fallen out of love with that manuscript and decided to shelve it. This ended up being a fantastic decision, because the next project I embarked on just *clicked* in a way that the previous one hadn’t. I worked on that manuscript over the course of my time at the MFA (fun fact: it ended up being my graduate thesis) and it was with that manuscript that I finally landed my wonderful agent, Laurel! We have been working on revisions for a few months now and are closing in on the looming submission process. So I guess I’ll start crossing my fingers and get used to continuously refreshing my email all over again!
Since I’ve always wanted to work on both sides of the publishing industry, I’ve had some professional experiences that give me some insight into what goes on “behind the curtain.” For example, I’ve had two internships where I’ve managed the query inbox for literary agencies, so I’ve become pretty solid at helping people refine their queries. I was also a R1 Mentee of AMM, so I know exactly what it feels like where you all are now—and I remember how helpful it was to have a mentor who was a few steps ahead in the process and was able to guide me through it all. Additionally, I spent the entire second year of my MFA in Creative Writing in a specialized novel workshop, which means I have essentially been a critique partner on about 12 manuscript-length projects now, and I know exactly how to get down to the nitty-gritty on how to shape them up and get them to where they have the potential to go. Finally, I would like to pepper in the fact that I was a history major in college, so I am always ~down to clown~ with giving background research tips.
People, I’m just gonna be honest: it can be LONELY out there. Before I became an R1 mentee, I felt that the process of editing a novel with no outside feedback was damn-near-impossible, because I started start second-guessing my every instinct, and querying can be absolutely mystifying too—I was firing my work off into the abyss and both the rejections and successes that came back felt random, inexplicable, and often contradictory. I cannot express enough how having writing friends, and especially my mentor, has been a comfort and a blessing. To have somebody to talk to who were going through or had already gone through the same things was invaluable. The actual act of writing is something we have to do alone, but I don’t believe that any other part of the process is. I want to be a mentor because I truly want to be there for someone else and help smooth the way for them the way others have for me. That’s why AMM is such an important community—you can find all your people right here, and I am lobbying to be one of them.
I am looking for a mentee who finds their groove in YA Fantasy, especially with a historical bent. I am 100% open to either secondary-world fantasy or Urban Fantasy, because I love both with my whole heart. It doesn’t particularly matter to me whether your magic system goes all-out with the “bangs-flashes-and-smoke” type of magic or a very subtle layering of superstition…the kind that makes you wonder whether it was really magic at all, or just the power of belief. I’m less interested in Sci-Fi (unless you want to hit me up with your time travel tales which I’d be SUPER into) and I’m sure that if that’s your sweet spot you will find other possible mentors who are much better qualified to help you with that than I am. I love female protagonists and stories about friendship between girls so much I could cry about it, especially when your characters have agency and are carpe-diem-ing the heck out of their own stories.
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
TROPES I LOVE:
- when the scrappy protagonist has to assimilate into an evilly decadent high-society
- girls who are righteous and out for blood
- ragtag teams & found families
- FEMALE! FRIENDSHIP!
- fantasy worlds with complicated politics
- tall, confident jerks with no morality (don’t @ me)
- also, cinnamon roll boys, because I contain multitudes
- a scene at a ball or a party where everyone dresses up all fancy
TROPES I HATE (unless pulled off with aplomb):
- love triangles
- “If you kill him, you’ll be just as bad as him!”
- romance taking precedence over the plot in general (romance should be the seasoning of an adventure story, in my opinion, not the overriding flavor)”
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
I am pretty flexible in terms of communication style. In general, I would prefer to communicate mostly by email or chat, but I do plan to do line edits on my mentee’s manuscript alongside my Big Feedback Letter, and I’d be happy to do a phone call or Skype Session to brainstorm or to help my mentee process the feedback I gave for their revisions. That kind of thing we’d have to work out about a week in advance though. Still, I am open to whatever form of communication makes my mentee most comfortable.
- communicative (if you don’t understand something or are struggling with something, please share and I’ll be happy to help!)
- positive (you don’t have to be Pollyanna, but traditional publishing can be a long road, so be prepared to be kind to yourself so you don’t burn out!)
- open to constructive criticism
- ready to put in the work
- someone who has seriously committed themselves to their writing, and has the patience to know that nothing in publishing comes with the snap of their fingers
- Stories of female vengeance
- fantasy that isn’t afraid to be funny!
- Stories about royal intrigues and snarky courtiers
- women finding their place in the world, and families of their own making
- a rags-to-riches story where the person is uncomfortable with the riches part
- all manner of heists, breakouts, murder mysteries, etc. all tinged with magic
- give me all the dramatics and quips from characters who have a special way with words (Fantasy Jane Austen?)
- stories with intensely personal stakes. Less “I have to save THE world” and more “I have to save MY world”
DO NOT SEND ME:
- I love Holly Black and THE CRUEL PRINCE, but I’m not sure I’m the right mentor fit for faerie stories. I’m more of a witch-lovin’ girl
- again, I’m not super into Sci-Fi (but I would make exceptions for time travel tales!!!)
- I just worked on a pirate story for some time, and I’d rather not work with a mentee on a pirate story for fear that there would be too much crossover of ideas and that’s just sticky territory I don’t want to enter
- I’m okay working with the themes of sexual violence, but I’d prefer not to see manuscripts with any graphic sexual assaults”
TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avatar the Last Airbender, any of the Mike Schur sitcoms (Parks & Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place), Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies, The Legends of Tomorrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Movies: The Princess Bride, Clue, Pride & Prejudice 2005 (*Italian chef’s kiss*), most things Disney, Matilda, Holes, A Knight’s Tale, Gone Girl
Books: Everything Tamora Pierce, THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE, clever alternate histories like DREAD NATION or THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING, ELLA ENCHANTED, PETER PAN, SIX OF CROWS, GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE, THE BELLES