Sarah Kapit is an author of middle grade fiction. She is a recovering academic who holds a PhD in History from UCLA. When not writing, she enjoys baseball, fiber arts, and lavishing affection on her goofy tan cat. Sarah is active in disability rights politics, and those experiences inspire her fiction.
I finished my first book, a YA historical fantasy, in 2016. It was flawed in a way that I didn’t know how to fix, so I decided not to bother querying it. I switched to middle grade for book 2 and was selected for Author Mentor Match round 2. While I was starting to query that book, I finished book 3. From early on I had the feeling that it might be the one for me. That book, now GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN, was a Pitch Wars 2017 selection. I signed with my agent Jennifer Udden in January 2018 after several months of querying, and we sold the book to Dial in the spring.
I have been a mentor for two rounds of AMM so far and have enjoyed it muchly! Currently, one of my mentees is getting ready to query and the other is revising. With both of my mentees, I worked on big-picture revisions that included extensive notes on worldbuilding, plot, character, and writing. When my mentees are ready to querying, I offer suggestions on the query letter and which agents to target. I’ve also as a critique partner or independent editor for several other writers who are now agented and have book deals. In my previous life, I taught History and Gender Studies to undergrads, working with them to improve their writing and research skills.
I was a mentor in AMM round 2, and I can say without exaggeration that it changed my writing life. Having someone who believed in me as a writer and who was willing to give me thoughtful comments on my work was such a major boost, and I enjoy being able to give that support to someone else. Working with my AMM mentees and cheering them on has been so rewarding for me. Additionally, I find that mentoring helps me think about craft more critically and sharpen my own skills.
I want to mentor a hard-working middle-grade writer who writes in a distinctive voice. I’m open to both realistic and SFF fiction and want character-driven stories across all genres. The distinction between commercial and literary fiction doesn’t matter much to me, but I want to work on a manuscript that kids will love—the kind of book that will have a kid staying up past their bedtime just to read one more chapter. If it teaches them something about the world, great, but character is most important. Great disability and/or LGBT+ representation will get me super-excited.
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I always enjoy tropes of found families, unlikely friend groups, and school shenanigans. Anything involving quirky families is great, too. Within MG fantasy, I’m less excited about common tropes such as the chosen one, a kid discovering their magical abilities, evil parents/stepparents, and portals to other worlds. I’m not an absolute no on any of these, but for me to be interested there would have to be something unique about how the trope is handled. This may be an unexpected twist on the trope, a protagonist from historically underrepresented groups, or just terrific writing. (Examples of recent fantasies who take these tropes in cool and unexpected directions: THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, A CRACK IN THE SEA, THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE, THE LOST GIRL.) Tropes that involve stereotyping on the basis of race/sexuality/disability/etc. are a no.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- email brainstorming
In mentoring, I try to cater my approach to what my mentee needs. With some mentees I’ll jump right to the edit letter, while for others I might ask for pre-revision “”homework”” assignments. (For example, I’ll ask my mentee to answer questions to help clarify theme and character arc. Then I’ll use that work to frame my suggestions for revisions.) I will send an edit letter that’s broken down into four major sections: worldbuilding, plot, character, and writing. Depending on the manuscript, one section might require heavier revisions than others, but I will provide notes on all four components. My edit letters typically run between 5 and 7 single-spaced pages. A lot of my suggestions come in the form of questions: why does the character do this? What’s the significance of this subplot? Generally I tend to be pretty blunt in my critiques, but I’ll also provide plenty of comments. I usually frame my suggestions as suggestions, rather than prescriptions. While my mentee revises, I’m available to brainstorm potential ideas, provide encouragement, or look at excerpts on an as-needed basis. If my mentee prefers for me to back off, that’s also cool. When they’re ready to show me a revision, I’ll provide comments and we can do additional rounds of revision as needed. Once my mentee is ready to query, I will provide feedback on their query letter. suggestions for agents to query, and overall querying strategy.
I want to work with a writer who is serious about craft and willing to think critically about their own work. My mentee needs to be open to criticism and prepared to make heavy-duty revisions. I don’t expect my mentee to agree with me on everything, but I want to work with someone who can at least consider my critiques and use them to inform their process. It’s also important that they are an avid reader of recently-published middle-grade fiction. This is invaluable for understanding the current middle grade market. Publishing is a business as well as an art, and I want to work with someone who is willing to make adjustments as necessary.
Within my chosen genres, I’m looking for a compelling character that middle-grade kids love. If that’s in place, I can go along for a lot of different kinds of stories. Some more specific elements I enjoy include (but aren’t limited to):
- Voice-driven MG of any kind
- Main characters that are disabled, LGBTQ, and/or Jewish
- Character-driven speculative fiction
- Stories that explore the messiness of family love, especially between siblings
- Boarding school or summer camp stories
- Anything outer space-related
- Protagonists that challenge traditional gender roles
- Contemporary fiction that takes on social and political issues in a non-didactic way (i.e. THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA)
- Sports stories that aren’t just about sports (i.e. Jason Reynolds’ TRACK series)
- Epistolary formats or anything else that’s a little unconventional
- Unique magic systems
- Fantastical elements that draw from traditionally underrepresented cultures and experiences
- Historical or historical fantasies that explore less well-known parts of history
DO NOT SEND ME:
- Superhero books
- Plots that center around solving puzzles.
- Books that are heavy on toilet humor. If it comps to James Patterson’s middle-grade, I’m probably not a fit.
- Disability books that are heavily focused on siblings’ experience to the exclusion of disabled people’s experiences.
- Books in which life-threatening illness and/or dementia is a central plot point.
- Novels in verse. While I enjoy them and greatly respect writers who can write them, I have no poetic ear and can’t help.
Some recent MG I love:
ALL FOUR STARS and sequels, Tara Dairman
THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA, Pablo Cartaya
ALL THREE STOOGES, Erica S. Perl
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE, Lisa Jenn Bigelow
I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS, Lauren Baratz-Logsted
FRONT DESK, Kelly Yang
NO FIXED ADDRESS, Susin Nielsen
THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE, Delia Sherman
THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS, Erin Entrada Kelly
And some YA and adult books:
DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, Adib Khorram
SPINNING SILVER, Naomi Novik
SHIP IT, Britta Lundin
Becky Chambers’ WAYFARERS series
SCYTHE series, Neal Shusterman
THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO,
Taylor Jenkins Reid When it comes to TV, I have an undying love for any show Michael Schur has ever created, plus cooking and baking shows.