what i’m looking for

*PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM CLOSED TO UNSOLICITED QUERIES AS OF 1/6/2017. FOR UPDATES RE: WHEN QUERIES WILL REOPEN, PLEASE REFER TO THIS SPACE AND MY TWITTER*

As I’m now looking to build my own list at McIntosh and Otis, I wanted to take the chance to go into depth about the kind of projects I’m looking for in YA, middle grade, and adult. The page is lengthy, so I won’t be offended if you scroll to the age group/genre you write in rather than read the whole thing 🙂

Another helpful resource re: my interests might be my Goodreads page, where you can see what kinds of books catch my eye.

Before you submit, please don’t forget to review the submission guidelines. You can also find some query tips here. Thanks!

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YOUNG ADULT

I’m open to pretty much all genres in YA as well as stories from diverse perspectives. Here are a few of my specific wishes:

  • YA ContemporaryI’m looking for all kinds of contemporary, whether sweet or on the darker side, but with a very strong hook!
    • Books that play with structure and use unique devices to tell stories. Think the letters from THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES by Maureen Johnson or the recordings from THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher.
    • A great friendship story (whether fun or poignant) with a standout premise. Ex: SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson and HOW IT ENDS by Catherine Lo.
    • A beautifully written coming of age story. I’d love a kind of I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith for this generation.
    • I’m open to contemporary romance/romantic elements in YA as well. I tend to like my romance angsty/complicated. WHY WE BROKE UP by David Handler (thought technically a breakup book) has the emotional weight I like. But I also could be drawn to a more lighthearted love story with lots of witty banter.
    • A YA book that skillfully deals with mental health issues within a relationship, whether with a friend or parent, in a not overly sappy way.
    • A YA that handles sex in a realistic, mature way from a teenage perspective – neither glorifying it nor shaming it.
    • A YA “study abroad” story – whether dark or more fun. No Paris, please 😉 I’d like to see some different settings!
    • A beautifully written YA father-daughter story.
    • An updated YA Bonnie & Clyde story, whether a couple or friends.
    • Road trip story with a cool, unique premise.
    • A kind of “political thriller” for YA – something with lots of intrigue and deception. Think House of Cards but for high school.
  • YA Mystery/Thriller:
    • I loved Pretty Little Liars. So anything in that vein and you’ll probably have my attention.
    • I have been and always will be a sucker for a well done murder mystery. But I read them a lot and grew up watching true crime on TV, so I’m very picky here!
    • A cyber-thriller/mystery – something that incorporates technology and social media. (Like “A” from PLL).
    • A mystery/psychological thriller that will mess with my head, a la VANISHING GIRLS by Lauren Oliver or CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Keuhn.
    • A literary mystery with gorgeous writing, like AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE by Kat Rosenfield.
    • I’m intrigued by mysteries that tackle something that happened in the past – long buried secrets coming back to be discovered.
    • Mysteries/thrillers in interesting settings that are little worlds unto themselves – strange small towns, a music/dance school, a ranch where kids spend the summer, etc.
    • Other favorites in this genre: THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Trish Doller, THICKER THAN WATTER by Brigid Kemmerer, MY SISTER ROSA by Justine Larbalestier.
  • YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy/Horror
    • Light sci-fi only (no space/robots, sorry). I’d like to see a story that focuses on one specific piece of technology and how it impacts human lives. Think Orphan Black or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 
    • I’m more open for fantasy. I’m mainly looking for amazing characters and incredible world building, plus a unique element that will make a project stand out in the very flooded YA fantasy market. Think SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo. I’m also a big fan of Megan Shepherd, who kind of blends fantasy, horror, and historical.
    • A fantasy with an unexpected setting. I’d love to see a project that deviates from the typical mediaval Europe-inspired fantasy tropes. I’d love a project that pushes the boundaries of what a fantasy can be while still retaining all the things we love about the genre.
    • For horror, rather than gore or monsters, I’m more freaked out by psychological horror. So something twisty, where you don’t know who to trust, etc. Think the more subtle creepiness of something like INLAND by Kat Rosenfield.
    • A dark, atmospheric horror that draws strongly on setting. Many of my favorites are set in the American South or wilderness, like SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson or DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS by Amy Lukavics. Other settings would be cool as well!
    • A smart horror retelling. I loved THE FALL by Bethany Griffin.
    • Again a horror that plays on technology or uses it as a device. I thought the movie Unfriended was super clever/entertaining so I’d love to see a YA project in that vein!
    • I’d love a witch-inspired horror, especially something that plays on paranoia.
    • I’m not currently looking for dystopia or paranormal (vampires, werewolves, etc).
    • Other favorites in these genres: MORE THAN THIS by Patrick Ness, BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Ligget,  NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern, A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON by Samantha Mabry, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir.
  • YA Nonfiction: While it’s not my bread and butter per se, I’d definitely be open to an intriguing YA nonfiction project like one of the below.
    • Memoir – either amazingly beautiful or hilarious.
    • True Crime – if anyone out there has written a YA nonfiction Making a Murderer, please send ASAP!
    • Historical/microhistory of something that appeals to teens specifically. So, either a microhistory of something relevant to their lives (could be anything!) or perhaps a chapter in history from the perspective of young people.

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MIDDLE GRADE

  • MG projects in any genre that play with structure and devices. I’d love to see something that incorporates technology (like emails, text messages, etc) or a device like some of the ones I mentioned above re: YA (letters, recordings, box of objects, etc).
  • A fun or suspenseful middle grade mystery in a unique setting. Think an updated THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin.
  • A MG horror – really tricky to nail this. No one did it better than Neil Gaiman with CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, in my opinion.
  • A middle grade adventure with excellent world building. Think THE NIGHT PARADE by Katharyn Tanquary or SERAPHINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK.
  • A contemporary or historical friendship story with lovable and somewhat outsider-y characters. I’d love this in a unique, small-world setting (a circus, island, dance class, etc).
  • A clever, humorous contemporary for boys – think THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rylander.
  • A beautiful, literary coming of age story with a unique premise. Think A MANGO SHAPED-SPACE by Wendy Maas. I’d also love to see an updated SECRET GARDEN.
  • An issue-driven MG project that isn’t overly dogmatic or either too depressing or inspirational. Tall order, I know! I’m basically looking for something that handles an issue in a realistic, heartfelt way.  I’d love to see something handling mental health or class issues. I loved OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt.
  • I’m not the best fit for: gross-out humor, overly silly stories, animal characters.
  • Other favorites in MG: THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart, THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE by Gail Carlson Levine, PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier.


I’m open to historical in both YA and MG, though am specifically looking for stories from history that haven’t gotten so much attention in fiction (i.e., no WWII, French revolution, etc). I’m not a fan of overly historical language or forced old-timey dialogue. No matter what the period is, the story should still feel accessible to young, modern readers and the characters should feel real!

Please note that I am not currently seeking picture books. 

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ADULT


Good matches for me in adult: literary and commercial fiction, upmarket and commercial mystery, upmarket thriller, historical, horror (psychological), select romance, select nonfiction (memoir, pop history, journalistic, humor, etc).

Not the best match: upmarket women’s fiction, generational sagas, adult sci-fi/fantasy, political/espionage thrillers.

  • Adult Literary/Fiction:
    • I’m drawn to stories that are in some capacity about coming-of-age, usually from a female perspective. For example, I adore everything Megan Abbott has ever written. She’s also a good example of the kind of crossover-ish books I fall for.
    • Stories somehow concerned with the past – characters who have history, old truths being revealed, characters returning home, nostalgia for the way things were, etc.
    • Mystery elements – books about secrets. THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt is one of my all time favorites.
    • Complicated moral situations and difficult decisions that create psychological tension. Think THE SLAP by Christos Tsiolkas.
    • A book that skillfully/funnily deals with mental health issues, especially one that shows that people with such issues are pretty much just ordinary people who have real lives, can love, are funny, talented, etc. Ex: WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE by Maria Semple.
    • Something that plays with structure or voice while still not gimmicky. Books I thought did this well were THE LOVER’S DICTIONARY by David Levithan, HOTELS OF NORTH AMERICA by Rick Moody, and THE LOVE SONG OF JOHNNY VALENTINE by Teddy Wayne.
    • I’m open to retellings, but it would need to be drop dead gorgeous! Think THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller.
    • Short story collections (very selectively). Many of my favorite short story collections are set in the U.S. and deal somehow with American identity. Think BATTLEBORN by Claire Vaye Watkins or YOU ONLY GET LETTERS FROM JAIL by Jodi Angel. I’d also love a darker collection with light magical/fairy tale elements, like THE WILDS by Julia Elliott.
    • Other favorites in this category:
      • THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern, TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt, PLEASE DON’T COME BACK FROM THE MOON by Dean Bakopoulos, SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler, GIRLS ON FIRE by Robin Wasserman, Joyce Carol Oates.
  • Adult Mystery/Thriller
    • Books that fall somewhere between literary and commercial.
    • My favorite classic in this category is REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. I love the Gothic vibe and would love to see an updated Gothic mystery!
    • Mysteries where there’s still a little ambiguity left at the end. IN THE WOODS by Tana French and IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS by Tim O’Brien (apparently it’s something about the woods) come to mind.
    • Setting is huge for me! I loved CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois, set in Buenos Aires. I also love a good American small town mystery/thriller. Think Twin Peaks minus the sci fi elements.
    • For thrillers, I’m more interested in psychological thrillers that focus on tenuous relationships or emotions situations, rather than something packed with action. Think THE DINNER by Herman Koch or A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY by Lauren Grodstein.
    • Other favorites in this category:
      • WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lional Shriver, BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent, Laura Lippman.
  • Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror 
    • I’m not really looking to take on adult books in these genres. I am definitely not the best choice for an adult hard sci-fi or high fantasy book.
    • An exception would be a beautifully written, literary book with light touches of magical realism or fantasy elements, like OF BEES & MIST by Erick Setiawan or ROOMS by Lauren Oliver. I especially like the idea of ghosts (of all kinds).
  • Adult Non-Fiction
    • A journalistic narrative nonfiction project looking at an interesting aspect of  American society. One of my favorite all-time non-fiction books is FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS by H.G. Bissinger, which looks at the problematic nature of high school athletics in the U.S. through one football season in a Texas town. (For fans of the show/movie, this book was the inspiration!)
    • Popular Science/History, especially microhistories. I love books that focus tightly on one subject and take the science/history of it and turn it into an accessible, entertaining ride. Authors Mary Roach (GULP, PACKING FOR MARS) and Mark Kurlansky (COD, SALT) are especially known for this. If you can do it with with and humor (like Bill Bryson) I’m sold! I also enjoy a more journalistic approach in the vein of THE FEVER (a history of malaria) by Sonia Shah. I’d be open to pretty much any topic here.
    • Select memoir. I am interested in memoirs from unique and somewhat unusual perspectives. For example, one read I enjoyed was CONFESSIONS OF A SOCIOPATH by M.E. Thomas. Travel memoir with a unique premise – think MOTHER TONGUE by Christine Gilbert, about a mother who takes her family around the world in a quest to master Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. Also, gorgeous literary writing (a la Jeanette Walls in THE GLASS CASTLE) can get me engaged in almost any story. I’m not particularly interested in memoirs about parenthood or marriage.

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Thanks for reading!  If you decide to submit, please be sure to follow the guidelines linked above. I look forward to reading your work!