Pitch Wars 2018

Hi, there! Welcome to the #PitchWars page of Adult co-mentors Clarissa Goenawan and Shari Schwarz. #PitchWars is a contest where authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. (Read more about the contest here)


Clarissa-Goenawan-profile-imageI’m an Indonesian-born, Singaporean writer. I’m represented by Barcelona-based Pontas Agency (can’t gush enough about the diversity of their authors!) I studied novel writing with Curtis Brown Creative.


My debut novel, Rainbirds, came out from Soho Press in March 2018. It’s a literary mystery with elements of magical realism set in Japan. One of this year’s most anticipated reads according to Bustle, amNY, BookBub, iBook, The Huffington Post, etc. Also, the Book of The Month’s pick for March 2018.  Ten translation deals so far; some already published this year.

I love rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.


I’m thrilled to be a Pitch Wars 2018 Adult mentor. This is my third year mentoring. In 2016 and 2017 I mentored Middle Grade, so this is an exciting change for me!


Treasure at Lure Lake is my debut MG adventure novel for kids of all ages (or 9-12 if you want to get technical!)


More about me:

–I’m a literary intern for a top New York literary agent and have been for the past 3 ½ years where I focus mostly on Adult manuscripts

–author of the YA short story, TRAPPED, published in Writer’s Digest 2015 short story anthology

–freelance editor of picture books through adult books—check out my editing link at the top to see my client feedback

–former teacher-librarian     –former gymnastics coach     –mom of 4 boys (ages 6 to 18)

–hiker, reader, coffee drinker, weight-lifter, sports-watcher (of my boys’ sports)

–INFJ and lefty     –beach and ocean lover



**Mystery, suspense, and thriller Adult**

(no MG or YA though we do love you too!)


– Strong hook and intriguing premise.

– Novels written in literary / upmarket tone.

– Clear and concise writing. Think Hemingway.

– More contemporary and dark. Less traditional and cozy.

– Well-developed, flawed characters – because no one is perfect.

– Word count: in line with the market’s expectation for the genre.

– Standalone only. A standalone with series potential is okay too.


– Multi-cultural and #ownvoices stories. We need more diverse voices!


– Erotica. Sex scenes are fine if done tastefully.

– Horror, gore, slasher, gangster stories. We need to be able to eat and sleep after reading your manuscript. 🙂

– Science Fiction and High Fantasy. No werewolves, vampires, zombies, mermaids, fairies, dragons, or magical portals. They’re all super cool, but we’re not the right mentors for these.

– A romance-only plot. Romance as a sub-plot is fine.

– Non-fiction projects, for example, a memoir.


~ Clarissa’s Bookshelf ~

All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Please Look After Mum by Shin Kyung-sook

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

~ Shari’s Bookshelf ~

(Some aren’t necessarily suspense/thriller, but they’ll give you a picture of the type of writing I like!)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Beartown by Fredrick Bachman

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin



– I was a mentee before (I was mentored by Jenny Ashcroft under WoMentoring Project) so I know first-hand how rewarding a mentorship can be.

– I *prooooobably* know a thing or two about writing an award-winning novel. My debut novel, RAINBIRDS, won the 2015 Bath Novel Award. It was a finalist for the 2015 Dundee Book Prize, and shortlisted for the 2015 SFWP Literary Award and the 2016 First Novel Prize.

– I’m also a mother of three young girls, so if you’re a hands-on parent, we probably have some things in common to talk about. Like, why do they keep falling sick? And will they be able to sleep through the night one day? (Answer: they will… but perhaps not as fast as you’d like it to be)

– If you’re writing about Indonesia (I was born and raised in Surabaya), Singapore (where I am now), Japan (I read way too many manga), or Korea (and watch way too many K-dramas), I might be able to give some cultural input.


–I’ve been a literary intern for a top NYC literary agency where I read, review, edit and take part in monthly meetings, work on revision letters, submission letters etc… for over 3 ½ years. So, I have an insider perspective on what it really takes to get published.

–As a freelance editor and intern, I’m constantly learning more about the craft of writing and I have mentored and edited for authors who have gone on to get literary agents and book deals with the Big 5 publishers.

–I’ve gone through the trenches of getting my first book published and have experience with drafting and revising; querying and entering contests; working with an agent and editor; marketing and celebrating the birth of a dream come true! I can empathize with you every step of the way. And I can’t wait to find a diamond in the rough and help you polish it up!



– I’m encouraging, but also honest. I hope you can take my critique positively. I want to help you polish your manuscript to its best potential, but ultimately, you make the final choice. I’m not going to force you to make any change you’re uncomfortable with.

– I’m not so much of a phone / video call person, so most of our communication will be via email. Social media messenger is another possibility.

I’ll address things like plot, characters, character arc, theme, structure, writing, voice, pacing, grammar, etc… Also, if it jives with your style, I have graphic organizers to help with any major weakness I spot. I am pretty matter-of-fact with feedback unless you need me to be otherwise. Generally speaking, I will value your time and mine by being straightforward and honest. I am open to communicating by text, email, Skype, telephone, social media etc… whatever is most comfortable for you! If I pick your manuscript, I will pick it because I LOVE it, and therefore, I will CHAMPION it until it is published and soaring out into the world!


Clarissa and Shari:

You’re hard-working, positive, open-minded, and do NOT give up easily. You’re able to put in a significant amount of time working on your revisions and you’re prompt at communicating with us. Your manuscript has been edited and workshopped numerous times. It’s all right if you’ve queried your manuscript before, as long as it hasn’t been queried to death! 😊 We can’t wait to meet you!


Clarissa: FacebookGoodreadsTwitterInstagram.
Shari: Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram

And go here or to the links below to read up on the other fabulous mentors!






































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Barefoot Books Multicultural Day!

January 27, 2018 is a day to snuggle up with your little one (or not so little one) and celebrate diversity in all forms.

For Barefoot Books’ Multicultural Day, I received a free copy of The Barefoot Book of Children by Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma and illustrated by David Dean. I was excited to get it and share it with my six-year-old son, but nothing prepared me for the experiences that this book has fostered between my son and me.


Ben was just as excited as I was when we held this gorgeous book in our hands. The illustrations are inspiring and are rendered with honesty and creativity. My son wants to be an illustrator and he notices the little things I don’t usually pick up on so this book was a rare treat in that small details on each spread prompted him to ask me questions which led to discussions about different (different than him) types of people.


The text poses thoughts and asks questions and promotes interaction by way of discussion. Discussions that had my son and I learning together to find answers to as we went to other resources to find out more about a certain type of person or culture. I read picture books to my son all the time, but I don’t know if one book has ever prompted so many discussions between us.

I highly recommend this book depicting children from all over the world who have all types of abilities and talents and dreams clearly shown on the pages.

Take this chance and this challenge as an opportunity to share diversity with someone you know…anyone!

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Connect with Barefoot Books


Overcoming Writer’s Blues

[I wrote the following post three years ago, before my book was published…however, the words I wrote are still true today, even as a published author.]

By the title, you might think I’ve learned how to overcome writer’s blues, but I haven’t. Not yet, at least. Up until a couple of weeks ago my writer’s journey has been full of excitement and newness and adrenaline.

Now, after encountering multiple opinions of my book–most great and helpful while one was flat-out mean–I feel confused and discouraged. I almost scrapped the whole thing last night. I’ve changed major parts of my book multiple times to cater to one person’s critique or another. It’s a very subjective business. What one person likes another person hates. In the end, I know I need to write the very best story that can and not worry about pleasing everyone else. But it’s really hard. I’m a pleaser. Pushing that part of me aside is a challenge but I know I can do it.

This morning, coffee mug in hand, my challenge is to put aside the inner critic and the external ones too, focus on the positive–I WROTE A BOOK!–and love on my family who are my biggest supporters. I hope, if you are reading this and you feel like throwing the towel in on your book or your dreams, you will join me in celebrating (however subdued you may feel) what you HAVE accomplished…what you HAVE gotten through…and what you are ABOUT to do. Don’t give up!

PitchWars 2017


*I’m the author of TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, a Middle Grade survival adventure novel

*literary intern for a top New York literary agent for over two years

*published YA short story author of TRAPPED, Writer’s Digest 2015 short story competition

*freelance editor–check out my ‘editing’ link at the top to see my client feedback

*former teacher-librarian

*former gymnastics coach

*mom of 4 boys (ages 5 to 17)

*hiker, gardener, reader, latte drinker, sports-watcher (of my boys’ sports)

*INFJ and Lefty


*GIFs make me dizzy 😉

*beach and ocean lover 

*played the French horn, piano and guitar for many years

*lived in the Philippines for a school-year in college and have spent time in more than a dozen countries

*from the Chicago area but I’m a Colorado girl, heart and soul!

*I have a BA in Cross-Cultural studies and my Elementary teaching degree

*I have a bit of a mixed media art background

*Twitter: @sharischwarz

*Instagram: Shari_Schwarz

Treasure at Lure Lake is my debut MG survival adventure novel for kids of all ages (or 8-12 if you want to get technical!)
An epic adventure—that’s all Bryce wants this summer. So when he stumbles upon a treasure map connected to an old family secret, Bryce is determined to follow the map, even if it means risking his life and lying to his grandpa while they’re on their wilderness backpacking trip. Bryce must work together with his difficult big brother, Jack, or they…and the treasure…may never see the light of day again.
“This book is jam-packed with adventure and lots of appeal for reluctant readers.”  -Jenn Bishop, author of The Distance to Home
Order wherever books are sold!


I’m a literary intern where I read, evaluate, and help revise manuscripts so I have a lot of experience with identifying trouble spots and helping manuscripts get ready for submitting to editors.

I will read your manuscript within one week and write up a detailed 3-5 page (likely more!) report on your manuscript, making note of its strengths and weaknesses. I’ll address things like plot, characters, character arc, structure, writing, voice, pacing, etc… Also, if it jives with your style, I can use a couple of different kinds of graphic organizers to help with any major weakness I spot. I am pretty matter-of-fact unless you need me to be otherwise. I’m really super nice–I promise! 🙂 But, generally speaking, I will value your time and mine by being straightforward and honest with feedback. I am open to communicating by text, email, Skype, telephone etc… Whatever is most comfortable for you! If I pick your manuscript, I will pick it because I LOVE it, and therefore, I will CHAMPION it until it is published and soaring out into the world!

I’ve gone through the trenches with getting my first book published and have a plethora of experience from drafting and revising, to querying and entering contests, to working with an agent and editor, to marketing, to celebrating the birth of a dream come true! I can’t wait to find a diamond in the rough and help you polish it up! I will also give feedback on any manuscripts I request a full from that I don’t end up picking for PitchWars. Sometimes the decision comes down to personal preference and doesn’t reflect on how amazing your writing or your story is.


*Middle Grade and Upper Middle Grade

*approx. 30,00-65,000 words

*The main character should be between ages 8 and 13.

*I’m looking for main characters I totally care about from the first pages.

*Themes should be appropriate for elementary school children…or early middle school.

*I prefer realistic to fantasy, but there are definitely some fantasy novels I have loved, so read on to find out what I’d like to see in my inbox! And I usually do like SciFi as long as the world building is so well done that you don’t even notice it woven into the story.

*I read widely from Adult all the way down to Picture books in a variety of genres so I’m generally open to lots of different topics and ideas–from serious literary to Captain Underpants (although I wouldn’t say he isn’t literary…or serious! ;)). It’s really HOW the story is told that will hook me! Here are some things that will definitely catch my attention:

*Mystery–FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar

*Action and Adventure–CRISPIN by Avi

*Survival Adventure–HATCHET by Gary Paulsen

*Contemporary–FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mulally Hunt

*Novels in verse (NOT rhyming)–THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan, and THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

*Graphic Novels–ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson

*Suspense (but no heavy horror)–THE WORST CLASS TRIP EVER by Dave Barry

*SciFi–THE GIVER by Lois Lowry or BOUNDERS by Monica Tesler

*Historical Fiction–A NIGHT DIVIDED by Jennifer A. Neilsen

*Humor (with heart, and maybe some tears too!)–BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle

*Magical Realism (but not straight up fantasy)–WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead or NIGHTINGALE’S NEST by Niki Loftin

*Unique Formats–COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles

*Concise Writing–PAPER WISHES by Lois Sephaban

*Appeals to Reluctant Readers–DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by Jeff Kinney

*Strong Hook/Catchy Premise–PERCY JACKSON by Rick Riordan…notice that it’s fantasy?

When it comes to DIVERSITY, I’m open to anything. I’m especially attracted to different abilities and different cultures since those are things I have first-hand experience with. I love anything that really makes me see things from a unique perspective!

I’m most likely to take notice of quick pacing, deep emotional impact, “boy books” (though they’re for anyone–even this middle-age mom!) graphic novels, novels in verse and novels that tell a story in a unique format. 


*Fantasy–unless it’s something amazing like Rick Riordan’s PERCY JACKSON series (see more on fantasy below)


*Fairy Tales

*Horror (if it’s the main plot)

*Anthropomorphic Animals

*Overly descriptive “Purple Prose”

*Heavy Literary (with little plot/pacing)

*Sad/Depressing–there’s gotta be hope in the end!

*NO Adult, New Adult, YA, Chapter Books, Early Readers or PBs


*Overuse of the past perfect tense.

*Slips into other POVs or tense.

*Over-description. Less is more!

*A query that doesn’t fit the story.

*Trying to teach a lesson.

*Repetition of themes/ideas–your reader is smart. No need to reiterate something over and over again.

*Don’t sweat it if your manuscript isn’t perfect. That’s what I’m here for. Together we’ll dive in deep to your manuscript and bring it to the next level, ready for the agent round!

MG/UPPER MG BOOKS I LOVE besides the ones listed above:

SCAR ISLAND by Dan Gemeinhart


HOOT by Carl Haissen


THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall


DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary


THINGS NOT SEEN by Andrew Clements


Even though I said I’m not really looking for fantasy, I do love a really good epic fantasy ala LORD OF THE RINGS and the whole ERAGON series by Cristopher Paolini. And I loved THE LAST WILD by Piers Torday, FORTUNE FALLS by Jenny Goebel or THINGS NOT SEEN by Andrew Clements. 

If in doubt, feel free to query me. Your story may be the one that I fall in love with! And feel free to ask me questions on Twitter: @sharischwarz

Best of luck and happy writing!

Make sure you check out the other AMAZING MG mentors!