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Pitch Wars 2017: Middle Grade Mentor Spotlights (Part 3)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017  |  Posted by Heather Cashman


We’re so grateful for our Pitch Wars mentors! They give so much to help other authors succeed, and we couldn’t have Pitch Wars without them. So please help me in thanking the mentors for all they do via twitter, the comments, or on the Pitchwars Proboards.

Pitch Wars 2017 MIDDLE GRADE Mentors

Co-Mentors, Laura Shovan & Tricia Clasen

Laura Shovan1

Laura Shovan

Twitter | Website

Laura Shovan is a Poetry Friday blogger, former editor for Little Patuxent Review and editor of two poetry anthologies. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura works with children as a poet-in-the-schools and is currently serving as the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s Writer-in-Residence. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her novel-in-verse for children, will be published April 12 (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).

Last Fifth Grade cover (2)The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

GoodreadsIndieboundRandom House

Laura Shovan’s engaging, big-hearted debut is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. Families change and new friendships form as these terrific kids grow up and move on in this whimsical novel-in-verse about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.

Eighteen kids,
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
crouched outside,
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.

But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They’re going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.


Tricia Clasen

Twitter | Website

Tricia is a college professor of communication at University of Wisconsin-Rock County. She is co-editor of Gendered Identities: Critical Readings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, forthcoming Fall of 2016 by Routledge. She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. Always a lover of a good story, she spent her days reading and dreaming of being a writer, though she never wrote any fiction until much later. After many years off exploring, she returned to her much-too-frigid home state where she lives with her husband and two girls, her parents, and what seems like small zoo. Most of her time goes to shuttling her kids to dance and trying to get the glitter off the kitchen floor as well as planning trips to much warmer destinations. Her debut novel, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT, will be published in October by Sky Pony Press.

THHP_Cover_72_RGBThe Haunted House Project by Tricia Clasen

GoodreadsIndiebound Sky Pony

Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.

For anyone who loved Counting by 7sThe Haunted House Project is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother’s death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important.



Mae Respicio

Twitter | Website | Instagram | Goodreads

Mae Respicio is author of the middle grade novel THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT, debuting summer 2018 from Penguin Random House & Wendy Lamb Books. She’s the past recipient of a PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellowship and former writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook and Atlantic Center for the Arts; her non-fiction, essays, and work as a parenting writer have appeared in a variety of anthologies and publications. Mae is thrilled to be a Pitch Wars MG mentor this year!

The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio

Random House/Wendy Lamb Books has preempted Mae Respicio’s debut middle-grade novel, The House That Lou Built. The story is about a Filipina-American girl who sets out to build her own tiny house where she can escape her intrusive family, but her summer DIY project becomes life-changing when her long-lost father suddenly reappears. Publication is planned for summer 2018.

Mike Grosso Author Headshot

Mike Grosso

Website | Twitter | Facebook Instagram

Mike Grosso is a musician and a fifth-grade teacher who always keeps a guitar in his classroom. He writes books and records music at his home in Oak Park, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, son, and a drum set he plays much too loud. I AM DRUMS is his first novel, and its accompanying soundtrack, Songs for Sam(antha), is available through many digital music outlets and streaming services.

I AM DRUMS by Mike Grosso


Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people.

But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?
An exciting new voice in contemporary middle grade, Mike Grosso creates a determined heroine readers will identify with and cheer for.

miriam franklin

Miriam Spitzer Franklin

 Website | Twitter

Miriam Spitzer Franklin is a former elementary and middle school teacher who currently teaches homeschooled students, freelances for an educational company, and fills in for teachers on maternity leave. Her hobbies include coaching her daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind team, figure skating, and being passionate about environmental and animal rights causes. Miriam lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.

call me sunflowerCall Me Sunflower by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Barnes & Noble

Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower. And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again, including:

Send Mom flowers from a “Secret Admirer” to make Scott jealous and make him regret letting them move so far away.
Make a playlist of Scott’s favorite love songs—the mushier the better—and make sure it’s always playing in the car.
Ask them about the good old days when they first fell in love.
But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.


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Neal Chase

Website | Twitter |Facebook

Neal Chase lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife, two children, two dogs, and a bird, which strangely has the same name as his his dad. He is a member of SCBWI and the Writers’ League of Texas. When he is not writing and reading, you can find Neal coaching basketball or adventuring with the help of his PlayStation.


Worthy of Song and Story by Neal Chase

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Twelve year-old Stian’s plans to be The Greatest Viking Ever appear to be over before they even begin. He’s captured by Dahlia–a dark elf and a girl. If that wasn’t bad enough, he discovers he may be the son of Loki, the greatest enemy of the Viking gods and the one foretold to bring about the end of the world.

Knowing he is meant to be extraordinary, Stian decides to discover the truth for himself and free Loki from the clutches of Odin. Only then, will he discover who he is and what he is meant to do.

Stian must out-think, misguide, and defeat Thor’s children. To do this he will need the power of Gram–a sword with magical powers. There is one catch, only one pure of heart with the desire to help others, is worthy of wielding it. If Stian succeeds, he will become the world’s most famous Viking, but if he fails he will fall victim to the gods’ merciless justice.


niki lenz

Niki Lenz

Twitter | Website

Niki Lenz lives in Kansas City with her police officer husband and two elementary aged children. She attended Southwest Baptist University and has worked as a teacher, a wedding planner, and a stay at home mom.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, travel and renovating campers.  She writes wacky MG and is represented by Kate Testerman at KT Literary.

Petruck Gabriel Color_sml_square

Rebecca Petruck

Twitter | Website

Rebecca Petruck is the author of STEERING TOWARD NORMAL (2014) and BOY BITES BUG (May 2018), both with ABRAMS/Amulet. STEERING TOWARD NORMAL was an American Booksellers Association New Voices selection, as well as a Kids Indie Next List title. It also was a BCCB “Best Book of the Year,” and received attention from Vanity Fair’s Hollywood, the L.A. Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the International Reading Association. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington, and is a mentor for SCBWI Carolinas.

steering toward normalSteering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck

Eighth grade is set to be a good year for Diggy Lawson: He’s chosen a great calf to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, he’ll see a lot of July, the girl he secretly likes at 4-H, and he and his dad Pop have big plans for April Fool’s Day. But everything changes when classmate Wayne Graf’s mother dies, which brings to light the secret that Pop is Wayne’s father, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother, who moves in and messes up his life. Wayne threatens Diggy’s chances at the State Fair, horns in on his girl, and rattles his easy relationship with Pop.
What started out great quickly turns into the worst year ever, filled with jealousy, fighting, and several incidents involving cow poop. But as the boys care for their steers, pull pranks, and watch too many B movies, they learn what it means to be brothers and change their concept of family as they slowly steer toward a new kind of normal.


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Shanna Rogers

Twitter | Website

When she wasn’t reading as a kid, Shanna was acting out something she read in a book: starting a babysitters’ club, spying, searching the house for a secret passage, and convincing a neighbor she had an identical twin (she doesn’t). She’s still twelve at heart, so writing middle grade was a natural choice.

After receiving her B.A. in journalism, Shanna spent several years acting in Los Angeles before becoming a teacher. You can catch her in the background of dozens of shows, including as a dead body on The Closer (Kyra Sedgwick massaged her feet!) and sporting a spray tan on old episodes of The O.C. She once beat Woody Harrelson in a thumb war.

Shanna is represented by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. You can find Shanna on Twitter at @ShannaRogers29 and on her website…as soon as she stops writing long enough to make one.



Shari Green

twitter | facebook | instagram | flickr | pinterest

Shari Green lives on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS is her second novel for children. Her first, ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, is a 2017 Crystal Kite finalist and a Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award nominee. Visit Shari online at www.sharigreen.com.


Book Manager | Indiebound | Book Depository | Chapters | Barnes&Noble | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. With her mother getting married and an ugly For Sale sign jammed into their yard, Macy could really use a best friend right now. But it seems the only person who has time for her these days is Iris Gillan from next door. And it’s not like a crabby, old woman who doesn’t even know sign language is going to be any comfort. Right?

MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS is a Junior Library Guild 2017 selection.

Shari Schwarz

Shari Schwarz

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Shari Schwarz lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado near the Rocky Mountains with her husband and their four boys. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE is her debut which reflects her love for a good survival adventure story. When she’s not reading or writing, Shari can be found freelance editing, weight-lifting, gardening or watching her boys play football, basketball, speed stacking, or wrestling. She frequently dreams of exploring Oregon Coast beaches or plotting out her next children’s book.

Treasure at Lure Lake

Treasure at Lure Lake by Shari Schwarz

Goodreads  |  Amazon

In TREASURE AT LURE LAKE twelve-year-old Bryce’s best-laid plans for a backpacking trip with his grandpa seem about to fall through all because his big brother, Jack, is threatening to boycott the trip. Then, while sulking in his grandpa’s barn, Bryce stumbles upon a treasure map. He doesn’t mean to steal it or unearth a painful family secret that will explain the root of the brothers’ conflict as they embark on an exciting and dangerous adventure.

 stephanie faris

Stephanie Faris


Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of the Piper Morgan chapter book series, as well as the middle grade books 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. She is one of seven authors on the upcoming middle grade novel Best. Night. Ever.

piper morganPiper Morgan Makes a Splash by Stephanie Faris

IndieBound | Amazon

Piper Morgan tries her hand at acting in the fourth book of the charming Piper Morgan series.Piper’s mom is helping out at a local pool shop, and the owner wants to shoot a commercial for his store. Piper thinks it’s the PERFECT opportunity to get in front of the camera and experience a little bit of show-biz. But will Piper’s contribution to the TV commercial make a splash–or will it go belly-up?

Wade Albert White

Wade Albert White

Twitter | Website

Wade hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches part-time, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along fabulously.

The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful EscapesThe Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) by Wade Albert White

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Indigo | Books-A-Million | Kobo Goodreads

Anne, Penelope, and Hiro are nominated for Best Illegal Quest That Nearly Destroyed the Entire World at the annual Quest Academy Awards, but they barely get to enjoy it before a strange boy tricks Anne into activating a new quest. Her charge: kill the dragon queen. The problem is, Anne doesn’t want to kill any dragons. But the mysterious boy does, even if it means igniting a devastating war between people and dragons. The only chance Anne and the others have to stop it is to get to the queen first. Along the way, they’ll have to navigate ancient mines, avoid erupting volcanoes, outsmart robots, and survive the dragon trials. And, of course, get a passing grade on their quest. Packed with action, humor, and endless heart, this is a truly irresistible middle grade fantasy tale.

Timanda Wertz


Middle Sschool science teacher, SF/F geek, Ravenclaw, equal parts football & Broadway fan, Pitch Wars MG co-mentor, represented by Elizabeth Kaplan of Kaplan Literary

Thank you to our 2017 Middle Grade Mentors!

If you want to find out more about what they’re looking for in the submission inbox, you can find them in the 2017 Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop!

Here are some other quick links to find out all about Pitch Wars . . .

Agent Posts: Meet the Agents Part 1 and Meet the Agents Part 2

Pitch Wars Instructions: All the Details

Donations: Thank you for supporting Pitch Wars!

Discussions and community: Pitchwars Proboards

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