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Pitch Wars Team Interviews with Kelis Rowe and her mentor, J. Elle

Wednesday, 13 November 2019  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase starting on February 5, 2020, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Kelis Rowe – Mentee



J. Elle – Mentor

Website | Twitter

J.Elle, why did you choose Kelis?

I love diving into a story that has a really gripping voice. The kind of voice that grabs your attention and makes you want to hear what the character has to say from PAGE ONE. Kelis’ voice pulled me in right away and from there, took me on an immersive ride back to my own teenage years. By page 50 I felt like I was 17 all over again. By the middle of the story, I had literal butterflies reading. I recognized quite quickly–this girl’s got talent.

She knows how to tap into a reader’s emotions and that’s always what I look for in any story. Make me feel something. Make me care. Make me physiologically react? Bonus points! LOL. Once I requested the FULL, Jupiter & Orion took over my life in the best possible way. I remember having to force myself to stop reading so I could get some distance. (I like to do this to make sure I’m loving it as much as I think I’m loving it.) But, her words were like candy and I kept sneaking pieces. I paced myself out the best I could, but eventually I just sat down and gobbled it all up at the end. LOL. Couldn’t help it.

Her writing was also full of little surprises which made turning each page a real treat. The details she wove into her story made her world feel fully realized and her characters, quite deep. I felt like I knew her love birds, personally. Like I’d known them my whole life which is another nod to her talent.

I mean when you have characters you can’t help but adore wrapped up in a summer love story… throw in a roller skating rink, a girl with stubborn loyalty to her old school walkman, and a garden full of fresh lavender (I could practically SMELL some of her scenes)…how could I not swoon?!

Kelis also deftly wove in little seeds of conflict that built over the course of the novel which showed me she knows how to work with tension and use it to compel readers to turn the page. I was impressed. Very impressed. But I think my absolute favorite part of Kelis’ work was her use of poetry. I saw such great potential to enhance that in the story, giving it an even fresher structural edge.

Ultimately, Kelis transported me to her character’s world and reminded me–in an almost palpable way–what it’s like to fall hard and fast in love with all the unknowns summer’s end brings. When I finished her pages I couldn’t imagine not reading her story again… that’s when I knew she’d be my mentee.

Kelis, why did you choose to submit to J.Elle?

I chose J.Elle because of how generous she is as a member of the Twitter writing community and because of two things that struck me from her PW Mentee bio: She loves YA love (and my quiet story needed a champion) and her mentor style is organized and all about getting ish done. I knew I’d need a mentor with high expectations and meticulous work ethic to guide me through this process and both were evident in J’s bio.

J.Elle, summarize Kelis’s book in 3 words.

Black. Poetic. Love.

Kelis, summarize your book in 3 words.

Beautiful. Black. Love.

Image result for black love gif


J.Elle, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Uhhh. I’m so bad at these! I don’t find myself that interesting tbh lol. Let’s do 5 random facts. Here we go:

1) Aside from writing I love to cook (and eat).

2) There are few things I won’t do for a taco.

3) The first language I learned after English was Greek.

4) In the past ten years I’ve lived in 7 cities.

5) During the 2019 Holiday season at Barnes & Noble, in all of their 689 locations, you can buy a cookie from their Cafe that I created. It’s called ‘Taste of Home’ inspired by my redefining ‘home’ as taking bits of each place I’ve lived in my nomadic life. (No kick backs, signed those away. LOL But still exciting HA HA!)

Kelis, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I hope to learn as much as possible about editing and crafting amazing stories in my genre while creating a beautiful first novel, so that I can continue to write Memphis summer love stories for teen readers who could use a little Black love in their lit lives.

Kelis, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I grew up in Memphis and experienced my first love in middle school and my big love in college at age 18. I’ve always loved love stories and had been content to swoon over fictional characters who looked nothing like me. As an adult reader of popular YA, I noticed a dearth of YA novels that places Black love front and center. The majority of Black readers are in love with someone of the same race. I wanted to create something for them to see themselves in, so I did. My manuscript incorporates art and poetry and music in a way that readers of all ethnicities will absolutely love. I haven’t read anything like what I’ve created. I’m thrilled to be partnered with the best possible mentor I could have dreamed up and am thrilled to be able to share my story widely, sooner than I’d ever imagined that I would.

Check out J.Elle’s upcoming release, WINGS OF EBONY.

Image result for cover coming soon gif

About the book:

Denene Millner at S&S/Millner has acquired, in a preempt, rights to J. Elle’s YA debut, Wings of Ebony, pitched as The Hate U Give with a Wonder Woman lead and a Black Panther/Wakanda world. The novel follows Rue, a black teen from a poor neighborhood who, after learning she is half-human, half-goddess, must embrace both sides of her heritage to unlock her magic and destroy the racist gods poisoning her neighborhood with violence, drugs and crime. Publication is slated for spring 2021.

Add it to Goodreads!


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 5 – 10, 2020, and our next Twitter Pitch Party on #PitMad is December 5, 2019! Want to know more about #PitMad? Go here


Filed: Interviews

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