Blog,  Pitch Wars

2020 Pitch Wars Wishlist

A little bit about me—Samantha Rajaram:

I was a Pitch Wars mentee under Carrie Callaghan’s tutelage in 2018, mentored Leila Mottley last year, and I’m thrilled to be a mentor again this year. 

Fresh out of the mentor/mentee world, I have first-hand experience of the joys and challenges of being a Pitch Wars mentee. For example—(1) you will probably gain weight—I became *very* attached to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during Pitch Wars; (2) you might get sick from stress/lack of sleep—I had more than a few colds between the months of November and February. BUT you will also learn SO much. And it will be worth it!

In my regular life, I’m a former lawyer turned English professor. I love teaching, I love mentoring, and doing this work is a dream of mine. I take this responsibility seriously, so I’m looking for a mentee who is similarly serious about the craft of writing (i.e. meeting deadlines, taking feedback well), and maybe even thinking about paying it forward to other aspiring writers in the future. I owe a debt of gratitude to the authors who sustain me, and I would love to help get more diverse stories out into the world.

My Pitch Wars manuscript THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS is out this October in the US and UK, and I’m represented by the brilliant Carrie Pestritto at Laura Dail Literary Agency. My manuscript is historical fiction about an ex-brothel worker who pursues the woman she loves from Holland to Java as part of an actual 16th century miscegenation policy by the Dutch East Indies Company. 

What I’m Looking For:

  • Adult fiction: contemporary or historical fiction—especially about parts of the world we don’t often read/hear about. The world is a big place, and I’d love to see more focus on countries and cultures that reside outside the typical/western lens.
  • #Own voices—I find the term a little problematic myself (for reasons I’m happy to discuss with potential mentees) but having been steeped in literature by non-Indian people about Indian people, I’d love to see what authors say about their own histories and cultures. Yes, to queer writers and writers looking at issues of class, ability, etc. I do find cultural appropriation problematic, especially when writers write about marginalized people without having a marginalized experience themselves. However, I want to believe that the work of writers is to exercise empathy, and to find a common humanity from which we can write our stories. 
  • Strong characters who feel authentic
  • Beautiful writing! Minimal purple prose, thoughtful use of metaphors and language. A deep understanding of your mc’s psychology, intentions, and heart. 
  • Rich world building–I get caught up in details. Yes, I want to know what those trees look like, what other people inhabit your world, how they look and smell and carry themselves. I am a research nerd and will spend hours happily exploring the precise species of bird at a specific time/season in an elevation of a remote place. I don’t expect that from you, but I do want to feel transported.
  • I read darker books, books providing a critique of the world we live in, and books that address issues of social justice. If there’s some romance in it, that’s fine, but if romance forms the fulcrum of your story, it’s going to have to be pretty strong! I like strong female characters, even if they’re not always nice. I’d like to see male characters who are thoughtful and even idealistic–Colson Whitehead’s mc Elwood Curtis in THE NICKEL BOYS astonished me with his compassion and idealism. I love nuanced characters who surprise me. Also, I love funny, but I’m just not able to do it myself! 

What You’ll Get From Me:

So, per my introduction, I’m an English professor and that means I love mentoring and teaching. I will read your book for a larger developmental edit and provide you with feedback on your overall outline (outline, you say? Yes, that was me before Pitch Wars). I’ve been in a writing group for nearly ten years, so I bring that experience with me also–I am nice. I am supportive. I love writers. But I am also really honest. If I find something problematic, I will make sure you know. I’ll provide grammar feedback and some references to books that can help you with craft–some of them are excellent and helped me a lot on my own journey as a writer. 

I am also super busy–I’m a solo mom to three kids, I work full time, but I am ALL IN for Pitch Wars! I love this family and all it’s done for me, and I want to make sure you have a positive, edifying experience. I would love to help your manuscript shine and will do my best to be available for you. I should add that if we have a difference of opinion, you must follow your gut. I won’t be offended, because it’s YOUR BOOK. However, I do ask that you be open-minded about any extensive changes I may suggest. As for my availability, email is probably best, but we can also schedule phone calls in advance. 

Recent books I’ve read and loved:

—Colson Whitehead THE NICKEL BOYS

—Jesmyn Ward MEN WE REAPED


—Tommy Orange THERE, THERE

—Maggie O’Farrell HAMNET