Welcome, welcome to Kat and Daphne’s wishlist, a.k.a. #TeamVillian’s wishlist! We are looking for YA fantasy manuscripts for PitchWars 2020, so if that’s what you’ve got, keep reading!

If you have any questions, the fastest way to reach us is on Twitter – @KatAliceDunn and @daphlt

Can’t wait to see all your brilliant submissions!


Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.

Who We Are

Kat is a fantasy author, whose YA debut DANGEROUS REMEDY came out in 2020. She was a PitchWars YA mentor in 2019.

After two degrees and jobs as a bookseller, nursing assistant and translator for NHK, she settled down to a career as a writer and editor, working in YA and children’s publishing, mental health and government web content.

She’s been editing day in day out for the last 8 years at work, in her master’s programme and working on her own manuscripts with her agent and editor. She wants to share with a mentee everything she’s learnt to make your manuscript shine, and navigate the highs and lows of publishing.

She grew up in London, and has lived in France, Japan and Australia. Back in London now, she lives with too many house plants and a mission to write as many sapphic books as she can fit into her life. Find her on twitter and instagram @KatAliceDunn.

Daphne is the founder and owner of Illumicrate, the UK’s first YA and crossover book subscription box. She’s also Marketing Director for inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of, an event chair, and a 2020 Kitchies judge. Previously, she was an award-winning book blogger from 2011-2018 and a judge for the YA Book Prize and The Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME award. 

While she’s not an author, she’s had plenty of first and second-hand experience in all aspects of publishing. Her day to day job of reading manuscripts for Illumicrate and sitting on judging panels has given her great insight into what makes a story work. She’s looking forward to working with a mentee to pass on everything she knows and shedding some light into the publishing process.

She’s a Chinese-Filipino born and raised in Manila and currently living in London. She can usually be found fangirling over first editions & fictional princes, and recommending books on social media @daphlt @illumicrate.

Our Wishlist

Here are some of the things we would LOVE to see in your YA fantasy manuscript:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Myth retellings
  • Non-Western inspired fantasy worlds – please please please!
  • Bi love triangles
  • Unlikable/villainous/morally grey female characters
  • Gothic vibes
  • Villain redemption arcs
  • Romance with ANGST
  • Dark academia
  • Anti-villains
  • ‘oh crap we have to get married for plot reasons but we HATE each other’
  • Where the setting is part of the plot/reveal
  • Necromancy and flirting with the dead/undead boundaries
  • Found families
  • School settings (teach them magic, or war, or how to be an assassin)
  • Relationships that straddle the friends/enemies axis
  • Himbos
  • Deals with the devil
  • College age (18+)
  • Epistolary/different format books
  • Mistaken/hidden identity

Things we aren’t the right mentor team for

  • Contemporary or pure sci-fi or historical. We are only looking for fantasy this year, although if you have a fantasy with some sci-fi elements that’s ok
  • Pure romance plots. We love a good OTP or romantic subplot in SFF, but if you’re interested in romance specifically as a genre, we’re not experienced enough in that sort of story telling to help.
  • Circuses.
  • Paranormal
  • Dystopia
  • Magical realism
  • Pirates
  • Mermaids
  • Witches
  • Fae
  • Horror – gothic/creepy mood is fine, but not full on out of my skin scary horror please
  • Stories set predominantly in the woods/outdoors/nature settings
  • Fantasy quests – unless you are a marginalised writer who hasn’t had the opportunity to explore this trope

Favourite Books

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  • The Poppy War by R.F Kuang
  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
  • Vicious & Vengeful by VE Schwab
  • Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 
  • The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
  • The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
  • The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Favourite Media

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • The Untamed
  • Crimson Peak
  • Sailormoon (especially the Seiya/Usagi arc)
  • Fandom!Draco
  • Fushigi Yuugi
  • The Mummy
  • The Company of Wolves
  • Lore Olympus
  • The Princess Bride
  • Ten Things I Hate About You
  • Mulan (the original animated one)


Who We’re Looking For

Someone ready to work hard. We’re not trying to scare you, but doing heavy edits is extremely hard work!

Books are big, unwieldy beasts and doing ambitious work on them is not for the faint hearted – especially on a tight deadline. We’ll be here to offer heaps of support, both practical and emotional, but ultimately you’re going to be the one doing the work so please make sure you’re really ready to make a commitment. 

We’re particularly interested in working with writers from outside of North America (especially marginalised writers from the UK – we need to do something about that awful 1% statistic). But please don’t feel like you have to disclose anything you’re not comfortable talking about when submitting. Of course, we’re still definitely open to writers from North America as well.

Content Warnings

We’re happy to accept books with ‘dark’ or ‘heavy’ themes, but please put a content warning in your submission for sexual abuse, assault or rape. 

How we work

We want to spend the majority of our time looking at big picture changes. This means really digging into your characters and plot and pulling them apart to understand how they all work together. Depending on what we agree together, this could involve a complete rewrite, or major structural changes if that’s what the book needs. 

We will send you a formal edit letter outlining what we think isn’t working, and probably with some suggestions for what you could do differently. We can then talk this through over Skype, email or DMs, whatever you prefer. Suggestions will only ever be that – suggestions. We may find it easier to explain what we think isn’t working by illustrating with an example of something that we think *could* work – that doesn’t mean we are right, or that that’s what you should do! We will only ever include things like that in the hope it might spark ideas for you. 

We might also mark up your manuscript if we notice anything in particular that’s confusing, or doesn’t work for us – but in general we won’t do a major line edit with you unless this is something you’re specifically concerned about.

You can see an example of Kat’s editorial comments on the Pitch Wars blog from 2019.

Thank you!

Thank you for reading through our wishlist. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here, or you can reach us on twitter @KatAliceDunn and @daphlt.

You can view the same wishlist and leave a comment on Kat’s website as well.

Good luck!



Pitch Wars 2020 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

You can get back to the full list of mentors’ wish lists through the blog hop link, or you can use the list of links to other YA mentors’ wish lists below.

Pitch Wars 2020 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

    Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors’ Wish Lists