Kelly Siskind and J.R. Yates #Pitchwars 2017 Wishlist



Kelly Siskind

I AM SO EXCITED TO MENTOR THIS YEAR WITH THE FABULOUS J. R. YATES. I will now refrain from writing in all caps and tell you hopefuls a little about moi.

Aside from my love for J.R. Yates, I’ve career-hopped from cook to teacher to cheese shop owner, and, finally, to writer. I released four novels over the past year and a half with Grand Central’s Forever Yours, including: CHASING CRAZY, MY PERFECT MISTAKE, A FINE MESS, and HOOKED ON TROUBLE. I love critiquing and working with other writers more than I love flooding Twitter with inappropriate photos.

You can check out my books here:

Over the Top Banner JPEG
…or here

If the above isn’t enough to hook you, I’ll add the following: Not only is this my third year as a Pitch Wars mentor, but I, like J.R., am a former mentee. We know firsthand how grueling Pitch Wars can be. We also know how rewarding it is. I work with many published and unpublished authors as a critique partner and beta reader. (J.R.’s two cents: she is awesome at it.)



Not only am I thrilled to be mentoring again this year, but partnering with the fab Kelly Siskind will be like going to the event of the year accompanied by the life of the party—and there will be champagne Jell-O shots.

I was a mentee in 2015, my experience was so positive—the learning, the community and the opportunity beyond my wildest expectations—that I came back in 2016 to mentor, and this year I’m so honoured to be here to give back once again.

Did you notice that I spelled “honoured” with a ‘U’? Don’t worry, that’s not because I suck at spelling. I’m Canadian, and so’s Kelly, and we like those extra letters to keep us warm at night. Some lucky mentee is gonna be nestled between us as the center of our Canadian sandwich—they can be the OKA (a Canadian cheese) to our crazy bread. Have no fear, we know our US spelling conventions as well.

The boring stuff (Don’t skip it! If you have a story that involves communication or French, you’ll like this bit, I promise):


I have degrees in psychology and linguistics. I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist (SLP) in my day job and grew up in a French household in an English-dominant city. So yeah, I know some stuff about human behavior (see? I’ve got my US spelling down) and how we communicate.

I live near the Canadian Rocky Mountains, work in public health as an SLP, mother my three young children (in French), and act as best friend to my husband of 14 years (in English, except when we kiss ;)). I love to travel and have visited every major Canadian city and many international destinations as well.

I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I love helping other writers and have worked as a critique partner and beta reader for many other authors (you may see me in an acknowledgment page or two.)


If your manuscript has anything to do with communication disorders, I AM YOUR PERSON.

So this is us:


Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.



We are looking for ADULT (or NEW ADULT- but will likely ask you to age up) CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (so please, no historical, western, gothic, etc.).

We want a love story with well-developed characters with real-life relatable struggles. We love angst and heart and don’t want weak, overused tropes such as, “I have to pretend you’re my wife for X reason. Oh. Okay. Sex. Love. The end.” And, sorry, we don’t dig alpha males who treat women like garbage but the woman’s magical vagina fixes him. Please. Just…no.


We love a man who is sexy because of who he is at the core, not because he has a tattoo (but tattoos are always nice!). We want dimension. Sell us the love. Give us a story we haven’t seen before. The overlooked guy. Something unique or diverse.

We want to laugh and/or cry (Kelly gives good ugly cry but J.R. will pass her tissues). Stories with some fun are our jam too. We love a little sass and a kick-ass voice.

We are also open to romantic suspense, and magical realism, but it has to be character driven, and must have some sexy times. We also love a hot, heart crushing M/M (sorry no F/F). ROMANCE MUST BE AT THE HEART OF THE STORY.

We especially enjoy the following tropes (but are not limited to these):

Friends to lovers

Forbidden love


Enemies to lovers

Hot nerd (think Clark Kent/quirky lead)

What we are NOT looking for:

–historical, inspirational/Christian, science fiction, gothic, horror, western, or fantasy.

Tropes that don’t float our boat:

Secret baby

Sudden baby


Alpha hero who is super mean to her, but she knows he really loves her despite all his behavior to the contrary (i.e., weak female MC, asshole male, see magical vagina reference above).

Fake engagement

If we receive any of these, they will be put in the, “This person was not listening pile.”



We will provide you with a developmental edit letter as well as in-line notes for the entire manuscript. Once you’ve completed those, we will read a second time and help you brush it up. We love thinking outside the box and are particularly good at assessing big-picture problems and ratcheting up tension. We’ll help you amp up your voice and make sure your dialogue flows. If you have pacing issues and/or character flaws, we’ll tackle those, too. We’ll communicate as much as necessary to get the job done.

Be ready to work hard, and kill some darlings. If you’re ready to put the work in, Frankenstein some scenes, take critiques like a champ, and do it while having fun, we’ll be great together.

To get an idea of what we enjoy reading, here’s a list of some of our favorite books:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA but a beautiful romantic story)

Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens

Nuts by Alice Clayton

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

You by Caroline Kepnes

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

(These last two, although not romance, are examples of unlikeable protagonists that kick ass.)

If any of this speaks to you, then we can’t wait to read your sub!! Looking forward to working with a fabulous mentee to help them develop their manuscript into something that they love and will capture the eyes of agents!

– J.R. and Kelly

Here is the link to the blog hop.

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