Atheneum BFYR / Simon & Schuster
My Manuscript Wish List®
I work on books that model honest and open-hearted ways of existing in the world.
I am committed to championing voice-driven stories by, about, and for people from marginalized communities. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I’m drawn to stories that depict the beauty and diversity of the human experience: the humor, the complexity, the curiosity, the magic. Anything that encourages young readers (especially queer readers and readers of color) to be more fully and unapologetically themselves, I want to see it.
I aim for every book on my list to be a source of hope and comfort in its own way. From coming-of-age contemporaries to sweeping interstellar romances, I acquire books that let readers come as they are, within whose pages it is safe to explore thoughts, feelings, and experiences away from the stakes of the real world. We all deserve spaces that hold us, heal us, and empower us—and this is especially true for readers whose communities traditional publishing has historically reduced to stereotypes or monoliths (when they’ve been reflected at all). With each book I edit, I hope to instill in young readers a sense of their own agency and significance—as well as the knowledge that they are never alone.
This wish list is updated concurrently with the MSWL page on my website. Feel free to reference whichever format you find more easily accessible.
Formats and General Taste
I acquire upmarket books with high-concept plots, nuanced themes, and arresting prose. My projects straddle the line between literary and commercial: books with enough hook to intrigue consumers on premise alone, that then deliver deeply memorable, beautifully-executed reading experiences. Across the board, my biggest considerations are always voice, character, and emotionality (does it make my heart hurt/soar/sing?)—in other words, how a story is told. This wishlist clarifies what a successful telling looks like for me, as well as detailing the premises, themes, and narrative elements I find most compelling with respect to what a story is about. The more of these present in any given project, the more likely I’ll fall in love with it.
Format-wise, I edit both fiction and nonfiction projects for the following audiences:
- Picture book (ages 4-9)
- Middle grade
- Young adult
- Graphic novel (all ages)
In nonfiction and history, I gravitate to stories about art and science, the natural world, and the experiences of people of marginalized identities. Narrative and visual nonfiction projects (including compendiums and collections with gift appeal) tend to resonate with me the strongest. In fiction, I look for stories with a compelling voice and a solid command of the reader’s emotional response, with any topic welcome. Here’s how I conceptualize my taste, roughly, in each format:
Picture Books: Richly layered with meaning and heart. Inviting, evocative, and warm—whether informative (e.g. Playing at the Border), clever (e.g. Leave Me Alone!), or poignant (e.g. Watercress).
Middle Grade: Expansive, immersive stories of discovery, friendship, and adventure. Honest yet hopeful, especially in science fiction and fantasy (e.g. The Last Cuentista), contemporary (e.g. Front Desk), historical (e.g. Esperanza Rising), and blends thereof.
Young Adult: Character-driven, emotionally resonant stories of testing limits, redefining possible, and becoming. Themes of improving self-knowledge and finding a place in the world, whether fast-paced (e.g. Little Thieves), gentle (e.g. The Heartbreak Bakery), or somewhere in between (e.g. Last Night at the Telegraph Club).
Graphic Novels: Distinctive and visually dazzling, across all age ranges. Think cozy fantasy; slice-of-life contemporary; whirlwind road trips and travel stories; and ambitious, genre-bending multiverse jaunts across space and time.
Not For Me
I am generally not the right editor for books in the following genres, or that center the following content:
- Horror (I love spooky, I don’t love creepy)
- Thrillers, or anything where suspense is the genre rather than an aspect of the telling (psychological fiction is not my thing)
- Military themes (unless in speculative genres, and then only very selectively)
- Trauma-focused narratives that are dark and heavy without relief
- Disordered eating, drug use, or gang violence as a central plot point
- Abuse or assault, particularly as a central plot point
- Picture books motivated by “lessons” or morals
- Purely educational or purely humorous (slapstick, punny) picture books
- Picture books where straightforward early concepts (counting, colors, shapes, etc.) are the core hook
Favorite Elements and Themes
- Strong, healthy relationships of every sort
- Supportive communities, friends, and found family
- Clever and unexpected humor (I’m a huge fan of irony)
- Imperfect families: people who do their best to love and uplift each other, even when doing so gets messy and complicated
- Multicultural casts of three-dimensional, fully-realized characters (more Black and Brown characters written by Black and Brown creators!)
- Heritage, family history, and cultural traditions—and all the feelings that come with them
- Explorations of belonging, being in-between, and navigating a blend of identities/contexts
- Celebration of anything special to a story’s characters (identity, choices, memories, individuality, you name it)
- Radical empowerment, however the characters themselves understand it—developments that feel right for them in the context of their story
- Realistic and person-first depictions of trauma, disability, and mental health conditions that don’t center an impulse to “fix” (Acceptance! Normalization! Self-compassion!)
- Inclusive world-building, especially in fantasy and science fiction (More anti-imperial, anti-capitalist, and anti-war themes! More lore that upends stereotypes and biases!)
- Food in absolutely any form (Cooking and baking! Gardening and farming! Explorations of food justice, history, politics, community, and cultural ties to cuisine!)
Stories I’m Specifically Seeking
Because of my own background and identities, I am always especially excited to acquire queer stories, stories from the Latine diaspora, and stories that feature characters with invisible and/or mental illnesses.
- Mixed-race perspectives (always and forever)
- Multigenerational family stories
- Stories that explore the impact of immigration, migration, and displacement
- Queer joy!!! Broadly, stories that create space for people across the entire LGBTQIAP+ spectrum to exist, rest, heal, and celebrate
- Narratives rooted in fat activism and body liberation (more joyful stories with fat protagonists please!)
- Global perspectives, especially contemporary and historical fiction set outside North America
- Anything influenced by mythology, fairy tales, and folklore (particularly from non-European cultures)
- Romances (either incidental or core to plot) between two or more characters of color
- History and historical fiction, whether well- or little-known, that centers marginalized perspectives (especially those most impacted by settler-colonialism)
- Novels in verse, as well as novels told through letters/emails/lists, from alternating perspectives, or across different time periods—any approach that plays with narrative or visual form
- Fun, frivolous, whimsical romps and adventures
- Cozy, comforting stories—like warm hugs for the soul
- Low-stakes, slice-of-life stories across all genres, but especially in high fantasy (think Legends & Lattes, Diana Wynne Jones, Becky Chambers) and historical fiction
- Activism that is meaningful and personal to a story’s characters and/or creators (especially community activism and organizing)
- Anything infused with a sense of everyday wonder, magic, and possibility—a feeling that the world is bigger than previously thought—across all ages and genres
- Narratives that center characters of color owning their agency, reclaiming their stories, and upending structures of power and oppression—whether through acts that seem epic (taking down the system) or ordinary (continuing to exist, and thrive, in a world that wishes otherwise)
- Stories with “unlikeable” characters (and/or antiheroes, and/or characters who handle their situations poorly) in whom readers from historically marginalized communities can see themselves and relate
- Stories that blur, challenge, and reimagine the boundaries of genre
- Anything with the energy of my favorites (see sidebar)
- Bucket-list conceits with a fresh twist
- All things solarpunk (especially in speculative genres)
- Atmospheric, gentle fantasy stories in the vein of Studio Ghibli
- Creatures, gods, and spirits from non-European cultures (dragons!!!)
- Interconnected anthologies in the vein of Blackout, Let it Snow, or The Grimoire of Grave Fates
- Indigenous perspectives on knowledge, legacy, storytelling, and/or land stewardship, in any genre
- People of marginalized genders exploring, foraging, and ultimately delighting in the outdoors
- A road trip romance with the vibes of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, ideally with queer leads
- Travel stories and memoirs in the vein of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but starring protagonists of color (especially in graphic novel form!)
- Something with a lakeside setting—summer or otherwise—that’s central to plot, but not grounded in affluent experiences
- Stories that explore language—and its limitations—with an emphasis on connection (think Drawn Together or Himawari House)
- Narratives, whether fictional or memoir, that center around the protagonist’s experience of returning to an ancestral home
- Something smart, suspenseful, and heist-y with themes of reparation, in the vein of Portrait of a Thief
- Friendship stories with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants energy and a fresh conceit, starring queer characters and characters of color
- Stories with strong seasonal settings: flowering springs, scorching summers, crisp autumns, cozy winters, etc.
- A protagonist in a big family with lots of siblings (think Love Sugar Magic or Wild Beauty)
- Agatha Christie-esque mysteries (murder or otherwise) with charm and intricate, well-plotted twists
- Stories in which puzzles/games (especially D&D-style roleplaying games) are significant to world-building or plot
- Witchery, magical realism, and magic rooted in nature (I especially love healing, botanical, and food magic)
- Both fiction and nonfiction narratives with food central to the premise (Bakery! Tea shop! Cafe! Food truck! Please note that I see so many submissions organized around a cooking competition, and I’m likely to go in skeptical—but I’d be glad to be proved wrong)
Fun facts about me:
Transplant from a forested suburb of Los Angeles; forever Dodger fan; obsessive tea drinker; oldest sister; sometimes soprano; Jimin bias
If you’re into astrology and personality types (why not?): Aries sun, Virgo moon, Libra rising; Enneagram type four; ENFJ; Chaotic good
If you ever need to trap me in a summoning circle, try: Forest hikes after the rain, long train rides, desert sky on clear nights, any cat or dog (especially Australian Shepherds), and blankets (the more, the softer, the better)
You can find me making a dent in my expansive reading list on Instagram @plumarosareading
Agented manuscripts and dummies only, please. I am unable to accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors; aside from submission opportunities through conferences, I’m afraid there are no exceptions. Cold emails will always go unread.
If you are an agented author with a manuscript that matches what I’m looking for, please have your agent submit it to me via email. In all other cases, please know that I wish you the very best of luck in your publishing journey, and that I hope to see your project come my way someday!
A note for agents: While you may submit simultaneously to multiple editors at Simon & Schuster, please do your best to send your submission to only one of the editors at any of publisher Justin Chanda’s imprints (Atheneum, BFYR, McElderry, and subimprints Caitlyn Dlouhy, Denene Millner, Salaam Reads) at a time. You may find our editor selector site a useful resource to consult when preparing sub lists. Many thanks—we all appreciate it!