PitchWars 2018 Wish List: Middle Grade

Hi, I’m Margaret Dilloway! I write both contemporary realistic and fantasy middle grade; I’m also the author of three women’s fiction. I’m an Aquarius, born in the year of the Tiger, on a Wednesday. For fun, I like to do long-form improv, hike, play with my dog, and bake.

What Am I Open To?

  • Contemporary realistic
  • Contemporary fantasy
  • High fantasy
  • Historical

Possibly also magical realism– it just depends on the work.

What Am I Not?

Novels in verse are not my thing, editing-wise.


Heart: I need it. Break that heart and put it back together.

Voice: Please sound like a middle grader and not like an adult putting words into a middle grader’s mouth.

No, “It was then I realized that skateboarding was indeed the most dangerous of all sports, and I wisely took my mother’s advice and tossed that cursed board into the fireplace.”

Style: I want to see the kind of book that people will enjoy reading even if they don’t typically read middle grade. I want to read the type of fantasy that anti-fantasy people will be helpless to resist.

That might seem kind of vague, but I think this basically means it has well-drawn relationships, a compelling story (inner journey of the hero/plot events), some humor, and beautiful writing.

Me when I read your fabulous book (headgear included):

High-Concept: Something compelling and timely, that feels like it URGENTLY needs to be told. It is probably not going to be a book about someone buying lettuce at the grocery store, no matter how lyrical.

Humor: Did I say that already? I’ll say it again. Humor gets me through the darkest times, so I love to see some sprinklings of it even if the subject matter’s dark.

A few other tidbits:

*Would love to see narratives concerning kids from diverse socio-economic classes

*#OwnStories WELCOMED.

*Writing with a message (aka conscious messaging) is welcomed but must be seamlessly integrated into the story (i.e. not heavy-handed). 

What Can I Do for You?

The sum of my background, which is also my entire résumé and will be on my gravestone and which I should probably add to my business cards:

I taught a creative writing elective to middle schoolers who did not want to be in creative writing, and every single one of them actually became invested in the class and wrote.

After that, mentoring a full grown human who WANTS to write is…easy.  I mean, it’s not as easy as, say, doing your taxes, but it’s comparatively easy. I’ve done it for acquaintances who then went on to be published. I’m in critique groups with published authors, and I’ve also taught novel writing to adults.

I’m not solely concerned with craft. Writing’s an art, but publishing’s a business. You not only have to create a beautifully written book, but also one that the industry thinks people will buy. I am not perfect at this, but I have sold eight books. (Nine, if you count the Dummies book I wrote like 17 years ago that sold and got canceled.) I’ve worked with ten + different editors and agents. I’ve benefited from their wisdom and learned not only what makes a novel good, writing-wise, but what may make the marketing people kind of happy.

(but what if it doesn’t work out?)

I know this post is to kind of sell myself, but I want to answer this question, because I’m also a realistic person.

What if we do all this work and you don’t get an agent? Are your publishing dreams finished forever?

No. Listen, getting an agent doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically be published. Every agent has had a project that didn’t sell.

And getting a book deal doesn’t mean you’ll be rich and famous.

This whole creative life thing…it can be a slog. But it’s never over unless you want it to be.

If we don’t get you representation, we’ll figure out why not and try again. I’ll work my editorial and agent and writer contacts and brainstorm a solution. I shall not abandon ye.


    1. How to Be an American Housewife (John Gardner Fiction Award Finalist, IndieNext; Putnam)
    2. The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns (ALA Literary Taste Award for Best Women’s Fiction, Pulpwood Queens Bonus Book of the Year, IndieNext; Putnam)
    3. Sisters of Heart and Snow (Putnam)
    4. Tale of the Warrior Geisha (e-novella; Putnam)
    5. Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Asian/Pacific American Librarians Honor Award for Middle Grade Fiction; sold rights to Fox Animation; Disney-Hyperion)
    6. Xander and the Dream Thief (Disney-Hyperion)
    7. Summer of a Thousand Pies (Balzer + Bray)
    8. (In progress untitled book for Balzer + Bray)























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Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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