Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

#WriteMentor Wishlist


Hey, so I’m a mentor in #WriteMentor, a new opportunity for querying writers to get hooked up with agented or published author mentors.

If you’re a mentee hopeful, you may have seen my Mentor Bio on the website, but here’s a little more intel.

About me:

The eldest of five children, I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I spent the first few years of my life in dying coal mining towns in the Pocono Mountains. My father’s career as a Methodist minister took us to Wisconsin, where I spent the rest of my childhood growing up in places ranging from unincorporated towns of four hundred to the suburbs of Milwaukee. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Master’s of Science in Education, and an Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology. Currently, I live outside Madison, Wisconsin with my husband and young daughter. I work as a school psychologist in an elementary school with a diverse, mostly low income population; I have also worked in middle schools. My professional areas of focus include supporting the success of children with behavioral and mental health needs and helping to promote resilience in children who have been exposed to trauma or toxic stress.

I had the opportunity to live in Singapore for a year and a half and focus on my writing. There, I made writer friends from around the world. I also had the unique chance to be enmeshed in cultures different from my own.


Additionally, I’ve been lucky to travel to seventeen countries on four continents. I like adventures.


Feel free to check out my upcoming YA Contemporary novel All the Walls of Belfast (March 2019, Turner Publishing).

IMG_4798_edited - Copy

My Wish List:

Number 1 Favorite: Contemporary YA

As a school psychologist, I love reading and writing YA that deals with the realities many teens face. I love well-researched stories that explore complex social and mental health issues in an empathic way. I do NOT want anything that glorifies, or could be construed as glorifying, suicide, self-injurious behavior, teen pregnancy, substance use, or eating disorders. I’m not necessarily looking for an “issue” book, but rather gritty YA contemporaries that show teens fighting to rise above external and internal conflict difficult situations through their own resilience. I want characters struggling with internal and external conflict, being forced into making impossible choices with real consequences that they suffer because of their own bad choices. I enjoy characters I grow to love who then make wrong choices that make me want to throw the book across the room. I’m also a fan of redemption and coming-of-age stories.


I’m eager for stories that feature deep, authentic, conflict-ridden relationships between characters (whether romantic, friendship, or family) that drives the plot. I particularly enjoy stories where the secondary characters are well-developed and complex. As a school psychologist, I also like seeing adults in the character’s life taking on the mentor role, whether it’s a teacher, family member, or rando person, because having one positive adult relationship is one of the best ways to promote resilience in youth who are struggling.

I love to travel and learn about other cultures and sub-cultures. As such, I enjoy reads that open my eyes to people coming from backgrounds different from my own.


Other interests:

I’d be open to character-driven Historical YA that features deep, conflict-ridden relationships, especially if it shows me cultures and places I’ve never been. I also would be open to light Magical Realism with strong character development.

MG, Fantasy (especially High Fantasy), and Sci-Fi aren’t really my area of expertise, so there are other mentors out there who might be a better fit.

What I’m looking for in a mentee:

I would like to partner with someone with an open mind and a query-ready manuscript who knows the heart of their story and is willing to work hard. I will say, for personal reasons, the sooner I can get the manuscript after you’re selected, the better, please.

What you can expect from me as a mentor:

Full manuscript developmental edit report (1 read through and report).I’m also more than happy to answer any questions and provide advice around querying and what comes after.

In terms of feedback, I’m…um…thorough and honest, let’s just say, because getting hard, constructive feedback and using it is really what has pushed me to be the writer I am today. Be prepared for long developmental edit letters or lots of comments, with suggestions on what you can do. I won’t re-write things for you, and I may not give ideas for fixing everything, because I don’t want to change your voice or your story. I’ll also point out what’s working and make suggestions things that aren’t based on what I see as your strengths as a writer. After you get the letter, I’m happy to bounce ideas back and forth and help you come up with a plan moving forward. This is the process my agent and I went through more than once!

I feel one of my strengths is developing characters that feel real and creating authentic internal conflict that drives and is driven by plot, and then using that internal conflict to create dynamic relationships with other characters, which then can drive the plot.

I’m open to different means of communication, ranging from email to potentially Skype, though that would take some careful planning.

If you have more questions, feel free to connect with me on Twitter. So, so excited to see your manuscripts!


Had to throw one GIF in there 😛

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