Twitter Pitching: It’s Possible, I Swear!

Ah, Twitter pitch contests. They come with the stress of needing to stand out in a crowd and the unbearable torture of cramming the entirety of your novel into 140 characters…fewer, really, once you factor in hashtags. It seems nigh impossible to pull off, but I’m here to convince you otherwise.

I’ve been helping folks planning to enter #DVpit for the past several weeks, and I thought it might be helpful to compile my most common advice in one place for other #DVpit hopefuls as well as for posterity. Let’s get pitching!*

*keeping in mind that these are only my opinions, YMMV, etc. etc.

Rethink Your Goal

See what I said up there? About fitting a whole novel into a tweet? That’s the exact wrong way to approach pitching. You aren’t trying to summarize an 80,000 word book in 140 characters; if you are, you’re going to fail, because pitches aren’t synopses.

Your main goal should be to pique interest. That’s it. You want someone (either an agent or editor, not both) to be intrigued enough to ask for more. Personally, I think the best way to do that is to capture the heart of your story, but however you can make it happen is golden.

Know the Rules Before You Break Them

Having said that, there are definitely some pitching conventions, and they exist for a reason. Agents/editors will be looking for certain information in a pitch:

  • category (YA, MG, Adult, etc.)
  • genre (fantasy, contemporary, sci fi, etc.)
  • goals (what the character wants)
  • stakes (what happens if they don’t get it)

The first two are included so that the requesting party knows if your manuscript fits their basic guidelines.

The second two are typically the minimum components needed to get your story across. Can a pitch be successful without goals or stakes? Sure, technically, but only with a very unique pitch that’s exceptionally strong in some other way: voice or premise, especially. But I almost always recommend including all four listed elements.

Specificity, Specificity, Specificity

It’s not enough to have goals or stakes if they’re vague or generic. “She must save the world” doesn’t actually tell us anything. We don’t have the context (about the character, the world, the conflict) to care yet, and it certainly won’t make an impression when so many other books boast the exact same stakes.

Tell the reader what’s unique about your book. Focus in on the details that stand out, that draw you to the story.

One way to do this is to limit the scale. The instinct is often to lead with world-level stakes. Isn’t worldwide destruction a more arresting threat than a failed exam? No, not necessarily. In fact, in a Twitter pitch, where you don’t have room to set up the (likely complicated) situation leading to the world-level stakes, focusing on the personal can be much more memorable. We relate to individual characters easier and faster than we do with anonymous masses.

For instance, consider these two examples:

  • 17yo archer takes on corrupt government. She must topple their regime or thousands will die.
  • When Katniss’s sister is chosen to compete (and likely die) in the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers in her stead. Now she must fight and kill, or be killed in the arena.

Obviously the latter is too long for Twitter, but it’s late and I’m trying to make a point, not land an agent. Both of those pitches are technically accurate, but it’s so much easier to connect with the second one (although neither are particularly good pitches; again, I’m tired).

Related: make sure to name your character in the pitch. I understand the impulse to use descriptors instead of names, but readers connect with and invest in characters, not professions or titles or roles. This was probably the piece of advice I gave most often.

As with all things, of course, there are times where it’s better not to follow this advice. In particular, naming is counterproductive if you’re using this construction: “A thief. A spy. A sharpshooter. An impossible heist and an even more impossible group to pull it off.” (Btw, go read Six of Crows. This hasty pitch doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.)

But typically, name your characters!

Craft Multiple Pitches

Remember that you can (and arguably should!) have more than one pitch. You can use them to focus on different threads of the story, or to approach the same thread in different ways. Maybe you have multiple POV characters; write one pitch for each of them! Or rewrite your main pitch with a slightly different twist or using a different structure each time.

You never know what’ll catch each person’s attention.

Readability > Tons of Info

In the interest of cramming as much info as possible into a pitch, people will often take shortcuts, either through abbreviations (2, ppl, b/c, w/o, &, etc.) or funky grammar. I pretty much always advise against this, at least in large doses.

Agents/editors are scrolling through hundreds of tweets during pitch contests. You have to make it as easy for them as possible to read your pitch. The longer it takes to read or the harder it is to process, the less likely they are to linger.

Our brains are used to reading sentences that are written like this. We read smoothly and quickly and without incident. The words are absorbed immediately, meaning we can make a fast and confident judgment. its mch hrdr 2 rd lk this w/o hvng 2 stop & think @ the wrds. That’s an extreme example, but the point stands. If you have one or two shortcuts, especially if they’re spaced out, that can be fine. (And I basically never include the final period in a pitch since it’s unnecessary.) But be cautious about overdoing it.

Hashtag Fever

Consider carefully which hashtags you use. If you use every possible one, it not only reads as cluttered, but also takes up a TON of valuable space.

There’s absolutely something to be said for including all applicable hashtags in case agents are searching specifically for them. But choose strategically. If you have #DVpit #YA #LGBT #Queer #F #R and #SFF, you’ve eaten a large chunk of your available characters. I recommend including the category, but leaving off the genre unless it’s wholly unclear from the pitch. But that’s largely personal preference.

So, like everything else in this post, feel free to take it or leave it. Though I do hope you found something helpful here, and happy pitching!

March Roundup

Recommended Reading


I didn’t actually read many books in March (whoops!), but I still had an excellent reading month thanks to THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES by Ken Liu. This collection of short fiction from throughout Liu’s career (plus one new story) is absolute perfection. I was largely unfamiliar with Liu’s work before this, though I had read and loved one of the stories included here (“State Change,” about a woman whose soul is a literal cube of ice). Every single story is a masterpiece, but they also work brilliantly together in this specific order, often seemingly in conversation with one another. I was particularly taken with the pairing of “The Waves” and “Mono no aware,” which both follow humanity into the stars. Honestly, I finished this collection weeks ago and I’m still processing. I’ll probably need at least one more read through to be able to talk about it with anything approaching coherence. These stories deserve to be read intently and thoughtfully. They deserve to be read period, and carried with you for long after, perhaps until we finally meet the stars. Perhaps even longer.


Short Stories

Shveta Thakrar is one of my favorite current short fiction writers, and “The Shadow Collector” just reinforced that. This story is about girls born from flowers, the gardener who cares for them, and a queen and her flute. Thakrar’s beautiful language and vivid imagery are on full display here, as are the many emotions she’ll seed and nurture in you until they bloom full by the end of the story. (For an in-depth look at Thakrar’s body of work as a whole, definitely check out Haralambi Markov’s profile at Tor.)

One of my other current favorite writers is Alyssa Wong, whose latest for Tor gutted me. A story of sisterhood, death, grief, time bending, weather working, and love, “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” is both delicate and wrenching at once. I don’t want to say too much more, not because I’m afraid of spoiling the plot so much as of spoiling the experience of reading it for the first time.



Liminality‘s spring issue came out this past month, and it is wonderful. I particularly loved “The Lies You Learned” by S. Qiouyi Lu. It’s an incredibly powerful piece, and accessible for those who don’t read poetry often. Once you read the poem itself, I’d also suggest reading Lu’s liner notes.


Essays and Articles

Nicole Chung curated a month of essays for Catapult’s Adopted series, and every one of them is worth reading. Start with Chung’s introduction and then make your way through the whole collection.

This article on dysphagia (aka difficulty swallowing, aka the thing that means I can’t eat solid food anymore) was both fascinating and super strange to read as someone who has actually gone through it.

Daniel José Older’s essay, “This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution,” is powerful and passionate and beyond beautiful.

This is a devastating article on abuse in group homes for disabled children. Trigger warnings galore.


My News and Stuff

Disability in Kidlit hosted a two-week long SFF event, which was wonderful (I’m not biased at all, shut up), and I highly encourage you to check out the whole thing. As part of the event, I reviewed YOUNG KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE and co-wrote an article on overly convenient approaches to disability with Corinne Duyvis.

In speculative fiction, by the very definition of the genre, you’re dealing with magic, technology, or other elements that aren’t present in our world. This opens up tons of story possibilities for authors.

It can also close off opportunities. For example, if you want to include disabled characters without using magic workarounds, it’s occasionally difficult to realistically integrate them into your world. After all, if your characters are incredibly skilled magicians, is it realistic that they wouldn’t try to minimize or heal their disability? If you’re working with warp portals and faster-than-light travel, wouldn’t that world also have prostheses that are nigh indistinguishable from natural limbs, and far more effective medications around the board? Magic and technology will absolutely mean different approaches to disability, ranging from hyper-advanced tools to creative uses of magic to medical/magical cures. We want to acknowledge and integrate this reality into the narrative. Sometimes, though, books may use SF/F elements to circumvent dealing with the drawbacks of disability entirely. When you’re a disabled reader, that can sting: it’s like you’ll only be allowed to participate in exciting sci-fi adventures as long as you’re not too much trouble.

I wrote about my evolving sexual identity and the role that language choice has played in that evolution for the Queer Girl Cafe:

I settled on “bisexual and heteroromantic” the first time I came out publicly. I talked about how our culture’s inseparability of sexual and romantic attraction had confused my own understanding of my identity. I said that thinking about two orientations rather than one helped me find labels—words—that fit me. And that was all true, for a time anyway.

I dropped the heteroromantic relatively soon after I’d claimed it. I didn’t announce the rejection to the world or even to myself. It was barely a conscious decision at all. The word was a sweater that looked good when I tried it on at the store, but that suddenly didn’t sit right once I got home. So I tossed it away, my last linguistic connection to straightness.

Finally, my latest essay for The Toast is a quiet one focused on swimming:

My body stays bent for a moment, clinging to its familiar right angles, but then I stretch. I press the balls of my feet into the slick, scratchy concrete and push. I bob myself up and down—like the round plastic floats we’ll use later in the day to spot fish on our lines—before tipping my head back and dousing my hair. I’m careful not to lose my balance (I’d never get myself upright if I did), but I’m not worried.

The water covers and carries me, both of us glimmering under the sun.

February Roundup

Recommended Reading


Earlier this year, Rachel Syme started a book club dedicated to reading biographies of women written by women, and this month was the inaugural read: The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm. (I was particularly pleased with this selection as it gave me an excuse to finally read The Bell Jar.) Ostensibly it’s a biography of Slyvia Plath, but in reality it’s a critical look at biography as a genre, the role of the biographer, how (and by whom) legacy and narrative are shaped, and other fascinating issues. In many ways, the reader learns more about Malcolm herself and the various parties who survived Plath than about Plath herself. The book asks a lot of complicated questions, and Malcolm answers them (or doesn’t) in a way that’s both utterly compelling and understandably divisive.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert was nominated for the 2015 Morris Award and for good reason. This book wrecked me. It follows a high school baseball player whose white father has been arrested for murdering a Latino cop. Gilbert creates some of the most complex, fully-formed characters I’ve ever read, and navigates a whole host of complicated subjects (religion, race, class, abuse, homophobia, and more) with the deftest hand. I was particularly drawn to the way the main character engages (or doesn’t) with his whiteness. I also couldn’t help thinking of Pointe by Brandy Colbert while reading; both feature a tender yet unflinching look at power imbalances in relationships (and society) and the devastating consequences that result.

Easily the early front-runner for Favorite Book of 2016, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is Indian-inspired fantasy and gorgeous in every possible way. I’m often drawn to beautiful language—sentences that are perfectly crafted and hauntingly lovely—but Chokshi’s language manages to surround you, suffuse you, carry and claim you. Her writing isn’t just technically flawless, it feels alive. It’s also in service to an achingly romantic, thoroughly suspenseful, and beyond epic story. I could gush about literally every aspect of this book, but I’ll end by urging you to pre-order immediately.



Inkscrawl’s latest issue, “Atypical Weather,” is guest-edited by Bogi Takács, and it’s phenomenal. I particularly loved “Even If You Want To” by Gabby Reed, “a weather witch’s vengeance” by Stuti Telidevara, “Confections” by Alexandra Seidel, and “Mage / / Cirrus” by Naru Dames Sundar. Inkscrawl is a great venue to follow for those who don’t have a lot of experience reading poetry. The poems are no more than ten lines, so you can read and reread and reread to fully appreciate the depth, complexity, and beauty that these poets manage to fit into such a small space.

I also hiiiiiiighly recommend “The Dead Girls Speak in Unison” by Danielle Pafunda.



“The Unopened Wardrobe: Brown Girl Beauty and the Written Word” is everything I’ve come to expect from a Kaye M. essay: thoughtful, nuanced, and beautifully written. (I’d also like to point out that she just announced her BOOK DEAL writing as Karuna Riazi!!!)

“A More Perfect Love” by Sophie Lucido Johnson is a wonderful essay on friendship, platonic love, romantic love, and the ways those categories can blur so easily.


Personal News

I forgot to include this in January’s round-up since it went live right at the end of the month, so here’s my review of I Funny for Disability in Kidlit.

Again, violence is shown as the purest way to tell you aren’t being pitied or given special treatment because of your disability. Over and over we see Jamie being grateful for his abuse. This is dangerous. It tells disabled kids that they should long for physical and/or verbal abuse, and that anything short of that is pity. It tells disabled and abled kids alike that abuse is the standard way to interact with others. That it’s expected. That it’s normal.

I’m thrilled to be conducting a series of interviews with disabled creators, artists, and makers for Design*Sponge. The first of these went up earlier this month, featuring disability fashion stylist Stephanie Thomas.

Founder and editor-in-chief of Cur8able (a site dedicated to curating the best in disability fashion), and a fashion instructor at the Art Institute of California, Stephanie has become a “disability fashion thought-leader.” In addition to her teaching and editing, she is a stylist for paralympians, actors, and public figures with disabilities. She’ll be branching out even further soon, offering seminars to the general public. “Just as people without disabilities benefit from understanding basic styling,” so do those with disabilities, and Stephanie intends to use her decades of knowledge to provide specialized styling tips to that underserved audience.

Finally, I talked about the importance of #ownvoices in children’s literature for Brightly. (I also nearly had a heart attack when the NY Public Library retweeted said article to their 1.3 million followers. THAT IS A LOT OF FOLLOWERS.)

Even when portrayals of diverse characters by majority-group authors arerespectfully and accurately done, there’s an extra degree of nuance and authority that comes with writing from lived experience. Those books that are #OwnVoices have an added richness to them precisely because the author shares an identity with the character. The author has the deepest possible understanding of the intricacies, the joys, the difficulties, the pride, the frustration, and every other possible facet of that particular life — because the author has actually lived it.

Advocacy as work and coffee as compensation

In the aftermath of the SF Signal debacle I recommended several ways of supporting disabled voices, particularly disabled writers and activists. One of those was: “Pay us. When you offer to publish us, invite us to conventions, ask us to share our expertise, pay us.” Later, Katherine Locke tweeted me and suggested looking into Ko-Fi, a service that let’s you ask people to “buy you a cup of coffee”—or, in other words, donate $2 to your PayPal.

I followed her advice, tweeting out a link and asking people for coffee. The donations started coming in. $2 here, $4 there, occasionally even $10 or $20 (from some especially generous people), and I quickly had enough to cover over half my credit card bill for this month. As someone who doesn’t have a job (for a variety of reasons, not least of which are disability-related), this was huge for me.

What was even cooler was seeing so many other people in the YA community tweet their own Ko-Fi links. It was a day of support, in terms of boosting but also in terms of money. It was invigorating seeing so many people I respect and admire stating that their work is worth financial compensation.

That afternoon I said:

[Embedded tweets: It’s hard enough accepting that your writing has value, but it’s even harder recognizing your less concrete work does too. Advocacy in particular is hard for me to see as “work” worthy of being paid. Advocacy doesn’t feel optional to me. It feels like survival.]

This has been on my mind a lot, especially now that I’ve been pitching and publishing personal essays. My advocacy now has three main branches (in no particular order): 1) my work with Disability in Kidlit, 2) speaking and boosting on Twitter, and 3) my essays. (If I blogged more on here, I’d probably include that as 2a, but as it stands, I don’t view it as a major component. For now.)

So far, I’ve been paid for all my published essays, and I intend to continue that trend by only pitching to and accepting invitations from venues that are willing to pay me. (Of course, there are exceptions, because I understand that some sites, especially those that are “niche” and/or run by marginalized people like, for example, Disability in Kidlit, can’t afford to pay their writers.) It took me several months to come to a place where I was fully comfortable taking that payment, though. My essays are intensely personal and (so far) focused on my disabled identity. I was worried that accepting money would mean commodifying my disability in some way, playing into the abled gaze by the very act of speaking within spaces created by said gaze. Of course, by that logic, the only ways to subvert it would be not to speak at all or to speak only in places the disabled have built, neither of which are fulfilling solutions for me.

So I speak, for a fee. My essays are work and that work is valuable. It’s valuable in terms of advocacy—sharing a new perspective, contributing to ongoing dialogues, critiquing feminist spaces, encouraging an examination of privilege, etc.—but it’s valuable in terms of dollars too.

As hard as it was to come to that conclusion, it’s been even harder to recognize that that second branch, the social media branch, is valuable in a similar way.

[Embedded tweet: But [advocacy is] work too. It’s time. It’s intellectual and emotional labor (both of which have physical consequences). It’s risk. It’s hard.]

My tweeting doesn’t bring revenue for anyone the way that my essays do for the sites that publish them, but that’s the only substantial difference. In a lot of ways, the advocacy I do on Twitter is more draining than my essay work. Essays are written in isolation, edited (ideally) by someone trusted, and then out of your hands once published. Twitter is both a stage and a conversation. And when the spotlight swings to you (for instance, when something outrageous happens, like with SF Signal), it’s doubly exhausting to have to succinctly, thoughtfully express yourself while fielding real-time feedback and expansions and questions and pushback and everything else. It’s work.


Today, Dahlia Adler tweeted the following (which I’m pretty sure was completely unrelated to any of what I’ve been talking about, but which pinged for me because I’ve been thinking about these things):

[Embedded tweets: As an author – as a *person* – you need to believe and embrace that your work has value. Because you *are* writing words assigned a value. I get impostor syndrome. It SUCKS. But if you can’t genuinely believe that your work is worth something, how can you ask people to buy it?]

While she’s speaking more about fiction, she brings up another important, salient point: words are valuable and so is the act of stringing them together. Valuable in terms of critiquing, reflecting, celebrating, and creating the world we live in. But also valuable in terms of money.

Advocacy in all its forms may be largely about survival for many of us, but why can’t we thrive too?

Our work, our voices, our advocacy, our expertise, our vulnerability, our passion, our time, our effort are all worthy of financial recognition. I’m thrilled so many people (especially marginalized people) spent the other day asking for monetary support, and I hope we’ll continue to do so.

I hope we’ll continue to assert that our work—all of our work—has value. 


Buy me a coffee at  

January Roundup

In an effort to keep better track of my life, I’ve decided to start posting monthly round-ups of notable things I read and any news or publications of mine that came out. Hopefully you’ll find some interesting tidbits in these posts!

Recommended Reading



THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a stunning sci-fi set in a futuristic Brazil. Several hundred years after the world as we know it ended, June Costa is an artist in Palmares Tres. When she meets Enki, the newest Summer King destined to die within a year, the two start a blistering campaign of art-as-revolution. A fascinating look at art, politics, technology, order, tradition, and ambition, this is one of the most fully formed sci-fi worlds and compelling sci-fi stories I’ve read. (Also, it’s hella queer. Just queer all over the place.)

In DELICATE MONSTERS, Stephanie Kuehn creates yet another darkly beautiful study of humanity. The language is magical, but it’s the characters who will haunt you. Sadie, Emerson, and Miles all have fascinating individual stories but it’s the ways in which they converge and interact that make this book unforgettable. I’m hesitant to say much about the actual plot because I think it’s best to go in with as little information as possible, but suffice it to say you may not want to read this one right before bed.

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro doesn’t come out until March, but you need to put this one on your TBR right now. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that can be accurately described by “cute as all get out” and “contains quite a lot of hardcore drug use.” The premise—Sherlock Holmes’s and John Watson’s descendants meet at boarding school and solve murders together—is fantastic, but the execution is even better. And Charlotte Holmes is already in the running for my favorite character of 2016.



There’s only one link in this section, but you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of essays within. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Kickstarter is kicking ass, and as part of the campaign, they’re posting daily essays by people of color about genre fiction, writing, reading, identity, and so much more. Some of the authors included are Alyssa Wong, Aliette de Bodard, Julia Rios, Ken Liu, and S. L. Huang. I sincerely recommend taking the time to read through every essay already posted, then checking back regularly for the rest to come. And make sure you donate to the Kickstarter if you can while you’re there!



I read barely any poetry this month (and no short stories—whoops!), but the one I did read was exactly what I needed. “Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up” by Kaitlyn Boulding is beyond comforting and a lovely meditation on self-care that I’m sure I’ll come back to again and again.


News and Publications

I HAVE AN AGENT!! I’m so thrilled to be represented by Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

My essay, “Nobody Catcalls the Woman in the Wheelchair,” about street harassment as a disabled woman and the exclusionary language feminism tends to use to discuss street harassment, was published at The Establishment. It was also reprinted at the Huffington Post and linked to on Autostraddle.

Issue 8 of Uncanny Magazine included my poem, “tended, tangled, and veined.” It’s about names, roses, living glass, gender, and identity. It was also read beautifully by Amal El-Mohtar on the Uncanny Podcast.