PitchWars 2018 Wishlist


Thank you for visiting my PitchWars wish list! I’m looking forward to seeing all the shiny, sparkling, incandescent submissions appear in my inbox at the end of the month!

First, as a refresher, this is me. My PitchWars Bio is here.IMG_2820More about me: I write comedic Women’s Fiction/Chick-lit with strong romantic elements. Basically, I write big, shiny happily ever afters for brown women struggling with the modern world.

Also, I like warm puppies and cold drinks. Walks on the beach are *okay* so long as I have foot protection from creepy-crawlies. I am a city girl through and through, but am happiest outdoors. If you can’t find me, look for water. I’ll be nearby, or on one of my boats.

And finally, I love books.

As a first time mentor, I’m as nervous as you are. I don’t know what to expect, but I know it will be a wild and exciting ride. I am so honoured that writers would chose me to help guide their manuscript to achieve all it can.

First, this post may be NSFW– a little bit of cute kissing and mild profanity.

My Experience

  • I may be new at pitchwars, but have critiqued countless manuscripts and partial manuscripts in all genres. I was a judge in QueryKombat and a mentor in Nightmare on Query street, and have judged many chapter level and national RWA contests.
  • I’ve taught before– specifically at the high school level for troubled teenagers. I’ve also been an adult trainer and a psychotherapist (hey, many writers would love that!)


  • I have personal experience in the following: querying (2 manuscripts), multiple offers of representation, revising for an agent, being on submission at big five imprints, and more. I had to have a crash course on how publishing works by doing it, and I would love to share my experiences and wisdom with a mentee.
  • I am an RWA member and never miss a meeting at my local chapter: Toronto Romance Writers. I have learned SO MUCH from them, and have made invaluable industry contacts.
  • I am thoroughly, personally and completely aware of the unique difficulties faced by writers with marginalized identities. I’ve been there. I get it. I have lived the war stories and have the scars to prove it, but I haven’t given up. If you are looking for someone to commiserate with, I’m your mentor.

So what am I looking for? First, a great big shoutout to my friend Laura Heffernan. I heavily borrowed from her 2017 wishlist. She decided to procreate instead of mentoring this year, so yay me! I get her submissions, and her guidance!

I’ll take Adult or New Adult only. Anything else will be deleted unread. If you are submitting New Adult, be prepared to revise it with my guidance to Adult to give it the best possible chance in this industry (Maybe. If it’s Romance, it can probably stay as NA). I’ll accept manuscripts in the following genres only: Commercial Women’s Fiction, Commercial General Fiction, and Romance. I’ve gone into more details below on each of these genres– I recommend reading though all of it.

Commercial Women’s Fiction

  • This means that the primary focus of the story is on the main character’s emotional journey. I like my Women’s fiction (WF) to have a romantic subplot (with a happily ever after), but the book should be primarily about the female main character. Confused? Check out my posts on Women’s Fiction here and here.  Still confused? Reach out and ask me!


  • My preference is for commercial, humorous, stories. I WANT YOUR CHICK-LIT!!!
  • Themes and subject matter can be a little heavy, or deep (I get it, life is a pile of heavy right now, so let it seep into your writing), but heavy stories told with humour and a strong voice are my catnip, if handled sensitively. I like lighthearted escapism reading as well.
  • To me, Women’s Fiction needs to be somewhat realistic about the actual world we live in. No unlimited Louboutin budgets on an intern’s salary. No single in New York without diversity.
  • The term “women’s fiction” is not limited to those assigned as female at birth. Own voices trans women, and non-binary stories are welcome.
  • Sub-genres: within the women’s fiction genre, I’m willing to look at light paranormal, light sci-fi, or light fantasy. Even mysteries and suspense. But the focus is on the emotional journey, not world building or mystery solving.
  • Magical realism is great in Women’s Fiction. Bring it to me!
  • Multi generational is okay. Several POVs focusing on more than one woman is okay. Family stories (found families, too!)
  • Upmarket is fine, but if it’s super literary, another mentor might be a better fit.
  • Historical WF is fine. Especially if its a time period that is a little rarer in books.
  • I will take #MeToo and abuse stories. BUT- if there is any sexual abuse or assault in the story it cannot be between the main romantic pairing. I do not want to read a story about a woman who falls in love with her abuser, or about a sexual predator who redeems himself. If the story is about a woman overcoming the trauma of abuse, or coming to terms with her experiences while she gets away from her abuser, it’s fine.
  • I will consider books about infertility, abortion, still birth, motherhood, childhood illness, cancer, divorce, death of spouse, drug addiction, mental illness, racism, etc. But I’m not looking for super depressing, painful narratives. These topics are not particularly triggering for me, but I am unlikely to want to work on a project for months unless it’s empowering for the woman. If you can weave humour with those topics with sensitivity, I’ll love it.


  • It may sound like I’ll take any women’s fiction at all, so let’s narrow it a bit. It’s all about the voice, and I prefer some degree of a romantic relationship with a happily ever after. I am most likely to take a WF project with a modern, strong, fun voice, and a happy, uplifting ending.
  • Examples of the types of WF I want: anything by Jojo Moyes or Marian Keys, Bridget Jones Diary, Big Little Lies, Attachments, LandlineErotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsThe Jane Austen Book clubMy not So Perfect Life, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World,  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Austenland, and more. Of these examples, the ones that would excite me the most to see in my inbox would be Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, and Austenland by Shannon Hale. If you’ve written anything like these, please send them to me!

Commercial General Fiction

  • I added this genre because I’m also interested in stories similar to the above that cannot be called Women’s Fiction because they are not only about women. If your story is about a man, or a non-binary individual, or a group of people, and fits the qualifications above, send it my way. A strong preference for authors writing about marginalized identities in this area, (preferably #ownvoices). The manuscript must be about a character’s emotional journey and how their career, family, relationships and identity interact.
  • One POV or several POVs will work here. The story is not necessarily about one person. A fun voice is a must.
  • Again, marginalized characters preferred, and only a story about an emotional journey in the commercial general fiction genre (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disability, or any combination of.) Not super literary, and not a suspense, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. Historical is okay.


  • Examples: The Rosie Project, No One Can Pronounce my Name, or A man called Ove. 


  • All types of consensual relationships are welcome in Romance. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, etc. So long as it’s consensual adults, I’m happy.SayAnything
  • Authors of colour writing #OwnVoices. are so, so, welcome!  I know how hard it is to break into Romance as an author of colour, and I want to help.
  • Contemporary Romance. Bring me your contemporaries with diversity!!!  I love Romantic comedies. Make me laugh! Lighthearted, low angst comedies are my jam. 

rom com

  • Single or dual POV is fine. Past or present tense is fine.
  • Tropes? Yes! I love forced confinement, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, second chance.
  • Any heat level is okay… but not erotica. The story is about the relationship, not about the sex. Erotic Romance is okay, but honestly, I prefer steamy romantic comedy.
  • Light BDSM is fine, but I’m not the mentor for hardcore stuff. Just make sure it’s a positive, functional relationship. BDSM is not abuse. Abuse is not sexy.
  • Genre-straddlers. Don’t know if your book is Women’s Fiction, romance, or rom-com? No problem! Send it to me and we’ll work out the best fit for the story.
  • Hisorical. Did you write a diverse Regency? Bring it here! I love historicals. And if they are diverse, I’m excited for it.


  • I’m going to say it again, because it’s super important to me. CONSENT is everything. Safe, healthy, sexual activity only. Enthusiastic consent during sexy times is hot. No dubious consent… even if they are already in a relationship. This is a hard line for me. A romantic pairing in a Romance novel must be consensual at all times for me. Watch for power dynamics that can impact the ability to consent such as teacher/student, boss/employee, slave owner/slave, Nazi/Anyone, etc.
  • Interracial couples encouraged! I’ve been in an interracial relationship for over 20 years.


  • Some Romance writers I love: Cat Sebastian, Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Annabeth Albert, Roan Parrish, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Jenny Holiday. Bring me something like The Kiss Quotient, the Hating Game, a Duke by Default, The Lawrence Brown Affair, Ayesha at Last, When a Scot ties the Knot, One and Only, or Level Up and I’ll love it.

For all of the above genres:

  • Resistance! Bring me your stories about fighting back against the evil isms– fascism, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. Not overly detailed with regards to politics, though. I’m Canadian. American political stories will probably go over my head. But if you wrote a sexy Justin Trudeau story, bring it here.

maple syrup

  • Diversity! (have I mentioned that enough, yet?) All types of diversity are encouraged: people of color, any disability status, mental illness, LGBTQ+ characters, religious minorities, neuro-diversity, etc.
  • I am a South-Asian Muslim Canadian Woman. If having a mentor with any or all of those identities is important to you, keep me in mind. That being said, I am not here to be your sensitivity reader. And if I feel that some aspect of your story is problematic, I won’t be shy about telling you. And I will help guide you toward fixing it. Also, I am cis, straight, married, and a mother of two, just so you know.


  • I love the geeky stuff! Bring me your nerds finding love! STEM characters! Music nerds! (I’m a huge music nerd.) Gamers!
  • I’m a serious foodie! Food themes are very, very welcome!
  • I love ensembles! Found families! Bring me your adult Scooby Gang!
  • I want intelligent, strong, characters.
  • I mentioned it above, but any heat level is okay. Swearing, crude language, snark is all okay. BUT– depending on your genre, we may end up changing these to fit the norms. eg., less explicit in WF than contemporary romance, etc.
  • Healthy relationships, please. If your love interest’s defining characteristic is that he refuses to take no for an answer and keeps coming back when the main character tells him no, I’m not the mentor for you.
  • Self-edited, polished manuscripts only. I’ll probably make requests fast. There are plenty of places to learn to revise and self-edit. Read through them with an eye toward how to improve your manuscript before submitting. 
  • Appropriate word counts. If your manuscript is under 60,000 words or over 100,000, seriously consider doing another editing pass before the submission period starts. My sweet spot would be anywhere between 70k and 90k.
  • Make sure you’ve done your research. If your main character is a lawyer or a cop, and the legal stuff is wrong, I won’t be able to read it. (And if you have a background relevant to your MS, make sure your query tells me.)
  • I am looking for people who are easy to work with, and who are positive, upbeat and genuinely want help improving. There’s a lot to love and hate about publishing, and it can be challenging for marginalized writers, but I’m looking for optimists who are willing to keep an open mind about the progress within the industry.

What I’m NOT looking for

  • No genres not listed above. That includes, high-fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, horror, mysteries, action-adventure, domestic suspense, paranormal, literary fiction, and anything else. Very light elements of the above are okay in Women’s Fiction only.
  • No YA, MG, chapter books, graphic novels or picture books.
  • No military heroes or war stories please.
  • No billionaires. I like to be grounded in reality. Rich characters are okay, jut not stinking-rich characters.
  • No unreliable narrators or intentionally unlikable main characters. I want to love them. BUT– I like a strong character. They can be strong willed. They can swear, drink, sleep around, etc. They just can’t be selfish, or a down-right mean person. Honestly, if I feel the need to throw the MC off a moving train after the first chapter, I am unlikely to pick the book. Even if they are redeemed at the end.
  • No Romantic suspense, Amish romance, Urban fantasy, paranormal romance, sci-fi romance, or fantasy romance. (light elements of the above in WF only). Unsure? Ask me.
  • Prefer no cops or law enforcement, but I might budge on that for a great story.
  • No polyamory, or romantic relationships with more than two people. My emotions get confused. But platonic love among friend groups are great.
  • If your book is very serious story about one bad thing happening after another, after another, it’s not for me.
  • If your ultimate goal is to make readers cry, I’m not your target audience. Also, don’t make me fall in love with a character and then kill them.
  • No assholes. I’m not a fan of Alpha heroes, but sometimes they work for me. But Alphas don’t necessarily have to be dickheads. I’ll take Alphas. I won’t take dickheads.


  • Also, no redeemed racists, Islamophobes, homophobes, etc. I’m not the mentor for a story about a main character who sees a marginalized person as undeserving of human rights, even if that character is redeemed during the course of the story. (If a side character is a bigot who is redeemed, fine. Great, even.)
  • No inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts. I don’t mind religious characters, but no overall inspirational themes.
  • No cliffhangers. I need a full story– beginning, middle and satisfying end. (I will read your synopsis and ask clarifying questions if I have any.) I love twisty, unstructured, literary works, but I’m not the right mentor for them.
  • With regards to memoirs— If your memoir follows my preferences in the genres mentioned about, I may take it. That is, if it’s a diverse story with a strong emotional arc, has a great voice, is well researched, etc. A memoir to me should have a proper story structure, like a novel. I am not interested in a series of stories, or vignettes. I am going to be picky about this, so you may want to save your submission slot for a mentor who is more excited about memoirs.
  • Standalone books only . Standalone with series potential is fine.
  • Nothing that’s already been published. A self-published book is published. Agents won’t take these books, which means they’re not right for this contest. (But good luck, because self-publishing is hard work, and I respect self-published authors a lot.)
  • If I’ve critiqued/read your entire manuscript before, you’re better off getting a new set of eyes and choosing other mentors. If I’ve looked at a chapter, a partial or query of yours, by all means, submit. I will give no special consideration to works I’ve seen before. If we’re good friends (regular DMs or coffee dates), don’t submit to me. It would be inappropriate for me to select you, so why waste a submission slot!

My Critique Style: 

  • I don’t mince words. I will tell you everything that is working about your manuscript, as well as everything that is not working. I’m a little wordy– as you can tell by the length of this wishlist. Please understand I wouldn’t have picked your MS if I didn’t love it, though.
  • My strengths are characterization, relationships, pacing, and dialogue. I will help you increase the emotional impact of your characters, and help make their reactions believable.
  • I’m not great at grammar, world building or detailed settings. If you are looking for someone to help you in these areas, another mentor would be a better fit.
  • I hope to do at least two passes of the entire manuscript with you, so be willing to do a lot of work in a short time frame.
  • Be prepared to hate my edit letter at first. I am ready to make you sweat! If you want a cheerleader, or someone to tell you that your special baby is nothing but perfection, ask your great aunt Esther for a critique. If you don’t have a great aunt Esther, you can borrow mine. She’s lovely, but you may want to act fast, she’s one-hundred and three. (I’m kidding– she’s not much of a reader anymore.)
  • If you want someone who cares about you and your manuscript enough to make it  shine brighter than the sun, I’m your mentor. I will only pick something I love, and I will do everything I can for it.
  • I will communicate as much as you are comfortable with. I’m not a phone person, but will probably schedule a Skype session to go over the first edit letter. I’m there for you via text or DM. BUT– like many writers, I’m an introvert. I may not be overly chatty, or respond immediately, but I am still there for you. I have a busy life outside of Pitchwars. I am confident my mentee and I will find a balance that works for both of us.
  • My current plan is to ask for full manuscripts of any submissions that I want to see more of, in order to keep things simpler than having fulls and partials hanging around. I may not read all of every full manuscripts I request. You’ll get an email from me requesting the manuscript, and asking a bunch of questions about you and the manuscript if I want to see it.


I think I’ve left this wish-list pretty broad. If you have questions about whether something falls into my wish list, please feel free to reach out. My preferred communication with regards to this wish-list is for you to leave a comment below, or ask me on Twitter, rather than through the contact form on my website. And please, no pre-pitching on twitter or below.  

Good luck with your submissions! I can’t wait to see them.
To see all the other amazing Mentor Wish Lists, click here to see them on the PitchWars blog. Or check out the linky below of all the other Adult Mentors.






































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What does a Successful Query look like?

Hey PitchWars hopefuls!

Anyone curious about the query that started this path for me? Below is what I sent to agents after the 2017 DVPit event. This book ended up getting revised, lengthened, and edited to take it from contemporary Romance to Women’s fiction before I signed with my agent. It went through a few hoops to get where it is today, and the book has changed quite a bit from what you see in this query, but I did eventually sign with my agent from this initial query.

Reading it now makes me cringe– I’ve learned a lot about queries since I wrote this. But  I received 3 full requests and 4 partials soon after sending it out, so I’d say it was successful!

On the April 26th DVPit twitter pitch event, you hearted one of my pitches indicating you would like to see my query. As such, I present to you CHAI, BEARDS, & HARMONY, a 55,000 word interracial own-voices romantic comedy.
Amira Khan is too old for her noisy dorm, and exhausted from reporters’ constant calls for her personal ‘hot take’ on Islamophobia. She needs peace and quiet, and intends to get it by leaving grad school early to finish her thesis at her Grandmother’s house. But it turns out, her grandmother rented the basement to a Barbershop Quartet. What? Amira needs silence; they need to rehearse for an upcoming competition, and the overgrown garden-gnome of a baritone is making her absolutely crazy.
For the sake of his family, Duncan Galahad has to stay in the tiny town he calls home. But he needs big-city cred even for small town gigs these days, and winning this competition might give him top billing, so he can’t let an outspoken, overbearing engineer like Amira get in his way. Even if outspoken, overbearing women are his exact catnip, Duncan knows women like that have no time for redneck singers with no steady pay-check. And Amira might be way too much… even for his tastes.
Inexplicably, Amira finds a harmonious friendship with the misfit singers. And soon enough, she finds that clashes with Duncan outside bedroom only means hitting all the right notes between the sheets, as they both find exactly what they crave.
Their differences are only skin deep, literally, but Duncan comes from a world that sees Amira as nothing more than a cautionary tale against multiculturalism. And Amira long ago decided that only someone like her, could understand her. To make it work, they both have to not only accept their differences, but fight for them.
This novel tackles Islamophobia and homophobia in the diverse city of Toronto. As a South-Asian, Muslim woman, I have drawn on my own experiences living and learning in this vibrant city. I am a member of the RWA and Toronto Romance writers.


Women’s Fiction? Romance? What?


First let’s get the fabulous news out of the way. Drum roll, please…

I was chosen as a PitchWars mentor for 2018!!!


For those of you who don’t know what that is, PitchWars is an amazing mentoring program where agented, published, or authors with industry experience work with a mentee on their entire manuscript to polish it up for an agent showcase. PitchWars has an amazing reputation, and I’m thrilled to be included. More information here. And my mentor Bio is here.

I’m mentoring in the Adult category, and later in August all mentors will put up a post on their blogs about what they will be looking for. But before that, I thought it would be helpful to slap a post up about the difference between Romance and Women’s fiction. As a writer who wrote a Women’s fiction when I thought I was writing a contemporary Romance, here is how I figured out what the hell I wrote.


There is often a fair bit of confusion about these genres. Both are predominantly written for and by women (although there are exceptions). And when it comes to funny rom-coms and chick-lit, differentiating between them can be even harder.

Let’s start with defining. Romance (note the capital R- we’re talking Romance as a genre, not books with romance in them) is easily identified as a book where the relationship between two (or more) people is the central plot, and ends with either a happily ever after (HEA), or a happily for now (HFN) (I’m going to say HEA from now on, but I mean either HEA or HFN). Romance is a huge genre, with pretty much every sub genre under the sun, but those two points are key. The main story is the relationship, and they end up together at the end. If you’ve written a romance where the couple (or more) don’t end up together, or one dies (*cough* Nicolas Sparks) it’s not Romance. This is a hard rule– no budging on it.

But what if you’re like me, and love to write big shiny HEA’s? Doesn’t that mean it’s automatically Romance? Nope. Women’s fiction with romantic elements (sometimes called Romantic Women’s fiction) may or may not have HEAs. So how do you know?

Women’s fiction is about the woman. The story is focused on her, and although the romance can be a huge part of the plot, it is not the only conflict. The story is about how the woman’s family, friends, career, and romance contribute to her personal growth. I’ve already written a post here about commercial women’s fiction– and the dreaded term Chick Lit, and why it should be a respected genre. I recommend reading widely in the genre to understand it.

In a nutshell, here are some ways to tell if your big shiny HEA book is actually Women’s fiction, and not Romance. These are not hard and fast rules. One important rule in publishing is that there are exceptions to every rule.

You book *may* be a Women’s Fiction if:

  • You have only one POV, and it’s the woman’s. Each romantic partner in a Romance gets a POV, but in Women’s fiction, it’s usually only one POV. If there are other POVs the focus is still on her, and the other POVs are there only in relation to her experiences.
  • The heroine is a bit older. Women’s fiction tends to have over thirty heroines. They can be married, single, or anything in between.
  • There is a lot of time devoted to women talking to women– girlfriends, sisters, mothers, etc.
  • The sex scenes are less explicit, off the page, or take less time on the page. While Romance can have anything from sweet to explicitly erotic, Women’s fiction tends to have a little less on the page sex.
  • Women’s fiction is longer. While Romance can be anywhere from 50k words (for category Romance), and is commonly 60-80k, Women’s fiction tends to be 70-90k

Hope that helps! If you are like me and wrote what you thought was a Romance, a mentor can help you steer it towards Women’s fiction, or center it squarely where you want it. I’m a fan of both genres. Stay tuned for the blog hop next month and I’ll let you all know exactly what I hope to see. I’m excited!

Chick-Lit is not a curse word…

I’m planning to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I’m going to write another post on this blog about that sometime soon, outlining my process and hopefully, updating as I get my words in. Today I was scrolling through the forums on the NaNoWriMo site and I came across a thread about the difference between Women’s Fiction and Chick-Lit. I was disheartened to read the comments say things like ‘I make no value judgment between the two genres, but women’s fiction has more substance and is less frivolous than chick-lit. I want to write about a woman’s growth in life, not about her shoes.’

(Not a direct quote, but this is pretty much sums up what the women were saying.) And since I have all the feelings about disparaging a genre written for and by women, I wrote an essay in response. I’ve pasted that essay, and added more to it below.

I am going have to disagree with the idea that women’s fiction and Chick-lit are different genres. As a writer of chick-lit, I have a vested interest in this topic! Chick-lit is looked down upon these days, but I believe it is because of the way society has devalued women’s activities/interests, and not because of the value of the writing itself. Like the rest of Women’s Fiction, it’s a genre written for and by women, but chick-lit has a particular feel, a tone, that is not for everyone. But that does not mean the genre is without substance, or that it is of less value than the rest of women’s fiction.

Women’s Fiction is a large umbrella of books for and written by women, which are about how women’s romance/career/family/friendships contribute to her personal experiences and character development. Women’s fiction novels tend to have an older heroine (over thirty), and may or may not have a romance plot, with or without a happily ever after.

Subgenres in Women’s Fiction are Historical, Upmarket, Commercial, Romantic, and of course the dreaded Chick-Lit.  I say dreaded, because chick-lit has gone out of style in recent years, and doesn’t have the momentum it did in the nineties. These days, women’s psychological thrillers are more popular. Chick-lit is technically defined as humourous women’s fiction. It’s the romantic comedy, instead of the drama. But chick-lit can, and often does, have serious themes behind the comedy. When we think of movies, we can always find examples of funny movies with serious themes. While you were Sleeping comes to mind, or even Moonstruck. But funny books are often relegated as fluff, and of less value than their upmarket counterparts.

In my opinion, the chick-lit market was over saturated it it’s height of popularity, and the quality being produced took a hit as a result. But when you look back to the origins of chick-lit, while the books were lighthearted in tone, the subject matters often were decidedly less frivolous. Marian Keyes is arguably the queen of chick-lit, and her novels may seem light and fluffy, with pictures of shoes or sushi on the covers. They are full of girlfriends drinking wine, and first dates with sexy men. But her books are about very serious topics: the death of a spouse, drug addition, mental illness, and domestic violence. To be able to weave these heavy topics together with humour and sensitivity is a skill that few can master, and should not be thought of as being less valid than those who write upmarket Women’s fiction.

That is not to say there isn’t a place for less weighty topics in chick-lit either. The popularity of the Shopaholics books is proof of that. Escapist reading has a ton of value for many people, especially during uncertain times. To write these well is no easy feat. Comedy as a whole is much trickier than I thought it would be.

I believe the perception that books with shoes on the covers, or ones that take place in high-end shops are less substance is rooted in sexism. Perceiving a lower value (less substance) to typical women’s activities (buying shoes, gossiping, working in fashion) is a subtle way of devaluing women. No one would ever say a book was frivolous because there was a hunting, or a poker playing scene, which are activities which are perceived as masculine.

I’ve had many hobbies in my days, and have always been drawn to those activities which are considered to be for women. I knit, crochet, and do needlepoint. I cook and bake. I design clothes and sew, and once made a dress a week for a challenge. I make jewelry, and build dollhouses, and now, I write Chick-Lit. Even my work history has been in female dominated areas: human resources, high fashion, education, and psychological counselling. I am also an unabashed, outspoken feminist, and over the years I have heard every crack imaginable about my choice of hobbies and my wasting time with superficial, less serious pursuits. It has improved, over the years, and I get less eye rolls about knitting while calling myself a feminist than I used to twelve years ago, but many of the misconceptions are still there.

Activities that have been traditionally (for whatever reason) embraced and carried out by women are seen by society as being of less value. And I believe that is part of the reason for the negativity around chick-lit. These books are about women, being women: shopping, eating cupcakes, and drinking wine. There is nothing less substantial about their experiences.  Navigating adulthood as a woman is not less compelling a story if the heroine loves shoes, or make-up.

I’m feeling a little defensive about this topic, (as I feel defensive about people who disparage the romance genre, as well). The book I will be writing for NaNo will be chick-lit. It will be funny, and at times light-hearted, but it will deal with single-motherhood, career struggles, sexism, and the challenge of living up to early expectations. It will have substance, and may even have some killer shoes.

(Probably not the shoes. I’m not really a shoe person.)

Romance Writer’s of America Conference, 2017


I guess my dream of staying regular with this blog have come and gone. I had lofty intentions of blogging regularly, but…


It certainly kicks you in the ass when you get complacent, doesn’t it?

The world is a dumpster fire, but I’m focusing on the positives in my life right now. And after signing with my amazing literary agent a month ago, I have had a lot of personal positives to celebrate.

My agent sent me an edit letter after I signed, as my manuscript needed work before going on submission. So I’ve been spending the month knee-deep in revisions, while still somehow finding time for a week at a friend’s cottage, camping, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying Toronto in the summer.

And I went to my very first writer’s conference.

The RWA conference was 4 intense, busy, social, informative days in ‘good lord, it’s humid’ Orlando. As I am now several weeks removed from the event, I’m not sure I can post the fawning prose describing how inspirational it was. Instead, behold:

What I learned and did at RWA 2017 (abridged edition.)


  • Orlando was hot. Although I already knew that.
  • RWA conference was huge. Like 2000 people huge.
  • Somewhat randomly finding a roommate on the roommate forum worked brilliantly. Shout-out to Alisa Kwitney, my roommate and now friend. We couldn’t have been better suited. She was generous, inspiring, and honest, and a whole hell of a lot of fun. I learned so much from her. And we danced for hours… (more on that later.)
  • IMG_1138 (2)
    Alisa and me outside the hotel

    Also, extremely randomly, the first person (other than my roommate) that I met at the conference, was a writer who also recently singed with my agent. Shout-out to Mona Shroff, who I first met in line checking into the hotel, and who I am sure will be a lifelong writing buddy in addition to agent sister.

  • Speaking of agent sisters, I have the absolute best ones. My agent knows how to pick clients, #TeamBrooks is awesome!
  • TeamBrooks
    L to R – Tiff Marcelo, Me, Mona Shroff

    My agency is the bomb. I went to a Bookends cocktail party and met so many lovely people. I feel fabulous about my agency, it’s agents and it’s clients. I am confident my career is in good hands.

  • My chapter is amazing– Toronto Romance Writers went out for some Mexican food in Disney Springs one night, and we had some great industry discussions over a lot of guacamole. IMG_1090
  • Speaking of Disney Springs, that place is insane. There is a live volcano. And a Lego dragon in the pond.
  • I met so many of my idols, and was too nervous and awkward to ask for a picture. Oh well. Did get the best, most awkward picture ever of me and my favorite author Tessa Dare.IMG_1149
  • Speaking of meeting your idols, can I say how amazingly nice, generous and all-around amazing some of my favorites turned out to be? Shout-out to Tessa Dare and Sonali Dev, especially.
  • And speaking of Sonali Dev, I connected with a group of other South Asian writers through my agent-mate Mona. It was such a privilege to meet other South Asians doing amazing things in publishing.IMG_1158
  • I brought home a lot of swag. Needed a bigger suitcase.
  • I danced for at least three hours straight. So glad I wore flats to the RITAs.
  • Speaking of RITAs, Beverly Jenkins is the best speaker ever, and I am so glad I was there to hear her lifetime achievement award.


  • I brought home a lot of books. And then more books. And Books. About 40 physical, and a handful of downloads. Lots of reading on the horizon.IMG_1167
  • Many of the books were signed. Many of them haven’t actually been released yet.
  • Did I mention Tessa Dare is one of my all-time favorite writers? Look what she wrote to me. IMG_1292
  • The workshops were amazeballs. Especially the career ones (Although the craft ones were good, too).
  • The hotel was called The Dolphin, but I question the name considering this is their mascot. That, my friends, is no dolphin.


  • Also, forget swimming with Dolphins, at the Dolphin you get to swim with Ducks!IMG_1152
  • I needed to take more pictures of the friends I met, and less of the food I ate. Reminder to myself for next time– TAKE PICTURES AND TWEET MORE.
  • Interesting moment – was dancing after the RITAs to Barbie Girl, when someone taps me on the shoulder to tell me that the man she was dancing with was the producer of BARBIE GIRL!!!  Romance writers come in all types!
Alisa and I before the RITAs
  • I was interviewed for articles about RWA twice, once by Alissa Kwitney (my roommate) for the Mary Sue and once by Tessa Dare (who I am pretty sure is my actual fairy godmother) for Lit Hub. Articles are posted in my new Media Links tab.
  • There was a lot of people. I got lost many, many times. I had lots of hiding in corners introvert moments. BUT– so many writers are introverts. It’s fine. I realized they were as awkward as me.
  • Anyway, I’m sure I missed a lot, here. The biggest takeaway from the conference that I learned is this: Conferences are important. Go to them. You will learn. You will make connections. You will have fun.

I really, really hope I am able to go next year.

And now… back to revisions.

Amazing News!

I am so incredibly thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Rachel Brooks at Bookends Literary Agency! Having a literary agent to work with is a dream for me, and I am so excited to work with Rachel towards my publishing goals!


Of course, this means diving back into my manuscript and putting my two other WIPs on the back burner for the time being, but I’m excited. The project  that attracted Rachel is so important to me, and I love the idea of digging back in to it to make it even better. It’s gonna be a busy summer, though.

Other than a break for the RWA conference in a few weeks, I’ll be the one editing on my IPad while my family is camping, cottaging or out on our boat. I will invest in a waterproof keyboard.

Stay tuned for updates as I have them.

Still Writing!

I just got chastised by my webmaster (aka: teenage son) that my most recent, and only blog post is from a year ago. He has a point. What’s the point of having a blog if you don’t.. you know… blog.

But, rest assured, dear readers, I may not be writing in my blog, but I am writing. As my last post outlined, I caught the writing bug about a year and a half ago, after my excessive reading lead me to over think what I would do differently in most books I read, and I wondered if I could write That Story that had been brewing in my mind for some time. Eventually, I took the plunge and wrote That Story. It was a contemporary romance, slightly comedic, and focused on a 20-something woman of colour finding love.

I wrote fast, and had my first ever rough draft finished in about a month. And let me tell you readers, it was a piece of crap. And I knew that. But I still sent it out to a beta reader, who confirmed it was crap, but at least then I knew why it was crap. In the meantime, not one to give up on a new hobby, I started writing another one. So after That Story, I started That Other Story,  then the Kinda Like That Story, before changing directions and working on Some Paranormal Story.

Some Paranormal Story went really well, and it became the second first-draft I finished. I sent it to beta readers, edited, revised, sent it more more beta readers, entered contests and stated querying agents.

All the while I kept writing. I started Another Paranormal Story, and Compelling Mystery Story, while the rejections for Some Paranormal Story started racking up. The book was good, but no where near good enough. I wasn’t there, and I started to think I would never get there.

I was feeling down. I wasn’t yet at the point of giving up, but was close. Compelling Mystery Story wasn’t going well, Some Paranormal Story was being rejected repeatedly and I seriously wondered if I should hang up the ol’ typewriter (read: iPad bluetooth keyboard) and take a break.

I wasn’t feeling well one day, and had to force myself to go to my monthly writer’s workshop. The topic was writing comedy, and at the workshop I wrote a premise for a Rom-Com so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. We’re talking completely bananas.

Predictably, that little plot bunny did not leave me alone. Equally predictably, that little illness I felt starting knocked me down for the count for two weeks. So for two weeks, I did nothing but write. And that’s how I hammered out the first draft for This Story.

It’s been a whirlwind. I wrote faster than I ever had. I laughed harder, cried more. I put my heart and soul into this little bananas book which ended up being the most personal thing I’d ever wrote. Maybe it was the fever, or the painkillers, but I learned not to censure myself. I leaned to just let the crazy stuff in my mind out. And not just the crazy stuff, but the real stuff, too. The angry stuff. The raw emotions about how fucked up the world is for a Muslim woman right now.

Beta readers, and editors, and contests happened in record speed, and eventually I started submitting This Story to literary agents. Stay tuned for my successes and failures in getting This Story out into the world.

I’ll keep you in the loop, this time.




diary-968603__180In 2015 I read 150 books.  More specifically, by December 8th, 2015, I read 150 books.  I stopped reading for a bit after achieving that milestone, not picking up a book again until January 2016.

If you do the math, it’s about one book for every 2.4 days.  In honesty, however, the vast majority of those books were read in a day, with breaks in reading for a day or two between books.  I have always been a big reader.  My e-reader is ALWAYS with me.  I read on public transit, read instead of watching TV, and even read while walking to pick up my kids from school.  But reaching 150 books in one year was a lot of books, even for me. When I reached the milestone, I stopped and paused.  I obviously love books.  Always have.  Maybe it was time.  Time to see if I could write my own book.

Many years ago, while working in Human Resources in a department store, my manager was facilitating a career planning workshop for the staff.  She started the workshop by asking everyone there to tell her our fantasy job. Fantasy job?  This is not something I had ever thought about.  I went to University intending to study English and History, hoping to become a high school teacher.  I ended up getting a B.A. in Psychology instead.  After University, I went to community college to study Human Resources Management, which is how I ended up in the Human Resources department at an upscale department store for many years.

I had never in my life thought about what I would LOVE to do as a career, only what I wouldn’t mind doing.  But that day in that career planning seminar, I closed my eyes and for the first time acknowledged to myself what my fantasy job would be.  What I really wanted to do, from the deepest part of my heart, was to be a writer.

That career planning workshop was more than twelve years ago.  I’ve had a lot more education since then, and several other careers, but have never done anything to work towards my “fantasy” career.  Now, it’s time to see if I can make my fantasy come true.

The day I finished reading my 150th book in 2015, I started outlining my first novel.  And a little over a month later, I finished my goal of 75,000 words.  The manuscript needed a lot of work, but the first draft was done.  No matter what happens after that point, no one can take that from me.  I wrote a book.  Now lets see what I can do with this monster I have created.  Can I make my fantasy job come true?