Spark mentors

Read more about our Spark mentors to find the perfect fit for your book

Aisha Bushby (MG/Teen)

Spark mentor Aisha Bushby

Aisha was born in Bahrain and has lived in Kuwait, England and Canada. The first novel she ever worked on was a piece of fan fiction, based on her favourite book series, which she stayed up all night to work on when she was thirteen. Aisha now writes children’s books, sometimes with a little bit of magic in them. Her next novel, Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found, is out in August.

A.J. Sass (MG/YA)

Spark mentor AJ Sass

A.J. Sass is a fiction-writing figure skater, inclined toward adventures of a traveling nature. He is autistic, non-binary, and keen on exploring how gender identity and neurodiversity impact character narratives. An avid figure skater, A.J. is a US Figure Skating double gold medalist in Moves in the Field and Free Skate, a silver medalist in Ice Dance, and a member of the 2018 national bronze medalist and 2019 national silver medalist Masters synchronized skating team, IceSymmetrics.

A.J. grew up in the Midwestern US, came of age in the South, and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs. A.J. is represented by Jordan Hamessley at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. His middle grade debut, ANA ON THE EDGE, will be published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in Fall 2020.

Andrew has been generous, thoughtful and gentle in his feedback. He has always looked for solutions rather than just pointing out problem areas. I loved receiving his smiley filled comments and detailed feedback on my overall pacing, characterisation and plotting. Thank you, Andrew!

Anushi Mehta, mentee

Alexandra Sheppard (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Alexandra Sheppard

What is your mentoring style?

Given that many of my authors are submitting at the early stage of the manuscript, I focus on the bigger aspects of a story rather than the nitty-gritty (think character development and TOV consistency rather than spelling/grammar). I like to read an extract and leave comments outlining my experience as a reader. I won’t ever tell you what to do, but I will make suggestions that you are, of course, totally free to ignore! Above all, I like to think that my feedback is as encouraging as it is useful. 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

As well as being a published author, I’ve been part of a writing critique group for six years. We meet monthly and give each other feedback on our writing projects across a range of disciplines. This has honed my critiquing skills more than anything else, teaching me what feedback writers actually need in order to develop their work. 

Genres of interest: comedy, romance, friendship, family and books with more than a twist of magic. But I’m also open to other sorts of books, too!

A M Dassu (MG/YA)

Spark mentor AM Dassu

A M Dassu is a magistrate and a freelance writer. Her first piece for The Huffington Post, for whom she was a featured writer, was published on the front-page, alongside Barack Obama and Lenny Henry. She is the Deputy Editor for Words & Pictures, the magazine for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, British Isles. A M Dassu’s previous work experience includes project management, marketing and editorial work at Reader’s Digest. She writes children’s fiction and nonfiction. Her MG novel is due to be published in 2020. 

Carolyn Ward (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Carolyn Ward

What is your mentoring style?

I am pretty much always on the internet, open, friendly, honest, supportive and inspirational. I’m here to help you in whatever way you need to be helped. Once I am your mentor I am 100% with you to work together to get closer to your writing dreams, whatever they may be. I work quickly and can adapt easily to any deadlines you have. I love to stay in touch with my mentees and editorial clients and follow their journeys. It is so wonderful when they get signed or a deal, I feel all the joy! 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I have written short stories, poetry, NF, CNF, flash, PB, CB, MG, Teen and YA. I’ve even self-published a flash fiction collection. Happy to read anything and everything, I am well-connected within the writing world. I subbed out lots before getting my agent, and have masses of editing experience in the kidlit world in all genres and age groups. It can be terrifying to send work out, and I know the power of fresh eyes to spot tiny inconsistencies. I’ve been a reader for the WriteMentor competitions, so I sense instinctively what shines and what needs a little more polish.  Getting to work with anyone on their book is a delight. It is an absolute honour to be trusted with your words, and I love every part of it. 

Click here to read Carolyn’s article ‘Five tips to read yourself into a better writer’

Chio Zoe (YA)

Spark mentor Chio Zoe

What is your mentoring style?

I enjoy working closely with my mentee to understand what areas they want help with and what areas they should focus on through sample pages sent in.

Through this, I can brainstorm with my mentee to come up with areas of concentration, and draw up a custom schedule fit for my mentee’s needs and our time management.

I believe that relatable characters make any story worthwhile, so I enjoy fleshing out characters.  

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I’ve spent a lot of time ghostwriting for others and working on my own books with beta readers and editors, so I have the advantage of understanding different people’s points of view. I am lucky to be able to teach writing through my youtube channel and one on one conversations as that has made me learn more in order to properly teach.

Genres of interest: Speculative fiction umbrella, but I’m partial to high fantasy, stories with romance in the mix, and/or stories with happy endings.

Click here to read Chio’s article ‘Plotting like a pro in eight easy steps’

Julie Marney Leigh (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Julie Marney Leigh

What is your mentoring style?

I adore being a mentor and relish the opportunity to provide advice, support and encouragement. I like everything about the creative process – the brainstorming of ideas and the writing of stories. But, without question, my favourite part is editing. I enjoy structural edits, finer more detailed edits and even line edits. Above all, I love working with other writers. There is so much to be gained from the process of sharing and critiquing work, not just from the development of a writer’s skills but also from the whole aspect of being part of a writing community.

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

In studying for my PhD and becoming a lecturer in English, I gained a lot of experience teaching other adults and loved discussing all aspects of writing with them. I loved working with students and supervising projects, and I find mentoring very similar. It’s so exciting to work with an author and to see their writing skills develop. I have been a mentor with WriteMentor’s Summer programme for the last three years, and my mentees got many agent requests in the showcase and two have since signed with agents. I have also been a mentor with WriteMentor Spark since its inception, and I have read for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award every year. 

Click here to read Julie’s article ‘Three simple steps to writing your perfect hook’

Emma Finlayson-Palmer (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Emma Finlayson Palmer

What is your mentoring style?

My mentoring style is to be eternally optimistic! I’m very thorough in my approach but my feedback will always be constructive. My goal is to make your writing the best and sparkliest it can be.

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I have been writing since childhood with my earliest piece being published when I was 8 on Ceefax. With years of experience with submitting to agents, I have been with two different agents myself. I have a wealth of experience with a whole range of genres and types of writing and have been published in magazines and news papers such as The Weekly News, Fate and Fortune Magazine and Anorak magazine for children, as well as in anthologies and being placed in competitions such as Mslexia’s Children’s Novel Award in 2019. I have experience of working on edits with publishers and have worked on edits with other writers for many years, including with SCBWI critique groups.

Genres of interest: I’m an author of picture books, chapter books, MG and YA. I enjoy working on a wide range of genres, some of my favourites, but not exclusively, are Thriller, Horror, Fantasy, Contemporary, Humour and more. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, Matt Haig, Lauren Ellen Anderson’s Amelia Fang books, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, the Oliver Moon series, Worst Witch, Summer of No Regrets, and many, many more! But I’m open to most things.

Emma Read (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Emma Read

What is your mentoring style?

In a nutshell, frank and honest. I aim to squeeze plenty of opportunities for growth from a submission, so I make lots of comments and suggestions, using tracked changes. This often results in an alarming amount of red! I like to invest in a MS as if it were my own and chat through ideas with my mentees, brainstorm with them to grow the story until the mentee is satisfied with the end result.

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I’ve been mentoring and critiquing for three years, and have worked with lots of writers, across multiple genres, on everything from first page extracts to entire manuscripts, Chapter Books to YA. I also write across this spectrum too.  Writing is a continual learning process  – whether with a mentee or working with my agent and editors (in house and freelance) on critiques, structural, copy and line edits, the process is mutually beneficial. My goal is to share the experience so we can all help each other.

Genres of interest
: I read (and write) in a broad spectrum of genres, but I especially love anything a bit geeky – horror, sci-fi, speculative and historical for example. And of of course I love a bit of humour – but I lean towards the subtle, observational and quirky, rather than slapstick or gross/zany comedy.

Click here to read Emma’s article ‘How to hook your reader’

Emma Smith-Barton (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Emma Smith Barton

Emma is the author of YA novel The Million Pieces of Neena Gill (July 2019, Penguin Random House). She has a BA in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University and a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Mslexia and The Bristol Short Story Prize 2016. 

Click here to read Emma’s article ‘Finding your great book idea’

Kathryn Clark (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Kathryn Clark

What is your mentoring style?

My mentoring style is kind and constructive. I’m very flexible and happy to help with line edits, brain storming, or specific aspects of craft like plot, character or voice. My aim is to build confidence and improve craft.

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I have been writing seriously for over twelve years and during that time I’ve worked with other writers in writing groups, workshops, the MA in Writing for Young People and as a mentor on the #WriteMentor Summer Programme. I know it can be difficult to receive feedback about your writing  – I’ve been there – and so I always aim to be supportive and honest. Writers I’ve worked with have gone on to have agent offers and book deals.

Genres of interest: I mentor both MG and YA writers. I read and enjoy a wide variety of genres. I like inclusive stories that make me think. In MG, I’m especially keen on contemporary, historical, magical adventure, issue based (particularly mental health), mystery, and funny. I’m less keen on pony or drama stories. In YA, I like anything dark, contemporary, speculative, dystopian, historical, LGBTQIA+, issue based (particularly mental health), and feminist any genre. I’m less keen on horror, mainly because I’m a scaredy cat.

Lindsay Galvin (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Lindsay Galvin

What is your mentoring style?

My mentoring style is honest, supportive and approachable. My aim is to identify clear points for improvement and to discuss ways forward, encouraging a dialogue. I’ll also always note what I’ve enjoyed, what’s working, and the mentees strengths for us to build on. 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I am an experienced mentor, having been with WriteMentor from day 1. I have been working with Spark mentees since the programme began, I also tutor the successful Upper MG Write Master courses and ran a WriteMentor weekend. My 16 years as a teacher, and working with professionals editing my own book have fed in to my editing experience, plus I am a long term critique partner for two successful published authors. 

Genres of interest: I specialise in Upper MG and lower YA/ teen and love character-led adventures of any genre with lots of heart. Contemporary or historical, fantasy, spooky, mystery – I’ve loved mentoring them all. I have a special soft spot for anything speculative.

Click here to read Lindsay’s article ‘Maintain the tension’

Lydia Massiah (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Lydia Messiah

After studying English at Exeter College, Oxford, I trained to be an English teacher, and was lucky enough to have Philip Pullman as one of my tutors! I taught at Secondary level for many years and more recently had the chance to work with younger kids in a Middle School.

The best part of my job was encouraging others to love reading and creativity as much as I do. In 2016 I completed the Curtis Brown Writing for Children online course, but it was being selected as a Mentee for WriteMentor in 2018 which made all the difference. 

Now I’m represented by the very supportive Jo Williamson, from Antony Harwood. My Upper MG horror adventure is in the pipeline, but not yet announced! Since 2017 I have also been running a SCBWI South West critique group for MG and YA writers, and I have recently volunteered to be a SCBWI Network Organiser. 

Marisa Noelle (YA)

Spark mentor Marisa Noelle

What is your mentoring style?

I would say I don’t have any one style, and that I fit myself to whatever the author needs. When I look over the mentees I’ve hade, both in the summer program and in Sparks, there is a variety of strengths and weaknesses that I’ve been able to help. I have some authors who’s craft is more basic and they need helps with advanced methods, other authors who are very polished in their writing but the structure is a mess, or character development is needed. Other mentees need confidence, they are afraid of querying, of the rejections, feel guilty about carving out the time to write. So I’m really good at boosting confidence in these areas too.

I can talk a mentee through the whole process and give honest truths about the publishing industry. Not only do I look at full manuscripts, but I can help with pitches, query letters and synopses. Often I will throw in ad hoc exercises into a mentorship as and when I feel they are needed, with to address all areas of writing to help an author grow. I will also point out your strengths and I won’t skim over weaknesses, and I will keep coming back to them until I feel the growth has happened. 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

My experience has been very bumpy, as is the norm for most authors.  I have spent years in the querying trenches and I’m on my third agent so I can advise of all the pitfalls here. As a self-published and published author with indie presses and on sub with traditional publishers, I speak to this entire process. I also run ads for my self-published book on Amazon and Facebook so can give you advice here.

I’ve been around the block a few times, had my fair share of rejections and kicks in the teeth. I know how down you can feel, and I’m here to help you feel confident in your writing and be honest with you when you’re ready. Then you’re in for life and I don’t stop cheerleading! I have also done a few school visits – I just started before lockdown, so I can talk about what’s involved here and how to tackle the nerves. So, in summary, I have knowledge of every step of the process and can help a mentee navigate any stage.

Click here to read Marisa’s article ‘Social media pros and cons’

Melinda Salisbury (YA)

Spark mentor Melinda Salisbury

What is your mentoring style?

I have a buffet-style approach to mentoring – a bit of everything. Although if there’s a particular area the author has concerns about or would like me to focus on I’m more than happy to, and if I feel there’s something in particular they need to work on, I’ll flag it! Primary areas of expertise are world-building, character development and making sure the dialogue, language and voice sound natural and engaging, so I’m an excellent mentor for that! 

My mentoring personality is honest, but kind. I will tell them straight if I think something doesn’t work, or if something needs to be cut, or changed or added or built upon. I won’t pull punches or gloss over areas that don’t work for me, but I will explain my thinking, so they can hopefully understand my concerns and have an idea of ways they can address them (should they agree!) That said, I am as eager to point out the stuff that really works as I am the stuff that doesn’t – I want to be a good and effective cheerleader for them! My main aim is for them to leave me feeling confident, both in themselves and their work, and also in the edits and changes and routes they could talk to make their work the best it can be! 

M. Dalto (YA)

Spark mentor M Dalto

M. Dalto is a fiction author of adventurous romantic fantasy and her bestselling debut novel, Two Thousand Years, was a 2016 Watty Award winner on She continues to volunteer her time as both a Wattpad Ambassador and a #WriteMentor mentor, where she hopes to engage, assist, and inspire new writers. She spends her days as a full-time residential real estate paralegal, using her evenings to pursue her literary agenda. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their corgi named Loki.

Click here to read M. Dalto’s article ‘Five ways to improve your social media brand’

Nicky Browne (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Nicky Browne

What is your mentoring style?

As a mentor I am direct but encouraging and a number of my former students and mentees have been published or acquired agents. What’s more, I will isolate particular areas for development in a piece as well as suggesting comprehensive edits. I always offer an online video chat to discuss my suggestions and work through next stages. Often I am able to demonstrate approaches to improving a whole manuscript as well as exploring broader issues of style. I try to establish the writer’s concept for a story and will help them to work out what needs to be done to realise their vision. 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I have been teaching creative writing for many years at all levels including BA and MA . Currently I teach at Oxford University Continuing Education in Childrens’ and YA writing. I have a PhD in Creative Writing and work with established writers as well as beginners in my own ‘book doctor’ practise. Personally, I have published eight books for young children, and nine YA novels with Bloomsbury. A tenth YA book is due out this year. Furthermore, I have also had poetry published and I am an experienced writer at both Middle grade and YA levels.

Genres of interest: Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Historical fiction. 

Simon James Green (MG/YA)

Spark mentor Simon James Green

What is your mentoring style?

I aim to work with mentees collaboratively, to really understand the story they want to tell and their unique voice. I believe a friendly and fun approach brings the best work out of people, and my notes will be a mixture of wider structural issues, technical advice and tips, and finer detail line edits, when appropriate. 

How can your experience help your mentee with their writing?

I’ve published six books and have a further five under contract, across picture books, MG and YA. I’ve also been on the committees and judging panels of several competitions for new writers. I’m experienced in what agents and editors are looking for and can help my mentees hone their ideas and stories in order to take them to the next stage. 

Genres of interest: I mentor contemporary Middle Grade and Young Adult. Funny, madcap and irreverent always appeals! I also enjoy anything with LGBTQ+ characters or storylines, and anything which involves intricate plotting, e.g. a murder mystery. I’m a big fan of romcoms too. 

Click here to read Simon’s article ‘Six ways to make your writing pay’

Yasmin Rahman (MG/YA Contemporary)

Spark mentor Yasmin Rahman

Yasmin Rahman is a British Muslim born and raised in Hertfordshire. She loves issue-led books with heart and humour, especially ones that experiment with form, and include death. Her debut novel All The Things We Never Said was published by Hot Key Books in July 2019, and was nominated for the Carnegie award. She has an MA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing for Young People, both with Distinction. When she’s not writing, she makes bookish fan art; her designs are sold worldwide on behalf of John Green.