currently, february 2017

So in lieu of actual blog posts, I’m going to write roundups that discuss the writing process, what I’ve been reading, and maybe other things. If only as an archive of my progress for myself, so I stop thinking there is no progress when there is, indeed, always progress as long as you’re trying.

(I will also add little notes that are hopefully inspirational :))


  • DEATH BY SOCIETY is the book I have named my troublesome book daughter, and it’s most certainly lived up to that name. As in, if I’m lamenting about writing on Twitter, that is absolutely the book I’m discussing. Almost every draft (about to start the eighth) has been a rewrite. I think I’ve gotten the book to a good place now, though. Actually, no. I KNOW it. (But I still need one more developmental edit.) Last month, I shipped DBS off to beta readers and my writing mentor, and should be hearing back about how terrible awesome it is by the end of this month. I meant to take a writing break whilst waiting on feedback, but A) I’m adjusting my query right now and B) I started writing…
  • THE REVENGE BUCKET LIST, the book of my angsty elementary school heart. This book idea has existed in various iterations since high school, and I’ve had the current outline hammered out for a year now. Though it’s changed, the basic plot has stayed the same: a girl returns to her old school to seek revenge on her ex-best friends. It involves musical theater, a high school for gifted students (and not just those who are book smart!), regrets, convienent flashback scenes, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and another exploration into the sometimes-dark world of girls. I’m about 5,000 words into the first draft, and am hoping to finish it by May (again, college). Also, I was super “productive” and made more character moodboards, including this one for my main character.

audrey bankstalents- classics, musical theater, revenge.png

  • UNTITLED POLITICAL NOVEL is being outlined! It’s a cross between Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal and Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, and involves a homeless girl in Washington, D.C., political ambitions, blackmail, and a ruthless mentor. And, AND, it includes the healthiest relationships I’ve created so far, which is going to be really, really good to write after the hell my characters in Death by Society and The Revenge Bucket List go through. I just wish it had a title. Well, it kind of does, but I’m not married to it on any level. Because it sucks.




The Red Queen series: King’s Cage is…well. And I just reread Red Queen, Glass Sword, and finally read Cruel Crown to prepare for the monster book (in more than one way – it’s over 500 pages!). For fear of spoiling it, I won’t say anything more, but trust me: even if you didn’t like Glass Sword, this book is something you NEED.

And actually…that’s all I’ve read in February so far. I’m currently reading Aimee Salter’s Every Ugly Word, which I’m loving so far. Other books read in 2017 are:


Making the Most Out of Pitch Wars

Pitch Wars is a contest where the prize is mentorship from an agented, published, or otherwise established author or editor. Awesome, right? More info here if you’re unfamiliar.

We’re at the phase where entries have been sent, the contest is closed, and mentors are reading and making requests for partial/full manuscripts. Some people say that if you’re not chosen (we won’t know results until August 25), it’s where the contest ends.

Guess again. There are a lot of ways to maximize your Pitch Wars experience, whether or not you snag a mentor.


Find a Critique Partner or Beta Reader

This is the best way to take advantage of Pitch Wars. There are 1,977 other people in the same boat as you: seeing holes in the manuscript, but not sure where to improve. That’s where CPs come in. Whether or not you’re chosen, they can help you patch up your manuscript through line or developmental edits. While they won’t take the place of a mentor, they’re the most valuble resource you can have as a writer. This is an excellent post that goes in-depth about having a great CP relationship.


Find a Writing Support Group

This could fall under CPs, but a writing support group serves a different purpose. Right now, I have several support groups:

  • Large Facebook groups for Pitch Wars mentee hopefuls (for specific questions, query critiques, first chapter swaps, and finding critique partners)
  • A Twitter group chat with other teen writers (moral support through the process, cheering each other on, swapping manuscripts, general weirdness)

See how that works out? Each group serves a different function to me as a writer. Whenever I have a specific need, I know exactly where to go.

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Think About Ways to Revise

By entering your book into Pitch Wars, you know that SOMETHING isn’t quite there with your book, and you need help to fix it. If you haven’t already, do a deeper read to see what that “something” is, or send it to your new CPs/beta readers. After announcements are made, I’m going to take an even deeper dive of my book and write an editorial letter to expand and tighten it up even further. The revisions never end.



Take a Break!

I’m using the time between submission and the mentee announcements to allow my manuscript to BREATHE. I’ve worked on it non-stop since this April, and I need to step back so I can look at it with fresh eyes. That way, when I start work on it again this fall, I’ll be ready to go.


Also, have some random, non-expandable tips:

  • If it makes you nervous, don’t look at the #PWTeaser or #PWTeasers tags. Or create a secret Twitter mentor list so you can see if they’re talking about your book. Uh, not that I did that….
  • If you don’t have any requests yet, relax! It’s okay! It’s early days.
  • If you’re ready to query, compile a list of agents so you’re ready to go after Pitch Wars ends.


Most Anticipated YA New Releases: Fall 2016

Every quarter or so, I want to share some of the books I’m most excited to read. This format is a little less stressful than a full review post, and allows me to get all my pre-read fangirling out of the way.

Without further procrastination, here are my five most anticipated YA books for August-October 2016!



Author: Jaye Robin Brown



Release Date: August 30, 2016

Why I Need This Book:

  • It’s interesting to see a coming out story in reverse. In Georgia Peaches, the main character is out-and-proud until she goes to live with her preacher father and goes back into the closet. Yep, I see that working out, too. Especially when she meets a cute girl.
  • Also I’m seeing more Southern settings in YA. It’s fascinating to see a perspective other than my East Coast.






This cover is so simple, yet, gets the message across perfectly. Those are the best ones.

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Why I Need This Book:

  • This book looks like it’ll break my heart in a beautiful way.
  • Mental illness representation. Charlie, the main character, self-harms and is in a psychiatric hospital for at least part of the novel. Even from the flap copy, I can tell this is a sensitive, well-thought-out creation.
  • I love gender-neutral names (Charlie).






Gold and black covers are my weakness. #justsaying

Author: Katherine McGee

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Why I Need This Book:

  • Future dystopian Mahnattan is something I didn’t know I needed.
  • I love books that have high-tech but it’s not a key plot piece (see Lisi Harrison’s Alphas), and that sounds like what this book delivers.
  • I’m a sucker for multiple main characters. The MCs in this book sound fascinating and complex.




I loveeee the symbolism in this cover.

Author: Karen Fortunati

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Why I Need This Book:

  • The Weight of Zero introduces a unique antagonist: Cath’s bipolar disorder.
  • This book focuses on the struggles and triumphs of mental health recovery, a subject I’m always up to read.
  • In case it wasn’t obvious:







Author: Aprilynne Pike

Release Date:  October 25, 2016

Why I Need This Book:

  • Soooooo alternate universe version of the Palace of Versailles? Sign. Me. Up.
  • The plot sounds twisty and shocking and those are the best kinds.
  • I haven’t read a lot of YA about drug dealers, so it’ll be interesting to see how that issue is handled in this setting.




What books are you looking forward to?

Death by Society Character Aesthetics

So on the Pitch Wars feed a lot of people are creating moodboards for our books. I wanted to create some for select main cast members, so I’m moving them all over here.


Main character. These photos represent her depression, love of academics, music tastes, and her favorite hobby (sleep).

Carter - Aesthetic.png

Photo credits: quotewrist, books, sweater, flowers


Abby’s loud, has zero tolerance for rude boys, and loves writing poetry. She’s my villian turned MC sidekick.

Abby - Aesthetic.png

Photo credits: nyccoffee, quote, pin, girl



Carter’s psychiatric hospital roommate. Loves art, trying to bottle up her feelings, and the dark parts of nature.

Sloane - Aesthetic.png

Photo credits: lyricsgirlpin, stormpaint

Pitch Wars 2016 Pimp My Bio (YA Contemporary)

Hey fellow hopefuls and mentors! Welcome to the blog I started just for this. (I’ll add other posts eventually…)




I’m Sierra, a rising college sophomore. I go to Arcadia University (go Knights!) and study sociology and creative writing. The reason I’m not a creative writing major is so I can find new things to write about.

And as a sociology major, I’ve found plenty of new writing inspiration. Mostly through Google searches for my essays.

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When I’m not writing (LOL), I read, play with my cat (his name is Bronx and he’s a brat), dabble in Pilates, and listen to alternative rock. I also write for Arcadia’s prospective student blog, Because Arcadia. Check that out here.


My Pitch Wars submission is Death by Society, a YA Contemporary/social issues (is that a subcategory yet? It should be).  Here’s a little blurb:

16-year-old Carter Harper ingests dozens of antidepressants to permanently escape vicious bullying. But her one-way ticket out of high school is snatched away when a classmate saves her life and Carter’s shipped to a psychiatric hospital. She resists recovery, only stays there for a week, and plans to finish the job as soon as her mother and boyfriend take her off constant suicide watch. Which…could be a while.

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Meanwhile, the most popular girl in school (think Regina George, only worse) asks Carter to join her clique as a twisted apology for her past behavior. Carter, a socially inept genius, finds it hard to fit in with the people who’ve caused her so much pain. Still, she has to play along so she won’t be bullied anymore. She can’t risk them turning against her, because her major depressive disorder and self-harm habit will worsen. She doesn’t want that to happen—thanks to her unexpected popularity and three new friends, her life is improving. Yay! Nothing could possibly go wrong! Nope!

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There’s also subplots that focus on three other girls.

Lilly Fieldsman: Lilly has to confront the demons of her past while juggling the needs of her nearly catatonic mother and anorexic younger sister.

Abby Wallace: After her best friend ditches her in favor of Carter, Abby’s coveted spot on the social ladder is in jeopardy. And the violence in her personal life is reaching a boiling point….

Sloane Campbell: Sloane heads to Winterwood Psychiatric Hospital after a suicide attempt gone wrong. While there, she rooms with Carter Harper, who unintentionally changes her life for the worse.

So mentors, if you like:

    • LOTS of morbid humor that has my CPs saying “this is awful but hilarious”
    • A raw, honest look at depression and self harm
    • Diversity! (#ownvoices, LGBT+, racial diversity, neurodiversity)
    • Semi-unlikable, complex, messy female characters
    • Four distinct POVs: a sarcastic tech-lover, altruistic future doctor, loyal yet cruel queen bee, and tepid painter
    • Unlikely and sometimes toxic friendships born of tragedy
    • 95% of conversations passing the Bechdel test
    • Chapter titles that are book titles (including The Scarlet Letter, The Fault in Our Stars, and Thirteen Reasons Why)
    • romance (or two) that ties into the plot but is never, ever the focus

You should check my entry out. Just saying.


Well, for starters:

  • I will send you a boatload of GIFs during editing. Or not. Your call.
  • I threw out my entire first draft and rewrote Death by Society during April NaNoWriMo. Then I threw 80% of that out and did another rewrite in May/June. I’m used to fast deadlines and revision. I’m ready to give this my all…again.
  • I’m up for challenges. They’re what makes writing fun.
  • Two years of cyberschool and running several online businesses have taught me self-sufficiency and discipline.
  • I’ll send you cat pics.

Look at his little faceeeeeee



This fall, I’ll be writing my third novel (the first was a lower YA historical, we’re not talking about that), which explores REVENGE. It’s about Kennedy, who was bullied by a group of five girls freshman year. Each one did something unforgivable to her, from pouring lemonade on her at a chorus concert to stealing her clothes in gym class. She comes back to school senior year, ready to get some serious comeuppance on the girls who wronged her. Let me say that this book is darker than Death by Society. Much, much darker. If Death by Society doesn’t pan out, I’ll start querying that book fall 2017 and sub it to that year’s Pitch Wars. You can check out my playlist and signature GIF for that book over here.

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Don’t mess with Kennedy. Or Cookie.



What am I not reading? Some of my favorites, old and new, include:

  • Some Girls Are/Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (I’m not choosing and you can’t make me.)
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore (this is my favorite depiction of Anne Boleyn.)
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (this title is inaccurate. It made me more sad/contemplative than not. But it’s brilliant.)
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (political scandal + awesome friend group + fantasy author? YES.)
  • The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory (I loovovvveeed reading about this smart lady. I love this book. I need to read it again.)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (SHE DID THAT.)
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (another case of SHE DID THAT. Well, they all did.)
  • More. Many, many more. My tastes skew toward YA contemporary (gee, what a surprise) and historical, and adult historical (especially about the Tudors).

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Some of my favorite bands/songs in no particular order include:

  • Twenty One Pilots
    • “Ode to Sleep,” “Heavydirtysoul,” and “Tear in My Heart”
  • Panic! At the Disco
    • “Time to Dance,” “House of Memories,” and “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”
  • Marina and the Diamonds
    • “Are You Satisfied,” “Guilty,” “Primadonna,” and “Blue”
  • Paramore
    • “Anklebiters,” “For a Pessimist I’m Pretty Optimistic,” and “I Caught Myself”
  • Muse
    • Absolution and Origin of Symmetry 
  • The All-American Rejects
    • When the World Comes Down
  • Halsey
    • “Castle,” “Colors,” and “Control”
  • Death Cab for Cutie
    • “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” “Cath,” and “What Sarah Said”
  • The Postal Service
    • “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “This Place is a Prison”
  • Fall Out Boy
    • “The Kids Aren’t Alright”
  • Jukebox the Ghost
    • “Everybody Knows,” “Half Crazy,” and “Oh, Emily”
  • OK Go
    • “White Knuckles”
  • My Chemical Romance
    • “Famous Last Words,” “Helena,” and “Boy Division”

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  • TV SHOWS: Scandal, Desperate Housewives (RIP, my fave), Empire, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 2 Broke Girls, Mozart in the Jungle, Orange in the New Black (before S4E12)
  • MOVIES: Mean Girls, Frozen, GBF, Clueless, Marie Antoinette, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl

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  • I wrote the first draft of Death by Society in my hometown, and the second while I studied abroad in Scotland.
  • I studied abroad spring semester, freshman year and visited Scotland, Italy, Vatican City and England. My favorite place is St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
  • I wrote the first draft of DBS when I was a high school rising sophomore. Coincidence, anyone?
  • DBS won a YoungArts merit award in 2013, the same award that Kerry Washington, who I totally imagine being Carter’s mom, won.
  • I’m going to get a tattoo based on My Chemical Romance’s “Famous Last Words” soon.
  • I once visited an obscure little castle in England, Hever Castle, to see the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Thanks, The Other Boleyn Girl. (Really, thanks. It’s a beautiful place.)


So, that’s me. Thanks to Lana Pattinson for organizing this blog tour! Be sure to check out the other mentee bios!