PW #373: Young Adult Contemporary (Own Voices): THE BRAVERY OF ZOE AL-MANSUR

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor: Dannie Morin
Mentee: Sara C. Metz
Category/Genre: YA Contemporary (Own Voices)
Word Count: 58,300


Fifteen-year-old Zuhayra “Zoe” al-Mansur, a Muslim refugee who escaped ISIS in Syria, must relive memories of her father’s murder during a school shooting to save her classmates and herself.


MARCH 2016

In the fifteen months since Zuhayra arrived at the Turkish refugee camp, it snowed more days than she cared to count. But she did count. Every flurry, every white dusting that mixed with dark sand like salt and pepper on a lamb roast.

She first saw snow in Damascus while visiting her brother. Nine-year-old Zuhayra built snowmen on parked taxis and went sledding through alleys on tea trays. That evening, soaked and exhausted, she hung her wet clothes over a radiator in the family’s hotel room and changed for dinner.

Now she paced outside the camp office, arms folded across her chest to stay warm. Snowflakes drifted in the air, and she batted them away. Winter wasn’t fun here. It crept into people’s lives and disappeared without remorse, and no one woke to a warm, crisp sweater, eager to start the day. Sunrise was when mourning started.

A wail rose in the distance, and Zuhayra’s face snapped toward it. Another mother, brother, daughter, or grandson must have given in to the cold. She searched for a distraction. Her mother sat on a crate by the office door, still catching her breath from their walk. Nearby, children and old women slipped between beige tents, water buckets in hand.

The chain-link perimeter caught her eye, and she hesitated. When her family arrived fifteen months ago, they slept on the other side, clutching tattered belongings they carried through the desert. They waited three days to be admitted. Zuhayra couldn’t even wash her clothes in the meantime, though they were stained with her father’s blood.

That was the first time it snowed.


Author: Heather Cashman

With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather's imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels, so she's going back to college for a Creative Writing degree. Her novels range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction, she dabbles in picture books, and is currently seeking representation. ~Member SCBWI

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  1. I’d love to read this. Please email the ms. to with the title and Pitch Wars in the subject! Thanks!

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  2. Hi Sara,
    This looks fabulous—I’d love to read more! Please send a query, synopsis, and full manuscript (Word documents will suffice) to — and don’t forget to mention #PitchWars in your subject line. Thanks—looking forward to my read!
    Good luck,

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  3. Hi Sara,

    This is just the kind of book I love to work on. Needless to say, I’d love to see more so when you have a moment, please send the full manuscript as a word doc attachment to with the query in the body of the email and the subject line: PitchWars Query: THE BRAVERY OF ZOE AL-MANSUR.

    Thanks so much!



    Annie Hwang
    Folio Literary Management

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  4. I’d love to take a look at the full manuscript! Please send your query pasted in the email and the full manuscript attached in a word document to: rena (at) thedeborahharrisagency (dot) com


    – Rena Rossner
    The Deborah Harris Agency

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  5. Gorgeous start – I’d love to read on further! Please send your query and first 3 chapters to me at joan at 🙂

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  6. I’d love to keep reading! Please send the full manuscript attached as a Word document to with “Pitch Wars – Pete Knapp” in the subject. Looking forward to reading! – Pete Knapp

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  7. The last line of this excerpt is simply haunting. I’d love to keep reading. Please send your full manuscript to as a Word attachment, along with your query and a synopsis (if available) with “REQUESTED MATERIAL: THE BRAVERY OF ZOE AL-MANSUR” in the subject of your email. I look forward to seeing more!

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  8. I would love to see more of this! Please send a query (in the body of the email) plus the first 50 pages as a Word doc attachment to, and make sure to put “Pitch Wars Request” and the title in the subject line.

    Looking forward to reading!

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  9. Hi Sara,

    I loved this. Can you please send the complete manuscript – as either a Word Doc or PDF – to victoria.queries@irenegoodman,com with “pitchwars” somewhere in the subject line!

    Thank you so much!


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  10. This looks fascinating. Please send the full manuscript as a Word document with “YA: (title)” as the subject line to amy (at) aplusbworks (dot) com. Thank you!

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  11. Absolutely taken by this idea and your writing. I’d love to see the full manuscript. Please send it + query + synopsis to LBiagi (at) jvnla (dot) com, with Pitch Wars in the subject line. Excited to read!

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  12. Hi Sara,

    I’d love it if you could send me the first 50 pages at! As a Word doc/docx or PDF would be fine. Please also include a query and make sure you mention #PitchWars in the subject line.

    I’m really excited to see where it goes!


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