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Pitch Wars Showcase

Please note: These are the entries for the Pitch Wars season beginning in 2021 and continuing through 2022. Please note that our Agent Showcase ends at 9:00 p.m. ET on Monday, February 14, 2022. Agents will not be able to leave comments requesting material after that time.
PW2020 YA #18: BORN FROM THE FLAMES (Speculative Thriller)
Zahra Zelle
Mentored by:
Ayana Gray and Maiya Ibrahim
Book Title:
2020 Entries
Speculative Thriller
Word Count:
Manuscript Content Warning(s):
Mild Violence, Mild Blood, Death/Dying, Pregnancy (an adult character is pregnant), Classism, Parent Death (off-page, a POV character deals with grief)



Fates collide when a wayward ambassador’s daughter spars with a scrappy resistance leader in a city haunted by its past. Outpacing bloodthirsty cultists with government ties, the two must unravel legendary secrets before a deadly history repeats.



My heart beats differently now. Guttural rhythms and cryptic tones, like the ancient talking drums. And when these Harmattan days cloak the world in violent swirls of warm dust, my heart grates against my lungs. Each breath shallow and strained and sour. A sigil of the changing tides, since the cultists infested our coast. A Cotonou forever changed. Paranoid. Violent. Scared. Here, at the mouth of the river of death. 

Les Chacals. I spit, ridding my mouth of the bile risen from my throat. The elders say anger and madness are brothers, and anger poisons the soul. Well, anger and I are old friends. And madness, a searing shadow. 

I kick an empty can against the crumbling brick wall. The noise ricochets like stray bullets down the dark alley. No longer an uncommon sound. Another can, another fierce kick. 

One for the lives the cultists destroyed. 

One for the nightmares they gave every child. 

And one for the curfew, imposed to keep us “safe.” 

With my last kick, the street dogs scamper away. But the alpha, lanky and black, returns, nudging his scarred nose against my boots. Resting on his hind legs, his floppy ears relax – one, half-missing – as he tilts his head. I almost smile, kneeling to stroke his shaggy head, but my taut, bitter jaw won’t budge. 

Maybe he knows what I dread in my gut. Maybe he just came to say goodbye.

7 responses to “PW2020 YA #18: BORN FROM THE FLAMES (Speculative Thriller)”

  1. Lauren Spieller says:

    Congratulations on completing Pitch Wars, Zahra! I remember seeing you and your mentors tweet about this one, and your PW entry does not disappoint! I’d love to read more. If you think we’d be a good fit, please send your query + full manuscript to Lauren@triadaus.com, and put “PW Request” in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you! ~Lauren

  2. Josh Getzler says:

    Hi Zahra,

    I really enjoyed reading your sample, and I’m excited to read more. Could you please send the full MS of Born from the Flames to my email address, with PitchWars in the subject line? Thanks, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

    All the best,

    Josh Getzler
    Hannigan Getzler Literary

  3. Elizabeth Bewley says:

    Hi there! Thanks for the opportunity to read your pitch and sample pages. I’m intrigued! Can you please email me your full manuscript as a Word document attachment? My email address is ebewley@sll.com. Please include “Pitch Wars” in your subject line of the email. I’ll look forward to reading.
    Elizabeth Bewley
    Sterling Lord Literistic

  4. Tamara Kawar says:

    Dear Zahra,

    BORN FROM THE FLAMES sounds really great and I’d love to read! If you’re interested in sending, could you please email the full manuscript to tamara.kawar@icmpartners.com and make sure to include “PW2020” in your subject line?

    Thank you!



  5. Mollie Glick says:

    Hi Zahra, this sounds right up my alley! Please send your full manuscript, query and synopsis via email to mollie.glickasst@caa.com with “Pitch Wars Requested Submission” in the subject line. Please let me know if you are submitting to more than one agent at CAA.

  6. Peter Knapp says:

    This sounds great! I’d love to read more. Please send a query in the body of the email to queries@parkfine.com with = “Pete Knapp – Pitch Wars: BORN FROM THE FLAMES (YA)” in the subject line. Please attach the manuscript as a Word document, and include a short synopsis (either in the beginning of the same document as the manuscript or as a separate attachment). Thank you, and I’m looking forward to considering. Warmly, Pete

  7. Penelope Burns says:

    Hi Zahra,

    I’d love to see this! If you’re interested, can you send your query and full manuscript to penelope@gelfmanschneider.com, with PitchWars in the subject line? Thank you!

    All best,