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 The Diverse Writers & Artists of Speculative Fiction

The Five Commandments of Storytelling


Every effective story has five structural components that work together to communicate a CONTROLLING IDEA in a way that bypasses readers’ critical minds to touch their hearts and change their worldviews. These components are the Five Commandments of Storytelling.

When most writers and editors talk about Story structure, they rely on a grab bag of different approaches that capture part of but not the whole of Story’s fundamental structure. In the same way, two wings, two jet engines, and a fuselage don’t make a functioning airplane.

In the Story Grid Universe, we understand that Story structure is about embedding GENRE-specific VALUE SHIFTS within every UNIT OF STORY — from the line-by-line BEATS to TROPES to SCENES to SEQUENCES to QUADRANTS to the full STORY — to communicate the ARTIST’s CONTROLLING IDEA.

The Five Commandments of Storytelling are:

1. Inciting Incident

The inciting incident destabilizes the protagonist by upsetting the balance of their life for good or for ill. Every inciting incident is either causal (the result of an active choice by an AVATAR) or coincidental (something unexpected or random or accidental). In response, the protagonist forms a goal, which they begin to pursue. Read more about Inciting Incidents.

2. Turning Point Progressive Complication

The protagonist goes through a series of actions to restore balance to the world after the inciting incident. As these actions fail, it progressively complicates the story until the protagonist faces a final turning point where everything they have tried fails. This can be brought on by AVATAR action (someone does something that renders the protagonists initial strategies useless) or by revelation (when new information is given to the protagonist that forces them to change). Read more about Turning Point Progressive Complications.

3. Crisis

When the protagonist’s initial strategy to deal with the inciting incident has failed, they face a dilemma. This is the crisis. The crisis poses a real choice between incompatible options with meaningful stakes. It is always a binary “this or that” choice. Every crisis is either a Best Bad Choice (choosing between two horrible things) or an Irreconcilable Goods choice (choosing between two wonderful things). Read more about Crises.

4. Climax

The climax is the active answer to the question raised by the crisis. The climax always reveals the truth about who the AVATAR really is when they enact their choice under pressure. Read more about Climaxes.

5. Resolution

The resolution is what happens as a result of the protagonist’s choice during the climax. Because the crisis had meaningful stakes, when the AVATAR makes a decision, something meaningful will always happen as a result. Read more about Resolutions.

Examples of the Five Commandments of Storytelling

Common Mistakes with the Five Commandments

Writers can avoid errors in applying the Five Commandments by focusing on how the commandments function together. Here are several common mistakes drawn from Danielle Kiowski’s The Five Commandments of Storytelling

Additional Resources

Strap in and enter worlds of wonder in Chosen Realities: Summer 2020. The Journal contains a dazzling array of short stories, scripts, interviews, and more! Stroll through fantastical universes, rocket through science fiction landscapes, and muse on poetry in this jam-packed introductory volume of the Journal of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Entertainment and enlightenment await!

You may be looking for some Afrofuturistic art for your project. Click the links to the artist and contact them on Deviant Art to collaborate!

SF/F Markets

34 Publishers Seeking Young Adult Novel Manuscripts

One of my favorite genres to read now is young adult (YA) fiction, even though when I was a teenager, I struggled to find good books. These days the YA genre is profitable, diverse, and covers a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to romance and everything in between. A lot of YA publishers are open to submissions without an agent. Some of these publishers exclusively publish YA novels, others publish children’s books as well, while others are open to a wider variety of genres and age groups.

Not all of the publishers are currently open to submissions, but the majority of them are. If you click on the name of the publisher it will link to our full review of them or to their website. All our full reviews contain links to the various publishers’ submission pages. The list is in no particular order.

Allen & Unwin

Allen & Unwin is a large independent Australian Press that is open to submissions on a wide range of topics, including children’s and YA. They have won a number of Australian publisher awards. They accept based on pitches, and have a system known as the “Friday Pitch” which insures that at least one editor reviews each unsolicited pitch.

Boroughs Publishing Group

Boroughs Publishing Group is an e-publisher that focuses on publishing romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Within the romance genre they are interested in publishing a large number of sub genres including contemporary romance, young adult, historical fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, multicultural, erotic, thrillers, and fantasy novels.

Jolly Fish Press

Jolly Fish Press was started in 2012. They are based out of Provo, Utah. Jolly Fish has a major distributor and a large staff for a relatively new press. Their authors have won numerous awards. They publish middle grade and young adult fiction.

Page Street Publishing

Page Street Publishing is a YA and children’s publisher. They have excellent distribution.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain is an imprint of Deseret Book. Both publishers are Mormon, but  Deseret Book focuses more on producing faith-based content. Shadow Mountain publishes primarily fiction and they have published a number of New York Times bestselling books. Because the company is Mormon run, books have to be approved by in-house censors in order to be published. They are very firm about publishing “clean books only”. However the authors need not be Mormon. They only have four short reading periods a year now.

Charlesbridge Publishing

Charlesbridge publishes high quality books for children and young adults with the goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners. They have good distribution.

Quirk Books

This Philadelphia-based press publishes just 25 books a year in a whole range of genres, from children’s books to nonfiction to science fiction. Unlike most publishers that tackle a large range of topics, Quirk Books has a clear marketing plan and to a certain degree their books have a cohesive feel, because they all are quirky. They have published a wide variety of bestsellers and they have excellent distribution. Some of their bestsellers include The Last Policeman, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. At the time of this update they are not open to submissions.

Holiday House

The books they publish tend to be on the younger end of the young adult genre (think thirteen-year-old readers primarily). They are an established and respected publisher.

Arsenal Pulp Press

Arsenal Pulp Press is a Canadian small press based out of Vancouver. They have won the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award (from the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia), and they have been a finalist for Small Press Publisher of the Year (awarded by the Canadian Booksellers Association) five times. They have good distribution in Canada and on the West Coast. I’ve seen a number of their books in stores in the Pacific Northwest. They also regularly host and promote events for their authors, and that is a good sign as well.

Tell-Tale Publishing

Tell-Tale Publishing is a small press founded in 2009. They seem to focus primarily on eBooks but also they have print options (largely print on demand). They publish six imprints which include Dahlia (romance, and various romance subgenres), Stargazer (fantasy, steampunk), Nightshade (horror), Casablanca (mystery), Thistle (middle school, YA, new adult), and Déjà Vu (reprints for all genres).

The Parliament House

The Parliament House is a small eBook and print press started in 2016.  They specialize in fantasy, including paranormal, contemporary, and urban. Their website is well-designed, and the covers too are well-designed and market-appropriate. They seem active on social media and more focused on recruiting readers than writers. The fantasy novels they tend to list as favorites are aimed at young adults.

Santa Monica Press

An established niche publisher, they started an imprint focused on teens in 2020. They are actively looking for young adult fiction proposals in the historical fiction category only, particularly 20th-century historical fiction. They are also open to young adult narrative nonfiction proposals.

CamCat Books

CamCat Books is a small independent publisher that was founded in 2019. Since then they have acquired and published a large number of novels, both through unsolicited submissions and agents.

Brother Mockingbird Publishing

Brother Mockingbird Publishing is a small independent press committed to discovering writers from the American South, but they are also open to good fiction, regardless of where the author is based.


GemmaMedia focuses largely on literacy, and improving reading, which includes publishing work for Hi-Lo readers.

Persea Books

Persea Books is an independent book publisher based out of New York that was established in the 1970s. Since then they have gained a reputation for publishing thoughtful books in a variety of literary genres, including YA.

Albert Whitman & Company

Albert Whitman & Company has been around since 1919. I grew up reading a series, the best-known series that they have published, The Boxcar Children. Over the past few years they have started to focus on publishing a larger number of books each year. They launched a teen imprint in 2011, and it still appears to be going strong.

Entangled Teen

Entangled Teen is the YA imprint of the romance publisher Entangled Publishing. Entangled Publishing is a newer company but they have had a lot of success in the genre of romance and they have sold a lot of books. They primarily operate on a digital first model, which usually means print runs only happen if/when the digital book has been successful. Also look at their Teen Crave (paranormal/scifi/fantasy YA category romance) and Teen Crush (contemporary YA category romance) imprints. Make sure to read our full review, as we do have concerns about this publisher.

Polis Books

Polis Books is an independent publisher of fiction and nonfiction, founded in 2013. Their focus is on publishing new voices. They are a technologically driven company. They publish print and digital books. Polis Books was founded by Jason Pinter. Mr. Pinter had over a decade of experience in editorial, marketing and publicity for a variety of publishers including Random House, St. Martin’s Press, and The Mysterious Press.

Owl Canyon Press

Owl Canyon Press is an independent publisher based out of Boulder, Colorado. They were founded in 2011. They publish fiction, nonfiction, young adult fiction, and works in translation.


Flux is an imprint of North Star Editions that publishes exclusively young adult fiction. Their motto is “Where Young Adult is a Point of View, not a Reading Level”. Most of the books they publish focus on the older end of the young adult market. They publish edgier, darker stuff than other young adult publishers. They publish all sub genres of young adult, from realistic life stories to sci fi. They are established, have good distribution, and have published many books that have sold well.

AM Ink

AM Ink is a Western Massachusetts based press that publishes quality biographies, children’s books, novels, and short story collections.  Some of their imprints are open to YA fiction.

Tiny Fox Press

They publish primarily science fiction, fantasy books, as well as YA. They offer an advance and they say they offer competitive royalties, but the details are sparse and mentioned here. They don’t mention a distributor, so I assume if they have one it is Ingram.

Young Dragons

Young Dragons is a division of Oghma Creative Media. It is a traditional independent publisher with three imprints. Little Dragons (Lee Press) focuses on publishing picture books and middle grade readers. Fledgling Dragons (Fife Press) focuses on young adult fiction. Inquisitive Dragons (Arbroath Abbey) focuses on publishing nonfiction resources for parents and educators.

BHC Press

BHC publishes young adult and adult fiction in most genres. They have published many debut books. They publish between 16-20 books a year. All books are published in print and eBook formats, and they are starting to release more audiobook versions as well. You can get a feel for what they publish here.

City of Light

City of Light Publishing is a small press with many imprints, based out of Buffalo, New York. Their Cross Your Heart Imprint focuses on YA.

Sky Pony Press

Sky Pony is a division of Skyhorse Publishing. This division focuses on publishing work for children, and are also open to publishing Young Adult work as long as it intersects with other areas of interest for the publisher such as ecology, farm living, wilderness living, recycling, and other “green” topics.

The following publishers are seeking YA work, but are open to limited demographics and/or topics. 

Amble Press

Amble Press publishes fiction and narrative nonfiction from people who identify as a writer of color, as well as “those writing across the broader queer spectrum.” So far they have published eight books, including two by the managing Editor and Lambda Literary Award-winning author Michael Nava. They are interested in young adult and new adult books, as well as a wide range of other genres.

Deep Hearts YA

Deep Hearts YA is a new publisher of fiction for young adults. They focus on publishing LBGTQ+ stories, in all genres and sub-genres, including aro and ace lead characters. They are primary a romance publisher, but romance does not have to be the main focus of the manuscript if self-empowerment or self-realization plays a central role.

Ylva Publishing

Ylva Publishing is the home of lesbian fiction and fiction about women-loving-women, and not surprisingly given the context, they only publish women. They mainly publish romance genre, but they are open to other genres, including historical fiction, crime, action, mystery, young adult, and erotica.

Source Books

This established publisher allows YA submissions without an agent but only “of works that directly promote diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Scholastic Canada

They are open to direct submissions from Canadian authors or focusing on Canadian content, who are from underrepresented communities, including Black writers, Indigenous writers, writers of colour, writers with disabilities, LGBTQIA2S+ writers and writers who identify with other marginalized groups.


An imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, which is edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, and is in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. Native and First Nations writers and writer-illustrators are welcome to query her directly via a form on her website. Native and First Nations illustrators are also invited to reach out. They publish YA and children’s books.

Tundra Books, Puffin Canada, Penguin Teen Canada

These children and teen focused Canadian imprints are open to direct submissions by underrepresented authors and illustrators only. Authors need not be Canadian.

Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript Submissions, Submit, Publish, Repeat, and The 2021 Guide to Manuscript Publishers. 


County Arts Agencies

3/10: Call for Artists - Carroll County Arts Council 16th Annual PEEPshow

3/12: Call for Applications - Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts Open Studio Tours

3/15: Call for Young Artists - Salisbury Wicomico Arts Council Douglas I. Smith Grant

3/17: Call for Arts & Humanities Organizations - Montgomery County Programming & Capacity Building Project Grants

3/25: Call for Artists -  “Our Best ‘Foot’ Forward: A Celebration of Kent County’s Creative Community” Exhibition

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations & Businesses - Creative Howard

Ongoing: Call for Arts Educators - Harford County Cultural Arts Board Arts in Education Grant

Ongoing: Call for Arts Educators - Carroll County Arts in Education Grant

Ongoing: Call for Artists - Howard County Center for the Arts Exhibitions

Ongoing: Call to Public Artists - Baltimore Mural Program

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations - Arts Council of Calvert County Community Grant

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations - Caroline County Community Arts Development Mini-Grants

Ongoing: Call for Artists - Carroll County Arts Council Call for 2024 Exhibitors

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations - Carroll County Arts Council Arts Opportunity Mini-Grants

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations - Cecil County Arts Council Opportunity Fund

Ongoing: Call for Arts Education Organizations - Cecil County Arts Council Arts In Education Grant

Ongoing: Call for Arts Education Organizations - Frederick Arts Council Arts in Education Grant

Ongoing: Call for Organizations - Kent Cultural Alliance Project Grants

Ongoing: Call for Artists - Prince George's Arts and Humanities Council Digital Open Call

Ongoing: Call for Arts Organizations - Somerset County Arts Council Community Arts Grants 

Ongoing: Call for Artists - Somerset County Arts Council Individual Artist Grant

Ongoing: Call for Organizations & Schools - Talbot Arts Mini Grants

Ongoing: Call for Curators - Black Arts District Project RestART

Around Maryland

3/10: Call for Public Artists -  Gene Lynch Urban Park

3/10: Call for 2D Artists - The Art of Racing (Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course)

3/12: Call for Musicians - Montpelier Arts Center Recital Competition

3/12: Call for Teen Artists - Montpelier Arts Center Gallery Library

3/29: Call for 3D Artists - "Off the Wall" at Laurel Arts Gallery

3/31: Call for Public Artists - Hidden Stories of Cecil County Art Walk

Ongoing: Call for Artists - Art Connection in the Capital Region

Ongoing: Call for Performers - Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center

Regional Opportunities

3/23: Call for Presenters - Mid Atlantic Tours

3/29: Call for Performing Artists - USArtists International

Vendor Opportunities

3/6: Columbia Festival of the Arts’ LakeFest

Ongoing: Kent County Fair