A Pitch Wars Success Interview with Summer Spence and Evelyn Skye
The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we celebrate Summer Spence and her Pitch Wars mentor Evelyn Skye! Nina recently signed with Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. So without further ado, please meet Summer and Evelyn as they recap their epically awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Summer, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Evelyn?
Oh, man, I STALKED all of the mentors—er, I mean I researched them thoroughly—before submitting. I wanted to be sure not only that they were looking for my type of book, but that we would mesh in other ways, too. When I chatted with Evelyn and asked a (moronic) question, and she responded with a high dose of sarcasm, I knew we’d be just fine. All of the mentors I submitted to were so gracious and helpful, but with Evelyn, there was a little spark of mischief… which suits me perfectly.
Haha, I don’t even remember your question, Summer, or my sarcastic answer. But I’m so glad it worked!
I fell in love with Summer’s manuscript from the very first lines. And the concept of the story itself! Wow. Two lost princes from long ago, a castle in modern day England, magic… *swoon*
Summer, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
The revision period for me was INSANE. Evelyn warned me before we started that she’d be asking a lot of me. And she wasn’t kidding. She wouldn’t accept anything less than what she knew was my best. She called me on a lot of bad habits I didn’t even know I had. AND, she didn’t hesitate to tell me that I needed to re-write almost a quarter of my book. But even with such a massive task, I didn’t worry — her critiques were right on, and she was there for me 150% of the way. I think my revision was fueled on her faith in me and in my story. She was always there — whenever I had a question, or hit a road block, or just to chat and remind myself that I’m HUMAN. That was the best part about having Evelyn as my mentor — she is just about the best human on this planet. She’s become so much more than a mentor. She’s my friend. And I’m so lucky for it. The book stuff was just icing on the cake.
First, I’m blushing now from Summer’s kind words. Oh, you!!! I love you.
Working with both Summer and my alternate, K. Kazul Wolf, was as good as it gets. These ladies are not only talented, but also hard-working and willing to listen to critique. Great writers don’t expect to be perfect right away, and both my team members wanted to grow as writers. I am so very lucky to have gotten to work with them, and really proud of their successes.
Summer, after Pitch Wars you signed with Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Heather contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I want everyone who feels discouraged about their querying journey to scoot in close now…
When I was selected for PW, I had this triumphant feeling of “This is IT!” Surely, with Evelyn’s ingenious help, I’d get an avalanche of requests and be agented in no time, right? Not exactly. I did get my share of requests. And they were from wonderful agents. But I wasn’t one of the “OMG that was SO FAST” stories of being agented 2 days after PW. My offer of rep from Heather came exactly 7 MONTHS to the day after Pitch Wars. And when I received her offer, I still had submissions from Pitch Wars out! I wish I could say I was all Zen about this wait, but I wasn’t. There were times I totally despaired. Times I wished the need to tell stories would just leave me alone. Times I ate my weight in ice cream. But I’m stubborn. So I dug my heels in. I kept querying. And when Heather joined the team at Bent, I got a little tingle in my stomach… like “ooooh, she could be The One.” So I sent off a query. And got a full request. And screamed. After a nail-biting month of a few back-and-forth emails with Heather, I got one that said she wanted to talk.
I’d been waiting so long for this that I couldn’t even let myself believe it was The Call. I told myself that maybe she just wanted to talk about revisions. I got her email when I was on vacation in San Diego — good timing, right? Who can be stressed at the beach? Oh, um, ME. I was a bundle of nerves until we talked… and then, IT WAS AWESOME. She is so charming, kind, intelligent, and passionate about her job… and my book! So I screamed again and then went and hugged and snotted all over my family and sat at the pool under a perfect blue sky and wondered how this all had happened.
Oh, wait — I know how. Pitch Wars. My book would never have gotten to where it needed to be without the amazing guidance of my mentor and the opportunity to have it showcased for terrific agents. I may not have signed with an agent from Pitch Wars, but I definitely attribute my success to this wonderful contest.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Oh, umm… should have read ahead! See my last answer. 🙂 But seriously… PW helped me beyond honing my craft. It introduced me to the most wonderful community of writers. My fellow Pitch Warriors have become family to me — we are all still in touch on our super-secret Facebook page, where we trade tears and screams and hugs and A LOT of virtual chocolate. If it hadn’t been for the support they offered me, I don’t know if I’d have kept going. I owe so much to them. Witnessing the growth and success in our group, along with the trials and setbacks, has taught me so much about this business, where I fit in it, and best of all, that writers are the best people on earth. Really.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer:
You and your favorite character from your favorite book are meeting at your favorite restaurant. Which character are you with, what restaurant did you choose, and what’s on the menu?
Summer: Ohhhh this is soooo hard. Too many to choose from! But it’s hard to imagine chilling and eating with Dumbledore or Gandalf, and if I took Harry Potter, I’d feel like a creeper because I’m in love with him and I’m waaaay too old for him, so… I’m going to go with Tyrion Lannister, because, let’s face it, he’s fascinating, and hot, and more my age, and the conversation would be golden. We’d go to Pizza Express (don’t laugh at me, I lived on it while I was in London) in Highgate Village in the UK, and I’d order the Pollo ad Astra pizza (so spicy, yum!). We’d watch the passers-by amble up the High Street and decide who to kill—or crown.
Evelyn: Cricket Bell, I don’t care what restaurant, because Cricket Bell, and I didn’t even see the menu, BECAUSE CRICKET BELL.
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?
Summer: I’m crushing on Jandy Nelson so hard right now. Her WORDS… it’s like she pulls the whole universe onto the page. They’re too big to fit on paper or inside me. We would totally go on a picnic by a river and lie back and look at the clouds drift through the sky, and get dizzy with wonder on the green of the grass and the rustle of the wind and the murmur of the water, and I’d just soak up her genius. That’s not creepy at all, is it?
Evelyn: Neil Gaiman. He’s such an icon, but he seems like he wouldn’t be intimidating to hang out with. I could probably learn a lot just by being within 10 feet of him. As for what we’d do, I wish we could find a magic portal into some of the worlds he’s created and just walk around. How amazing would it be to tour someone else’s brain like that?
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
Summer: I think I’m most like Marianne Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility. Crazy and impetuous and drunk on the joy of life… but tempered by some pretty hard times. I love that she learns to find peace and stillness in what’s really in front of her, instead of wallowing forever over what she thinks should be there. And by accepting life just as it is, she finds happiness. I’m really working on that.
Evelyn: In a past interview on Brenda’s blog, I mentioned that my friends think I’m like Gansey from THE RAVEN BOYS (they even bought a ring inscribed “To our Gansey”.) Maybe it’s because I sometimes become very convinced of ideas and try to rally other people to make them happen, like Gansey on his quest to find Glendower.
Sometimes if I’m unsure of what to do in a situation, I’ll even ask myself, “What would Gansey do?”
You just won a spot on The Amazing Race what fictional character do you team with and what makes him/her/it a good match for this adventure?
Summer: OMG I’m bringing Hermione with me for sure — as long as she has her little beaded purse. She’s got everything in there! Hermione and I are both pretty organized, and try to be prepared for EVERYTHING that could possibly happen, and I like working with people who can get things done. Plus, I’m HIGHLY competitive, and Hermione doesn’t do second place. BAM.
Evelyn: I can’t even compete with that answer!
You only have two hours to finish edits, where do you go for some quiet time?
Summer: Oh, hands down, my favorite place to hide is on the second floor of the library at the University of Utah. It’s got floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the campus and little cubby-desks tucked into the stacks. The smell of all of those books gets me giddy to write (or rewrite. again.). I always sit right next to the shelf that’s the home to a zillion books on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. “But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, In hours of weariness, sensations sweet…” Gah, I love those guys! Share some of that genius!
Evelyn: My home office, with the door shut and earplugs in. Sorry! That sounds like such a boring, old lady answer! But it’s true.
What fictional character would best describe your mentor/mentee (alternate)?
Summer: Evelyn is Yoda. Hands down. Calm, wise, kind, in tune with the freaking universe. She knows just when and where to prod, what questions to ask, and when to take my light saber away. She radiates beauty and love, and her words are woven of the force of the universe. I LOVE HER FOREVER.
Evelyn: Summer is the boy in Oliver Jeffers’ picture book, LOST AND FOUND. She is smart and resourceful and determined and resilient, and she is kind and appreciative. And above all, she is a friend, just like the boy is.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Summer: If there’s anything I’d tell writers considering entering Pitch Wars, it’s this: DO IT. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. And don’t give up. Keep working. You can’t get better without putting in the work. We are so lucky to have the AMAZING Brenda Drake and all of the volunteers who make Pitch Wars happen. Jump in and scoop up this opportunity. I can’t say enough what it’s done for me. <3 Thank you!!!
Evelyn: Don’t ever let go of your dreams. Through all the rejections and self-doubt (which we all go through), hold even tighter to your love for writing and to your reasons for wanting this in the first place. Your dreams will guide you, and you will find them real–rather than fantasy–some day.
Thank you, Summer and Evelyn, for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, rush off and say hello, celebrate with them, and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re awesome!