Pitch Wars Success Interview with Michella Domenici and Mentors Kes Trester and Jennifer Hawkins
The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we celebrate Michella Domenici and her Pitch Wars mentors Kes Trester and Jennifer Hawkins! Mic recently signed with Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. So without further ado, please meet Michella, Kes, and Jennifer as they recap their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Michella, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Jen and Kes?
Mic: I had a lapse in judgment and did not submit to Kes and Jen. How could I not, because clearly we are masters of 3 letter nicknames! I’m so happy and grateful for whoever passed my entry to them.
Jen and Kes, what about Michella’s application made you choose her?
Jen: We received so many incredible entries. Truly, there was so much talent in our inbox. But when another mentor passed us the entry for Lady Hamlet (with great enthusiasm, I might add), we both fell in love. The voice was off the charts—Alice grabbed us from the very first line and didn’t let go. We saw things that could use some work, but it was the voice that sold us. We believed Alice had a story to tell, and we wanted to help her tell it.
Kes: Alice jumped off the page with such warmth, humor, and energy that Jen and I kept texting back and forth with excitement. Voice is probably the most difficult aspect of the craft to master, and Michella nailed it.
Michella, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Mic: I got an introduction into the Save the Cat beat sheet, an 8 page edit letter, and two fantastic cheerleaders and guides. The notes I got from Kes and Jen made me think a lot about my characters and push me to flesh out their motivations so it was as clear on the page as it was in my head. They also totally helped me cut this horrible subplot that I knew needed to die, but didn’t know how to fix. They read my manuscript multiple times, and were so dedicated to it.
Jen and Kes, tell us about your experience with mentoring Michella.
Jen: Michella was a joy to mentor. She entered the contest with the intention of working hard. I think the level of work mentors expect surprises some mentees, but Michella wasn’t surprised or resistant at all. She rolled up her sleeves and polished her gem of a manuscript. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better mentee. She was the ideal.
Kes: Michella made us up our game. She incorporated our notes with enthusiasm, and then came back for more. She took such joy in the process I know editors will find her as much of a pleasure to work with as we did.
Michella, after Pitch Wars you signed with Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer: 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
Mic: My call with Heather was ah-mazing. We had emailed back and forth a few times before it happened, so I felt like we would get along well. A few minutes into our call, Heather nonchalantly said, “By the way, I’m offering representation, just to make that clear,” and I floated off into dreamland and then quickly tuned back into the conversation. We talked about the manuscript, my voice, and career before chatting naturally about random stuff. I loved Heather right away, how focused she was on me, asking what I wanted, and already giving me publishing advice like I was her client. I feel so lucky to be represented by her.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Mic: Pitch Wars was instrumental! Kes and Jen made my manuscript stronger, but they totally stuck by me after the Agent Round. They’ve been pillars of support. One day, at their snazzy book launches, I’ll be there with cake! I’m also so stoked to have such a lovely group of mentees on my side, who are so supportive and sharing.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you all to answer:
What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Mic: Preteen!Mic was obsessed with the Gallagher Girls Academy! I wanted to be a spy and have a legion of epic besties who could literally kick butt.
Jen: Is there really any other answer but Hogwarts here? I think not.
Kes: Jedi all the way. I mean, I named my son Luke; need I say more?
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Mic: The Raven Boys crew and The Lunar Chronicles ladies/their men are sacred to me. I’d definitely make all of them my confidantes and allies, ha! My idol is probably Amani from Alwyn Hamilton’s perfect Rebel of the Sands. My enemy is anyone who tries to hurt my precious Yael from Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin.
Jen: It’s not out until 2017, but Riley Collins from Kes Trester’s debut Collision would be my kick-butt ally. The girl is funny, brilliant, and badass: the three qualities I love most in a character.
Kes: Have I mentioned yet how much I love my co-mentor?
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Mic: Peeta’s bread. I am a bread fiend, and I appreciate all things Peeta.
Jen: Pretty much all the things at Hogwarts. (My agent sent me some Fizzing Whizbees from Wizarding World when she went a few months ago, and omg. I made myself sick eating those things. So good.)
Kes: I read very little fantasy, but I just discovered popcorn ice cream at a restaurant in LA that’s almost too good to be true! Does that count?
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Mic: The One Ring to Rule Them All. Or my lightsaber/wand/water-bending/Grisha magic.
Jen: Nerf Gun. You can ask my kids, I’m dangerous with one of those things. I never miss. Forehead shot, coming right up.
Kes: Bow and arrows. In summer camp I always won the archery contests, not knowing at the time I was developing my inner Katniss.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Mic: It depends where I’m writing. If I’m at Panera, lemonade and mac n cheese. If I’m at my favorite little bakery, fresh mint tea and something sweet. At home? Berries, grapes, and milk.
Jen: Lately, it’s been fresh fruit. Bananas, peaches, cherries. I’m trying to get a handle on my pizza and tex-mex addiction and be healthier.
Kes: You’re so good, Jen! I practically mainline French roast with a splash of vanilla soy.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Mic: Right now, I’m enamored with every word Leigh Bardugo, Alwyn Hamilton, Ryan Graudin, Maggie Stievater, Katherine Locke, and Marie Rutkoski write. Their books floor me, and make me want to do better.
When I was smaller, I loved Lemony Snicket and Ally Carter. I wrote Lemony Snicket a fan letter after The End came out, begging him to write more books. I also read Ally’s blog every day. She used to post writing updates and had a word count bar that would fill up as she wrote the next Gallagher Girls book. Ally was the first YA writer I saw and thought, “This. This is what I want.” That was 2007, and I was 12.
Jen: Gosh, so many authors. When I was a kid, it was Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Shel Silverstein. As an adult, I can’t get enough of Isabel Allende, Sarah Addison Allen, Matt de la Peña, and Neil Gaiman. Their work makes me strive to be a better writer.
Kes: As a kid, I devoured the adventure classics (Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, etc.) though I always wondered why boys got to have all the fun. That feeling has never left me, which I why I love to read about and write smart, female protagonists.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Mic: Writing is rewriting. And thank you so much to Brenda for this fabulous community you’ve created, and all the work you continue to do for writers.
Jen: I’m so lucky to be part of this incredible community! I’ve met all of my critique partners because of Pitch Wars, and I’ve grown so much as a writer in the past few years. Thank you, Brenda, for creating this wonderful web of support and encouragement for the writing community!
Kes: What she said J
Thank you for sharing your success story. We couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Bio Michella Domenici was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, with a love of stories. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found studying at Fordham University or shelving books at the Brooklyn Public Library.
I now freelance, creating director’s treatments for commercials, producing creative content for websites, and critiquing feature film scripts. But my passion lies in crafting high-concept, cinematic tales for young adults, often inspired by my own two YA’s. My first entry in the Riley Collins Series, COLLISION, will be published by Curiosity Quills in 2017.
Jennifer is a South Carolinian living in Texas. She’s a wife, mother and part-time combat medic to two rowdy boys and a Great Dane. When she isn’t reading or writing stories sprinkled with magic, you can find her sipping sweet tea and daydreaming about football season. She is represented by Amy Rosenbaum of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.