Get to know the Pitch Wars Mentors Mini Interviews . . . No. 31 Middle Grade
From June 27th through July 18th, we’ll be posting mini-interviews with most of the Pitch Wars mentors so you can get to know them. Many of the mentors also hang out on twitter. Follow the links to their Twitter accounts and say hello. They’ll be on the #PitchWars hashtag tweeting advice and answering questions.
We will also host live chats from July 19th through August 2nd, and the Pitch Wars submission window will open on August 3rd!
We asked our mentors to answer these three questions …
1. What are you looking for in a submission and what would you forgive as far as issues in the sample pages? In other words, what do you feel is an easy fix and what would be a pass for you?
2. What is your editing style and do you have a game plan to tackle edits with your mentee in the two months given for the contest?
3. And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?
And here are their answers …
Kate is an Englishwoman lapping up the sunshine on the Gold Coast in Australia. She loves editing more than she loves writing, but the line is most definitely fine. She’s a freelance editor and the editorial director at Lakewater Press, and she gets the biggest buzz from mentoring new writers.
ONE: I’m first and foremost looking for strong voice. I believe a lot of other issues, even as far as plot structure and characterisation, can be fixed if the voice is incredible. Apart from amazing voices, I also love making that immediate connection with the main character straight off the bat in the first paragraph. I want to see what’s unique about them, learn a flaw or a strength; something important about their personality.
TWO: I am seriously hands on, and will work on the entire manuscript with my mentee. We’ll focus on any big changes together first then I’ll run line edits. We’ll keep on editing, hitting the manuscript back and forth between us until the bell rings for the next round! Expect to work hard. 🙂
THREE: Horrible question to have to pick just one. So, today, I’m going to choose my current flavour that I’m recommending to EVERYONE and that’s A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. It’s an absolute middle grade masterpiece from content to voice, and the execution is beyond beautiful.
Kevin A. Springer
Kevin A. Springer grew up on a farm in Maryland where his imagination knew no limits. As a husband and father, he reconnected with his creativity while telling bedtime stories to his two young boys. One such story evolved into his debut book, Extraordinary Sam & the Adventurers’ Guild (Bookfish Books LLC.), which tells the tale of an ordinary boy who finds a hatbox and discovers a world of adventure and self-discovery.
Kevin is a self-proclaimed dreamer and a kid at heart. When he’s not writing or reading, he is coaching soccer or helping with homework. He lives outside of Atlanta with his wife, two extraordinary boys, and dogs. He is also a co-founder of the Middle Grade Mafia blog.
ONE: I am looking for MG that is fun and/or adventurous. I feel I can offer the best mentoring to the type of books I would read. I am not a stickler for tight grammar (ask my editor). As long as the character is well developed and the plot begs for me to read more, I’m in!
TWO: I will help my mentee flesh out opportunities to make the story richer with detailed scene development, weave a bit of humor, and punch up the action.
THREE: I discovered writing a few years ago and the books I was reading with my son gave me a benchmark I wanted to strive for in my own writing. One that jumps out at me is Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving you Kingdom. The series is full of action and humor, but also had very distinct characters.
Kim Long is an attorney in the Chicagoland area, where she spends her days expressing her clients’ (always true) stories to judges and juries. She writes MG contemporary fantasy that contains a sprinkle of science. When not managing her fantasy baseball and football teams, she can be found biking along the numerous trails in Illinois, watching Star Wars for the zillionth time, or teaching her nieces about the importance of choosing the correct racer (Toad) and vehicle (magicruiser) in Mario Kart. She is represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger.
ONE: I’m looking for engaging, well-written pages that introduce the MC and at least hint at the upcoming conflict. As far as “issues” in the sample pages, I’d forgive anything if the writing is great and the story is moving along. Starting in the wrong spot? We can fix that. Crutch words? A search-and-replace and we’ll get them all! Typos? Real easy fix. Just show me you have an MC worth caring about at the start of their journey and pique my interest as to that journey. We can take care of the rest!
TWO: This really depends on what the issues are. If there’s a lot of story structure to work on, I won’t be doing line edits right off the bat. Instead, I’ll send an edit letter outlining issues I see with the hope it will open up a dialogue with my mentee as to which plot holes/scenes need to be added/revised/altered so that the story comes together. Once we’re good to go on the story arc, then I’ll wait for my mentee to return the manuscript, at which time (assuming there is time), I’ll do line edits. I’m always open to bouncing off ideas, but I think that the author is the one who knows their story the best, and the best ideas for a fix will ultimately come from my mentee. On that note, I’d like to think that any mentee realizes the point of Pitch Wars is to work with a mentor and that substantial changes may be needed. In the end, it is, of course, up to the mentee, but know that any suggestion is given with the point that I think it would make the manuscript more compelling for an agent/editor.
THREE: I don’t have a favorite book, but, and I know this is going to sound weird from an MG author, I remember reading Stephen King’s Night Shift when I was in junior high. It’s a short story collection, and a very varied short story collection, some horror, some paranormal, some straight contemporary. (The Last Rung on the Ladder still gets me every time as does Survivor Type in Skeleton Crew–lady fingers, lady fingers!! EEK!) I knew he was a “horror” writer, and I wasn’t a horror fan, but I was riveted by how different each of the stories were and how caught up I got reading each one. That’s really when I thought it’d be cool to be able to tell stories like that.
Wade White & Co-Mentor Timanda Wertz
Wade hails from Nova Scotia, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches part time, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along fabulously. The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes comes out this fall.
Timanda lives in a suburb of Washington D.C. She’s equal parts football and Broadway musical lover. There’s always has at least one song running through her head—sometimes two or three battling it out. She has several hundred kids because she teaches middle school science, and once they’re in her class, they’re her kids forever.
ONE for Wade: First and foremost, I’m looking for a strong narrative voice. Spelling and grammar and pacing and characterization can all be fixed, but the voice needs to grab my attention.
ONE for Timanda: A compelling character is the first thing about a story that grabs me. If I love the character, I’m all in. Voice is definitely part of that. Pacing and mechanics are all fixable.
TWO for Wade: I tend to be more of a big picture reader. I’m good at ferreting out plot holes and inconsistencies, and I always pay close attention to the overall framework of the story and how it’s structured. I’m also good with pacing and making sure chapter endings hook the reader.
TWO for Timanda: Generally I read (at least) once for big picture stuff, then again for the details—grammar, spelling, etc.
THREE for Wade: If I could only pick one (which is cruel, btw), I would have to go with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I love the silliness and overall absurdity of the story, and yet in so many ways it does so by simply speaking the truth.
THREE for Timanda: Gah! One book? Really? I guess…The Chronicles of Narnia were my first introduction to fantasy literature, so they definitely influenced me, but I don’t think I could call them a favorite at this point. I love Harry Potter for its humor and heart. I learned a ton about characterization and foreshadowing from Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief. No, seriously I can’t pick one.
Thank you, mentors, for your marvelous answers. We appreciate you so much!
Pitch Wars Schedule:
June 27-July 15 Mentor Mini Interviews
July 19-August 2 Live Chats with Mentors
July 20-August 3 Mentor Blog Hop
August 3rd Pitch Wars Submission Window Opens
August 25th Mentees Chosen and Announced