Pitch Wars Interview with Suzi Guina and her mentor, Alexandra Alessandri
Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.
And now, we have . . .
Suzi Guina – Mentee
Alexandra Alessandri – Mentor
Suzi: Why did you choose Alexandra?
When I read Alexandra’s bio during the blog hop, so much clicked. But it went well beyond her wish list and my manuscript, to her as a person. We have A LOT in common. Alexandra wrote about being Colombian-American and how the Andes mountains feel like home. I have this same connection with the island of Faial in the Azores, which is the setting of my manuscript. Alexandra’s a poet; my first two manuscripts were poetry collections (though I hesitate to call myself a poet). She’s a college professor, teaching English and creative writing. I teach the same subjects at both the high school and college levels.
But it was Alexandra’s connection to her culture that really drew me toward choosing her. My manuscript explores the feeling of being between two cultures and languages, Portuguese and American. I thought that out of all the mentors, she would get it. What I couldn’t have known was that Alexandra’s own Pitch Wars manuscript delves into many of the same themes as mine and she would be able to use her own experiences with that manuscript to help me with mine. It turns out we have even more in common than I realized!
Alexandra: Why did you choose Suzi?
The first inkling I got of Suzi’s story came in a tweet, when she asked several of us mentors if we had aversions to mermaids, particularly Portuguese mermaids. I was intrigued by the fact that Suzi was Portuguese and that her story’s setting was deeply rooted in her family’s homeland. I hoped she would submit, and sure enough, she did! Then, when I started reading, the connection to place was immediately palpable—and as I mentioned in my bio, I’m a sucker for a strong sense of place. The setting is not just the setting; it’s an intricate part of the story, and Isabel’s journey, as well as the plot, is deeply rooted in it. This resonated with me on so many levels, not the least of which was the fact that my own Pitch Wars manuscript explored similar themes.
In her answers to my questions, Suzi mentioned that writing this story was in a way a love letter to her culture. And that blew my mind because that’s how I’d describe my own writing and focus on Colombia. I knew exactly what her vision was with the story and, because I’ve been on a similar journey, I knew how I could help her. The icing on the cake was that once I started reading, I couldn’t stop, and I kept thinking about her story even when I wasn’t immersed in it. I knew hers was the right choice. I’ve since learned we share a LOT more in common than our love for our cultures, which makes this whole experience even sweeter.
Suzi: Summarize your book in three words.
Portuguese mermaid legacy.
Alexandra: Summarize Suzi’s book in three words.
Portuguese mermaid adventure.
Suzi: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?
I’m a first generation American with roots in the Portuguese Azores islands. I’ve always loved books and stories, though I had to search them out as a child since we didn’t have books at home. When I realized I could study literature in college, I felt like I’d found my calling: books, books, and more books! Throughout, my culture always called to me. I looked for Portuguese fairy tales and stories, and wove them in to my reading, writing, and research.
When I had my kids, I wanted them to love our culture as much as I do (they’re half Portuguese/half Irish. How’s that for a combination!). My manuscript began as a story for my daughter, a pretty bedtime tale about mermaids. The Azores became the natural setting, and before long I had a story about a young girl who visits her mother’s homeland but doesn’t know the language very well. It all came together. So although I have another mermaid tale, I hope the setting and cultural elements set it apart.
Alexandra: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know.
I’m a first-generation Colombian-American married to a first-generation German-Chilean-American, which makes for an interesting household during the World Cup! I love genealogies and have been trying to trace mine, something made harder since my father (and most of his siblings) have passed away. Still, I was able to trace back to mid-1800’s Colombia with the help of my late uncle and some cousins. This connection to family and culture is deeply rooted in much of the poetry and fiction I write. I love coffee, tweet too much, and blog too little, and I love to lay claim to a great-uncle who was a Colombian novelist, Bernardo Arias Trujillo.
Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round.