Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Kit Rosewater and her mentors, Amanda Rawson Hill, Jessica Vitalis, and Cindy Baldwin
Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Kit Rosewater and her Pitch Wars mentors Amanda Rawson Hill, Jessica Vitalis, and Cindy Baldwin! Kit recently signed with Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for yer. So please join me in congratulating Kit, Amanda, Jessica, and Cindy as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Kit, what was it about Jessica, Amanda, & Cindy that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
I was pretty thorough when it came to researching the Pitch Wars mentors. I wrote down every single one of the MG mentors or mentor teams, read through their blogs on the blog hop, and took copious notes on wish lists, writing backgrounds, and personalities. From the start I loved Cindy, Amanda, and Jessica’s personalities over Twitter. We bantered and bonded and I already wanted to send my query their way. But their blogs completely sealed the deal for me. On Jessica’s blog, I was incredibly impressed with her past experience as a mentor, and how hard of a worker she was. Her final statement about turning a manuscript into a book on the shelf felt like a call to action that I needed to answer. For Cindy and Amanda, their wish list told me we were a match made in heaven. Our tastes lined up so perfectly, and I had been paying close attention to their writing tip threads and blog posts throughout the summer. Those gals knew how to write and how to share those skills with others. I knew they would be able to help guide me through revisions.
What was it about Kit’s manuscript, Doppelganger, that hooked you?
Amanda: Kit really has a way with words. They just flow and wrap you up and draw you in. But beyond that, she had this character that I fell in love with. And I fell in love with the blots on the MC’s skin from her Vtiligo. There was so much poential. She just needed some direction.
Cindy: Kit’s prose is lyrical and immersive in such an unusual way; she has an incredible gift for metaphors that make you want to read certain lines over and over. I also loved the uniqueness of the retelling—Kit managed to take a fairly common trope (mistaken identity) and give it such an interesting, magical twist.
Jessica: The premise was unique and the writing was gorgeous. Plus, I knew from Kit’s social media presence that she’d be wonderful to work with (I was right).
Kit, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
This is my favorite part of the Pitch Wars story because for me, revisions were SO INTENSE.
They were absolutely grueling, which is awesome because I love reading stories about how other writers struggle, and the revision process was me struggling hard core. My three mentors gave me a seven page single spaced edit letter which basically said “we love the book, and here’s how it needs to change to get stronger.” By the time I put together a new outline that met all the needs of the edit letter, I realized I was looking at a full blown, massive rewrite. And… that stopped me in my tracks. For two weeks I could hardly sit down at my computer. I thought I was going to be kicked out of Pitch Wars for giving up. Meanwhile, I was incredibly jealous of all my PW mentee friends who said they just had to “tease” or “untangle” or “finesse” a few subplots or side characters. Forget detangling–I was giving my manuscript a buzz cut and growing the hair all over again! Gradually I made it through the first rewrite, with my mentors cheering me on the whole way. Then I went on to round two of revisions, then round three, then onto line edits, and at last onto polishes. I felt like a true champion for making it through those two months and putting so much work under my belt. I still felt behind everyone else in Pitch Wars, but for me I was just running my own race, and the most important thing was picking myself up and continuing down the path.
Mentors, tell us about your experience mentoring Kit.
Amanda: We were first up for helping Kit and we hit her with a SEVEN PAGE EDIT LETTER. You know what she did? She didn’t even flinch. She just got to work. We had to talk her through a couple near-breakdowns where she told us everything was coming out terrible and we read it and it blew us away! Kit didn’t complain once. She got to work. There’s nothing I admire more.
Cindy: Kit is a true Pitch Warrior! We threw a lot of stuff at her and she took it all with incredible grace and eagerness. We more-or-less asked her to rewrite the bulk of her book from scratch, and she didn’t complain once. She took our suggestions and ran with them. When I read her revision, I was more-or-less stuck on the couch for two days with my jaw on the floor, captivated and amazed that she’d done such incredible and sophisticated work in so short a time.
Jessica: I was impressed with Kit’s work ethic. After she’d already rewritten a substantial portion of her manuscript, I threw another massive round of edits at her. She didn’t just make cosmetic fixes; she went in deep and really worked to improve her novel.
Kit, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
Susan was one of the people to request on my Pitch Wars entry, and at the time I didn’t actually know how big she was as an agent. After I got an initial offer for representation and nudged the other agents with my full, Susan wrote me a note to tell me how much she was enjoying the pages, and that she wanted to talk later in the week. By that point, I knew how amazing she was, and I went into panic mode. I worried that she wouldn’t love the rest of the manuscript as much as she had liked the first bit, and would somehow take back the call. I remember sending her a note about how I was willing to revise where she found issues, and Susan responded so warmly, telling me that she loved working on a manuscript as a partner with her clients. When we talked on the phone, she made me feel at ease immediately. The first thing she told me was that she knew I was probably going through a lot of stress that week, and she wanted me to know from the start that she wanted to offer representation. No one else had come out and said that right away, and it really did allow me to relax during our entire conversation. She told me all the things she loved about DOPPELGANGER, some of her ideas for revision, and then she asked me some questions about myself and future projects. I really loved how excited she was about my ideas. Then she told me all about her amazing experience in marketing and publishing, as well as her degree in library sciences. She has only been a literary agent for six years, and yet she has accomplished so much, especially in the MG world! I was completely awed and smitten.
She set up a follow-up call for a few days later, and then put me in touch with a few of her clients so it was easy to connect to them to ask additional questions. By the time I started compiling my information on Susan, I realized she was going to be the one for me! Luckily, our first call was on day seven of a ten day decision period, so I didn’t have to wait too long to announce my decision. I will say, though, that speaking with Susan on the follow-up call and not telling her was super hard. I asked her more questions, wrote down the answers, and drew hearts all over my note paper because I just loved everything she had to say. I was beaming throughout my shift at work because I just couldn’t wait to send her the decision email at midnight, and when I checked my inbox during a break, I saw that she had sent the most wonderful email further detailing some of her favorite excerpts of DOPPELGANGER. By that point I was basically crying in happiness, and I could not turn my smile off for anything. We had a third phone call on the day of my decision, where we mostly squealed with excitement and made a plan for the contract and when I would receive revision notes. And here we are now, with the contract signed by all parties and a solid plan for the next few months!
Kit, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I feel like I could have queried my manuscript during the summer and gotten a lukewarm response from agents, but I don’t think I ever would have gotten the kind of interest without that grueling rewrite and those brilliant initial revision ideas from my mentors. But even more importantly than the progress on my manuscript has been my progress I’ve made as a writer. Pitch Wars has helped shape me into a stronger storyteller. I know how to outline better, and how to revise with a specific strategy. I know how to roll up my sleeves and dive deep into a manuscript while maintaining the core themes and voices, even if I’m literally rewriting every single page of the story. Pitch Wars has been an amazing experience that taught me a lot about myself and gave me a warm and supportive community. I think even Susan was surprised by the outpouring of support when I announced my agent decision on Twitter. The mentors and mentees are all such good people, and I know we will all stay very close for years to come.
And now for some fun!
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Kit: I want to be a hobbit so I can get nice and plump, never wear shoes, eat as much as I please, and watch spectacular fireworks by Gandalf during the summers. Okay, and maybe go on an adventure or two. But mostly eat and read in the grass, and drink tea all the time. This world seems so cozy to me, and often when I am in a tough spot in my life, I think to the repeated sentiment in The Hobbit, when Bilbo wishes to be in his hobbit hole smoking his pipe, and not for the last time. I love imagining myself in this wonderful little world. For the record, I would take my entire kaleidoscope collection, all my books, some artwork, my husband, and my dog.
Amanda: Westeros. Hahahahahahaha Just kidding.
Hogwarts. I would do magic and marry George Weasley. Duh.
Cindy: So, all my answers to these questions are going to be Harry Potter, because as much as I love many other books these are the ones that I always wish to live in! I love the magic and whimsy of Hogwarts and Harry’s world, and the wisdom hidden behind seeming nonsense. And I could really use a house elf.
Jessica: I’d never pass up the chance to live at Hogwarts but assuming my letter never arrived, I wouldn’t mind living in a world created by Ingrid Law. I’d still be a writer, but I’d for sure have the power to grant perpetual summer.
Somewhere in the (known or unknown) universe, you’re in a high-speed chase and have to escape the bad guys. Who are you running from and what fictional character is your side-kick?
Kit: Okay, this is great because years ago when I used to run, I would always imagine I was running away from someone. I have a terrible imagination when it comes to the “bad guys,” because I just made the bad person be whoever had wronged me in real life. So I’m going to go with my high school answer. I am running away from my best friend who has just told me he does not care for me the way I do for him. I am outrunning a broken heart with my amazing and real life side-kick, Dixie, who was my running partner. She’s my parents dog, and I hear that now she far prefers sleeping on the couch to going running. Me too, Dixie. Me too.
Amanda: When I was a kid I had nightmares about the big, bad wolf from The Three Little Pigs. So yeah, he’d probably be chasing me. As for who my side-kick would be? Well, if I’m being honest about how my real life would transfer over to a fictional character, it would be Batty from THE PENDERWICKS. Haha But if I could have anyone I choose? I think I’d like Dragon from WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON.
Cindy: I’m definitely in Harry’s world, running from the Death Eaters. (Or, as I prefer to think of it, beating the Death Eaters.) I’d probably pick Ginny Weasley, because she combines the best of all worlds: Smart, good with curses, and quick on her feet.
Jessica: I suppose I’d be running from the White Witch. My sidekick would have to be Enna from Shannon Hale’s ENNA BURNING, because how handy would it be to have a BFF who could control fire?
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Kit: I like the automaton from Matthew Kirby’s The Clockwork Three. That book felt like absolute magic in my hands when I read it.
Amanda: The Infinite Improbability Drive from HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.
Cindy: Harping on Harry Potter some more, but I’d probably say the Pensieve. As both an extremely nostalgic and extremely forgetful person, it’s always seemed like a useful tool to have around.
Jessica: I wish the Babel fish from THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY were real—the ability to understand any language would be fantastic.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Kit: I am the night owl writer. My best writing hours are from 10pm to 2am usually. I used to write on pen and paper, but now I find that I only take down plot outlines and notes in my notebook. The actual writing goes from my brain straight into the computer. My process completely depends on what stage I’m at of a book. When drafting, I’m all about word count goals and conducting writing sprints. I set 30 minutes on the clock, write as much as I can, then record my word count. That’s how I got draft one of DOPPELGANGER done in under four weeks. For revising, I set a chapter goal usually. During Pitch Wars, my schedule went through the window. I was glued to my computer all the time. I’m just starting to slowly reinstate my writing routine again.
Amanda: I write every day except Sunday starting around 7:30 when I put my kids to bed. Sometimes I’m in bed, sometimes in a chair, if my husband is hoping for brownie points he’ll draw up a bath for my writing. J
Cindy: I don’t write every day. I try to write a few thousand words a week, but I’m definitely a “slow and steady” writer at this moment in my life, thanks to most of my time being taken up by a preschooler. I write while doing breathing treatments (for cystic fibrosis)—sometimes in the morning, if my daughter is playing happily, and usually at least a few evenings a week after she’s gone to bed.
Jessica: I write each day after my children go to school. Usually around lunch I take a break to squeeze in some type of exercise, and then I try to work a little more before they get home. I typically write in my office because it gets the most sunshine. But if it’s really chilly, I’ll sometimes bundle up on the couch with a blanket and my laptop. (Trying to stay warm is a running theme in my life!)
You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?
Kit: So the terrible thing about me and food is that when I’m eating, my entire focus goes into eating. I cannot write and mindlessly reach over and grab food. I suppose this means I would need to eat a meal that energized and inspired me before writing… so probably my favorite green chile queso. To drink as I wrote: English Breakfast Tea. My location: somewhere with no internet. There’s a lovely place here in Austin called the Writer’s Barn, and I went one day for a writing retreat. I got so much done in that single day, I’m convinced I need to go again for all my big deadline work. In general I like being in beautiful places with views of trees or some form of nature. I cannot be near a mess if I’m supposed to concentrate, and unfortunately I cannot be near my dog, because I want to go cuddle with her all the time. Be right back…
Amanda: Lindor Truffles. And I prefer writing in my bedroom.
Cindy: Lots of super-dark chocolate (I’m partial to the 85%), water, tamales, and Thai curry. (But not all of those at once.) And I’d definitely be holing up in a cottage on the Outer Banks.
Jessica: In the ideal world I’d be sitting on the beach at an exclusive resort in Tahiti, but in the real world, I’d lock myself in my office with a bottle of water and eat whatever my husband slipped through the door.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Kit: My motivation is simply that this has been my dream since I was a little girl. In kindergarten I wrote a story about a seed that grew into a tree, and I read it over the intercom right after morning announcements. In second grade, I wrote a much more compelling tale about a monster under the bed that I suspect I ripped off from Mercer Mayer’s There’s A Nightmare In My Closet. When I was eight I sent out actual queries–my mom helped me get the addresses for a few agencies. I have never given up on this dream. I have been writing full manuscripts for close to eight years, and every time I wrote myself goal letters for the new year, I always included the goal: “get a literary agent.” Apart from these internal motivations, I have support everywhere. My husband is amazing, as are my parents, my brother, my friends. And of course I am incredibly lucky to have this writing community behind me.
Amanda: That depends on where I am in the process. At the beginning, I stay motivated by the beauty of the idea and the truths I’m discovering. Somewhere after the third or fourth revision, I need a lot of outward support. Cindy has actually been my biggest cheerleader through my writing this year. She believes in my book when I can’t.
Cindy: My husband is wonderfully supportive, but the ones who really keep me trucking along are my critique partners and writing friends, especially my dear friend and 2014 mentee Shannon Cooley, and Amanda.
Jessica: I write because I can’t imagine not writing. But when I’m feeling down, my husband and my kiddos are always ready to cheer me on. As are my writing pals—a huge shout out to all of my critique partners, including my friends over at The Winged Pen!
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Kit: The best advice I got throughout this process was that we writers are all on the same trail, we’re just scattered throughout. If you’re a writer and you’re working hard on a project, never let yourself think that someone else can “beat” you at anything. You’re here to tell your stories and share your voice with the world. Work on your craft, write down all the interesting anecdotes about your life to find seedlings for stories that are your own, that mean something to you. And above all, don’t give up. Four years ago I attended a writing conference and I remember the keynote speaker telling the audience that the only difference between successful writers and unsuccessful writers was that the unsuccessful ones eventually gave up. The successful writers never stop trying. I will never stop trying as a writer, and I hope that anyone who truly loves this work will persevere through struggles and keep trying as well.
Amanda: I’ve done Pitch Wars three times as a mentee or a mentor and Kit’s story just exemplifies the main lesson of Pitchwars. Kit didn’t just get lucky. Her path wasn’t suddenly paved when she made it into Pitch Wars. She worked her butt off, rewrote her entire book, never complained, and then worked some more. And that’s why she’s going to go far in this business. So keep working, keep dreaming, and work some more. You’ll get there someday!
Cindy: Being a part of Pitch Wars, and working with Christyl’s manuscript, has been a true pleasure! I’m so honored to have been able to participate in this contest from both sides now.
Jessica: I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing community and so, so proud of Kit’s success. Go PitchWars!
Thank you for sharing your Pitch Wars Success Story with us! CONGRATULATIONS!
Kit Rosewater hails from the New Mexican desert, where she grew up catching snakes in her backyard and collecting obsidian rocks for her secret magical laboratory. In school, many subjects interested her, but none more than her beloved books from childhood. She obtained a master’s degree in children’s literature, taught English and theatre classes for four years, and now works as a children’s indie bookseller. DOPPELGANGER is her fourth manuscript, though its three predecessors may one day emerge from their metaphorical coffins. She currently lives in Austin, Texas along with her husband and their border collie mix, Sadie.
Amanda Rawson Hill
Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in Southwestern Wyoming with a library right out her back gate (which accounts a lot for how she turned out.) After graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in chemistry, she lived all over the US with her husband and three kids. Today Amanda resides in Central California where she homeschools her children, gardens, teaches science and writing classes at the local educational enrichment center, and goes to Disneyland more often than is probably healthy. She writes heartfelt middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.
Jessica Vitalis is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch. Her debut, a middle grade novel called NOTHING LIKE LENNON, is currently out on submission. An active member of the literary community, she volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor, with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and contributes to two blogs: Writing With The Mentors and The Winged Pen. When she’s not pursuing her literary interests, Jessica can be found chasing her two precocious daughters around Atlanta, Georgia (or eating copious amounts of chocolate).
Cindy Baldwin is a Carolina girl who moved to the opposite coast and is gamely doing her part in keeping Portland weird. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of someday writing just that kind of book. Her debut middle grade novel is forthcoming from HarperCollin’s Children’s in 2018. Find her online at www.cindybaldwinbooks.com and on Twitter at @beingcindy.