A Pitch Wars Success Story with Elissa Dickey and her mentors, Kara Leigh Miller and Meredith Ireland
Having our mentees land an agent or a publishing deal is one of the highlights of being part of Pitch Wars. We’re so excited for Elissa Dickey and her mentors, Kara Leigh Miller and Meredith Ireland. Elissa signed with Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Elissa, Kara, and Meredith on their Pitch Wars Success.
Elissa, what was it about Kara and Meredith that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
We’d interacted on Twitter, and they were both extremely kind and helpful (and had excellent gif skills). When I read their wish list, my story seemed to be a good fit, with light sci-fi like Station Eleven and romantic elements. The moment they suggested Thelma and Louise in the apocalypse was truly a cloud-parting epiphany-type moment!
Mentors, what was it about Elissa’s THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND that hooked you?
Kara: Her opening pages. They were so full of a haunting, creepy tone, which I love, and when I got to the end, I was like, “Wait, that’s it? Where’s the rest?” I just knew I had to request more and keep reading.
Meredith: For me, it was her stellar concept. I loved the idea of an action heavy apocalyptic women’s fiction. We went straight from the sample to a full request!
Elissa, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
It was intense. There’s that moment at the beginning when you get the edit letter where you think: Can I do this? But your mentors are with you every step of the way with support and guidance. Kara and Meredith helped me tell the story in the best way possible, so I got to fall in love with my manuscript all over again. I learned so much about writing and loved those moments when something finally clicked craft-wise. (It’s kind of like Keanu at the end of the Matrix.)
Mentors, tell us about your experience mentoring Elissa.
Kara: Elissa said it all—It was intense. We had a LOT of edits for her, including cutting an entire POV and completely rewriting the ending. At first I was a bit worried it was too much and that she’d be overwhelmed, but she came out swinging. She tackled all of our edits and did it with a smile. Her eagerness to learn and implement what we taught her made the whole experience that much better. We’re so proud of how far she’s come.
Meredith: Elissa had an amazing work ethic. Although we were hooked with that first chapter, the remainder of the book required major revisions. She was eager to both take suggestions and workshop solutions with us. She was an absolute pleasure to work with—never missed a deadline, always open to new ideas.
Elissa, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. 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.
Sharon liked my PitMad tweet, and she asked for the first 25 pages. Three days later, she emailed asking for the full. Two nights after that, she emailed again: she wanted to talk on the phone! It was so fast and so exciting, and I just stared at my phone in disbelief, then had to show it to my husband and son to make sure I was reading it correctly. Then there were tears and numerous gif-filled Twitter DMs with Kara and Meredith! When Sharon and I talked, I was so nervous that it was honestly a bit of a blur. But she not only loved my characters and story, she also truly got my story, plus she had excellent revision ideas. She was even excited about the idea of my next manuscript. After more excited gif-filled messages, I had a long week and a half of trying to focus on holiday preparations while sending emails and waiting for responses from other agents who had the manuscript. I did end up with another offer, but in the end, Sharon was the right choice, and I am so lucky to get to work with her!
Elissa, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars was instrumental in my success. Brenda and her team have built this fabulous, supportive community that I’m so thankful to be a part of. But I’m truly grateful to Kara and Meredith. They are literary geniuses who believed in my story, suggested brilliant changes, patiently taught me about craft, and lifted me up with encouragement when I needed it. They guided me through Pitch Wars, PitMad, and this entire publishing process. I’m so honored to have had the chance to learn from them, and to call them friends!
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
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?
Elissa: Okay, because it’s the holidays and I just read The Polar Express to my four-year-old for the first time, I would love to live in a world where my husband and I could take our kiddos on the Polar Express to the North Pole every Christmas.
Kara: Oh man. I don’t know. Lol. I generally read a lot of contemporary stuff, so the worlds aren’t much different from reality. I’d have to say I’d like to live in The Vampire Diaries world because, hello Ian Somerholder. But I’d have to be turned into a vampire because mortals don’t survive very long in their world.
Meredith: I would love to live in the lush setting of The Night Circus as either a spectator or competing with Celia and Marco to make beautiful, imaginative rooms.
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?
Elissa: This is a tough one. Dana Scully from my favorite TV show, The X-Files, would be a great side-kick (or I would be her side-kick, more accurately). But I think instead I would be in a flying car with fellow mama bear Molly Weasley. Only we’re not escaping bad guys, we’re just two tired moms trying to get some alone time!
Kara: *high five, Elissa, for working in an X-Files mention* I’d have either Buffy, or Damon Salvatore as my sidekick because they’re both badass and ruthless when necessary.
Meredith: Having just read Crooked Kingdom, I think in any situation where I have to make an escape I’d want Kaz Brekker as my side-kick to come up with schemes to get us out of impossible situations.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Elissa: Pretty much everything from Harry Potter, but an invisibility cloak would sure come in handy.
Kara: In Ally Condie’s Matched Series, there are different colored pills they take, and each pill does something different. One of them essentially erases certain memories, and I think that would be awesome because who wouldn’t want to forget some rather crap-tastic days?
Meredith: Everything from The Hunger Games. There were so many fascinating creations in those three books.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write every day, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Elissa: My process can be described as “a little bit of everything.” This year I started writing before work in the mornings. I’ve never been a morning person, but starting my day in front of the computer with a strong cup of coffee is wonderful. On weekends I often declare a writing night at home after the kids are in bed. I’ve also been known to type notes on my phone while sitting at my son’s sports practices. I’ve also discovered that traveling provides great plotting time. If I’m driving, I plot in my head and then write it down as soon as possible. If my husband is driving, I write it down in my notebook. On a recent road trip to Oklahoma, I plotted out the revisions to my next manuscript!
Kara: I generally write during the days (every day, Monday through Friday) when my kids are at school and my husband is at work. It’s quiet and I can often get a lot done. Most of my writing is done on my laptop while I sit on the couch. But when I get stuck, I go old school with pen and paper.
Meredith: I have to write on a laptop. My handwriting is not… legible, although quick ideas I’ll jot down on my phone. I draft best at night—generally after 10pm. I like to finish a rough draft in 7-8 weeks, so I write every day. But once I’m done, I try to take a break. If I’m revising, I’ll do that at my desk during the day time every day until it’s complete.
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?
Elissa: I’d probably hide out at my favorite local coffee shop and have a soy cappuccino and sugary treat of some sort. (If I’m still working into the evening, I’d head home to finish up with a glass of wine!)
Kara: My bedroom. I can lock the door and prop myself up with a ton of pillows. As for food and drinks—Pepsi! I don’t drink coffee (or tea) so Pepsi is my primary source of caffeine. And I love anything caramel.
Meredith: Coffee (and a lot of it) in my office.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Elissa: I’m lucky to have very supportive family and friends, but I have to say my husband has been my biggest support through the ups and downs that come with writing and querying.
Kara: My husband and other writerly friends. I have a small, close-knit group of writing friends who always encourage me and keep me accountable.
Meredith: The people I’ve lost and the people I love inspire me. Ideally, I want to be an inspiration for my children. As far as support, my husband is my biggest fan and I’ve met wonderful critique partners in this wild journey, but writing is just a part of me.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Elissa: I sent my first queries a year and a half ago, and I’ve faced my share of rejection since then. Believe me, it hurt, but every time it was an opportunity to improve my story and my writing. Everyone’s path is different. Keep writing what you love, keep putting yourself and your words out there. Take every opportunity to learn and grow, and embrace the community. And please don’t give up on your dream. As a wise person (*cough* Meredith during Pitch Wars *cough*) once told me: You’re brave and fantastic for pursuing your dream and devoting yourself to it.
Kara: Being a part of PitchWars is always an adventure, but this year more so than others for a variety of reasons, but the biggest has been Elissa. I’m always telling authors not to give up, to keep going even when you don’t want to, and that every no brings you one step closer to a yes. And Elissa is living proof of that. She never gave up, and look where she is now!
Meredith: This was my first year mentoring with Kara. I have learned SO much from her and from the process of mentoring Elissa. My own writing has benefited in that wonderful way of getting back more than you give. Keep learning and growing and remember that just as every writer has a different story, every writer has a different path to success. And the most wonderful thing about writing is that we have a chance to live our dreams. I am so proud of Elissa and wish her all of the best going forward.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We wish you all the best in your publishing journey! CONGRATULATIONS!
Elissa Grossell Dickey
Elissa Grossell Dickey was born and raised in Northern Minnesota, and grew up reading any and every book she could get her hands on. After earning an English degree, she moved to South Dakota, where she worked first at a daily newspaper and now at a university. She and her husband have three beautiful children and a faithful fur baby. THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND, her debut novel, is an apocalyptic-friendship-adventure-love story set in her home states.
Kara Leigh Miller
Kara Leigh Miller combines her knowledge and prior editing experience with a passion for the written word and a love for all things romance. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Kara is a multi-genre published author, and an avid reader with eclectic tastes that range from the tame to the taboo. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, three kids, three pit bulls, and two cats. When she’s not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she’s spending time with her family. Find her anytime at: www.karaleighmiller.com
Meredith Ireland was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in New York City. The daughter of a Brooklyn Public Library librarian, the love of words came easily to her. Represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Agency, Meredith is currently revising SCATTERED, her debut women’s fiction novel. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two children, and goldfish who is now 3 years old. She regrets not having a website, but is iffy with all things tech.