A Pitch Wars Success Story with Julie Clark and her mentors, Karma Brown and Susan Bishop Crispell
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 Julie Clark and her mentors, Karma Brown and Susan Bishop Crispell. Julie signed with Mollie Glick of Creative Artists Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Julie, Karma, and Susan on their Pitch Wars Success.
Julie, what was it about Karma and Susan that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Aside from the fact that I love their books, what really made me want to work with them was the promise of “the most intense edit of your life”. I was drawn to that because I knew something wasn’t working with my manuscript, but I was too close to be able to see it clearly.
Karma and Susan, what was it about Julie’s THE ONES WE CHOOSE that hooked you?
The premise of THE ONES WE CHOOSE piqued our interest immediately. It promised an emotional women’s fiction story and did not disappoint. The manuscript was also one of the most polished submissions we received. We could tell right away that Julie had already worked hard to get the manuscript in great shape, and she seemed eager to do whatever it took to take it that last big step from “close” to “there”.
Julie, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Karma and Susan suggested some big changes to my storyline. They were able to see immediately what worked and what didn’t – and the best part was that they were available for brainstorming. They weren’t lying when they said it was going to be intense. I look back on the two months and feel like if I wasn’t teaching or sleeping, I was writing. I threw out a large chunk of the original premise and added a new subplot that needed to be woven all the way through. Then on top of that, I had to deepen the relationships between all of the characters, add chapters, rearrange existing chapters so the timeline was tighter and……it’s all kind of a blur. I went through three full revisions in that two-month window. They nit-picked EVERYTHING and I loved every minute of it.
Julie, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Mollie Glick of CAA. 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.
I sent all my Pitch Wars requests the second Brenda told us we could, and on top of that, I sent queries to agents I’ve always dreamed of working with. Mollie was one of them. The next day she emailed to request the full. Then the following day I got ANOTHER email from her that said she’d stayed up late the night before and got through half of it and was loving it so far, and that she’d finish it over the weekend and get back to me the following week. I’d never had this happen with an agent before. The entire weekend I checked my email obsessively, hoping to hear from her. Monday morning I was in the middle of teaching and my cell phone started to ring. I glanced at the screen and it said “Maybe: Mollie Glick”. I guess my phone recognized the number in her automatic email signature, which was great because she was calling me! And not great because I couldn’t answer the phone! I had to wait until my lunch break to call her back, but by then she’d stepped into a meeting. We finally connected the next morning and talked for about an hour. She had a lot of thoughts about how to make the manuscript even better, which was a huge selling point for me since I know how competitive the submission and acquisition process can be. Mollie also connected me with two of her clients and I was able to talk with them about their experiences working with her. They both described the kind of agent I always hoped to have – an editorial agent who is very hands-on, and someone who would be with me for the duration of my career. I love Mollie’s diverse list, plus everything an agency like CAA can give their clients. Calling her back to accept the offer was a really great moment.
Karma and Susan, tell us about your experience mentoring Julie.
Julie, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I think another name for Pitch Wars should be “Manuscript Boot Camp” because that’s what it felt like. It was so intense, but with such laser-like focus on THE ONES WE CHOOSE, not only did I end up with an amazing manuscript that is everything I wanted it to be, I’m a much stronger writer because of it. I’m still doing some revisions for Mollie before going out on submission, and I hear Karma and Susan’s voices in my head as I work.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you all 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?
Julie: Hogwarts, definitely. I am one of those people who desperately wish there were witches and wizards in the world vanquishing the bad guys.
Susan: The recent revival of Gilmore Girls reminded me how much I love Stars Hollow. It’s quirky and delightful and just seems so damn cozy. I think I could happily write there every day at a table in Luke’s. The only drawback is that’s it’s not in the south!
Karma: I’ve been asked this question a few times, and without question I would head to Hogwarts. What would I do? Practice my wand work, learn some potions, and give Quidditch a try. But if I couldn’t go to Hogwarts, I’d probably pop in for a visit to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. I think I’d enjoy life there.
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?
Julie: I can think of no better sidekick than Bernadette Fox from WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE. She’s the perfect blend of smart and sarcastic and would fit in well with the rest of my friends.
Susan: For me, some of the scariest bad guys are the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who. So if I’m running from them, I definitely want the Doctor by my side (Eleven, please!) and hopefully he’ll bring the Ponds along too!
Karma: I would be terrible in a high-speed chase, but I’ll play along…I would probably be running from zombies (they scare the cr*p out of me), and my fictional side-kick would be Katniss. She would totally slay those zombies with her bow and arrows.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Julie: This isn’t really an invention, but I’ve always wished people had “daemons” as they do in Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS trilogy. I think it would be helpful when meeting new people to get a glimpse into what kind of person they are based on their daemon. I’ve thought a lot about what mine would be…I’d like to say something cool like a lion or a tiger, but it’d probably some kind of a doodle mix – loyal, somewhat goofy, with bad hair.
Susan: I love the Time-Turner from Harry Potter. There are so many days when I think if I just had a little more time I could get everything done.
Karma: Oh, the Time-Turner! Yes, I agree with that. I could use one of those.
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?
Julie: I write every day. On Monday through Friday, I wake up at 4 AM and get two hours in before my kids wake up and I have to start getting ready for work. Saturdays and Sundays I let myself sleep in until six and I can usually get a couple hours in as I drink my coffee and let my kids watch TV. If I’m drafting, I’m typing furiously – I usually assign myself a chapter a day and just get the words down. If I’m revising, I do a combination of computer and paper/pen work. If I’m stuck on something, I’ll start journaling out what’s bothering me, or what I want a character to do or say, and that usually gets me unstuck pretty fast.
I try to keep a very structured schedule though. So unless I’m on a deadline, I work really hard to keep my writing to *just* the mornings and weekend days. Afternoons are for errands and my kids’ swimming lessons, and evenings are for reading and watching documentaries or reruns of Gilmore Girls with my oldest. I have a bad habit of always thinking about the next thing – the next deadline, the next chapter, the hole in my 8-year-old’s shoe that wasn’t there yesterday, or the papers I haven’t graded yet – and as a result I can sometimes feel stressed and spread too thin. Keeping things inside their time block helps me feel like I have an assigned time to tackle things. And then I don’t feel guilty when the time’s up.
Susan: I’m one of those fit-in-in-where-I-can writers. Mornings are usually my best chance to get words in, when I’m fresh out of the shower, head brimming with ideas, before I have to start the day job. On the rare occasions I get a lunch break, I will try and fit in a few hundred words, and then after work if I haven’t reached my word count goal yet I’ll move to the big rocker recliner in my office and knock the rest out.
Karma: I write nearly every day, even if it’s only a hundred words. And I’m a #5amwritersclub member, which means I’m typically up very early (without an alarm now, after a couple of years) tapping away on my laptop keys. I also love pen and paper when I’m crafting plot points – there’s something about that process that is incredibly satisfying.
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?
Julie: Coffee with heavy whipping cream as a creamer. Lots and lots of it, in my enormous California mug.
Susan: Most of my books have a major food component so I’d probably grab a snack to match—pie, hot chocolate, bourbon pound cake. Inspiration and motivation all in one. But on a normal day, coffee and a dark chocolate, nuts and sea salt KIND Bar do the trick.
Karma: I’m probably at my local Starbucks, drinking an Americano or a London Fog, eating this bizarre snack called Moon Cheese (which is basically dehydrated, crunchy cheddar cheese balls) that I’m highly addicted to.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Julie: My kids. They’ve been watching me chase this dream for many years. And my parents, who take my kids on all-day adventures so I can write.
Susan: My critique partners and writing groups are a huge source of inspiration and motivation. My CPs are some of my very best friends and just make life better. And the writing communities I’m a part of (Pitch Wars, Tall Poppy Writers, WFWA) are chock full of advice and support and kickass women. These talented ladies are always there to cheer me on while helping me improve my stories.
Karma: My deadlines keep me motivated! Ha! Seriously though, I’m currently on a book-a-year schedule, which means there’s little down time. But that (mostly) works for me – I like to get to work, and not spend too much time in the daydreaming space. It’s good to have a breather here and there to let the ideas percolate, but then it’s right to it and I don’t stop until the draft, or revision, is finished. I’m fairly disciplined, but my family and author friends help smooth out any and all wrinkles that come up in the writing process (and there are usually quite a few throughout the life cycle of a novel). It would be a much different experience without their support.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Julie: Thank you Brenda, Nikki, and Heather for all you put into Pitch Wars every year. Karma and Susan have my eternal gratitude and admiration. And a thank you to all the agents – Pitch Wars and non-Pitch Wars – who read my work and had such kind and supportive things to say about it.
Susan: This was my first year as a mentor, after being Karma’s mentee in 2014, and I am so grateful for this community. It’s such a wonderful contest to be a part of, on both sides, and I could not be happier for Julie on signing with Mollie.
Karma: I think PitchWars is one of the best (if not THE BEST) writing contests out there, and mentoring has been a fantastic experience. It’s a great feeling to know you had a small part in helping another author achieve her dream!
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We wish you all the best in your publishing journey! CONGRATULATIONS!
Julie Clark grew up in Santa Monica, California, where she spent the majority of her childhood hanging out with either Anne of Green Gables or Trixie Belden. After graduating from the University of the Pacific with a BFA in graphic design, she worked for several years in the athletic department at Berkeley before moving back to Santa Monica to teach. When she’s not teaching or writing, you can find her at home, picking stray Lego pieces off the carpet. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her two sons.
Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer, who probably spends too much time on her laptop in coffee shops. When not writing, she can be found running with her husband, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, or baking yet another batch of banana muffins. Karma lives just outside Toronto with her family. She’s the author of two novels: COME AWAY WITH ME (September 2015) & THE CHOICES WE MAKE (July 2016).
Susan Bishop Crispell
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their two literary-named cats. She is very fond of pie and is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world. Her debut women’s fiction novel The Secret Ingredient of Wishes comes out in September 2016.