Pitch Wars Success Story with Annette Christie and her mentor, Sonia Hartl
Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Annette Christie and her Pitch Wars mentor Sonia Hartl! Annette recently signed with Jess Dallow of Brower Literary Management, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for her. So please join me in congratulating Annette and Sonia as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Annette, what was it about Sonia that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
In the weeks leading up to Pitch Wars, I learned Sonia is the perfect combination of approachable and intimidatingly knowledgeable. When I read her bio, I could see we have overlapping tastes and senses of humor. I knew I wanted to learn from her and connect with her.
Sonia, what was it about Annette’s FLORENCE LEARY’S THEORY OF FLIGHT that hooked you?
It was so fun and fresh! I love characters with interesting hobbies, it was one of my top wishes, and Annette’s ms about a girl who games the reward points on credit cards to fly everywhere for free was so intriguing. I’d never seen anything like it before. I checked out her pimp my bio and began stealth stalking her before the submission round, keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that the writing would hold up. When her ms landed in my inbox, I fell in love with her voice right away and I jumped on the request before I even finished the first chapter.
Annette, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Sonia’s notes made so much sense. She had a really clear vision for where my manuscript needed to go, which made my job a lot easier. Revisions started out just swimmingly.
And then I hit a wall.
I remember the day I spent hours tweaking one chapter and still couldn’t get it right. I was so frustrated I wanted to cry. That’s when I remembered writing isn’t meant to be a solitary vocation. I reached out to Sonia and to my critique partners. They helped me take a sledgehammer to that wall.
Everyone who’s ever been involved with Pitch Wars says the community is the best part. It truly is. Sonia’s been my cheerleader and sounding board through this whole process—and she’s not going anywhere now. She’s a fiercely loyal person, someone you definitely want to have on your side. The class of 2016 is comprised of creative, intelligent, and hilarious people. My book, and my writing in general, is so much better because of this community.
Sonia, tell us about your experience mentoring Annette.
Annette was an absolute dream to work with. She took tough critique like a champ, while also holding firm on the things that were important for her to keep. As a mentor, I do my best to give a reason for all suggested revision, and Annette was open with communication and worked so hard to really make her ms shine. When I read it a second time, I was incredibly impressed with everything she accomplished. It was an absolute privilege to read her words.
Annette, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Jess Dallow of Brower Literary Management. 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 was sitting in my car, dropping my kids off at school the morning I received an email from Jess Dallow. She’d had my full for about a month and a half. When I saw the first line thanking me for sending her my manuscript, I felt so dejected, convinced those words led to a rejection. I was wrong! She wanted to talk to me on the phone—preferably that day!
Thankfully I only had to wait about six hours (I say “about.” It was precisely six hours) between receiving the email and our scheduled phone call. During those six hours, I was ready to burst from nerves and excitement. I made a list of questions I wanted to ask her and contacted my mentor for advice. I tried to do some deep breathing exercises so I didn’t hyperventilate on the phone. I picked up my kids and made them lunch. At least I think I did. I was so distracted, the day is a bit of a blur.
As soon as we said ‘hello,’ the conversation was easy. Jess launched right into her thoughts on my book. Her ideas were so fresh and smart. She was kind and professional, but also really funny. I was ready to sign right there and then. I couldn’t, because there were other agents who had my materials, but I knew working with Jess would make me a better writer and push my book to the next level.
Annette, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Even though I didn’t get my agent through the Pitch Wars Agent Showcase, I’m not sure I would have an agent now without going through the process. My manuscript has come a long way. I cleared out a lot of my rookie mistakes, simply by paying attention to the Pitch Wars feed on Twitter. That hashtag alone was a crash course in creative writing.
The process of working with my mentor really prepared me for the process of working with an agent. The knowledge I’ve gained through the community, my mentor, and through the experience of Pitch Wars is immeasurable. While Pitch Wars isn’t the only path to getting an agent, it is a damn good one.
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?
Annette: I know this seems like the obvious answer, but I’m reading Harry Potter to my kids right now and we all want to go to Hogwarts. England is one of my favourite places in the world. If I could move through the wizarding world and the muggle world, I’d be one happy Ravenclaw. I would soak up all the magical knowledge I could. I’d drive a flying car and drink butterbeer. I’d attend Quidditch matches with my husband. I’d befriend Professor McGonagall and Mrs. Weasley. I’d teach my children the patronus charm.
Sonia: Obviously, I have to pick Hogwarts too. The Harry Potter books were the first time I’d ever become immersed in a world I desperately wanted to be real. Growing up I read a lot of contemporary and mystery set in the real world, or horror (which was definitely not a world I wanted to live in). It was the kind of reading experience that transported me like nothing else had before. If I lived there, I’d like to think I’d be the cool professor, but I’d probably be the one who had stink pellets shoved under my office door.
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?
Annette: I fell in love with the themes and characters from X-Men when I was thirteen or fourteen. There are a lot of layers in that universe. So, I’m outrunning the Sentinels. I’m in search of humanity/mutantity and justice. I’m torn between having Storm at my side (for the awesomeness) and Gambit (for the charm/Cajun accent).
Sonia: I’d probably be running from Pennywise, because nothing has ever terrified me to the degree of IT. I will still watch that movie with all the lights on. My sidekick would have to be Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen. I figure an all-powerful being can deal with a pesky clown.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Annette: I’ve always wanted a Star Trek replicator. And I’d like one now so I can order treacle pudding with custard, please. Yes, I’m sort of cheating here because it appeared in the television shows before the books, but I’m sticking with it.
Sonia: A spaceship that can travel to other planets, like in Across the Universe. I’m obsessed with what kind of life might be out there.
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?
Annette: I try to write for at least 1-2 hours a day. I’m an intense plotter. I’ve got notebooks full of ideas and multicoloured Sharpies and index cards. Oh, and I swear by Scrivener.
I’ve got two kids (ages seven and five), so when I write really depends on them. That said, my manuscripts are always on my mind. I troubleshoot while I vacuum, I develop characters while I drive. We all have lives to balance with our writing careers and mine includes being a parent. Having my youngest start kindergarten this year has definitely helped me in that daily endeavor to carve out writing time.
Sonia: I write at night usually, after the kids go to bed. I don’t write every day, unless I’m working on something. I tend to take a few months break between mss to recharge.
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?
Annette: Well, I’ve got that Star Trek replicator, so I’m going to keep the tea flowing and alternate between ‘hint of lime’ Tostitos and a giant peanut butter cup. I’m not picky about where I write, as long as it’s a quiet room free of distractions.
Sonia: Gummy bears and Diet Coke. I can write wherever, but I usually get more done at home than when I’m traveling.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Annette: I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many smart and encouraging people who support me. My spouse and kids cheer me on and my parents have always encouraged my lofty goals. This year I connected with some really lovely critique partners through Pitch Wars and Twitter.
As for my motivation, that comes from a deep desire for a prolific career. I’ve got determination and moxie to spare.
Thank you for sharing your Pitch Wars Success Story with us! CONGRATULATIONS!
Annette Christie is a Canadian-American hybrid currently residing in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and two children. She has her BFA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Acting/Directing and has worked as an actor, playwright, theatre administrator, freelance writer, Barbie impersonator for Mattel, sexy cow mascot for Néstle, and movie/television extra.
Sonia writes young adult contemporary stories and reads anything she can get her hands on (books, cereal boxes, bumper stickers). She got her start making up stories as a kid. Mostly about penguins and the North Pole. As a teenager, she moved on to bad, angsty poetry before creating longer works of fiction. Her first manuscript was an impressive 180,000 words, after which she spent a few years writing short fiction to learn how to say more by saying less.
Her work has appeared in the The Writers Post Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, and the anthology Bearing North. She’s a member of SCBWI and is represented by Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency.