A Pitch Wars Success Story with Sabina Khan and her mentor, Natasha Neagle
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 Sabina Kahn and her mentor, Natasha Neagle. Sabina signed with Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Sabina and Natasha on their Pitch Wars Success.
Sabina, what was it about Natasha that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
So here’s the thing: if I hadn’t seen Natasha’s tweet about Pitch Wars when I did, I may not even have entered. I was in a real funk and ready to give up when I saw her tweet offering a free query critique. Thinking I had nothing to lose and that I probably wasn’t going to get it anyway, I tweeted back and ended up winning. I sent her my query and she was amazing. She loved the premise of my book and her positivity and enthusiasm totally rubbed off on me and I began to feel excited about it again. Her critique was spot on. All her suggestions totally made sense and I agreed 100% with them. When it was time to choose which mentors to sub to, of course she was my first pick along with five other amazing mentors. Luckily she picked me and the rest, as they say, is history. I strongly believe things happen for a reason and I feel incredibly lucky that the stars aligned and we got to work together.
Natasha, what was it about Sabina’s Love, Chai & Confessions that hooked you?
I immediately connected with her character and found myself wanting more right from the query. Her novel made me feel and took me on a journey as her character worked out who she was and how she fit into the world.
Sabina, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Natasha is an incredible mentor. The teacher in her made it a great learning experience for me. Right from her first edit letter down to every critique, she was precise and her suggestions were spot on. To be honest, I can be a bit prickly when it comes to having my work critiqued. Some of it is because I am a control freak, but also I’ve had past experiences where I’ve been told that my story might resonate better among Indian readers and other such rubbish. So I was a bit wary and it’s something I work on constantly. But with Natasha, there was never a moment where I didn’t feel my story was completely safe and that she understood my characters’ motivations and felt about them the way I did. She is extremely insightful and really great at what she does, so the revision process was a much better experience for me than I had ever anticipated.
Natasha, tell us about your experience mentoring Sabina.
Sabina was an amazing mentee. I basically told her I loved her character and her story, but we needed to tear the story apart and piece it back together to make it stronger. She trusted me 100% and the novel we ended with at the end of the revision process is one I know will be on bookstore book shelves one day.
Sabina, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Hillary Jacobson of ICM. 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.
The agent round was a crazy ride for me! Before it started, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t get any requests and I was gearing up for a self-pity party. But then things turned out quite differently and I ended up getting 4 offers of representation. Hillary was actually the last one to offer and by then I’d worked myself up into a frenzy, terrified I would make the wrong decisions and screw everything up. I had pretty much made up my mind to go with one of the other offering agents, but then Hillary and I scheduled a call and during our conversation I felt such a strong connection that I became confused all over again. She was super excited about my novel and loved every aspect of it. The suggestions and thoughts she had regarding revisions completely resonated with me. I took a few days to agonize over my decision and we talked two more times because I had so many questions. Hillary was wonderful and patiently answered them all, even though I’m sure she was pulling her hair out on the other end. But finally I had to listen to my gut and I decided to go with Hillary. In retrospect, it all seems like a crazy dream, but in a good way. I celebrated with my family and close friends, who’ve been with me through it all, distracting me with Karaoke nights and samosas. Lots of samosas! And champagne!!
Sabina, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Well that’s easy! I know for a fact I wouldn’t have an agent right now if it wasn’t for Pitch Wars. As I mentioned before, I was ready to give up on my writing. I’ve been doing this alone for some time now, as many others have, but there came a time when I felt like I was chasing a dream. But getting into Pitch Wars made me realize that I didn’t have to do it all by myself and that there were others out there who were generous and willing to help and guide me through this. And I think that made the biggest difference of all. Finding such a supportive community that makes me feel like I belong is everything.
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?
Sabina: I’d definitely live in the Marvel Universe. I would work with Ms. Marvel and fight against racism, homophobia, sexual assault and animal abuse. As a little girl I was crazy about comic books and dealt with a lot of racism by pretending to be a superhero with the strength to fight against small-minded and cruel people everywhere.
Natasha: I’d live in Harry Potter’s world where magic is real and hidden from a portion of the world. I’d live where I live now, just on the magical side and I’d probably be a teacher at the East Coast version of Hogwarts.
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?
Sabina: I’m most likely running from some sort of lizard creature and my side-kick would have to be the Incredible Hulk because, well, he could just sit on Lizard Man and crush him! When I was younger and living in Bangladesh, the little house lizards on the ceiling terrified me. Let me tell you, that’s enough to scar you for life!
Natasha: I’m probably running from someone who wants to brain wash me to be another mindless worker. Wonder Woman is my side kick because she’s badass and loyal and knows how to get out of bad situations.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Sabina: The time machine from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine! I am fascinated by time travel and if I ever got hold of one, I swear I wouldn’t know where to go first: the past or the future?
Natasha: There are so many to choose from. This is a really hard question. The first one that comes to mind though is from Stephen King’s TommyKnockers. A character, Bobbi, created a gadget that fit her typewriter and allowed her to write a novel while she slept. She just woke up and her novel was done. Granted, the power source came from aliens, but still…
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?
Sabina: I’m a total pantser. I don’t have the patience to do anything slowly! I wrote the first draft of Love, Chai & Confessions in 16 days because I just had to get it all down before my head exploded. I do a lot of plotting just before going to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because I had a fabulous idea and I jot it down in my handy-dandy little notebook that’s always on my nightstand. My puppy, who sleeps on her bed next to me, gets pretty freaked out sometimes! She leads a precarious life. But working with Natasha has taught me to be more organized and that is making things a lot easier for the new novel I’m working on.
Natasha: When I’m drafting something new, I write every free second I can get. I outline in quite a bit of detail first before I start writing and then I attack it one page at a time and work in linear order. I generally write on my laptop, but I always have a journal and my phone’s notepad with me in case I’m hit with an idea and can’t open up my document.
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?
Sabina: I would be up in my bedroom on my favourite recliner, with a scented candle, some light jazz playing in the background and my puppy keeping my feet warm.
Natasha: You will find me at either Starbucks or the Barnes and Nobel cafe, drinking a venti caramel macchiato with an extra shot. A cake pop (or two) might be involved as well.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Sabina: Definitely my husband. He goes out of his way to make sure I stay on task. When he sees me in a writing frenzy, he takes over everything kid and household related. That’s how I was able to put in 10-12 hour writing days for two weeks to finish my novel. He also gives pep talks and space whenever I need. My kids are great too and of course there’s my mentor Natasha and the wonderful Twitter/Facebook writing community. What motivates me to keep writing about marginalized characters is how many important stories still need to be told.
Natasha: My husband/kids and my CPs are definitely my biggest supporters. The Twitter writing community is great to keep me motivated as well.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Sabina: Things will happen. Eventually. You just have to keep riding the waves and your moment will come when it’s meant to. In the meantime, keep learning and just don’t give up.
Natasha: Giving up is not an option. Just keep writing.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Sabina is the author of Realm of the Goddess, the first in a series of YA Paranormal Fantasy books based on the gods and goddesses of India. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby. She is passionate about the empowerment of girls and women, hoping to inspire them with the strong female characters in her novel.
YA author repped by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary. I graduated with a degree in Biology from Old Dominion University and a Master’s in Education, Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Phoenix. A middle school science teacher by day, I spend my nights coming up with news ways to torment my characters while giving you the most swoon-worthy book boyfriend. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband, two children, four cats, and two dogs (Welcome to #NeagleZoo).