A Pitch Wars Success Story with Tosha Sumner and her mentor, RuthAnne Snow
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 Tosha Sumner and her mentor, RuthAnne Snow. Tosha signed with Jennifer March Soloway of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Tosha and RuthAnne on their Pitch Wars Success.
Tosha, what was it about RuthAnne that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
RuthAnne’s Pitch Wars wishlist mentioned she’d love a sports book. She also listed one of my comps as a book she enjoyed. Then in her mentor bio, she mentioned some strengths that were items I needed help with. After watching the mentor video chat and doing a teeny bit of Twitter stalking, I just knew she was someone I’d get along very well with.
RuthAnne, what was it about Tosha’s manuscript that hooked you?
First, I did love Tosha’s comps! Then I was immediately hooked in by the main character’s voice. Picking one mentee was so hard because I had so many great manuscripts to review, but there was something about Callie Whitfield’s voice and her problems that spoke to me more strongly.
Tosha, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
RuthAnne was a fabulous mentor! First, she sent me an editorial letter a couple days after the mentee list went public. She pinpointed exactly what my manuscript was lacking!! Most notably, I need to change the romance centric story to a contemporary with a strong romance subplot. We exchanged TONS of emails and shot ideas back and forth. She was always so willing to help me when I needed it, but she also let me take ownership of the revision process. I’d give her updates as to how it was coming, or ask her advice and run scene ideas by her. She was always so very supportive of me and my work and my ability to get the revision completed on time. I loved the entire Pitch Wars revision process. Although 3 months sounds like a long time, it flies by, but it’s enough time to tackle both big and small issues with a manuscript. It was great having someone who got my book and my vision and could help me take my story to the next level.
RuthAnne, tell us about your experience mentoring Tosha.
Tosha was great, she took suggestions and ran with them. Her manuscript was great when I read it in my slush, and then she just took it to a higher level through her revisions. I was very impressed with how much work she was willing to put in, especially considering how polished her manuscript was to begin with, and I expect nothing but great things from her in the future.
Tosha, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Jennifer March Soloway of Andrea Brown Literary 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.
“Offer week” as I am affectionally dubbing it, was crazy. And SO stressful. No one warned me about that aspect of getting an offer. Anyway – I sent my Agent Round requests and all the fulls that I’d had to retract when I was selected for Pitch Wars on a Sunday. On Monday night I sent three blind queries based on an agent’s recently tweeted MSWL. On Tuesday morning I got an email that an agent wanted to offer rep. I freaked out because I’d JUST sent out the manuscript on Sunday night. I had the call that afternoon with the offering agent and totally LOVED her. She was so very enthusiastic about my book and how much she loved my writing. But I had to let the other agents know I had an offer. I sent out those emails over the course of the next day or two, and because of Thanksgiving, I gave the agents until the Monday after holiday as a deadline. Although Thanksgiving was a great distraction, especially since my family traveled to North Carolina for my daughter’s last cross country race of the season, I still compulsively checked my email during the week. On Monday morning, I got an email from Jennifer saying she wanted to chat, if I hadn’t already made my decision. Time for me to freak out again! We chatted and I LOVED her, too. We talked running and as an athlete like myself, she really liked my platform as an advocate for girls’ participation in sport. And so now I had a dilemma. Which agent to choose? RuthAnne and I had an emergency SOS phone call to chat about the offers. I also reached out to several of my author friends for advice. I thought both agents would be amazing advocates for my work, both had stellar references, were so enthusiastic about my work and shared my vision for BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS. I’d really seemed to bond with each of them, so it was an agonizing few days because everyone I’d consulted agreed that I couldn’t go wrong with either agent. In the end I went with Jennifer because Andrea Brown Literary Agency is an established kidlit focused agency. Not to mention some of my favorite YA authors are repped by ABLA agents. The funniest thing about the process – I’d text my daughter at school to give her updates about the calls and email exchanges and she was so very excited for me. The day it was official, my husband brought home cupcakes from Smallcakes. A few days later, my local critique group took me out and totally spoiled me with more treats.
Tosha, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I’d very selectively queried BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS prior to Pitch Wars and was lucky to have had lots of full requests, so I knew my pitch, query letter and first pages were pretty solid. Pitch Wars helped me raise the stakes in my novel and fix most of the issues agents had pointed out in the rejections I’d received. The pacing, stakes, and the heroine’s agency were all strengthened. I can’t tell you how much better my novel was after Pitch Wars! I also think going forward, the friendship I gained with RuthAnne is immeasurable. As is the experience in doing a major revision in a compressed time frame.
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?
Tosha: I’m going with Star Wars. I want to live in a tree village with the Ewoks, and flying around in a spaceship seems kind of cool.
RuthAnne: I think Neverland, assuming they let non-pirate grownups in. Though, being a pirate wouldn’t be bad, either…
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?
Tosha: I’ll stick with the Star Wars theme… I’m a rebel fighter running from the Empire with Ahsoka Tano as my sidekick.
RuthAnne: Hmm, I’m going to say the Alliance from Firefly and Wash (RIP) is my sidekick.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Tosha: As a sports lover, I’m going to have to say Quidditch from the Harry Potter series. That would be such a thrilling sport to play!
RuthAnne: Definitely the Timeturner from Harry Potter. What I wouldn’t give to have an extra six hours every day.
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?
Tosha: I have a day job and two very busy kids, so my writing is usually done in the evening between nine and midnight. I use my laptop for writing because I type much faster than I can write legibly. I hand-write Post It Notes for my story boards and when I’m editing, I do handwritten notes. I am pretty disciplined about working every single night.
RuthAnne: I usually write in sprints. My day job alternates between super busy and relaxed, and I’m honestly not great at writing after a long work week, so I have to take advantage of time whenever I’ve got it. I love my trusty laptop and I dread the day I need to get a new one! But when I revise, I outline my to-do list on pen and paper. There’s something very satisfying about physically crossing items off a list.
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?
Tosha: I probably hole up in my office because everything I need is there and I can close the doors if I need distraction-free writing time. I am addicted to Starbucks iced coffees, so I’d probably have one of those, as well as lots of Moose Munch Crunch popcorn, Ghirardelli chocolate squares and my favorite – fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that my 13 year old son makes me pretty much every night while I’m writing.
RuthAnne: I’m bad, I would hook Red Bull into an IV if I could. I’d have a sugar-free Red Bull at my side with licorice and Sriracha Chex Mix in my home office.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Tosha: My family, especially my daughter. This one afternoon in particular comes to mind when she was in my office doing homework. On that particular day I was feeling particularly dejected about the entire querying process and said, “Maybe it’s time I reconsider this writing thing.” She looked across the desk at me with the most sincere expression on her face and said, “Mom, this is your dream. You can’t give up.” Those were sobering words especially because I try to model for my children the “Never Give Up” mantra. At least she knows that there are times when we all feel down, need a pep talk and then we keep on trying. J
RuthAnne: Other books keep me inspired. Every time I read something I love, I find myself more excited about pushing myself and my writing. My husband is also a big cheerleader, and I’m lucky to have a lot of friends in my corner.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Tosha: I can’t thank enough everyone who makes Pitch Wars such an amazing experience, especially Brenda, Nikki, Heather, Monica, and all the mentors, especially the wonderfully awesome RuthAnne Snow. To those writers (especially my fellow Pitch Warriors) still in the query trenches, this publishing journey is a roller coaster full of emotions on which I’ve spent many, many years on. All I can tell you is to try to stay positive, keep persevering, be patient, but above all else, keep writing, because your time WILL come. J
RuthAnne: I am just so excited for Tosha’s future and I hope you all keep an eye on her! And if you’re thinking of entering Pitch Wars this summer, start polishing now! This contest can be a great opportunity for writers who want to take their writing to the next level and to meet other writers who are taking their publishing career seriously.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We wish you all the best in your publishing journey! CONGRATULATIONS!
Tosha Sumner writes young adult fiction with strong, athletic, female protagonists who are fulfilling their dreams, of course with a little (err lots of) trouble along the way. She is represented by Jennifer March Soloway of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
RuthAnne Snow was born and raised in Kaysville, Utah. She was a sorority girl in college and social activities director in law school—which was a lot like being back in the sorority. She has interned for the U.S. Senate, worked on policy papers for Congress and the State Department, and once spent a year sorting through emails looking for fraud. It wasn’t nearly as fun as writing fiction. She loves travel, dogs, horror movies, and baking.