A Pitch Wars Success Story with Rebecca Schaeffer and her mentors Stacey Trombley and Rebecca Sky
When our mentees land an agent or a publishing deal, it’s one of the highlights of being part of Pitch Wars. We’re so excited for Rebecca Schaeffer and her mentors, Stacey Tombley and Rebecca Sky. Rebecca signed with Suzie Townsend with New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Rebecca, Stacey, and Rebecca Sky on their Pitch Wars Success!
Rebecca, what was it about Rebecca Sky and Stacey Trombley that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Pretty much everything. They were looking for dark, morally ambiguous anti-hero protagonists, which I most definitely had. Their list of favorite books was full of books I loved, so I knew we had similar tastes. And their strengths and the way they edited seemed like a really good fit for me, and covered all the things I wanted. Basically, they were perfect.
Rebecca & Stacey, what was it about Mentee Rebecca Schaeffer’s Not Even Bones (formerly Queen of Parts) that hooked you?
Rebecca Sky: Right away I was intrigued by the concept and I was hoping the pages held up. Which they did, actually they were better than I’d hoped. Rebecca has a killer dark atmospheric voice. During Pitch Wars, Stacey and I would message each other as new submissions came in and we’d talk about if we loved or liked it, and which folder to put it in (Not for us, Maybe, Strong, and LOVE). We messaged each other right away and were like, “Have you read the new entry? It’s amazing.” So we kinda both had that, this is the one feeling.
Stacey: the concept of her book drew us in first—with a tad bit of hesitancy, Ha! I remember when Rebecca first messaged me about this new submission and if I was okay with a bit of gore. I was like, uuuhhh, I don’t know. But, no, guys I was. I was okay with gore with the right story. We both love the out there creepiness, the anti-hero aspect and it’s done so well we just couldn’t say no!
Rebecca, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
I got my edit letter shortly after my selection was announced. It was six pages long, mostly full of structural changes. The comments were spot on. There was a section in the second act climax that had been seriously bugging me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it, and they nailed it. I ended up expanding the second act climax about 5k, moving a twist to a little later in the story, and shifting and tightening some middle scenes.
After first round edits, I sent it back for line edits. Stacey sent me comments first, and then I edited, tweaked some scenes that still weren’t working, and sent it on to Rebecca for a last round of line edits!
Rebecca Sky & Stacey Trombley, tell us about your experience mentoring Rebecca.
Rebecca Sky: She was great, she listened to our input, took from it what she wanted, was willing to stand up for what she didn’t want to take. Basically, we had many discussions. Sometimes we won, sometimes she won. She revised hard, thoroughly and fast, and was a pleasure to work with.
Stacey: It was a little bit of a different experience because it was my first time working with another mentor. In some ways it was easier, because we could split the workload, but it also meant working to make sure we were always on the same page. We had a couple video chats with all three of us, which was really helpful in us all working together smoothly but since we were all on different time zones (Rebecca Schaeffer was on a 12 hour different zone from me!) Overall, though it was quite smooth and honestly a great experience!
Rebecca, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . .
Suzie requested my full during the Pitchwars agent round, and I was really excited. She was always one of my top picks, and I had my fingers crossed so hard I thought they’d break. A week after I sent off the requested materials, I got an email I’ll never forget. The first line of it said, “OMG I need the second book right now!!! I love this book.” and a little piece of me (maybe a big piece) just died from sheer happiness. We had the call the next day and she offered. I was living in Taiwan at the time, and so the call was at 11pm my time. After it was over, and I checked my email to confirm, yes, this really happened, it wasn’t a dream and I wasn’t delusional, I spent the whole night chatting with friends on Skype and calling my parents. I went out to the convenience store and bought some pear cider and had a little virtual party over Skype at 3am.
We also heard you already have a book deal with HMH! How long were you on submission and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
I was on sub for about three weeks. I went on sub a couple of days after I signed with Suzie. I tried to focus on another project to distract myself from being on sub, but it was a total fail. Because of the time zone difference, I was getting emails at midnight or 2am about things, and I couldn’t seem to fall asleep. I ended up locking my cell phone in a drawer some nights just so I wouldn’t be tempted to see if I had an email.
Suzie called me a couple of days before Christmas to tell me we had offer. She was already on vacation, and I’d assumed I wouldn’t hear anything until the new year, and then BAM. I ended up skyping my editor at 3:30am to chat, and I thought her and my visions for the series jived really well, so I accepted the pre-empt. Best Christmas present I’ve ever had!!
Rebecca, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I think pitch wars has been a huge element of my success. The insight and great feedback from my mentors pushed my novel from a decent novel to an agentable novel. And the exposure from the agent round led to the request that directly ended with my signing. Pitchwars has been a huge stepping stone for me to achieve my dreams, and I’m so thankful for it.
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?
Rebecca: Oooh. This is hard. I think I would go somewhere I could do magic. I mean, a lot of worlds, only some people can do magic, and I’d be really put out if I traveled all that way and found that I couldn’t do it. I always liked the sound of the magic in the Wheel of Time books, and when I was a teen I really wanted to walk the dream world there. It seemed like a place you could actually turn imagination into reality.
Rebecca Sky: Oh man, this is a really tough one. If I had my choice, I’d be able to travel between them all. I’m kinda wanderlust driven. But if I had to only pick one world, I guess I’d pick Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, because I really want to put on a red scarf and follow the circus around the world, maybe I could learn to be a contortionist, or tell fortunes or something.
Stacey: The wizarding world of Harry Potter! Like, the real one! (as opposed to the theme park) Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic. I want to drink Butter Beer every day of my life and explore the halls of Hogwarts ‘til I grow old. I just don’t think there could be a better fictional world!
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?
Rebecca: I’m probably running from my own characters. They’ve gotten out of their books and discovered I’m the one putting them through hell, and they’re bent on vengeance. My sidekick would probably be Selendrile, the dragon from Dragon’s Bait. He can fly and spit fire. While he dealt with my enemies, I’d hide in a corner and wait until it was all over.
Rebecca Sky: I’m in Pandora (The World of Avatar) and I’m on a dragon, Katniss is sitting behind me, we’re tied together by a silk scarf, and she shoots at our pursuer—Cruella DeVille, who has given up her dream of a Dalmatian puppy coat and now wants a pair of tights made out of white dragon scales!(oh my!)—Katniss holds her off as I expertly maneuver my dragon through the floating mountains!
Stacey: I’m in our world, because there are a million real life places that would be amazing to explore here. I’m on Speeder Bike (or Swoop. Flying things from Star Wars), I’m running from Azula from Avatar because she’s one of my favorite villains ever with Marvin The Depressed Martian by my side (apparently I’m in a sci-fi mood, atm?).
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Rebecca: This is hard! There’s so many cool things in books! I think my favorite is the subtle knife from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I always wanted a knife like that so I could cut my way through universes and explore. Just think of all the places you could see!
Rebecca Sky: This may give away my dark and twisty side, but I was so fascinated with Mord Sith’s from The Sword of Truth Series. They were these badass female warriors who’s only weapon was an Agiel (a rod that inflicts constant pain to anyone who touches it). I want to read a whole book based off of them!
Stacey: A Tardis, because- DUH! Haha. Who doesn’t want to time travel…
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?
Rebecca: I binge write. So I’ll spend a few weeks just getting up, writing every day from the moment I get up until I’m exhausted. I do this until the first draft is done and then after that I ignore writing for months (partially because by then I usually have a new contract and am at a job all day) until I come back and then binge write draft two in my next break.
Rebecca Sky: I’m a spoonie (I have a chronic pain disease) so my body doesn’t always let me write. My mind however, never turns off. I am constantly thinking about my stories and making/recording notes in my phone or whatever handy scraps of paper I have nearby. I do often write a lot in the tub, because I feel the least amount of pain in there. But on good days, when my body lets me sit at the computer for extended periods of time, I write as long as I can before the pain overwhelms me. I’d write every spare second of every day if I could. My process is reflective of my health. I usually get inspired with scenes and I write those out, until I tire or my inspiration tires, then I step back and think about the characters/world/plot, and try to iron everything out. I take lots of notes, write a synopsis (usually they’re long like 20+ pages), and I keep adding to and building the MS until I have a full first draft. The majority of my process time is given to daydreaming. I used to be bitter at my body that I can’t write as much or as fast as I’d like, but now I’ve come to appreciate all the time given to dreaming. It is possibly the most beneficial thing I could do for deepening my work. It’s a good reminder that sometimes our weaknesses can bring out our strengths.
Stacey: I tend to do everything in spurts, writing or not, so I take advantage of my motivation when I have it and write as much as I can. So that means some writing days of several thousand words and then sometimes weeks without writing at all. But of course, sometimes I don’t have a choice and have to write whether I feel like it or not so I set goals and mini deadlines so I know when I’m on track and when I’m getting behind. I’m a severe procrastinator so I have to work against that tendency in order to actually get things done. I NEED deadlines, which is one reason I love Nanowrimo. Because you don’t always have someone waiting for your MS, sometimes you have to do it all on your own, and self-set deadlines are really easy to roll over when no one else knows about them. Nanowrimo gives me a website to update and people to chat with to help keep you more accountable to getting the words out
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?
Rebecca: I’m probably hiding in a coffee shop somewhere, with my phone turned off and wifi disconnected. I’ve got a chai tea latte and a bottle of water. For food, I’ve got cheesy mashed potatoes and soft chewy bread (because I love carbs and if I’m on a deadline I deserve it).
Rebecca Sky: I’m a green tea girl. I drink pots and pots of the stuff. If someone be addicted to tea, I’m addicted. Depending on the deadline and how far from it I am, and of course my health, I may go to a cool writing café in town — they have big comfy seats and spotty wifi (so I can’t use the internet as a distraction). It’s nice to get out of the house and get a change of scene, being a spoonie, I am at home so much I go stir crazy, and can fall into bad routines. Bad routines are the arch enemy of deadlines!
Stacey: Panera. Without a doubt. Lately I’ve been into Starbucks because I love their Chai Tea Latte, but I’d chose Panera in this case because they also have food so I can stay for several hours without needing sustenance (Starbucks snacks ain’t doing it). But I really need to be out of my normal environment to really focus. I’ll have a Snickerdoodle cookie and a Chia, next to me. Some mac and cheese on standby.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Rebecca: Honestly, for me, writing is more of a compulsion than anything. If I don’t put the stories on the page, they drive me absolutely mad. I need to get them out of my head so I can get some peace and quiet in there. 🙂
Rebecca Sky: I was so lost, going from job to job, wondering who I was and if I would ever feel content in my work. When I found writing, I felt like I found myself. From the very first line I wrote I was hooked. I spent every spare moment writing, or dreaming of writing. I look back at that first line of that first story and laugh: “Half awake and half asleep, in the in-between twinkling of imagination, it was there she found reason to hope.” I was basically writing about myself and not even realizing it at the time.
As to my biggest supporter, I have to give my person credit too, he recognized my passion and how awake I became after finding writing, and he did everything in his power to give me the opportunity to pursue writing. I will forever be grateful to him for honoring my heart over my ability to bring in steady income, because the first few years were feast or famine with my contributions.
Stacey: I have two potentially cliché answers to this. 1) Myself. I write for me, because I need to. Because I love it. Because there are stories that call to me and I can’t not write them. I have supportive family, especially my husband, father in law and my mother, but it has to come from within for me. But I also recognize that I can’t take full credit for this passion, it was a gift. That’s very clear to me. Which leads me to cliché answer #2) God. Before I started writing I’d never been dedicated to anything. I had interests, but none that I ever took seriously enough. I’ve never be willing to *fight* for something before. I started writing out of nowhere and for no good reason. And the impressive part was that I didn’t stop. Not ever. (and if you’re a writer you know what kind of immense dedication that takes.) I was compelled. And I can’t explain it any way other than God. This, somehow, someway, is my purpose. It might be tiny, it might be huge. One day, I know what it all means. Til then, I just keep on writing. ‘Til then, I keep the fire lit.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Rebecca: Pitch Wars has been a whirlwind experience for me, but one I’m immensely grateful for. It’s not just the agent and the book deal, but my wonderful mentors and the great writing friends I made there. I’m so glad I applied, and I encourage everyone with a manuscript, a dream and a determination to improve to apply too!
Rebecca Sky: As far as we know, you only get one life — don’t stop searching until you find what completes you and then give it everything you got!
Stacey: We are all so different. We learn different, we see things differently, we work differently. Learn yourself and how you best work. And don’t be surprised when your path to your dreams is different from what you expected, and different from others around you. That’s all just part of the journey.
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!
Rebecca Schaeffer – Mentee
Writer, Traveler, and Adventurer. Author of NOT EVEN BONES (Fall 2018 HMH) Represented by
@sztownsend81 of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
Rebecca Sky – Mentor
After graduating high-school, Rebecca Sky set out on a five-year, 24 Country exploration to find herself. She slept in a hammock in the Amazon Jungle, skinny-dipped off the West African Coast, ate Balut while holding a monkey in the Philippines, and fell in love in Cuba (then again in Brazil, and a final time to a rocker from Canada). Rebecca returned home to the West Coast captivated by the world and ready for another adventure.
So Rebecca did what every wanderer does when standing still—she began writing. Her work has since garnered over 20 million reads on Wattpad, and she’s had the opportunity to partner with some really great brands. She was featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Rebecca is represented by Sarah Manning of The Bent Agency.
Stacey Trombley – Mentor
Stacey Trombley is a YA contemporary author who lives in Ohio with her husband, baby boy and the sweetest Rottweiler you’ll ever meet. She thinks people are fascinating and any chance she has, she’s off doing or learning something new. She went on her first mission trip to Haiti at age twelve and is still dying to go back. Her “places to travel” list is almost as long as her “books to read” list.
Her debut novel NAKED released from Entangled teen in 2015 and her second book PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES released in 2016.