A Pitch Madness Success Story with Debbie Schrack
Pitch Madness 2017 Candyland Edition!!
Debbie, what made you decide to enter Pitch Madness?
I have been working on my novel SAVING SOPHIE for four years. At one point, I rewrote it totally from scratch. I had a fair amount of interest from agents but nothing ever came of it. Last October I attended an SCBWI conference and had a critique of my first ten pages by an editor. She didn’t like my opening. I came home very discouraged but I rewrote the opening, then put the novel aside for a while. One of my critique partners e-mailed and said I should do the Pitch Madness contest. She had entered before and had gotten a lot of good feedback on her work. I entered and fortunately made it into the bonus round. And then I was blown away when I got six agent requests. Maybe it was good timing or maybe my new opening was the key, but I’m so happy that I entered Pitch Madness!
Samantha & Mary Ann, what about Debbie’s pitch and first pages made you choose them?
Mary Ann: Debbie’s first page had so much voice it caught my attention immediately. For some reason, I read the pitch after I’d read the 250, so I was extra intrigued by the character’s motivation. When I then read the pitch, it was like a punch to the heartstrings. Both Samantha and I fell hard.
Samantha: Definitely the voice grabbed me first. I read the pitch, but I didn’t click with it right away because the twist of the story was buried a bit. But I kept coming back to the voice in the first 250, and once I realized where the pitch was going, I was hooked. And we also knew how to give the pitch the little bit of punch in needed to hopefully grab a lucky agent’s attention (and it worked!)
Debbie, tell us about your Pitch Madness revisions/experience?
My mentors Samantha and Mary Ann helped me tweak my pitch so that it was more dramatic. They didn’t want me to change anything for the first 250 words, but when I sent them my final submission we realized it was actually 261 words so I had to take out 11, which is harder than it sounds! One of my Team Candy Castle teammates set up an e-mail chain so we could critique each other’s query letters and read pages. Everyone was very helpful and supportive. I hope they all have success stories, too!
Debbie, after Pitch Madness you signed with Tina P. Schwartz of The Purcell Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Tina contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
Tina had originally requested my first three chapters. A few days later, she contacted me and asked for the full manuscript. I was thrilled, but based on past experience I knew better than to expect too much. I was in the process of moving my horses to a new barn so that’s the best distraction I could have had. Less than a week later, Tina called me. She said that she was about halfway through SAVING SOPHIE and really loved it and she wanted to make sure it was still available. I assured her that it was. Then I went into anxiety mode worrying that she wouldn’t like the rest of the book. But she called again later that evening and offered representation. I waited for a few days to give the other agents time to respond, but I knew I wanted to work with Tina. After I accepted her offer, I did a little happy dance around my living room. Then my husband took me out to dinner to celebrate!
How do you feel Pitch Madness helped in your success?
I would not have an agent right now if I hadn’t entered Pitch Madness. It would take months to get six requests from agents and I got six in one day! Pitch Madness is a great way for authors and agents to connect. It’s a win on both sides.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you all to answer:
You’re outnumbered by the bad guys, what mode of escape would you take? (ie a Tardis, a flying car, a flying carpet, something from your favorite food, etc.)? And why?
Debbie: I would apparate because I’m a Harry Potter geek!
Mary Ann: I’d have to go with the Improbability Drive from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since I’d get to be surprised by some completely unexpected, and likely, ridiculous escape.
Samantha: I would not give up the chance to take a ride in the TARDIS—especially if the Tenth Doctor was at the helm. Not only could it take me anywhere it time and space, it has a library and a pool.
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Debbie: I always identified with Jo from LITTLE WOMEN. She’s a tomboy and very independent, but is also loyal and loving. She would do anything for her family. And she’s a writer.
Mary Ann: I feel like Tina Fey based Liz Lemon on my social awkwardness. Hopefully my goofball foibles are funny enough to entertain others.
Samantha: I’ve always identified with Elphaba from WICKED. Kind of misunderstood and awkward at times, I try to blend in but always end up sticking out. I’m also not easily angered, but when someone really pushes my buttons, watch out, haha. Plus, I’d totally fight for a great pair of sparkly shoes.
You just won an entry into a game show and you may only bring one fictional character with you to beat the clock. What show is it and who would you choose to join you?
Debbie: The game show is Jeopardy and I would choose Gabe, my protagonist from SAVING SOPHIE, because he’s a genius.
Mary Ann: I’d want to play Survivor with Tyrion Lannister. His social game would be amazing, but I think I could take him in the final immunity challenge, so I could ride his coat tails to the end and betray him at the last minute in true Game of Thrones fashion.
Samantha: Family Feud and I’d bring all the clones (Sestras) from Orphan Black. I’m pretty sure we would lose (Helena alone would most likely give strange answers), but it would be incredibly entertaining.
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Debbie: I’m fortunate to have a lot of support from family and friends, but my husband is my biggest supporter. He has been there for all the ups and downs I’ve gone through in my writing. He loves Sherlock Holmes and has a similar curiosity about the world. Fortunately, he does not have the cocaine habit!
Mary Ann: Fellow Pitch Wars mentor Kristin Wright is my most trusty critique partner and cheerleader. She’s clever and badass like Hermione Granger.
Samantha: I’m super lucky and have a ton of support from both my family and friends, but my mom has been my biggest cheerleader since I wrote my first terrible poem at five or six. She’s always been the one to tell me writing is where I need to be, and she has never given up on me. I wouldn’t be where I am without her cheering me on.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Debbie: To my fellow writers, never give up on writing, querying or entering contests because in the long run, it will pay off. And thanks again, Brenda, for the many ways you are helping authors!
Thank you for sharing your Pitch Madness success story. We couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Debbie Schrack has spent her professional life working with children and young adults as a special education teacher. Although the character Sophie in her debut YA novel SAVING SOPHIE is fictional, she is a composite of many of the struggling learners Debbie has taught over the years. Debbie lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband of thirty-six years. She finds personal fulfillment in creating new things, whether it be a novel, a painting, or a batch of croissants. She also loves spending time with her three children or riding her horses. You can follow her on Twitter @debbie_schrack or on Facebook.
Mary Ann Marlowe
Mary Ann Marlowe is the author of Some Kind of Magic with Kensington Publishing. When not writing, Mary Ann works by day as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms, plus she has a second-degree black belt. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel. She now lives in central Virginia where she is hard at work on her second novel. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.maryannmarlowe.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
Samantha Joyce is the author of Flirting with Fame. Samantha has wanted to be an author since she picked up her first book and realized authors get to create new worlds with just a pen and paper (or laptop, if you will). She loves to write about romance because, as someone who married her high school sweetheart, she absolutely believes in true love. She also loves making people laugh and feels love and laughter go hand in hand. If she can make someone both swoon and giggle with her words, she considers that a success. When not writing or at her day job, Samantha can be found either singing and dancing on stage in local musicals, or at home watching geeky television shows with her husband and their pet rabbit. Samantha is represented by Kathleen Rushall from Andrea Brown Literary Agency Inc.