Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Steven Carman and his mentor Stefanie Wass
Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Steven Carman and his Pitch Wars mentor Stefanie Wass! Steven recently signed with Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for him. So please join me in congratulating Steven and Stefanie as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Steven, what was it about Stefanie that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
I pitched THE WINDUP to Stefanie because her wish list included “heartfelt, realistic, coming-of-age middle grade.” And I was like, okay, she could be a good fit for my book. When I read the glowing praise her previous Mentee heaped on her in a Pitch Wars Success story, I was sold. At that point, I hoped that Stefanie liked baseball—or at least that my story’s baseball angle wouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Stefanie, what was it about Steven’s THE WINDUP that hooked you?
The Windup was full of heart, and action, and tension from the get-go. From the opening scene, it felt like I was in good hands. All of the elements were there—a main character I could root for, a compelling conflict, and a setting I knew kids would love. (Baseball fields galore!)
Steven, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Stefanie sent me an editorial letter and a marked-up manuscript right away. I was blown away at the time and thought she put into a stranger’s project—especially considering she wasn’t earning a dime for her efforts. Her comments resonated with me and I was eager to get to work on the revisions. Stefanie went above and beyond, and ended up reading multiple rounds of revisions—offering encouragement and valuable feedback at each pass. No doubt, she helped me become a better writer and helped make THE WINDUP a winner.
Stefanie, tell us about your experience mentoring Steven.
It was a wonderful experience! Steve was open to my suggestions and ready to dig in and work hard. When he didn’t end up with any agent offers immediately following Pitch Wars, he remained positive, stayed in touch with me, and kept the faith.
Steven, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary. 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.
Gina Panettieri kindly expedited her review of THE WINDUP after I informed her that I received an offer from another agent. When I received Gina’s “decision” email, I was sure that it was going to be a rejection. I almost fell off my chair when I read that she’d love to offer representation. Later that day, Gina and I talked on the phone, and it didn’t take long for me to realize she was the right agent for me. She was enthusiastic about the story, knew the book inside and out, had a list of publishers she’d like to submit it to, and offered up great suggestions on how I could improve the book and its marketability. On a side note, Stefanie’s mentoring didn’t end with the conclusion of Pitch Wars—she also provided guidance when I received the offers of representation. My celebration after I signed the contract? I threw back some root beers, told Alexa to “play Michael Jackson”, and broke out my smooth dance moves—much to the embarrassment of my daughters.
Steven, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I could go on and on about the benefits of Pitch Wars. To single out one thing, Pitch Wars helped me shape THE WINDUP to fit more squarely into the contemporary middle grade genre. And, of course, having a stronger story to pitch didn’t hurt.
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?
Steven: Sign me up for any fictional world where the definition of “arms race” is when countries stockpile pitchers for an international baseball tournament. And the definition of “cancer” is unknown because the disease does not exist.
Stefanie: I would live in Katherine Paterson’s Terabithia, because it is peaceful, and magical, and full of possibility.
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?
Steven: I’m in the Mystery Machine with my side-kick Scooby Doo—we’re running from Vincent Van Ghoul.
Stefanie: I am running from bad guy cells that make little kids sick, like in COUNTING THYME or THE SOMEDAY SUITCASE. I am fighting off those bad guy cells with the help of Allie from ALLIE AND BEA. Allie is super smart and knows how to use her resources, so I know she’ll be able to help.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Steven: Atomic power. The World Set Free.
Stefanie: A magical bread box that delivers anything you wish for, like in Laurel Snyder’s BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX.
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?
Steven: Balancing my work life, family life and writing life is a challenge. Simply put, I write when I can squeeze it in. I use my laptop to write.
Stefanie: On most week days, I write when my kids are in school. I try to treat it like a job and stick to a 9-11 writing routine, an hour lunch break, and then another writing sprint from 1-3 in the afternoon. Some days, only the afternoon session gets done. In the summer, my writing routine is more sporadic. But I try to always make time for it, even if it’s just an hour. I usually take the weekends off. You have to live and have something to write about. All work and no play makes for boring plot lines!
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?
Steven: You’d find me at my crazy, fun home, sitting at a desk that is donned with my laptop, slices of pizza, and a bottle of Cherry Coke.
Stefanie: Iced tea, hot tea, and way too many Ritz crackers.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Steven: My wife, Kristen, and my daughters, Katie and Julie.
Stefanie: My critique partners, including the amazing MG Beta Readers.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Steven: Find what makes you happy, work hard, play hard, and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Lastly, I’d like to thank Brenda (and her team) for running this fantastic contest and Stefanie for being such a great Mentor. You rock!
Stefanie: It was a pleasure working with Steve during Pitch Wars. I wish him nothing but the best and hope to see his book on shelves soon!!!
Thank you for sharing your Pitch Wars Success Story with us! CONGRATULATIONS!
Steven Carman is a writer of middle grade and young adult fiction, with a focus on sports stories that deal with difficult issues some children face, such as abuse and bullying. A former marketing manager, Steven now is a marketing copywriter. He has been a baseball enthusiast since his T-ball playing days, and while his dream of playing in the Majors is long gone, he’s now chasing a dream to entertain sports fans through his writing. He’s represented by Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary.
Stefanie Wass was a finalist in the 2012 National Association of Elementary School Principals Book of the Year Contest. Her writing credits include publication in the LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, Seattle Times, The Writer, Cleveland Magazine, Akron Beacon Journal, This I Believe, Cup of Comfort, and 15 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Stefanie is a member of SCBWI and MGBetaReaders and a blogger on middlegrademinded.com. Catch up with her at www.stefaniewass.com or on Twitter: @stefwass.