Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Sarena and Sasha Nanua and their mentor Stephanie Scott
Jun23

Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Sarena and Sasha Nanua and their mentor Stephanie Scott

Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Sarena and Sasha Nanua and their Pitch Wars mentor Stephanie Scott! Sarena and Sasha recently signed with Peter Knapp of Park Literary & Media, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for them. So please join me in congratulating Sarena and Sasha and Stephanie as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story. Sarena and Sasha, what was it about Stephanie that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application? We loved Stephanie’s bio—she mentioned how she was looking for manuscripts about teens with unique and strong passions, which meshes with our main character’s love for cooking. We also tweeted her to see if she would be interested in reading our book (based on concept), and she said sure, so we went for it! Plus, we’re all #TeamGale 😊 Stephanie, what was it about Sarena and Sasha’s A TASTE OF DARKNESS that hooked you?  The pitch was Willy Wonka meets Chopped – a reality show cooking competition set at culinary institute that previously shuttered due to scandal. What hooked me more was the family dynamics, of a girl torn between her own culinary dreams and studying something more practical to care for her family. The character’s connection to her grandfather was sweet and added a mystery element with his connection to the institute. Sarena and Sasha, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars? It was definitely a unique experience. Prior to this, only 1 other published author had read this book, and that was in its ugly 2nd draft stage. We were so thankful that Stephanie had a great vision for it. Mostly, we really had to “up” the stakes—make it bigger, both internally and externally for Tessa, our main character. We changed the book from 3rd to 1st person and changed a lot of the plot. Looking back on it now, it was a lot to do, but we’re both very thankful we had this experience. If it weren’t for Stephanie’s guidance, we would probably be lost tackling edits for our new book from our agent. Even though we had school, we were able to wrap up edits during the agent round. We would send out sections of the book as we edited it so Stephanie could give us her thoughts throughout the process.   Stephanie, tell us about your experience mentoring Sarena and Sasha. Sarena and Sasha were a dream to work with! Despite currently attending college, they turned in edits ahead of deadlines. They were eager to learn. Some decisions in editing don’t have a clear cut answer, and they both did really well...

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Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Hema Penmetsa and her mentor, Holly Faur
Jun21

Pitch Wars 2016 Success Interview with Hema Penmetsa and her mentor, Holly Faur

  Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Hema Penmetsa and her Pitch Wars mentor Holly Faur! Hema recently signed with Jaida Temperly of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc., and we’re so over-the-moon excited for her. So please join me in congratulating Hema and Holly as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.     What was it about Holly that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application? The first time I read Holly’s wish list, I couldn’t believe my eyes—it was as though she was asking exactly for my novel. Then I researched her Twitter presence and author website, and like I mentioned in my previous Pitch Wars interview, I found that she was easygoing and had a wonderful sense of humor (two crucial qualities in someone with whom, with any luck, I’d be working closely for the next two months and hopefully developing a lasting friendship). So, Holly took the top spot on the list of my mentor choices (along with five other fabulous mentors who were also looking for themes like mine). As I began working with her, I realized that I couldn’t have chosen better, because Holly has this way of infusing you with self-confidence and a quiet purpose that helps you to keep moving forward. Holly, what was it about Hema’s BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS that hooked you? The query hooked me right away since it was filled with everything I wanted: places new to me, strong women, and diversity. Her pages proved she had an amazing sense of story and I was caught up with the MC on page one—and she hadn’t even tempted me with descriptions of Indian cuisine yet! But what I loved the most was the obvious care and respect in which she wrote about a difficult time in India. Tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars? Holly first sent me an edit letter with suggestions of over-arching changes and structural improvements. After she line-edited half of my whopping 400-page book (so that I could carry over the edits through the rest of the book), she sent me a second edit letter with detailed suggestions that were specific to scenes and individual character arcs. Once we discussed (over emails and phone conversations) our mutual vision both for the big changes and smaller tweaks, every time I added a new scene or made huge alterations, I’d send her the word file (with track changes on) at the end of the day. She’d read the additions and suggest tightening them in places. I believe this micro-critiquing helped the process of final line...

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Pitch Wars Success Story with Jenny Rosen and her mentor, Kim Graff
Jun19

Pitch Wars Success Story with Jenny Rosen and her mentor, Kim Graff

  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 Jenny Rosen and her mentor, Kim Graff. Jenny got an audiobook deal with Hachette Audio since being a mentee in Pitch Wars, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Jenny and Kim on their Pitch Wars Success! Jenny, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Kim? Kim’s love for dark and gritty storylines, complex characters, conflicted family dynamics, and unreliable narrators was right up my alley. I submitted to her immediately after I discovered her PW Mentor profile because I had a feeling that we’d work really well together if I was lucky enough to be her mentee. Kim, what about Jenny’s application made you choose her? I’m super into political thrillers and microtension is really important to me — Jenny’s PW manuscript really hit the sweet spot on both for me. There was great tension and voice, and it was a political YA thriller which you don’t see enough of these days.  Jenny, tell us about how your relationship has continued after Pitch Wars? Kim was incredibly supportive after Pitch Wars and encouraged me to continue querying. She read over a number of my revisions and recommended agents that I could submit to. When I ultimately decided to put querying THE RUNAWAYS on hold, she told me to focus my efforts on my second project (CHEATER, FAKER, TROUBLEMAKER) because she saw more mainstream commercial potential. Her belief in my writing ability propelled me forward in the years following Pitch Wars and is one of the reasons why I still keep pushing myself to improve. Kim, tell us about your experience during and after Pitch Wars with Jenny.  Jenny was great. She hit deadlines like a champ, and was always open to feedback which is REALLY important in Pitch Wars. Really. Important. If you can manage the deadlines of Pitch Wars, it can be really difficult — and no matter what was happening, Jenny managed with stars. Jenny, after Pitch Wars you got an audio book deal with Hachette Audio. Can you tell us about how that happened, the details about the offer? How did Hachette contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all. I’ve been a member of the Wattpad community since 2011, and after my YA Thriller THE RUNAWAYS, received over 2 million views, I was asked to be apart of the Wattpad Stars Program in 2014, which provides potential publication, film, and television opportunities to Wattpad’s...

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Pitch Wars Success Story with Adalyn Grace and her mentor, Brian Palmer
Jun12

Pitch Wars Success Story with Adalyn Grace and her mentor, Brian Palmer

  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 Adalyn Grace and her mentor, Brian Palmer. Adalyn signed with Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her. Please, help me in congratulating Adalyn and Brian on their Pitch Wars Success! Adalyn, what was it about Brian that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application? First of all, Brian is just so stinkin’ nice. I could tell how enthusiastic he was to be mentor, and how much he truly wanted to help whoever he ended up picking. I stalked the heck out of his twitter, and we actually talked back-and-forth several times (mostly going over questions) before he thankfully chose me! I could tell he was super serious about finding a story he enjoyed and thought he could really help, which is obviously what every mentee wants. While he didn’t necessarily mention wanting something that screamed, “Hey! That’s my book!” I loved his bio and many of the “favorite books” he had listed. Something in my gut said that I needed to take the risk and sub to him. I would have been honored to work with any mentors, but my instincts told me that, if I were to be chosen, it’d be by Brian. And I sure lucked out! Brian, what was it about Adalyn’s DONOR that hooked you? Adalyn’s novel proved to me that the unexpected can grab your attention because, as she noted, there wasn’t an obvious connection between her story and many of the elements I had said I was looking for in my wish list (though it was worth noting there was nothing in DONOR that made it onto my auto-disqualification list either). I really was drawn in by the sinister premise (growing humans in a facility specifically for the purpose of harvesting their organs for those in the outside world who needed them because they lived in a society that did not have to be held accountable for their actions and life choices? Holy cow!), but even more than this I was intrigued by the subtle yet profound social commentary that was woven throughout the story and how it shone an uncomfortably plausible light on where we as a society might be headed in the coming decades if we aren’t careful. Add to this the fact that these “humans” were viewed by the world as mindless drones, only to have one of DONOR’s POV’s be from one of the donors themselves, and to see how just how wrong the outside world...

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Pitch Madness Success Story with P.J. Switzer from Team Ice Cream Sea with Monica Hoffman and Brenda Drake
May10

Pitch Madness Success Story with P.J. Switzer from Team Ice Cream Sea with Monica Hoffman and Brenda Drake

  Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate PJ Switzer who signed with Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency after Pitch Madness 2017! PJ was part of Monica M. Hoffman and Brenda Drake’s #TeamIceCreamSea, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for her. So please join me in congratulating PJ as she shares with us her awesome success story. So let’s get this party started. PJ, what made you decide to enter Pitch Madness, and how did you feel during the contest? Actually, I entered Pitch Madness because of dumb luck and my husband. I just happened to be on Twitter and saw the deadline was midnight that night. I thought about it then decided not to do it. I’d received so many rejections that I’d reached the, “What’s the point?” stage of querying. But my husband pushed me to enter. He used the tried and true logic of, “What have you got to lose?” And, as the saying goes, the rest is history. I’m not going to lie, I took stress eating to a whole new level during the contest. The first round was hard. I was absolutely convinced my entry wasn’t going to make it. I soothed the worry with lots of chocolate cake. It helped. When my entry was selected I practically danced with joy. But as hard as the selection round was, the agent round was worse. I read the other contestants entries, which were amazing, and knew no agent would want my manuscript. So, I decided to quit writing and become a cocktail waitress in a Venezuelan nightclub. Before I got the chance to buy my airline ticket the agent round ended and something wonderful happened. Which blog were you on and what was the title of your entry? How many requests did you get? Any other details you’d like to share? I was on Brenda Drake’s blog with my manuscript, The Cold Place. I received 4 requests for the full manuscript and 9 requests for partials, which, if I do my math right, equals 13 total requests. Brenda and Monica, what made you choose Pj’s entry to host on your team? Monica: What made THE COLD PLACE stand out from the rest was the voice and narrative style. It immediately got my attention. When I got to the end of the 250-words, I not only wanted more or it, I needed it. I needed to know what happened to her main character. I instantly connected with her MC even within the first page! Brenda: That VOICE!! Hooked me right off. Plus the premise was so intriguing. PJ is a wonderful writer and her prose and...

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A Pitch Madness Success Story with Debbie Schrack
Apr21

A Pitch Madness Success Story with Debbie Schrack

Pitch Madness 2017 Candyland Edition!! We are so thrilled to announce a success story by way of Pitch Madness. Debbie Schrack has signed with Tina P. Schwartz with The Purcell Agency! Go Team Candy Castle!   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...

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A Pitch Wars Success Story with Kosoko Jackson and his mentor, Kip Wilson
Apr19

A Pitch Wars Success Story with Kosoko Jackson and his mentor, Kip Wilson

  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 Kosoko Jackson and his mentor, Kip Wilson. Kosoko signed with Louise Fury at The Bent Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for him. Please, help me in congratulating Kosoko and Kip on their Pitch Wars Success! Kosoko, what was it about Kip that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application? Kip Wilson actually WASN’T the first mentor I selected! I paid the extra 20 dollars to get additional mentors and when searching through, I was surprised I didn’t see her before. After reading her profile, and her love for unique timelines and historical fiction, I knew she would be a great fit. She even mentioned some of her favorite novels were books that I loved and used as comps in my mind for my novel!   Kip, what was it about Kosoko’s manuscript that hooked you? Kosoko’s manuscript checked off so many items on my wishlist: the historical setting in another country, a nonlinear timeline, some epistolary sections, fast pacing, diverse characters, and above all, very strong writing. This included both some absolutely stunning images and something I hadn’t even known I wanted—a snarky voice with oodles of laugh-out-loud lines to lighten the very serious overall tone of the novel. Kosoko, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars? My process with Kip was a bit of a whirlwind. I work in politics, so it was a VERY busy time for me. We did big picture edits first, discussed a lot before I buckled down and started working. Then, I sent Kip chapter-by-chapter edits, which she approved or didn’t. I would then go back and revise the chapters again and then I put them in a “completed” folder. Once everything was done I compiled it and we did 3 read throughs. We were done about 2 weeks before the deadline, and then spent the rest of the time working on the pitch. Kip, tell us about your experience mentoring Kosoko. Working with Kosoko was amazing because I could tell from my first interactions with him how ready he was for the serious work of Pitch Wars. But on top of that, because our visions for the book very much lined up, I was confident that he could use my feedback to turn his already strong project into something even better. He dove right in to his revisions and delivered everything on time in spite of the fact that his life was chock-full at the moment. Nothing beats the combination of talent...

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A Pitch Wars Success Story with Tobey Forney and her mentor Laura Heffernan
Apr14

A Pitch Wars Success Story with Tobey Forney and her mentor Laura Heffernan

  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 Tobey Forney and her mentor, Laura Heffernan. Tobey signed with Liz Parker of Inkwell Management Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Tobey and Laura on their Pitch Wars Success! Tobey, what was it about Laura that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application? I knew I wanted to submit to Laura immediately when I read her bio. Her energy and enthusiasm for writing, editing, and the Oxford comma jumped off the page. When I Twitter-stalked her, I found that she was very open, funny, and loves chocolate, so I knew we’d get along. We both love women’s fiction and time-travel books, and we’re fellow Mensans. It was meant to be. Laura, what was it about Tobey’s 101 NORTH that hooked you? The writing is so haunting and beautiful. I couldn’t stop reading. The entry actually came in fairly early in the submissions period, and I kept saying, “Well, I really want to pick something light and funny to work with… I’ll just read a few more pages.” Finally, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to pay any attention to my other submissions until I finished 101 NORTH, and I devoured the manuscript in a couple of hours. Tobey, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars? I was a Ninja-mentee, not officially announced until late October. Laura was incredibly supportive and helpful, and sent a long list of edits that I was eager to get to work on. I worked under the radar, trying to follow the same schedule as the other mentees. I kept up the pace for a while, but inevitably life intervened, and I wasn’t where I wanted to be when I got word that I would be participating in the agent round – excitement and panic set in simultaneously. I sent Laura my manuscript in chunks, working around the clock to incorporate her comments as I went along. I was changing tense and POV in one of the rounds, as well as story edits, so it was a huge challenge to get it all done without going cross-eyed. Laura was fantastic, always so quick to respond to my questions and giving me great advice on polishing my prose and my pitch. I thought I was the world’s biggest pedant, but Laura taught me a thing or two. She opened my eyes to things in my manuscript I knew were bad but...

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