Our interview today is with Mary Dunbar, a young adult writer, and member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on her website and on twitter, if you want to learn more!
Hi, Pitch Wars hopefuls! I’m Mary Dunbar. I entered Pitch Wars in 2015 and didn’t get in. So I wrote a new book and got in last year. I’m a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. I was mentored by the lovely Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (author of FIRSTS and also a Pitch Wars alum). I write YA contemporary, and I’m represented by Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency. (She’s also an amazing YA author!). This year, I’m excited to be part of #menteeshelpingmentees. I’m critiquing queries and first 10 pages for MG and YA. I can’t wait to see what you guys are working on!
What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?
I knew I wanted to enter Pitch Wars since 2015. I entered on a whim and didn’t make it in that year, so I spent the next year working on my next WIP. I finished my manuscript last spring, so I gave my CPs a deadline to read it where I would have time to revise before Pitch Wars began. In the meantime, I chatted with some of the mentors and made lists of who I wanted to submit to.
How did you choose which mentors to send to?
I read every bio in the YA contemporary category, and I made a list of all the mentors who were requesting my kind of book. My manuscript was hard to categorize because there was a paranormal aspect that crossed into psychological territory, but at the heart, it was a contemporary. I chatted with the mentors at the top of my list to see if they were interested in my maybe/maybe not ghost. I wanted to work with someone who had a clear vision for what I was going for and who wouldn’t try to force it into a paranormal romance or a traditional contemporary. Then I made a list of what my top picks were requesting. I even color-coded it. Then I submitted.
This is what my list looked like.
What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars?
I was surprised by how supportive the entire community was. Those who entered, the mentors, and our Class of 2016 were all amazing. My mentor, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, became a wonderful friend, and our class is close and enthusiastic, even almost a year later. I’ve found life-long friends and amazing CPs through Pitch Wars, and this includes the year I didn’t get in! I highly recommend entering and participating in the fun activities. Even if you don’t get in this year, you will gain such a great support structure!
What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?
My favorite part of Pitch Wars? All of it? Seriously, the people are the best!
Also, even though I was working hard on my manuscript, Laurie had some of the best ideas, and working with her made revisions enjoyable. I loved seeing how a fresh perspective gave my book a fresh, exciting feeling even when I was rewriting the opening scene for the tenth time.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars is hard work! Don’t enter and expect to skate by with the accolades of being accepted in. You’re going to have to make changes and write hard, but my experience helped prepare me for signing with my agent and the additional revisions that I did before going out on submission. Working with Laurie felt like a pre-agent round, so when I signed with my agent in January and she sent me several rounds of edits and revisions, which included chopping scenes and restructuring, I wasn’t in shock. I already knew how to do the hard work!
What would you say to someone thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Being accepted into Pitch Wars isn’t a guarantee you will sign with an agent right away, and that’s not a bad thing. And the requests you get during the agent round aren’t necessarily reflections of who you will sign with. Our agent round corresponded with a horrible election, and everyone was out of sorts. Some of the agents who signed up for the agent round didn’t make it through all the posts, and everything moved slower than usual.
I signed with an agent who was involved in Pitch Wars, but she didn’t request my manuscript during the agent round. I still knew I wanted to work with her, and I queried her anyway. Of the three offers I received, only one was from a Pitch Wars request.
Getting into Pitch Wars is neither the end nor the beginning of the world. It’s a step toward a goal, but if you don’t hit that step, there are plenty of others that will lead you toward the same destination.
What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?