Interview with Gwynne Jackson

Our interview today is with Gwynne Jackson, who writes across the adult fiction spectrum. You can find her on her website and on twitter, if you want to learn more! 

Hi everyone, I’m Gwynne. You know what’s special about today? It’s exactly ONE MONTH UNTIL PITCH WARS OPENS! So polish those manuscripts, get your query letters set, and let the countdown commence!

During Pitch Wars in 2016, I had the opportunity to work with two wonderful mentors, Mary Ann Marlowe and Jaime Loren.  Pitch Wars was an eye-opening experience for me in so many ways, and I’m happy to share my thoughts with you.  You can find me on Twitter as @gwynnejackson and on the web at Feel free to hit me up with any questions—I’m also always good for moral support.

What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?

I’d entered Pitch Wars in 2015. My manuscript didn’t make it into that round, but some of the mentors I submitted to were generous enough to send feedback. To prepare for the 2016 round, I huffed and puffed a lot at first, told myself they were all wrong because my manuscript was clearly perfect. Then I got smart, reread the feedback, realized they were 100% right, and went back to work on my novel. I took everything to heart, made the changes they’d suggested, and waited for the nerves to kick in. Also, I went to Mexico, but that part is more relevant later.

What didn’t you do that you wish you had?

Oh, how I wish I’d either lurked on or participated more fully in the #PitchWars Twitter feed and read everything on Brenda Drake’s blog, but I was feeling shy. I didn’t want to jinx myself. I couldn’t bear it. I had a million excuses and they were all terrible. The truth of the matter is that a great group of people (mentors, former mentees, hopefuls, and more) hang out there, all to be helpful and encouraging, and there’s no reason not to make yourself known.

How did you choose which mentors to send to?

In mentor biographies, I looked for people whose interests collided with mine and who seemed like they’d be open to the kind of manuscript I was submitting. The mentors I chose all seemed like right fine people (my first criteria) and open to adult contemporary romance (my other first criteria). I stalked a few on Twitter, but mostly made my short list before asking a friend what she thought of my list. Then I pretty much ignored her advice and went with my gut. Scientific, I know.

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars?

After not being picked in 2015, I let Pitch Wars slip off my radar. It took me about seven months to want to get back to my manuscript. Then I rewrote it in a flurried month and sent it out to beta readers. I wasn’t going to enter again, but I tweeted something about wondering if I ought to enter PW. Mary Ann tweeted back telling me to do it, because what did I have to lose? Since I’d submitted to her in 2015 I checked to see if it was okay to resubmit to her with a revised manuscript. She said yes, that she remembered my story and liked it, so that was all the encouragement I needed. I’m easy.

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars?

Getting picked. That was my first big surprise. I submitted my manuscript, then went to a remote village in Mexico for vacation. I almost didn’t bring my laptop, but figured on the off chance I got requests, I might as well. I spent more time in Mexico than I expected trying to find good wifi hotspots so I could send more pages to the mentors who requested from me. Also dodging hurricanes, but that’s not relevant to Pitch Wars.

Another big surprise was the absolute intensity of the experience. Having my manuscript chosen was one thing, but then understanding how much work I had to do in time for the agent round was the real epiphany. When you enter, you hear that phrase lots of hard work floating around somewhere in the background. Well, guess what? For a couple months, Pitch Wars was my life. Someone in our group said it was like condensing an MFA program into two months. Keep in mind that you are signing up for so much work it might make you want to set your hair on fire (but please don’t do that, burning hair doesn’t smell very good).

What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?

All of it. The people, if I have to narrow it down. Brenda’s fantastic, and her team does an A+ job keeping things running smoothly. The mentors are a great bunch. I had two official mentors, but many more whose expertise I could tap. Some of my fellow mentees became my mentors in their own ways. I found new critique partners, new beta readers, new cheerleaders, and best of all, new friends.

Also, mentors dropping ALLEGED hints on Twitter during the submission period was both funnier and more heart-stopping than I expected. Even from my remote vacation spot with limited wifi, I checked the feed to see if I could figure out if any of my potential mentors were subtweeting about me or my manuscript.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Pitch Wars?

All the fun things that go on behind the scenes. But now that I have the official Pitch Wars tattoo, I’m not allowed to talk about any of them.

Kidding! Seriously, though, Pitch Wars does not guarantee anything other than a matchup with a willing mentor (or mentors in the case of teams). It will teach you the ins and outs of trying to get an agent or publisher, but you get out of it what you put in. And even if you put your all into it, there are still no guarantees other than having one hell of a learning experience.

What would you say to someone thinking about entering Pitch Wars?

– DO IT. Enter. The worst that can happen is your manuscript won’t get picked (but as everyone says, if you want to be published you have to develop a thick skin around rejection). If you’re lucky, you’ll get in. If you don’t get in, you still might get mentor feedback. If you don’t get in it doesn’t mean you have a bad manuscript! It only means it wasn’t the right fit for that mentor. In any event, you’ll meet people at the same point in your writing careers, and have the opportunity to make long-lasting friends.

– Go into it with the right set of expectations. I’ll say it again: not everyone gets an agent out of the experience. I haven’t yet. I told myself going in that the one thing I wanted was a better manuscript than I’d submitted. I got that. Anything beyond that is gravy.

– Genre can be a tricky thing. Know yours. If you’re not sure, ask questions and get feedback so you’re sure to submit to the right mentors.

– Never be afraid to reach out. Talk to the mentors, the folks running the contest, former mentees, former mentors, people who submitted in the past–in short, everyone hanging around the feed. That’s what the #PitchWars hashtag and community are all about.

– Yes, the whole thing seems daunting and nerve-wracking. That’s because it is! So don’t forget to breathe, breathe, breathe.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?





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