Our interview today is with Ellie Luken, a young adult science fiction and fantasy writer. You can find her on twitter, if you want to learn more!
I’m Ellie Luken. I write YA science fiction and fantasy and was mentored in 2016 by Leigh Mar and Sarah Nicolas.
What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?
2016 was actually my third time entering Pitch Wars. I’d entered previously in 2013 and 2015 and hadn’t been selected. So I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, and I also knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it. There was no way I could guarantee I’d be picked, and I’d had little success with that in the past, obviously. So I went in with the goal to meet some new writers and get what critique I could out of PitchWars. So I swapped query/first page critiques with other hopefuls on the hashtag, tried to chat on the hashtag more than prior years (I’m HORRIBLY awkward on the internet, guys), finished polishing with CP notes, and that was that.
How did you choose which mentors to send to?
Sarah/Leigh weren’t on my initial list because I had submitted to Sarah in 2015 and obviously wasn’t selected. I wasn’t submitting the same manuscript (that one is dead in a drawer), but I still thought I’d be better off submitting to all new mentors who’d never seen anything of mine. But Sarah tweeted something she wanted to see that described exactly my story, so I added her and Leigh as tentative. In the days leading up to the submission window, I watched all of my potential mentors on Twitter, and some of them, I wasn’t sure how we’d get along. But I found Leigh to be super sweet and supportive (and this turned out to be an entirely accurate impression), and I’d already respected Sarah from years past so I added them as my final choice to my mentor list.
Moral of the story—even if you’ve entered before, don’t write a mentor off just because they didn’t pick you in the past. You never know what they’ll think of your next manuscript.
How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars?
I first entered Pitch Wars in 2013 because of the mentoring aspect. I had finished my first manuscript ever and was polishing to send to agents, and I thought it would be amazing to get to work with an experienced author on it. (Spoiler—I did not get in that year. That manuscript sucked.)
In 2016, I decided to enter because 1) I still thought it’d awesome to get to work with a mentor but also 2) even though I didn’t get picked for Pitch Wars in 2015, it was a super valuable experience because I met one of my very closest and best CPs on the hashtag. So I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to connect with more incredible writers in 2016, too. That’s one of the amazing things about Pitch Wars—even if you aren’t picked, you never know who you’re going to meet during the contest who can change your writing life forever.
What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?
The community! A lot of people say this, but that’s just because it’s true.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars is primarily an opportunity for growth and learning, not the fast track to an agent, and that applies whether you’re selected or not. Take advantage of that opportunity! If you make the effort to soak in the advice from mentors (whether it’s your mentor or the general advice shared on the tag), and connect with other writers (whether on the hashtag pre-selection or in the mentee group), you will not walk away with nothing.
If you think your manuscript is great already, aren’t interested in really revising, and you mostly want to be picked so that you can be in the agent showcase, you may find yourself very disappointed.
What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?