Interview with Lacee Little

Our interview today is with Lacee Little, a Middle Grade writer and a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

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

We as writers are notoriously hard on ourselves, which comes in handy when we’re making sure every single word in our 90k manuscript pulls its weight. It’s not so great, however, when we turn that examination on ourselves.

A couple of months ago I seriously considered quitting querying. Not writing (I’m not crazy), but stopping attempting to get published. A few big setbacks had recently disappointed me, and I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to keep going (actually I still don’t, hahahaha). But I reached out to my group of MG co-mentees and told them what I was feeling.

Not only did they all encourage me not to quit, but nearly all of them shared they’d experienced–or were experiencing–the exact same thing. That honestly surprised me. I’d read a lot of their manuscripts and wips and had never once thought any of them should quit. And even if any of them had experienced the same setbacks I had–and a lot of them had, and worse–I would never advise them to quit. Advice I was seriously considering giving to myself. 

So, what I would say to you darling pitch wars hopefuls is to be kind to yourself. We often hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold others, and ‘tell’ ourselves things we would never tell anyone else. If your cp emailed you saying she’d gotten a stinging rejection from an agent, you wouldn’t tell her that her writing must be pathetic and not likely to ever attract anyone. So why do we tell ourselves that?

If you don’t finish your ms in time to submit to PW, be kind to yourself.

If you don’t get any requests, be kind to yourself.

If you don’t get chosen, be kind to yourself.

You can be your worst critic or your strongest supporter; choose wisely. A mentor or a great group of cp’s or co-mentees will be your biggest cheerleaders, and often necessary after a rough day. But at the end of that day, the loudest voice in your head will still be you, so remember to treat yourself with the same kindness you would show others.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

giphy (1)

 

 

Advertisements

Interview with Jennifer Camiccia

Our interview today is with Jennifer Camiccia a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

 

Hi, all of you Pitch Wars hopefuls! I’m Jennifer Camiccia, a PitchWars 2016 mentee. I can still remember how excited I felt last year. The fabulous, Kristin Wright, was my mentor, and she showed me how to mold my story into something that actually matched my vision for it.

What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?

I went over my manuscript several times, doing a search for overly used words like just, really, that, then, and filtering words like I felt, I saw, I heard. We all have language we tend to repeat that stops the flow of the story.

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

I wish I had immersed myself in the community sooner. I was a little shy at first, and more than a little awkward. Almost everyone is awesome and supportive. They cheer your successes and help you gripe about your rejections. The sooner you dive in, the sooner you establish connections.

How did you choose which mentors to send to?

I went through all the mentor blogs and found the young adult mentors who wanted contemporary and mainly looked at what they listed as their favorite movies or books. I figured if our tastes were similar then one of them might also like my writing.

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars?

I heard about it on twitter. It sounded awesome! I needed to learn how to revise, and this sounded like the place to make that happen. I knew the beginning of my book was strong, and I suspected the middle and end needed major work (I had no idea how much!).

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars?

I’ve never worked on a deadline before – at least not with my writing – and it was a bit more stressful than I anticipated. If you get in, prepare to work hard. Like really, really hard. My brain, butt, and back were all sore – in that order.

What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?

Learning how to revise. My mentor helped me figure out what worked or didn’t. It helped immeasurable to have someone to run things by. I, also, love the community. Everyone has been so supportive.

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

To not define your writing by how many request you get or don’t get – or by getting into Pitch Wars or not. You’re going to hear one thing over and over in this business: taste is subjective. Agents and editors might be looking for something specific, but then decide they don’t like how you’ve presented it. Or they do like how you presented it, but don’t like the topic. All you can do is write your story, the one that speaks to your heart and soul, and work hard to make it the best you can be. After that, it’s out of your hands. Then you go to the next idea and do it all over again.

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

Your dream is one step outside your comfort zone. Go ahead and take that step.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

giphy

Interview with Michelle Iannantuono

Our interview today is with Michelle Iannantuono, a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?

I went through all of the mentor wishlists and interviews extensively. Made a spreadsheet with all the people who could possibly like my manuscript (which I had been working on for three years, didn’t really write it with the intent of entering it into PW, but saw the contest and thought I might have a shot). Then narrowed that down to the top 6 based on a lot of factors. 1) Their twitters and interviews, which sometimes revealed other interests they had. 2) The books THEY had written, which told me a bit about their style preferences and interests. And of course 3) their bios and what they specifically said they wanted. Granted Adult SFF is a narrow category of mentors, but there were a few wild cards in there. Michelle Hazen, who ended up becoming my mentor, wasn’t really an Adult SFF mentor as much as she was a romance mentor who was open to SFF elements.

So I was basically a giant stalker 😛

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars?

I really just stumbled across it in early July of 2016. Added a note in my calendar about the submission date. I was undergoing a present tense to past tense revision at the time, but otherwise, the manuscript had been edited to death already! So I didn’t feel too pressured to finish many edits. I just submitted my materials on the date and waited. To say it like that undermines my excitement though – I stalked the Twitter thread for weeks during the contest!

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars?

The community. During revisions, my main “community” was my mentor herself, who was incredibly patient and always willing to lend an ear whenever I DM’d her about “so what if I tried this?” We still chat to this day, and just having someone who is sharp, honest, and who believes in you is something every writer needs.

After PW, I sort of rediscovered the mentee Facebook group and was sucked right in. I’m a bit of a loner and an introvert, but yo, the query trenches are hell when you’re alone. Having people to commiserate with means everything. And getting to celebrate the successes of the ones who climb out of it is a perpetual source of hope and optimism. Almost half of our PW class is now agented. It’s joyful to see those “omg I have an agent!” posts and squee with people. It’s useful to have a group of people who are always game to CP or look over a new draft of your query. And it’s just all around awesome to have found “my people”, especially when some of my other artistic pursuits (like film) are a lot more cutthroat and every-man-for-himself. It’s nice to be able to slip into that PW Facebook group and just be like “thank ya’ll for existing.”

Another thing that surprised me was the variety of revision experience. Michelle gave me reasonably easy revisions that we tackled in two or three passes during the 2 month revision round. I saw other mentees basically have to rewrite their books from scratch though. A lot of people have said that it’s very intense – I would say your mileage may vary. Prepare for it to be exhausting and nuts, but you might luck out.

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

Don’t self reject! If I could shout that from the rooftops, I would.

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

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain, so if you’re on the fence, go for it! However, I’ll give some advice that might heighten your chances.

I think the perfect person for PW is one who has a polished manuscript, yet is still falling short of “good enough to be published.” So, not a perfect manuscript, but something beyond a first or second or even third draft. Something that has been read and critiqued by at least two other people. Something you have applied that critique to. That is what I mean by polished – something you have fixed up, revised, improved to be the best version you can make it on your own.

That does not mean it must have “a solid plot” or “the best characters ever” or anything like that – YOU CAN HAVE WEAKNESSES. Weaknesses are human and encouraged! My weaknesses are voice and characterization, personally. The MS I entered had the best voice and characterization I could manage without help….so, in other words, MS had pretty weak characterization and meh voice. That’s what my mentor helped me with. That’s how PW *could* help me. It’s not for perfect manuscripts. But it’s for people who try really hard, who put in the work, and who know they’re falling short in one area or another and they need that extra boost to raise their craft to a pro level.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

tumblr_od79rliBXg1t2u1bno7_400

 

Interview with Meghan Jashinsky

Our interview today is with Meghan Jashinsky, a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitter, YouTubeor her website if you want to learn more! 

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

We’ve seen a ton of posts encouraging people to try something new, go for it, you’re the best and have nothing to lose! And all those things are true. But today I wanted to focus on those of you who’ve applied to Pitch Wars before and weren’t chosen.

I entered Pitch Wars three times, with three different manuscripts. In 2014, I got no requests. In 2015, I got one request. And in 2016, I got in.

The second time I entered, I got a rejection that knocked me flat on my back. It wasn’t that the rejection was mean; it was incredibly kind (because Pitch Wars people are seriously amazing). But afterward, I couldn’t look at my book. I was in a total slump. That book was the best I could do, and it felt like no one would ever want my worknot the mentors I subbed to, not literary agents, and definitely not publishing houses.

Because that rejection hurt so bad, when 2016 came around and I had a new manuscript, I told myself I wouldn’t enter Pitch Wars. Not this time. I’d queried enough by that point that rejections rarely stung, but the idea of taking my brand new, never-queried book into that arena once more… I worried it would bring all those feelings rushing back, and that this time it’d be even harder to get up and try again when I was rejected.

But then a voice popped into my head. It was that scrappy part of me that hates being told I can’t do something, and sounds weirdly like Stephen Colbert for reasons I’ve yet to figure out.

What if?

What if I got in? What if I got a mentor, improved my book, and joined an incredible community of people who’d be there for me during the ups and downs of publishing?

I’m so glad I listened to the “what if” rather than the voice that told me getting rejected twice was a sign Pitch Wars wasn’t for me. Because I did get all those things. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked, I learned so much, and made so many friends. And in the end I connected with Jessica Watterson, my dream agent.

What if this is the year that it happens for you?

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

unnamed (2)

Interview with Hetal Avanee

Our interview today is with Hetal Avanee, a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?

I’ve actually followed PitchWars for years – since it’s inception in 2012 – so my preparation started way back before I had any solid story ideas. However, it wasn’t until last year that I was ready to enter one of my book babies. I wrote, wrecked, and rewrote Riven at least three times before entering into the contest, and I rewrote it at least that many times during the revision period.

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

I wish I’d taken time off from the day job. For me, the revisions entailed an extensive rewrite into a new genre, and though I’d thought it would be “easy”, there were days that the black hole of “I’m never gonna get this done” really dragged me down. If ever I’m in this position again, I guarantee to take a “me day” – or seven.

How did you choose which mentors to send to?

I had my list of yes, nos, and maybes. I added them to a private twitter list so I could see if they had any topics/tropes that were hard nos. I listened to their interviews, I watched their interactions, and basically not-so-subtly stalked them 😉 Don’t worry, I didn’t try to keep it a secret. But there were still so many mentors to choose from! So I did the only sensible thing – I donated to Pitch Wars in order to submit to 2 additional mentors.

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars? 

Like I said, I’d been eyeballing PitchWars for years, but I only entered when I my manuscript was ready. After months on the query circuit, after getting no requests in PitchMadness, I figured it was time to get some expert advice on this thing I called my book baby. It was cute enough to get interest from mentors, some editors, a handful of agents – but [to me] it lacked a crucial something that would propel it to the next level.

That’s why I entered Pitch Wars: to learn what it would take to raise my MS to the next level and do my best to apply it.

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars? 

That not everyone’s changes were as extensive as my own. LOL. It shouldn’t have been a shock, really; I don’t think there was another mentee who was flipping genres!  KT and Jami were amazing, their notes were extensive and in-depth, and I learned about myself through the process.

What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars? 

Like many of the mentees who were interviewed before me, I’m jumping on the bandwagon of: the community is the best part of Pitch Wars. I added a few more writers to my tribe through interactions on the #PitchWars hash before picks were even announced; that list expanded after being chosen as mentee, but once in my heart, you don’t get to leave. So many of those same writers, mentees and not, pick me up with their kind words when I need it.

Your tribe can pick you up when you’re down. Your tribe will send you baskets full of encouragement when your soul feels withered. So yeah, make friends, don’t be afraid to interact with people on and off the hash – you’d miss out on the best part of PitchWars if you did.

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

Pitch Wars is not THE answer to signing with an agent, getting a book deal, or getting pubbed. It is one of the possible ways to achieve any of those things. First, you must write, and polish, a spectacular book. Note that a perfect MS is not required. But make your premise as amazing as you can, make the plot twisty and unpredictable, keep the pace, and provide rounded characters. Doing those things, and keeping a positive perspective through the rejections or silence, is how you’ll eventually achieve all if those goals.

For the record: I was a 2016 mentee who is still working on her agent/pub Happy Ever After.

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

There is absolutely no downside to taking the chance on yourself by entering PitchWars. If your MS is polished and query ready, it is good enough to be subbed to PitchWars. The worst that might happen is that you won’t get picked – but the best thing that might happen is that you are!

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience? 

unnamed (1)

Interview with Suzanne Park

Our interview today is with Suzanne Park, a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. She’s represented by Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook if you want to learn more! 

How did you choose which mentors to send to? 

I had only heard of Pitch Wars one week before it began. I basically had no time to prepare because of this, and didn’t much pre-Pitch Wars tweeting. Last year at this time I only had 50 Twitter followers and had only posted 25 tweets total. So I guess the moral of this story is, procrastination works! Just kidding. It really comes down to strength and fit of manuscript for Pitch Wars. Don’t stress if you’re not a huge social media person! I got into Pitch Wars as a social media recluse.

Not many mentors had put contemporary women’s fiction on their wishlist, there were maybe 5 mentors total? That made my submission process easy. Kellye and Sarah’s women’s fiction wishlist was pretty specific (voice and humor were key for them) and my manuscript seemed like something they’d like. It was kind of like applying for a job: what were the requirements, and did I meet most (or all) of them? Kellye and Sarah’s writing backgrounds wowed me, and their banter on Twitter was hilarious, so I knew right away I wanted them to mentor me.

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars? 

I knew my book was *almost* there, and was as good as I could make it, but I didn’t know where to go next. I’m generally a risk averse person, and there was no risk in entering Pitch Wars. I figured if I didn’t get in, I’d try again the next year.

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars? 

This may sound strange, but I was surprised that all of my free time for two months went toward writing and editing. 100% of it. I am a full-time working mom and somehow have a lot of family events going on at all times. Life goes on while Pitch Wars happens, and you need to juggle a lot, and say no to things you want to do.

Did I mention I moved during Pitch Wars? Yep. I packed up my apartment, moved, and unpacked during that time. I had my laptop with me at all times. At one point I couldn’t find any clean underwear, but I had my laptop and that was all that mattered.

Life goes on while you have Pitch Wars writing deadlines. It’s amazing, challenging, rewarding, and hectic. But I am so glad I participated.

What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars? 

  1. The community! I have a new CP now, thanks to Pitch Wars
  2. I increased my Twitter followers like eight-fold thanks to Pitch Wars! (Results may vary)
  3. I love my mentors so much. I just emailed them this week to give them an update about my WIP. They are so wonderful!

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

I highly recommend not moving into a new apartment during Pitch Wars.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

Mine is a static GIF…

idris-elba-shouldnt-you-be-writing

Interview with Kaitlin Hundscheid

Our interview today is with Kaitlin Hundscheid, a Middle Grade writer and member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

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

Take a break. Your pages need to be in tip-top shape before you submit to Pitch Wars, but after you’ve swapped with friends and strangers, rewritten everything a hundred times, and hit that submit button…go chill. Read. Take a walk. Binge Parks & Rec. Rest those little gray cells between submitting your entry and the picks announcements and do whatever replenishes your creative wells. Resist the urge to crank out another MS and burn off that nervous energy while you wait. Pitch Wars is a long-distance race––don’t wear yourself out sprinting before it even begins. 

And even if you don’t make it into Pitch Wars, you’ll be ready to plunge back into your MS with fresh eyes and new friends from the feed. 

What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?

Yet another tedious person saying it, but…

The community. I’d written in isolation for several years (the first year it was even a secret from my husband), and beyond swapping with a few CPs and dipping a toe into Writer Twitter, I still felt alone. But the Pitch Wars Class of ’ 16, and the middle grade writers in particular, has become my extended family, one that I’ve been incredibly thankful for every day of the past year. Having other writers to commiserate with over rejections and plotting woes boosts you for the next hurdle. (There’s only so many times you can explain to family that their stamp of approval doesn’t sell a MS, and yes, that sounds like a great idea for a book…for them to write.) I was expecting a roller coaster of revisions and stress and excitement, but the friendship and support that endured after the Pitch Wars ride ended has been far more precious to me. 

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience? 

unnamed