Interview with PitchWars 2014 Mentee and Alternate

PitchWars 2014 was a great experience for me, and I think my mentee and alternate had a pretty fun and rewarding time participating as well. We made their queries and manuscripts shine, but it wasn’t an easy process. I made both of them work hard over the two months we had to prepare for the agent round.

The process of choosing a mentee and alternate was not an easy one! That first week was pretty intense, for me. I logged at least 30 hours in my PitchWars email reading submissions. In the end, I chose Stacy Hackney’s THIRTEEN O’CLOCK and Dana Mongillo’s DILLON AND THE INVASION STATION because of the voice and quality their manuscripts. Both were incredibly clever and funny, and importantly, I could see specific ways that I could help take their writing to the next level. I also checked out both ladies online and sent them emails. I wanted to get to know them personally and get a feel for how they would be to work with! They both seemed to be open to my opinions and excited to jump into edits.I chose to do edits with each of them in two parts, the first being an edit letter where I detailed my thoughts to them on edits. In it, I described general writing concepts and plot elements that would be beneficial for them to learn more indepth (and in this business, we are always learning!) and apply to their manuscripts. The second was an intensive line edit of their manuscript.

I’m proud to say that both ladies took edits in full stride and were excited to work, even though I gave them a lot to do!I thought it would be fun to interview both ladies on their experiences with PitchWars, partly in the hope that it will help those of you who are working on submissions for PitchWars 2015 :)

 

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Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which writers you wanted to choose to submit to as potential mentors. You both only could submit to 4 writers, and there were about 80 to choose from. How did you decide to send to me? (And I’m SO GLAD you did :D )

Stacy: I am a big believer in research and I really (really, really) wanted to make it into PitchWars so I spent a lot of time deciding who would be a good fit for my novel! I made a list of all the authors mentoring middle grade, and then I narrowed it down further by the authors that were interested in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. This still gave me a much higher number than four authors so I started stalking (er…following) them on twitter and reading all their blog posts! It became obvious that Juliana was not only knowledgeable about writing and the industry, she was smart, passionate, and seemed incredibly nice. I crossed all my fingers and toes that she would like my work!

Dana: It was overwhelming to choose from all the mentors. When I first saw that gigantic list, my head pretty much froze up. But, I got right to work. First, I organized my sock drawer. Then, I walked to the store for some chocolate, stopping on the way back to watch some guy wash his car. When I returned to my writing desk, I sharpened every one of my pencils, counted them, grouped them by color, and then opened up my laptop. I made a list of all the mentors who were after MG. I analyzed the subtext in their PitchWars bios and did some cyber-stalking. My preference went to those who appeared fun/nice/enthusiastic/wonderful but also made it clear they’d be a ruthless editor who would make their mentees sweat. In working with a mentor, I wanted to have both my hand held and my ass kicked. I was ready to tear those pages apart. Juliana was AWESOME and exceeded my expectations!

Me: For the 2015 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P I know I made both of you work pretty hard!)

Stacy: I LOVED having Juliana as my mentor. For one thing, she’s brilliant and simply “gets” how to make a book better. She not only gave me tons of feedback on my MS, but she also gave me reading suggestions that helped my writing, introduced me to potential critique partners, made me laugh often, and became a friend.

Dana: You were awesome and exceeded my expectations! You helped me see where I was frequently going astray and not serving my characters. Your advice was helpful–not just for DILLON but also for everything I have written since. I now feel actual physical stress when I see a passive verb or telling words that distance the reader from the action (feel, see, hear, etc.) Because of my experience with you during PitchWars, my first drafts are tighter and my writing is stronger.

Me: Aww, I love you guys too! <3What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?

Stacy: Juliana immediately sent me a loooong edit letter with big picture stuff that needed to be changed. It was a little daunting to consider at first, but the suggested changes were also so insightful and spot-on, I couldn’t wait to get started. After I finished with the big picture changes, I sent the MS back to Juliana and she then gave me line by line revisions. Her feedback was amazing. It strengthened my book ten-fold. I think my favorite part of the revision process was discussing possible changes with Juliana and working together to address different issues with the MS. It felt like a partnership and I loved that.

Dana: The whole thing was both difficult and rewarding. It was especially useful to be pushed to show more of the emotion behind the character, which is something I have often struggled with. I did go a little too far with the emotion in the initial rewrites but toning it down was way easier than getting it there in the first place. I went into PitchWars already loving the revision process. I love cutting words and getting rid of redundancy, even if it means erasing beautiful sentences. It’s easier to be brave about making those changes when you have someone awesome providing guidance and encouragement.

Me: Were there any parts of your PitchWars experience that you were surprised at? Submissions? Edits? The agent round?

Stacy: If there was anything I was surprised by, it was the high level of enthusiasm and support from the writing community for the wonderful contest.

Dana: I was surprised at how much love and effort all the mentors were putting into the manuscripts. This was a massive undertaking, a massive time commitment for both mentor and mentee. The community that developed was so lovely and supportive. I get teary just thinking about it!

Me: If you could choose to do PitchWars all over again, would you?

Stacy: I would do PitchWars again in a heartbeat! I would say it was one of the best decisions I made for my writing.

Dana: I would definitely do PitchWars! If you have a manuscript ready, this is a great opportunity! Do not hesitate to get involved!

 

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Thanks, guys! I was so incredibly lucky with how fantastic both Stacy and Dana were to work with! I can’t wait to see how PitchWars 2015 goes! <3

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