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

A Look Back On 2014

2014 was an interesting year. As a snapshot, I…

-Found out I’m going to be an aunt, next year! <3
-Went on some fun vacations. I travel frequently to see my family and was able to go Portland, OR for my sister’s 30th birthday and also to the Grand Canyon for a very cool hiking trip with my parents.
-Drafted 3 books (okay okay, I am 8k from finishing that third book, but still!)
-Edited 2 of those books until I couldn’t stand 1 of them and had to shove it back into the recesses of my computer
-Finished another year of my masters degree. I only have one semester left!
-Participated in PitchWars and got to mentor two AWESOME writers.
-Was let-go from my job, found a part-time teaching gig at a local community college, and then was re-hired by the first company (that was a crazy month, let me tell you).
-And, of course, I read some pretty amazing books.

Here’s my reading list from 2014! I’ve bolded the books that I particularly enjoyed (bold & italics mean I had book hangovers after finishing them :D ). I’m starting 2015 off with the The Real Boy by Anne Ursu and am loving it so far. What books did you fall head over heels for in 2014?

The One I Left Behind- Jennifer McMahon
Annie & Fia: a Mind Games Story-Kiersten White
Two Boys Kissing- David Levithan
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea- April Genevieve Tucholke
Tell the Wolves I’m Home- Carol Rifka Brunt
I Am The Messenger- Markus Zusak
Thinking in Pictures- Temple Grandin
Liesl & Po- Lauren Oliver
The Caged Graves- Dianne K. Salerno
Fire in the Hole- Elmore Leonard
Okay for Now- Gary D. Schmidt
The Girl who Chased the Moon (audiobook)- Sarah Addison Allen
The Rook- Daniel O’Malley
The Killing Moon- N.K. Jemison
The Sugar Queen (audiobook)- Sarah Addison Allen
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown- Holly Black
The Spindlers (audiobook)- Lauren Oliver
LaBrava- Elmore Leonard
These Broken Stars- Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
Stardust (audiobook)- Neil Gaiman
All the Truth that’s in Me- Julie Gardner Berry
Cruel Beauty (audiobook)- Rosamund Hodge
Perfect Lies- Kristen White
Fire- Cristen Cashore
Throne of Glass- Sarah J. Maas
Control- Lydia Kang
The Walled City- Ryan Graudin
Crown of Midnight-Sarah J. Maas
The Winner’s Curse- Marie Rutkoski
The Murder Complex- Lindsay Cummings
Grave Witch- Kalayna Price
Grave Dance- Kalayna Price
Grave Memory- Kalayna Price
Cat Chaser- Elmore Leonard
Incarceron- Catherine Fisher
The Lost Sun- Tessa Gratton
Defy- Sara B. Larson
Another Little Piece- Kate Karyus Quinn
The Elegance of the Hudgehog- Muriel Barbery
Across the Universe-Beth Revis
Angelfall- Susan Ee
World After- Susan Ee
The Promise of Amazing- Robin Constantine
Heir of Fire- Sarah J. Maas
The Iron Trial- Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
Attachments- Rainbow Rowell
Soon I Will Be Invincible- Austin Grossman
Brightly Woven- Alexandra Bracken
The Near Witch- Victoria Schwab
The Cuckoo’s Calling- Robert Galbrath
The Night Gardener- Jonathon Auxier
The Alchemist-Michael Scott
The False Prince- Jennifer A. Nielsen

#PonyFest14

#PonyFest15 is here and I’m just squeaking in my entry at the last minute. For those of you who don’t know, PonyFest is an awesome contest Rebecca Enzor runs each year, in which authors turn their characters into My Little Ponies and win fun prizes. It’s pretty fun and creative :P Of course, I’ve never been able to choose just one character to turn into a pony. The same goes for this year! Below, you’ll find the four main characters from the YA fantasy I’ve been working on for the past year. To give a hint about it, it includes a mapmaker who travels into uncharted territory in a world where the earth is sentient.

Kellin

 

 

Kellin is a lanky boy who has trouble keeping his spirit in his body (it likes to slip free when he’s dreaming). His hair is constantly mussy and he’s a giant. Literally. Okay not literally, but he did recently have a growth-spurt that resulted in him now standing a few inches above the average man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narlena

 

 

Narlena loves the sea, and for good reason. Her family line originated when a sea princess crawled from the ocean and adapted to the land. Narlena has some quirky traits (and an unhealthy obsession with water) because of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torrin

 

 

 

Torrin comes from a cursed line of men, all because a very long time ago, his great-great-great-(many greats)-grandpa wished for perfection. Tor gets swept up in Alia’s (who’s below) quest, but has a hidden agenda of his own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alia

 

 

Alia is the heroine of my MS. She’s a mapmaker and reluctantly travels into uncharted territory to go on an adventure with Tor (who’s above) to save her country. She’s quite single-minded, which is both good and bad when it comes to saving the world.

Interview with the Author of The Paper Magician

Good morning, lovely followers! Today, I have Charlie N. Holmberg popping in to give a quick interview for her busy bloghop! Her book, THE PAPER MAGICIAN, released at the beginning of this month and has been doing ridiculously well–for good reason! This book is amazing, and I highly suggest checking it out :)

THE PAPER MAGICIAN

 

Hello, Charlie! Welcome to the blog. First, could you tell us a bit about about THE PAPER MAGICIAN?

Let’s see . . . The Paper Magician takes place in an alternate 1902 London, England, where folks have learned how to cast spells through man-made materials, such as glass and paper. It follows Ceony Twill, a recent graduate from a rigorous magic prep school who, due to a shortage of paper magicians, is forced to study paper-based magic, despite her dreams of becoming a metals magician.

Then there’s lots of blood and magic doors and the end. :D

The world THE PAPER MAGICIAN exists in is pretty unique. Do you see yourself writing more stories in that same world, or are you focusing on writing new material after this series?

I’m moving on after this series, though I have played with the idea of writing a novella/fourth book sometime down the line. I love this world, but there are so many others waiting to be explored! I’m almost done with a new standalone in a darker world. Like, literally darker. You can’t see the sun.

I love the idea of paper magic (animated origami? Yes please!). It’s not a magic I’ve seen in other fiction. Where do you find inspiration when building magic systems, especially when trying to keep it distinct?

Why, thank you! Though paper magic isn’t entirely original; I’ve heard of an anime called “Read or Die” that has something similar, but I’ve yet to watch it.

As to where I find inspiration . . . that’s a hard one. Kind of everywhere. I try to steer away from the done-and-done-again magic systems. Usually I get a spark of an idea (such as bringing a paper crane to life), and I build on it until I can fit it into a system (crane > paper > man-made materials).

How do you balance writing with life as a new mother? I know you’ve moved a couple times in the past year–how have you been able to focus on writing in the midst of that?

It’s definitely harder! It wasn’t too bad at first because Baby slept all day, but now she’s awake more and more, so I really have to utilize nap time. And this second move has really killed me! I have a lot of catching up to do. I definitely recommend keeping the apartment-switching down to once a year.

But, basically, it comes to priorities. My family will always come first, but I place writing higher than, oh, cleaning my house and exercising (not a good thing, maybe!). We always have time for what is most important to us.

What’s next for you? The sequel to The Paper Magician comes out on November 4th, but are there any other books in the works that we can look forward to reading?

Yep! I’m nearly finished with the first draft of the new tale I previously mentioned, and I have another book I have high hopes for going into the publishing battle soon. Plus there’s the third book in the series . . . we’ll see where that lands. ;)

Thanks for dropping by, Charlie!

Pitch Wars Blog Hop!

It’s finally time for Pitch Wars to start! Yippee! I’ve been looking forward to this for months and I know the other mentors have been too. For this contest, I’ll be mentoring Middle Grade books :D Below you’ll find the types of MG books I tend to enjoy most. Please feel free to post questions in the comments section or find me on twitter (@julianalbrandt)! I love making new friends and can’t wait to work with you :)

pitchwars

MG Wish List

I adore MG because it’s often extraordinarily clever and touches upon tough subjects (“…if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”-Madeleine L’Engle). If your MS is a story with clever twists, whimsical turns of phrase, solid world building, and well developed relationships between characters, then I’m your mentor! [think HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, CRESTOMANCI, & THE PECULIAR]

For more specifics:

-Genre wise, I’m most attracted to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure stories.

-I’m a massive fan of mythology, whether it’s a retelling or it’s incorporated into the story (WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, WATERSHIP DOWN)

-I love journey stories where MCs are set on a physical quest (LIESL & PO, THE SPINDLERS, PETER & THE STARCHASERS)

-And tales that use magic to help explain/tackle a serious subject (A MONSTER CALLS)

-I also prefer stories in which magic is already ingrained into the world (along the lines of magical realism) rather than stories where the MC “discovers” magic or comes to realize they have magical abilities (“chosen one” stories)

-Lastly, I adore a good adventure story. I still daydream about DOWN RIVER by Will Hobbs (which I think is technically YA, but I read it in early middle school and so have stuck it firmly in the MG category :P ) In general though, I might not the best fit for contemporary MG. I typically don’t enjoy contemp unless it’s full of heart–think WALK TWO MOONS or OKAY FOR NOW, or if it’s an adventure.

All of the above are merely stories I’ve loved in the past, which is just to say that I have no idea what I’ll love in the future. If your MS is a humorous, character-driven story, with an MC who goes on a physical journey that parallels their internal one, then I’m the mentor for you :D

 

Why You Should Choose Me!

-My writing is represented by the fiercely wonderful agent Emmanuelle Morgen of the Stonesong Literary Agency. While I mostly spend my time writing YA, I started out with MG and I always come back to it–it’s at the heart of my writing soul. I’ve written 8 books (whew) and am amazed at how much I’ve learned with each one. I can’t wait to share some of that with you.

-I love editing and critiquing! It’s one of my favorite parts of writing.

-I’ve had a lot of practice honing queries. In fact, I often do giveaways on twitter for them. It’s something I genuinely enjoy. Also, I know the query game. I know what it’s like to be in the trenches. We’ll make yours sparkle.

-I’m passionate about writing in all forms and will work so, so hard for you, if you’re willing to do the same.

-On a not-writing note, I’m currently in school for my Masters of Elementary Education, and I work full-time as a secretary. I spend the majority of my free-time in the mountains–rock climbing, hiking, running…pretty much anything that gets me outdoors.

Girls wanna have fun

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