Writers Category Archive

Interview with #PitchWars 2016 Mentee, Lacee Little

Another year has flown by and we’re heading into my fourth year with #PitchWars (ahhhh!). This year is going to be an extra spacial year, because I am co-mentoring with the extraordinary Allison Ziegler. We’ll announce our 2017 wishlist soon enough, but for now, I have a post about my indomitable 2016 mentee, Lacee Little, and her experience with PW!
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Lacee Little’s manuscript, AN IMPOSSIBLE MAGIC, is honestly one of the more creative, adventurous, and surprising historical fantasies I’ve read in recent years. Her query and pitch snatched up my heart immediately when I read it during the 2016 submission process. She turned out to be an absolute joy to work with, and over the course of two months, she was miraculously patient and hard-working while we made her MS shine. She’s become one of my dearest writing friends in the past year (#PitchWars can be a blessing in many different ways!), and I am eternally grateful to have a friend whose undying love for Diana Wynne Jones matches my own <3
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Read below for Lacee’s thoughts on Pitc.h Wars 2016 and what it was like to work closely with me in preparation for the agent round (umm, have I mentioned yet that the girl garnered 24 agent requests during the agent round? It was an absolute whirlwind)! Also, if you’d like to read the interview with my 2014 mentee and alternate go here, or the interview with my 2015 mentee go here (eh em, this lady–Julie Artz–is a mentor this year, too!).
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Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which mentors you wanted to submit to. How did you decide who to send to?
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Lacee:  I treated it very similar to looking for an agent. Mostly I looked at the MG mentors’ wishlists, and what books they enjoyed, and found the ones that closest matched my MS. Also with you, I had followed you on twitter since 2015 PW, and I really thought you seemed like an enjoyable and encouraging person to work with.
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[Me: Lacee was an alternate in PW2015 which is what she's referring to above!]
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Me: For the 2017 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P)
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Lacee: The best ever!!! Seriously though, my answer is “Beyond my wildest dreams,” and I really mean it. I did not expect such detailed attention, encouragement, and just general helpfulness. Instead of just offering feedback, you talked things through with me, too, which helped accelerate the revision process.
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[Me *blushes furiously* Really though, the feeling is mutual!]
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Me: What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?
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Lacee: This was actually my best revising ever, I think. It certainly was the most enjoyable. Usually I revise extensively, then send to a CP, then revise a ton more, and send to a CP. It takes months. This time, I feel it was so much more collaborative, which I loved! I discussed ideas with so many people in the MIDST of revisions, and had people look over stuff before I’d completely “polished” it, which I’d never done before. Plus, I had more people read over and critique my MS than I’d ever had before, and I loved getting so many expert opinions. It was really interesting to see how everyone notices different aspects that need help.
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Me: Were there any parts of PitchWars that you were surprised at? Submissions? Edits? The agent round?
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Lacee: Like I said above, I was surprised how much support you gave me! I honestly did not count on such generosity! Also, I was very surprised by the community. Last year [in 2015] I was a last minute addition, so I wasn’t on the facebook group. It was such an essential part of my PW experience this year, not to mention the support from other mentors, and your past mentees. It totally felt like being adopted into a tribe/family, which I definitely hadn’t expected!
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Me: If you could choose to do PitchWars all over again, would you? Why?
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Lacee: Honestly, I would feel a bit greedy since it would be my 3rd time. ;) But hypothetically, for sure. I would encourage anyone to participate. I have yet to find an opportunity for better community and mentorship, and Pitch Wars handles things so professionally. It’s the best ‘writers helping writers’ organization I’ve ever seen!
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If you’re interested in finding Lacee over on twitter, you can find here; she really is a remarkable writer and friend, and I know she’d love to say hello!

I Was Not Born A Writer

I have heard it said, “I was a writer from the start,” but that was not me. I was not born knowing how to put words to my thoughts or how to take those words from my mouth and place them on the page. I was not born understanding the characters dancing in my head or the worlds that needed building. I was not born knowing how to cultivate a storyteller’s touch or with the drive to wade through the world of publishing.

I was not born with the knowledge of the Hero’s Journey or the necessity of a
Beginning

Middle

and End.

I was not born knowing how to bring a character to life, how to give them emotion, how to make a reader feel what my characters experience, or how to make them seem just as three-dimensional as a true-living-breathing person.

I was not born knowing how to understand my five senses and use words to describe them. I was not born knowing the dynamic simple sentence or how to string a complex sentence together. I did not know the difference between the word “red” and “amaranth”, “sad” and “doleful”, “smell” and “reek”, or “hug” and “cradle”. I was not born knowing there are words that carry power, that stick in a reader’s memory like tacky glue or molasses or silly putty or sweat.

I was not born knowing the importance of a comma, the necessity of a period, the gift of quotation marks, or the beauty of an em dash. Punctuation can carry as much power as a word. I was not born knowing that truth.

I was not born knowing that readers need to laugh and cry (often at the same time). Or that readers need to root for their characters. Or that readers need characters with flaws. Need characters full of flaws. Characters that have flaws and yet, they still rise. They rise and conquer. They conquer, despite those flaws. I was not born knowing that characters need to save themselves or save others or are saved because of their flaws.

I was not born knowing how to create rhythm or prose that speaks. I was not born knowing how to draft and edit or knowing the difference between pantsing and plotting. I was not born with thick skin.

I was not born a writer.

But.

But I was born a creature of industry. I was born with the ability to establish habits, particularly the habit of working hard and steadily. I was born with the desire to practice and read, practice and read, practice and read. I was born with an internal need to experience the world fully, to know the stories of fellow men, to understand the lives of the people who have come before me. I was born with the need to interact with others intimately and with the beautiful world around us—to make connections, to research and learn and learn and learn.

I was born with an imagination. I was born with a powerful brain. I was born with a subconscious that works overtime when I sleep and dream.

I was born with each of the tools needed to place the stories I brainstorm on paper.

I was born with the capacity to become.

Four years ago today, I was in a car accident that changed my life and set me on the path to write my first book, which led to the second, the third, the fourth, fifth, sixth and on.

I was not born a writer.

But it is what I am.

Sixth Sense

I think my critique partners have a sixth sense, every time I finish a round of either my own edits or critiques for another CP, one of them sends an email asking if I have time to read. We’re four months into the year and I’ve already had the pleasure of reading four fulls. Not too shabby.

There’s something to be said about finding critique partner’s who you bond with. Two years ago when the lovely Sophia pulled me into the writing community, I don’t think I ever dreamed I would form the relationships I have. I can literally hear my CPs voices in my head when I read their comments. They make me laugh out loud while editing and slap my forehead for missing the things they pick up on.

Writing- it’s a crazy ride and I am eternally grateful I’m not on it alone.

Do your critique partners have sixth senses? Can you hear their voices when you edit?

Too Many Questions?

Cale said this to me earlier today: Sometimes, you remind me of a small child. You ask too many open ended questions.

To my credit, we were at the pier watching fisherman bring in their catch of the day and watching the seals swim through the water, waiting for fish to accidentally fall overboard. I mean, there are a lot of open-ended questions to ask when you’re watching that.

But don’t you all think that it’s a requirement of a writer to ask all those questions?

I took a nap today and before I fell asleep I thought, What would happen if everybody was connected to someone else and could only die once that other person died. If you got sick or were injured you could survive because you were spiritually attached to someone else? Overpopulation of the world, that’s what would happen. But that’s not the point. The point is that we ask ourselves these weird questions, file them away, and write books answering them later.

And it’s totally okay! No one can say our questions are annoying because frankly, it’s just a consequence of our job.

Job Hazard Zone: too many questions.

My teachers in middle school were right after all, there are no such things as stupid questions, and even if there are, those stupid questions lead to really interesting answers, which lead to even more really interesting questions.

Moral of this post, it’s not possible to ask too many questions. Our curiosity drives our imaginations and surely that’s a good thing.

Because seriously, have you ever wondered if seals accidentally breath in water like people sometimes do when they’re swimming? Or why a Dogfish is called a Dogfish? I know I have!

The Writing Community

Sophia’s post has inspired me, particularly her comments about how welcoming and supportive the writing community is.  I had written a first novel and knew writing was something I wanted to pursue and decided to take the leap into blogging and joining twitter.  At some point in those months (I say that like I don’t remember the exact moment, which in fact I do.  Here’s the blog post: The First Paragraph), Sophia commented on my post.  It was a huge turning point for me, some random stranger had commented on my blog and ended up wanting to be critique partners.

I am not a naturally competitive person.  I feel bad when sports teams lose, even when I’m cheering for a particular team.  I love games but constantly wish everyone could tie.  And I really dislike working really hard for something and still not winning or doing well, especially when there are other people I am competing against.  Those reasons must be why I quit sports after 7th grade and joined choir and did musicals instead.  I adore the writing community for some of these exact same reasons, everyone is so darn welcoming and supportive.  Strangers comment on blog posts and offer what help then can.  Big shot writers add you on twitter and offer advice.  Some may give you harsh critiques, but I haven’t yet encountered anyone who tells others to quit writing entirely, they always say to keep learning and work hard.

How often do we have the chance to belong to a community as wonderful as this?