Writing 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!

Pitch Wars Wish List 2016

Hello, Warriors, Dreamers, and Wordsmiths! I will keep this post as short and sweet as I can, but I want the very first thing you read on my blog to be this: For PitchWars, I am not looking for a manuscript that is perfect. I am looking for a book that is filled with potential, and for a writer who has already done the hard work and is prepared to roll up their sleeves and dig in for two months with me. I am looking for someone who is open to critique and who is ready to have an open dialogue about what darlings of theirs might need to change. I am looking for someone who’s excited to learn. I am passionate about this process, and I will work so, so hard for you, if you are ready to do the same.

You are all bright, brilliant things, and I cannot say enough about the courage it takes to submit your work. I wish very much that I could take on each and every one of you who submits to me, but alas, since I can only choose one, let’s move on!

MG Mentor

Why You Should Choose Me!

-If you’re curious about what it’s like to work with me from a mentee’s point of view, check out this blogpost to read an interview with my mentee and alt from 2014 and this blogpost with my mentee from 2015.
-Stacy Hackney, my mentee from 2014, received a whopping 12 agent requests during the agent round and is now represented by the lovely Katie Grimm! Julie Artz, my mentee from 2015, received a solidly stupendous 6 requests, and is now working as the talented editor she is! Both of these lovely ladies will likely help me read submissions and have said they would be excited to help my 2016 mentee :D
-I have extensive critiquing experience: my editing strengths are in plotting (I adore plotting!), character arcs, defining the rules of magic systems, world building, writing at the sentence level (show vs tell, inserting emotion into the text), and honing queries until they shine. I work hard to have precise, thoughtful feedback, be it for bigger overall issues or close in line issues. Two months is, of course, not enough time to teach someone how to write from scratch, but it is enough time for a crash course in some writing elements. We’ll work together to figure out what you need.
-For the past two years, I have done editing with my mentees in two waves. The first being larger issues (plotting!) and the second closer issues (line edits!).
-I have written 10 books, eight of which have been fantasy and the other two were contemporary (this is the main reason why I am not the best fit for a contemporary novel–see below in the “what I’m looking for” section–as I don’t have as much experience writing and critiquing it). I am passionate about the drafting and editing process, and have learned a lot through each of my books. I am so excited to share what I’ve learned with you <3
(Please do come find me on Twitter @julianalbrandt. I would love to chat and “meet” you! Or feel free to write any comments questions on this blogpost! I will be happy to respond:)

What I’m Looking For!

I’m looking for MG fantasy this year, both high and low. I am a massive fan of weird magic, unique magic systems, and worlds that haven’t been seen before. I love darkness tinged with humor, characters that form close relationships, mythology that’s woven into plot, quests (QUESTS, I LOVE QUESTS), villains that resonate, and clever main characters who use their wit to escape from tricky situations.

To give you an idea of my reading tastes, check out the list below:

-Otherworld fantasy: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (or anything by Diana Wynne Jones, for that matter), THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, TUESDAY’S AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George, THE HOLLOW KINGDOM by Clare B. Dunkle, THE WITCH’S BOY by Kelly Barnhill, THE THICKETY by J.A. White.
-Fantasy that is NOT magic-based: THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielson, PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale.
-Dark fantasy: THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann.
-Horror: THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathon Auxier, DOLL BONES by Holly Black.
-Historical Fantasy: SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty.
-Magical, adventure stories: THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, PETER & THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
-Stories with beautiful mythology: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin. (I would fight tooth and nail for books involving local mythology!)
-Magical Realism: RULES FOR STEALING STARS by Corey Ann Haydou.
-I would shove aside other mentors for a diverse cast of characters set in a tight fantasy world. (Send me all the diverse MSs!)

*As an interesting thing to note, the manuscripts I’ve chosen to mentor in recent years have been about children discovering that magic (or something strange and wonderful) exists in the every day world. (This is very clearly NOT chosen one stories or children coming into some secret power (please see below at the “what I’m not looking for” section).) While this is noted, I would be very interested  in a MS where magic already exists at the beginning of story (ie: “discovering magic exists” is not the inciting incident).

What I’m Not Looking For

*Sci-fi & contemporary novels are not my strong suit. There are other, incredible mentors who shine in those genres, who you should look at submitting to before thinking of submitting to me.
*I am not as good of a fit for “chosen one” stories, magic systems that have been seen before (such as elemental magic), retellings (or stories using fairytale characters), or portal stories. If your MS has any of these and you still want to submit to me, these elements will have to be very uniquely written for me to be interested.

As a note, I will not be able to respond to everyone who submits to me. I will do my best to respond to the people I request material from. The school year is just beginning though, and I know it would not be healthy for me to promise to respond to everyone’s submissions. I do apologize for this.

The Letter "O"

The Letter “O” for the bloghop!

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Interview with #PitchWars 2015 Mentee, Julie Artz

I can hardly believe that we’re starting to gear up for #PitchWars 2016, but here we are, and I could not be more excited!

In 2014, I had a breeze of a time choosing which manuscripts I was interested in working with. They called to me, and I snatched them right up! 2015 was a different story though. I had a handful of manuscripts that I felt strongly about, that I thought could do well in the agent round, and that I knew I could help make into stronger novels. I ended up choosing Julie Artz’s incredible QUEST FOR THE KALEVALA in the most super secret of ways (I’m still snickering over this, Julie!). I hadn’t requested Julie’s manuscript, but rather had gotten the full from another of the mentors she’d submitted to. I’d heard about how fantastic she was from those same mentors, too. I ended up reading her manuscript just a few days before we had to announce our picks. By then, I decided to keep it a secret that I was looking at her book at all! Julie was an absolute dream to work with. I could not have been happier. Below, you’ll find her answers to the same questions I asked Stacy and Dana back in 2014.

If you’d like to read the interview with my 2014 mentee and alternate, go here. Read on below for Julie Artz’s thoughts on Pitch Wars 2015, and what it was like to work closely with me in preparation for the incredibly exciting agent round.

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Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which writers you wanted to submit to as potential mentors. How did you decide who to send to?

Julie: As soon as the mentor list was announced, I followed all of the MG mentors (and most of the YA/Adult ones too, to be honest) on Twitter and started keeping an eye on the #PitchWars thread for tips as I madly polished the manuscript I was entering. Then, when I was ready to start narrowing down, I did a first pass through the middle grade mentors to come up with a list of folks who were interested in MG fantasy. Of those, ones who had an agent I loved or who specifically said they liked something similar to my Pitch Wars manuscript got a highlight on my spreadsheet–Yes, I had a spreadsheet. I listened to the mentor Q&A sessions and further narrowed down the list. Juliana already had a star for Howl’s Moving Castle (one of my all-time favorite books), but she got another one when she tweeted about being great with character emotion and arcs, something I’d struggled with while revising my dual-POV story. When I had the list down to about seven, I pinged some of my trusted critique partners and they helped me narrow the list down to five. I’ll be honest, though, it was tough!

Me: For the 2016 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P)

Julie: I was thrilled to have Juliana as my mentor. She understood how to fix my story right away and by the time we finished our first Skype conversation, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I learned so much about structure and how it supports character arc. How to write better emotion. How to keep propelling the story forward. All from her excellent notes and homework assignments. In addition to providing so much great feedback during September and October, she’s been a constant source of encouragement since the Agent Round. I feel so lucky to have her as part of my tribe!

Me: *all the hugs!* Seriously, the best part of PitchWars is the close writing relationships you end up forming!

Me: What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?

Julie: I completed a major structural revision of my story in a few short weeks, which was all-consuming and completely exhausting. But I also learned so much during that time period that I walked into my next story with a lot more confidence in my ability to tell a story than I’d had before Pitch Wars. And I went from hating revision to understanding what a powerful part of the writing process it can be (even as I vowed never to write another story without thinking about arc and structure up front).

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

Julie: The Agent Round was both thrilling and terrifying. My fellow 2015 mentees are so amazing that the agent-offer frenzy started the second the Agent Round ended and hasn’t really left us in the months since. As a middle-of-the-pack entry with a respectable number of requests, I knew my querying road was going to be a bit longer. That was harder emotionally than I thought it would be, but I am really thankful for all the support I’ve gotten from Juliana and from my amazing 2015 mentee pals.

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

Julie: Absolutely! Anyone who is serious about their work, but struggling to find an agent, should enter this contest. The community created around Pitch Wars is fantastic and the time, energy, and love each mentor puts in is such an amazing gift to the writers who enter!

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Be sure to check out Brenda Drake’s website for more information on Pitch Wars and follow her on Twitter for updates!

Pitch Wars Wish List 2015

MG Mentor

Pitch Warriors! I’m glad you’ve stopped by my blog! Comment on this post and come find me on twitter (@julianalbrandt), I would love to get to know you. I know how much research you’re doing to prepare and decide who to submit to, so I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet.

Why You Should Choose Me!

-If you’re curious about what it’s like to work with me from a mentee’s point of view, check out this blogpost to read and interview with my mentee and alt from last year.
-My writing is represented by the fiercely wonderful agent Emmanuelle Morgen of the Stonesong Literary Agency. I’ve written 10 books (whew–MG as well as YA) and am amazed at how much I’ve learned with each one. I can’t wait to share some of that with you!
-My mentee from last year received a whopping 12 agent requests during the agent round!
-While I love the drafting process, I particularly enjoy revising and editing. I have a large group of CPs that I critique for. I’m prepared to help with both developmental edits as well as line-by-line edits.
-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’ve just received my Masters of Education and recently moved to the heart of the Appalachia in NC. I spend the majority of my free-time in the mountains–rock climbing, hiking, running…pretty much anything that gets me outdoors.

Update! I posted on twitter some of my editing strengths. (read tweets bottom to top)

PitchWars

What I’m Looking For!

This year, I’m particularly looking for MG fantasy! I would love to see submissions with unique magic systems and unique worlds. To give you an idea of my reading tastes, check out the list below:
-All of my very favorite MG fantasy has clever twists, whimsical turns of phrase, solid world building, creative/original magic, and well developed relationships between characters. Think HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (or anything by Diana Wynne Jones, for that matter), THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, TUESDAY’S AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George, or THE HOLLOW KINGDOM by Clare B. Dunkle.
-I have a soft spot for MG that isn’t as magic-based, such as THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner (this is one of my very favorite series, though they really do cross over into YA), THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielson, or PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale.
-I adore dark fantasy such as THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann. I’m not as experienced with MG horror, but if you have something especially creepy like THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathon Auxier, we could be a good fit (though with horror, ghost stories are not the right fit for me).
-I would fight hard for a magical, adventure story like THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, or PETER & THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
-A sci-fi story would also be very welcome.

What I’m Not Looking For

*I am not as good of a fit for “chosen one” stories, magic systems that have been seen before (such as elemental magic), or retellings (or stories using fairytale characters). If your MS has any of these and you still want to submit to me, these elements will have to be very uniquely written for me to be interested.
*I am also not a good fit for contemporary. There are some lovely other MG mentors who will do your contemporary story justice, I am just not one of them.
As a note, this year I will not be responding to everyone who submits to me. I will do my best to respond to the people I request material from (and more, if I can!) (Also, as a friendly hint, if I request material, I will likely request a partial along with an in depth synopsis.)

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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