The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today I am so beyond excited to introduce you to Kelly Siskind and her Pitch Wars mentor Brighton Walsh for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Kelly recently signed with Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Kelly, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Brighton?
This is where Brighton and I nearly got into a girl fight. I *hides under desk* almost didn’t submit to her. Everything about her bio was perfect, ‘fat guy in a little coat’ gif and all. When I got to the part where she was all grabby hands for a humorous MS similar, but sexier than, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, I thought maybe I had a chance. Then I read the bit where she said she’d only read a manuscript once, and I hesitated. I envisioned having a mentor who had the time to hammer out my MS as needed. So I wasn’t going to submit to Brighton…then I Twitter-stalked her. As everyone knows, she’s freaking hilarious. I was sold. Turns out, she lied on her bio and rocked my world. I admitted my hesitation after I was picked. Choice words were shared, then we kissed and made up.
Brighton: In my defense, I was on deadline to write an entire book during the time Pitch Wars was going on, plus I had my debut releasing the day of the agent round, so my motto was under promise and over deliver. But, seriously, how could I not read it a bajillion times? ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS WITH SEX, PEOPLE.
Brighton, what about Kelly’s application made you choose her?
Her voice. She made me laugh out loud within the first page of her manuscript, and I’m not an easy nut to crack.
Kelly, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
My revision period was pretty intense, but I was so excited to be working with Brighton that I dove in happily. Her suggestions were insightful, zeroing in on exactly what my MS lacked. The first half of my novel was pretty solid, but the back half needed to be Frankensteined—cut up and put back together. CHASING CRAZY was missing a blacker black moment, the angst that would make my main character’s all-is-lost scene more dramatic.
All my pieces were there, they just had to be shuffled around, a few things added…and voilà. Edits followed the rewrite, endless clicking of my mouse as I shed unneeded verbiage. Dizzying but rewarding.
Brighton, tell us about your experience with mentoring Kelly. How was mentoring your other team members?
Kelly was my very first mentee, and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better one. Besides meshing together with our working style, I think we mesh together personally, and that makes for a great working relationship. She took every single piece of advice I gave her and truly thought about it, then made a decision that was best for the manuscript. She took all feedback with grace and worked her butt off to make CHASING CRAZY the best it could be.
My entire team this year was so great. Both my mentee and my alt, Juliet, were wonderful to work with, and they were both so supportive of each other. It’s a great reminder of what an awesome writing community we’re part of.
Kelly, after Pitch Wars you signed with Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer: How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Stacey contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
Although I’ve been writing solidly for a few years, CHASING CRAZY was a newly completed manuscript for me. I didn’t query it widely until after the agent round, and Stacey had always been at the top of my dream-agent list. On November 6th, the first day we were allowed to put it out into the world, I sent her my submission. She requested the full in late December, and I got an offer from another agent in mid January. As soon as I let Stacey know, she read CHASING CRAZY in, like, a day. My call with her left me speechless. We chatted for an hour, and her excitement over my writing was unparalleled. And, most importantly, I could unleash my potty mouth and not feel uncomfortable. We just clicked.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars and working with Brighton gave me a better grasp on the romance genre and what it takes to hook your readers. And, God, the edits. Learning how to shed unwanted pounds from my manuscript was invaluable.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer: What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Kelly: Forks High School. Love me some Edward Cullen.
Brighton: First, let me say that I recognize, like, two of those. DON’T JUDGE ME. And as much as I love me some Edward Cullen, too, I’d want to attend SOAP (School of America in Paris from Anna and the French Kiss) because, A) Paris and B) ETIENNE.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Kelly: If by confidante you mean ‘friend with benefits,’ Gale Hawthorne all the way.
Brighton: Kick-butt ally would be Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, all the way. Plus, while I’m there, Curran could be my *cough* confidante.
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Kelly: Gummy Bear Cake. I totally made that up, so it should count.
Brighton: Your obsession with gummy bears worries me a little bit… I’ll say the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I mean, how great would that be??
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Kelly: Gummy Bear. (Still focused on the cake.)
Brighton: Sarcasm and wit.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Kelly: Do you really need me to answer this? Gummy Bears.
Brighton: When I’m allowing myself to eat it, chocolate.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Kelly: I’ll reword this question to ask, whose work inspires me to write? Our styles are nothing alike, but Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS taught me about the beauty of the written word, the Christina Lauren duo inspire me to write fun and sexy books, and John Green reminds me that quirkiness and humor bring characters to life.
Brighton: There’s really only one way to answer this and that’s Stephanie Meyer. It wasn’t that I was so overwhelmed by Twilight that I immediately started writing, but reading it many years ago jump started my once voracious book appetite and got me reading again. It also led me to reading fanfic which led me to writing which led me to where I am today.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Kelly: I love Gummy Bears. And Brighton Walsh. Not necessarily in that order. Also, B taught me how to use gifs #priceless.
Brighton: She seriously didn’t know how to use a gif before me. YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, go say hello and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re amazing!