From June 27th through July 18th, we’ll be posting mini-interviews with most of the Pitch Wars mentors so you can get to know them. Many of the mentors also hang out on twitter. Follow the links to their Twitter accounts and say hello. They’ll be on the #PitchWars hashtag tweeting advice and answering questions.
We will also host live chats from July 19th through August 2nd, and the Pitch Wars submission window will open on August 3rd!
We asked our mentors to answer these three questions …
1. What are you looking for in a submission and what would you forgive as far as issues in the sample pages? In other words, what do you feel is an easy fix and what would be a pass for you?
2. What is your editing style and do you have a game plan to tackle edits with your mentee in the two months given for the contest?
3. And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?
And here are their answers …
Rosalyn Eves & Co-Mentor Erin Summerill
Rosalyn Eves is a part-time college English teacher, part-time writer, and full time mom. She lives with her husband and three children in Southern Utah, where she enjoys watching BBC period pieces, hiking, and playing games with her family. She dislikes housework on principle. Her first novel BLOOD ROSE REBELLION will be published by Knopf/Random House in March 2017. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams literary.
After completing a B.A. in English, Erin Summerill wanted to write the next great American novel. As this proved tougher than she thought, she turned to professional photography instead, a career that took her across the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand. After seven years, eight failed manuscripts, and a life-altering kidney donation experience, she finally had the vision to draft her debut young adult fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. When not writing or shooting, she’s chasing her 4 kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 4 chickens around the state of Utah. She has an addiction to Diet Coke and Hot Tamales, and is represented by Josh Adams.
ONE for Rosalyn: I’m looking for a great sense of voice and the ability to craft a believable world and scene. To some extent, pacing and plot problems can be fixed—but voice is much harder to teach. If I don’t connect with the writing, I won’t have the passion I need to work closely with the MS for two months.
ONE for Erin: I look for pieces with great voice and a unique hook. Things that turn me off: too much unnecessary or extraneous detail in the first chapter, like the writer is trying to show voice but it’s overbaked.
TWO for Rosalyn: I tend to focus more on big picture edits: smoothing out plot holes, deepening character arcs and motivations, fleshing out the setting. I like to read through the whole MS to get a sense for the shape before putting together an edit letter addressing plot, character, setting, pacing, and scenes. As far as a game plan, we’re planning on offering a big-picture edit letter and then line edits after our mentee has revised.
TWO for Erin: I also look for big-picture issues unless there are lots of line-by-line issues or character issues that pull me out of the story, then I might address those before going back to the big picture.
THREE for Rosalyn: My favorite book changes all the time. But one book that strongly inspired me is Lois Bujold’s Curse of Chalion, which taught me that fantasy didn’t have to simply be about adventure—but that fantasy could be funny and heart-wrenching by turns, that it can address questions of character, faith, philosophy and ethics and still tell a great story.
THREE for Erin: I don’t have a favorite, but I love Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief series, especially The King of Attolia. She has such convincing plot twists and an unreliable narrator who’s so good that we don’t realize he’s unreliable. Her books also have incredibly high stakes—but the stakes are believable in the world. She writes redemption well.
Sarah Marsh & Co-Mentor Shana Silver
Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband, four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish. She is the author of the YA historical fantasy Fear the Drowning Deep, the forthcoming epic fantasy duology Reign of the Fallen, and several forthcoming picture books. When she’s not writing, you can assume she’s doing something nerdy.
Shana’s work has finaled in the RWA “Get Your Stiletto In The Door” contest and the RWA North Texas’s “Great Expectations” contest. Her short stories have appeared in various literary magazines such as ShatterColors Literary Review and The Hiss Quarterly. She studied creative writing at Syracuse University under literary masters such as Mary Gaitskill, and now works as a Project Manager for big media companies in NYC where she enjoys creating complicated spreadsheets for fun.
ONE for Sarah: Above all, I’m looking for an unforgettable voice and fully realized characters–in other words, characters so real, they feel like people I might know. Unique and complex world-building is also a plus! As far as issues in sample pages go, I can forgive the occasional typo, but too many typos, a lot of incorrect grammar, and/or head-hopping will make me stop reading. Pacing, plot, character, and world building details are things we can work on, but if you need help with grammar basics or the voice isn’t where it needs to be yet, I’m not the right mentor for you.
ONE for Shana: Most of all, I’m looking for a project that I connect with and have a vision for improving. I know that may sound vague, but it’s the connection part that’s important. If I care about the characters, love the voice, and I want to keep reading to find out what happens, I’m connecting! Like Sarah, I’m willing to forgive a few typos but too many tells me the project isn’t ready for serious revision work yet. I’m also willing to overlook overwriting or pacing issues if I can see ways to help trim sentences or words to make the writing feel engaging.
TWO: For our mentee, Sarah will be doing the round one, big-picture editorial letter, which will be delivered with plenty of time for revisions. Her revision style is intense, as she won’t leave any issue untouched, but she’ll provide extensive examples of anything that needs to be fixed, and is willing to brainstorm and talk through any challenge. Sarah is also a positive person who believes in pointing out what works as well along the way–it’s always good to know what to do more of. Then our mentee will do a second round of revision with Shana, in which she’ll look for any lingering big-picture issues and do a more detailed line edit to ensure that the work is agent-ready. Shana’s strengths lie in spicing up voice, trimming extraneous sentences or words to amp pace, and optimizing word choice for clarity. Shana will put every word and sentence on trial where it needs to defend its right to remain in the story.
THREE for Sarah: The Harry Potter series, definitely. Those books made me more open to other fantastical stories, like The Lord of the Rings, and in turn fostered my love of writing all things magical.
THREE for Shana: My all time favorite book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it my senior year of high school and fell in love with the combination of beautiful writing, intriguing plot and structure, and engaging forgettable characters and world building. Weeks later I was sitting down at the computer and banging out my own first draft even before I graduated. I haven’t stopped writing since.
Jeanmarie is a contemporary YA writer represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. She’s a University of Michigan grad (Go Blue!) who somehow missed receiving her Hogwarts letter and has never gotten over the disappointment. You can find her on a beach in NYC, with a book in hand, wishing she could surf as well as her daughters.
ONE: I’m looking a fully-fleshed out main character with a great voice and a lot of heart. I love when a character with a super strong voice gets into my head to the point where I forget that I’m reading and I can “hear” them speaking. Many other issues are fixable, but if a strong, clear, consistent voice isn’t apparent in the sample pages, I find it hard to connect.
TWO: When I edit, I like to make tons of comments along the margins of the doc so that the writer knows my reactions as a reader. My gameplan is to get the first round of edits and a comprehensive edit letter (mainly with big picture issues) to my mentee as soon as possible after mentee choices are announced. From there, the mentee will take the lead on revisions while I tackle the pitch. If my mentee is able to handle the revisions with enough time left before the agent showcase, I’d love to do a second round of revisions for line edits and polishing.
THREE: As a book lover, I find this question patently unfair. How can I choose just one favorite? It’s impossible. I will say, however, that I do know exactly which two books most inspired the way I write: THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger and MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS by Leila Sales. In those books, the combination of strong plot and emotion, lightened by a great sense of humor, is something I strive for in my own writing.
Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie hosts book clubs for tweens and teens (so she’s lucky enough to spend her days gabbing about books).
She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie loves chocolate chip cookies and Oxford commas. Tobie is a member of SCBWI and YARWA, the Young Adult chapter of RWA.
ONE: The manuscripts I love most offer a peek into a world I don’t know about or into a world I thought I knew but which I’ll now get to see from a new perspective. As long as I get to look at something in a way I haven’t before, I’m open to all types of YA, from fantasy to historical to contemporary to genre mash-ups. In terms of what I’d forgive, I know we all worry about those last few typos that slip through the cracks, so I’d forgive those as long as it seemed like the work had still been carefully edited. If the query is great, but the opening pages indicate the story might not be starting in the right place (which happens a lot), I’d consider requesting more to see if I could help. I love grammar, so if the opening pages showed the author just didn’t understand basic grammar, that would be a pass for me (I’m not talking about stylistic or voice choices that intentionally break grammar rules—I’ll be able to tell the difference, so don’t worry). Most importantly, I need to be intrigued by your main character, world, plot, or some combination of the three. If I am, I’ll want to keep reading!
TWO: I got SO much out of Pitch Wars, so it’s really important to me to do everything I can to help my mentee. I’ll personalize the editing process to the MS’s needs, but we’ll definitely go through big pictures notes first, then move on to more detailed edits. I’ll point out what I absolutely love and what I think needs work, so please be ready for my honest feedback. I care a lot about natural-sounding dialogue, consistent voice, and logical plotting that’s believable to the world the writer has set up, so I’m excited to dive into those elements with my mentee.
THREE: For me, it’s a three-way tie between Prisoner of Azkaban, Deathly Hallows, and Pride and Prejudice. For years, the third Harry Potter book was my favorite because of the way that—over the course of just a few pages set in the Shrieking Shack—so many details clicked into place and suddenly, everything made sense in such an unexpected way. I remember devouring those pages. Then the seventh book came out, and it worked on so many levels and had so much to say that I soon loved it as much as the third book. Pride and Prejudice appeals to my love of history and my fascination with human behavior; plus, every time I read it, I get so immersed in that world and completely caught up in its romance.
Thank you, mentors, for your marvelous answers. We appreciate you so much!
Pitch Wars Schedule:
June 27-July 15 Mentor Mini Interviews
July 19-August 2 Live Chats with Mentors
July 20-August 3 Mentor Blog Hop
August 3rd Pitch Wars Submission Window Opens
August 25th Mentees Chosen and Announced