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Pitch Wars Interview with Yael Mermelstein and her mentor Jessica Vitalis

Thursday, 22 September 2016  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti

PW Interviews

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .


Yael Mermelstein – Mentee



Jessica Vitalis – Mentor

Twitter Website

Yael: Why did you choose Jessica?

Jessica listed four things she’s looking for in a book and it felt like she’d listed all of my particular strengths as a writer. On top of that, I incessantly read MG and YA until way too late at night (Kindle rocks for those of us overseas) and Jessica’s list of favorite authors included SEVEN of my favorites too. And I loved her confidence – she’d written that she loves to critique and that she’s “darn good at it”. Everyone has their weaknesses but I enjoy people who aren’t shy about their strengths either. But the clincher was watching her on the live interview segment – her passion and personality oozed out of the screen. That’s when I decided I desperately wanted her to pick me! The funny thing is, while all of those things are still true, right now my enthusiasm for Jessica is amped up by much more than her professional expertise (which is EXCELLENT) – she’s a really special human being with a beautiful heart. And though we come from different walks of life – I think we have a lot of commonality and connectedness.

Jessica: Why did you choose Yael?

Yael is a talented writer with an outstanding voice. The themes in her manuscript resonated deeply with me and I couldn’t get the story out of my head. Plus, our early communications left little doubt that she’d be a dream to work with: she’s enthusiastic, dedicated, thoughtful, and an all-around great person.

Yael: Summarize your book in three words.

Heart. Mind. Journey.

Jessica: Summarize Yael’s book in three words.

Mystery, Neurodiversity, Road trip (that’s one word, right?)

Yael: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?

My home is nestled in the undulating Judean Hills of Israel, where I wake up some mornings to the bleating of the sheep as they’re shepherded through the valley outside my window. I live here with my husband and our SEVEN superlative and complex children. My husband and I met while working with the special needs population – one of our super-special charges introduced us! Today our home has a revolving door for all sorts of gorgeous kids with varied handicaps and our kids do most of the entertaining. Between our visitors and our permanent residents, life in our apartment is one delicious, outrageous, hullaballoo! I’m a begrudging inspirational speaker (still haven’t figured out what’s inspiring about me), I act in an all women’s musical theatre troupe and I write for the Jewish markets where I’ve published thousands of articles and ten books. Some of my stories have actually been published in Israeli textbooks and my high-school aged daughter is excited/mortified that she’s going to be studying ME in school! I write everything from PB’s through adult stuff, but my passion is MG and YA contemporary- especially with ginormous heart. My Pitchwars manuscript, EIGHT TIMES CRAZY falls right in the middle of that wheelhouse with a satisfying plunk. I have an MS in education and I taught awesome middle-graders and high schoolers for years. Now I rub that bone by writing creative science articles for kids, which enthralls me. I’m tickled that I know why bats hang upside down.

Are there enough words in Merriam-Webster to thank Brenda, Jessica and the entire Pitchwars community for this astounding opportunity? In Israel when something is superb we simply say that it’s “ESER” – a ten out of ten!

Jessica: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know.

You probably already know that I chase children and wrangle words in Atlanta, Georgia. But you might not know that I only set my alarm clock for odd numbers. Or that I once owned the actual coat that Meg Ryan wore in Kate & Leopold.

Check out Yael’s latest book…

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-11-51-00-pmI Promise You

This is the way that it happens. First, there is no more governess to fasten Maniusia’s woolen coat. No more Bronia the cook frying goose livers and cut onion. Then, there is no more apartment with indoor plumbing gurgling under the floor. No food to eat. No warm, crusty bread. No frothy white milk for the baby. Eventually, there is nothing at all. But in the heart of Auschwitz, when all that is left is the heart still beating inside of her, Maniusia’s father begs her to make him a promise. “Promise me, Maniusia!” “But how?” “Promise me.” I look at Tata. At his face waiting for promises, because he has nothing else to wait for. I think of these words, the most important ones he has ever said. I pull out my own three words. “I – promise – you.” Maniusia’s promise binds her to her faith, her spirit, and ultimately, her life. I Promise You is the painful yet transcendent, true story of Maniusia (Miriam) Adler, as told to her granddaughter, acclaimed author Yael Mermelstein. Through Maniusia’s story, you will experience what it truly means to win the war.

Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round.

Filed: Interviews

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