Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate Alex Reda and her Pitch Wars mentor Marty Mayberry! Alexrecently signed with Natascha Morris of BookEnds Literary Agency, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for her. So please join me in congratulating Alex and Marty as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Alex, what was it about Marty that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
2016 wasn’t my first time in the Pitch Wars rodeo. I didn’t get in two years ago, but I’ve made some awesome friends along the way, and they all recommended Marty. Once I read her amazing bio (and stalked her on Twitter, like any good potential mentee), I knew we’d work great together. Her professionalism sang to me, and she had this very clear-cut way of saying what she expected from a mentee and what her strengths were (spoiler alert: she’s a super hero). I resonated with that, plus the fact that she seemed so passionate about writing and helping others. Subbing my manuscript to her was one of the best decisions of my life.
Marty, what was it about Alex’s LOVE, LIES, AND THE OTHER TEAM DIES that hooked you?
I was honored by how many authors trusted me with their words during the Pitch Wars sub window. Truly, I could’ve mentored any of them. I read through each entry, sorted them into folders, then stepped back and thought about all of them. Many had excellent hooks. Others had writing that pulled me into their stories from page one. It was a tough decision.
Alex’s book is about a young woman who wins the chance to participate in a gaming competition with her best friends. Their biggest rival is a group of teens headed up by the boy she met and partly fell for at a conference. Add in a potentially haunted house venue, and I was in love. What great conflict! From chapter one, I was rooting not just for the main character to win the competition, but also wind up with the boy.
When people say that this business is subjective, they’re right. There was something about Alex’s story I couldn’t let go of. I knew within a week that hers was the book I wanted to mentor.
Alex, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Marty was super prompt and sent me an edit letter right away. When I read it and didn’t instantly want to shrivel up and cry, I knew we were on our way to success. Marty was always very patient with me, guided me through all the edits, and answered all of my questions. I truly appreciated the fact that she let me know from the get-go that all of her suggestions were just that. I could either make the changes she envisioned or stick to my initial ideas. And let me tell you, all of the feedback resonated with me. I think it was my best editing experience to date. We worked on fleshing out some scenes, adding more depth to my characters’ dynamic, and making the gaming tournament more vivid. It was a hard process, but exhilarating at the same time, and I’ve become a much better writer thanks to that editing period.
Marty, tell us about your experience mentoring Alex.
By the time the mentee picks were announced, I’d read through Alex’s book a second time. The first time was solely to get a feel for the big picture: plotline, character development, arcs. From the second read, I produced an edit letter, which was much longer than I anticipated. Not because Alex’s book needed much work (because it didn’t) but because I was so excited by her characters, her plot, and all the fun/quirky components of her manuscript. A lot of her editor letter was me raving about parts I loved. Thankfully, Alex didn’t fire me the second she got the letter. We talked about my suggestions, worked through new ideas that would fit better, and she got to work.
Before the agent round, I read through again to get a feel for how the edits worked (fantastic, by the way). Then I did a final read for line edits (although I admit I’m not the queen of grammar). We also worked on her pitch and polished her first page.
But the best part about mentoring Alex was that we became friends.
Alex, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Natascha Morris of BookEnds Literary Agency. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
It’s a long tale of woe. Natascha contacted me about a week before we scheduled our call. As you can imagine, I did my happy dance, read each and every article about her, ate a ton of chocolate. The works. Then I landed in the hospital two days before The Call, and actually talked to Natascha a few hours after I woke up from anesthesia. The universe has a weird sense of humor, and you can read more about that in my guest blog post in Michelle Hauck’s Getting the Call series (http://www.michelle4laughs.com/2017/06/getting-call-with-alex-reda.html). But despite my babbling and Internet connection issues, Natascha and I just clicked. I knew she was someone I wanted to work with from the first few minutes of our conversation. We even joked around for a bit, and people who’ve read my work know I live for funny. The Call lasted for about half an hour and right after I hung up, I called my mom and finally told her I’d been writing for 5+ years and an amazing agent liked my work. I’m now officially part of #TeamNat and loving it.
Alex, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
First and foremost, Pitch Wars has offered me the opportunity to connect with amazing writers and have a strong support system. In real life, only my mom and best friend know about my writing career. It gets real lonely real fast. Having other writers in your corner, who can talk you off the ledge when things seem hopeless, or celebrate your small successes, is invaluable. Pitch Wars has also made me a stronger writer in every aspect, from plotting to editing to learning to love my characters even when they go off the script (damn it, I’m the writer here, you should listen to *me*).
And, funny story, I’m also a #PitMad success, so it seems like Brenda’s my fairy godmother. I promised myself to enter #PitMad with my Pitch Wars manuscript, and if I didn’t find an agent through it, that I’d shelve the novel and focus on my next one. But Natascha liked one of my Tweets, I sent her LOVE, LIES, AND THE OTHER TEAM DIES, and she offered rep before she finished reading it. I would’ve never made it to this point in my career without Pitch Wars, and the things I learned as a mentee are helping me to this day, and will continue to do so even as I’ll write my final novel. Is that too morbid? Can something be too morbid if it’s true?
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Alex: Okay, I’m going to cheat here. Since I’m now 97% sure I’m not getting my Hogwarts acceptance letter, I’m going to pick Lothlórien. I’m lanky enough to pass off as an elf, though I’m deathly afraid of heights, so we’ll see how that goes. I think I’d benefit from the calmness in that realm. Plus, elven knowledge is top notch, so they must have a great library tucked inside one of those tree trunks. I’d also love to visit Ketterdam, but only to catch a glimpse of Kaz. That city would chew me up if I extended my stay past the four-day mark; five, tops.
Marty: I’m partial to Narnia. Since this is my wish, give me a castle while you’re at it, and make sure Aslan is nearby.
Somewhere in the (known or unknown) universe, you’re in a high-speed chase and have to escape the bad guys. Who are you running from and what fictional character is your side-kick?
Alex: I’m running from Umbridge, Furiosa’s driving, and Inej is sharpening her knives in the backseat.
Marty: Running from Darth Vader. Sidekick: Chewbacca, because he can kick ass. And he’s fun.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Alex: Hmm. Basically anything Isaac Asimov wrote about. But for clarity’s sake, I’m going to pick Hermione’s Time-Turner.
Marty: The Neuralizer from Men in Black. There are times when I’d love to make someone forget something I’ve said or done.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Alex: I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take about a month or so to draft my manuscripts. The PhD life does have its benefits sometimes. During those weeks I write every single day, usually from about 7pm to 4am, always on my computer. We’ll see how that ritual changes once I hand in my thesis and have to face the real world.
Marty: I write sporadically. It’s common for me to go weeks without writing, then open a doc and put 7,000 words on the page in a day. I also write a lot while walking at the park, jotting down notes (mostly conversation) as I walk (this makes me a slow walker, LOL). I then put my notes into my document, flesh them out, then reread until I’m happy with the scene.
You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?
Alex: Pepsi Twist, water, and gummy bears. I’m chained to my computer, so I don’t have to stray far from my room.
Marty: Earl Grey tea and spicy dill pickles.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Alex: My mom has always encouraged me to follow my dreams. My main motivation is day-dreaming about the moment when I tell her that one my novels is a success. Marty and my fabulous CP and friend, Renée A. Price, are my support system. Don’t know what I’d do without them.
Marty: I’d be lost without my CPs. They offer a hand when I’m feeling down, kind words when I’m feeling depressed, and encouragement when I most need it. I’m so happy Alex is part of my CP group; I can’t imagine how I got by without her!
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Alex: For the love of all that’s good and holy and chocolate-filled, NEVER compare yourself to other writers. I only got two agent requests during Pitch Wars and that would’ve hit me hard just a couple of years ago. But through this experience I’ve learned that honing your craft is the most important aspect of reaching your goals. That, and not giving up. There will be some days when you’ll want to forget all about writing, novels, and publishing. Let those moments motivate you to try harder. You’ll get your agent/publisher/bestselling novel one day, and Pitch Wars is a great way to take the next step towards achieving your dreams. So if you’re still unsure about subbing, take it from someone who’s been both a rejectee and a mentee: whether you get into this competition or not, the process will help you. The community will support you. The dancing .gifs will make you laugh. And the thrill of having a stronger manuscript will be unparalleled.
Marty: Persist. You’ll never fulfill your dreams unless you keep trying.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Alex Reda lives near the literary birthplace of modern vampires (and no, she doesn’t carry a head of garlic around every day–only on weekends). Though she enjoys reading about the pointy-toothed bastards in other authors’ novels, she likes her own characters on the human side, always in creepy settings, always with a hint of romance. One of her goals is to create someone’s future OTP. When she’s not glued to her keyboard, she dashes between lecture halls, day-dreaming about her plot bunnies and gorging on dark chocolate. Proud member of #TeamNat.
Marty writes adult and young adult fiction. All with a touch of romance. When she’s not dreaming up ways to mess with her character’s lives, she works as an RN/Clinical Documentation Specialist. She has a BA in International Affairs in German and an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. She lives in New England with her retired Seabee Chief husband, children, and three neurotic cats. She’s a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and a PRO member of RWA.
Her young adult sci-fi thriller, PHOENIX RISING, won the YARWA’s Rosemary Award for speculative fiction.
She’s represented by Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency: http://dijkstraagency.com/
’17 will be Marty’s third year mentoring in PitchWars.