Having our mentees land an agent or a publishing deal is one of the highlights of being part of Pitch Wars. We’re so excited for Kaitlin Hundscheid and her mentor, Ashley Martin. Kaitlin signed with Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Kaitlin and Ashley on their Pitch Wars Success.
Kaitlin, what was it about Ashley that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Ashley’s wish list specifically asked for anything to do with classic children’s literature, and I knew that could be a swaying factor in whether someone liked my story about book characters coming to life in a library. And from stalking her twitter and blog, I could tell that we had very similar tastes in other areas and thought she seemed like a kindred spirit––and I was right! I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor for my story.
Ashley, what was it about Kaitlin’s THE CURIOUS CURSE OF THE LONELY LIBRARY that hooked you?
The book opens with the MC, Theodore, wandering through the grocery store, his nose in a book. As someone who often brought my books to the dinner table as a kid, I immediately felt a connection with this lovable bookworm. As I continued reading, I found everything I was hoping for: A vibrant, beautifully described setting, a cast of supporting characters I adored, and a connection to classic children’s literature that made me swoon. The moment one of my favorite literary characters of all time showed up, that was that. I knew this book was the one.
Kaitlin, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
After the OMG I WAS CHOSEN euphoria passed, I was left with the OMG WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO panic. After processing Ashley’s initial suggestions, I word vomited my reactions (mostly variations of “you’re so right”) and brainstormed ideas until the line edits came. From there it was a month of intense revisions, splicing, dicing, and murdering chapters as I sped up the pacing (9k words cut!) and strengthened character arcs. And, of course, lots of laborious polishing, marveling at how many times I could mention shadows in one scene.
Ashley, tell us about your experience mentoring Kaitlin.
It was a dream! Kaitlin and I connected immediately, forever bonded by a mutual love of books and tea (go #TeamEarlGrey!). She was eager to learn and didn’t hate me for suggesting some big changes (phew!). She really went above and beyond to dive deeper into her story, and she absolutely slayed her revisions. I couldn’t have asked for a better first mentee!
Kaitlin, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. 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.
Catherine was the last query I sent (about three hours before I received the initial offer), and I felt terrible turning right around to nudge her. But she graciously asked to see the full that afternoon, and the next morning I woke up to a request for a phone call. I was flabbergasted and giddy, and that first phone call is a blissful blur of what she loved about my manuscript and how much we both appreciated corgis. But I knew she was the one from the moment I hung up, and it was a very long two-week wait to accept. When I did accept, she was hiking in Tasmania with no cell phone service, so it was almost another week before we got to officially celebrate. I dug into another WIP to help past the time, but it was worth the wait! I’m still pinching myself.
Kaitlin, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I’d revised this MS several times before entering the contest, but I think Pitch Wars taught me how to revise effectively, without fear (or…less fear). Killing darlings and making major cuts/rewrites is daunting, but Ashley gave me the courage to go for it and make the story really shine. Her advice is still guiding me, and I can already tell how a different WIP is stronger for going through that editorial process with her.
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?
Kaitlin: Narnia, and I’d sail on the Dawn Treader (I used to be obsessed with that book, probably because of the ship’s purple sail!) Narnia strikes the balance of just different enough to be magical and just familiar enough be home. And cheeky, talking animals = yes, please.
Ashley: The world of Anne of Green Gables. I would sit on my big farmhouse porch and sip raspberry cordial and read and write and every once in a while Anne would come drag me away into some grand adventure where we’d get into just a bit of trouble, but never too much. Why? Because it would be terribly splendid and interesting, don’t you think?
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?
Kaitlin: (This question gave me the most trouble. I’m just not interesting enough to be chased by bad guys.) But if I have to run from someone…chased by Count Olaf with Mary Poppins at my side. You know she has all kinds of great stuff in that carpetbag, and she’s Practically Perfect. (Though, let’s be real, I’m probably her sidekick.)
Ashley: As a kid I used to have recurring nightmares which involved running from either spiders or snakes, so I’d probably be dashing through the Forbidden Forest, fleeing Aragog’s children or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with Hermione by my side. Because Hermione. (No offense, Ron and Harry, you know I love you.)
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Kaitlin: The Pensieve from Harry Potter.
Ashley: The Time-Turner from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ll take as many hours in the day as I can get.
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?
Kaitlin: I first read a couple chapters of a writing craft book to get the thoughts percolating, and then I turn to my laptop. I recently discovered the pomodoro technique cranks up my word count, so it’s particularly helpful while drafting. Revision tends to be slower, and I take frequent walks when I’m untangling crucial points. Fresh air usually triggers the right words, and then I rush home to get it down before I forget. I do turn to paper and pencil on days when I’m SUPER stuck. Being forced to write slowly gives my brain time to work out the idea as I go.
Ashley: I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two, so my writing process is to squeeze in writing time whenever I get a spare moment, using a notebook or a note on my phone to jot down thoughts as they come to me throughout the day. Best case scenario: A couple of hours in the afternoon dedicated to my laptop, a cup of tea, and some sort of pastry. Will do in a pinch: A couple hundred words before bed after the kids have gone to sleep.
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?
Kaitlin: Earl Grey tea at any coffee shop where I have ample table space and a window seat. Must have that scope for the imagination.
Ashley: I’m heading to my favorite local coffee shop (preferably the very back, dimly lit booth that’s tucked away from everything else in its own little alcove with its own little screen door) and I’m ordering a London Fog and an almond bearclaw.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Kaitlin: I’m a happier, healthier person when I’m writing regularly. It gives me a space to mentally breathe and stretch, and it’s made me more perceptive and appreciative of mundane things that I used to ignore.
Ashley: The kids who will read my books someday, my own kids, my enduring love of books and the beauty of words. I’m constantly inspired by all forms of art—books, music, poetry, film. And my husband has always been my biggest supporter and encourager, followed closely by my writing pals (a special shoutout to my fellow Pitch Wars mentors, Cindy, Jamie, and Amanda, who have become bosom friends and my lifelines through this crazy writing journey!).
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Kaitlin: Don’t let rejection spoil the joy of writing! Finding CPs (and mentors and friends) who love your words and can cheer you through the rough times is crucial
Ashley: I once heard someone say comparison is the enemy of creativity. It’s true. There’s always someone to compare yourself to, someone who writes faster than you, or “better” than you, or who has reached the next step before you. And that’s okay. That’s them and you’re you, and your writing process is what works for you, and your stories are uniquely yours. Don’t let comparison cause you to lose sight of, or let go of, your dreams. Learn to celebrate others’ successes, even when you feel that twinge of jealousy (it’s going to happen, and yes, it’s okay to feel that way, and also normal) and then keep working toward your own success. Keep writing. The world needs your words.
We are so excited for you and wish you all the best! CONGRATULATIONS!
Kaitlin Hundscheid was a Classics major whose career followed a plot twist into elementary education. Her time in the classroom, watching children blossom through literature, inspired Kaitlin to start crafting new worlds full of old ideas in ways that would resonate with her students. When not writing, she enjoys quilting, baking, and teaching Latin part-time. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and bossy menagerie of pets.
When all the other kids wanted to be zookeepers and astronauts, Ashley dreamed of being a writer. (Okay, she had her days of wanting to be a zookeeper/veterinarian/any job involving animals, but books were always her best friends.) Stories make her fantastically happy, whether it’s through the pages of a book, the scenes of a film, or the words of a song. When she’s not engrossed in the world of her next middle grade novel, you’ll find her drinking copious amounts of tea while hanging out with her husband, two kids, one schnoodle, and two aggressively affectionate cats.