The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Marie Meyer and her Pitch Wars mentor Lady Lioness here for a little Q and A. Marie recently signed with Louise Fury with The Bent Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Marie, you were chosen for Pitch Wars, which was such a great accomplishment with over 2,000 applications and about 660 writers entering. What made you decide to send an application to Lady Lioness?
While I was conducting my mentor research, I used Lioness’s website. She had categorized all of the mentors into genres with handy links to their personal websites. It was extremely helpful! I clicked on Lioness’s link and distinctly remember reading that she was interested in stories with long distance relationships. Well, my story definitely has one of those! So, Lioness made my short-list!
You mean it wasn’t the soft fur and lioness prowess? And Lady Lioness, what about Marie’s application made you choose her?
When I went through my submissions, I was looking primarily for two things: I wanted it to be marketable and I wanted to have an idea of how I could edit it. Marie stood out to me because the writing was in good shape and the concept was excellent. Through the Storm isn’t like all the other NAs out there, the long-distance relationship between Griff and Jillian, for example. So it was exactly what I was looking for.
However, I didn’t really choose Marie as it was more like I went to battle for her. Shelley Watters, another Pitch Wars mentor and author of the upcoming Burn Me, also recognized how fabulous Marie’s voice was and we both wanted her as our top pick. I was prepared to name-drop every agent, editor, and published author I’d ever worked with in an effort to persuade Marie to pick me, but Shelley was very gracious, saying she could see how insane passionate I was, so we did a trade. I got Marie and she got Violet, who I’d shortlisted as an alternate.
How fun! We love to hear about the behind negotiations during Pitch Wars. So Marie, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Intense!! It was indeed a writing boot camp! And I LOVED every minute of it! After I received Lioness’s edit letter, I went right to work. I re-outlined my manuscript, cut a prominent character from the story, added a new character, and still found time to put up my Christmas tree (don’t ask me when it came down)! I was thankful to have a long Christmas break (and several snow days) so I could complete all of the Lioness’s homework assignments. Lioness and her Red Pen of Doom are brilliant!
Ha, I would fear and love the Red Pen of Doom. It would be a double edged pen. Now, Lady Lioness, tell us about your experience with mentoring Marie? How was mentoring your other team members?
I’d been on the other side of things, being a scout of sorts for Louise during all the 2013 Pitch events, so I had a really clear idea of what to expect and I planned accordingly. Due to that, I was able to do full edit letters for each Pride member.
I actually emailed Marie before I sent her the very long edit letter and asked her if she’d be okay making major changes. Her reply was essentially, “I will do whatever you think is necessary because I want to learn and I want Through the Storm to be the best it can be.” I am not kidding when I say that Marie pretty much rewrote half her manuscript, but towards the end of the editing process, Marie sent me a batch of revised chapters and there was this one poignant scene that completely caught me by surprise. I just started bawling. That’s when I knew it had clicked for Marie and all I really needed to do now was step back & let her fly on her own.
Sarah moved across the country during our time together, so we primarily focused on the pitch for The Shifting Darkness. I have to say, the spirit you see on Sarah’s Twitter feed, it’s reflected in her manuscripts. Anna took the editing process very seriously. Since she was my second alternate, Anna was the last to get her edit letter and she basically took apart Forever Yours & put it back together in about two weeks. I don’t know if her family ever saw her, she was just so determined to make the most of this opportunity.
In addition to the edits, I gave the Pride weekly assignments. I wanted to give them a sense of what it’d be like to do this for real, when you’re on deadline, but you still have to take care of business on top of writing. Marie, Sarah, and Anna met every challenge I threw at them, and supported each other as a team. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of mentees than The Pride.
Learning to write on deadline is a great part of Pitch Wars. Once you sign with a publisher, deadlines can be intense. I’m so glad the Pride was able to embrace it. Marie, what was the wait like during the agent round and the days leading up to the offer?
The agent round was a nail-biter. I’m a competitive person by nature, and I wanted The Pride to bring home a victory for Lioness. I probably refreshed my page (and my teammates pages) a billion times. I’m not kidding!
The Pride represented well, ending with a total of four requests. I sent my requests (one of which was from Louise) and patiently awaited responses. In the interim, I queried. I needed a productive outlet while I waited, so querying my shiny new manuscript was the best way to fulfill that need.
Louise emailed me on Valentine’s Day, wanting to set up a time to speak with me! I remember running downstairs, shouting to my husband, that I’d just gotten the best Valentine present ever!! Louise and I spoke on the phone the next day and she offered me representation!
At the time, I had a full and a partial request out to two other agents, and four agents had yet to respond to the query I’d sent. Louise advised me to send them all a follow-up email, telling them that I’d been offered representation. I sent my emails and promptly heard back from all of the agents, one of which also offered representation. I had a week and a half to make a decision between the two offers. After researching both agents, I knew my writing career would have been in great hands with either one of them. But, in the end, I felt that Louise was the best fit!
Lioness: Can I just say, Marie played it very cool and professional. I sent out an email, just checking in, how are things, etc. Marie was all ‘Oh, yes, well, I have two offers.’ So I’m all ‘!!!!’ and then ‘Look, if you don’t feel you’ll be a good fit with either of them, you don’t have to say yes. Only accept if you feel this person is going to be the best fit for you and your career.’ And she writes back, ‘Both are wonderful, it’s such a hard decision, don’t worry, I’ll be in good hands either way.’ Then I found out she ended up signing with Louise and was joining Team Fury, and I may have gotten a little insane passionate in my glee.
That IS a wonderful Valentine gift. 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)?
Marie: I’ve read many of these interviews, and I know that Hogwarts is a popular answer. I do love Hogwarts, but I’m going to have to go with Stoneybrook Middle School. When I was in middle school, I was a huge fan of Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club. I always wanted to be in the club! I still have my complete set of Baby-Sitters books!
Lady Lioness: I’m sure there are people out there who expect me to say something like “Sunnydale,” but I am not a crazy person. I prefer the odds of remaining alive to be healthy. Same goes for Starfleet Academy which seems really cool on the surface, but that world has the Borg, which, no.
So I wavered between Hogwarts, Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy before realizing none of them had a particularly strong liberal arts background. Therefore, I am going to be a rebel and say that if I was able to jump into a fictional universe, I’d like to be an archivist at Warehouse 13.
I like how you think, Lioness, I much prefer staying alive, so I think I’d be with Marie over at Stoneybrook. What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Confidante: Lena Kaligaris of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Idol: Elizabeth Bennet
Kick-butt ally: Veronica Mars
Lady Lioness: Man, these are hard. Um.
Confidante: I’m dating myself here, but I’m going to go with Adora/She-Ra.
Enemy: If we’re going for an arch-foe, I would like Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. If you mean bad guys that scare the pants off me, The Borg/Reapers/Cyber-Men.
Idol: The original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Prior to the New 52 retcon, Barbara was the Oracle, a superhero who wasn’t bound by her physical limitations and who demonstrated very clearly how powerful the ability to find information could be.
Kick-Butt Ally: Nita from the Young Wizards series.
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Marie: Chocolate Frogs from Harry Potter! Animated chocolate, way cool!
Lady Lioness: Eeek, no, I disagree. If it’s still moving, count me out! I’m going to go outside the YA genre and say the hot chocolate from Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss.
If it’s chocolate, I don’t care if it’s moving. I’m all over it! You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Marie: My girly scream sounds about right! I hate conflict! I’d be screaming and running the other way!
Lady Lioness: Platypus. Or Tardis.
The Tardis! No one has mentioned that yet. I love how you both would escape, or in Marie’s case, run from danger. I’d be right on your heels! What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Marie: I cannot function without a soy mocha latte and an unsweetened iced green tea. I must have both. Oh, and chocolate!
Lady Lioness: I don’t really need a specific food for editing so long as I have something to snack on. But there must be music!
Music and coffee for the win! Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Marie: The authors I read as a kid: Ann M. Martin, Gertrude Warner, and Francine Pascal. I also credit my middle school and high school English teachers for fostering my love of reading and writing.
Lady Lioness: Not a writer. Just a wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. Which owes its name a bit to Invader Zim.
Last question: Which team are you? Team Brenda or Team Rae? Kidding. No really. Thank you for sharing your success story. Rae and I couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Marie: Thank you! Pitch Wars was an amazing experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor! Lioness is an amazing editor and teacher. I learned so much from her!
Can I vote for Team BrenRae? After all, you’re a team, right?
Lady Lioness: I want to copy Marie’s answer. Team BrenRae, for the win! (Don’t worry, Pride, I still love you guys the best!)
Ha! We like people to believe we’re a team … I have no idea where I’m going with this. Yes!! Love Team BrenRae!
Wonderful interview you two! Congratulations on the success, and we can’t wait to hear about more successes in the future. Everyone else, go say hello to them on Twitter.
Why are you still here? Scram. Give them some love!
Lady Lioness, Assistant to a fabulous Literary Agent