The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we celebrate Brian Palmer and his Pitch Wars mentor, Holly Faur! Brian recently signed with Laura Crockett of TriadaUS, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for him. So without further ado, please meet Brian and Holly as they recap their epically awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Brian, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Holly?
Okay, so this is the one part of the Pitch Wars experience I regret: I actually did not submit to Holly, but I very nearly did so (she was the last person I crossed off my list of prospective mentors to apply to because I really liked the quiet, literary feel I got from her web page and some of the books she was into, even if they didn’t seem to be quite in the realm of what I was writing)! I couldn’t tell for sure whether she was looking for my kind of novel, and I made the mistake of not contacting her to find out for sure before submitting my applications. Sorry, Holly! The lesson? When in doubt, ask!
However, when she swooped in like a ninja with an email whose subject line said “Your Fab Manuscript,” and I remembered the fact that I almost sent her an application, I jumped at the chance to work with her and told her I would be happy to do so if she decided she wanted my manuscript. I loved her enthusiasm for A SILENCE WORTH BREAKING, and could tell she connected with what I was aiming to do with this story, both of which were huge pluses!
So to summarize: Holly is awesome, I goofed, she gave me a second chance, and I took it!
Holly, what about Brian’s application made you choose him?
Brian may have already mentioned above, but he did not sub to me. I had a handful of subs I was strongly considering when his query was passed to me. This is cliche, but it was the voice! He hooked me in the query, and we all already know his synopsis was perfect. I read parts of the manuscript, but I had all I needed.
Brian, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Man, was it intense! I knew going in that it would be hardcore, nose-to-the-grindstone stuff, but even that knowledge only prepared me so much for the real thing! But it was LOADS of fun as well. Holly was the perfect mentor because she “got it” with respect to my novel. She helped me see a number of ways I could tighten things up and add in some strong beats, and she was always great about being a sounding board when I had ideas hit me like a ton of bricks (which happened more than once). I received a lot of great insight from Holly and a lot of notes, both of which were crucial to making the revision period work so well. Plus, she was a fantastic support system throughout, reminding me to keep my chin up when my attempts at writing a 50-word pitch were kicking my ass, and that she loved my book and chose it because she wanted to help make it better and knew that I could do it.
Holly, tell us about your experience with mentoring Brian.
It was so much fun! This was my first mentor experience and I never expected to connect so much over a story. I remember Skyping with him and going off on long tangents about his characters which had us both grinning like crazy. He wasn’t afraid to let me know if he wanted to keep something, but was very open to changing things. Sometimes all it takes is that second set of eyes to see exactly how to make your story stronger. So many times I’d throw out a half-thought idea and he’d run with it, turning it into something perfect. We literally emailed every day, just to toss ideas to each other, or to say if something wasn’t working. I dropped a three page edit letter on him, plus in-line notes, and he did brilliantly. The story is the same, but is stronger for all his work and dedication. I am so so proud!
Brian, after Pitch Wars you signed with Laura Crockett of TriadaUS, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer: How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Laura contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
For two weeks after the agent round ended I did my very best to stop being in Pitch Wars mode so my wife and daughter could have their husband and daddy back (not sure if that worked or not, but I tried!). I worked, I played, I tried to make myself believe I could jump into NaNoWriMo for the first time with my current WIP, but my brainwaves were just flatlining by that point and I couldn’t do it. So I just tried to simply be.
Then came November 20th. I received a lengthy email that night from Laura (I had neglected to give her my phone number before, so she wasn’t able to call me…whoops!) and I was crying tears of joy before I even opened it because the subject line said “Offer of Representation” and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve been trying to find an agent for years and have racked up 100+ rejections over the course of a few novels, so it felt like a weight the size of the world was being lifted off me. I knew I was at least going to have a chance to be represented by someone, and that was an amazing feeling. Miraculously, I managed not to scream at the top of my lungs when I read the contents of the email, because that surely would have woken up our toddler who’d just gone to sleep, but I was ecstatic!
We couldn’t speak about things until the 22nd, but oh man, when we did was it great. I know I’ve used this phrase already with regard to Holly, but Laura completely “got it” and it showed in her enthusiasm for the book, how she compared it to two novels and films I had secretly thought were similar but had never openly used as comparables, and her understanding of the characters, their arcs, their stakes, everything. Hell, it even showed in I loved hearing about her history as an agent, getting a feel for the dynamic at TriadaUS, and hearing her ideas for houses she felt we could submit to when the time comes.
I felt like she was the one before we even got off the phone, so it was hard waiting for all the other agents who were looking at my novel to make their decisions. Going with Laura was the right choice. I mean, come on, how can you not want to be with an agent who responds like this when she’s reading your novel?
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars helped me take what I already felt was a good novel and turn it into the strongest thing I have ever written. I learned a lot about crutch words, tightening scenes, upping the stakes, and finding ways to dig even deeper than I thought was possible in order to make the story really resonate. Working with Holly gave me incredible insight into the revision process and valuable experience with meeting deadlines, both of which I am not sure I could have found without Pitch Wars.
These past few months also helped make my novel as ready as it could possibly be for the agents who would be looking at all the pitches, and it gave me and all the other finalists a leg up on a lot of other querying writers since agents are familiar with how well Pitch Wars prepares writers for what comes next. Agents look at these entries and instantly know these writers have been coached, their novels have undergone serious behind-the-scenes work from veteran writers, copyeditors, etc., and that these babies are ready to be shown to the world.
Cold querying an agent puts you in the same boat with thousands of other writers, but when you go through Pitch Wars, you show agents that you are ready to be taken seriously and that your manuscript is ready. I can’t say enough about how awesome, how life-changing this experience has been.
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)?
Brian: Hmm, under most circumstances I would probably say Jedi Academy, but since Holly and I are part of #TeamDumbledoreShrugged, I think I’ll have to go with Hogwarts!
Holly: This is SO hard. But Jedi Academy. Or Hogwarts. But the FORCE…
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Brian: In order: Alex from Robin Parrish’s Dominion Trilogy; Dolores Umbridge (I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch a fake person in the face as much as I’ve wanted to do that to her when reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix); Neville Longbottom; Aragorn
Holly: My confidant: Rey (Star Wars) Enemy: Dementors Idol: Donna Noble (Doctor Who) Kick-butt ally: Kim Possible
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Brian: Butter beer! Or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Holly: Elderflower wine
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Brian: Louisville Slugger, baby!
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Brian: I really don’t have any, come to think of it. Maybe I should look into that…
Holly: Almonds and tea, and sometimes M&Ms
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Brian: Michael Chabon (especially after watching the 2000 film adaptation of his book Wonder Boys), Frank Peretti, Langston Hughes (“Hang yourself, poet, in your own words. Otherwise you are dead.”)
Holly: Lois Walfrid Johnson. She writes middle grade and when I was 13 (in the days before email and websites and public author addresses), I wrote her a letter which a mutual friend delivered. She wrote me back!! I still have it.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Brian: The most unexpected part of this experience has been the friendships I have made with the other finalists, as well as with people who entered but didn’t get selected. It is amazing to be in the same boat with so many other people, and to find that many of them want you to succeed just as much as you want them to succeed! I think the writing community, and Pitch Wars as a whole in particular, is unique in that regard because for most people in most professions it’s a me-versus-them proposition, but with Pitch Wars it’s more of a me-AND-them proposition instead. You might enter this contest with the aim of finding an agent, but you also have a chance to gain so much more than that.
Holly: I feel like Brian probably wrote something here, but I don’t know what to say. I ate a lot of M&Ms during this selection process and Brian was kind enough to send me two packages to replenish my stores. My snack drawer thanks you.
Thank you for sharing your success story, Brian and Holly. We couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, rush off and say hello, celebrate with them, and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re awesome!
Brian is a novelist, freelance writer, a junkie for the written word (as long as it’s written well!), and an Editorial Administrative Assistant.
Holly grew up traveling all over the western U.S. and Germany pretending each long car ride was by covered wagon. She now lives in her birth state of Michigan with her husband and four little ruffians where she writes modern historical fiction about wonderfully complicated people. She also reviews books for the Historical Novels Review, keeps a garden, and can’t live without her Wellie boots. Her heart belongs in England, so her boys have promised to take her one day.
She is represented by Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency.