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A Pitch Wars Team Interview with Irene Reed and her mentors, Clarissa Goenawan and Shari Schwarz

Wednesday, 16 January 2019  |  Posted by Gwynne Jackson


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 starting on February 6, 2019, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2018 Pitch Wars Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Irene Reed – Mentee


Clarissa Goenawan – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Shari Schwarz – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Clarissa and Shari, why did you choose Irene?

We simply fell in love with Irene’s story, A PLACE OF WRATH & DEATH. It has everything we love in a suspense book and more: themes of identity and diversity; gorgeous, thought-provoking writing; atmospheric setting in rural Mississippi; a plot that only got more exciting as we read! Through our initial interactions, Irene also came across as someone who is smart, kind, sincere, and most importantly, hard-working.

Irene, why did you choose to submit to Clarissa and Shari?

There are so many reasons I chose Shari and Clarissa! I read what they were looking for, and thought my manuscript might be of interest to them. Mystery/suspense/thriller? Check. Intriguing hook? I thought so. And and I’m definitely more dark than cozy–in the first chapter of my manuscript, a child is forced into a coffin!

In addition to their fantastic writing, I also loved the background, expertise and vibe Shari and Clarissa brought to the table. In addition to being an author, Shari also edits and works for a literary agency. Clarissa has also been a mentee, and I thought that they would bring multiple valuable perspectives to my work and growth as a writer. And finally, they are just so thoughtful and kind!

Clarissa and Shari, summarize Irene’s book in 3 words.

Clarissa: Empowerment. Identity. Brave.

Shari: Mississippi. Confederacy. Genealogy.

Irene, summarize your book in 3 words.

Secrets never die.

Clarissa and Shari, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Clarissa: I used to be a bookseller. I was in charge of marketing children’s books for a regional book distribution company, which include everything from baby board books to YA novels. I spontaneously talked about countless books—most of them I’d only read the short synopsis because there were so many—to the media every month, but when it comes to pitching my own book, I’m always struggling. Always.

Shari: In the back of my 5th grade diary, I wrote out my dreams and goals. One was to be a children’s author. And while I’m super proud to have worked hard to make that dream a reality, I’m even more excited to help other authors achieve their writing goals. The ability to do this through Pitch Wars is a huge honor.

Irene, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

PitchWars is an amazing opportunity! While there are a number of writing competitions out there (which are all wonderful in their own right), there are very few opportunities to a receive concentrated critique on a completed work. I believe PitchWars fills a much needed mentoring gap for writers who are struggling to bring a full manuscript to life. For me, PitchWars is about being pushed beyond my comfort zone and growing as a writer. I also hope to build long-lasting relationships with my mentors and other members of the PitchWars community. I’ve already made so many virtual friends, and look forward to these relationships deepening over time.

Irene, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your manuscript unique?

As an African-American woman from Chicago, my visit to rural Mississippi several years ago remains stamped on my soul. I was struck by contrasts between wealth and poverty, and the clear lines that cut along race and class. The experience transformed my emotional understanding of the south, and deepened my sense of connection with the slave roots in my own family. Afterwards, I continued thinking about the hold of the past on the present. In particular, I thought of the turn of the century African-American massacres, such as Slocum and Rosewood, that displaced African-Americans from their land. What does it mean for a family to lose not only their land, but their sense of history and identity? What is the modern impact of such historical trauma? And what wounds are exposed when someone digs up that past, and reclaims their lost identity, generations later?


Check out Clarissa Goenawan’s latest release, RAINBIRDS…

Available on Amazon

Check out Shari Schwarz’s latest release, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE…

Available on Amazon



Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 6 – 11, 2019. If you’re an agent and would like to participate, you must register here: https://pitchwars.org/info-for-agents/. We hope you’ll join us to support our teams on the Twitter hashtag #PitchWars.

Filed: Interviews

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