The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today I am so beyond excited to introduce you to Abby Cooper and her Pitch Wars mentor Gail Nall for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Abby recently signed with Rebecca Sherman of Writers House and went on to sell her middle grade novel, STICKS AND STONES, to FSG/Macmillan, which is schedule to release in 2016. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Abby, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Gail?
Lots of reasons! As I read her bio and her blog posts, I noticed that we had a similar writing style, and I knew she’d be able to help take my writing to the next level. She also seemed like an awesome, friendly person who would be a lot of fun to work with. Plus, her mentor bio mentioned chocolate a lot, and you can’t go wrong with anyone who loves chocolate that much. You just can’t.
And now we know why Gail is so sweet – she’s made of chocolate! So Gail, what about Abby’s application made you choose her?
The voice! Abby’s entry was brimming with authentic, funny middle grade voice. And her hook was really intriguing — when someone calls Elyse a name, the word appears on her arms or legs. It was so original!
The premise of STICKS AND STONES is amazing. I can’t wait to read it! And Abby, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Gail’s notes were amazing. They were a perfect mix of “let’s work on this” and “I love this part so much I want to give it a hug.” I devoted all of my free time to revision that month and it felt SO good. It was so great to see my book grow and evolve a little more each day. Gail made me think about things in new ways and gave such insightful suggestions. It was hard work, but it was exciting. I loved every minute.
Gail, tell us about your experience with mentoring Abby. How was mentoring your other team members?
Abby was AMAZING. Seriously, she revises faster than anyone I’ve ever met, and she really takes all suggestions to heart. She didn’t just input everything I said — she thought about it all, and usually came up with something even better than what I suggested. She asked lots of questions, and she has the best personality. We clicked pretty much right away. The rest of my team that year (and my team last year, too) was also really great. I’ve been one very lucky PitchWars mentor!
I think you both are AMAZING! Okay Abby, after Pitch Wars you signed with agent Rebecca Sherman of Writers House and your middle grade novel, STICKS AND STONES, sold to FSG/Macmillan and releases in 2016, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Rebbeca contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I started querying right after Pitch Wars. I did it gradually, sending a few at a time and then waiting, and I got a mix of rejections and requests. I didn’t query Rebecca until I had already been querying for six months or so. Based on everything I read about what types of books she liked, she seemed like a perfect fit for Sticks and Stones, but I was super nervous to hit ‘send’ and potentially find out that the feeling wasn’t mutual. To my surprise, I got a full request. Quickly. And practically the next day I received an e-mail from her assistant saying she thought the book was wonderful and was going to recommend that Rebecca read it as soon as possible. A few days after that (seriously, this all happened in less than a week), Rebecca requested a phone call.
She told me how much she loved the book and offered some (brilliant) suggestions for revision. I got right to work. When I contacted her a couple weeks later with a question, she responded with an answer… and with “I can’t stop thinking about this book” and an official offer of representation.
I think I just stared at the e-mail for, like, ever, before I truly comprehended what it said. (I did the same thing when I got the e-mail that Susan from Macmillan was interested in STICKS AND STONES!) Then, once it finally sunk in, there was screaming and flailing and an extremely large piece of chocolate pie.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars was CRUCIAL to my success. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. As a newbie to the writing scene, it was a crash course in everything that I never would have gotten otherwise. I learned how to revise. And revise. And revise. I learned that I loved revision. It was also so incredible getting to know Gail, and getting to know a whole bunch of other wonderful writers she introduced me to along the way. There were also all of the other awesome people involved in Pitch Wars, and even before Gail chose me, I was swapping queries and pages and making some amazing writer friends I’d have long after the contest was over. That alone made me feel successful!
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer: You’re outnumbered by the bad guys, what mode of escape would you take? (ie a Tardis, a flying car, a flying carpet, something from your favorite food, etc.)? And why?
Abby: I’d love to take a hot air balloon, but it would have to be a fast one. OR, I would fly away on a giant magic book! Like a magic carpet, but different. Can we make that a thing? Because then I would be safe from the bad guys and I’d also have reading material for my adventure.
Gail: Ice skates! Seriously, because probably not that many bad guys can skate, and I’m ten times faster on skates than I am running. And if that fails, I can jab them with my toe picks.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Abby: It’d be awesome if Gail’s characters from BREAKING THE ICE could teach me how to ice skate. They’d have their work cut out for them, though. After years of (failed) lessons, I still struggle with that whole “standing up” thing…
Gail: This feels like a cop-out, but Harry Potter! I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who can make your house do its own chores, play Quidditch, and fight off the bad guys?
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Abby: Probably Jessica Darling from Meg McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts series. We’re both super sarcastic, and we both try to find the humor in whatever ridiculous situations we get ourselves into. And we both think about things way more than necessary.
Gail: I’m Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables to a T. I’ve always had a wild imagination, and I want to get to know everybody I meet!
You just won an entry into a game show and you may only bring one fictional character with you to beat the clock. What show is it and who would you choose to join you?
Abby: The game show is definitely The Price is Right, but the old version with Bob Barker. I think I’d take Katniss. She’d be a beast at spinning the wheel.
Gail: Supermarket Sweep! Okay, I don’t think that’s been on in years, but it always looked fun. I’d bring Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic books, of course.
You only have two hours to finish edits, what do you grab–coffee, tea, wine, hard liquor, or some fictional drink–to fuel you through the time crunch?
Abby: Coffee! I can’t get enough coffee.
Gail: If it’s morning, I want all the coffee! Mid-day, I need some Crystal Light tea. Evening…well, I’m from Kentucky, so I want Woodford on the rocks. 😉
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Abby: My parents. They’ve been asking me when my book’s getting published since the day I learned how to write. (The answer is Spring 2016, Mom and Dad!) They’re like Chrysanthemum’s parents (I don’t have to tell anyone what book I’m referencing, right??)… supportive and helpful and always willing to make my favorite dinner and play Parcheesi. (Well, maybe not Parcheesi. We’re Scrabble people. But same idea.)
Gail: My mom. 🙂 She’s like Ma from the Little House books with a dash of Tris’ mom from Divergent.
Chrysanthemum – Amazon
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Abby: The whole Pitch Wars experience was beyond incredible. I feel SO fortunate to have been part of it, and extra fortunate to have gotten Gail as my mentor. She was—and continues to be—an amazing role model and friend.
Gail: PitchWars is the best! I’ve had so much fun being a mentor, and I’m thrilled that Abby found an agent and that now her Pitch Wars manuscript is going to be a published book. I think Abby’s path highlights the fact that in this business, you have to put yourself out there again and again and again and don’t give up! There’s no one “right” way to do this. If you get rejected, try again. And again and again and again until someone says YES!
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, go say hello and follow them because they are fantabulous!