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 Gina Denny and her Pitch Wars mentor Mina Vaughn for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Jennifer recently signed with Kirsten Carleton with Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Gina, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Mina?
Funny story. I didn’t actually apply to Mina.
While I worked through the A-MA-ZING list of mentors, I knew I was going to have some tough choices. In the end, I had seven mentors I wanted to apply to (Mina was on that list), but I decided not to apply to anybody I considered a friend through twitter or facebook. I didn’t want to think “Why didn’t my friend pick me???” so I reluctantly crossed Mina off my list. It hurt to make that choice because I knew the romance in my story needed help, but it felt like it would hurt less if I didn’t get in and was rejected only by people I barely knew.
Mina, what about Gina’s application made you choose her?
Actually, Gina’s application didn’t even go to me! While my pile was full of good entries, I didn’t feel that “connection” with a manuscript like I felt with my last year’s mentor, Kristen Reynolds. I wanted that magic again. So, what I did was solicit entries from other Adult mentors for good pitches they weren’t selecting. When Dan Koboldt suggested Gina’s pitch, I knew I was in for something special. Her pitch was great, but her MS was fantastic. And, the best part was that I KNEW what I could help with. I could make the right about of difference to a near-perfect work.
Anything can happen in Pitch Wars, and we’re so happy you found each other. And Gina, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
It oddly enough came at a very tumultuous time in my life, and revising actually felt like a breath of fresh air, rather than the stressful activity most people say it is. Mina gave me a handful of “overall” notes – things that needed to be fixed throughout the manuscript, plus pinpointed a half-dozen scenes where the romance needed work.
She gave me perfect advice, exactly what I needed. Instead of vague suggestions, she held my hand through it: “Slow this down, use more sensory details, this sentence is what’s messing up the vibe here”. It was everything I needed and it all helped so much.
We had a chance to go back and forth on a few major changes (swapping POV order, deleting some scenes, etc) and all those email exchanges were so easy. Mina had great ideas, was willing to listen to my ideas and bounce back and forth with me until we found the right balance.
Our mentors are unbelievably generous! So Mina, tell us about your experience with mentoring Gina.
Gina was fantastic! She listened to my suggestions and incorporated them into what she already knew and believed about her book. That’s purpose, right there. That’s creative direction. A mentee who can internalize advice and apply it to what they already understand about their work? Amazing.
Gina, after Pitch Wars you signed with Kirsten Carleton with Waxman Leavell Literary Agency, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer? Like, how long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Kirsten contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
Kirsten originally found me through a PitMad event on twitter, but required an exclusive at the time. I couldn’t do that, so couldn’t query her, but eventually went through Pitch Wars instead. When Pitch Wars was over, Kirsten worked at a different agency and no longer required an exclusive, so I queried her. She asked for a partial and a full really quickly before the holiday season started.
It was almost three months from the first query to The Call (she emailed me first – I’m in Arizona and the time difference meant we had that phone call first thing in the morning for me). During The Call, we talked about changing the ending – which was something Mina and I had gone back and forth on, never quite landing on anything that felt “perfect”… it just kept getting “better”. Kirsten has hit on a way to make it perfect. That’s how I knew it was meant to be.
My response? I texted my friend, Darci, and flipped out for a little while. “How many minutes should I wait before I respond??? I want to seem cool and professional.” Darci talked me out of that, told me to respond immediately and get over myself. It was good advice.
Ha! I believe everyone flips out when the Call happens. And how do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars made my book. I felt confident going in, and I received a lot of compliments from the mentors I did submit to (including two who said they thought it was ready-to-publish), but Mina helped in all the places I felt insecure. Pitch Wars pushed me from “good enough” to “absolutely ready” and for that I will be forever grateful.
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)?
Gina: Duh. Hogwarts.
Mina: I’d be the one at Hogwarts who was NEVER up to any good. I’d use that invisibility cloak and map to my advantage, for sure.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Gina: My confidante and ally would be Alexia Tarraboti-Macon from the Parasol Protectorate series. A woman who is married to a werewolf, best friends with a vampire, and capable of rendering them both powerless? Yes please.
Enemy? That’s easy, too. Dolores Umbridge. If you have any other answer, then you and I probably have very little to talk about.
Mina: Confidante would be Livia from Debra Anastasia’s Poughkeepsie series, enemy would be Juliet from Shatter Me because I want Warner for MYSELF, Idol would be Nora from the Original Sinners by Tiffany Reisz, and kick-butt ally would be Katniss from The Hunger Games trilogy.
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Gina: This sounds so dumb, but I came up with “applecakes” for a scene in my Pitch Wars novel… and now I’m obsessed with creating this dish. In my head it’s a cross between an apple pie and a coffee cake with walnuts and… yeah… I’m definitely going to create this.
Mina: I tried butterbeer and wanted to barf, so not that.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Gina: 9mm. I’m an Arizona girl, married to a bonafide mountain man, living in a conservative ranching/farming community outside of Phoenix. That 9mm is always within reach.
Mina: Tawse (It’s a kink thing.)
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Gina: When I’m eating clean, I love Greek yogurt with granola and dark chocolate pieces mixed in. When I’m not eating clean, it’s Oreos.
Mina: Green tea, currently. With donuts as a snack.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Gina: This is probably surprising, but it was my friend, Melanie. We’d been friends on twitter for a couple years when I finally picked up one of her books. She writes clean romances (not usually my style) and her books are so fresh and funny and swoony. And she was so fun and easy to talk to. It was the first time it clicked that “Hey… authors are… people…? Weird!” And I thought if someone as fun and cool as her could do this, then maybe I could give it a shot, too.
Mina: Twilight! I still love me some Edward.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Gina: Pitch Wars was an excellent experience. I made so many friends: the mentors I applied to, people I was cheering for all along the way, and friends who didn’t make this round but were so supportive and kind when the submissions went live. This contest bolstered my faith in the writing community, and I promise I would not be agented right now if it hadn’t been for this contest.
Mina: Gina is such an amazing writer and I’m so proud of her. I knew this work was something special and I want the world to read it.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, go say hello and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re amazing!