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 Heather Truett and her Pitch Wars mentor Dannie Morin for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Heather recently signed with Peter Knapp of Park Literary. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Heather, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Dannie?
I can’t remember what Dannie said (I’m not even sure if it was in her mentor bio or on Twitter), but she said something that made me giggle and also made me certain she could handle the bit of language in my book. She also didn’t strike me as someone who would hold back on editorial comments, and I thought some harsh truth might help me.
Dannie, what about Heather’s application made you choose her?
LOL @ Heather. It was on Twitter. Someone asked during the #AskMentor chat if we minded cursing in YA. My answer was “fuck no?” Because Dannie has a potty mouth.
Heather’s was the first application I received. I requested it within a couple seconds—without even reading the pages because her query was that strong. Her premise has fantastic stakes. She set the bar for the rest of my slushpile and though there were definitely some other gems in my inbox, I kept coming back to hers. After some online stalking I discovered our mutual obsession with cat selfies and tiaras, and I knew we’d be a good match.
Heather, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
It was both more and less intense than I expected. I was right that Dannie isn’t shy with editorial comments, so I had plenty to work on. However, a lot of what she said immediately rang true for me, so I didn’t have too much of an “OMG this is impossible” feeling. We even made our own deadline earlier than the regular PW deadline, because both Dannie and I had Halloween events to focus on.
Dannie, tell us about your experience with mentoring Heather. How was mentoring your other team members?
I don’t use this term lightly but I will go beyond saying I’ve been lucky to saying I’ve been blessed with an incredible group of writers through my tenure as a PitchWars mentor. They’re not only great writers, but great people. Heather was willing to work hard, take risks, step out of her comfort zone, and learn. She embraced the feedback but also maintained control of her manuscript’s vision. She applied to PitchWars to work—not to make friends (although she did) or to garner attention in the community by creating drama (which she did not do at all.) Most of all, she had the courage to put up with me and my allegedly cut-throat feedback. If I had to do it over again, I totally would.
Heather, after Pitch Wars you signed with Peter Knapp of Park Literary, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Pete contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
Post Pitch Wars, I was only querying for a couple of weeks, if that long (I’d queried for about 3 months pre-PW). My first offer came from an agent who had my full before PW and got the revision the day after I sent my PW requests. Peter was offer #2, and “the call” was, first, an email. It was an email where he shared his thoughts on my book, and he so clearly got it. I mean, he GOT IT. I forwarded his email to my best friend, and she cried while reading it. That kind of got it. He called the next day and we talked for more than an hour. Having had an agent before, I had very particular things I was looking for this time around, and Peter hit homeruns on every question. As for celebrating, I bought a bottle of wine and shared it with my husband once I made the final decision to sign with Peter. In the days leading up to that decision, I drove a few hours to meet up with two girlfriends for a weekend free of our children. It was pre-planned but turned out to be a celebration.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Going into PW, I’d had a good request rate and most of my partial requests became full requests, but (obviously) none of those full requests had turned into offers. I had some revision notes from a couple of agents, but I was a little confused by them. Dannie helped me move from having some ideas about what was wrong with my manuscript to figuring out actual actions I could take to fix those issues. The result was a much tighter novel, and I don’t think I’d have ever had the guts to make those kinds of changes without her both pushing and encouraging me.
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)?
Heather: My first thought is the collegium in Valdemar, but I’m too much of a wuss to be a herald, too squeamish to make a good healer, and trust me… a bard I am not. So I pick Hogwarts.
Dannie: Xavier Institute. Because Mutants rock.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Heather: I’d like all of the women from Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons for confidantes, Ozma of Oz for my idol, and Tyrion Lannister for an ally. I’d rather not have an enemy at all. I admit it, I like for people to like me. But, if I have to pick, I’ll take the Wicked Witch of the West.
Dannie: I laughed when I saw Heather’s answer because as soon as I read the question I thought, “I would totally have Elphaba as my kick ass ally.” My confidant would be Severus Snape, because the dude can keep a secret. My fictional idol is Atticus Finch and my arch nemesis is Anastasia Steele. Or Bella Swan. Same difference.
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Heather: I actually make a mean “butterbeer latte.” With the weather as it is right now, I think I may pick up the ingredients this week.
Dannie: I, too, have an affinity for butterbeer lattes (though I prefer them without the espresso), but I’m going to go with fizzy lifting drinks.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Heather: bodyguard? Did I mention I am a bit of a wuss? Though, my friend, Amanda, and I do joke about full leather catsuits and whips. To hunt demons of course.
Dannie: Well, if it’s the nemesis listed above, all I’ll really need is my brain… Otherwise a bow and arrow. I like to keep my distance.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Heather: Taco Bell. It’s awful, I know, but when I am deep in revisions, I eat a lot of Taco Bell. Also, this last round, I went through a ton of Twizzlers, thanks to half-off Halloween candy.
Dannie: I actually just ate a chicken quesarito. Totally worth it. When I’m writing I need Cheez-Its and regular coke. Unless I’m writing sexytimes and then I need wine—Cupcake Vineyard’s Angel Food being my poison of choice. Editing calls for salt and vinegar chips, the zestier the better. And more wine.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Heather: Emily Dickinson and Nikki Giovanni have been influences (I keep a card Nikki wrote to me framed by my desk) along with a multitude of other authors and poets. However, when it comes to writing YA, I’d say the authors that first made me want to try it are Laurie Halse Anderson and Sarah Dessen.
Dannie: I can’t remember who I was into when I first started writing—probably someone grossly inappropriate for my age. But I got serious about it in 9th grade when we read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Harper Lee is a master of subtle, organic characterization and brilliant realistic world-building. I think more than the book itself though, it was my ninth grade English teacher, Mr. Gartell who really nurtured my love of literature and gave me the confidence to believe in my own writing.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Heather: A big THANK YOU BRENDA of course. And also a THANK YOU to Dannie. And, finally a THANK YOU to Peter. All of you rock, and I am beyond thrilled to have each of you in my life.
Dannie: Thanks, Heather, for taking a chance on me as your mentor. It was my honor. And eternal gratitude to Brenda for being the most kind-hearted person I know and otherwise just generally awesome. Looking forward to seeing who I uncover for #TeamDannie in PitchWars 2015!
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!