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Another Pitch Wars Success Interview with Kelly Calabrese and her mentors Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


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 Kelly Calabrese and her Pitch Wars mentors Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Kelly recently signed with Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency.  So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.

Kelly, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to the team of Trisha and Lindsay?

Kelly: In choosing mentors, I did my research! I read all 75 wish lists and what stood out to me about Trisha and Lindsay was their love of psychological horror/thrillers, their candor, and their obvious team spirit. Also, who doesn’t love a 2 for 1 bargain 🙂


Trisha and Lindsay, what about Kelly’s application made you choose her?

Trisha: Instantly…the title: BEAUTIFUL BLOODY DUCKLING. It was unique, clearly had horror elements, and a just a hint of the emotional baggage the mc was carrying. If the title alone could convey that much to me, then I knew I had to read the book!

Once I stopped drooling over the title and started reading, it was the authenticity of Kelly’s voice that caught my attention. It had a natural flow, one that simply resonated with me. On a larger scale, what made me fall in head over heels for the story was the psychological aspects of the manuscript. The MC’s own fears, her broken backstory, and her need to regain control of her life provided a beautifully broken character that I absolutely adored and cheered for.

Lindsay: I loved the tone of her MS as well as the concept. It was unique and sometimes I think that’s half the battle!


Kelly, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?

Kelly: It was brutally beautiful!

To start, Trisha and Lindsay sent me a marked up first chapter to alert me about their revision style. When I opened the chapter, I screamed and shut my laptop. Literally. There were so many crossed out words and red comment boxes it looked like a crime scene!  🙂 Once I got a full breath in, I re-opened my laptop and gaped in wonder at their dead on, nearly line-for-line comments.

Trisha and Lindsay gifted me with a beyond generous amount of feedback and encouraging mentor love. They turned me into a take-no-prisoners revision machine. Absorb. Process. Implement. Repeat. ANYONE looking for an editor who can help whip their novel into shape – should hire these ladies! NOW!


Trisha and Lindsay, tell us about your experience with mentoring Kelly. If you had an alternate, how did you work with him or her?

Trisha: Not much to tell…she was amazing from start to finish. She wasn’t afraid to dig deep and write hard. She had a good grasp of her characters and wasn’t afraid to let them lead the way. She wasn’t afraid of over-arching content changes and confident enough to only take the suggestions that resonated with her. Plus she is hysterical, like an email at 2am that has you peeing your pants laughing kind of funny. I think that a sense of humor is important when you are that entrenched in revising or else everything just seems that much harder.


Lindsay: Mentoring Kelly was a blast. Honestly, we tried to give her MS the same attention we’d give our own, which meant that we not only focused on content changes but we also spent a great deal of time line editing as well. Kelly is such a talented writer and given that we all had the same goal (to make her wonderful MS shine!), it was a great experience!

Trisha and I also had the opportunity to work with Jen Vincent during this round of PitchWars on her MS, HIS KISS. Again, we were so lucky to work with two such insightful and talented ladies!

Kelly, after Pitch Wars you signed with (THE AMAZING) Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Sarah contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.

Kelly: Post Pitch Wars, I took over two weeks to complete the overhaul on my manuscript. I officially began submission on the 25th of November, and Sarah emailed me on December 5th to schedule “The Call” for December 8th. HOORAY! I am still in a state of euphoria about it. I met Sarah in person through a couple of SCBWI related events, and the fact that her keen eye targeted my novel made me the happiest gal in the universe. I celebrated with champagne. And wine. And dinner out in Hoboken with my Hubba (Dave). Then I woke up at 3am and asked Dave, “Was this agent thing real or a dream?” – He said, “Both.”


How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?

Pitch Wars is a life-changing springboard! Pre Pitch Wars I was a gal with a solid foundation for my novel, but the inside needed to be gutted in some places, and reinforced and extended in others. Trisha and Lindsay helped me make sense of what needed to be done, and where, and why. They also enabled me to work on my novel within a nurtured environment versus trapped in that haunted revision cave. For this gal, having that kind of support makes all the difference in the world.

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?

Kelly: Escape? No way! Being outnumbered doesn’t scare me. I’d take them all down – She-Rambo style!

Trisha: None of the above; all I need is ten minutes alone with them and an ice pick. Just kidding…well maybe not! But alright…for the sake of appearing somewhat like a normal mentor, I’d have to go with a DeLorean DMC-12 complete with a flux capacitor.

Lindsay: I’ve always wondered what it would be like to ride a Hippogriff, so I’d have to choose one of those. I mean, they’re kind of scary but really cool and I’m thinking they’re insanely fast too. Win-win in my book!


What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?

Kelly: I’d like to spend the day with Star Girl. Together we’d hand out flowers, and sing, and cheer for both teams. We’d be joyful and supportive and free!!! PLUS, I’d make sure that no one could ever dim her radiance. #Smiling #Laughing #Always

Trisha: Now don’t laugh, but hands down, the Cat from the CAT IN THE HAT. Why…well, because that would be a day full of laughter, and adventures, and the most amazing smattering of colors to cheer up my word!

Lindsay: Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I loved that book and the movie growing up and I’m enjoying it all over again through my daughter’s eyes now. What would we do? Get into trouble no doubt!


What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?

Kelly: Well, I took a Playbuzz quiz to find out my literary character and it says I’m Holden Caulfield, but that’s the phoniest answer I’ve ever heard.

So I did another quiz, and it said I’m Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mocking Bird): Hard-working + Not afraid to stand up for my beliefs + Basically, I rock. (Their words, not mine!)

Final answer: My personality is a dude.

Trisha: Jack Torrance. Just kidding; honestly, this time I relay am. Frodo Baggins maybe. You know they type that has a deep seated and often insanely unrealistic need to make the world a better place at the expense of themselves. Or rather what I like to refer to as the optimistic narcissist ☺

Lindsay: Wow. Can I list two? I think I’m part Spongebob and part Jack Bauer LOL. I’m an optimist at heart ala Spongebob, but I can also gears and be tough if I have to. The publishing world isn’t all roses and puppies so a thick skin is pretty much a prerequisite! tumblr_lrlnrjCfe11r2evwvo1_500

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?

Kelly: I’d be on the game show Survivor. And I’d team up with Charlie McGee from Stephen King’s FIRESTARTER 🙂

Trisha: Um…hello…Yoda, of course! Because wise in all things, he is!

Lindsay: Alexa from Defy, by Sara B. Larson. That girl can kick some serious ass and I love her wit.


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?

Kelly: I’d grab some good old-fashioned H2O, and then POP some champagne when done!

Trisha: Chocolate covered espresso beans….by the handful!

Lindsay: Depends. I’m a big coffee fan and I know I drink far too much, but I also love those Green Machine’s by Naked.


Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?

Kelly: My husband is my biggest supporter. Years ago he encouraged me to quite my spirit-shrinking sales job in order to focus on being an artist (writer & actor). I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. As a fictional character, Dave would be Aquaman! Because he’s a swift swimmer (Triathlete!) + a Super Hero + Basically, he rocks (My words!)

Trisha: Her name is Kathy, and she is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She always there with a nod of encouragement or glass of wine when I hit a wall. She is my Horatio, the one who knows all my secrets and all my dreams.

Lindsay: My family. I know I’m supposed to pick on person, but I have three kids and a husband that literally fuel me. My children have encouraged me through all of the rejections, reminded me that I could accomplish my goals and overall loved me when I wasn’t feeling very loved in the bookish world. And my husband…I couldn’t have done any of this without him. They’re all a bunch of Spongebobs. Every single one of them. 🙂


Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?

Kelly: MY MENTORS & BRENDA DRAKE & PITCH WARS – ROCK!!! *Confetti Bomb* I gained a new writing family and an even stronger belief that anything is possible. I am forever grateful for the gift of Pitch Wars. (Insert Vine of me bowing in gratitude).

Trisha: Pitchwars doesn’t end after the agent round. The seven mentees I’ve had the privilege of working with are still part of my writing tribe. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk to at least one of them. Pitchwars is not just a contest, it is a community of like-minded authors who all share the same passion for the craft and the desire to give back…one I am grateful to be involved with.

Lindsay: PITCHWARS IS THE BOMB! *sits back down calmly* What I meant to say was, thank you for giving the writing community such an amazing opportunity to bond together and share knowledge. Really…it’s wonderful and you rock for doing it, Brenda 🙂


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!



Kelly Calabrese

Twitter | Website



Trisha Leaver

Twitter | Website



Lindsay Currie

Twitter | Website



We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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