The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Kellye Garrett and her Pitch Wars mentor, Sarah Henning here for a little Q and A. Kellye recently signed with Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Kellye, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Sarah?
It was definitely one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. First, I loved that she was a Pitch Wars alum who found her agent through the contest. I knew she would be able to give me great guidance since she’d been through it herself. Plus, since my book is a funny mystery novel, I responded to her desire for mysteries and books that had a sense of humor. But perhaps what made my decision easiest was that we are both newspaper-alums-turned-mystery-writers who also have editing backgrounds. I knew, if nothing else, we would have some great conversations (and we did.)
Sarah, what about Kellye’s application made you choose her?
I’ll admit that in reading her application, I wasn’t like, “OH MY, THIS IS IT.” But the second I read the first line, a smile popped up on my face. There was just this perfect underlying humor that completely drew me in. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t email any of the contestants asking for more chapters until I’d finished every single application. But I totally broke my own rule with Kellye and emailed her the very second I finished her sample pages. I even told her so. I just could not wait to read more. She’d totally won me hook, line and sinker, in a way no one else did.
Kellye, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
I was fortunate that my Pitch Wars revisions were pretty painless. Our main focus was on the opening pages. I originally had a prologue that takes place six weeks before the rest of the book. We both agreed that it was stronger to jump right into the first chapter since it gave us a better sense of my main character’s voice.
Sarah, tell us about your experience with mentoring Kellye. How was mentoring your other team members?
Kellye was a dream mentee. She’s smart, easy-going and a really hard worker. She took to my suggestions with a fabulous gung-ho attitude and saw value in my thoughts. I was also fortunate in that she has a news background like me, and so we understood each other very well from the critique perspective. Plus, Kellye is just an awesome human being and I love, love, love that we connected in this contest.
My other team member was the fabulous Vanessa Lillie, who was also very open and enthusiastic about my suggestions. She’d already done major revisions to her manuscript before I’d seen it and was in just the right frame of mind to keep going deeper and deeper. Some writers would balk at making even more changes after such in-depth revisions (she’d cut 30,000 words before I saw it!), but Vanessa was interested in continuing to whittle away at her manuscript and never pushed back once. Such an amazing professional and person.
Kellye, after Pitch Wars you signed with Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary. You have a fun story on how Michelle offered, tell us all the details!
Pitch Wars took place the same week as the New England Crime Bake conference, where I knew Michelle would also be. I had wanted to query Michelle for a couple months but held off because of Pitch Wars and Crime Bake. So I was thrilled when she was my first Pitch Wars request, so thrilled that I sent her my partial that afternoon! She immediately started reading, upgrading my partial to a full that same day. But then I didn’t hear anything else from her the rest of the week, which made me a bit nervous.
I made sure to introduce myself at the conference. She was super friendly and suggested we talk later. I didn’t think much of it. Later that night, my friend and I were at the hotel bar chatting with an editor when Michelle joined our group. We all spoke for about 45 minutes and I was able to get a great sense of the type of person and agent she was. She came across as both knowledgeable about the business and willing to fight for her clients. After the editor left, Michelle sat down, leaned over my friend and said, “I would love to talk about working together.” Good thing I was at a bar because I was so shocked that I needed a drink.
So though I never had “The Call,” I did have “The Bar.”
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Besides the obvious of getting an agent and meeting some amazingly talented writers in my fellow mentees/alts including my teammate Vanessa Lillie, it helped just talking to Sarah about her experiences with her agent. They have such a great relationship and her agent really believes in her work and her talent. Before that, my thought process was, “I just want an agent!” But listening to Sarah made me realize that I wanted an agent who’s passionate about me, my work and my career. And I think I found that with Michelle.
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)?
Kellye: Hogwarts, no question!
Sarah: Oh yeah, Hogwarts, for sure!
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Kellye: If I needed a P.I. I would drive 3,000 miles to Santa Teresa, California and hire Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone. And if I skipped bail, I would definitely want Ranger from the Stephanie Plum books to track me down.
Sarah: I’d totally stalk Jack Reacher and try to make him my friend. Well, if he were easier to find.
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Kellye: It was butterbeer but I got to try some when I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year. Good stuff!
Sarah: There’s a goat cheese and apple tart that Peeta mentions is served in his parents’ bakery in “The Hunger Games.” Not that I’d want to live in District 12, but if I *did* and actually had the money to buy real food (not likely), I’d totally wolf down one of those.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Kellye: I would say wand but I’d probably be so flustered, I know I would mess up all my spells and just end up doing a girly scream anyway. So I’ll say a lightsaber, which would have to be purple.
Sarah: I’d let out my best girly scream and then call in Kellye and her purple lightsaber.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Kellye: Pizza. I have plenty of sauce-stained notebooks and manuscript pages to prove it too.
Sarah: Chocolate. I have a particular manuscript that wouldn’t exist but for the grace of Ghirardelli.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Kellye: I was that annoying kid who knew she wanted to be a “novelist” since I was 5. But reading Sue Grafton definitely was the one who made me to write mysteries. The idea of a woman being the one to save the day and catch the bad guy was so exciting to me. I don’t know what I’ll do when she finally gets to Z.
Sarah: Like Kellye, I was writing before I could truly write (hand-drawn books of pictures, FTW). But I’d say that the work that really “broke my brain” and made me realize what kind of stories could be told is Jesse Kellerman’s “Trouble.” I will always cite that book as one that demonstrates how masterful storytelling can create a true psychological experience for the reader.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Kellye: Pitch Wars was such an amazing experience. Thank you so much for putting it together.
Sarah: I am so thrilled to be a part of Pitch Wars. It’s been so gratifying to go from being a contestant myself (I got my agent through the contest!) to being a mentor and seeing someone as terrific as Kellye get to the next level through Pitch Wars. Brenda, you’re amazing a million times over for organizing such a life-changing showcase.
Thank you for sharing your success story. We couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, go and say hello and follow them or something …