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 Sean Lamb and his Pitch Wars mentor Dannie Morin for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Sean recently signed with Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Sean, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Dannie?
Dannie was at the top of my list as soon as I saw she wanted “all the boy books.” Her PW bio also mentioned her work as an addictions therapist, and I thought she might be able to share some insights into working with struggling teens that would relate to my book. I also participated in one of her Bait and Pitch workshops a few months prior, and she helped polish my Twitter pitch.
Dannie, what about Sean’s application made you choose him?
Sean’s manuscript refused to be put away. That’s the only way I can describe it. There were a couple other manuscripts that I also liked that were more polished, but his manuscript demanded my attention. Every time I tried to convince myself that I needed to go with something that was more query-ready, I couldn’t make myself do it. I loved his writing too hard. I was excited about the concept and I wanted to be a part of the journey. And he had a great pitch, I remembered his idea from the workshop he mentioned, and it had stuck with me. It was an emotion-based decision, and a good one, because he’s worked really hard and it’s paying off.
Sean, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Dannie’s edit letter was a bit intimidating, but she organized it in a way that let me break it into sections and pinpoint specific areas that needed major help. First, I went through the manuscript and addressed her inline comments. Then I went through the full edit letter one section at a time until I felt like the revised draft was in a good place. I also drank gallons of coffee.
Dannie, tell us about your experience with mentoring Sean. How was mentoring your other team members?
I really enjoyed working with Sean. My team this year was very easy-going but determined. One thing I loved about Sean’s attitude toward revision is that he was very focused on the writing itself, the process of writing, as opposed to the agent round. He entered PitchWars for the exact reason this particular pitch contest is intended—to make the manuscript the best it can be. It’s not about the agent round, it’s about the work, the mentoring, the fearless editing. And both my writers this year embraced that process courageously. It’s not an easy thing—putting your book baby in another writer’s hands and saying, “here, take this piece of my soul and tell me everything I’m doing wrong.”
Sean, after Pitch Wars you signed with Amy Tipton of Signature Literary, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Amy contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I originally queried Amy about four months before PW, long before the manuscript was ready. Thankfully, she requested an R&R. I revised according to her notes and sent it back to her a month later. In the meantime, I queried some more and entered contests like The Writer’s Voice (go Team Brenda!) and got several full requests for the manuscript. Amy got back to me with a second R&R shortly before Dannie chose me as an alternate for PW. So I had Amy’s new notes and Dannie’s notes in front of me as I revised, which was stressful, but it made the manuscript better in the end.
About a month after PW ended, Amy emailed me and said she loved the revisions and wanted to represent me. I read the email at least ten times to make sure this was an official offer. Then I sent Dannie a frantic message asking her what I should do. She told me how to contact the other agents and Amy and set a deadline for my final decision. When I accepted Amy’s offer, my wife and I went to our favorite pub for the tastiest beers in Wisconsin.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars was crucial for elevating my manuscript to an agent-ready level. Dannie’s expertise was exactly what I needed to make my story better. Basically, I don’t think I’d have an agent without Pitch Wars.
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?
Sean: I think disappearing in a cloud of smoke like a magician would be kind of cool. Especially if The Final Countdown was playing and I was doing a Gob Bluth dance.
Dannie: Apparition—simple but effective. In other news it’s AWESOME that Word spell check includes this word. Well done, Microsoft. Well done.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Sean: Don Draper and I would belly up at our favorite bar, drink Manhattans and make witty banter while he chain-smokes and I pretend to smoke.
Dannie: I’d like to hang out with Batman for one day. But only if I get to drive. And if it’s the Christian Bale version we could maybe make out a little. In the batmobile, naturally.
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Sean: Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks. He’s basically me at the age of 14.
Dannie: I’m part Genie from Aladdin (ADD/spaz), part Veronica Mars (too curious for my own good), part Rapunzel (talks to animals, treats horses like dogs, doesn’t get out much) and just a liiiittle bit Severus Snape (according to my students.)
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?
Sean: Survivor. Robinson Crusoe.
Dannie: The Amazing Race. Hermione Granger. Not only is she wicked smart, she’s got a time turner. And that whole apparition thing we already talked about. Booya.
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?
Sean: Coffee. More specifically… http://theballisticbean.com/collections/organic-coffee-beans/products/milwaukee-brew
Dannie: This is going to sound super lame, but it’s the truth—a plain, fresh from the fridge bottle of regular coke. There’s just something simultaneously comforting and reviving about it. (To the PR folks at Coca-Cola please contact my agent John M. Cusick for all advertising inquiries.)
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Sean: My wife. She’s a combination of Elizabeth Swann, Hermione Granger and Mary Poppins.
Dannie: My dear friend and occasional critique partner Dawn. Not only is she more confident in my writing ability than I am, she near-literally radiates sunshine out her ass, she’s so optimistic. She’s the second half of CATCHING FIRE version of Effie Trinket without all the glam (though if she could get away with it, she totally would rock that butterfly wig.)
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Sean: Brenda Drake and Dannie Morin are the best. If you’re thinking about entering the next PW, you should definitely send an application to Dannie. 80% of the time, her mentees get agents every time.
Yeah, I couldn’t resist putting a cute lamb GIF here. Thank you, Sean, for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, rush off and say hello, and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re awesome!