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 Whitney Taylor and her Pitch Wars mentor Erica M. Chapman for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Whitney recently signed with Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Whitney, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Erica?
The moment I came across Erica’s blog and saw that she was looking for YA that dealt with mental health issues, I was sold. I was nervous that not many people would “get” my book because it deals with depression in an offbeat sort of way, but I felt extremely confident that she would be the perfect person to submit to after reading her blog. She had great credentials and a ton of experience, so I knew I’d be in good hands. I even made a list of all the potential mentors and put her on the very top, bolded and underlined!
Erica, what about Whitney’s application made you choose her?
Oh, I was pulled in by Whitney’s amazing voice. I read hers early on and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something just stuck with me about the story. Whitney is such a talented writer! Also, I could pinpoint how I could help her MS and that’s important to me, that I can help. Hard to pass up a voice like hers up when it’s presented to you 😉
Whitney, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Revisions are never not intimidating! Erica suggested big-picture edits to start, and luckily it wasn’t too much of an overhaul. The changes she suggested were elements of the story I’d already had my doubts about, so it was great that we were totally on the same page. She line-edited a few chapters for me once I’d revised them to the point where I was convinced they were written in another language. Her greatest nugget of wisdom was: when it comes to story-telling, sometimes a little subtlety goes a long way. (Seriously, some parts of my manuscript read like All My Children).
Erica, tell us about your experience with mentoring Whitney. How was mentoring your other team members?
Mentoring was a blast. I had a great experience this year and learned a lot myself. I devoured both stories! I really lucked out with the talent this year. Both Whitney and Megan wrote stories I couldn’t pass up. There were so many great pitches/250 I wavered on, but I always trust my gut. And my gut said not to pass either of them up! I love helping other writers and I’m always so humbled by how gracious writers are with the help we give too.
Whitney, after Pitch Wars you signed with Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer: How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Maria contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
While I waited to get my responses back from the Pitch Wars agents, I noticed #Pitmad was taking place on Twitter. I didn’t have much to lose (except for maybe a few followers), so I compiled some tweets and got #Pitmad-ing. Maria favorited one of my tweets, and I sent her my manuscript that day. Within a week she got back to me and scheduled “The Call!” I kind of freaked out when I read the email, so much so that my friend asked me, “What happened? Are you going to be an aunt again?” to which I answered “I don’t get this insanely excited over little things like that!” (Sorry nieces and nephews!)
The Call was exciting and terrifying and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t conscious for half of it, but I do remember that Maria really got my story. She even used the L word. (At least I think she did. This might have been the part I wasn’t conscious for.) During the conversation she offered representation. I accepted a week later, New Year’s Eve! No better way to start 2015.
I celebrated by eating a Moe’s burrito. This is a shameless plug for Moe’s because NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE APPRECIATE THAT PLACE, MAN.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
I would never have built up the confidence to put myself out there the way I did had Erica not been so supportive of my story. She’s a master at getting that first 250 to shine, and I never would have figured out where to start my book without her! I learned so much about sentence structure, the necessity of deleting extraneous information, how to get the heart of my story across, and the importance of believing in my words. Pitch Wars was an invaluable learning experience, and one that is continuing to make me a better writer as I move forward.
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)?
Whitney: I’m going to be cliché and say Hogwarts. Why, you ask?
1. I don’t know who funds the school’s cafeteria, but The Great Hall is like a magical all you can eat buffet and I am here for it.
2. Who needs an education when your school has a freaking staircase that moves? I would just skip class and ride the staircases all day.
3. Gingers. So. Many. Gingers.
Erica: Oh, man. I gotta go with Hogwarts. But Star Wars’ Jedi Academy is a close second.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Whitney: My confidante would be Etienne St. Clair from Anna and The French Kiss. He’s helpful, cute, and has a British accent. What more do you need in a friend?…who will eventually realize he’s been in love with you all along? (Because duh, you’re the protagonist.)
Erica: Confidante: Reagan and Lilah from OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord; Enemy: The Darkling from The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo; Kick-butt ally: Jessie Darker from The Darker Agency series by Jus Accardo
Whitney: This isn’t bookish, but I’ve always wanted to know what a Krabby Patty tastes like. Really, what is the secret formula?! Why does Plankton want it so badly?! I must know!
Erica: Fizzy Lifting Drink from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Whitney: I would reach for my electrum whip like the one Isabelle Lightwood totes in The Mortal Instruments. Of course, this is after I grab my stele, draw some runes, and zip up my kick-ass leather jumpsuit.
Erica: Hahahaha girly scream, I love it. Um, I suppose, my wit, ability to evade capture, and a really big ring so when I punch them they won’t forget it 😉
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Whitney: Coke. Coke in ALL of its flavors. Diet Coke. Cherry Coke. Diet Cherry Coke. I also appreciate the occasional McDonald’s cheeseburger, but that involves leaving my house. And we’re back to Coke.
Erica: Lays potato chips and something chocolate. Maybe Starbucks on a good day 😉
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Whitney: I wasn’t necessarily inspired by a specific writer, but I absolutely fell in love with Jane Eyre when I was assigned to read it in high school. That was definitely the book that made me go, “I want to write something this pretty.” (Disclaimer: I do not write as pretty as Charlotte Bronte)
Erica: Janet Evanovich was my first inspiration. I thought the Stephanie Plum series was so funny and I had that moment where… ‘I could maybe try this’. Also, HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick made me want to explore YA
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Whitney: Just thanks to Brenda for hosting Pitch Wars and doing so much for writers who need that extra boost in the right direction. And thanks to Erica for being the most awesome, generous, and encouraging mentor! To anyone who’s on the fence about entering Pitch Wars: DO IT. I’ve been where you’re at, and there’s literally nowhere to go but up.
Erica: Thank you to everyone who continues to inspire other writers! It can be a lonely road when you don’t have hands to hold through this journey. Thanks to Brenda too for being the contest guru. *bows down* And to Whitney for being an awesome mentee. I couldn’t be prouder of her success and I know only amazing things are to come!
Thank you, Whitney and Eria, 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!
Erica M. Chapman