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 Alexandra Alessandri and her Pitch Wars mentor Dannie Morin for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Alexandra recently signed with Deborah Warren with East West Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Alexandra, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Dannie?
I’d been stalking—er following—Dannie on Twitter for a while and I thought she was awesome. She seemed to be someone who really knew her stuff and who had no qualms about saying it like it is. I needed someone who wouldn’t be afraid to tell me what needed work. She was also really looking for diversity and my ms featured a Colombian character in Cartagena, so I just KNEW we’d be a great fit. And the Disney GIFs—all the Disney GIFs.
What’s funny is that I almost didn’t submit to Dannie because she had a note that she wasn’t looking for time travel stories (mine had time slipping in it). I got up the courage to DM her and ask if she thought mine would be a good fit. I pitched it, she said send it, and the rest is history!
Dannie, what about Alexandra’s application made you choose her?
Alexandra caught my attention by asking me on twitter if I’d be interested in her mss. That communicated to me that she was looking forward to the mentoring partnership, not just the agent round. And for me, that’s what sets PitchWars apart from all the other pitch contests. The partnership is what PitchWars is about. So she instantly had my attention. Pitching me ahead of time was a smart and ballsy move, so I went into my slushpile looking for her manuscript. I fell in love with her world-building and her characters’ potential. Alexandra writes fabulous book boyfriends.
Alexandra, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
The revision period was awesome and intense. Dannie was beyond thorough. She gave detailed feedback (including hilarious comments). She read the first 50 pages and gave amazing line-edits. She read the rest and gave such comprehensive notes both in an editorial letter and in-text. It was fabulous. And she didn’t only help with the manuscript. She gave guided us through query and Twitter pitches. She built a community with all of us, mentee and alternate mentees. The Monday night “Clubhouse” meetings once a month were so helpful and fun as we worked through the knots of our manuscripts and pitches. She fostered friendships in addition to helping us polish our work into the best possible shape.
Dannie, tell us about your experience with mentoring Alexandra. How was mentoring your other team members?
Working with Alexandra was—and continues to be—a blast. We’ve really formed an ongoing partnership that is invaluable and that began because she was an incredible mentee. She worked so hard and wasn’t afraid to make major changes to her manuscript. And it paid off!
I’ve been really lucky to have fantastic teams during both PitchWars I’ve mentored. As of now 4 of the 5 writers I’ve mentored have agents, and it’s because they’ve all been willing to work so hard and so courageously on their craft. I’ve been so, so honored to work with Alexandra and the other members of my teams.
Alexandra, after Pitch Wars you signed with Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Deborah contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I had been querying for a couple of months before Pitch Wars for this project. When I got selected as an alternate, I put querying on hold and focused on revising and polishing the manuscript further. Right before Pitch Wars was set to go live, I attended the SCBWI Miami Conference, where Deborah was speaking. She was so lovely! I queried her on the last day of the conference with my shiny new manuscript, and the day Pitch Wars entries went live, she called to offer representation! It was a whirlwind and I was shocked and thrilled and probably running around in circles for a while lol. The call was amazing and I just felt such a connection with her and her vision for my story and my career. I spoke with Dannie right away and pulled my entry from the Alternate Showcase. A week later, I accepted.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars was absolutely instrumental in my success! If I hadn’t spent that intense month and a half working with Dannie on the guided revision, I don’t think it would’ve been in the shape it was when I sent it to Deborah. The experience of working with Dannie, Sonia, and Christy during the revision weeks was also wonderful. Not only did I get a polished manuscript from Pitch Wars, but I also made life-long friends.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer: You and your favorite character from your favorite book are meeting at your favorite restaurant. Which character are you with, what restaurant did you choose, and what’s on the menu?
Alexandra: Hermione and I are at the Three Broomsticks, drinking butterbeer.
Dannie: I just got back from taking my kiddo to Disney World for spring break, and I’m already missing the magic. So Atticus Finch and I are going to have lunch at Be Our Guest and then maybe go for a spin on the Tea Cups. French Onion Soup and a Roast Beef sandwich, with a triple chocolate cupcake for dessert, please and thank you.
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?
Alexandra: I would love to spend the day with Isabel Allende, having some torta mil hoja and chatting up craft, magical realism, and history.
Dannie: Shel Silverstein and I would hang out in Boston’s North End and eat cannoli from Mike’s Pastry whilst talking about all the writerly things.
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
Alexandra: Beauty of the Beast totally describes my personality. “There must be more than this provincial life” is one of my life’s theme songs (“Let it go” is another…). Like Belle, I’m a major bookworm, and I believe kindness and love go a long way in thawing out hate.
Dannie: Hannibal Lecter? No really this is a good question. I’m going to defer to Alexandra’s answer below on this. Limited self-insight and whatnot.
You just won a spot on The Amazing Race what fictional character do you team with and what makes him/her/it a good match for this adventure?
Alexandra: Um…er…I’ve never watched The Amazing Race. *hangs head* But I’m thinking Katniss would be a great teammate to have. She’s certainly got experience in completing physical and mental challenges.
Dannie: I’ve actually seen this show! Only twice. But I’d pick Thor. Because I’d need the brawn more than the brains. Also, he’s pretty and I wouldn’t mine cozying up with him in one of those weird ass sleeping arrangements the producers love.
You only have two hours to finish edits, where do you go for some quiet time?
Alexandra: Starbucks, where I can sit in a corner, plug in my earphones, and become oblivious to the world.
Dannie: Starbucks is my most productive writing place as well. Although it really depends on the time of day because sometimes it’s not a great place to focus. If Starbucks is packed, I’d go with Panera.
What fictional character would best describe your mentor/mentee (alternate)?
Alexandra: Haymitch from The Hunger Games comes to mind…well, except for the drunken stumbling and his original apathy. It’s his sarcastic, hilarious commentaries–there were some snarky-funny comments in my manuscript! And she kept pushing me forward, cracking that proverbial whip.
Dannie: LOL! Maybe Haymitch is the character who best matches my personality. Only yeah without the binge drinking.
For Alexandra, I would pick Dora the Explorer. Not only because she is adorbs and Latina (and has been helping me with my Spanish!) and loves chocolate, but she goes on incredible adventures and writes fabulous picture books based on them. She’s a loyal friend and isn’t afraid to ask for help if she needs it to overcome challenges in writing life. I’d totally be one of her Explorer Girls.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Alexandra: Thank you, Brenda, for putting on such awesome contests. Pitch Wars was a wonderful experience and I’ll forever be thankful. Thank you, also, to Dannie for taking a chance on my story and for your awesomesauce mentoring!
Dannie: PitchWars is seriously the best writing contest on the internet. There are so many amazing success stories! And this year, I’m thrilled that Alexandra and I will be co-mentoring together. Thanks for having us, Brenda!
Thank you, Nina and Dannie, 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!