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Another Pitch Wars Success Interview with Allison Ziegler and Lauren Spieller!

Thursday, 16 April 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Pitch Wars 2014

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 Allison Ziegler and her Pitch Wars mentor Lauren Spieller for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Allison recently signed with Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.

Allison, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Lauren?

I read her mentor wish list post, so I knew she was looking for YA fantasy. More than just the genre match, the tone of her post also resonated with me—I felt like she was just the right combination of professional and personable. She’s a freelance editor and she’d interned with agencies, so I knew she had industry knowledge and editing experience, and both of those things were big pluses for me. Also, she was super charming on twitter.

Lauren, what about Allison’s application made you choose her?

I was immediately taken with Allison’s writing. Her first paragraph contained so much—crystal clear setting, wonderful hints at a fantasy world I’d come to love, and a voice I couldn’t get out of my head. I quickly read her sample pages (and read her query out loud, because it was so wonderful!), and emailed her for the full manuscript. Over the next week I asked her a few questions—about her submission history, about writing the book itself, etc.—to get to know her, and I quickly realized we’d be an excellent fit. Choosing Allison as my mentee was a no-brainer.-Zayn-zayn-malik-34711404-500-452

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

It was intense! Lauren was so good through all of it—we had phone calls and e-mails, we even got to meet up in person. It was so much more than I could have ever asked for. Her notes were so spot on, and even when we did disagree, she was amazing to brainstorm with. Plus, I get a little carried away with my prose sometimes. Or maybe a lot carried away. Lauren really pushed me to be more concise, and I’m a much stronger writer for it.

Lauren also sent me and my teammate, Lauren Mansy (who’s now represented by Steven Malk at Writer’s House!), weekly homework that was great for getting us thinking about our manuscripts in new ways. It was also just great to have the e-mail thread between the three of us for chatting and feedback. I had such a wonderful experience, and I learned so much in those months!

Lauren, tell us about your experience with mentoring Allison. How was mentoring your other team members? 

Team ‘Stache (named after my goofy Twitter photo, which has a fake mustache) was such a pleasure to be a part of. I worked the most closely with Allison, and she took my feedback and ran with it. It was really awesome to see how her booked changed over two short months. My alternate, Lauren Mansy (who also found an agent for her YA Fantasy! Woo hoo!) was a fantastic addition to the team as well. She and Allison worked together, swapping manuscripts and supporting each other throughout the contest. I also gave them short homework assignments each week, and they always took the time to respond to each other’s work. I was blown away by how supportive they were of each other, and how supportive they continue to be. That’s the magic of Pitch Wars, for me—people coming together to make awesome books, be they an author and an agent, or two authors that become critique partners. And in our case, it’s brought three people together, because we all read for each other now!


Allison, after Pitch Wars you signed with Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong Literary Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Emmanuelle contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all. 

I started querying in July 2014, about a month before Pitch Wars submissions started. Then I stopped during the contest itself, and I started querying again in November (slowly). I got “The Call” in late March, more than eight months after I sent my first queries. So it was a long process! I distracted myself with reading, writing, red wine, and Girl Scout cookies. I could have done a better job, though. Probably needed more cookies.

I got my full request from Emmanuelle in mid-March, and I knew from my QueryTracker habit that she was fast. A week later, she called out of the blue. Which was terrifying. And awesome. On that first phone call, most of what I remember is saying “oh” and “thank you” in an incredibly high pitched voice. I was actually really shocked—I’d decided a long time earlier that I just wasn’t having the kind of query run that leads to an agent. I didn’t have a huge request rate, I didn’t have lots of fulls out. But it only takes one! I mean, people say that. But it would have been really much easier on me if I’d believed it while I was querying.

The first person I texted was Lauren, and she called me back right away. She congratulated me; I was shaking so much I almost dropped my phone. The next night I met my sister for beer, tequila, and singing. Because all celebrations should include beer, tequila, and singing.


How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?

Oh god, it has helped in so many ways. I’m for sure a stronger writer than I was last summer, and Lauren has been such a rock for me in this whole process. I cannot say enough how far above and beyond she’s gone in helping me through these last several months. It’s just really amazing to have someone who believes in you and your writing—there’s no better motivator for doing all the hard work it takes to revise and query a manuscript!

I’ve also connected with many of my fellow mentees through Facebook and Twitter—it’s been so great to be a part of this cohort of talented writers, and it’s just been so helpful to have a great group of people to talk to about writing and querying and publishing and life.

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?

Allison: A dragon, probably. The friendly kind that you can ride upon. Maybe with F’nor from The Dragon Riders of Pern books already on its back, because he always seemed like such a decent guy. He’d toss me one of Lessa’s flamethrowers, and I’d burn the baddies to a crisp as we flew away. Yeah. Pyromania-friendly, draconic getaway-creature, accompanied by a love interest’s beta-male brother. That’s my preferred mode of escape.

Lauren: I’m not one to run away from a fight, so I think I’d hop on my broomstick, soar above their heads, and then take them out one by one with a stunning spell. STUPEFY!


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

Allison: I’m going to let my nerd flag fly on this one. I’d spend my day with Mordin Solus, who is an alien scientist from the video game Mass Effect. We’d fly around in space, looking out the window at stars and planets and such, all the while singing songs from musicals. There would be choreography involved. We might have time to land on a planet with a pretty ocean and analyze some seashells while perfecting our harmonies. Because for real, he is a genius scientist character who occasionally breaks out in song and talks about retiring from his galaxy-saving career to study seashells. This is a guy who has his priorities straight.

Lauren: I know everybody probably says this, but I’d like to think that I have a fair amount in common with Hermione Granger. I’ve always loved school and books, I’m extremely protective of my friends and loved ones, and I’m pretty good in a crisis. I really identified with the way she always went out of her way for the people she cared about. She also has  a penchant for bottomless purses.


What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?

Allison: Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m a little nervous, a little awkward, and a lot nerdy—but get on my bad side and I’ll flay you with my mind. (Not really. I don’t have powerful flaying magicks at my disposal. Also, flaying is pretty gross). But I do have a great appreciation for quick Joss Whedon banter. Also a fondness for questionable hats.

Lauren: I know everybody probably says this, but I’d like to think that I have a fair amount in common with Hermione Granger. I’ve always loved school and books, I’m extremely protective of my friends and loved ones, and I’m pretty good in a crisis. I really identified with the way she always went out of her way for the people she cared about. She also has  a penchant for bottomless purses.


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?

Allison: The game show is Minute to Win It. I take Obi-Wan Kenobi, because Force powers would be SO USEFUL for those games. Need to throw a quarter into a water jug that’s fifteen feet away? No problem. He’s got space magic. We’d win a million dollars and live happily ever after until the end of our days.

Lauren: Oh man, can I say Hermione again? Actually, I think I’d bring Sherlock Holmes. The Benedict Cumberbatch version, obviously. I’m not a big game show watcher, but I think I’d take him on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Or Family Feud, because that would be hilarious.

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?

Allison: Felix Felicis from Harry Potter. I’d just chug the stuff. Perfect two hours. Perfect edits. Perfectly happy writer.

Lauren: A huge mug of coffee with milk. Also something sugary—preferably some kind of crazy treat from Honeydukes. I find that caffeine + sugar = GET. THINGS. DONE.


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

Allison: My siblings, probably. Don’t make me pick one! I have a brother and a sister, and they’re both so fantastically supportive. My sister is a hardcore Hermione type—super smart, super driven, and so unafraid of fighting for what she wants. My brother is like Xander from Buffy. He’s goofy for sure, but also full of unexpected wisdom.

Lauren: My biggest supporter is my partner, Patrick. He has been on Team Lauren from day one when it comes to my writing, and he helps me celebrate every victory and mourn every loss. He also does awesome stuff for me, like bring me coffee or pieces of cheese while I write. That’s how you know you’ve got a good support system—free cheese.

As for a character he reminds me of…. He sort of looks like a young Wilson from the tv show House, and he’s sweet like Wilson, too. But he isn’t an enabler of complete insanity, like Wilson is. Or maybe…maybe he is. And I’m his House. OH NO. Can I change my answer?!

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

Allison: Just a large truckload of thanks to you, Brenda! I’m so grateful to you for all the work you put into Pitch Wars every year—it was such a huge opportunity for me!

Lauren: I just want to say that I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Pitch Wars. Thank you so much Brenda, for having me, and Allison (and Lauren!), for trusting me with your work. It’s been awesome, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.


Thank you Allison and Lauren for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, rush off and go celebrate with them, and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re awesome!



Allison Ziegler




Lauren Spieller

Twitter | Website


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