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 E.G. (Emily) Moore and her Pitch Wars mentor Michelle Hauck for a Q and A regarding her recent success! Emily recently signed with Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Emily, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Michelle?
Well, I’d practically been stalking her blog since starting fictional writing, and she seemed really nice. She also had similar tastes in books as I did. This was my second pitchwars submission and I knew a couple of the mentors I’d pitched to the first time wouldn’t like the darker elements of this Pitchwars novel. She was my first pick; the others went through a hard narrow-down process.
Michelle, what about Emily’s application made you choose her?
I had already chosen Emily’s story for a contest I hosted over the summer called New Agent. There’s was this bit in the first page where the MC jumps out at his mother and brother, and I thought it just SHOWED the MC’s personality so well. I asked to read the full and just found it so wonderful written. The story has a great pace. You know when a story has good voice that you can just about taste it. This had that sort of feel to it; it glided over the tongue.
Emily, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Firstly, I loved that Michelle really wanted to keep my novel literary rather than converting the plot to a more commercial one. Her fan-girling reiterated that I could write something someone could connect with. We went through a complete scene list and did some (more) rearranging, as well as toned down some graphic content to keep it in the MG category. Michelle was so quick to respond and asked incredibly helpful questions. She also helped me A LOT with grammer, which is not my strongest suit. She was so incredibly supportive and positive, even when I got down on myself or my manuscript. My other team mates were awesome too!
Michelle, tell us about your experience with mentoring Emily. How was mentoring your other team members?
With mentoring Emily, I suggested she flash forward through a few scenes and do some rearranging of their order and add earlier foreshadowing. Her manuscript took maybe too long to get to the plot and antagonist, especially for a middle grade. She knew right what I meant and agreed with me. But basically there wasn’t much work to be done with her story. It was just so strong already. Emily was my alternate’s alternate, if that makes any sense. It was the story I couldn’t stop thinking about, and I had to add her as a second alternate, even though in the Pitchwars we only got one that year.
Then later she redid her first chapter by cutting it entirely and going with a scene from farther in the book. That was a very good call by Emily.
Emily, after Pitch Wars you signed with Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Jessica contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
Dom was an intense labor of love. He went through all the spring 2014 contests, got rewritten twice, and then went through all the summer contests as well. (I had a blast with every single one. I may or may not be addicted to pitch contests.) I moved to the next round in one of them but no agents took the bait. I sent queries to most of the agents on my list around this time. Pitchwars was my last try and then I decided I would shelf him and work on my WIP and prep for NANO. I sent a few more traditional queries in October. After pitchwars, I felt very confident in my query so I was convinced it was my pages. I took a couple months break for NANO and the holidays, and during that time I seemed to read a lot of blogs and articles on the first pages. Early this year, I won a free first chapter critique from Lori Goldstein. I decided to rewrite the beginning, combining chapters 1 and 3. Michelle and Lori got it at the same time, and both responded well. I tweaked it a bit more and sent it out to five more agents on my list, including a new agent at a major agency.
Jessica was not one of those agents. I happen to be cruising the #MSWL website on Valentine’s Day and saw one of hers from November 2014 that matched my novel perfectly. I’d interacted with her a few times on twitter, so I sent her a tweet telling her it matched and if that was still what she was looking for. She responded by saying yes and this was an official request. I sent it and within an hour, she responded with a full manuscript request. Two weeks later I got another email telling me all the ways she loved my voice and characters and could she please call me next Wednesday? (gasp, pant, gasp, pant) I’d been checking my email while waiting to pick my husband up from school, and he had to drive home. I further celebrated by having a Nancy Tillman read-a-thon with my daughters before bed.
The new agent I mentioned above requested a full around that same time and I let her know I had another offer of representation. She said she’d get back to me within two weeks. Thankfully, my family was preparing for a cross-country move so I was able to keep busy for the five days between email and call. I was so nervous, but as soon as I answered the phone, Jessica and I hit it off like old friends. She had the same vision for my novel as I did, and answered all my questions graciously. Scholastic and Harpercollins were the two publishers I’d had in mind and she rattled them off right away. I’d made a two page list of questions, and was concerned about how new her agency was to the literary world. She was confident and kind, and also showed a lot of interest in my other works. When we were done talking, I asked for a week or so to consider everything and look over the contract again and she agreed.
The next week was the most difficult. I went back and forth about what to do if both Jessica and the other agent offered representation. Should I pass up a topnotch agency because Jessica and I got along so well and had the same vision? Was taking the well-established agency instead of Jessica selling out? I chatted with Michelle about it, as well as talked to other authors that had worked with Jessica both as an agent and editor earlier in her career. I stalked researched Jessica and her agency in between box packing and house cleaning. I prayed and chatted with friend and family about it. I’m pretty sure my husband thought I was losing my mind.
I’d nearly decided I wanted to work with Jessica when I heard back from the other agent. She said the book was wonderful and she can see why I got an offer but it wasn’t for her. I chuckled about all the worry and stress I’d caused myself, but it was immediately dissipated. And that is how I knew it was the right choice. I called her, but technology wasn’t cooperating. We ended up on twitter and she said something like “Don’t make any decisions until you talk to me! I’d be so upset if I lost you over this [phone not working properly].” I laughed and agreed. We talked later that night and she was as excited as I was. I didn’t get to celebrate for about a week. My husband graduated Wyotech and we did a joint celebration at Chili’s, complete with southwest eggrolls, fajitas, and a ridiculous number of clinks and toasts with friends and family.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
It boosted my confidence and Michelle helped improve my overall writing and grammar in the manuscript. I learned a lot about filtering, the middle grade reading level, and what that age group could and could not handle reading.
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?
Emily: A magic book portal. I always have a book handy, and some of my favorite stories are about going to another world. What better reason to do so then to use it to get away from bad guys?
Michelle: Tough one. I’d want something fast because I’m not very brave. Perhaps the ability to walk through walls so I could leave them behind.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Emily: I think I would hang out in The Shire with Frodo before The Ring showed up. The shire sounds so joyous and mellow, full of content and friendly Hobbits. I need more of that in my life. I’d love to fish and have tea and play games and just visit, enjoying the scenery.
Michelle: I’d love to spend a day with Treebeard the Ent from Lord of the Rings. I used to dream about helping him find the Entwives. Why hasn’t someone written that story? Or have they?
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Emily: I sometimes compare myself to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. She’s determined and wants to do what is proper, but she lets her head and occasionally her emotions get the best of her.
Michelle: It’s just so changeable that’s hard to pin down. I’m whimsical one day and serious the next. Up and then down. Wishful thinking would suggest Lizzie Bennet from Jane Austin, but I’m probably closer to Shaggy from Scooby Doo. 🙂
Emily: Meg from A Wrinkle in Time would join me on Jeopardy.
Michelle: Someone smart obviously. Sherlock Holmes would be too antisocial. Hermione Granger might be a good alternative, but is she only book smart? James Bond can think on his feet, but would run off with the hostess. A smart villain like Iago to ensure I win? I’m afraid the possibles have boggled my mind. I can’t decide.
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?
Emily: Vanilla Chai Latte or a Cocovita Cocoa Expresso, but often I just dive in without consuming a thing until the job is done.<
Michelle: None of those. I’d go for the richest chocolate I could find. Give me some Cadbury or Dove.
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Emily: I really think that would have to be my first ever, long-time critique partner Libby Webber. I’d compare her to Kai from Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee. (If you haven’t read it, go add it to Goodreads or your Kindle ASAP!) She’s tough and can handle a lot, but a real inner-softy about everything she loves or is passionate about. Check out Libby’s website here: http://www.libbywebber.com
Michelle: The biggest supporter of my writing is myself. That should be true of everyone. You have to believe in you, because not even an agent can do this for you if you don’t believe in your work.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Emily: I’d tell other writers to be involved in the writing community: Contests, blogs, twitter, the #mswl pages and other writerly hashtags. All of it is there to help and make writing fun in those times when its not. I’m proof that if you participate and give out enthusiasm and encouragement, you’ll receive so much in return.
Michelle: Thanks to Brenda Drake for hosting me and for running Pitchwars. It isn’t easy to coordinate so many flaky writers and bring such a big contest together.
Thank you Emily and Michelle 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!