The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Tobie Easton and her Pitch Wars mentor, Skylar Dorset, here for a little Q and A. Tobie recently signed with Jennifer Unter with The Unter Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Tobie, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Skylar?
When I read Skylar’s wish list (and saw that she was writing a YA fantasy series), I put her on my list right away. Many of the Pitch Wars mentors were open to tweets, so I tweeted a brief pitch to the ones I thought would be interested. Skylar’s unveiled excitement about the concept when she tweeted back made me crazy happy and cemented her spot at the very top of my list. I also loved that on her website she said, “I am convinced all modern fictional heroes fit one of two molds: Fitzwilliam Darcy and Rhett Butler” (which is so true!), so I made sure to reference that in my query.
That is true, they do. Love that! I think reaching out on Twitter to get yourself noticed was a great plan. Skylar, what about Tobie’s application made you choose her?
She had a really great query that intrigued me immediately. I mean, mermaids? Wars involving the Little Mermaid fairy tale? Sirening? How cool does all that sound? So I asked for the first three chapters, and I was hooked immediately. I loved Lia’s voice and just wanted to spend more time with her.
Um, mermaid wars? I’m sold! So Tobie, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars was definitely a HUGE help to me in terms of revisions, but not in the way you might expect. I actually got the bulk of my revising done before being selected! Having the Pitch Wars entry date looming gave me a deadline to work toward as I edited. Then I got a ton of helpful feedback from people I met on the Pitch Wars Twitter feed. I was so delighted by how welcoming and encouraging the entire community was! I received query critiques and edits on my opening pages from other entrants and mentors alike. The amazing Rae critiqued my query and first page for my birthday, which landed during the contest.
Once Skylar chose my book and generously offered to give feedback on the entire manuscript, I knew I wanted it to be its absolute spiffiest before she saw it. So, while Skylar and I worked on my Pitch Wars pitch and first page, I did one more round of edits with the help of my critique partners (including the very talented L.L. McKinney, who’s also a member of #TeamSkylar).
Then Skyar read it and sent me her thoughts. I held my breath before opening that email, prepared to do a lot more work. To my surprise, it contained only a few minor notes and A LOT of encouragement. We talked on the phone about EMERGE and the industry in general, and Skylar convinced me I was ready to query.
I’ve said it so many times, but I LOVE THIS COMMUNITY SPIRIT! And Skylar, tell us about your experience with mentoring Tobie? How was mentoring your other team members?
Mentoring everyone was so fun. Tobie was one of my alternates, so first I just went through and helped her perfect her query a bit more. But then Tobie asked me for help with the manuscript as a whole, which I was happy to give. Tobie’s great to mentor, because she always has wonderfully specific questions that help focus me so that I’m not just flailing around going, “This is good! This could be better!”
I love reading about the dedication and desire to make your manuscript the best it can be, Tobie. What was the wait like during the agent round and the days leading up to the offer?
Right before the agent round, I sent out my first query letters. I don’t think days had ever felt so long as they did while I was querying. Skylar and Lori Goldstein (another Pitch Wars mentor who rallied behind EMERGE) gave me a lot of support along the way.
Our mentors are the best! Tobie, you signed with Jennifer Unter with The Unter Agency tell us about “The Call.”
When Jennifer requested my first 50 pages (within 15 minutes of receiving my query!), she let me know she’d get back to me in 8 weeks. So, when she got back to me in only 5 weeks and asked for the rest, it was hard not to get excited. Then, three days later, she emailed me saying she loved it and wanted to set up a time to talk about representation!! On the phone, she was the ideal mix of professional and enthusiastic. We talked about my career, my book, ideas for the series, and the submissions process. She gave me detailed answers to each question on the long list I’d researched, and I loved that her responses reflected both her legal and editorial backgrounds as well as her years as an agent. I knew from her experience and her excitement that she was the perfect person to champion my book. After the call, my boyfriend and I danced around the living room.
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)?
I’m fortunate to be a member of the Harry Potter generation, so Hogwarts really has to be my answer. I do wonder about the wizarding schools we don’t learn about in the books—the one in America, for instance.
Hogwarts. Is it wrong that I really, really, really want to learn how to turn teapots into tortoises? If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Confidante: Charlotte Lucas. I like that she’s a pragmatist who’s not afraid to offer a different perspective. Since I’m an eternal optimist, I think we’d complement each other.
Enemy: Dolores Umbridge. She stifles questions, skepticism, and curiosity.
Idol: I can’t answer this question unless someone writes a novel based on my mother’s life (now there’s an idea…)
Kick-butt ally: Spike. He’s someone who knows how to fight all kinds of battles. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to watch him kick butt?
My confidante: Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Because she wouldn’t blink at any crazy thing that you told her. – My enemy: Mrs. Danvers from “Rebecca.” Because that scene where she tries to convince the protagonist to jump out the window is just chilling. And then she burns Manderley! – My idol: Algernon Moncrieff from “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Because basically I strive to lead a life where my main purpose is to just be witty. – My kick-butt ally: The Marquis de Carabas from “Neverwhere.” Because who wouldn’t want him on you side?
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Maybe my curiosity is getting the better of me, but I’d choose the delectable little “Eat Me” cakes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The three-course-meal gum from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” As long as it’s been perfected.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Spell book. It’s the most versatile.
Epee. Because believe it or not, I once took fencing lessons.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
While I’m writing: Green Tea. A lot of green tea.
As a treat to mark milestones: Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Yum!
Tea! So much tea! Does tea count as food? It counts as food to me.
Tea? NO! You are Rae’s people. Coffee is life, just saying. Whose work inspired you to start writing?
My parents read books to me for as long as I can remember, so I always loved being immersed in fictional worlds. The first time I started actively thinking about how dialogue sounds and how words are strung together was when I watched the works of Joss Whedon.
I feel like I’ve always written, but probably L.M. Montgomery’s stuff was what really made me want to do it.
Last question: Which team are you? Team Brenda or Team Rae? Kidding. No really. Thank you for sharing your success story. Rae and I couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Well, Rae does have a dog named Toby…but Brenda shares my fascination with libraries. I’m going with both!
Team Brae? Team Raenda? What’s your portmanteau name?
I like Team Braenda. I’m sort of dominate like that. Ha! Seriously, congratulations on the success, and we’ll just sit here and watch you drive, or rather, fly off together. Everyone else, go say hello to them on Twitter.
Now. Why are you still here? Scram. Go show them some love!