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Day 14 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Anna Birch

Sunday, 8 September 2019  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2019 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query or first page critique from one of our mentors. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or first page from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you all get an idea on how to shine up your query and first page.

We appreciate our mentors for giving their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.

Next up we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor, Anna Birch … 

Anna Birch was born-‘n’-raised in a rural area on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. She’s traded in her thick forests and dirt roads for the heart of the city, where she lives now with her husband, three children, and dog. Anna’s debut, I KISSED ALICE (Imprint/Macmillan), is a queer f/f You’ve Got Mail retelling that takes place in equal parts between a fictional Birmingham performing arts school and an anonymous fan fiction website. Outside of writing, Anna is a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the k-12 ESL program and she’s looking forward to being placed in her first classroom! She loves knitting, brie, and hanging out with her family.

Website | Twitter

Anna’s upcoming release…

I KISSED ALICE… Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Two girls at a southern school for the arts find themselves in a bitter rivalry over the final spot in the scholarship program, even as they anonymously fall in love on a fanfic site. Publication is tentatively set for summer 2020.


Anna’s first page critique . . .

Young Adult: Contemporary


If you stand on the peak of Mt. Pissis in South America and shout into the void, your echo will ring out for one minute. [This first line is just a little bit clunky — I might suggest editing out ‘in South America’ or rephrasing it: Your echo will ring out for one minute if you stand on the peak of Mt. Pissis and shout into the South American void’. Or Something.] It’s not record-breaking—to do that, you have to go to Burma—but it’s top five, I think. [I adore this line!]

Sometimes, I imagine myself standing there, shouting for her [who?] into the void, thinking maybe if the word echoes enough, she’ll hear it. It’ll cause some kind of spell over the valley and bring her back in a swirl of glittering stardust. I mean, it’s South America. Isn’t magical shit supposed to happen in places like that? 

I’d like to think Mom survived the crash. That her eyes were open in her last moments. That [I might add a comma here instead of a period, opening the period with ‘That’ is a little awkward] the roof of the plane was ripped off, and as she sat strapped in her seat, she looked up and locked eyes with some majestic creature. A monkey, a parrot‚ I don’t really know what the fuck they have in South America [So far, every paragraph has had a specific mention of South America 🙂 I really like the voice!], but I’d like to imagine her last moments were filled with some kind of divine connection to something greater. That she died with a smile.

I open my laptop and stare straight into the soulless pit that is YouTube. In the search bar, I type ‘South American [South American! This one makes sense, so I might suggest cutting one of the earlier ones] Airlines flight 501′. It takes less than a second for the page to fill with videos, but they’re all the same one. [This would be a great place to start a new line for the sake of emphasis>] I know because I’ve watched them all. [I would start a new paragraph here>]  No one’s home tonight, but I still glance over my shoulder towards my bedroom door. Ever since Dad busted me [for what?] a few weeks ago, my paranoia is off the charts. My finger hovers over the volume key, and I tap, tap, tap it until it’s all the way up because I want to hear this. [I really love this.]  The video plays and the image on my screen shakes. Brown hiking boots come into the frame sliding down a dirt trail. Someone’s breathless voice says, “Oh my god,” more times than I can count, and the image pans up. [I loved the imagery here. You did an excellent job of pulling me into the moment. I felt the yearning in the main character’s words, and I loved especially the last paragraph. Great job!]

Thank you, Anna, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2019 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

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