From June 27th through July 18th, we’ll be posting mini-interviews with most of the Pitch Wars mentors so you can get to know them. Many of the mentors also hang out on twitter. Follow the links to their Twitter accounts and say hello. They’ll be on the #PitchWars hashtag tweeting advice and answering questions.
We will also host live chats from July 19th through August 2nd, and the Pitch Wars submission window will open on August 3rd!
We asked our mentors to answer these three questions …
1. What are you looking for in a submission and what would you forgive as far as issues in the sample pages? In other words, what do you feel is an easy fix and what would be a pass for you?
2. What is your editing style and do you have a game plan to tackle edits with your mentee in the two months given for the contest?
3. And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?
And here are their answers …
Carrie Callaghan’s short fiction has appeared in Silk Road, The MacGuffin, Floodwall, and elsewhere. She is a senior editor with the Washington Independent Review of Books, and is represented by Shannon Hassan of MarsalLyon.
ONE: I’m looking for smart, confident writing that has a story to tell. Honestly, subjectivity will play a major role — is this a story I’d want to read? And, like all of us, my tastes are very idiosyncratic. More specifically, if I can tell the writer understands how a sentence works and flows, then I’ll much more easily pardon structural flaws (like starting the story in the wrong place, or slowing the reader down with unnecessary narration and backstory). Sample pages that are choppy or shallow, with passive voice and weak verbs, will waddle their way right to the “no thanks” pile.
TWO: Is it August yet? I can’t wait to dive into someone’s beautiful story and make it even better. I’m an editor with the Washington Independent Review of Books, and I adore the thrill of polishing promising writing until it sparkles. For PitchWars, I plan to throw as much as I can at my mentee immediately, but prioritizing the structural issues. Is the story starting in the right place? Do we have enough scenes that maintain tension? Does the protagonist earn the ending? I have to confess, I’m also prepping a recommended (required?) reading list. I’ll probably put that up on my blog as fair warning …
THREE: Don’t make me answer this! (*Brenda, very politely, threatens to pull the lever that releases the trap door to the dragons below.*) Ok, I can’t possibly pick one favorite, but in terms of inspiring my writing, it would have to be Hilary Mantel’s A PLACE OF GREATER SAFETY. It’s epic, heart-wrenching historical fiction that raises dozens of questions about relationships, politics, and polity. I swoon over the combination of thought-provoking and moving.
Dan Malossi is a speculative fiction writer represented by Douglas Lee of Kimberley Cameron and Associates. He was chosen by the inimitable Sarah Henning in Pitchwars for his first novel a few years back. He is currently on submission with his debut novel, a sci-fi thriller called THE REAPER PROGRAM.
After teaching AP English and Journalism by day, Dan writes and reads by night. He is a rabid fan of speculative and literary fiction–almost exclusively adult–although his favorite book of all time is the ultra-violent, arguably-YA epic western BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy. Dan is currently working on two projects, a literary horror entitled THE MADNESS and an as-yet-untitled, co-authored, darkly comic Adult-YA crossover.
ONE: I want to hear a unique voice in the sample pages. I know that’s a stock answer, but voice is elusive and intangible. We can fix pacing and plot together, but the writing has to sing with that “it” factor.
For me, a “literary” feel to the writing is definitely a hook. Not that your sentences have to be stocked with SAT words, but there has to be an innate intelligence in the sentences, the phrases, the feel, the DNA of the writing itself. If the writing is flat and stale, or worse, hackneyed, I’ll pass.
TWO: I am a demanding editor and take a vested interest in getting my mentee’s manuscript in tip-top shape by the agent round. After we get to know each other a bit, we’ll go back and forth until the pitch and MS emerge in submission-ready shape to face the agent-round head-on.
THREE: I love all things speculative and literary, and especially those works that blue the lines between those two genres. I love Philip Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Ron Currie. On the literary side, Harper Lee, Philipp Meyer, and Cormac McCarthy are perennial favorites. McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN is my all-time favorite. I’ve read it at least ten times. It’s the most beautifully written work I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, and in its beauty describes violence so jarring and bleak that few readers can bear it. But all in the service of knowing more about ourselves, which is the best of literature. That’s what I go for in my writing…I want it to get to the heart of what it means to be alive, to care about others, and to defend what’s yours. Stories matter, and the writing matters.
Diana Gardin is the hybrid author of eight published novels. She writes in the Romance genre, and her books are known for their super-sexy scenes, emotionally gripping characters, and heart-racing drama. She’s all Romance with a hint of suspense!
Diana is a client of the Donaghy Literary Agency, with Stacey Donaghy as a client. Her traditional publishing house is Grand Central Publishing’s Forever Yours imprint.
Diana is a Virginia girl living in South Carolina, and she loves all things southern, including boots, country music, and front porches. She’s a mom of two; her six-year old daughter, her three-year-old son, and her husband come second in her life, right after God and right before writing.
ONE: I’m looking for a story that draws me in from the very beginning. A story that starts with a bang, with the main character DOING something. Not backstory dumps. Not super-descriptive setting or world-building right off in the first few pages. I need the writer’s voice to shine through, meaning it shouldn’t sound like a summary of something that happened, it should sound like a first-hand current account of WHAT IS HAPPENING. I love CHARACTERS first. Even though I know grammar is an easy fix, it seems sloppy to allow someone to read your work when it’s riddled with grammatical mistakes. So let’s send in clean stuff. And that means you’ve let someone else proofread for you, no matter how good at English you are! A boring start is something I can’t get past, because I won’t want to read what happens next. The same goes for an unlikeable main character…I have to WANT to keep reading. If it’s a story I’ve read five thousand times before (and I’ve read A LOT) then I don’t want it. I want something fresh, or a new take on an old trope.
TWO: My editing style is revision–based. The only style of editing I know is the way my own editor at my pub house has done it, so I’ll probably do it a lot like she does. I’ll read through the manuscript and take notes, and I will include an edit letter to my mentee and notes within the manuscript as well. Then any time she/he has a question or an issue, we’ll comb through it together!
THREE: OH MY WORD, this is a difficult question! Seriously, my all-time favorite book is Harry Potter (gah! I have to choose only one in the series???) and the Order of the Phoenix. It was the first book that took a seriously dark turn, and I like dark so very much. Dark is delicious. There’s always a semi-dark element to my books, somewhere. Whether it be a dark emotion or a dark past or a dark character, I love darkness. I think it adds depth. Also the camaraderie between a variety of characters in the HP books draw me in and make me care. I think my books embody the same sort of spirit, not just a hero and heroine you can get behind, but a whole cast of characters to adore! My writing is always character-driven, but somehow J.K. Rowling’s books are both character and plot-driven. She’s a genius for sure.
Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens.
When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer and editor, falls in love with video game characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento. Her debut adult sci-fi, Machinations, releases July 26th from Hydra/Random House.
ONE: I’m looking for stories that grab me by the throat from the first line and demand my attention. Usually this means a confident voice, and vivid prose. I’m also partial to protagonists who don’t fit inside easy definitions of good and evil, and character-driven plots. I can be forgiving of a lot, if the writing itself is solid, and the premise intriguing. Doubly so if I love the main character. Obvious misogyny, homophobia, racism, and an overall lack of diversity are automatic passes.
TWO: My editing style is blunt, straight-forward, and thorough. We will begin with a content edit to fix any major issues such as plot, character relationships, etc., then move on to line edits, and continue polishing the ms right up to the Agent Round, if necessary.
I don’t hand-hold my authors, so if you’re looking for someone to pat you on the back for two months, I’m not the mentor for you. I will make you work hard, but the ms will be much stronger for it. With that said, I like to build positive, friendly relationships with my authors, and happily reward good work with compliments and passion—if I love something in the ms, I will leave comments sprinkled with emojis and exclamation marks accordingly—and if I choose you, you’ll have me in your corner even after Pitch Wars is over.
THREE: Hahahahaha, nice try. I don’t play book favorites.
Thank you, mentors, for your marvelous answers. We appreciate you so much!
Pitch Wars Schedule:
June 27-July 15 Mentor Mini Interviews
July 19-August 2 Live Chats with Mentors
July 20-August 3 Mentor Blog Hop
August 3rd Pitch Wars Submission Window Opens
August 25th Mentees Chosen and Announced