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 …
As a kid Karen McManus used to write books when she was supposed to be playing outside, and not much has changed. Her debut YA novel, ONE OF US IS LYING, will be released from Delacorte Press/Random House in 2017, with a second book to follow in 2018. Karen works in marketing and communications, and lives in Cambridge with her 10-year old son.
ONE: For me, voice and characters trump all. A fresh concept or an unexpected take on an old trope is great, but mainly I want to get pulled in on page one by people I care enough about to follow to the end. Starting in the wrong place, over-exposition, and minor plot and pacing issues can be fixed, but flat characters and stilted dialogue would take more time than we have.
TWO: First, I’ll ask my mentee a lot of questions about your book, your goals, and your writing style. I’ll then provide you with an edit letter focused on what I see as the big picture macro issues we should tackle related to plot, pacing, character arcs, etc. In the second round, I’ll do more specific and detailed line edits. And then we’ll perfect that pitch, first page, and query before the contest.
THREE: Impossible to pick just one! I will say, though, that when I read The Hunger Games several years ago, it was like a light bulb went off in my head—I immediately connected to the voice and the characters, and started to wonder if I, too, could write YA. A few years later, I share an agent with the author ☺
Kate Karyus Quinn and Co-Mentor Demitria Lunetta
Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and DOWN WITH THE SHINE all from HarperTeen. Kate also offers paid critiques for authors looking to further polish their work. Find more information here.
Demitria Lunetta is the author of the YA Sci-fi duology, IN THE AFTER and IN THE END (HarperTeen). She is also an editor and contributing author for the YA anthology, AMONG THE SHADOWS: 13 STORIES OF DARKNESS & LIGHT. Her next novel, BAD BLOOD, will release from Delacorte /Random March 14, 2017. IN THE AFTER is an American Booksellers Association 2013 ABC Best Books for Children and an Amazon 2013 Top Twenty Teen Book.
ONE for Kate: I am looking for writing that grabs hold of me from the first page and makes me want to read the rest of the MS. Usually, I just skim over the query, but if that first page grabs me, I’ll go back and read the query more closely because I’m intrigued and want to know what it’s all about. I am totally forgiving as far as small grammar and spelling mistakes go – those things happen. If the writing is there than I can give you suggestions for how to fix everything else from character arcs to plot to world building problems. This doesn’t mean the writing needs to be literary or full of awesome metaphors or super flashy. It just needs to be confident and polished.
ONE for Demitria: I love plot driven stories. If the plot is there, the rest will follow. I can forgive shallow characters in a first draft. I definitely don’t think that character development is an easy fix, but it’s something that can be worked on in future drafts. A pass for me would be a beautifully written story that doesn’t go anywhere.
TWO: Our editing style is to first read the MS and leave in-line notes while doing so. After finishing the full we’ll chat a bit – discussing various problems or concerns. Then we’ll write up a big edit letter. Usually it’s a bit rambling and full of run on sentences and lots and lots of lots of suggestions of how to fix things. We don’t mean these suggestions as a “write it this way now” guide but rather a jumping off point for the author of the MS to start looking at his/her MS in a new way. As far as getting it done within the two months, we’ll try to get that initial edit letter to the mentee within a week or so of him/her being chosen so that they have as much time as possible to digest all the notes and then dive into edits. We’re very aware that big edits can be really time consuming and since it’s our goal to set our mentee up for success we will try to give them as very much time as we can.
THREE for Kate: I don’t have a favorite book. That’s just way too hard to pick out one book as my favorite when I have loved so very many of them. I also love different things for different reasons and different moods and different seasons and well, yeah. Overall, I read widely and anyone who wants to get a better idea of what I’ve read recently can check out my goodreads page.
THREE for Demitria: I couldn’t possibly pick one favorite book. I read over a hundred books a year and love fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, paranormal, horror…pretty much anything with world building. If I HAD to pick one favorite book (like if aliens invaded Earth and told me that they would destroy the planet if I didn’t pick a favorite book) it would be THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood because…um…MARGARET ATWOOD.
Katherine Webber was born in San Diego, California in 1987. She has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Hawaii, and Atlanta. She currently lives London with her husband, Kevin.
She loves an adventure, whether it is found in a book or in real life. She has climbed the Great Wall of China, ridden camels in the Sahara Desert, camped in the Serengeti, visited sacred temples in Bhutan, trekked to Machu Picchu, and eaten her way through Italy. Travel, books, and eating out are her favourite indulgences.
Katherine studied Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis and Chinese literature and language at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She has worked at an international translation company, a technology startup, and most recently, a London based reading charity.
Katherine is represented by Claire Wilson at Rogers, Coleridge and White. Her debut novel WING JONES will be published by Delacorte/Random House on March 14, 2017 in the US and by Walker Books on January 5, 2017 in the UK. She is currently working on her next novel.
ONE: I love books that have engaging characters, an interesting and unexpected plot, and beautiful writing. I’m looking for entries that hit at least two out of the three (so an unexpected plot combined with beautiful writing , beautiful writing with engaging characters, or an interesting plot with engaging characters) but if you can successfully do all three, you’ll definitely get my attention. Some examples of authors who do this really well: Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, Jeff Zentner, Jandy Nelson, and Rainbow Rowell. I would love to find a manuscript I can’t stop reading because I’m so swept up by the characters and the plot, but also one that forces me to stop and appreciate an especially exquisite sentence or phrase. Your protagonist doesn’t need to be ‘likable’ but they need to be interesting and engaging. I want to discover characters that keep me thinking about them long after I’ve stopped reading about them. Typos and small errors in sample pages are completely forgivable, but I need to be drawn into the world and the story from the very start. I’m also drawn to diverse characters and vibrant, unique settings.
TWO: My editing style is supportive, involved, constructive, and hopefully fun! I plan on getting back to my mentee as soon as possible with initial notes and overall structural feedback, making myself available via email and skype to bounce off ideas and talk through plot issues, doing a second more detailed round of edits after that, and then right before the agent round doing one final check to make sure the manuscript is as perfect as it can be. I already have a timeline all planned out! And, I’ll of course bombard my mentee with lots of hilarious gifs and encouragement and motivational pep talks throughout it all. I have a wonderful agent who is very hands on, and brilliant and responsive editors, so I plan to emulate them as much as possible during Pitch Wars.
THREE: This is an impossible question but if I had to choose just one book that has inspired me and helped shape me as a writer, it would have to be Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. She manages to perfectly hit all three things I’m looking for in a book (beautiful writing with engaging characters and an interesting and unexpected plot) and I find myself regularly thinking about the characters and world she created, as well as the beautiful way she depicted them. I am also astounded by the scope of her brilliant imagination and in awe of how much emotion she infuses in her writing. She manages to make you laugh, cry, gasp, swoon, and wonder all in a few pages. That is what I want to do as a writer.
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