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Get to know the Pitch Wars Mentors Mini Interviews . . . No. 16 Young Adult

Wednesday, 6 July 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

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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 …

Kristin B. WrightKristin Wright

Twitter  Website

Kristin is a native Detroiter, but she lives in verrrrrrry rural Central Virginia now: over a mile of gravel road from any pavement anywhere. She has a husband, two boys, two dogs, and some indifferent cows. Favorite things: Hamilton, all things U.K., anything you can find in a museum, Cheezits, coffee, and her beloved writing group. She writes contemporary YA and women’s fiction, and is represnted by the delightful Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

ONE: The first answer to that is that it’s subjective. I want to be captured by a story and intrigued by a character. Last year I saw some beautifully written material I didn’t choose, so know that subjectivity is a thing out of the gate. You can fix some grammatical errors, but too many show me you haven’t studied your craft. Most common, and fixable, is having too much backstory at the start or starting in the wrong place.

TWO: Yes, my usual plan is to read the entire manuscript, usually before selection announcements are made, and write an edit letter with the big picture things: are you starting in the right place, which characters are underdeveloped, does the end satisfy, is the pacing a problem in the middle, etc. Then I send it back as soon as possible after the announcement so you have as much time as possible to fix it. The hope is that there’ll be time for me to do a second (or even third) read for line-edit/sentence level stuff before the contest. This worked well last year, and is also how I CP for my friends.

THREE: My all-time favorite book is Pride & Prejudice. I know that is a pat answer, but what I love about it is the dry wit, the minutia of the social slights and triumphs, and the fact that even within a small-scale field of operations (repetitive social engagements inside one ballroom after another), the plot can be tense and dramatic. You don’t need a car wreck or a tragedy to have a white-knuckle reading experience. I love that.


LeatriceL.L. (Leatrice) McKinney

Twitter  |  Website

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author. Lover of all things Spiderman. Geek extraordinaire.

ONE: Can’t really say. There’s so much to consider, fresh concept, tight writing, strong voice. I suppose the one thing that would make me forgive all things is voice. I’d follow a good voice just about anywhere, even if the other two need some development. An easy fix? Basic craft things. Extra words, weak verbs here and there, so forth. Of course, too much of these things become time consuming and tedious, but in a polished manuscript, they’re usually mostly taken care of. As far as a pass, there are two that do it for me: Early drafts and cliche openings. There are signs that a story is in the early drafting stages, things that a few passes would’ve seen to. Grammar, punctuation, redundancy, head hopping, along with things I mentioned earlier. Generally, if it’s the first or second pass, it’s easy to tell. Regarding cliche openings, waking up, dreaming, getting ready for work/school, first day at new school, and so on.

TWO: I tend to do minimum two passes, no matter what, one for high-view content and one for copy. I ask lots of questions, mostly why things are happening. Even if the reader doesn’t know, the writer needs to be aware. I also tend to line edit, can’t really help it. Overall I’m blunt. Not hurtful, but I don’t sugarcoat things. I do have a game plan, but that could change depending on what the story needs. I’m not too rigorous, because it needs to adapt to fit my mentee’s style as well.

THREE: That…is a loaded question. My favorite book tends to vary, but right now it’s SHADOWSHAPER, by Daniel José Older. It inspires my to be true to who I am as a person, and that will translate to me being true to who I am as a writer. My characters get a healthy dose of that as well.

Lauren SpiellerLauren Spieller

Twitter  Website

Lauren Spieller is the author of the forthcoming THE WANDERINGS OF DESSA ROSE (S&S 2018). When she’s not writing, she works as a children’s literary scout in New York. She can also be found drinking coffee, browsing puppy photos online, or sharing writing tips on Twitter.

ONE: I’m looking for a strong voice and conflict. I can forgive pacing issues and worldbuilding that needs clarification, but I’m unlikely to choose pages with lots of telling or that lack conflict.

TWO: I will be giving developmental notes for sure, and a line edit if time permits. I also do multiple rounds of edits on the pitch and first page to make them as strong as possible.

THREE: This is impossible! I’m not sure about all time favorite, but SCORPIO RACES is a masterful blend of worldbuilding, character, and conflict that I could not put down.


Lindsay CummingsLindsay Cummings

Twitter  |  Website

Lindsay Cummings writes Science Fiction and Fantasy novels for HarperCollins. She lives in the woods in North Texas, where she writes full time. She is represented by Peter Knapp at New Leaf Literary.

As someone who came to writing through years dealing with Chronic Fatigue, Lindsay is a big advocate for those who deal with health issues, both physical and mental. If you are struggling with either of these things, Lindsay encourages you to keep your chin up, and remember how important you are to this world—even when it may not seem so. If you or someone you know or love is struggling, please reach out.

Lindsay does not write Christian Fiction, but she is a big believer in Jesus Christ, and believes He is the reason for all her success!

ONE: 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?

I’m a huge fan of darker YA science fiction, and fantasy. If anyone has read my series, THE MURDER COMPLEX, they’ll know that I live for fight scenes, characters that are fearless and ruthless, and settings that chill people to the bone. I love writing that is so pretty it makes the reader want to punch someone. Settings that suck you in and feel real, with world-building that so awesome it’s like the setting is a character itself. I love dark books with bits of light shining through. I love when there’s a dog. I loooooove when there’s a slow burn romance line. I would pass on books with big gaping plot holes or books that are too contemp. I’m a very character-driven writer, and I love diving in to the creation of a world, so that’s what I’m looking to help someone with 🙂

Examples of what I’d love to see in fantasy: Books like THE WINNER’s CURSE, THE CROWN’S GAME, and my fave THRONE OF GLASS.


TWO: 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?— I’ve had several different editors at Harpercollins, so I’ve been able to kind of see different styles and figure out what vibes with me. I am gentle, because writers have feelings, and I think its important to be cool and use lots of smiley emojis. I’d probably read through the manuscript, leave any major in-line comments that I feel are needed, and then include an edit letter with my overall thoughts. Then I’d probably Skype or hop on the phone with my mentee and try to talk it through and then let them go and do their fixes, and answers any emails they have it they need help along the way. I do that lots when I’m revising, with my agent or my editor. If my mentee can get it back in a month, we’d probably do another round. I’m published, but I’m NOT an expert by any means! I can simply promise to give my best advice, and hope that it helps someone get to the next level in their writing dreams. Also, if I love their writing, odds are I’m gonna freak out, and probably hope we can become friends 🙂

THREE: And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?— I can’t pick one specifically, but the ones that have inspired my writing style lately are basically anything by Sarah J Maas, Susan Dennard, and Marie Lu.


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


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