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Get to know the Pitch Wars Mentors Mini Interviews . . . No. 24 Young Adult

Tuesday, 12 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 …

Kes Trester & Co-Mentor Jen Hawkins

KesTwitter  |  Website

Kes freelances. creates director’s treatments for commercials, produces creative content for websites, and critiques feature film scripts. But her passion lies in crafting high-concept, cinematic tales for young adults, often inspired by her own two YA’s. Her first entry in the Riley Collins Series, COLLISION, will be published by Curiosity Quills in 2017.

Jennifer HawkinsTwitterWebsite

Jen is a YA author and an editor for Author Accelerator. She is a 2016 YARWA Rosemary Award double-finalist. She’s a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and a card-carrying Slytherin. (Think Snape, not Malfoy.) She lives in Texas with her husband, two sons, and lap dog Great Dane.

ONE: We are looking for a writer who understands the basic fundamentals of the craft, but perhaps needs guidance with structure, story, or streamlining his/her prose. Absence of voice would be a pass, because it’s very difficult to instill on the mentoring timeline if it’s not already there. A minor typo or two wouldn’t be a big deal, but glaring inconsistencies would be. We want polished work. In short, we want a writer who is willing to work to go the final stretch, since time won’t allow us to start from scratch.

TWO: We combine our notes to give our mentee one round of big picture edits with a deadline of midway through the revision period. Then we offer a second pass, and if time allows, a query critique.

THREE for Jen: This is crazy unfair! How are we supposed to pick just one? Okay, if I *HAD* to pick only one, my favorite at this moment is We Were Here by Matt de la Peña. I’ve read it three times over the past year because I love it so much. Funny, sad, beautiful, and features vivid characters we don’t see enough.


Lynnette Labelle & Co-Mentor Destiny Cole

Lynnette LabelleTwitter Website

Lynnette Labelle is a freelance editor with over fifteen years of experience. She’s the owner of Labelle’s Writing on the Wall, an editing and coaching service for writers. Her clients range from new writers to New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors like Roni Loren, Rebecca Hamilton, and Cristin Harber. Lynnette works with writers seeking traditional publishing and indie authors. She specializes in substantive/developmental editing, helps writers create hooky query letters and strong synopses, and she teaches several writing classes.

Lynnette is also a romantic suspense author who injects a dark edge into romance. She finaled in the 2015 and 2016 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense Contest, and she won first place in the 2015 Molly Contest (romantic suspense category) offered through the Heart of Denver Romance Writers. She’s been a Pitch Wars mentor since 2015.

She lives in Minnesota with her husband, twin daughters, and pets. Despite her love for fictional blood and gore, she gets weak at the sight of real blood. And spiders give her the creeps!

Destiny ColeTwitter Website

Destiny Cole knew from a young age that she was going to be a storyteller. Whether it was fantastical worlds or creepy villains, Destiny wants to tell the kind of stories that stay with you long after the last page is turned. Writing primarily YA thriller and mystery books, Destiny is repped by Kirsten Carleton at Prospect Agency. When detached from her computer, she can be found entertaining her three kids and trying to convince her Belgian husband that she’s the funniest person he’s ever met. She and her family currently reside in Dallas, Texas.

ONE: A pass would be:
1) Something we specifically said we didn’t want. Pay attention to mentor wish lists. Please.
2) A premise/character trope that’s been done a 1000+ times without any new twists.
3) Pages that resembled a first draft and aren’t polished enough, especially if the sample is filled with mechanical issues (spelling, grammar, and punctuation).
4) A backstory dump.
5) Opening in a dream or just as the character wakes up.
6) A slow beginning with too much introspection and the story doesn’t move forward.

However, that being said, numbers 3-6 are all fixable. If we like the premise, the voice, and the characters, we’ll request more. This is why it’s important to nail the query blurb. That’s what will show us whether or not we’ll like the premise.

TWO: We will work together and discuss what we feel needs to be done with the manuscript before the real editing begins. Then Lynnette will go through the MS, looking at big picture issues and will send the marked-up MS back with an editorial letter explaining the necessary revisions. As the mentee completes chapters, he/she will return the clean copies to Destiny, who will line edit and send the pages back to the mentee for a final polish. After that, we’ll work together on the pitch and synopsis.

THREE for Lynnette: I seriously can’t pick ONE book. I’ve been a bookworm all my life and love too many books and appreciate too many authors to narrow this down to one.

THREE for Destiny: That’s like asking me which of my kids I like best! If I had to choose just one series, I would say Harry Potter. Because, duh. Rowling’s intricate plotting inspires me to no end.


Sharon M. Johnston

Twitter  |  Website

Sharon is a public relations specialist and a writer of Speculative Fiction and Soulful contemporaries from sunny Queensland Australia. Her first novel Divided is out now with City Owl Press.

ONE: I’m simply looking for a story that I fall in love with. I love strong openings, but I can forgive cliches that would normally turn an agent off. It’s my job to help fix things like that. However, if I see signs that an author hasn’t made an effort to learn their craft (word counts, telling vs showing, Mary Sue characters).

TWO: When I edit, I look for inconsistencies predominantly – things that will turn off a reader, create a plot hole, and basically hijack your book. Would your character really of that, is that even feasible in reality. I help make your story believable to your reads (even in fantasy and scoff settings). And I find that I’m an expert at finding issues that other readers miss, (and that you miss because you know your story too well). I do some basic grammar and punctuation, but not major line edits. You’ll get mark ups in the MS as well as an editorial letter.

THREE: I don’t have a single favourite book of all time, but the book that had the biggest influence on my writing was White Cat by Holly Black. It introduced me to first person/present tense.


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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We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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