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 …
- 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?
- 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?
- And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?
And here are their answers …
Marty Mayberry writes young adult and adult stories and infuses them with romance. When she’s not dreaming up ways to mess with her character’s lives, she works as an RN/Clinical Documentation Specialist. She has a BA in International Affairs in German and an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. She lives in New England with her husband, children, and three neurotic cats. She’s a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and a PRO member of RWA. Her young adult science fiction, PHOENIX RISING, won the 2015 YARWA’s Rosemary Award for speculative fiction. She’s represented by Jessica Watterson of the Dijkstra Agency.
ONE: I would love to work with an author I feel needs my help. If I see a sub that’s perfect already, I’m less apt to want to work with them, because I won’t have much to offer. My goal is to give back what so many other authors have given me: to help another author move to the next level. I’m looking for a unique & intriguing premise, something I can’t put down, something I think will do well on sub.
TWO: I’ll read the MS and give overall feedback, plus some line edits within two weeks. We’ll discuss my suggestions, and the author will revise based on what we agreed works best and return the MS. I’ll read again to fine-tune. If there’s time, I’ll read a third time before the agent round. I’ll also help with the synopsis, query and pitch, and we’ll discuss some of the inside stuff, including what to ask an offering agent, what it’s like to be on sub, etc. In other words, I’ll mentor someone.
THREE: THE SCORPIO RACES, by Maggie Stiefvater; because it made me cry. The story is exciting, and the romance made my heart ache.
McKelle currently lives in downtown Salt Lake City in an old, charming but full-of-surprises studio apartment. She’s an editor with Jolly Fish Press (recent titles: Jerkbait by Mia Siegert, Songbyrd by Anna Silver, Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson, and the Welcome Home anthology with Eric Smith), and an associate librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. As an author, she’s represented by Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and her debut novel (a YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set in the 1920s) comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins Fall 2017.
ONE: An authentic voice, unforgettable characters with an edge. I’d forgive a sub that didn’t start “in medias res” (i.e. a little slower) if the voice and character got me right in the heart. I’m particularly interested in characters who struggle with dualities of nature and/or culture; characters who straddle two different worlds fascinate me. Under and misrepresented characters in compelling (and extra bonus if HISTORICAL) settings. I’m forgiving of: formatting/typos (it happens to all of us!), ambiguity and strangeness (think the opening of the Book Thief). I’m not forgiving of: biases and slurs, bland or cliched writing, and nothing but setting-and-set-up.
TWO: Intense! (*twirls editing staff and sings “Let’s get down to business . . .*) Kidding! (Sort of.) If you mentee with me, you’d get the same treatment as one of my paid clients or published authors, meaning: a multi-paged edit letter and phone call (unless you hate the phone — sometimes I do too, so that’s negotiable) to tackle big picture problems and make sure I understand what YOUR vision is for your book and what needs to change so that vision is fully realized. I’ll also point out marketing problems and we’ll decide where we can bend and where we just screw the market and do what we want, Loki-style. Once you get that draft back to me, I’ll go over it again with a closer focus and in-document comments. Then line edits, and then we make sure your pitch really shines. You can contact me whenever, and I’m more coach than cheerleader; I’ll encourage you (and I wouldn’t choose your manuscript unless there was something in it that I fell in love with), but I’m more interested in helping you become the hero the universe needs–I mean, helping you level up your writing and get an agent. (:
THREE: Oh gosh. How about five all-time favorites? A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness; Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli; Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein; Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger; and The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. (*immediately stresses about the books she left out*)
So, the books I end up loving as favorites have nothing in common except they made me feel something in a permanent way, or altered my outlook on life (and this, of course, is fully influenced by what was going on in my personal life at the time I read them which is the crazy-wonderful thing about reading; it’s never the same twice). It rarely has anything to do with genre, intended age group, or style. So write books you truly care about, even if there are vampire-zombies or whatever. The heart of a book is the point. This influences my writing in that . . . it’s emotional and challenging and sometimes I cry when I’m finished. *awkward thumbs up*
Molly E. Lee
Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her debut novel EDGE OF CHAOS. She writes New Adult Contemporary and Young Adult Urban Fantasy featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.
ONE: I’m not too concerned with grammatical errors or mechanics. What I’m really looking for is the hook, and to be intrigued by the character. Those opening pages are crucial and I want to be immediately sucked into the story and cheering for the main character!
TWO: I’m very open in my communication as an editor. I work on both the developmental side and the copy-edit side, but I enjoy the back and forth with the author, figuring out what is the best way to push their story forward and make it as sharp as possible. I feel like some of the best ideas are found when you act as a proper soundboard.
THREE: This is a mean question lol. I would have to say Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or really the entire series. I have a slew of favorite books, but this is the series I continue to re-read. JK Rowling influences my writing by constructing such amazing and real characters that I strive to do the same in my work.
M. M. Hoffman
M. M. Hoffman is YA Science Fiction and Fantasy writer represented by Tricia Skinner and Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary. She’s also an ex-Disney Cast member and Paralegal who has finally found her way to the thing she has always loved. Writing.
ONE: In that first page submission, I’m looking for a confident voice and main character that I can follow through a well-planned story. If the voice is there, there is much I can forgive. For example, plot holes, starting in the wrong place, lack of structure, small grammatical error, and anemic world building, those I can help my mentee fix. Major issues with writing mechanics is something I can’t assist with in the 2 months’ time we are given to prepare the mentee for the agent round. By the time of submission, the manuscript should not have first-draft issues. It should be as polished as possible.
With that said, I want to read those first few pages and feel something, whether it be fear, excitement, or even sorrow. If you can catapult me into a new world, enriched with flawed characters in a vivid setting, you will hold my attention.
TWO: I hope to do two rounds of edits with my mentee. The first round I will provide an edit letter that will tackle the overall issues with the story, be it the plot, character arcs, structure, or world building. The second round (if time allows), I will provide line edits and read the MS with a fine toothed comb. But I’m not a copy editor. I will provide suggestions where I think it might help to get the point across. I will push you to improve, challenge you to think outside the box. I will ask questions, and I will not sugarcoat my suggestions. (Remember, they are suggestions. I will not force my mentee to make the changes.) However, my comments may include emojis, jokes, and gifs, and all the support I can muster to help them prepare for the agent round and beyond. This will be hard work, but I aim to make this a fun experience as well.
THREE: The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is by far my favorite to date. Rowling can world-build with perfection and I strive to enrich my stories with that level of detail. And her characters are characters you will never forget. That’s what I hope to achieve with my writing.
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