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 …
Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible.
She is multi-published with Berkley, St. Martin’s Press, Carina Press, and recently through her own publishing company, and is represented by Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency.
ONE: Above all else, I want something I cannot put down. Bonus points if it makes my heart flutter and my cheeks hurt from smiling/laughing. That’s not to say something more serious wouldn’t hook me, either! It’s really tough to pinpoint one single thing, because everything I’ve selected as a mentor has been vastly different from one another.
I’ll forgive a lot on the sample pages because if they’re perfect, what am I even there for? But one of the main things I can’t forgive is basic grammar issues. Those are easy fixes, yes, but if they’re not fixed prior to submission, it shows me the applicant didn’t care enough to polish the MS as best they could before submitting and thus isn’t willing to invest the time and/or do the work I’d expect from my mentee.
TWO: I’m pretty in-depth on editing. In previous years, I’ve done content (where we fix pacing, plot holes, character issues, telling instead of showing, etc) and line edits (crutch and/or distancing words, sentence flow, etc). As of now, my game plan is to tackle content issues first and give homework on editing (teach a person to fish and all that), then dive into the nitty gritty with line edits to get it polished before the agent round.
THREE: This answer isn’t going to help hopefuls at all because it breaks my rules as a mentor and I absolutely DO NOT want a submission like this, but my favorite book is HOW TO KILL A ROCK STAR by Tiffanie DeBartolo. It breaks my heart and soul every time I read it, but I love it so. Now, my favorite author is another story… That’d be Jill Shalvis. Funny, romantic swoons. Jill’s books inspire me to tell character driven stories with rich settings and relatable heroines. And, of course, toss in humor where you can and make sure the sex is hot.
Heather Van Fleet
Heather Van Fleet is stay-at-home-mom turned book boyfriend connoisseur. She’s a wife to her high school sweetheart, a mom to three little girls, and in her spare time you can find her with her head buried in her Kindle, guzzling down copious amounts of coffee.
Heather graduated from Black Hawk College in 2003 with an associate degree and has been working in the publishing industry for over five years. She’s represented by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary and her Embattled Hearts Series is Forthcoming from Sourcebooks in Februart, 2017.
ONE: I am looking for an amazing voice, first and foremost. Someone who can suck me in with either humor, something sexy, or even tears. If your story starts with mega backstory, an info dump, or starts with a dream or with your character describing themselves in a mirror, then I will likely pass.
TWO: I am big on content editing, having been a content editor in the past. I will rid a manuscript of telling, examine and help fix the plot holes, and I will likely make my mentee push chatacter emotions when need be. I will do two rounds of content edits with my mentee, given the story doesn’t need a huge rewrite of course.
THREE: My all time favorite book would probably have to be Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. That book…it turned me into an angst lover and I will never stop reading or writing that angst because of it.
J. R. Yates
J. R. Yates is a word nerd through and through. When she isn’t writing or reading, she practices as a pediatric speech-language pathologist (SLP) and herds her three bilingual children. She often jokes that she spends all day at work trying to get kids to talk, and the rest of her time at home trying to get her own kids to stop! Married to the love of her life, her favorite moments are quiet evenings with her husband sharing a nice glass of wine at their home in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Time alone, hiding out in a café, writing about sexy heroes that shred her heart is her bliss.
ONE: A submission that shows that the writer hasn’t learned their craft yet (e.g., lots of telling), would an instant pass for me. I want to know that the potential mentor understands the basics of the craft. Things like comma splicing, too many similes, or smaller stylistic issues can be modified in two months. I’m looking for a submission that is well written overall but needs help with the story structure. I can help with a sagging middle, a character arc that isn’t properly developed, and the like. The focus will be on the story telling.
TWO: I will provide an edit letter and in-line notes in the manuscript, with a focus on development. I will do a second read-through, providing in-line notes to help polish the manuscript.
THREE: I find this question very difficult. So many books have inspired me in different ways as a writer. Recently, I read The Luckiest Girl Alive. The voice and story telling are tremendous and I strive for that.
Jami Nord & Co-Mentor K. T. Hanna
Jami has interned for Entangled publishing, Bree Ogden (while at D4EO), and The Bent Agency. She has experience handling extensive amounts of slush and evaluating hundreds of manuscripts in reports. Her love of books led her to a BA in English. She adores stories with a strong voice no matter the genre, and routinely reads all forms of speculative fiction, romance and erotica, thrillers, mysteries, contemporary (especially dark ones), and pretty much any random novel that transports her to another world. She’s followed the publishing industry for over a decade, though only had the courage to risk a professional move when she upended her life to move cross country from Texas to Philadelphia in 2012.
Before she started working in publishing, she regularly managed to read 150 books a year, and is still reading over a book a week this year despite the workload of her day job and editing. #Pitchwars adult mentor and #Pitchmadness industry advisor and first reader. Also a giant food nerd, and general geek.
In 2012 K.T. participated in the inaugural #PitchMadness, and has been slush diving with glee for every #PitchMadness since. This love of finding hidden slush gems as well as a turn as a #PitchWars mentor led her to seek to refine her skills further. For fifteen months from 2014-2015 she ecstatically devoured manuscripts and filled in reader reports for The Bent Agency.
K.T. writes and reads all types of speculative fiction, loves nail-biting thrillers, and curling up with a good paranormal novel.
Originally from Australia, where she studied law, business, and psychology, K.T. now lives in Kansas with her husband, daughter, corgi, and cat. She’s lived on three continents and is bilingual in German. After seven years as a Human Resources Manager, she’s turned her critical eye and organizational skills to Chimera.
Her debut novel: Chameleon (The Domino Project #1) released on August 4th, 2015.
Kirkus Reviews really liked it. Jami Nord edited it.
Note: She is still searching for her Tardis.
ONE for Jami: Voice HAS to be there. If there isn’t a sense of voice, nothing can add that in. I also am looking for things that are very marketable within their genre, because unfortunately, if the concept is a dead one, it doesn’t matter how good your writing is, you’re not going to get a book published through traditional houses, and that’s really the end goal for my mentees. Most people need help balancing their description and tying their dialogue into the prose, so that’s an easy fix for me, as is adjusting pacing and plot elements. I do tend to look for the core of a story, and making sure that’s solid. Once that’s good, everything else is fixable.
ONE for KT: Voice. It’s the one thing I can’t help fix. If the voice isn’t there, then any proposed help I give could taint it and make it not wholly the author’s. My strengths are characterization and plot, so if it’s a fix like that that’s needed, I would never shy away.
Usually I ask for stories that are amazing, I don’t care the genre or the trope. If the writing is there, if the voice sucks me in, I’ll do everything I can to help it. However this year around, I’ll probably have to defer to Jami – unmarketable or not currently favorable leads to heartache on both sides. So while I won’t rule out any story, marketability and current market timing may tip my choice.
TWO for Jami: KT and I have a method we used last year, and we’ll probably do this again. We both read it, making general notes that we compile into one round of feedback. Then she goes over the result again, then after any further suggestions, I do a very close, line level pass to make sure phrasings work and the details are consistent. This may change depending on the needs of the manuscript, of course, but expect 3 passes with an increasing level of detail/nitpicking.
TWO for KT: What she said. I tend to focus on repetition and bad habits too, and hope that I’ve taken care of most of those before Jami does her final pass. It worked really well last year, so that’s what we’ll do this year again.
THREE for Jami: I can’t pick!! Seriously, I was the quiet kid in the back as a child, reading through entire series in a sitting. Some top favorites are Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, from which you can learn a lot about weaving description into the world, Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, from which I’ve picked up a fondness for showing internal conflict through external actions, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, which I suspect is brewing some kind of absurdist magical realism crossbreed in my brain.
THREE for KT: Not hard at all for me to pick, but it’s never a book someone’s heard of.
The Time Master Trilogy by Louise Cooper. These are books that I read over and over again, and I’m not really a re-reader. In the end, you’re never sure if good or evil won, and it’s amazing. The lines are different shades of grey and it always makes me think. I wanted to write books like that.
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