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 …
Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She graduated from BYU, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and hopes to one day own a dog.
ONE: I’m looking for originality, both in the premise and with the main character. I’m not interested in the trope of a girl-gone-warrior or a snarky voice. Easy fixes are small to medium consistency errors, plot holes, or character motivations. Automatic passes are large problems in those areas, cliche ideas, and grammar/syntax that will take far too long to get into shape.
TWO: Different edits require different game plans, so I don’t have one ready before reading the submissions. I put the most emphasis on developmental edits, because if plot/character/setting don’t work, the story will not work. A misspelled word here or there or an awkward sentence now and then will not make an editor or agent pass on a good book. Story comes first.
THREE: This is an impossible question! I don’t know about all-time favorite, but the book that may have effected my writing the most is Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones. I love the sense of whimsy to it and have tried to incorporate that whimsy into many of my own stories. (#2 would be the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, which has seriously shaped how I do magic systems.)
Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International Gymnast, The Couch Gymnast, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, lands on 2/7/2017.
ONE: I’m looking for dynamic characters I’ll follow anywhere, an emotional hook, and settings that come to life. I love dark and heart-wrenching realism just as much as I enjoy laugh-out-loud funny (and if you combine both, all the better!). If the sample pages pique my interest, I’m happy to help with plot problems or digging deeper into characters. However, inattention to spelling, grammar, and mechanics would be a pass for me (#professorprobs).
TWO: Soon after the mentees are announced, I send Track Changes commentary in the body of the novel, as well as an edit letter that highlights the manuscript’s strengths while noting areas that need work. I always provide suggestions on how to go forward, and I love bouncing ideas back and forth. I’ve found this method allows plenty of time for mutual brainstorming and discussion, making the process collaborative.
THREE: The high-brow reply: JANE EYRE. The get-in-your-chair-and-write reply: Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s SWEET VALLEY HIGH hijinks and the venerable BABY-SITTERS CLUB gals inspired me to sit at the family computer as a kid and start cranking out stories of my own.
Jennifer Blackwood is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When not chasing after her toddler, you can find her binging on episodes of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and locking herself in her office to write.
ONE: I’m looking for a submission with great voice. I want it to hook me from the first sentence, and have me begging for more by the time I finish the passage. I can forgive a lot as long as the voice is genuine and compelling. Automatic pass would be a submission riddled with typos. If you can’t put in the time to polish a few pages, I’ll be wondering how much work the rest of your manuscript needs.
TWO: I like to do multiple rounds of edits. The first pass will be critiquing overall plot structure, making sure all scenes are necessary to furthering the plot/character arcs. Depending on how polished the book is, there will be a second, or maybe even third round of edits. This will focus on tightening prose, grammar, etc. I like to give constructive criticism that makes you think about your book. I’m a firm believer that an author should only implement what they feel resonates with their story–after all, it’s YOUR book. With that said, I’m coming at it from an outsiders perspective, so I may see problems that you don’t, but I always caution authors to only change what they feel comfortable with.
THREE: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. His writing is GORGEOUS. He is the king of beautifully crafted sentences. If there is one thing I can take away from his books, it’s that I always need to take the time to rework sentences/scenes until they are compelling and impactful.
Mónica Bustamante Wagner & Co-Mentor Susan Gray Foster
Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.
She’s represented by Lauren MacLeod and is the author of FROSH, a NA trilogy (The Studio/Paper Lantern Lit).
Susan Gray Foster writes YA novels and strives to make a little magic with words. She lives with her ever-patient Aussie husband in Arizona’s beautiful Sonoran desert, where she also enjoys drinking tea, songwriting, reading, and hanging out with her dogs. She believes in empathy, creativity, and compassion for all living creatures. She’s her kids’ number one fan. Susan is represented by Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates.
ONE: We’re looking for a high concept premise with a MC and a voice that feel authentic and engaging and draw the reader into a story that demands to be read. We believe other issues can be fixed.
TWO: Generally speaking, we do one “big picture” pass for larger plot, character, and structural issues, and then do one pass for more detailed line-editing. Mentees need to be prepared to work their butts off, spending every possible moment on their manuscript during the two months available.
THREE for Monica: I have so many favorite books. But definitely one of them would be A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. Because it made me feeeeeel SO MUCH! I cried like a baby with that one. Love it when a book touches you on an emotional level and it makes you laugh hard or cry or feel butterflies in your stomach. Speaking of butterflies–I loved THE SCORPIO RACES, too. I thought it was so well-written and the romance was nicely done, and it had stakes and danger and fantasy. I could go on and on!
THREE for Susan: I find it impossible to name an all-time favorite, but a favorite from the last few years is Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR AND PARK, because the characters and their story of young love feels one hundred percent authentic and I fell one hundred percent in love with them. ELEANOR AND PARK is one of my “go-to” books for studying how to convey authentic emotions and relationships.
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