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Mentor and Mentee Five Years Later: Checking in with Tamara Girardi and Molly E. Lee

Monday, 31 January 2022  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

Ever wonder what happens after Pitch Wars?

Well… we’ve got a great guest post from 2016 mentee Tamara Girardi and her mentor, Molly Lee.

And with that, take it away! (Make sure to check the end of the post for links and info!)

By Tamara Girardi and Molly E. Lee

Tamara and Molly met through Pitch Wars in 2016 when Molly chose Tamara to mentor with her young adult contemporary manuscript, Gridiron Girl. Gridiron Girl will release as Tamara’s debut on March 3, 2022 from Wise Wolf Books. In this interview, the duo catches up, five years later, to share their experiences and insights. 

Tamara: You’ve read Gridiron Girl at least twice now! Thank you for that, by the way. What is it about the book that stood out to you then and makes it worthy of publication in the competitive YA market now?

Molly: It was my absolute honor to read Gridiron Girl and I’m still captivated by this story! It’s an authentic, relatable journey about owning your passion and your worth that I think the market desperately needs right now. It’s refreshing and unique while also heartfelt and swoony. Reading about Julia’s journey and her perseverance throughout all the trials that come with playing a male-dominated sport was so inspiring! The moment I read the first few pages, I knew I would stay up all night to finish it. Julia’s character is just so likable and as a reader you really feel her situation and are rooting for her throughout every page! You’re such a talented author and I can’t wait until young adult readers get their hands on this incredible story!

Molly: We all know why I fell in love with Gridiron Girl, but I know readers would love to hear what inspired you to write the story?

Tamara: I’ve been immersed in football for a long time. My closest friends in middle school and high school played football, and senior year, I started dating the quarterback. He taught me the correct form to throw a football on one of our dates, and he quizzed me on plays and reading defenses, too. He was the oldest of three boys. All of them played quarterback. While I watched them play in the backyard one day, I wondered if they’d had a sister, would she want to play football, too? That was the kernel of the idea, and it grew from there with lots of research and passion. Now, that quarterback is my husband, and he coaches high school football, specializing in quarterbacks. The youngest of the three brothers coaches quarterbacks for the Kansas City Chiefs. My ten-year-old son now plays quarterback, so the football-rich tradition is definitely continuing! 

Tamara: You’ve written so many amazing books! I don’t think I can pick a favorite, although weather-chasing has never been so sexy as when you wrote it. Can you tell us about your most recent publication?

Molly: You’re way too kind to me! Seriously, I just adore you. Right now I’m finishing up the Ember of Night series (young adult paranormal). The third book Spark of Ash will release in May of 2022! The series is a fresh take on the angels and demons genre with a few major plot twists along the way. Throw in some snarky secondary characters and a hero that will make you melt, and you’ve got the Ember of Night series 🙂

Molly: Which character in Gridiron Girl do you identify most with? Do you put pieces of people you know in real life into your characters?

Tamara: Can I first say – I love snarky secondary characters. They’re my favorite, and I probably identify most with them!  In Gridiron Girl, though, that’s a good question. I’m an ambitious person, so I can say that I definitely connect to Julia’s ambition, but she is so much braver than I am! I would have cared way too much what people thought when I was her age to try out for the football team. I think that’s the great thing about writing. We can take a piece of ourselves and expand that personality trait in a character, taking risks the way we might not in real life. 

That said, there are so many pieces of real people in this book. Julia’s closest friends on the team, Square and D, are mashups of my wonderful high school friends, and the sibling dynamics reflect my husband and brother-in-laws’ love and support for each other. One of my high school friends who is an amazing athlete inspired Julia. When I thought to myself, what kind of girl could pull this off, I thought of this friend. And her adoring relationship with her Abuela inspired the touching relationship between Julia and Abuelita in Gridiron Girl. 

Tamara: Pitch Wars is an amazing experience. I’m so grateful you selected me to mentor, and I’ve gained so much from this community. As this year’s class goes into the agent showcase, what advice do you have for them?

Molly: I’d say this: Take a deep breath. Congratulate yourself on your amazing accomplishment! You wrote a whole damn book! That is such a huge milestone, and it deserves to be recognized! And don’t give up. This business is filled with roadblocks, but if you’re passionate about having your story told/read, never stop working toward that end goal! And best of luck!

Molly: What advice can you offer to aspiring authors out there?

Tamara: It’s a long game. I remember attending conferences early in my career and hearing authors say it took them ten years to get published. I thought it wouldn’t be me. No way. I was right. It took me fifteen years! It’s both difficult and inspiring to see writers around you sign agents and contracts when you feel stalled. I’ve been agented, and we chose to part ways. I’ve had a book die on sub – Gridiron Girl, actually – but you never know what will bring you to your goals. For me, it was a recommendation from the lovely Nova McBee, author of the Calculated series. We met as mentees in the 2016 Pitch Wars class. Late last spring, she offered to share my work with her publisher. After fifteen years of writing and submitting, I couldn’t believe it, but Wise Wolf Books read two of my manuscripts in four days and came back with an offer of publication. Like I said, it’s a long game. Keep writing. Keep connecting with other writers. Keep learning. And definitely keep your head up. 

Tamara: Speaking of the long game, you’re a veteran at this now. For me, with my debut releasing soon and for other Pitch Wars writers who will debut in the near future, can you share your strategies for continuing in this business, for building a career as an author?

Molly: The one piece of advice I always offer is never giving up and to always continue learning! You’re never finished improving in your craft and the ability to learn new things with each book is a huge part of growing in this business. Read widely and in various genres! And remember when you first sit down with that fresh idea, you’re writing for an audience of one! You! If you write what you’re passionate about it will resonate on the page. 

Molly: What can we expect to see from you in the future after Gridiron Girl releases?

Tamara: Thanks for asking! Gridiron Girl is the first in a series of sports novels about female athletes who are students at Iron Valley High School. The second book is Disorder on the Court, about the sophomore volleyball player who attempts to fill Julia’s very big shoes when she quits volleyball to play football. The team is in disarray, and this book is about a young player finding her place both on and off the court. Two other books will follow—one about a wrestler and another about an archer. All four books release in 2022! Phew! 

I’ve also signed with Wise Wolf Books on a second series that will release in 2023, so I will be busy writing for a while, which I am so in love with!

Tamara: I love that you asked about the future. I know you’re also someone who is always planning ahead and writing prolifically. What can readers expect from you in the future?

Molly: After Spark of Ash releases I’ll be working on another top secret young adult project for Entangled Teen and I can’t wait until I’m allowed to say more about it! Until then, you can rest easy knowing it’ll be a series filled with sass and a little bit of spice!

Tamara: Before I applied to Pitch Wars, I had literally decided to stop writing. When I submitted, I told myself this was it. If I didn’t get in, I was walking away from writing, at least for a while. It had been too much for too long. But then you picked me! Thank you a million times, and thank you Pitch Wars.  How about you, Molly? Any last words? 

Molly: I completely understand the frustration and exhaustion that comes with playing the long game in this business! Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back and take a break, and that in no way means you’re giving up! I’m so happy you decided to reach out through Pitch Wars. I was so beyond thrilled when I saw Gridiron Girl in my inbox! The pitch had me hooked and then I couldn’t stop reading once I got my hands on the pages. I’m so pumped that it releases in March! 

Tamara Girardi

Tamara Girardi writes books for teens and children. Her debut young adult novel, Gridiron Girl, releases March 3, 2022 from Wise Wolf Books and will be followed by three other sports novels in the series. Tamara also has a debut board book, Why, Daddy? Why? about the never-ending questions children ask and the endless love parents have for them anyway. The book releases in May 2022. Also an academic, Tamara is an Associate Professor of English at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College where she teaches creative writing, technical writing, composition, and literature online. She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband and four adorably rambunctious children and loves the daily adventures life brings their way. 

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pre-Purchase Gridiron Girl

Molly E. Lee

Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her romance novels, Ask Me Anything, the Grad Night series, and the Love on the Edge series. She is a 1001 Dark Nights Discovery Author for 2017. Molly writes Adult and Young Adult contemporary 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 exploring the outdoors around her mountain home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.

Website | Instagram | TikTok


Filed: Books, Interviews

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