Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is hearing about successes. Today we celebrate PJ Switzer who signed with Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency after Pitch Madness 2017! PJ was part of Monica M. Hoffman and Brenda Drake’s #TeamIceCreamSea, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for her. So please join me in congratulating PJ as she shares with us her awesome success story.
So let’s get this party started. PJ, what made you decide to enter Pitch Madness, and how did you feel during the contest?
Actually, I entered Pitch Madness because of dumb luck and my husband. I just happened to be on Twitter and saw the deadline was midnight that night. I thought about it then decided not to do it. I’d received so many rejections that I’d reached the, “What’s the point?” stage of querying. But my husband pushed me to enter. He used the tried and true logic of, “What have you got to lose?” And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
I’m not going to lie, I took stress eating to a whole new level during the contest. The first round was hard. I was absolutely convinced my entry wasn’t going to make it. I soothed the worry with lots of chocolate cake. It helped. When my entry was selected I practically danced with joy.
But as hard as the selection round was, the agent round was worse. I read the other contestants entries, which were amazing, and knew no agent would want my manuscript. So, I decided to quit writing and become a cocktail waitress in a Venezuelan nightclub. Before I got the chance to buy my airline ticket the agent round ended and something wonderful happened.
Which blog were you on and what was the title of your entry? How many requests did you get? Any other details you’d like to share?
I was on Brenda Drake’s blog with my manuscript, The Cold Place. I received 4 requests for the full manuscript and 9 requests for partials, which, if I do my math right, equals 13 total requests.
Brenda and Monica, what made you choose Pj’s entry to host on your team?
Monica: What made THE COLD PLACE stand out from the rest was the voice and narrative style. It immediately got my attention. When I got to the end of the 250-words, I not only wanted more or it, I needed it. I needed to know what happened to her main character. I instantly connected with her MC even within the first page!
Brenda: That VOICE!! Hooked me right off. Plus the premise was so intriguing. PJ is a wonderful writer and her prose and narration is spot on. I don’t doubt we’ll be holding her book baby soon. I’m so excited for her!
So you sent in your request to your agent. Was it a partial or a full? Tell us the details of the submission and wait time you had before Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency asked for the Call?
Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency requested a full manuscript. I sent it to her on March 17th, the same day Pitch Madness ended, and just two weeks later she offered me representation.
Okay, this is my favorite part *sits at the edge of her seat*. Tell us about THE Call.
Well, it started with THE Email. Kari sent me an email late on a Thursday evening. She wanted to set up a time to chat. She didn’t say she was going to offer representation but I could tell from the wording that it was a possibility. We agreed to talk at 2:00 pm the following day. I was so nervous I barely slept. To keep myself awake while I waited that day, I drank enough Diet Coke to kill a horse. But I used the time to research what to ask during our conversation so it worked out.
Everything clicked once we were on the phone. She was fun and smart and not at all put off by the fact that I told her every story idea I’ve ever had in my life. And I loved all the editorial suggestions she made for the manuscript, too. I feel extremely lucky to have her as my agent.
Can you tell us a little about your book?
The Cold Place is a Young Adult Contemporary novel. It tells the story of fifteen-year-old Sam Guerrero, a self-harmer who hides in icy numbness to avoid dealing with his past and the accusation of arson that sent him to a secured facility.
How long had you been querying before you got your agent?
I queried The Cold Place for seven months.
Okay, PJ, Brenda, and Monica, let’s have some fun.
Coffee or Tea?
PJ: Neither. I’m a diet soda girl, all the way.
Brenda: Um, do you know me? Coffee!!
Potato chips or chocolate?
PJ: going to go with potato chips but I really love chocolate. If only there were some way to combine the two.
Monica: Potato chips all the way.
Brenda: PJ there is a way. Potato chips dipped in chocolate!
What’s your favorite cookie?
PJ: One that someone else bakes for me.
Monica: Raisin Oatmeal
Brenda: My aunt’s Snickerdoodles. They are to die for!!
Which vacation would you prefer: camping out in the wilderness or shopping in a quaint town?
PJ: Definitely shopping in a quaint town. You can ask my kids, I am NOT a camper.
Monica: Shopping. Unless “camping” includes a Winnebago with an indoor toilet and some way to shower.
Brenda: Definitely a quaint town. I like porcelain and nature can be scary.
Where do you write?
PJ: Either my office or my bed. Depending on the mood of the day.
Monica: In my office corner of my bedroom mainly. If I need to get out of the house, I take my Neo Alpha Smart and go to Barnes & Noble.
Brenda: Either my home office, coffee shop, Barnes & Noble, or a library. But I tend to get more done in the home office.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
PJ: There are so many but the first name that popped into my mind was Lois Duncan. I can remember reading her books when I was a teenager and being completely absorbed. I loved the magical/paranormal elements. I go back and read her books even now.
Monica: I know I’m not the only one who has said this, but after reading Twilight, I found my motivation to write. My passion for writing and reading was always there in the back of my mind. I never thought it was a possibility for me. Not until I read this book.
Brenda: I’d say C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I read the Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so many times when I was younger. I love all things fantasy!
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?
PJ: J.K. Rowling. She’s funny, creative, and determined. And I’d like to spend a day somewhere with good food just brainstorming ideas and laughing.
Monica: The author I would like to spend a day with would be Leigh Bardugo at Comic Con! And the character I can think of who best describes my personality would be Amy in Across the Universe by Beth Revis. She can’t sit still, she yearns the truth in all things, and will fight for what she wants!
Brenda: J.K. Rowling. Jinx, PJ! I just want to learn all the things from her.
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
PJ: I asked my husband for help with this one and his answer was Sybil. He’s hilarious. I tend to think of myself as combination of Gonzo and Fozzy Bear from The Muppets. I’m weird and I do crazy things but I’m kind of neurotic about it the whole time.
Brenda: Hahaha! That is funny, PJ. I think the Cheshire Cat would fit me. Only those who know me will get that reference.
And the big question, are you an outline or panster type?
PJ: I believe books are like babies, you handle each one differently. I’m a panster by nature but there have been stories where I just couldn’t start until I had an outline in place.
Monica: I’m a hybrid. I write a very rough not-set-in-stone outline to see where I need to start, and then I morph into a straight up panster. I know a few plot points I need to hit and that’s about it.
Brenda: I’m a plot-grapher. I like to have a road map to follow.
Before I untie you from the chair, do you have any advice for those seeking representation? Anything you wished you’d done differently?
PJ: DO NOT GIVE UP! Keep writing. Keep querying. Find friends within the writing community who will pick you up when you feel like quitting.
I wish I had given myself more time. I was always in a hurry to get a manuscript finished. Get it edited. Query it. I wish I had taken more time with each step. Oddly enough, I think the process would have been faster because I wasn’t trying to force anything.
Monica: The only thing I would have done differently…actually no. I’m glad I wrote a trend chaser of a book that went absolutely nowhere. This book taught me how to write better. How to write for myself and forget about what publishing is looking for at the moment. This book taught me what I was doing wrong. So my only piece of advice I give over and over again. Don’t give up. But at the same time, you also need to recognize when it’s time to move on, when something is not working. This is hard to learn, but a lesson everyone must take to heart. I’m so glad I noticed how horribly flawed my first book was. And now I’m a better writer because of it. Push forward, always be writing. Be willing to learn and grow as a writer. If you do these things, you’ll be unstoppable. Write on!
Brenda: This business is tough. Patience and perseverance is key, so don’t give up. Keep moving forward. You never know, your success might be right around the corner.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I can’t wait to hold the actual book when it comes out. Congratulations, and here’s hoping you sell tons of books. And now it’s time to dance!
Now, go check out PJ’s Twitter and follow her …
PJ Switzer writer of middle grade, young adult, and whatever suits her fancy. Denver Broncos fan. Represented by
@KariSutherland of Bradford Literary Agency.