The best part of hosting pitch contests is being a part of a writer’s successes. Today we celebrate Suzanne Park and her Pitch Wars mentors, Kellye Garrett and Sarah Henning! Suzanne recently signed with Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency, and we couldn’t be happier for her. So please join me in congratulating Suzanne, Kellye, and Sarah as they share with us their awesome Pitch Wars success story.
Suzanne, what was it about Sarah and Kellye that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Kellye and Sarah were looking for mysteries (with strong voice and humor), and their second choice was commercial women’s fiction. I thought they were a long shot honestly, especially if they got a lot of mystery queries. Kellye and Sarah, thank you for picking me! You can have my first born (heads up: she is a talkative six-year-old and allergic to shrimp).
Sarah and Kellye, what was it about Suzanne’s novel MY NAME IS NOT JULIE that hooked you?
We definitely loved the voice and the humor. Suzanne just has a very unique way of explaining life’s little we’ve-all-been-there moments that feels so fresh and unique. We also loved that it was Korean-American #ownvoices women’s fiction, which is not something you see every day—even though we should!
Suzanne, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Well, it was a little easier than giving birth. So Pitch Wars wasn’t the most grueling life milestone for me I guess? Naaah, Pitch Wars was fine. After I received my first edit letter I needed to accept that my book baby was going to be hacked apart, and then I mulled over my mentors’ revision requests for a few days to think strategically about how I’d tackle everything. Time management was key. Once I had a game plan I dove in and wrote like crazy.
Sarah and Kellye, tell us about your experience mentoring Suzanne.
Well, first off, Suzanne is HILARIOUS. Which made for some laugh-out-loud-at-your-day-job moments (sorry, boss). Secondly, she was a total champ. We gave her a LOT to chew on (we’re very picky) and she handled all of our changes with aplomb, including a huge switcheroo to some of her plot points. She was professional and self-motivated and a joy to nag.
Suzanne after Pitch Wars, you signed with Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
I got a “let’s talk” email from Brent Taylor on the same day I sent him my query and manuscript. I know, his turnaround was crazy. How did he read everything in seven hours? I was so excited and nervous. Once we spoke on the phone, I could feel his excitement reverb through the phone. It was like he loved my manuscript more than I did. I *almost* accepted his offer at the end of the conversation, which I know is a no-no, but I was like, “Who can out-passion THIS guy?”
Suzanne, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Finding 140 other people who were serious about writing books was amazing. And finding a crit partner and discovering “neighbors” in the group within a 20 mile radius of my house was like hitting the jackpot. Writing can be so lonely. Now I know 140 people who “get it.”
My mentors put me through an eight-week boot camp on plotting, pacing, and planting. They were tough but also very encouraging, and I appreciate everything they did to help my manuscript shine. Our email threads were hilarious and entertaining too, especially the ones during the time of agent round. They were super supportive and encouraging during that stressful time.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Suzanne: Narnia, because of the mythical creatures. And I’ve always wanted to try Turkish delight.
Sarah: The Roaring Twenties of The Great Gatsby. I mean, opulence and fireworks? The kids would love it. I’d just have to keep them away from jealous murderers.
Kellye: I’m actually pretty cool with this world so I don’t think I would live anywhere else. If I had to pick a version of this world, it definitely would not The Walking Dead Earth. It would be Harry Potter Earth. But after book 7 because that’s when (Spoiler Alert for the one person on Earth who hasn’t read the books) Voldemort is dead!!
Somewhere in the (known or unknown) universe, you’re in a high-speed chase and have to escape the bad guys. Who are you running from and what fictional character is your side-kick?
Suzanne: I don’t drive fast and I don’t run. I jog slower than the pace of my mom speed-walking. So I would die pretty quickly in any kind of high speed chase. Can I have an evil fictional character be my sidekick though? I want that crazy-ass T-1000 shape-shifting android cop from Terminator 2 to be mine.
Sarah: So, I actually do run, but I’m slow and run long distances—marathons and ultramarathons, because I’m slightly crazy. So, my plan would be to out-run said speedster. If they’re really chugging along, they’d tire out fast, and if they’re driving, I’d just make it to somewhere they couldn’t drive and then they’d have to sprint. I’d just have to dodge them until they’re gassed. Anyhow, my sidekick would totally be Jack Reacher. Not that he’s anybody’s sidekick, but he could keep the bad guys (Nazis? Let’s go with Nazis) at bay until my runner’s high kicked in.
Kellye: I totally want to steal Suzanne’s answer! But since that would be plagiarism, I’ll go with next best thing. Neo in the Matrix solely for the requisite section of the movie/book where the two leads inexplicably hook up even though their lives are in extreme danger and they could die at any second. We’d be running from the Walkers from The Walking Dead because zombies don’t seem to move fast.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Suzanne: The Ansible from Ender’s Game. I guess I read/watch more sci-fi and fantasy that I realized…
Sarah: Um, can I pick the arena from The Hunger Games? I mean, the whole world can shift and change at the click of a button. It’s clever and terrifying.
Kellye: This time I totally am going to steal Suzanne’s answer! “The Ansible from Ender’s Game.”
Thank you for sharing your Pitch Wars Success Story with us! CONGRATULATIONS!
Suzanne Park is a Korean-Ame
In 2004 she was a finalist in the Oxygen Network’s “Girls Behaving Badly” talent search, and was also selected to appear on BET’s highest-ra
Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in 2017.
Sarah Henning is an author with HarperCollins’ Katherine Tegen imprint. In addition, she has worked for The Palm Beach Post, The Kansas City Star and The Associated Press, among others. When she’s not hunkered down over her computer, she’s probably running ultramarathons, chasing her two adorable rugrats or pestering her husband to give beets a chance. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @shhenning and/or contact Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency to know all about her writing.