We’re so excited whenever one of our mentees gets an agent offer or a publishing deal. Celebrating these successes is one of our favorite parts of the Pitch Wars process. We hope you can join us in congratulating Erica Waters and her mentor, Lisa Amowitz. Erica signed with Lauren Spieller of Triada US., and we couldn’t be happier for them!
Erica what was it about Lisa that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Lisa read a different manuscript of mine after I won a first page critique from her through the Pitch Wars Rafflecopter Workshop. She gave me some brief, extremely helpful feedback on that book that showed me how incredible she’d be to have as a Pitch Wars mentor. She was clearly enthusiastic, kind, and brilliant at whipping a book into shape. I knew she’d be able help me to make SHADY GROVE, MY LITTLE LOVE shine.
Lisa what was it about Erica Waters’s SHADY GROVE, MY LITTLE LOVE that hooked you?
I first came across Erica’s writing when she won a first page critique from me. My comments were basically—THIS IS AMAZING. And can I read the whole thing? And I did! But then Erica informed me that the manuscript I had started drooling over wasn’t even the one she was subbing to Pitch Wars. I urged her to pitch me and luckily she did. I TRIED not to love hers more—but I couldn’t help myself. Erica’s writing goes straight to my heart. I found myself actually crying in some parts of the manuscript. I just knew she was THE ONE for me.
Erica, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
The key word here is INTENSE. I rewrote about half the book, changing character motivation, dumping several scenes and adding many more, and doing major work on conflict and pacing. I learned so much from Lisa about how to maintain tension and keep the reader hanging on every word. The process was at times frustrating and scary, but overall, it was exhilarating!
Lisa tell us about your experience mentoring Erica.
First, let’s establish something. Erica and I could not be more different! She’s a soft-spoken southerner and I’m a hyperactive, outspoken New York Squirrel. One of our funniest moments was when I tried to read a part of her ms with the world’s most dreadful Southern drawl.
So, I think, quite likely, I may have scared the living daylights out of her after our first phone call. And then came my 75 page edit letter. So, yeah—I think, at first, Erica rued the day she ever subbed me!
But then something magical happened. Erica got used to me and my editing style. And she got over her fear of the process (and hopefully her rabid squirrel mentor). She rolled up her sleeves, dived in with fervor and worked so hard I started calling her Hermione. I still think of her in this way—my dear, bookish mentee, Wizard of words and feats of hair-raising editorial prowess. I kind of worship her brilliance.
Erica, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Lauren Spieller of Triada US. 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 didn’t have a ton of requests during Pitch Wars, so I started cold querying agents right away. A lovely agent offered representation, and I let all the other agents who were reading the manuscript know. And wow, the emails started pouring in! There were several very kind step-asides and then four more offers. (Having multiple offers was equal parts terrifying and delightful.) Lauren responded to my nudge email the same day, saying she was excited to read, and the very next day she emailed to set up a phone call. It was clear to me by the end of the call that Lauren was the agent I wanted to work with. She loved all the same things about the book that I love and knew exactly how to make the book stronger. Her editorial vision resonated with me, and I felt so comfortable talking with her. After emailing with her a bit more and speaking with her clients, it became clear that Lauren is an agent who goes after what she wants with passion and intensity. I knew I wanted someone like that on my team!
Lauren, what was it about Erica’s book that hooked you?
Everything about Erica’s book hooked me! From the first line to the last, I was absolutely smitten. Shady has an unforgettable voice, and I really connected with what the novel has to say about the power of grief and love, and the lengths we go to for the people we care about—even when those lengths hurt us. I was also extremely taken with the inventive magic, gorgeous setting, and expertly drawn romance between not only Shady and Sarah, her longtime friend and bandmate, but Shady and Cedar, who she falls for over the course of the story. It’s a truly special book, and I’m honored to be representing it.
Erica how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars gave me a writing community, which I didn’t really have before. My fellow Pitch Wars mentees became a source of comfort, support, and advice. And my mentor became my cheerleader, coach, drill sergeant, and friend. This community helped me through the highs and lows of revision and submission. That’s the most valuable part of Pitch Wars.
The Pitch Wars experience also taught me how to truly revise. I’d drafted two books before SHADY GROVE, but I’d never done revision like this before. I learned that the only way to successfully navigate revision and ultimately produce the best possible book is to let go of the fear of breaking the book. Lisa was instrumental in this, guiding me through my fears and anxieties and helping me to see what the book could become. I’m a much stronger, more adventurous writer after Pitch Wars.
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?
Erica: Middle-earth. I love Lord of the Rings, and let’s be honest—Middle-earth is in desperate need of some more badass ladies. I’d be happy hanging out with the hobbits or the elves but would probably keep my distance from those pesky men.
Lisa: I’d love to time travel back to colonial days because I’m nosy and fascinated by the American Revolution. Then get the heck out of there as fast as I can. Okay—it’s not fiction, but like I said—I’m really nosy.
You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?
Erica: I only like to write in one place—at home in my attic office, which my friends have dubbed the Hobbit Hole because it’s little and cozy and it’s hard to persuade me to come out of it. I’d have Earl Grey tea and ginger-studded chocolate and speak to no one except my two dogs, Nutmeg and Luna.
Lisa: Tea. Lots and lots of tea in many exotic flavors (lavender is a fave). My desk would be beside a crackling fire, in a well-heated castle. I’d like to be served by a butler who’d bring my scones and clotted tea on a tray. Okay—I just want to be Lady Mary in Downton Abbey—okay?
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Erica: I’ve always been a self-motivated person, so I don’t need too much prodding. However, I have a black-and-white photo of T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf tacked to the wall by my desk. They are looking straight-on at the camera, slightly glaring and disdainful. Whenever I start getting lazy, one look from them sets me straight.
Lisa: Um—Winston Churchill? No seriously. No surrender! Basically, I’m kind of a maniac. I don’t rely on anyone to motivate me. I just keep going—No Surrender!
What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Erica: Hogwarts, no contest. Drafty old castle, books, magic, talking portraits, ghosts? I would love it.
Lisa: Is it really boring if I say Hogwarts, too? I mean—nothing really comes close for me.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Erica: I want to be BFFs with Samwise Gamgee and Luna Lovegood. And I’d take Éowyn and Buffy Summers for my kick-butt allies.
Lisa: Hmm—I want to have a fling with Darrow from Red Rising. Yep. I’d fight by his side, too, but I want him to be wildly in love with me.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Erica Waters, Mentee
Erica grew up in the pine woods of rural Florida but now resides in Nashville, TN, where she has learned to love bluegrass music and has even started learning banjo. She has a Master’s degree in English and teaches writing courses at a small liberal arts college. She is now represented by Lauren Spieller of Triada US.
Lisa Amowitz, Mentor
Lisa is the author of three fantasy/thrillers for young adults,
UNTIL BETH, VISION , and BREAKING GLASS. She is also a cover designer and
and a Professor of Graphic Design at Bronx Community College. She’s recently started a pop-up editing service, the Choppy Shop. @thechoppyshop
Lauren Spieller, Agent
Associate Literary Agent Lauren Spieller comes to TriadaUS with a background in literary scouting and editorial consulting. She has a sharp editorial eye, and is passionate about author advocacy. Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as select Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse and underrepresented voices. Lauren is the author of Your Destination Is on the Left (Simon & Schuster, June 2018).