I can hardly believe how many years its been since Pitch Wars began in 2012 as a small contest providing mentorship to aspiring authors. It seems like yesterday that the idea came to me during an episode of Cupcake Wars, a show where bakers have an assistant to help them prepare the best cupcakes possible for a round of judges. While watching all the yummy creations come together, I thought it would be great to have a publishing contest where agented/published authors, those who are a few steps ahead, could mentor authors’ full manuscripts and guide them through the publishing trenches.
But that’s not where it all began, really. I started my first contest in 2010 while participating in bloghops, which were events where one blogger would host a theme and other bloggers would write something for the theme, post it to their blogs, and then we’d all hop to each blog, read, and comment on the work. When it was my turn, I decided to ask an agent to join us and read the entries. It was a success, so I threw another one. It went well, so I decided to do a larger contest on my blog. I had writers submit a sample of their work, we picked the best possible entries to host on my blog, then had several agents read them and, hopefully, request more pages. But that was sort of boring, so I made it a game theme and invited three other bloggers to help me host it.
The contest was Pitch Madness.
I want to thank all the wonderful Pitch Madness hosts and co-hosts that have helped out with Pitch Madness over the years–Kimberly Chase, K.T. Hanna, Heather Cashman, Erica Chapman, Nikki Roberti, Sharon Johnston, Fiona McLaren, Jeyn Roberts, Rebecca Coffindaffer, Marieke Nijkamp, Summer Heacock, Dannie Morin, Dee Romito, Shelly Watters, Cassandra Marshall, Pintip Dunn, Darcy Woods, Wade Albert White, Timenda Wertz, Mary Ann Marlowe, and Samantha Joyce. A special thank you to Jami Nord for organizing the slush emails over the years, and a huge thank you to the many, many slush readers who’ve dived in when we really needed them. I wish I could name you all, but there are soooo many of you. Please know that I appreciate all you’ve done for me and the contest. You can find all the fun game posts and a list of the slush readers in our post archives.
There were so many great entries that didn’t make it to the agent round that first year, so I came up with the idea to host a Twitter pitch party for those who didn’t get into the Pitch Madness contest, and I invited agents to participate. #PitchMadness would’ve been too long of a hashtag to use and would’ve cut down the allotted characters for a tweet and make it difficult to come up with a pitch, so it was reduced to #PitMad. It was a great success. And it started trending. #PitMad is now held quarterly, same months each year, first Thursday of the month.
As time went on and Pitch Wars grew, more writers turned to it as a chance for guidance in their publishing journey. Pitch Wars went from a once-a-year event to a year-round program featuring query and first page workshops. However, it became too much for only one person to run and there have been many fantastic people who’ve helped get Pitch Wars to what it is today.
The inaugural Pitch Wars agent showcase was hosted on the YA Yearbook blog with Dahlia Adler formatting all the entries. Dan Koboldt helped with some technical stuff in the beginning.
The talented S.P. McConnell was so kind to do some fun artwork for the contests over the years. Only a sampling of his work decorates this page.
My first assistant was Rae Chang, she had it the toughest. It was so difficult for me to accept help. I’m sort of a control freak. She was an excellent resource for the mentors and our new mentor Facebook group. Then came Nikki Roberti, and I had learned to let go some. Nikki helped with blog posts, formatting for the contests, and our Pitch Wars Live events. Monica M. Hoffman came aboard to help out with the blog. Leigh Mar joined Heather in doing the webinars. Kirk Kraft and Shari Schwarz pitched in where needed.
And Pitch Wars grew some more. That’s when the incredible Heather Cashman became the Managing Director. She brought in the Pitch Wars webinars and additional outreach events. We worked wonderfully together and had an amazing two years running the contest and everything connected to it. I will always be thankful for the friendship that formed during our morning talks and late night frustrations over website crashes. The journey was a blast, my friend!
The ever magnificent Joy McCullough was our Mentor Liaison for many years. She had a way with organizing and keeping everyone straight on what they needed to do. And she’d lend an ear whenever someone needed one. Kellye Garrett came on to help Joy for Pitch Wars 2017 and did a tremendous job and is why I chose her to lead Pitch Wars into its next phase.
Tracy Gold was the Mentee Liaison for 2016, and Yamile Mendez took care of our 2017 mentees.
Also in 2017, the talented Mike Chen and Sierra Fong of Atmosphere Author Websites created a beautiful version of the Pitch Wars website that helped us showcase our mentors and our programs.
To date, Pitch Wars has had nearly three hundred successes with writers finding agents and many going on to snag book deals. As Pitch Wars moves forward with a new website and structure, run by a committee and a board of directors, I wanted to remember its legacy. The people who gave so much of their time to help others. To the hundreds of mentors who without them and their generosity Pitch Wars would never be what it is today. To the numerous agents that have participated. To the mentees and the amazing community surrounding Pitch Wars. To Heather’s and my family who had to do without us sometimes. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. And as I gift Pitch Wars to the community, know that I do it with love and joy, hoping that there will be many more successes in Pitch Wars’ future.
Keep chasing your dream, because you never know, it may be just around the corner!
PITCHWARS by Sarah Farnam
Here’s something more about the major players behind Pitch Wars’ legacy …
Brenda Drake, Founding Director
Brenda is the founder of Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and #PitMad and the New York Times bestselling author of THIEF OF LIES, GUARDIAN OF SECRETS, and ASSASSIN OF TRUTHS of the Library Jumpers series, the Fated series, and THUNDERSTRUCK. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). She’s represented by Peter Knapp at The Park Literary Group. Look for her upcoming releases, SEEKING FATE (Fated series #3) coming September 3, 2018, and ANALIESE RISING coming January 8, 2019.
Heather Cashman, former Managing Director of Pitch Wars
With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather’s imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels that range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction. Editorial Assistant at Entangled Publishing. Agent Intern. Former Managing Director of Pitch Wars, #PitMad, and Pitch Madness. Previously an editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, Heather also freelance edits queries, synopses, pages, and full novels for middle grade, young adult, and select adult fiction. Member, SCBWI.
Nikki Roberti, former Media Director of Pitch Wars
Nikki is a professional journalist and marketer with more than a decade of published writing experience. Before writing young adult novels, she was a seven-time award winning playwright with her short pieces performed around the country, including The Kennedy Center in D.C.
Monica M. Hoffman, former Communications Director of Pitch Wars
Monica is a Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy author represented by Laurie McLean and Tricia Skinner of Fuse Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, RWA, and the writing community. She is the Communications Director and a YA mentor for the Pitch Wars organization. She’s a Trekkie, Dr. Who, and Star Wars fanatic, and a PC gamer when she’s not writing or reading. You can find her tweets about all things YA lit & entertaining GIFs on Twitter (@mmhoffman14) and Facebook.
Joy McCullough, former Mentor Liaison for Pitch Wars
Joy writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Blood Water Paint is her debut novel.
Kellye Garrett, former Mentor Liaison and current Managing Director of Pitch Wars
Kellye is the current Managing Director of Pitch Wars and a mentee-turned-mentor. After being selected as a mentee in 2014, she sold her Pitch Wars novel HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (then called IOU) to Midnight Ink. The story about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who investigates a hit-and-run she witnessed recently won the Agatha, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and is nominated for Anthony and Barry awards. HOLLYWOOD ENDING, the second book in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She now works for a leading media company and serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime as the organization’s Publicity Liaison.
Leigh Mar, Webinar Organizer
Leigh is a marketing and communications professional and a young adult author represented by Elana Roth Parker at Laura Dail Literary Agency. She loves to travel (both in reality and through fiction), has an excellent sense of direction, and only ever gets lost on the internet. She was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 before becoming a mentor in 2016. Leigh also runs the Pitch Wars webinar series, has served as a literary agent intern, and was a #TeenPit mentor.
Mike Chen and Sierra Godfrey originally met over fiction and then founded Atmosphere Websites. They get what authors need in a website, because they combine 20+ years of marketing experience, design and usability expertise, and coding excellence into providing authors with kick ass sites.
Mike Chen is a freelance marketing and technical writer with an engineering background. Building WordPress websites speaks to his technical and creative sides. He does all the building, coding, and SEOing for our website projects and has never met a technical challenge he couldn’t solve. His author website (designed by Sierra, of course, and built by Mike) is www.mikechenbooks.com.
Sierra Godfrey designs all Atmosphere sites in addition to running her own freelance business as a graphic designer and writer. She designs everything from brochures to logos to websites to author swag. Her 15 years of corporate marketing experience means that website clients get a hefty dose of marketing know-how in their sites. Find her at her author site, www.sierragodfrey.com or her more corporate freelance design site, www.sierrafong.com, both of which were designed by her and built by Mike, of course.