Welcome to the Pitch Wars Team Interviews by Marnise Nicole
Bringing you a closer look at each Pitch War Team and their project.
Be sure to comment with support, comments, and questions.
Meet Margarita Montimore and Sarahlyn Bruck
Margarita Montimore (Mentor), tell us a little about yourself.
Hi there! I’m a Russian-born, NYC-bred, karaoke-loving, knitting-and-Netflix-obsessed writer of upmarket fiction. I’m also a contributing blogger for Quirk Books. Currently, I’m living in the Northeast with my husband (fun fact: we got married in Vegas last year by an Elvis impersonator), trying to make the writing dream happen. I’m represented by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Rostan. I like to think of my writing as a combo of David Lynch and Nora Ephron, with a dash of Chuck Palahniuk; I love incorporating dark and/or surreal story elements into my work as much as I do witty banter.
In terms of what I read, I tend to favor books that fall in the sweet spot between literary and commercial, but I also try to keep my reading list diverse, throwing non-fiction, YA, and genres I don’t read as often, like sci-fi. Some of my favorite authors include Lionel Shriver, Margaret Atwood, Bret Easton Ellis, Jhumpa Lahiri, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marian Keyes, and Jennifer Weiner.
Sarahlyn Bruck (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I’m a California native now living in Philadelphia with my husband, 11-year-old daughter, and Jazz, our one-eyed cockapoo. Philadelphia surprised me by being quite a decent place to call home. I have learned, however, I do not like snow. Or cold. At all. But the other three seasons are just fine. Three out of four is not bad. I had three out of four in L.A. Going outside during the summer in Pasadena is like sticking my head into a pizza oven. But man, I would totally trade winters.
For my day job, I teach writing and literature full time at a local community college. I like working there quite a bit and feel pretty lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do. Before that I taught at Temple, Philadelphia University, Pasadena City College, and Cal State L.A. Not a bad gig, this teaching writing thing. And I find teaching writing helps me with my own writing, which is a total bonus.
I read as much as I can, usually one-two books per month. My tastes run toward more literary and commercial—book club fiction, really. Some of my all-time favorite books include Their Eyes Were Watching God, Cider House Rules, Light In August, 1Q84, The Goldfinch, On Such a Full Sea, Bel Canto…to name just a few. So far, my writing style veers closer to commercial women’s fiction, which I enjoy writing and find fun and escapist. I like writing on a schedule, and try to write most mornings, leaving my grading, lesson planning, and shuttling my daughter around to her various activities for the afternoon. Of course, schedules were made to be broken and I do often find that I have to be flexible enough so that I can squeeze writing in at other times of the day if I need to.
My motto: “Don’t be an asshole.” That’s pretty much what I think as a mother, spouse, friend, sister, daughter, professor, casual wine drinker, supermarket line stander, automobile driver, and person in general. I try very, very hard not to be an asshole, but sometimes I slip up.
Margarita, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?
I was a Pitch Wars mentee last year and found my writing family as a result of this contest. I learned a tremendous amount, from mentors as well as fellow contestants, found critique partners and had a blast making friends who understand how nerve-wracking and crazy this business can be.
The contest enriched my writing life so much, I wanted to continue to be part of it now that I’m agented, so I told Brenda I’d gladly volunteer if she was looking for additional mentors. I was thrilled when she took me up on the offer.
Sarahlyn, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?
I had queried selectively on and off for six months. Most rejections were of the form variety, but a handful of agents requested pages and a few requested the full ms. All came back with versions of “I just didn’t love it enough,” which was crushing. I couldn’t figure out why I would get so close, but in the end, the agent would say “no.” I knew there was something about the ms that wasn’t connecting, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. So the first week of March, I put Fit on the shelf and started a new novel.
I found out about Pitch Wars through Brenda Drake’s blog, which I subscribe to. When the announcement about the contest dropped into my email box, I was immediately drawn to the concept—a contest that pairs fledgling writers (like me!) with more experienced and agented/published writer-mentors to whip your ms into shape in two months and pitch to agents. It seemed like the contest was made for someone like me. I needed not just another pair of eyes on Fit to help me see it again, but a mentor who understood story and character and plot arcs and tension and stakes. I needed someone who had a grasp on the business of being an author. And I needed someone who believed in my story, because I have to admit, my confidence in the book was waning. For me, Pitch Wars was an opportunity I could not pass up.
Margarita, what are you most excited for?
Reading Sarah’s novel, I was excited by what was already on the page, but my mind brimmed with ideas on how to take FIT to the next level. We’ve already done a ton of brainstorming, and even met in person because we’re lucky to live fairly near each other, and have collaborated wonderfully together so far. I’m really excited to see how Sarah’s novel will transform, and the journey she’ll take with it, agent round and beyond. But more than that, I’m excited to have made a new writing friend and one who’s actually local!
Sarahlyn, what are you most excited for?
Writing, as we all know, is a solo endeavor. It can be isolating and lonely. I have a loving family and supportive friends. But I can’t talk about my writing with them at any great length. I’d bore them to tears. It’s like trying to talk with someone about running who doesn’t run. Blathering on and on about a new personal record or that my new Sauconys are giving me blisters is just cruel. So, what I’m most excited about is entering into a larger writing community. Not only do I have the honor and privilege to work with and learn from the fabulous and talented Margarita Montimore, but to also to get to know other writers like me. The mentee group is scattered all over the globe, we cover a wide age span, we have jobs and families and pets. But we all share a similar focus. We are on a similar path, marching toward agent representation and eventual publication. We can share resources and create critique partnerships. We can lean on each other when we feel overwhelmed. We can inspire each other.
Sarahlyn, describe your novel in 3 words.
Battle for bulge.
Margarita, describe your mentee’s novel in 3 words.
Society’s weighty issues.
Check Us Out …
Sarahlyn Bruck, Team Mentee
When Sarah’s not writing, she teaches writing and literature full-time at a local community college. She likes working there quite a bit and feels pretty lucky to have the opportunity to do what she does. And the added bonus? She finds working with others on their writing helps her with my own. Sarah has published short stories in Flash Me Magazine, Daily Flash Anthology, and Boston Literary Magazine and blogs occasionally for Book Club Babble.
Margarita Montimore, Mentor
In 2014, Margarita decided it was time to follow the Big Dream and pursue writing full-time. After getting married by Elvis in Vegas (true story), she quit her job and moved out of NYC to the suburbs, where she now lives with her husband. Within a year, she finished one novel and wrote a second one. Currently, she’s working on her next novel(s) and blogging for Quirk Books. When not writing or updating her nostalgia-fest Diary Project blog and social channels, she enjoys tackling that ever-growing book collection, knitting, feeding squirrels and chipmunks, and managing her overflowing Netflix and DVR queues.
Margarita writes upmarket fiction and is represented by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.