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Pitch Wars Interview with Relly Annett-Baker and Vanessa Barger and their mentor, Sarah Cannon

Friday, 23 October 2015  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti

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Welcome to the Pitch Wars Team Interviews

Bringing you a closer look at each Pitch War Team and their project.

Be sure to comment with support, comments, and questions.

Meet Relly Annett-Baker, Vanessa Barger, and Sarah Cannon

Team Infinity

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 7.37.28 PMSarah Cannon (Mentor), tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Sarah! I’ve lived all over, but right now I’m in Indiana, along with my husband, two sons and a daughter, our dog and our cat. I like black licorice, especially salted licorice! (I know, it’s a sickness…but all your black jellybeans IS BELONG TO ME!) I love to knit, especially with yarn I’ve spun myself, but knitting has taken a backseat to writing in recent years. I homeschool my three kids, and we’re basically a big geeky rebelfamily. I love all sorts of children’s literature, but also read a wide variety of adult fiction and non-fiction. Basically whatever catches my eye.

My writing style has a strong bent toward humor…more smart-alecky than slapstick. I love the strange (think Eric Rohmann, Shaun Tan, Kelly Link and M.T. Anderson) and I’m particularly happy when a number of subjects I’ve been exploring come together and become elements of a great story.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 7.40.35 PMRelly Annett-Baker  (Mentee), tell us a little about yourselves.

Relly: I’m Relly, I live in London with my husband and two small boys, plus three cats and two rabbits. I like Legend of Zelda games, traveling alone, scrapbooking and playing board games.I read a lot of kidlit, classic crime novels, history books and a sprinkling of everything else. Too many books, never enough time, right?

My writing style is still maturing. My pitchwars entry was pretty much the first piece of fiction I’ve ever written. I started in a ‘writing for children’ class about a year ago, that I joined to meet some new people after moving cities, playing around with an idea I’d had a long time ago when I learned about the Aztec underworld. I found I loved writing so much that I followed up that class with an intensive six-month novel course, and THE UNWILLING GODDESS was the result. I feel like I’ve found something I can enjoy doing for the rest of my life.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 7.42.23 PMVanessa Barger (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself.

Vanessa: Hello! A little about me…. Well, I teach tech ed to high school kids in a tiny town on the Chesapeake Bay. Most kids pray for snow to get out of school. If it rains too long, our students start checking the tide charts to see what the chances are we’ll get out because it might flood a bridge or road. (True – we once got out of school for a week because it flooded so bad during a Nor’easter!) This, of course, has nothing to do with writing. I write in my free time, when I’m not baking. I stress bake – it’s been great for my coworkers, but my husband has started to go back to the gym, probably because I force him to taste test.

Weird things – I can wiggle my ears (seriously!), I love bologna and ketchup sandwiches (don’t knock it till you try it!), I used to hang upside down off couches because it relaxed me, and I hate lettuce because it tastes like the color green, and it’s not good, and I’m terrified of tornadoes. They’re sneaky. I don’t like it. I enjoy reading mostly MG and YA scifi, Fantasy, and Paranormal. And some historical. And travel essays. And…okay, well, if it’s a book, I’ll probably read it. Contemporary is at the bottom of my list, but even then I like some of those!

My favorite genre both to read and write is fantasy/paranormal, by far. Horror’s up there too. I like being transported to other worlds (and transporting others). Of course, for me to write horror is extremely entertaining – I STILL can’t sleep with the closet door open. Not even an inch. Dracula lives there. He has, even since he moved out of the Pepto-Bismol pink bathroom that was attached to my room when I was in second and third grade.

My writing style? Ummmm… well, I suppose I hope I’m funny and sometimes creepy?Sarah, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

Sarah, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

The decision to participate in Pitch Wars was an easy one, because this contest has given so much to me. I participated in Pitch Wars in 2013 as an alternate on wise, sassy Jaye Robin Brown’s team, and as a primary in 2014 under the guidance of spooktastical Cat Scully. I can’t say enough good things about Pitch Wars or its participants, and if you look at the stable of authors who’ve “graduated” from this contest (really a much better word than “won”), the results speak for themselves.

Relly, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?    

A Twitter friend mentioned Pitch Wars when the mentor bios went up, saying that while she wasn’t picked last year the feedback she got on her manuscript was instrumental in shaping her book for an agent. I spent a week frantically knocking my own manuscript into shape, and reading up on mentors, hoping that my query and first chapter would be good enough to get me a request from someone and maybe some precious feedback.

Vanessa, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?    

I entered PitchWars last year with a YA Thriller manuscript and didn’t get anywhere, but the community and contest were amazing. This year, in January or February I had this moment of clarity and realized that if I really wanted to make it as a writer, I had to work harder than I have been. So I set my sights on PitchWars with my new MG scifi manuscript and hoped for the best. I figured I had no shot – but at worst, I’d have a manuscript I could go out and query, and the bonus of hanging out with all the awesome people who try their hand at PW!

Sarah, what are you most excited for?

Honestly, I’m most excited to follow the careers of my amazingly talented, charismatic mentees. They’re definitely showing the grit it takes to succeed as writers, and I’m very proud of them. Take note, publishing community: Vanessa and Relly are going places!

I feel super lucky because almost every manuscript that made me say “Ooh!” found a home– partly because I hit the jackpot and won the opportunity to choose two mentees! My team will bring all kinds of awesomeness to the agent round, but I think I’m safe in saying we’ll ALL be cheering for loads of people…the community aspect of Pitch Wars inculcates a sense of pride and investment in many writers’ work.

Relly, what are you most excited for?

I’m most excited for … Does EVERYTHING count as an answer? I’m such a fresh new baby to everything – never written a query, never written a synopsis, never really brutally cut my work. I’m especially looking forward to killing some darlings and taking some of the flab off my word count! Really, I’m up for trying anything to really lick my book into shape, and then take what I learn and apply it to my next book and my next book and my next book. I wish I’d given myself permission to write earlier but I’m going to make up for it now.

Vanessa, what are you most excited for?

Will anyone throw fruit if I say the editing? I want this to be the best story it can be. I love it. I have high hopes for it, and I want it to shine so bright you have to wear sunglasses. So I’m excited to see the difference between now and later.

And that whole agent round is maybe a little awesome. 😉

Relly, describe your novel in 3 words.

México, azteca, muerte.

Vanessa, describe your novel in 3 words.

Pirates. Geeks. Detention.

Sarah, describe your mentee’s novel in 3 words.

Relly’s: Actual grave peril.

Vanessa’s: Oh my gosh, I want to say “Three-hour tour” so badly, but I’ll go with “Classmates’ space shenanigans,” instead.


Check Us Out …

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Relly Annett-Baker, Mentee

Twitter | Website 

Relly is a writer, speaker and web content person. Occasionally she uses this blog as an attempt to capture the way she works and what she does, so that it will encourage others to make their content spick and span. Other than that, it has hearsay, happenstance and heresy. Read her Pitch Wars mentee bio here.

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Vanessa Barger, Mentee

Twitter | Website 

Vanessa Barger was born in West Virginia, and through several moves ended up spending the majority of her life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of George Mason University and Old Dominion University, and has degrees in Graphic Design, a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a Masters in Technology Education. She has had articles published in Altered Arts Magazine, has had some artwork displayed in galleries in Ohio and online, and currently teaches engineering, practical physics, drafting and other technological things to high school students in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She is a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), the Virginia Writer’s Club, and the Hampton Roads Writers. When not writing or teaching, she’s a bookaholic, movie fanatic, and loves to travel. She is married to a fabulous man, and has one cat, who believes Vanessa lives only to open cat food cans, and can often be found baking when she should be editing.


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 Sarah Cannon, Mentor

Website | Twitter

Despite my best efforts, I’m a hopeless wanderer, partly because I married a newsman. I’ve lived in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, and Indiana. I earned my B.S. of Ed. from Ohio University, and I’ve taught everyone from the earliest readers to college students who need writing help. I homeschool my three kids, and tutor part time for a national franchise. I writes all kinds of speculative fiction for young people, inspired by everything from Browncoats to Dutch folklore to TED Talks. I live in a comfy old grey house, which delights me because it makes me think of Grey House in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series. We’re in the only hilly part of this mid-western town. I am always happier surrounded by hills.

When I’m not writing or teaching, I grow food, knit, spin, geek out with my family, and sometimes even run on purpose.


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