We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Jenny Coon Peterson and her mentors, Sabrina Lofti and Carrie Allen! Jenny signed with Amy Bishop at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. We’re so excited for them!
Category: Young Adult
Jenny, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentors?
Places to tighten up my writing! I tend to write long then edit down, and I loved all the places Carrie and Sabrina pointed out where I could trim words while making sentences more dynamic. (Also, I learned I use wayyyyyy too many dialogue tags.)
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
It was intense but really, really fantastic. My mentors, Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi, were supportive, positive, and crazy insightful. They pushed me to create the very best version of my story and kept me sane along with way with puppy gifs. We started with big picture edits, then did line edits, copy edits, and about two hundred versions of a pitch and query–overall, I’d estimate I rewrote a quarter of my manuscript.
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
Just 36 hours after the showcase, I got my first email asking for The Call. Which is bananas, right!?! I was prepared to settle in for a long wait, so I was Capital S Surprised by how quickly it happened for me.
Amy Bishop was the first agent to contact me, and her enthusiasm from the start just put a smile on my face. I ended up speaking with several agents, but in the end Amy’s vision for my book, my career, and the ease of our conversation made her stand out as the right fit for me.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
It wasn’t just about the amazing edits and strict deadlines that contributed to me finding my agent. Pitch Wars also introduced me to super supportive mentors and a wonderful community of writers–which is so key since writing can feel very solitary (especially for someone who usually spends her days chasing kids around!).
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Doooooo itttttttt!!!! It’s hard work, and you need to take criticism well…but you need to be able to do that anyway in this business. Yet even if I hadn’t connected with an agent, I would have left this experience way more confident in my skills and with a new community.
Sabrina and Carrie, tell us about working with your mentee.
Carrie: From the first page, I was hooked on Jenny’s voice and character and story. Every time I had to tear myself away to return to real life, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading. I’d text Sabrina screenshots of my fave lines and dream about pummeling other mentors if they tried to pick Jenny. I get it, when editors and agents say they have to really love a manuscript to sign it—this is what they mean! Because we felt so strongly about her manuscript, we were able to maintain energy and enthusiasm for it through a grueling twelve hundred rounds of edits. It’s always a great reminder for me to be on this side of Pitch Wars, to see publishing from a different angle, to remember where the work lies in a manuscript, and hone those revision skills. Editing Jenny’s work truly made me a better writer and gave me a fresh appreciation of the process.
Sabrina: I always have an amazing time working with Carrie, but meeting, working with, and getting to know Jenny has brought a different level of joy to my Pitch Wars experience, and I’m so glad Carrie and I came back for round 2. I loved Marnie and BEING MARY BENNET from page one back when we were still reading submissions, and that love has only grown through our time revising. Now I’m just crossing my fingers for the day everyone reading this interview (and those who aren’t) gets to fall in love with them like I did!!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Carrie: We told Jenny she needed to lose about 15K and she handled it like a stone-cold word-slaying darling-killer.
Sabrina: In less than 3 months Jenny: -went through 3 rounds of revisions -cut 1 (beloved) character -wrote an additional 10k -had to go back in to drop 15k -wrote 1,000 pitches and queries -got sick 1x -and somehow managed to look after 2 kiddos and keep her head on straight and stay positive through it all To sum: Jenny is amazing. She literally did something amazing every single day! <3
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Carrie: Clear your schedule. Get ahead at your day job, schedule childcare, freeze meals, stock up on coffee. Sleep now, because you will be working hard. (It’ll be worth it, promise!)
Sabrina: Aside from getting that manuscript as ready as you can on your own: TAKE A BREAK! Work on your next project. Read other books. Watch tv. Spend some extra time with family and friends. Think about literally anything other than your book in the weeks before selection, because if selected, you’re going to be working HARD. If you have a day job or family or both, you’ll be cramming book work into every second of free time you have, and giving your brain a chance to decompress will make it that much easier when you’re powering through revisions and drafting pitches with your mentor(s). Sometimes being lazy is a good thing. 🙂
Let’s find out what drew agent Amy Bishop to this manuscript. Amy?
I loved that this played off Pride & Prejudice in a really fresh way (as a launching point, not reimagining), and I totally fell head over heels for Marnie’s voice, which is so prickly, honest, and authentic.
How about some fun questions for Jenny, Sabrina, and Carrie.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Sabrina: Two hours?? To my office with a lit candle, a mug of hot tea, and my pups asleep by my feet. Then I’d probably have a good cry lol.
Carrie: Girl, please. I have two kids and a puppy. I can edit in the middle of a circus. I frequently do.
Jenny: The coffeeshop two blocks from my house! It doesn’t have wifi so I’ll focus, and it stocks delicious raspberry scones and my favorite tea.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Sabrina: Well, since the entirety of Team Girl Power is already planning a post-pandemic trip to London, let’s go with that! Jenny and Kristy, I can’t wait to meet y’all for reals, loves!!
Carrie: Last year, I said I wanted to go to London with Sabrina and Kristy to visit the setting for HOT BRITISH BOYFRIEND. This year, Team Girl Power would go to the Bay Area to see all the sights from Jenny’s BEING MARY BENNET. (Kristy, you’re coming too!)
Jenny: The Lady Janies (let’s count them as one like an author hydra, okay?) I LOVE their blend of humor and historical fantasy. Ugh, they’re just the best. I’d probably spend the whole time trying to make witty puns and just embarrassing myself.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Sabrina: Can I do more than one? I’m doing more than one! I want to go to the library with Marnie, play with puppies with Whit, and play dress-up with Adhira. I want to grow a fairy garden with Ellie, drool over Will, and play Quidditch with Dev. I want Michigan to teach me how to play hockey (maybe we should start with skating??) and Jack to hold my hand. And I want to fall in love with Estella and like, a little bit strangle Pip.
Carrie: Not to sound snooty, but… mine! I really love my characters and I love spending time with them. (That’s why I wrote them!)
Jenny: Anne Shirley. (My main character’s love of Anne of Green Gables is just a tad autobiographical.) We’d go hiking and do a lot of contented sighing about apple blossoms.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Carrie: No fandoms for me, but maybe the Hilary Knight Fan Club, if that ever becomes a thing.
Jenny: Janeites. I love Jane Austen and all the many and varied adaptations of her work (except the recent Sanditon miniseries, which was kind of terrible? I mean, I still watched every episode…)
What inspired you to start writing?
Carrie: There are a lot of inspirations that led me back to writing as an adult. One of them is The Hunger Games. I binged the trilogy and when I finished the last page of Mockingjay, I went right back to the first page of Hunger Games and read the whole trilogy AGAIN. The next time I had one of those wacky writer daydream stories, I wrote it down… and then another… and then another…
Jenny: I never even seriously considered being anything *other* than a writer (journalist, copy writing, etc). But I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-20s. When I was first married, my husband deployed to Iraq. I found myself in a new place without really knowing anyone yet, so I wrote a (terrible, terrible, I cannot stress this enough TERRIBLE) book over the course of his deployment. Then he got home and I was like, “Surprise! I think I write fiction now!”
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Sabrina: I’m old school and easily distracted, so I draft by hand-it’s a pretty messy process, dialogue and thoughts mostly, with lots of <add action!>s sprinkled in. It’s not until I go back in to type things up for things to finally start looking book-shaped. While I’m writing, I love having a candle burning and a hot cup of tea.
Carrie: I’m a pantser and a fast drafter, and drafting is my favorite part of the process. I get to live the story in my characters’ heads, I get to feel the same anticipation as they do going from one scene to the next. Less beloved is the revising part of the process!
Jenny: I kill every growing thing I touch–save my kids and cat–but I love gardens. So I stroll through the lovely botanic gardens near my house (hey, Denver Botanic Gardens!) for inspiration, then write at coffeeshops. Or, that’s my ideal. Usually, I hunch over my laptop after the kids’ bedtime.
About the Team…
I’m a YA author based in Denver, Colorado, where I live with my husband, two small sons, and one enormous tabby. I’ve been a writer ever since I can remember, starting with those blank books we all got in elementary school that I probably took way too seriously. I graduated with a degree in journalism from Michigan State University, and got to be an actual journalist and editor at an alt-newsweekly. Journalism was just a bit too safe of a career for me, apparently, so I made the jump to full-time fiction/editing when I moved to Denver. When I’m not dreaming up new stories or herding children, I love to eat local, hike in the amazing Colorado mountains, and plan for my next trip. Janeite, Potterhead, Gilbert Blythe stan.
Sabrina Lotfi is a nationally published makeup artist with over a decade of experience in fashion and film. She writes contemporary books for young adults and has a deep love for history, horses, characters with a dark side, and kickass retellings. She lives in Texas with her vampire kitty and bat pup, is a pro at pep talks, and loves making new writer friends. She is repped by Dr. Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency.
Carrie S. Allen is a Colorado girl who wears flip-flops year-round and never skips dessert. She is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing around two kids and two dogs. She writes contemporary YA about girls who kick butt in sports. Her debut MICHIGAN VS. THE BOYS released October 1, 2019 from KCP Loft; she is repped by SuperAgent Kate Testerman.