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Pitch Wars Success Stories with Leila Mottley and Her Mentor, Samantha Rajaram

Friday, 8 May 2020  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

Illustration of PItch Wars owl mascot saying "mentee graduate"

We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Leila Mottley and her mentor, Samantha Rajaram! Leila signed with Lucy Carson at Freirdrich Agency. We’re so excited for them!

Category: New Adult / Adult

Leila, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentor/s?

Plotting is important!! Start by following the “guidelines” so that you can divert from them with intention. Desire mapping and plotting help carry your reader through the story so that they are able to experience the other important components, like characterization and beautiful lines. Don’t forget your plot!!

Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.

Samantha sent me a marked manuscript and we talked on the phone about the first round of revisions, which were mainly structural. I spent about a month doing those and then we did the process again looking at line edits.

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)!

The first agent emailed me and told me she’d love to offer me representation and asked to schedule a call. I emailed her back and we talked a few days later. Once I received one offer, I notified all the other agents who had the manuscript and they said they would put it at the top of their reading list. Then, I got two more agents who asked for calls. We talked for roughly 40 minutes to an hour each about the book, their authors, edits, and other things. I had a list of questions I asked each agent and made notes.

My professor is an author and I gave her my manuscript around this time, which she sent to her agents. They called me and said they were rushing to read it. The next week they drove 3 hours to take me to dinner. We talked about a million things relating to the book and they felt like such a great match to me, so I ended up accepting their offer of representation.

How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?

Pitch Wars gave me Samantha as a mentor and editor. She has helped me so much in learning to revise and I am so grateful for her. It also provided me with the momentum of agents who were interested in my book and a confidence that I could really do this!!

Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?

Do it, even if you don’t think your book fits the “typical” PW manuscript. Do it for the chance to learn more about writing. Anything else is a bonus!

Samantha, tell us about working with your mentee.

Leila’s raw talent was clear to me from the first sentence. Her writing is so poetic, and her protagonist Kiana’s voice was so strong and beautiful, I wanted to follow her anywhere. But the plot was a bit hidden in all that lovely writing, so we worked on shaping the arc of the story, which was what my own 2018 Pitch Wars mentor, Carrie Callaghan, did for my manuscript.

We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.

Leila is such an extraordinary person. Not only did I love her book, but I enjoy her as a person and friend. It’s one thing to be incredibly talented, but Pitch Wars is a huge investment of time and it’s quite stressful to meet the deadlines. Leila did a big structural edit of her book plus line edits, pitch writing, and query letter writing in two months while taking 20 units in college! This is my first time as a Pitch Wars mentor and she was a dream to work with–clear on her vision, open to suggestions, totally committed to improving her craft. I am so proud of her hard work and so fortunate to have had this opportunity.

How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?

Be prepared to work, and don’t take criticism personally. Mentors are volunteering their time because we love the craft of writing and want to make it accessible to others. It’s a huge commitment for both parties, but you will learn so much and meet such generous and kind people. I’ve met lifelong friends through Pitch Wars.

About the Team…

Leila Mottley is an author native to Oakland, California, with an interest in reflecting on institutional and individual inequity, liberation, and joy through writing. Leila performed poetry and ran poetry workshops as the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate and has been published in various journals and anthologies such as GIA Reader with her poetry collection pending publication at Nomadic Press in Fall 2020. She currently attends Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, as an English Major with a concentration in Creative Writing.

Twitter | Website


I am a historical fiction writer focusing on stories about colonialism and people ignored by history books. I was extremely fortunate to be a Pitch Wars mentee last year (2018), mentored by Carrie Callaghan.

When I’m not writing (often at 5 in the morning), I am a college English professor and solo mom raising three tween/teen kids in the California Bay Area. I’m represented by Carrie Pestritto at LDLA and my Pitch Wars manuscript THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS is currently on submission. I am beyond thrilled to be a mentor for Pitch Wars. The Pitch Wars family truly changed my life, and I am so excited to help other aspiring writers get closer to their dreams.

Website | Twitter

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