We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Sawyer Lovett and their mentor, Brenda Drake! Sawyer signed with Andrea Morrison at Writers House. We’re so excited for them!
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary #ownvoices
Sawyer, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentor/s?
Brenda taught me a lot about depth, setting, and where they should be added. She also broke me of my bad habits of adding vocal tics to dialog and ellipsis.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
The revision process for Shampoo Mohawk was a little bit of a mess. I got a promotion at my job and was taking classes during the process of revision. We were also a trio at the beginning, and unfortunately, Brenda’s co-mentor had to resign. We broke things into chunks and worked really hard to make up for the deficits in circumstance, and no one was ever kinder or more encouraging than Brenda Drake, badass OG of PitchWars. There was never a time that I got overwhelmed that she wasn’t there to offer a pep talk or a kind word.
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)!
I had a whole page of questions for Andrea when she called, but she answered them before I could ask. She also offered to let me reach out to other clients. And she asked a lot of questions about me. I didn’t have any expectations about the call, because I knew it would be a conversation and I wanted to make sure that she had a good feeling about and vision for my book. She did, and she listened as much as she spoke. And she’s just an incredibly kind and thoughtful person. She offered representation on that call, and I had spoken to a friend who is also represented by Writer’s House. I wanted to accept right away, but in keeping with the way things are generally done, I needed to offer everyone else who had copies of my manuscript a chance to finish it. I asked Andrea if it was okay to take a couple of weeks, which she graciously accepted.
During the window in which I was waiting to hear back, one other agent offered me representation. She was also incredibly kind, and I’d have been lucky to work with her as well, but ultimately, I felt that Andrea and I have more similar communication styles and goals. We signed the contract and I had cookies to celebrate.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars changed my relationship with writing. I’ve never been especially precious about my work, but through the process of revision and editing, I sort of came to see it like a set of building blocks — the pieces are all there, character, plot, setting, etc, but there are so many ways to stack the blocks that you could build almost anything.
Also, I appreciate so much the process of just sitting down with your laptop, pushing your sleeves up, and writing one word after another without the expectation that they’ll be perfect. Some days, they’re not even good. But you can fix all that. You can’t repair a structure that doesn’t exist.
The community surrounding Pitch Wars is incredible. I get to know these awesome people who went through the process, got really down in the trenches with me. And that’s incomparable. I’m so excited about all the talented people I get to know. I can’t wait to watch people’s careers take off, and see how their writing and styles change. I can’t wait to be 100 years old talking about the good old days of twitter discourse and seeing how time and technology alter the way we read and interact.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Do it! Someone famous said ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and I believe that wholeheartedly.
Brenda, tell us about working with your mentee.
As Sawyer mentioned, we started out as a trio. My co-mentor had to step down due to professional obligations. Sawyer was in the middle of a move at that time, too. Also, my son had another stay at the hospital due to his illness. It felt like the cards were against us. But Sawyer and I came together. We did several rounds of edits and I’m amazed we pulled it off. It took a lot of hard work and dedication from both of us to get it done. I’m so proud of Sawyer. They really impressed me. It was daunting at times, but we made it and here we are celebrating their success!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Sawyer being Sawyer was just amazing in its self. But I’d have to say, taking my notes and digging deeper into the emotions and point of views of the characters. When I thought it couldn’t be done, they’d get it done, which would then get me excited all over again for the story.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Mentees need to understand the process and ignore their expectations. Many have an idea of how they want their mentor and mentee relationship to be from what they’ve heard from past mentees. But no two mentor/mentee relationship is the same. Some mentors are more hands on and do more work. Others not as much. Read their bios and see what the mentors’ editing style is and what their vision of the relationship is. Mentors are only required to read the manuscript and give overall notes, critique the pitch, and then read one last time to make sure the mentee understood and implemented the edits. Anything more is a gift. We’ve had mentees disappointed because their mentor didn’t live up to the mentee’s expectations. Also, enjoy the process. Life is too short for the drama. Don’t compare others’ successes with your own. Everyone’s journey is different. Let’s celebrate them all and be happy for those who get agents and book deals before us. I was so happy that Sawyer and I got along great and there wasn’t any miscommunications. It was such a pleasure working with them.
Let’s find out what drew agent Andrea Morrison to this manuscript. Andrea?
I fell in love with Sawyer’s incredible prose in the very first pages – Sawyer’s writing is seriously breathtaking. There are three perspectives within SHAMPOO MOHAWK – Brian’s, Leslie’s, and Greg’s, and they all work together beautifully but are each distinct and standout. I also loved the podcast element as it related to the plot. In all, I felt completely transported into the lives of Brian, Leslie, and Greg – and once a hate crime is committed in this small town, I was right there with Brian and Riley, as though listening to their podcast, needing to hear them talk through what had happened to their friend. Ultimately, Brian, Leslie, Greg, and Riley all felt like friends of mine – I felt like a part of their community. I could see so many young readers connecting with this story, and so many readers needing it. I’m really grateful to be on Sawyer’s team, and to be able to champion his beautiful and very important work.
How about some fun questions for Sawyer and Brenda.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Sawyer: As I am writing this from my home, almost a month and a half deep into shelter-in-place, my initial response is: oh god, anywhere else. But realistically, a library or coffee shop, probably.
Brenda: Coffee house or my desk. And keep the coffee flowing!
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Sawyer: Dorothy Allison was so important to me coming out as a queer, southern writer. I’d love to spend time making biscuits and gravy with her. I low-key want to crawl into Jason Reynolds brain and see how his books go from idea to execution. And I worship at the temple of language built by A.S. King, Ocean Vuong, Elizabeth Acevedo and Joseph Cassara, so I’d gladly and gleefully absorb any crumbs of wisdom they felt like dropping.
Really, though, I’m always happy to hang out with other writers! I think you can learn something from people at every stage of their writing and publishing lives.
Brenda: Oh my gosh. Of course, J.K. Rowling. We’d sit on a train, have coffee, and talk all things Potterverse. And I don’t even care if this answer isn’t as thought through or deep like Sawyer’s. Ha!
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Sawyer: I wanna know who Ramona Quimby and Harriet the Spy grew up to be! And I’d love to meet Virgil Salinas from Hello, Universe.
Brenda: Um. See above. Hermoine Granger. But I’d like to be her age when I meet her, so we can hang out and be friends and do spells and stuff.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Sawyer: Noelle Stevenson’s She-Ra. Without question. I have never related to a character as much as Bo.
Brenda: Um. Again, see above. Harry Potter. Ha! I’m so easy.
What inspired you to start writing?
Sawyer: I read a lot to escape reality when I was a kid. When I started writing, it was because I didn’t really see myself reflected in the stuff I was reading. Now that I’m older, I hope that something I write resonates with the people who find my work.
Brenda: My grandmother. When I was a little girl, my sister and cousin would ditch me. I’d sit on the floor reading my mother’s old books while my Irish grandmother would do her crossword puzzles. I asked her how they made books. She told me that they just wrote them and that I should give it a go. So I wrote a story that afternoon about a rabbit who had lost his carrots. She made a big show (as Irish grandmothers do) about how much she loved it and I was hooked! I became a writer.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Sawyer: It changes all the time! We just moved to a new apartment — I had a home office in my last place that I gave up because my new building has coworking space. Unfortunately that’s closed because of COVID-19 right now, so I’ve been writing almost anywhere I can perch with a lap desk these days.
Brenda: My writing process lately is a mess. It’s all over the place. I usually wake up, get coffee, and write for a few hours before doing have-to stuff. Then I find an hour here and there throughout the day and night to write. I like to sit at my desk mostly and use my new MAC PC. I hate writing on my Surface Pro or any laptop really. I’m a Microsoft Word user and I love notebooks and pens, so I’d never use a program to organize my work. Why would you when you can buy a cool notebook and search for the best writing pen out there? Right? Needless to say, I have spent too much money on these items, but at least my family knows what to get me for presents.
About the Team…
I’m an MFA student/barista/occasional bookseller who lives in Philadelphia with one wife, one dog, and one hedgehog. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, with the first bit of encouragement coming from my fifth grade language arts teacher Mrs. Saunders for a grandparents’ day poem. I do not remember that poem in particular, but I can recite the poem that a fellow classmate got sent to the principal’s office for. I spend a lot of time thinking about jetpacks.
Brenda Drake is the New York Times bestselling author of the Library Jumpers series, the Fated series, THUNDERSTRUCK, and ANALIESE RISING, and she’s the founder of Pitch Wars and #PitMad. 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).