When our mentees land an agent or a publishing deal, it’s one of the highlights of being part of Pitch Wars. We’re so excited for Adalyn Grace and her mentor, Brian Palmer. Adalyn signed with Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her. Please, help me in congratulating Adalyn and Brian on their Pitch Wars Success!
Adalyn, what was it about Brian that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
First of all, Brian is just so stinkin’ nice. I could tell how enthusiastic he was to be mentor, and how much he truly wanted to help whoever he ended up picking. I stalked the heck out of his twitter, and we actually talked back-and-forth several times (mostly going over questions) before he thankfully chose me! I could tell he was super serious about finding a story he enjoyed and thought he could really help, which is obviously what every mentee wants. While he didn’t necessarily mention wanting something that screamed, “Hey! That’s my book!” I loved his bio and many of the “favorite books” he had listed. Something in my gut said that I needed to take the risk and sub to him. I would have been honored to work with any mentors, but my instincts told me that, if I were to be chosen, it’d be by Brian. And I sure lucked out!
Brian, what was it about Adalyn’s DONOR that hooked you?
Adalyn’s novel proved to me that the unexpected can grab your attention because, as she noted, there wasn’t an obvious connection between her story and many of the elements I had said I was looking for in my wish list (though it was worth noting there was nothing in DONOR that made it onto my auto-disqualification list either). I really was drawn in by the sinister premise (growing humans in a facility specifically for the purpose of harvesting their organs for those in the outside world who needed them because they lived in a society that did not have to be held accountable for their actions and life choices? Holy cow!), but even more than this I was intrigued by the subtle yet profound social commentary that was woven throughout the story and how it shone an uncomfortably plausible light on where we as a society might be headed in the coming decades if we aren’t careful. Add to this the fact that these “humans” were viewed by the world as mindless drones, only to have one of DONOR’s POV’s be from one of the donors themselves, and to see how just how wrong the outside world was? Dynamite!
Adalyn, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
It was tough! Brian’s suggestions were very clear and doable, but carving out the time to get them done well was the hardest part. I was dealing with several personal issues at the time, and had never written quickly in my life. DONOR took me years to draft and edit, but this process taught me SO much about how to structure my writing schedule. Since Pitch Wars, I’ve been able to develop a much more efficient writing schedule!
Brian, tell us about your experience mentoring Adalyn.
If I have told her this once (and anyone who will listen really—Hillary Jacobson, you already have a sense of this by now, I am sure, but you are getting yourself one hell of a hard worker and creative person here!), I have told her a hundred times: Adalyn was a first-time mentor’s dream come true. She wasn’t scared off by my wanting to do two thorough revisions during the mentoring period, and she took suggestions really well (while sticking to her guns whenever she felt it was necessary, which is also a good thing). We bounced ideas off each other to see how we could improve the MS, and she was always game. No complaining, no meltdowns, just hard work, loads of belief, and a great understanding of what her story was about and making sure I understood this as well as possible. I had no idea what I was getting into this first time around and before picking a mentee I had harbored a small fear that I would pick someone who would not work well with me/would balk at having to do a ton of revisions if necessary/etc., so it was a huge sigh of relief to realize my assessment of Adalyn through our interactions during the submission period were accurate!
Adalyn, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Hillary Jacobson of ICM. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
My query process with my post-PW book was DRAMATICALLY different than with my PW book. I’d probably received somewhere around 100-150 rejections before I started querying my new YA Fantasy manuscript, on a Wednesday morning. I’d garnered some interest from agents after DONOR, so I expected that maybe this would go a little quicker? At least, that was the hope. What I was not prepared for was receiving an offer within 6 hours of querying. I was having heart palpitations from how quickly things were going that day, and had just sat down to try to chill out and watch Charmed. My phone started buzzing, and all I saw on the caller ID was “New York.” I remember laughing out loud, thinking “hahaaaaa no way. That’s not an agent.” But it was, and that agent loved my book and wanted to offer representation! Honestly, I don’t remember the phone call. We had to schedule another one because the whole thing was me pacing around outside saying, “oh my gosh oh my gosh really?” Everything after that was such a blur. Before I could let other agents know I had an offer, Hillary sent me an amazing email saying that she also wanted to talk. It was early in the morning, I had just given blood, and I’m pretty sure I just about passed out in the parking lot. Hillary was at the top of my “dream agent” list, and I wasn’t even going to query her until I knew for sure that my query was working, because I was so nervous! She represents one of my closest friends, and I had a very “ughh what if she hates it? What if she hates me?!” moment when I finally queried her. To my absolute amazing surprise, she didn’t hate my manuscript. She read it overnight and wanted to offer rep. Everything after that was a two-week blur of phone calls, emails, and almost zero sleep. I had some incredible offers, but Hillary just had such a passion for my story, and everything she said resonated with my so well. If I had said no to her, I feel like she would have teleported to my house with a flowchart of all the reasons I should pick her, or something. I’m thrilled to have signed with her!
Adalyn, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I did not get an agent with DONOR, my Pitch Wars manuscript. But that’s just fine, because it taught me SO much and introduced me to lifelong friends. I wrote two manuscripts right after PW, and queried the second one. If it hadn’t been for Pitch Wars, there’s no way I would have had the skills or the speed to quickly write these new manuscripts. I also wouldn’t have had the understanding that it was okay to shelf my PW project and work on something else.
ALSO, the community! Oh my goodness, the mentees have a private Facebook group, and the support on it is seriously unbelievable. They are my beta readers, critique partners, and support system. Everyone always says it, but the community I’ve become part of is seriously so fantastic.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
Somewhere in the (known or unknown) universe, you’re in a high-speed chase and have to escape the bad guys. Who are you running from and what fictional character is your side-kick?
Adalyn: Zuko (with his hair cut, obviously), because I feel like we’d not only destroy the baddies, but he’s also incredibly easy on the eyes. 😀 I would also consider Jet, from AtLA, but uh . . . he doesn’t have quit the same “staying alive” track record that Zuko has.
Brian: Assuming this does not have to be strictly from the literary universe, my villain of choice is Simon Phoenix from Demolition Man, and the sidekick is The Thresher from Robin Parrish’s Dominion trilogy.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Adalyn: Do the November Cakes from Scorpio Races count as an invention?
Brian: The Silver Sea from C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write every day, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Adalyn: Recently, I’ve discovered I work best if I write quickly! When I’m working on a new project, I write minimum 2,000 words every day. Sometimes more, if I’m feeling good and in a groove, but never less. I treat writing like a job, because that’s what I want it to be.
Brian: I write at night after my daughter is asleep and my wife is ready for some time to herself! Depending on how into a scene, chapter, etc., I am getting, and/or how much sleep I feel like losing, I can write anywhere from one to three hours a night; if my schedule allowed for it I would write at least eight hours a day though! I always take one day off—Saturday or Sunday—so I can recharge, and I find it helps keep me grounded and resets my writing directives each week, so that helps. It pretty much has to be in my little writing space in our closet, and I have to be listening to ambient music (Eluvium or the more experimental work of BT, for example) or something classical/orchestral (Ludovico Einauldi or any of the scores of Thomas Newman).
You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?
Adalyn: Bestselling, I like it! I’m a muncher, which can get dangerous. I’ll usually keep some berries or something crunchy like snap peas on hand. I’ve recently discovered I’m allergic to coffee, but I love tea!
Brian: Honestly, probably the usual: my water bottle and my desk space. Anything fancier than that (Coke, Reese’s Pieces, a coffee shop), and I get way too distracted!
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Adalyn: I’m fortunate to have a fantastic support system. My family, my boyfriend, my dogs and cat… They’re all great. Brian would also send me check-in emails that were really supportive and helped push me to keep going! The PW community is also ridiculously amazing, and I have a weekly writing group with two of the girls I met through PW, who also live in San Diego! Hey Shea, hey Tomi! Thanks for being amazing!
Brian: My wife has driven me from day one, making sure I am writing, checking in to see how the revisions are coming, etc. I have made sure to ask her many times over the years if I am alienating her with all the work I am doing and she always tells me no, so I have no greater support than her, for sure. Life, cliché that this statement is, keeps me inspired because there is so much going on around me that is fodder for new ideas to explore, and I am always fascinated by what I learn about the world around me through the things I write, as well as what I sometimes learn about myself as a result! Also, I have a group of critique partners and beta readers that are simply awesome, so they are a great source of help too!
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Adalyn: Pitch Wars was quite possibly the best thing I could have done for my career. If you’re thinking about entering, just do it. Sit your butt down, finish your manuscript, edit it, and send it in. Also, if you get in and don’t get an agent right off the bat, it’s not the end of the world. I would always read posts like, “I didn’t get my agent from PW but I got it right after!” and I would snort, because I was dumb and didn’t want that scenario. I wanted my agent through Pitch Wars, darn it! But I’m so glad things happened for me how they did, because I learned so, so much, and used the drive and motivation through PW to create a story I am very proud of. I did have to write another book, yes, but that new manuscript put me in a dream query scenario that ended up better than anything I could have ever imagined. Getting rejected is hard. It sucks. But it makes your better, and is ultimately worth it.
Brian: If you are thinking of doing Pitch Wars, do it. You literally have no reason (good or otherwise) not to. The community is phenomenal. The tips you get from mentors and other entrants just by being in conversation with them on Twitter or watching the #PitchWars hashtag are invaluable whether or not you actually get selected. Also, ask any and all questions that come to mind. When I was selected as a mentee in 2015, the woman who ended up being my mentor was the last person I removed from my list of mentors to apply to because while I thought she would be a great person to have as a mentor (and boy did I end up being right about that!) I wasn’t quite sure my work was in her wheelhouse. The problem though is I never confirmed this with her, so when two of the other mentors I submitted to all but begged for her to take a look at my novel and she then fell in love with it, I felt really stupid for not having talked with her ahead of time! I could have saved us all a lot of worry had I only asked. The mentors are here to help, so if you have a question DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK. It might make all the difference!
Thank you, Adalyn and Brian, for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journeys and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Adalyn Grace is a young adult fantasy author based in San Diego, California. She was a participant in Pitch Wars 2016, and a former literary agent intern. Before she threw herself into the world of publishing, she worked in live theater, and interned for the Nickelodeon television show The Legend of Korra. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with her two adorable dogs, and her very arrogant cat. And in case you were curious, she’s a proud firebender.
Brian Palmer is a contemporary adult writer (usually) from Oregon who infuses his stories with elements of the supernatural and wondrous. A former freelance writer, publishing intern, and Pitch Wars mentee (who believes in the Oxford comma!), he works in the editorial department for an academic religious publisher while spending his nights looking for the best ways to bedazzle his agent. When he’s not writing, he marvels at the singular beauty of his wife’s laughter, revels in the happiness bombs that appear on his daughter’s face, reads like there’s no tomorrow, and forever searches for an album that will become the perfect soundtrack for his next work.