The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Beth Smith and her Pitch Wars mentor Stacey Heather Lee here for a little Q and A. Beth recently signed with Ammi-Joan Paquette with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Beth, you were chosen for Pitch Wars, which was such a great accomplishment with over 2,000 applications and about 660 writers entering. What made you decide to send an application to Stacey?
I almost didn’t! I read Stacey’s wishlist and I didn’t think she’d be interested in my book at all. But one of my writing friends had been talking to Stacey about books on Twitter, and she convinced me Stacey might be a good fit. I’m so glad she did! That same friend was the one who convinced me to enter Pitch Wars in the first place, and I’ve learned to trust her in all things.
Wow, this perfect match almost wasn’t. What a great friend you have, Beth! So Stacey, what about Beth’s application made you choose her?
Beth’s submission sang to me. You know how baby penguins sing a special song when the mamas returns from feeding so that the mamas can find them? I heard my chick’s song. I loved the musicality of her writing, the setting (Pacific Northwest), the subject (orcas), and the genre (mystery/thriller with a hint of magic). It’s the exact kind of book I love reading.
I had to Google baby penguins singing. Guess I could have just pictured HAPPY FEET. When I read Beth’s entry, it sang to me too! And Beth, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
It was intense! I had a few weeks off work over the Christmas period, and I basically locked myself away in my study and worked like a mad person, determined to come out the other side with a manuscript I was proud of. Stacey’s notes were amazing. She taught me some life-changing techniques for structuring and plotting a novel, but she was also there in the nitty-gritty, pointing out my quirks and smoothing out the language. To top it off, she read untold drafts of my pitch and knew just how to cut to the heart of the story. Stacey in a word: Brilliant.
Stacey is my girl! She’s done that to me before. I believe she’s a manuscript genius. Now Stacey, tell us about your experience with mentoring Beth? How was mentoring your other team members?
Beth is such an easy person to work with and handled my critique like a seasoned pro. It is not an easy thing to do – open your MS to critique by a stranger, and not just baby critique and cheerleading, but real critique that requires you to take a hard look at your MS, character, plot structure, motivations, language. She pulled it off with grace and style.
My other team members Shanna Miles and Rebecca were super – they shared in crafting each other’s pitches and supporting each other’s efforts. I’m proud of #TeamOrca.
It’s great practice for agent revisions, and then publisher revisions, I’d say. Beth, what was the wait like during the agent round and the days leading up to the offer?
Knowing my obsessive tendencies, I decided ahead of time not to check my entry until after the agent round was over. Instead, I spent a lot of time cooking and walking the dog — any way I could think of to get my mind off the competition. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I was completely blown away when my husband told me about the requests that were trickling in. Agents wanted to see MY manuscript!
It was only a week between sending out the requests and getting the first offer, but that’s more than enough time for a nervous breakdown or two. I spent a lot of time on university websites, brainstorming what other career I might go into if the writing thing didn’t work out. Also, more stress-baking.
Yes, I remember seeing and tweeting your husband on Twitter. You have more willpower than me, I would be refreshing every second like a mad woman. So Beth, you signed with Ammi-Joan Paquette with Erin Murphy Literary Agency tell us about “The Call.”
Joan was the last to offer out of six amazing agents. I truly believe any one of them could have been “the one” — they were all enthusiastic, savvy and personable and they all loved my novel! The week after that first offer was full of 6am Skype calls (living internationally certainly has its drawbacks), client emails and giant pro/con lists.
In the end I chose Joan because she was the best match for me — both in terms of personality and agenting style. Speaking to her, I knew I could have complete confidence in her ability to manage both my book and my career. And it didn’t hurt that she compared my writing to Nova Ren Suma, one of my favorite authors!
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer: What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Beth: Hogwarts, of course! Most fictional schools are to be escaped from. Hogwarts is a place people escape to.
Stacey: I love this question so much. Hogwarts all the way!
Hogwarts is very popular and where all the cool kids go! I would so want to go there too. What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Confidante: Sam from Shiver. He seems like he’d be a good listener, especially in wolf form.
Enemy: Carmen Sandiego. Because being her enemy means lots of travel.
Idol: Richard Castle. Because, come on. Who doesn’t want to be a best-selling writer who solves mysteries in NYC?
Kick-butt ally: Veronica Mars. ‘Nuff said.
Enemy: Jabba the Hut
Idol: Elizabeth Bennett
Kick butt ally: Jacky Faber of the Bloody Jack books
Katniss and Veronica Mars, you ladies are my type of people! What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Beth: November cakes from the Scorpio Races! I tried the butterbeer at Harry Potter World, and it didn’t quite live up to my imagination.
Stacey: Treacle pudding.
November cakes sound yummy! You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Beth: Ninja stars
You two don’t mess around. What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Beth: COFFEE. Or tea, if I’m trying to cut down on the caffeine. Grapes are good as well because you can pop one in between paragraphs without getting stuff all over your hands.
Stacey: Popcorn. I also tend to drink a lot of milk teas.
Beth, you’re a writer after my own heart. COFFEE is life! Popcorn is good too. Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Beth: I started writing when I was a kid, and I remember two writers being fairly influential: Emily Rodda and Jackie French. They’re both Australian children’s writers and the worlds they create just blow my mind. I remember sitting in class while the teacher read from an Emily Rodda book and thinking “I could do that!”
Stacey: Frank L. Baum.
Last question: Which team are you? Team Brenda or Team Rae? Kidding. No really. Thank you for sharing your success story. Rae and I couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Beth: Thank you so much! Pitch Wars has been such an incredible experience. My advice to new writers is always this: surround yourself with good people. Brenda, Rae, and Stacey are some of the best.
Stacey: That’s a hard one. Sweet and salty go together just great!
Now we’re wondering who is the sweet one and who is the salty. It may surprise you all who is which in person.
Wonderful interview you two! Congratulations on the success, and we can’t wait to hear about more successes in the future. Everyone else, go say hello to them on Twitter.
Why are you still here? Scram. Give them some love!