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Pitch Wars Success Story … Caitlyn (C.H.) McFarland!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Caitlyn (C.H.) McFarland and her Pitch Wars mentor Rae Chang here for a little Q and A. Caitlyn recently signed with Marlene Stringer with The Stringer Literary Agency, LLC. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.

Brenda: Caitlyn, what was it like when Rae choose you? Were you surprised?

Caitlyn: Of course! Rae was a ninja mentor, so I didn’t realize I’d been chosen until the day after everyone else. I was in ‘be happy for my friends’ mode. I was totally shocked.

Brenda: Rae, what about Caitlyn’s application made you choose her?

Rae: Actually, the query description. Usually I get much more excited about the sample pages, but Caitlyn’s query said, “When one [dragon] crashes nearly dead at her feet and transforms into a man, Kai does the only thing a decent person could: she grabs the nearest sword and saves his life.” How can you resist that, I ask you? I was hooked. (I also did a complete listing here. )

Brenda: Caitlyn, would you tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?

 Caitlyn: Well, it turns out that Rae is graduating from the college I graduated from back in 2008, so we actually live in the same town. We met the night the ninja mentor picks were posted. She took me out to a Korean restaurant (Rae LOVES Asian food, but I’m sure everyone already knows that) and we talked for hours. Rae is incredibly smart, so I was intimidated by her at first. But she’s also hilarious and knows her stuff (and she kept bringing me and my family food), so we bonded pretty quickly.

She was out of town for Christmas, but afterward we settled into a routine where she’d come to my place (I have three little girls, so it’s hard for me to get away), and we’d talk and laugh and do some work. Well, okay, when we were together, it was mostly talking and “casting” my story with attractive actors, but when we DID buckle down, we kicked a ton of butt. You know you’ve got an excellent relationship when your mentor can say, “This line is stupid,” and you come right back with, “Your face is stupid.” Which you say while deleting the line, because you know your mentor is right. We had a very professional working relationship.

Rae: Dude, the MOST professional ever. With a bow.

Brenda: Rae, would you tell us about your experience with mentoring Caitlyn?

Rae: Actually, our relationship quickly evolved past the “mentor/mentee” stage. We got to hang out in person for 4-12 hours a day for months, and we kind of mentored each other. (I’m happy to say that we are CP’s and besties now.) We’re also only 4 years apart, so we get a lot of each other’s random culture references. Also, Caitlyn loves to try new foods, so I introduced her to a few. Or ten.

On a more serious note, Caitlyn is seriously a writing sponge. I would give her a little correction in one of the beginning chapters, and she’d come back a day later having fixed EVERY occurrence of that mistake in the entire book as well as fixed something completely different that I hadn’t gotten to yet. Her real genius is in her rewriting skills, though. Her first drafts are good. Her second drafts are dynamite. Don’t ask me; she was awesome before she met me. I’m just the burner of words.

Brenda: Caitlyn you signed with Marlene Stringer with The Stringer Literary Agency, LLC. Tell us about “The Call.”

Caitlyn: I was very nervous! Thankfully, my husband was home from work, and he corralled the kids so I could focus. I still had a small freak-out, however, because my mom called right before Marlene and when I tried to switch calls, my phone hung up on both of them! I almost cried. But she called me again five minutes later and everything was fine. Rae had given me a pretty comprehensive list of questions I should ask, but Marlene answered most of them while she was telling me about herself, the agency, and what she expected out of our relationship. The best thing about The Call was finding out Marlene has the same vision for my story I do. On top of that, Marlene is professional, knowledgeable, and efficient. She made me feel very comfortable.

Rae: In other words, keep calm and Cadoc on, right?

Caitlyn: Always.

Now for some fun . . . with the questions Rae wrote for other people. Time to turn the tables!

Rae: 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)?

Caitlyn: That depends, is Chris Pine at Starfleet Academy? Ha ha, actually, I think I’d like to go to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality from Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage series. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to be an assassin and a lady at a school held aloft by three attached dirigibles?

Also Rae: (Dude, Chris Pine’s got nothing on Ewan McGregor.) Jedi Academy. That’s why I included it on this question, but nobody ever picks it! No joke, as a kid, I used to look up at the stars after ballet class and WILL with all my little heart that an X-wing with a capable hyperdrive would swoop down and take me away. (Ok, guilty, I still wish for this all the time.)

Rae: What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?

Caitlyn: Confidante – Elizabeth Bennet, because she’s snarky, and I think we’d laugh a lot.
Enemy – I’m sure a lot of people have said this, but Dolores Umbridge. She’s so nasty in such a real way.
Idol – Sorcha or Liadan (or any of the women) from Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters books. They’re all strong, selfless, loyal, and value their families above everything else.
Kick-butt ally – Obviously Samwise Gamgee.

Also Rae: Confidante – Liara T’Soni — She’s a sweet gal pal who’s excellent at heart-to-hearts. Also, she’s the Shadow Broker. And can flay people with her mind.
Enemy – Ahsoka Tano — I hate her with nearly every fiber of my being. This duel needs to happen. If she’s not available, I’ll accept Jenna Zan Arbor in her place.
Idol – Garrus Vakarian — He’s the sexy turian Batman. No further explanation needed.
Kick-butt ally – Darth Vader — Ain’t NO ONE gonna mess with me. Except maybe River Tam.

Rae: What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?

Caitlyn: I’d go to a Redwall feast. Reading about those made my mouth water all the time when I was a kid. I’d say a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, but I don’t drink. 😉

Also Rae: (Ha! You’re the second person I’ve interviewed to put both of those.) I’m actually really curious to try ruby bliels, juma juice, and if I drank (which I also don’t), steamed Chandrilan wine. But yeah, Redwall feasts made me salivate, too.

Rae: You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)

Caitlyn: Pitch Wars mentor! Have you met Rae IRL? She’s scary with a glove and dang good with chopsticks. My nemesis should cower in fear.

Also Rae: LIGHTSABER. I sleep with it beside my bed. (You guys sensing a trend yet?) Either that, or I’ll kill you with my brain.

Caitlyn again: My point is made.


Caitlyn again: *snort*

Rae: What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)

Caitlyn: Pepsi and chocolate chips with popcorn. And these chocolate covered chocolate doughnuts my grocery store sells. Or cheez-its. Or even just a glass of water. Pretty much anything, actually. I have a need to munch things when I’m writing.

Also Rae: I have the weirdest cravings ever, but my most common fuels are: cranberry juice, pho, sushi, any Korean food, pad thai, prosciutto, olives, and any excellent cheese in the vicinity.

Rae: Whose work inspired you to start writing?

Caitlyn: Patricia C. Wrede is the first author I remember loving. I think her Enchanted Forest Chronicles converted me to fantasy for life, along with Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. When I got older, I was all about Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern and any Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Lots of dragons. Orson Scott Card had a big effect on me, too, because his website was the first I came across that had professional writing advice for free. I’m kind of a late bloomer because, as a kid and teen, being an author seemed unattainable. It wasn’t until I was about 24 that I realized I wanted to tell stories as much as I wanted to read them.

Also Rae: I’m a big fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix, Gail Carson Levine, Jude Watson, and Patricia C. Wrede. (Caitlyn and I filled this out on a Google Doc, and we TOTALLY wrote Patricia C. Wrede at the same time!) I think I own nearly everything these wonderful ladies have ever written. And, like Caitlyn, I’m a total sucker for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Is it any wonder we got along so well? We both love our dragons.

Brenda: Last question: Which team are you? Team Brenda or Team Rae? (I left this in just to mess with you.) Kidding. No really. Thank you for sharing your success story. Rae and I couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!

Caitlyn: Both! I never would’ve met Rae without you organizing these amazing contests!

Rae: Dude. That isn’t even fair. But you’re right, I couldn’t be any happier about it! Fun piece of trivia: Caitlyn got “THE CALL” on my 2-year wedding anniversary. BEST. PRESENT. EVER.

Thank you, Caitlyn and Rae, for such a fun interview. Everyone go over and show some love to Caitlyn! You can find her here …


Caitlyn (C.H.) McFarland



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