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 Kosoko Jackson and his mentor, Kip Wilson. Kosoko signed with Louise Fury at The Bent Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for him. Please, help me in congratulating Kosoko and Kip on their Pitch Wars Success!
Kosoko, what was it about Kip that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Kip Wilson actually WASN’T the first mentor I selected! I paid the extra 20 dollars to get additional mentors and when searching through, I was surprised I didn’t see her before. After reading her profile, and her love for unique timelines and historical fiction, I knew she would be a great fit. She even mentioned some of her favorite novels were books that I loved and used as comps in my mind for my novel!
Kip, what was it about Kosoko’s manuscript that hooked you?
Kosoko’s manuscript checked off so many items on my wishlist: the historical setting in another country, a nonlinear timeline, some epistolary sections, fast pacing, diverse characters, and above all, very strong writing. This included both some absolutely stunning images and something I hadn’t even known I wanted—a snarky voice with oodles of laugh-out-loud lines to lighten the very serious overall tone of the novel.
Kosoko, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
My process with Kip was a bit of a whirlwind. I work in politics, so it was a VERY busy time for me. We did big picture edits first, discussed a lot before I buckled down and started working. Then, I sent Kip chapter-by-chapter edits, which she approved or didn’t. I would then go back and revise the chapters again and then I put them in a “completed” folder. Once everything was done I compiled it and we did 3 read throughs. We were done about 2 weeks before the deadline, and then spent the rest of the time working on the pitch.
Kip, tell us about your experience mentoring Kosoko.
Working with Kosoko was amazing because I could tell from my first interactions with him how ready he was for the serious work of Pitch Wars. But on top of that, because our visions for the book very much lined up, I was confident that he could use my feedback to turn his already strong project into something even better. He dove right in to his revisions and delivered everything on time in spite of the fact that his life was chock-full at the moment. Nothing beats the combination of talent and hard work!
Kosoko, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We’d love to hear 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!
As you know, I signed with Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. Louise actually had the second draft of this subbed novel (there were a total of 3 of them before I got publication), sent back in 2015 (actually, April 19th, 2016–almost exactly 1 year from now!). I then pinged her with each edit & when I got into Pitch Wars.
Louise, actually wasn’t the initial offer. I got another offer on March 9th, 2017. To say I screamed was an understatement. I actually ignored the email at first because after 256–yep, you read that right–queries, I was used to “near miss” rejections.
When I read the email–3 times–I emailed the agent back instantly and we had a call that evening. They were great with awesome vision and gave me 10 days to nudge other agents. Louise was one of those, but was in South Africa, so she wasn’t able to call me until the following Thursday; legit 1 day before my deadline. I was actually driving down to a conference that day.
I had a second offer who called me about 5 days before Louise and I was actually set on signing with them. Louise and I talked–after I pulled over–for 2 hours, almost triple the length of any other call! She had not only the vision for this book I was looking for, but also the vision for the other books I intended to write–the type of book I wanted to write, the type of author I wanted to be, and personal things we agreed on. She wanted a career writer who was willing to put in the time for edits, writing multiple books, and was able to take the tough talks with the encouraging. She even talked with me about editors she wanted to see. That was me!
I emailed Louise that night and had my contract signed the next day. I haven’t looked back since then. We’ve communicated a lot through email, and had a few 2 hour plus conversations that have really helped me become in sync with her. I really feel like I made not only the right choice for this book, but also for ALL of my books in the future.
Kosoko, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I think Pitch Wars really helped me take my novel to the next level. That was one thing my agent mentioned. She had the first version in her inbox and liked it, but wasn’t sure if she had time to put the work that was needed into it. Pitch Wars helped take it to the next level so she COULD offer on it, and felt confident the work was something that not only I could do edit wise, but she could manage. Essentially, Pitch Wars proved I was a good editor.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Kosoko: The Magicians series, specifically Brakebills. Despite the violence, the way the series and the world is pretty much Harry Potter for adults is exceptional. I’d probably be a student and then a teacher at Brakebills teaching battle magic. Because who DOESN’T love battle magic?
Kip: This is a particularly hard question for me because my favorite genre is historical fiction, which generally takes place in terrible, tragic times I wouldn’t necessarily like to visit. And as much as I love Harry Potter and Golden Compass, I don’t think those sorts of worlds would really be for me, either. I’d have to say that my ideal fictional world would be one written by Anna-Marie McLemore. Once there, I’d leave it to her to surprise me and carry me off in a way I’d least expect.
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?
Kosoko: Easy. I’m running from Thanos across the nine realms with Thor because we stole the Infinity Gauntlet from him. Obviously for the good of humanity. And any hunky guy needs a brainy partner.
Kip: Running from Nazis with girls like Verity and Maddie at my side.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Kosoko: I’m going to be really boring and say a time turner from Harry Potter. I’m a type A person and I NEVER have enough time (even now I have my life split in 4 buckets; work, school, novel-editing and maintaining a relationship). I WISH I had more time for them all!
Kip: Alethiomiter from Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.
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?
Kosoko: I do everything scientifically. I take the amount of days I have to do something, divide it by what I need to do, and then do that minimum each day. Those are the “goals”. I set what are called “Reach goals” and that’s going over the top and allows me leeway on other days because I have ‘roll over words/edits’. I usually write at work, on my lunch break, in my taxi to and from work, and then late at night. Computer work all the day.
Kip: I’m a member of #5amWritersClub, and most of my manuscripts are written either then or in snatched moments throughout the day. My brain tends to shut down creatively in the afternoon/evening, so that’s when I prefer to read instead of write.
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?
Kosoko: Milano Cookies (double chocolate stuffed), Sparkling Water + apple slices!
Kip: Café con leche y peladillas.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Kosoko: Certainly my friend Lana Johnson is the reason this novel exists. My mother has driven my writing since I was in 9th grade and read—every—horrible draft of a story I gave her while I slept. And my boyfriend, Jordan. He encourages me every step of the way, listens to me wide-eyed when I explain stupid ideas, and even helped copy-edit my novel for my agent during these agented steps (I love you, babe).
Kip: My family and critique partners have been there for me from the beginning (many moons ago) and I certainly wouldn’t/couldn’t have held up this long on the publishing journey without them. Besides them, my own PitchWars 2014 class has been an amazing addition to my writing support system, and I am still thankful for everything my own mentor, Sarah Guillory, taught me, and for the generous support from her, Brenda Drake, and everyone involved.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Kosoko: I advise writers to never give up querying. I sent 250 queries over 2 years for this novel to get 3 offers. That’s about 1 percent. Always write what’s in your heart, and try to put a small piece of you in every novel. It makes writing days when you feel like a pie of garbage so much better.
Kip: I will simply second Kosoko’s wisdom here. So very true! Never give up; never surrender!
Congratulations, Kosoko! And thank you, Kosoko and Kip, for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Kosoko Jackson – Mentee
Kosoko is a Washington D.C. native who has been writing novels since 9th grade. With a goal of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of all genres of literature, Kosoko finds beauty in addressing complex questions & themes for young adults, aided by complex prose. Kosoko is a digital media associate for Rock the Vote and finishing his BS in public health with dual minors in History & Communications. When not writing or working he is trying to finish his 100 movies in 2017 goal, walking the streets of DC, or trying to convert believers to the Cult of Wonder Woman. He is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.
Kip Wilson – Mentor
Kip is a YA writer represented by Roseanne Wells at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. She has a Ph.D. in German Literature and is the Poetry Editor at YARN. Her work has been published in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies as well as BLACK FOX LITERARY, COBBLESTONE, and FACES magazines. Her work has won several awards, including the 2017 PEN New England Discovery Award. You can find her on twitter and on her website.