Helping people succeed in the publishing industry is one of the most satisfying parts of our job. Today, we celebrate the success of Maria Mora and her mentor, Linsey Miller! Maria signed with Erica Bauman of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Please celebrate with Maria and Lindsey in her wonderful success story.
Maria, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Linsey?
I remember exactly when I read Linsey’s bio, because I was sitting in the courthouse waiting for a hearing on child support due to a clerical error. At the time, I was feeling vulnerable and cranky, and Linsey’s bio was a little ray of sunshine because she sounded like a perfect fit for GATHOS. I was drawn to the fact that she requested diversity in submissions, particular LGBTQIA characters. I carefully “researched” her on Twitter.
I have to admit I was pretty intimidated to send my application over to her!
Linsey, what about Maria’s application made you choose her?
Maria’s book was exactly what I was looking for and what I asked for, and I was instantly hooked by her characters.
Maria, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Linsey and I clicked from day one, and sent hundreds of gif-laden emails back and forth as I grappled with rewriting the end of my book. (And working on tons of other issues Linsey deftly pointed out.) She helped me brainstorm and plot solutions. She gave me homework and had me work on plotting out character arcs and motivation. We did two full passes, and Linsey spent an enormous amount of time leaving notes and comments. I couldn’t believe how much effort she put into my book. It was such a humbling experience. She was always there for me when I freaked out, let my lizard brain get too loud, or just needed to scream while surrounded by imaginary flames.
My favorite part was how much she cared for my characters. That was motivating every step of the way. SHE LOVED MY BABIES TOO.
Linsey, tell us about your experience with mentoring Maria.
Maria is one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met. She was completely on board with editing and rewriting, and she worked from the start well through the end of Pitch Wars no matter what happened. She had great ideas, was great at taking critique, and was just as excited as I was to dive into GATHOS.
Maria, after Pitch Wars you signed with Erica Bauman of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, tell us about “The Call.” What did you do to distract yourself? How did Erica contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
During Pitch Wars, I carefully researched agents who seemed like a good fit for GATHOS And built a spreadsheet. Linsey helped me whip my query into shape. Using QueryTracker to keep track of queries, requests and rejections, I hit the trenches. At first, I loved querying. I’d worked on revising GATHOS for three years at that point and being ready to query was a huge milestone.
I connected with literary agent Erica Bauman during Dan Kobolt’s #SFFPit twitter pitch contest. This is the tweet Erica favorited:
In the spring, Erica emailed me asking to schedule a call. I started shaking when I read it. THE CALL. Erica was very approachable on the phone. It was unspeakably cool to hear her talking about my characters–the people from my head–as if they were flesh and blood. This will always be one of the most magical parts of writing for me. Erica had wonderful suggestions and offered me the opportunity to revise GATHOS and resubmit.
With the support of the Pitch Wars mentees, I worked through my anxiety over revising based on an agent’s feedback. (It’s nearly impossible to detach from the outcome when you’re working with specific feedback with a very specific and enormous goal in mind.) My CPs and my mentor were instrumental in keeping me motivated and on track as I gutted over a quarter of the book entirely and added over 30k new words.
I resubmitted the GATHOS revision in mid-April with a breakdown of the changes I’d made and spent the next six weeks in a constant state of buzzing anxiety. Near the end of May, Erica asked me if we could schedule another call. I was terrified to be hopeful. (Lizard brain!) She opened with an offer of representation. I was nearly overcome with pure joy. So much hard work for that specific goal, and I’d done it!
We spent a long time on the phone talking about the revision. Two weeks later I called Erica to accept her offer. Erica is a perfect fit for me, and has a fantastic vision for my books and my career. I especially connected to the editorial approach that Zachary Shuster Harmsworth takes with its authors.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars honed my work ethic and showed me how much I’m capable of when it comes to swallowing the knee-jerk pain of criticism and turning it into the opportunity for growth. I discovered a lot of little bad habits in my writing. I gained not only the mentorship of Linsey Miller but of my fellow mentees, many of whom have been in the publishing/querying world longer than I have. I felt like everyone was there beside me during my revision and as I celebrated the milestone of getting representation. I truly don’t think I’d be where I am today without the support of Linsey and the mentees from Pitch Wars 2015. Publishing is all about perseverance, and it helps immeasurably to have people in your corner.
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)?
Maria: Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters
Linsey: Hogwarts! Always.
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Confidante: Despina from THE WRATH AND THE DAWN
Enemy: Miss Trunchbull from MATILDA
Idol: Richard St. Vier from SWORDSPOINT (Swooooon. Wait, did we mean like idol you hang on your bedroom wall or… )
Kick-butt ally: Agnieszka from UPROOTED
Confidante: Mel from CROWN DUEL
Enemy: The Falconer from THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA
Idol: Minerva McGonagall from HARRY POTTER
Kick-butt Ally: Tris from THE CIRCLE OF MAGIC
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Maria: Klah from DRAGONSINGER
Linsey: Sour cherry scones from CARRY ON.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Maria: Cell phone. Hope I have time to call 911 before I pee my pants!
Linsey: My trusty ability to…run away?
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Maria: Sour Patch Kids, Haribo Bears, chocolate chip cookies, La Croix
Linsey: Popcorn. So much popcorn.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Maria: Anne McCaffrey was a huge influence when I was in middle school. The world-building! Jaida Jones and Dani Bennett were a major inspiration to me in my mid-20’s when I followed their journey into publishing and thought maybe I can do this, too.
Linsey: Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix were huge influences for me growing up.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Maria: Pitch Wars has changed my life in so many ways, but perhaps more than anything by connecting me with other writers who have become a supportive, inspiring family. I am beyond grateful and honored to call Linsey Miller my friend.
Linsey: Mentoring was an amazing experience and I am so happy to be a part of Pitch Wars. Thank you Brenda, thank you everyone behind the scenes, and thank you writers who submit.
And thank you Maria for being so cool.
Thank you for sharing your success story. We couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Maria Mora wrote fairy stories in her math notebook when she was supposed to be learning long division. She loves high stakes and swoony romance.
As Content Director at Big Sea, a web design and development agency in Florida, she leads a team of marketers and content creators to develop and execute inbound marketing strategies.
Maria lives in Florida with her two sons and two rescue terriers.
Lindsey’s debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS (Sourcebooks Fire, Summer 2017) is about a gender-fluid thief with ulterior, dangerous motives who auditions to become the next royal assassin.
A wayward biologist from Arkansas, she previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there’s coffee. She’s represented byRachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency.
You can find her (lonely, bare, not less loved but definitely less attended to) website here.