Our favorite part of hosting pitch contests around here is when we hear about successes. Today we celebrate Stephanie Herman and her Pitch Wars mentor Whitney Fletcher! Stephanie recently signed with Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency, and we’re so over-the-moon excited for yer. So please join me in congratulating Stephanie and Whitney as they share with us their amazing Pitch Wars success story.
Stephanie, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Whitney?
I spent a lot of time looking at the different mentors, reading their blog posts and social media, basically being slightly creepy. Whitney was the first I added to my list, and it was a bit of a no-brainer. My manuscript matched several of the things he said he loves to see in fiction, from bittersweet endings to unusual steampunk. Not only that, but the media he loves lined up so perfectly with mine. He specifically named several of my absolute favorite books and shows, including Kameron Hurley and the anime Darker than Black, so I thought since we love the same types of things, he’d be likely to “get” my fiction. Mine is a weird book, and that was important to me; I was sure any writer at the mentor level could offer great advice, but someone ostensibly in my target audience as well would appreciate the unique aspects of the book, and be better able to help me enhance them.
Whitney, what about Stephanie’s application made you choose her?
Oh, where to begin? Steph’s MS really captured a vivid setting that felt different than a lot of the traditional fantasy fare, even in just the first pages. I loved the concept of a city besieged by carnivorous plants. Moreover, she didn’t stop there–she took that idea and thought about realistic implications that world would have as far as politics, economics, etc. The characters were vivid and the action was crisp. There was no doubt that the writing skills were there. Further, when I looked at her presence on social media, I saw that she was positive, supportive, and engaged with the other contestants–all of which signaled someone who would be willing to work hard and seriously consider any suggestions I had.
Stephanie, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Well, I was an alternate, so things weren’t nearly as intense as they were for some of the other mentees! That’s OK with me though, Whitney gave me some comments, particularly around pacing. I had finished a major revision a couple months before I applied, and hadn’t looked at the book for a while, so while I was going through and looking for places to extrapolate Whitney’s comments, I also did some polishing on my own. And of course, Whitney has a great eye for pitches, and really helped me bring my query and short pitches up to the next level. I learned a ton from that process!
Whitney, tell us about your experience with mentoring Stephanie.
I truly can’t take any credit for Steph’s success! From the beginning after the picks were announced, she was highly self-motivated, independent, and diligent. Her MS was already very good, and I had only a few suggestions as far as pacing and worldbuilding. She took those suggestions and other feedback she had, worked hard to revise her MS, and the result is now plain for everyone to see! It was my pleasure to work with someone who, from the outset, was driven to succeed.
Stephanie, after Pitch Wars you signed with Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency, tell us about “The Call.” Can you tell us the details about the offer: How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Leon contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I queried for about a year before I got my offer, and it came at a really unexpected time (don’t they always?). I had gotten a fair amount of interest in the form of partial and full manuscript requests, but they just never seemed to pan out. I had picked up some feedback along with the rejections, and I was trying to decide whether I’d try another rewrite or just send out my next round of queries.
Leon had requested a full over the summer, and in December he emailed to ask if I’d gotten an offer yet before he dove in. I think it was less than 24 hours later that he emailed me to set up The Call, and I just about hit the roof. I know I was absolutely useless at the day job, and I’m pretty sure my cube-mate thought I’d lost my mind. Leon and I talked over my lunch break, and I tried to remember to ask all the right questions and stay semi-professional… though I’m sure he could tell exactly how giddy I was!
I held off for the requisite two weeks (actually, a little longer since it was over the holidays) to give everyone a chance to chime in, but I knew from that phone call that I’d be more than happy to work with Leon. As for celebrating, there was an awful lot of sushi involved!
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
Pitch Wars was an amazing experience, and I learned a ton from Whitney. Even though I didn’t sign with either of the agents who requested my book through the contest, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be in the same place without having participated. I’m part of a community of writers now – the 2014 Pitch Wars participants – who I would probably never have met otherwise. We don’t all belong to the same genre or age group, and only a very few of us have met in person. But we support each other, commiserate with and advise each other. I’m proud to know them, and they’re a constant positive presence in my life now, which I think is invaluable in this pursuit that takes so much time and fortitude. It’s hard to give up when you’re surrounded by people who not only go out of their way to encourage you, but know exactly what you’re going through.
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)?
Stephanie: Hard question! Pretty much anywhere magic is awesome, but I think I’d go with the school in Jane Yolen’s Wizard Hall, which was the first fantasy book I ever read and has stuck with me ever since.
Whitney: I think Hogwarts would be a fun place to attend. I’d get a kick out of asking all sorts of annoying questions of the professors about how exactly magic works. Of course, I’d want to make sure I wasn’t attending during any of the years that a certain Harry Potter was also there…
What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Stephanie: Lirael (from LIRAEL, by Garth Nix), definitely. She’s a dreamer, but practical too, and I feel like she’d be a great friend who wouldn’t hesitate to help me take down an army if that’s what needed to be done. I also think Georgia Mason from Mira Grant’s FEED would be a great adviser, and we’d also bond over our love of Coca-Cola. As for enemy, I absolutely despise Delores Umbridge.
Whitney: I think Sabriel (from the book SABRIEL, by Garth Nix) and I would get along quite well. We’re both very analytical, pragmatic, and logical while still being surrounded by the fantastic. Granted, in my case, the fantastical stuff is all in my head!
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Stephanie: I don’t remember too much from the years I was obsessed with the Redwall books, but I still remember Hazelnut and Honey Turnovers and Blackberry Cordial… pretty sure I NEED some of that!
Whitney: I’ll stick with Harry Potter for this one–I would love to get my hands on some Felix Felicis, for obvious reasons!
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Stephanie: I guess if we’re going for lethal, the only weapon I know how to use is a bow – but I was taught never to point that at people… Maybe I could throw one of my cats at him/her? I haven’t clipped their claws in quite a while!
Whitney: Uh . . . pen? Sources inform me that it can be mightier than the sword.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Stephanie: Tea! There’s this chestnut-flavored white tea that I just adore 🙂
Whitney: Lately, it’s been taffy!
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Stephanie: Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, CS Lewis, Garth Nix, Andre Norton, Larry Niven, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, that list could go on forever!
Whitney: There’s a lot of people who have inspired me, but Ursula K. LeGuin, Terry Pratchett, and J. R. R. Tolkien are some of the authors I read as a child who get me started.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Stephanie: I’m exceedingly grateful to Whitney, and to Brenda for creating such a wonderful contest that helps so many writers improve their skills and find one another. Their generosity and kindness really made a difference to me, and I hope to find ways to pass that generous spirit along to all the other writers I meet along the way.
Whitney: Steph is a wonderful talent and has a really fascinating imagination. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
Thank you both for sharing this experience with us!
Stephanie Herman writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories. She’s represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency. She also rescues oiled wildlife, watch birds, corral chinchillas, and plays the oboe.
Whitney Fletcher writes science fiction and fantasy as well as a few other things here and there that interest him. He is a geek, a nerd, and a dork, completing the Trifecta of Awesome.
He writes slowly and revises quickly. He tweets a lot and blogs less.
In his spare time, Whitney enjoys a wide variety of forms of entertainment, including binge-watching TV shows online, far too many video games, a number of professional sports, numerous anime series, fantasy and science fiction novels in massive numbers, and nonfiction books (particularly social histories). He also listens to a fairly eclectic range of music. TL;DR: geek, nerd, dork.
Represented by Lana Popovic of the Chalberg & Sussman Literary Agency.