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 Tamara Girardi and her mentor, Molly Lee. Tamara signed with Melissa Nasson with Rubin Pfeffer Content after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Tamara and Molly on their Pitch Wars Success!
Tamara, what was it about Molly that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Molly’s Wish List attracted me right away. It read, “I love to see instances where a girl/woman is in a profession/situation that is tailored toward men and she’s hacking it right there with the boys.” My YA contemporary GRIDIRON GIRL is about a girl who competes against her boyfriend to be the starting quarterback of the football team, so the whole story is about her trying to hack it with the guys.
Also, I want to say that I took the advice to ask questions of the mentors seriously when picking my six. Molly didn’t specifically mention sports, so I tweeted her to be sure she has an interest in them. Fortunately for me, she did! My next step was to read some of my potential mentors’ works (because narrowing down to six was HARD), and one chapter of Molly’s EDGE OF CHAOS had me in love. She made me feel instantly.
Molly, what was it about Tamara’s GRIDIRON GIRL that hooked you?
The pitch for GRIDIRON GIRL was solid. It showed the stakes, voice, and had a great hook all in one. A girl has to go up against her boyfriend for the starting quarterback position? Forget about it! Sign me up!
Tamara, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
It was fantastic. Molly sent me comments immediately. Her feedback was impressive and exciting; it sparked so many ideas, and I added several scenes to the manuscript that made it much stronger! And with Molly’s skills of writing romance, the book definitely got steamier, which I kind of loved!
Most importantly, though, Molly was open to my ideas of how to fix the problems she noted in the manuscript. I agreed with one of the problems she identified, but not necessarily the solution she suggested. I took some time to mull it over and proposed an alternative solution to her. She read the revised pages and loved them. That taught me a lot about working with an agent and editor in the future – how to trust good feedback but also be true to the story you want to tell. And I appreciated her respect for my work and ideas.
Can I also say that nobody is more inspiring than Molly Lee? She is a force. She writes ferociously, and her stories are so good you want to sink into them and stay for a while. Part of the beauty of the process was wanting to do right by her and the time and effort she so generously offered me.
Molly, tell us about your experience mentoring Tamara.
I love mentoring. I’ve been so lucky to be a part of this wonderful competition since it started, and the work everyone does is phenomenal. I love being a sounding board for the mentees as well as offering constructive feedback on the manuscript, allowing them to utilize all I’ve learned over the years. And Tamara was really awesome about edits, never shied away from the hard work, and pushed herself to really make the manuscript shine.
Tamara, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love 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! We love hearing about all of it.
Melissa emailed me a few days before Thanksgiving to say that she was loving GRIDIRON GIRL. She asked me some questions about comps and said she would get back to me. The holiday came and went with no news! But a few days later, she emailed me a revise and resubmit request. The comments resonated with me, and I was excited to make my story even better. We emailed back and forth, building a great rapport, and I got to work on the manuscript.
As I revised, I received an offer of representation from a different agent. After nudging all of the agents with my query, partial or full—and Melissa, of course—I ultimately received multiple offers of representation, which was surreal and incredibly difficult. It’s a good problem to have, but still, overwhelming and difficult. I emailed with the agents’ and/or agency’s clients, and all had great things to say. Ultimately, the rapport Melissa and I had been building for weeks and my confidence in her as my advocate in this industry led to a comfort and trust that told me she was the agent for me! I signed the agreement Christmas weekend!
Throughout the whole process, the Pitch Wars community helped me so much. I talked with my mentor and a few of the mentees privately on Twitter and Facebook and the entire community on our Facebook page. They gave me encouragement and advice, and they celebrated with me, too!
Tamara, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars was directly responsible for my success. The community of other Pitch Wars writers gave me the confidence and tools to advocate for myself while seeking an agent. Melissa requested my manuscript in the agent round of the contest. The manuscript was what it was because of my revisions with Molly. The deadline to enter the contest motivated me to complete the manuscript when I did. Truly, everything about Pitch Wars helped me succeed in this chapter of my writing journey.
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?
Tamara: Is it too cliché to say the world of Harry Potter? Hogwarts is great and all, but as a mom of three young, beautiful children, I’d really like a wand to help me cook and clean. And the accio spell would save me so much time in life—much more time to write the tales of all the incredible witches and wizards around me. And Butterbeer. And the ability to apparate. And pictures that move—oh, wait. My iPhone does that.
Molly: HOGWARTS. I’d probably own something similar to the Three Broomsticks with my husband, and would show up to every Quidditch match our two toddlers would no doubt go on to play J And…does there really need to be an explanation of why I chose this world? Lol Come on!
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?
Tamara: If you say high-speed chase, then it has to be Jason Bourne by my side. Who does a car chase better than that guy? Driving backwards with the rearview mirror!? Classic. And I have no idea what else you asked me because once I thought of Jason Bourne, my mind kinda went blank.
Molly: We’re running from Zombies, and I’m Daryl Dixon’s sidekick.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Tamara: I’m a big fan of portkeys, but I already said Harry Potter, didn’t I? I love Maria V. Snyder’s world building, so let me talk about Opal’s lovely ability to seal magic in glass. A skilled glassblower, Opal creates beautiful glass figures that glow with magic, but only magicians can see the magic inside. Otherwise, the figures appear to be blobs of glass. How wonderful is the metaphor of not being able to see something right in front of us because we are not somehow “prepared” to see? So many more cool inventions in Maria’s worlds, so if you haven’t, read her pronto!
Molly: Well, I sure wouldn’t mind having a wand to help me clean the house within seconds if need be, and kill the occasional spider.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Tamara: I tend to write in spurts. I might write upwards of 1,000 words daily for several weeks, but then I need to step back from the manuscript and think. I might take a week or two off from writing that manuscript and instead do other things—critique for friends, binge read other works in my genre, read a book about craft, catch up on academic projects, and so on. Then I like to go back to that manuscript with fresh eyes and see it from a new perspective. When I do, I’ll read from the first page straight through and then get back into that pattern of writing daily again, pouring out words and developing the story until I feel like I’m too close that I need to step away again.
I do love sprints. I always work on the computer, and most often it’s after 8 p.m. once my kids are in bed. I curl up under the covers and start tapping the keys. Also, I love to write with other authors online. The 2016 Pitch Wars class has a great page on Facebook dedicated to active writing projects. We check in there often throughout the day to sprint together. A lot of productivity comes from that group!
Molly: I work extremely hard during the week (before the toddlers wake up and after they go to sleep) in order to hit a word count I’m happy with that will allow me to take two days off. I like to spend the weekends focusing totally on family-time, but there is the occasional Sunday that I’ll have to write the entire day to meet a deadline. And, since time is limited, I write in the chunks of time I’m allowed, and try to get as many words down as possible in that timeframe.
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?
Tamara: Chocolate. So much chocolate. I don’t drink coffee or tea, so I’d need to get my caffeine from Pepsi. If a beach front property is available, I’m there. I also like to write in cozy hotel lobbies. If neither are options, I’d be propped up in my bed typing away!
Molly: Ice water, coffee, and an espresso chocolate bar. I’ll head to my office (a small corner in the guestroom LOL), throw my headphones on, and get to work.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Tamara: So, so much keeps me motivated and inspired, which is such a blessing. Other writers, especially my friends in the Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime and my critique group—Annette, Jeff and Mary! Authors I admire. Seeing great books published. Hearing people loving other stories and thinking I could share wonderful stories with readers, too. Stepping into a library or a book store. Reading or watching a story that moves me. So. Much!
Ultimately, I made a promise to my son when he was a baby in my arms. I told him that by the time he was old enough to read young adult fiction, Mommy would have a book on the shelf that he would be proud to read. That’s a promise I intend to keep.
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention my wonderful husband. GRIDIRON GIRL would not be possible without all of the hours he demonstrated drop backs, drew up pass plays for me, and theorized the best play calls for the fictional situations in my story.
Molly: My husband is my biggest supporter. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to take the time I need to meet deadlines, and escape to the worlds I’ve fallen in love with. My family is a huge motivation because I want to show my kids that any dream you’ve ever had (I wanted to be an author since the second grade) is achieved through hard work and dedication.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Tamara: Pitch Wars changes people’s lives because of the efforts of Heather, Nikki, Brenda, and so many mentors, mentees, and agents. The concept is brilliant, but nothing is guaranteed in this industry. There are too many ups and downs in publishing journeys to create a realistic plot line, but we survive the struggle with the community we build around us. I’ve been so touched by the Pitch Wars community. You all are incredibly kind people who bring some truly amazing stories to the world.
Quick story: my agent asked to see something else I’d written other than GRIDIRON GIRL before she offered representation, so I scrambled to put together 20 quality pages for her in four days. My critique group read them on a Sunday. I revised then put out a call to the Pitch Wars Class of ’16 on Monday, and within minutes, four mentees volunteered to read and comment on the pages within a couple of hours, so I could revise again. When I told another writer friend about the process, she was shocked and said, “How did you get them to read your work like that on such short notice?” All I had to do was ask. That’s what Pitch Wars is. I’m so proud to be part of this community.
Molly: Keep writing, keep reading, and thank all the bloggers/writing community/critique partners/spouses/families/and friends who help you along the way.
Thank you 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!
Tamara Girardi – Mentee