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Pitch Wars Success Story with 2020 Mentee Nicole Magoon and her Mentors, Sabrina Lotfi and Carrie S Allen

Tuesday, 30 November 2021  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

Illustration of PItch Wars owl mascot saying "mentee graduate"

We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Nicole Magoon and her mentors, Sabrina Lotfi and Carrie S. Allen! Nicole signed with Kari Sutherland at the Bradford Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!

About the Team…

Nicole Magoon – Mentee

Nicole Magoon lives in London, by way of innumerable US cities. She has one husband, two children, and four superpowers, including [REDACTED BY GOVERNMENT]. By day she works on ‘corporate strategy’, which is def vaguely villainous, and by night she writes*. She has a BA from Dartmouth College, an MBA from Harvard Business School**, and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults***.

*Really, the best superpower of all.

**Yeah, she’s legit evil, nothing to be done about it.

***Villains can reform.

Twitter

Sabrina Lotfi – Mentor

Sabrina LotfiSabrina Lotfi is a nationally published makeup artist with over a decade of experience in fashion and film. She writes contemporary and fantasy YA and has a deep love for history, horses, and Happily Ever Afters. She is a former content editor at Owl Hollow Press, has taught classes at writing conferences, and has been a #TeamGirlPower Pitch Wars mentor with the incomparable Carrie S. Allen for the past three years.

Sabrina lives in Texas with her vampire kitty and bat pup. When she isn’t writing, reading, or watching way too much TV, you can find her playing catch with the pup, nerding out on a puzzle, or trying to make another perfect batch of macarons.

Twitter

Carrie S. Allen – Mentor

Carrie S AllenCarrie S. Allen writes contemporary YA fiction where girls smash the sports patriarchy. Her debut, MICHIGAN VS. THE BOYS, was included on the YALSA Best Fiction of 2020 list, but received harsh criticism from her ten-year-old for not including unicorns. Carrie is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing after two kids and two T.Rexes masquerading as puppies. Hobbies include books, dogs, dessert, and anything outdoors on a gorgeous Colorado day. This is her fourth year mentoring, aka kicking butt on Team Girl Power with the other half of her writer’s brain, Sabrina Lotfi.

Twitter | Website

 

The interview …

Category: Young Adult

Genre: Super Hero Rom-Com

Nicole, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentor?

Share ALL the feelings! (incidentally, also excellent relationship advice.)

Ha! So true! Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.

The revision process was amazing! (But for real.) Time consuming and whirlwindy, but Carrie and Sabrina were THE BEST mentors—they were so supportive yet so direct and clear about how I could tactically improve SIDEKICK, and I not only learned about how to revise this particular manuscript, but also gained fantastic insight into how to critically evaluate my work at both a big picture and line level.
All great skills! Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!

It was so exciting!!! Kari e-mailed saying she’d stayed up late reading SIDEKICK and wanted to chat about whether we might be a good match, and when we talked, it felt like a perfect fit!! I’d had a few agent calls already at that point, and all of them were honestly wonderful conversations with great-seeming people, but Kari’s vision for SIDEKICK and understanding of the underlying story just matched so well with mine, as did her personal style. Everything she said about what resonated with her about the book linked to the heart of what I was trying to do, she was really enthusiastic about other projects I was working on, and she was so nice and fun while also being professional – I knew she was the agent for me!!

The right agent is an amazing thing! How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?

Pitch Wars was critical to my success. I improved my manuscript, grew as a writer, and gained confidence that I really was capable enough to do this writing thing as part of my career. Also, I now get to bug Carrie and Sabrina with random thoughts on Twitter DM (my only actual use of Twitter), and they’re the best ever, so that has greatly increased my personal happiness.

Pitch Wars is for life, isn’t it? Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?

Enter But also – make sure your manuscript is at the best place you can get it to by yourself, and really spend time researching mentor wishlists. And then Enter!

So, Sabrina and Carrie, tell us about working with Nicole.

Sabrina: Mentoring Nicole through PW and working on SIDEKICK with her was an absolute DREAM. On the technical side, SIDEKICK had everything Carrie and I were looking for in a manuscript: humor for days, dynamic friendships, STEM focus, a family I’m ready to pack my bags and move in with, and omg I can’t even with the romantic tension…and I haven’t even talked about all the reasons I love Anika! I won’t or I’d have to write y’all an entire novel, and this is supposed to be an interview ha…which is the same issue I’m having now talking about working with Nicole. PW is always hard work on our mentees, that didn’t change this year, but Nicole conquered feedback like a champ and absolutely SLAYED her revisions! Also, she is a SPEED DEMON! Carrie and I almost had a hard time keeping up!! On top of that, she’s just generally one of my favorite people ever–so smart and sweet and just as funny as the words she writes, and I couldn’t imagine a future without her in it. Sorry all, I’m turning this interview into a love letter and I’m not at all sorry! Bottom line: get ready, book world, Nicole and SIDEKICK are THE BEST and they are 100% going to take over the world…and I’m so here for it!

Carrie: First, it’s important to note that I was prepared early on to fight for this book. Like, knuckles-taped-up ready. I kept telling Sabrina, “Maybe if we get to work with Nicole, I’ll learn to write voice and humor and swoon as well as she does!” And then we got to know Nicole, and she’s as delightful as her manuscript. We must have said a zillion times, it’s going to be a lucky agent and a very lucky editor who sign Nicole. Don’t get me wrong—we all worked our butts off. But hard work is easy when you’re passionate about the project and surrounded by a stellar team!

We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.

Sabrina: I’m going to laugh so hard if Carrie and I have the same answer here. First, I need to preface this answer with: EVERYTHING NICOLE DID DURING PW WAS AMAZING WHAT EVEN IS THIS QUESTION?? But! Omg when it came time to start working through pitches, we put this poor woman Through It. We must’ve worked through a hundred different variations together, and every time Carrie and I sent feedback, Nicole was back in our inbox 5 minutes later with 5 new options! I seriously don’t know how her brain works that fast. I’m pretty sure Nicole has literal magic in her veins. <3

Carrie: Writing a superhero main character seemed to come suspiciously easy to Nicole, and we soon realized that’s because she actually *IS* a superhero! Not only was she working full-time, parenting in a pandemic, and finishing her MFA, but every time we’d send her feedback, five minutes later she’d be like, “here are three revised versions plus I cured cancer while editing.” But the truly amazing thing Nicole did during Pitch Wars is to make me both laugh and swoon over and over again every time I read her manuscript. It’s brilliant, and I can’t wait for you all to read it!

How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?

Sabrina: Aside from polishing those manuscripts, I suggest doing what you can to prep your life ahead of time, because if you’re selected as a mentee, Nov-Feb are going to be TOUGH, even if you aren’t doing a full overhaul on your manuscript, and some people will be. I also suggest taking a break while mentors are reading subs. No fiddling with the manuscript. If you’re going to write, work on a new project. Give yourself some space so that if you’re selected, you come into the mentoring process with a clear head on your project. Burnout is real, and revisions are always easier to tackle when the love and excitement are still there. Now is also an excellent time to start building your writing communities. Writers are our people, and no one will ever understand what we go through to chisel out these book babies like our fellow writers. Find your people! Be there for each other and have FUN! Because Pitch Wars is hard, and writing is hard, and adulting and life-ing can be hard too. But having the right people in your corner can help lessen that load, and the best part is, if you want them to, these relationships can last well past Pitch Wars.

Carrie: Clear your schedule. Get ahead at your day job, schedule childcare, freeze meals, stock up on coffee. Sleep now, because you will be working hard. (It’ll be worth it, promise!)

Great advice! 

And let’s find out what drew agent Kari Sutherland to this manuscript. Kari?

Eeee! Where do I start?

First up, the combination of superheroes and rom-com intrigued me. I’ve always been a fan of superhero movies and I love rom-coms, so wouldn’t a combination be double the entertainment? Projects that combine different genres pique my interest. Then, the pitch itself was really funny, so Nicole’s voice grabbed me from the outset. I was a little nervous going into the full manuscript that my expectations were too high. I’ve had superhero projects pitched to me over the years that never quite gelled for me, but Sidekick DID NOT DISAPPOINT. In fact, it blew me away! Anika’s voice and humor leapt off the page and took hold of me. I knew very early into the read that I would want to offer representation to Nicole—her talent was clear from page one. But of course I had to finish it because I needed to know what happened! Also, I couldn’t get enough of Anika’s voice. I know humor is different for everyone, but her wry sense of humor made me laugh out loud more than once—even on a re-read—and to the point that I had to explain the joke to my partner. That’s really rare for me. I always enjoy humorous books, but to laugh out loud? In the midst of 2021 no less—humor is something we could all use right now.

Beyond the kickass voice, Sidekick combines many things I love. The pacing is spot-on, the plot has stakes and tension at both the personal and global levels, and the chemistry between Anika and Ethan (whom she starts out despising for Noah’s benefit despite Ethan’s gorgeousness and intellect—yay enemies-to-lovers trope!) sizzles. The telekinetic powers are great, as is the way Anika uses them. The characters are nuanced, believable, and relatable and Anika’s emotional arc over the course of the story resonated with me. Anika’s intellect is also very impressive. She’s an engineering genius and all the stuff she’s built or created for her best friend’s amusement are so cool! And she uses her scientific knowledge throughout. Go girls in STEAM! Yet despite how smart she is, Anika has some very large blind spots when it comes to people. Over the course of the story, she comes into her own, not just in terms of the powers she’s gained, but in learning to recognize her own self-worth and make sure the people she’s spending time with value her the way she deserves. I think a lot of teens need that re-affirming message because it’s so hard in those years—you want to be liked and may contort yourself to try and get your peers’ approval but as we get older and for those teens who are wiser than I was, you realize that the people who will love and accept you for who you are and support you are the ones you want to be friends with, not the ones who will judge you.

Ultimately, Sidekick is a really engaging read with a super-hot romance, a super-powered plot, and a super-funny voice!

How about some fun questions for the team.

You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?

Nicole: I time-travel to the evening, because my children are in bed then, and that is the only TRULY guaranteed quiet time.

Sabrina: To my bed to sob? Ha. I will be at my desk, a puppers by my feet, a candle lit, a fresh cup of hot tea…and a mountain of chocolate to bribe my muses!

Carrie: Ha! Please. I have two kids and two puppies. I can edit in the middle of a circus. I frequently do.

Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).

Nicole: Carrie and Sabrina, because I’ve never actually gotten to hang out with them in person!!

Sabrina: This is a rude question so I’m cheating. Carrie and I are going to London with Nicole and our first two PW mentees, Kristy Boyce and JC Peterson. We’re having all the tea and crumpets and a giant #TeamGirlPower love fest!

Carrie: My answer is the same every year—I would spend the day with Team Girl Power, celebrating our mentee’s book! This year, we’ll get matching superhero capes and scale buildings for fun.

What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?

Nicole: All of my own characters? Is that cheating? I spend SO MANY HOURS thinking about them, and I either want to be their best friend / am in love with them / hate-love their villainous minds.

Sabrina: Another rude one 🙂 so I’m cheating again (omg I had no idea I was such a cheater I’m so sorry!) I’ll be throwing a party for all the characters in SIDEKICK, except for [redacted], because…[redacted].

Carrie: I’m back working on a character from about six years ago, and it is SO GOOD to be in this girl’s head again. My writing is for me first; I am my first audience. I love my characters dearly, and this one has always meant a lot to me, so I’d love to spend a day skating the flooded North Dakota river bed with her.

If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?

Nicole: Again, my own? I swear I’m not a narcissist. But I can’t write a story if I don’t get obsessed with the characters!

Sabrina: THE SIDEKICK Fandom, obvi.

Carrie: Sports fandoms all the way!

What inspired you to start writing?

Nicole: I don’t entirely remember, but my 3rd grade teacher told my parents they needed to dull my imagination because I kept writing about unicorns during my ‘real-life’ writing assignments, so probably a long-held insistence on rewriting the world to my personal tastes.

Sabrina: Hands up if this was you too! I know there are a few of us out there! I was on a post Hunger Games high and wrote…drumroll please…a dystopian. Which was really me just writing one chapter, reading it, realizing I didn’t know crap about writing, reading five billion craft books and blogs, and THEN writing it. And even though it’s terrible and is going nowhere, I’m still really proud of that little mess of a manuscript. We’ve all got to start somewhere.

Carrie: Ever year when I answer this, I try to catch a different inspiration, because I have so many. I was home with a tiny human who liked to nap when I started writing my first manuscript (first since high school, at least.) I had semi-retired from collegiate sports medicine, which is a brutal schedule for any professional, but impossible if you want to have any role in raising your baby. I missed my athletes so much that it was a natural step to immerse myself in high school/collegiate sports through fiction. Plus, I was shocked that there were barely any sports books on the shelves! (Still not nearly enough– keep going, sports writers!)

Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).

Nicole: I bring my writing laptop EVERYWHERE, just in case. I snatch all of the waiting room, public transport, random inspiration moments to write, and I also dedicate chunks of time during the evenings/weekends when I can guarantee longer blocks. Just as importantly, I ‘write’ when I’m not writing – I’ll often read a tricky plot point before exercising or showering or other tasks, because I know I’ll have time to think it through. In terms of tools, Scrivener (for laptop writing) and the notes app on my phone (for I-am-supposed-to-be-sleeping moments of inspiration), are my go-tos.

Sabrina: I kind of already dipped into my space: the doggo, tea, and candles. Process-wise, I’m a big fan of research. Aside from the terrible dystopian we’re not talking about anymore, my books often require an extensive amount of research. I’ll spend anywhere from 1-3 months on this alone, learning what I need to and getting a basic outline going, though I do end up doing a lot of writing and getting to know my characters at this time as well, so any scenes or line ideas I have as I go will get jotted down. It’s not anywhere near what I consider a draft at that point, but by the time I sit down and start for real, I typically have at least a portion of my big scenes written. When I’m ready to actually write, I’m old school. I draft by hand in a notebook, then edit as I type up chapters or scenes.

Carrie: Pandemic writing is like nothing else I’ve ever attempted. Basically, I have to let the world fall down around me for a few hours and hope that I can salvage what’s left of the house by the time I emerge from my office. (If you’re nodding along with me, I toast you with a hefty pour of wine.) But I will say that I’ve become better at maximizing my writing time, and more patient with myself regarding slow progress. The former, I hope I keep when the world rights itself; the latter not so much!

Check out Carrie’s latest …

Michigan vs the boys

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up — even if it means putting her future on the line.

Links

Thank you Nicole, Sabrina, and Carrie for the interview, and thank you everyone for stopping by and supporting our mentors and mentees!

 

 

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