We’re so excited whenever one of our mentees gets an agent offer or a publishing deal. Celebrating these successes is one of our favorite parts of the Pitch Wars process. We hope you can join us in congratulating Alexis Ames and her mentor, Sarah Remy. Erin signed with Zabé Ellor of JD Literary Agency, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Alexis, share with us your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor.
Sarah gave me insight into my writing that I don’t have because I’m too close to it. One of the things I’ve learned is that I keep my world-building almost too sparse. I see worlds clearly in my head and hold back almost too many details. There’s a fine line between giving the reader enough information to extrapolate, and info-dumping on them. So something I need to be aware of going forward is that my readers can’t see into my brain, so I have to give them a little more information when world-building than I currently do. That’s one of the many tips Sarah gave me.
Sarah, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Alexis was a super easy mentee. She was on top of the story, knew where she wanted it to go, and she has a very strong sense of her own voice. Honestly, she just needed a little guidance, a pair of fresh eyes, and someone willing to toss ideas back and forth until things clicked.
Alexis, tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
Sarah initially sent me an edit letter with the overall changes they wanted to see in the manuscript. I made the big revisions, and then with each back-and-forth after that we drilled down into finer and finer edits until we were at the line edits stage. Whenever I had a question about something, Sarah was always there to answer it, and we did a good deal of brainstorming together. Not only were they an excellent editor and cheerleader, but it helped to have them as a sounding board. This manuscript is so much stronger now because of them.
Sarah, we’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
I asked Alexis to submit a character sheet plus a style sheet. Together they were about twenty jillion pages long. I had SO much fun reading through her world building and character history. And it really helped me to see her creation in my head.
Alexis, please tell us about THE CALL.
I was in NYC for work when I got the email to schedule The Call. It was our first full day at a trade show, and I woke up that morning to an email from Zabé asking if he could schedule a call with me within the next few days. He’d sent it at 2 in the morning after staying up late reading my book! I was in shock, honestly. I took a 4-mile round-trip walk to Central Park and back early that morning just to get myself to calm down! My Day Job colleagues are amazing, so I got a few hours off that Monday to talk to Zabé. He gave me a broad overview of the revisions he’d like to see done, which I agreed with, and then we got down to the questions I had for him. Then, I went out and had dinner with some Pitch Wars ’18 classmates who happened to live in NYC and who I was meeting up with anyway that night. It was such a surreal day! I’m still pinching myself.
Alexis, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars paired me up with a mentor who was able to approach my book with a fresh pair of eyes, and who was able to help me in areas where I was lacking–world-building, for instance. Like I said, I have a tendency to not explain enough about a world because it’s so clear in my mind and I don’t want to info-dump, resulting in confusion for the reader. Sarah was able to point those confusing spots out to me. They were also able to help me fine-tune my pitch, query, and synopsis, pointing out issues I never would have noticed on my own. Then, of course, there is the agent showcase and the fact that I’m able to say that this manuscript has been through Pitch Wars. All of that was extremely helpful and contributed to my success!
Sarah, how can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars? Submit the story of your heart. Be ready for heavy edits and possibly frightening changes. But don’t take the process so seriously it causes more anxiety than pleasure.
Alexis, do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Don’t self-select out of it. You never know what will resonate with someone. It isn’t the best project that gets chosen (which is subjective anyway) but one that really resonates with a mentor. I self-selected out of Pitch Wars in 2017 with this same manuscript, and got into it in 2018. So go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Alexis, Share with us your writing process.
I write whenever I can find the time, but in an ideal world, I write best and most when it’s dark out. I’m not a night owl, so instead I’m often up well before dawn. I also write on my lunch breaks at work. And like I said, I write best in complete silence, so I do most of my writing either at home or at the library. I usually write on a computer, but if I’m feeling particularly stuck, pen and paper is best for me. Because my brain works faster than it takes me to physically write something, I find that I can combat writer’s block just by handwriting a story instead of typing it. I’m a pantser, not a plotter–I can’t outline to save my life. I’m extremely prolific as a result–I’ll write whatever comes to mind–but it creates a lot of work for me in revisions!
You have only two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Alexis: My apartment. I can only write in complete and utter silence, so coffee shops and bookstores are out. Sometimes I can get writing done at the library, too, if it’s first thing in the morning and no one else is there.
Sarah: The sunniest spot on my living room floor. Spread out with a cup of teas and my elderly sausage dog to keep me company.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Alexis: Douglas Adams. We’d have some beers and talk about space. Sarah: Oh so many! But ATM, K.D. Edwards, author of THE LAST SUN. So I can beg for a sneak peek of the upcoming THE HANGED MAN.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Alexis: Here’s an obscure character for you: Ralph Lanyon from Mary Renault’s The Charioteer. I have so many questions for him!
Sarah: Rocket Raccoon. Cute, deadly, and secretly a softy. Just like me.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Alexis: Star Trek (I love all the series equally and you can’t make me choose between them).
Sarah: I am, in fact, in the Sherlock and ACD Holmes fandoms. But don’t tell anyone.
What inspired you to start writing?
Alexis: Stephen Sondheim and Aaron Sorkin. I first saw Into the Woods when I was 10, and The West Wing started airing around the same time. I decided after that that I wanted to create stories that were just as quippy, just as intelligent, and which emotionally devastated people as thoroughly as those writers devastated me. I also started watching Star Trek around that time, which had a profound influence on me – but as a queer kid, I wanted to actually see queer characters in my media, and in stories that didn’t revolve around them being queer. I just wanted them to exist as queer characters going on adventures in space. So, I’m writing my own.
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!
Alexis Ames first picked up a pen when she was eleven years old and hasn’t put it down since. Science fiction is her preferred genre–more specifically, exploring the intersection of humanity and artificial intelligence. It’s rare that she’ll write a story without a robot (or three). Angst is her lifeblood. World-building is her favorite part of writing. Writing the middle of the story is the worst. Nothing makes her happier than a good conversation about all things Star Trek. In her spare time, she runs, hikes, reads, and dreams up ways to make characters sad.
Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Although Sarah reads widely across the Adult genre their passion is SFF (in all its forms, epic to urban, angst to fluff) and LGBTQ+ fiction. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.