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Pitch Wars Success Story with Anne Raven and her mentors, Marty Mayberry and Léonie Kelsall

Monday, 19 March 2018  |  Posted by Shari Schwarz

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 Anne Raven and her mentors, Marty Mayberry and Léonie Kelsall. Anne signed with Amanda Jain at Bookends and we couldn’t be happier for them!


Anne, what was it about Marty that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?

Technically I didn’t submit to Marty, but I very nearly did—choosing mentors was so tough. My manuscript did a bit of travelling between the mentors behind the scenes, but I’m so happy it landed in Marty’s inbox. Her wish list with her co-mentor, Leonie Kelsall, was a great match for my MS, and their mentor style sounded right up my alley. Best of all, they were looking for a partnership. Not only did I end up with the perfect Mentor-Mom in Marty, but I also got a wacky Australian-Aunt in Lee.

Marty, what was it about Anne’s IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER that hooked you?

While Anne’s manuscript wasn’t subbed to me or Lee (my co-mentor), I won the opportunity in a PW drawing to mentor a Wild Card. There were SO many wonderful entries to choose from in our inbox, and I sorted through them, trying to decide which entry I thought I could help most. But then, one of the other mentors mentioned an entry that was close, but not her top pick. They worried no one would choose it. Intrigued by the pitch, I asked to see IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER. Wow. Anne’s writing is stunning. I was pulled in immediately by her first chapter and was thrilled when her wonderful writing kept me on the edge of my seat until THE END. I knew right then I HAD to claim this author and work with her for PitchWars.

Anne, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?

When I entered Pitch Wars, I was hoping for a partnership with a wonderful mentor, and that’s exactly what I got. Marty and I clicked very easily right from the beginning. She sent my edit letter super quickly, detailing the areas that needed work, and I got started. When I struggled with a couple of points, she was right there to help, and together we came up with new solutions. Once those edits were done, Marty read my manuscript again to address line edits.

It should be noted that Marty’s a reading and revising machine, despite helping three other mentees with her co-mentor, which meant I was finished with my edits ahead of schedule. Marty’s also incredibly generous, so we spent the week before the agent showcase tackling my pitch, query letter, and synopsis. She was always there for me through the entire process and checked in regularly to see if I was coping. And that didn’t stop once Pitch Wars was technically over. I really couldn’t have asked for a better mentor, and I’m proud to call her a dear friend.

Marty, tell us about your experience mentoring Anne.

Anne was a dream to work with. I had tons of ideas as I read, and I compiled them all into an edit letter and sent them to Anne. Fortunately, she didn’t fire me on the spot. LOL We went through my suggestions, and when a few didn’t resonate with her, we talked about ways she could address the issues I’d pointed out, and then came up with solutions that worked even better than those I’d suggested. To me, PitchWars is a partnership. Sure, I have lots of ideas, but I respect that the final decision to make changes to a manuscript belongs to the author.

Anne, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Amanda Jain of BookEnds Literary Agency. 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.

Amanda requested my full manuscript during the agent showcase. About a week later, one shining Thursday evening, I received an email from her requesting a call. Around this time, I had a minor melt down. I could barely read her email. I took a walk through the garden to calm down. Then I returned to my computer, and typed a response with shaking fingers.

Amanda was so lovely, and even realised that I was in South Africa and she was in U.S., so we arranged a time to suit both of us for the following Monday—the week of U.S. Thanksgiving. That was the longest weekend of my life, but it gave me a lot of time to calm down, because I was a wreck. I freaked out all of Monday, 20 November—one exact month, to the day, before my 30th birthday. I was a mess. And when the time came, Amanda and I had some technical difficulties thanks to my lack of skills with technology, but we finally connected about an hour after our scheduled call.

Clicking that answer button was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had no clue what was coming. I didn’t know if it was an offer, or a R&R, or nothing. I’d heard horror stories of agents calling to reject an author. While the odds were unlikely, it still played through my subconscious. But the call went so well. Amanda was so sweet, and she made me feel a lot calmer. The line was clear—which had been a concern because I was in SA and so far away. She could understand my silly South African accent, and didn’t even comment when I kept saying, “ja” (Afrikaans for “yes”), which I just knew was going to happen. But best of all, she answered all my questions before I even had to ask. I had my list all prepared in front of me—thanks to Marty—but I didn’t need it.

We chatted about my MS—what she liked and what we could potentially make better. I jotted down notes, still unsure if it was an offer or a R&R. And then, about 20 minutes into our call, she said, “so, of course I’m calling to offer representation,” and I almost fell off my chair. “Of course,” I thought, giggling like a kid because, what was happening? I had an offer! When you’ve been querying for so long, and you finally hear those words—there is no way to describe it. Words fail, which is ridiculous for a writer. And then—this was what sealed the deal for me—she talked about a potential sequel for my MS, with a character I wanted to explore, and I knew she got me.

We ended the call and the first thing I did was talk to my mom, quickly followed by a message to Marty who continued to hold my hand like the true gem she is. I already adored Amanda, and I wanted to just sign with her right then. But that’s not how it works. To make matters more complicated, it was the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S., so we arranged a two week deadline, giving other agents a chance to either offer or step aside. That was a long wait, especially when I was so excited. I didn’t get another offer, and while some might be disappointed, I was happy to have the choice simple. I knew Amanda was the right one for me straight away, so sending that acceptance email was such a relief.

4 December 2017, I accepted my offer of representation. I couldn’t be happier, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!

Anne, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?

Pitch Wars was a major part of how I found my agent, since Amanda requested my full MS through the agent showcase. More than that, Pitch Wars prepared me in ways I didn’t expect. Not only did Marty make me a better writer, she has a wealth of knowledge she shared with me, and having her by my side made all the difference. I’m eternally grateful to Brenda Drake, her entire Pitch Wars team, all the amazing mentors, and especially Marty!

Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.

What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)

Anne: Coffee. Always coffee—oh, wait. You said food. Right. I don’t eat much while writing because it’s distracting, and I need my hands. If I do reach for something to nibble, it’s likely to be a cookie. (Clearly Marty makes far better health choices. Listen to my mentor!)

Marty: My go-to favorites are celery with cream cheese and minced green olives or veggies and ranch dip.

Whose work inspired you to start writing?

Anne: Ooh, tricky question. Who do you choose? I first fell in love with Paranormal Romance, so authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Jeaniene Frost influenced me a lot. But I really relate to Maggie Stiefvater because she’s both a visual artist and a writer.

Marty: While Stephen King is a long-time favorite, the books I read and loved first were the Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis

You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)

Anne: This really depends on the nemesis. There’s never enough time in a day, so I’d reach for a Time-Turner. Or if the sun’s out (I’m allergic like a vampire), I’d reach for sunscreen, although I’m more likely to run back indoors. I’m extremely clumsy, so I’d probably injure myself with any type of weapon. But really, a good cup of coffee will help in defeating any nemesis!

Marty: Broadsword, and, because I’m feeling my Scottish roots today, I’ll make sure I have a (kilted) Highlander at my back.

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)?

Anne: St. Vladimir’s Academy. Because two words—Dimitri Belikov.

Marty: Hogwarts. House Ravenclaw.

Share with us your writing process. Do you write every day, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?

Anne: I write whenever I can, always straight on my computer, and usually at my desk. I don’t force myself to write every day, but when I’m drafting a new WIP I’ll probably write almost every day until it’s finished. Once I’ve completed a project, it may take a few months before I dive into the next. That creative well needs refilling.

Marty: I write in spurts, sometimes going weeks to months without writing (I read during those times). But when I have a solid idea, I can write a 75,000 word book in a month. I write most of my books on paper (often while walking in the park), then put the hen scratches into my document, flesh them out, reread, then move on to the next scene. Whatever works, right?

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!

Anne Raven

Website | Twitter

Anne Raven was born and raised along the windy coast of South Africa, and can assure everyone there are no lions roaming the streets—unless you count the feral cat next door. When not reading or writing, she can be found being bossed around by her adorable niece, taking freshly baked goods from the oven, or drinking too much coffee.


Marty Mayberry

Website | Twitter

Marty Mayberry writes adult and young adult fiction. When she’s not dreaming up ways to mess with her character’s lives, she works as an RN/Clinical Documentation Specialist. She has a BA in International Affairs in German and an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. She lives in New England with her retired Seabee Chief husband, children, and three neurotic cats. She’s a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and a PRO member of RWA.

Her young adult sci-fi thriller, PHOENIX RISING, won the YARWA’s Rosemary Award for speculative fiction in ’15 & her UF won second place in the ’17 NA Rosemary Award.

She’s represented by Jessica Watterson of the Dijkstra Agency.


Léonie Kelsal

Website | Twitter

A Professional Counsellor, Léonie (Lee, because no one can pronounce her name and finding the correct key code to type é is even more difficult!)  lives in the wilds of Australia. Okay, not so much the wilds, as in a country town…but it is inhabited by a generous mix of bitey, stingy, poisonous varieties of Australian wildlife, frequently featured on her Twitter feed.

Represented by Amanda Ayers Barnett of Donaghy Literary Agency, Lee evidently likes to have her finger in far too many pies, (though she has yet to pull out a plum) writing historical and contemporary YA, Women’s Fiction, Adult Romantic Suspense and Erotic Romance, and is  big on extensive research, including archaeological digs, archery, quad riding and…ah, other stuff that shouldn’t be listed here, given that last genre. Being an Aussie, her spelling can be a bit off. A finalist in the YARWA Rosemary Award ‘17, and a #TeenPit mentor, she swears she duz no how too rite gud, though.

Drop by and say hi (you do actually need to say hi, she doesn’t auto follow!) on only of these SM sites, and she’ll follow back:
Can be found procrastinating on Twitter @leehotline

Or neglecting her blog at leehotline.wixsite.com/leoniekelsall

Or having absolutely zero idea what she’s supposed to be doing with the Instagram account her kid set up for her at leoniekelsall


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