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 Carlyn Greenwald and her mentors, Kit Frick and Rachel Lynn Solomon. Carlyn signed with Kathleen Nishimoto of WME, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Carlyn, what was it about Kit & Rachel that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
I remember initially honing in on Rachel because she was such a present voice in Pitch Wars and I thought “hey it’d be cool if we could be friends” and then after reading Kit’s profile as well, it just became so clear that A) I wanted to be friends with both of them, and b) they’d be me dream team since CON ARTISTS was a combination of a contemporary and thriller. I’ll admit, though, I never thought they’d pick my book initially. CON ARTISTS is really zany, and I’d figured they were going to go with something more character-driven.
But about a week before decisions went out, I got an email asking to update to a full, and then a fellow hopeful pointed out aneerie similarity between a teaser post Rachel posted of her kindle screen and my book. I remained in denial until I looked down at my phone during an open house event to become an admissions ambassador at USC and learned I was in. Needless to say, I was over the moon ecstatic and took that as a sign that I did not need to become an admissions ambassador to fill my free time.
Kit and Rachel, what was it about Carlyn’s CON ARTISTS that hooked you?
KIT: The premise and humor! I remember chatting with Rachel about CON ARTISTS when we were narrowing down our picks, and it hit us that, given that neither of us were deep into comics, cons, or fandom communities, the fact that we were both so immediately reeled in by Carlyn’s manuscript said a lot about her ability to sell this concept through the characters, the romance, and the heist storyline (because yes, this manuscript has all these things going for it!).
RACHEL: I remember being intrigued by an aesthetic Carlyn posted and hoping she’d submit to us. Aside from what Kit mentioned, I loved Carlyn’s authentic voice. She has such a great dry sense of humor that I hadn’t seen much of in YA and felt very teen. And exactly like Kit said, even though neither of us were big fandom people, we still loved the book, which made it feel like it had wide appeal.
Carlyn, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
I’d done bigger picture revisions with other books in the past, but I found the whole process of hand holding me through a proper 2-step revision to be such a rewarding experience.
First I received an edit letter full of praise for the book and then organized sections for what should be revised. I especially appreciated the way some revision notes would be broken down by chapter that needed work; it was the exact kind of organization I needed. Then we did a Google hangout to go over notes, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous actually doing the talk and because the WiFi in my apartment was so bad that I had to do the call from an all-white study room at USC’s library, but it went well. Pretty much all the notes aligned with my vision, and the one change I was hesitant about (the original ending was more violent than the later drafts) they expertly convinced me to do. (And they were right, of course.) Then I did big picture edits, and then a line edit. It was definitely a lot of work, but I felt so supported by Rachel and Kit that it honestly never felt like a chore. More of a privilege, really, to get to work on a novel that not just me, but TWO OTHER PEOPLE loved as much as I did.
I especially loved the way Kit and Rachel were so open to brainstorming fixes to aspects of the manuscript we wanted to improve. Overall, it was one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had editing, and wish I could do a collaborative revision like that with all of my books.
Kit and Rachel, tell us about your experience mentoring Carlyn.
KIT: Working with Carlyn was so much fun! As she mentioned, when we “met up” to discuss revisions, she was in her college library, and I can’t remember if it was on that call or earlier, but she mentioned casually that CON ARTISTS was something like her twentieth finished manuscript, and I almost fell out of my chair. I was nowhere near to writing my first novel in college. Rachel and I were so impressed with Carlyn’s willingness to dig in and revise. We knew without a doubt that she’d find representation soon, whether with this manuscript or with a manuscript a short ways down the road. And in deed …
RACHEL: The benefit having a co-mentor team was that we were able to split up the work while still collaborating, if that makes sense—so one of us “owned” the developmental edit and the other “owned” the line edit, yet we bounced a lot of ideas back and forth throughout the process. It was a lot of fun because it really felt like we were tackling things as a group. I was so impressed by Carlyn’s ambition and positive attitude, and I love that we’ve stayed friends post-Pitch Wars.
Carlyn, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Kathleen Nishimoto of WME. 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.
It was definitely a bit later in the game than some of my fellow mentees — in fact, the book that got me The Call was the third book I’d drafted after CON ARTISTS didn’t land an agent. Using the knowledge I learned from Rachel and Kit, I drafted the book October 2017, entered it into AuthorMentorMatch in March, and put up like three tweets in DVPit in late April after revising a second time.
I only received a handful of favorites, but one of those fateful hearts was Kathleen. She requested the full manuscript that weekend. About a week and a half later, I was actually preparing to graduate college when I received an email at about 6 am that I’d kept her up all night and that she wanted to talk. We scheduled the call for two days later, and I just remember running around and telling all my friends and family and professors between the Email and the Call being like “I mean it LOOKS like an offer but IT MIGHT NOT BE.” Spoiler: it was an offer, and the call was such an amazing but out of body experience. Kathleen was personable, professional, funny, had great notes, came from an agency that made English/Film hybrid me swoon. Still, I knew I had due diligence to look at all my possible options, and gave her 2 weeks.
I recall the period being rather excruciating, but I had a ton of stuff to distract myself. Like, you know, graduating college. I received one more offer in that time, and then came the difficult decision. I did a ton of research, talked to clients, and sought advice from many parties. I ultimately had a gut feeling about Kathleen, though, and made my decision and graciously thanked the other awesome agent. I’d planned it out that I could announce Kathleen as my agent on my birthday, so I just kind of combined the graduation, birthday, and agent celebrating into one big party. Like I left the first chapter out on a coffee table during my grad party and let people read. It was actually really fun.
Carlyn, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Without a doubt, though I didn’t sign with CON ARTISTS, I know the book I signed with is a direct result of Pitch Wars. I learned so much about craft from Rachel and Kit, and then Rachel, Kit, and several other members of the Pitch Wars fam were there to read drafts and encourage me to continue writing. I’d never had super consistent CPs before Pitch Wars, and my manuscripts became so much better following the experience. Plus, after Pitch Wars, I was much more bold in storytelling, and I think it showed. CON ARTISTS was my first short timeline book (set over Comic Con weekend) and FIVE OVER THE SPEED LIMIT I upped the ante to 12 hours, and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pull it off without PW. After all, the book idea was cool, but without my community and new skill set, I wouldn’t know what DVPit or AMM was, and who knows where that book would be.
Now for some fun! 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?
KIT: Similarly, the stage I’m in with a project will dictate what my writing process looks like. If I’m drafting, I need to be fairly consistent to keep up the momentum. But that doesn’t always mean I write daily because I’m constantly balancing writing with day job stuff. (I’m a small press and freelance editor.) But I’ll carve out writing time at least several days a week during a 2-3 month period to get that first draft down. Mornings are ideal for me, and I’m a Scrivener devotee for drafting, then MS Word for revisions and beyond, because that’s pretty mandatory in book publishing once you’re working with others like your agent, editor, and so on.
RACHEL: I use a combination of MS Word and Google Drive, mainly spreadsheets to organize my plotlines. I should probably figure out Scrivener one of these days, haha. When I’m drafting, I have to be consistent, and I’m only focused on getting words down. I know they’ll be bad—that’s why revising exists!
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?
CARLYN: Definitely coffee/tea/chocolate/any form of caffeine. As for where, any room in my house with a locked door and I could cancel out as much social interaction as possible.
KIT: Cold brew iced coffee with lots of milk is my go-to drafting beverage, especially in the summer. And I write from home, on my couch, in my lounge pants—it’s where I work best.
RACHEL: Chai or hot chocolate in the winter, which coincidentally is when I’m most productive. I do most of my writing from a coffeeshop that overlooks a lake.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
CARLYN: Sometimes I can do that myself through fear (what the hell else can I do besides writing??) but I tend to rely on the encouragement of CPs on Twitter as well as a select few friends and family members in real life. As for inspiration, I’m also a huge TV/film watcher, so I often find elements to twist and re-arrange into new stories. Otherwise, I’ve always found myself filling in gaps of books I never could find as a teen myself.
KIT: My husband Osvaldo is my biggest fan and the backbone of my support system. I’m also lucky to have very supportive IRL friends and a great online community through Pitch Wars, my debut group, and book Twitter. My cats, Katie and Francie, think they’re expert editorial assistants, but they’re really much better snugglers than helpers.
RACHEL: Critique partners, both IRL and online, my family, and my small dog, Wally.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
CARLYN: Oh boy. When I’m trying to be “healthy” granola/protein bars. But regular, actual good chocolate otherwise.
KIT: Smartfood! I am so addicted.
RACHEL: Chips and salsa, preferably salsa verde.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
CARLYN: As a teen, I always loved Jennifer Brown, Libba Bray, and Barry Lyga books. But my first novel, man, I want to say it happened after watching The Dark Knight so I’ll throw Christopher Nolan in there too.
KIT: I don’t remember a point when I wasn’t writing—I remember composing “group stories” in pre-school and kindergarten, and my first grade teacher had us use “inventive spelling” to write stories before we could really spell. So while it’s hard to point toward the writers who inspired me to start, I was very into William Sleator and Carolyn B. Cooney as a tween/younger teen, and their books definitely got me into reading YA, which was barely a publishing category at the time, so I owe them both a ton of credit for getting me hooked on storytelling for teens.
RACHEL: The one author I always come back to is Meg Cabot. I’ve always loved reading and writing, but she was likely most influential. Her books were like candy but also contained so much depth and often addressed dark subjects. She was also tackling some feminist issues before a lot of other contemporary YA authors were.
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!
Carlyn Greenwald is a Manhattan Beach, CA native who can’t handle the sun for more than 3 hours, a recent graduate of University of Southern California who doesn’t understand football, and a lover of books, TV/film, celebrity culture, history, dogs, and occasionally foreign indie films. Besides writing novels, she’s also an aspiring television writer and works in development/production in Hollywood.
Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her debut young adult novel is See All the Stars (Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, August 14, 2018), and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press, September 4, 2018).
Rachel Lynn Solomon lives, writes, and tap dances in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the young adult novels, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (out now from Simon Pulse) and Our Year of Maybe (out January 15, 2019). Once she helped set a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place. You can find her online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.