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 Christine Adler and her mentor, Jenni L. Walsh. Christine signed with Ann Leslie Tuttle of Dystel, Goderich and Bourret, and we couldn’t be happier for them!
Christine, what was it about Jenni that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Jenni’s debut, Becoming Bonne, was similar to mine in that Bonnie Parker was an unknown, real-life historical figure before she met Clyde Barker and the two went on to infamy. My story was from the POV of Lise Tréhot, the first model and muse for Impressionist painter Renoir. People all over the world are familiar with many of the more than twenty paintings in which Lise featured, but no one knew anything about her or her life. Her story had never been told before, including her romantic relationship with Renoir. When I read Jenni’s mentor bio, learned about Becoming Bonnie and also that Jenni was seeking only historical fiction submissions, it felt like fate.
Jenni, what was it about Christine’s Portrait of Lise that hooked you?
What first appealed to me was that her protagonist was a real-life figure. From there, I liked that Lise was a woman who broke the societal norms of her time. Who isn’t also captivated by descriptive words like scandal, secret, and controversy?
Christine, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
One word: intense. I rarely left my house for several weeks while going through Jenni’s notes and implementing them because there were a lot of changes. Jenni’s feedback was straightforward and honest. She told me what didn’t work and why, but also offered suggestions and asked questions to help me get to the heart of my characters and their relationships with each other. That format worked really well for me. Many darlings were killed in the process, but the end result is so much better for it. That Jenni was able to see the bigger picture and help guide me toward a tighter, more engaging end product was invaluable to me. Now I’m trying to figure out how to get her to read another WIP I’m working on. Lol
Jenni, tell us about your experience mentoring Christine.
Christine is 100% dedicated to her craft and her career. The editorial letter I gave her was long (we joke about how long it was, in fact. Sorry, again), but she handled it like a professional. She dove in and the end result was more than telling about how hard she worked. And Chris, I’m gladly read for you when your next WIP is ready!
Christine, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Ann Leslie Tuttle of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, LLP. Please, tell us about “The Call.”
I had asked for a one-week delivery after Pitch Wars so I could finish all my edits before delivering to requesting agents. When I finally sent out materials to the nine agents who’d requested, it was 3pm, a week after the agent round had closed. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to addressing all the things I had pushed aside in order to edit: my house, laundry, emails. From others’ experience, I figured I had a few weeks at least. But at 9:30 that same night, I received an email from one of the agents. She said she hadn’t finished reading the MS, but had read enough to know she wanted to have a call with me. My hands were trembling as I typed my answer! We spoke the next day, and she was as excited about my story as I was. The more I told her about my research, the more enthusiastic she became.
Later that day, I wrote to the other agents and apologized to be sending an “Offer of Representation” email on the heels of submitting the materials, and asked them to respond by the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This gave them almost two weeks to read, albeit over a holiday weekend. One who’d had a partial requested the full; several said they would work within the time frame, a few stepped aside. In the end, I signed with the first offering agent, as she was the most enthusiastic about my story, even emailing me during the waiting process to tell me she’d been in a bookstore and was thinking about my story!
Christine, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
My story idea came to me five years ago, and I set out to write it without knowing anything about writing fiction or a book-length work. After Jenni’s edits, I realized I’d been too ambitious with all I wanted my book to accomplish, and that ambition actually weakened the main story. Cutting threads, strengthening character relationships and increasing tension made it a better book. The process of editing on deadline, learning to ‘kill my darlings’ and seeing my story through new eyes helped me become a better writer, and prepared me for discussions of more edits with my agent. Pitch Wars taught me that no matter how good your story is, it can always be made better. Being persistent, flexible, and willing to learn are traits that will take you farther in this business than anything else.
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?
Christine: Herland, the women’s society from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 novella. It’s a legendary land ruled solely by women, and when three young, male sociology students go on an expedition to find it, they’re surprised to discover it contains pretty much none of modern civilization’s problems. Plus, the women are badasses. With such divisive politics and violence in our real world today, that would be my utopia right now. What would I do there? For starters, get a good night’s sleep. Lol Then I’d do my best to contribute to the bad-assery!
Jenni: I always find this question so hard. Mainly because I wrack my brain and always come back to the same (overused by most everyone) answer: Hogwarts. But, I’ve spent so much time there in my head, that it’d be nice to step foot there in real life. I’d definitely go to the Room of Requirement. As this moment, I’m not sure what I’d need the room to be, but hopefully by the time I get up to the seventh floor and walk in front of the door three times, a thought will come to mind.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Christine: I’ve always loved the possibility of time travel, but I don’t really read science fiction. So discovering the Prometheus Server, a supercomputer that can predict naturally occurring wormholes in Kathleen A. Flynn’s The Jane Austen Project was fabulous. The idea that a computer can calculate the appearance of wormholes (which NASA says may exist) feels almost possible. The fact that the characters in the book use it to travel back in time to 1815 and the world of Jane Austen makes it even more fabulous.
Jenni: Hmm, I also don’t read a lot of science fiction or fantasy. But, a real-life “invention” (or rather a profession) I always thought was cool were knocker-uppers. I feel the definition is important, as that name can be misleading… A knocker-upper was someone who’d use a long stick to tap on peoples’ windows in order to wake them up in the morning. There’s mention of this in Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict and I got really excited when I read that line.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Christine: My kids were my first cheerleaders, and biggest supporters from day one. My oldest son loves telling all his friends about every one of my successes along the way. I stay inspired and motivated by my writing peeps, artist friends and fellow Pitch Wars mentees. If I have them and my writing playlist, nothing can stop me.
Jenni: My motivation is 100% my kiddos. My full-time job is stay-at-home mom and my bosses a two-year-old and a four-year-old. But, if I want to keep that job, it comes down to writing and publishing more books (ya know, that whole, having to pay bills thing). I’m super thankful I get to spend my days with my babes and book babes.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Christine: I’ve written non-fiction and poetry for almost twenty years (gads, that makes me sound old). But when I read Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With A Pearl Earring, I knew I had to write a historical novel with art and Paris in it. That’s what set me on the path with my Pitch Wars manuscript.
Jenni: It’s interesting; I spent my youth reading, along with writing poems and short stories. But that part of me went on a brief hiatus toward the end of high school and college. What brought me back was the boom in young adult books. I found my love of reading again—and soon, my love of writing. The first manuscripts I wrote were young adult. My first agent was for a young adult manuscript. Unfortunately that manuscript didn’t sell to a publisher. But by that point, a love of historical fiction also bloomed, and I began writing historical fiction for both young adult and adult age groups. I ended up with book deals for my adult books. But yay for young adult bringing me back into the game and being part of my journey.
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Christine: Hermione Granger. She’s not ashamed to be a nerdy bookworm, and she doesn’t whine or wait around for help. She just gets sh*t done.
Jenni: Yes, I want to be Hermione, too!
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!
Christine Adler is the President of WFWA and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She’s a former Editor of the literary magazine Inkwell Journal, and the regional NY parenting magazines Westchester Parent and Rockland Parent. Christine’s articles, essays, poems and book reviews have appeared in various print and online publications throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada and she has a Masters degree in Writing from Manhattanville College. She’s represented by Ann Leslie Tuttle of Dystel, Goderich and Bourret, and is currently at work on her second novel. She lives in the suburbs of NYC with her husband and sons.
Jenni L. Walsh
Jenni L. Walsh spent the past decade enticing readers as an award-winning advertising copywriter before becoming an author. Her passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings. She is a proud graduate of Villanova University, and lives in the Philly ‘burbs with her husband, daughter, son, and newfypoo. Her debut novel, BECOMING BONNIE, received critical praise from Booklist and Shelf Awareness, and the audiobook received the Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine. Her forthcoming novel SIDE BY SIDE will be released in June 2018. In addition to her adult novels, Jenni also writes nonfiction books for children. Her debut middle grade series, BRAVE LIKE ME, is forthcoming from Scholastic in Spring 2019. The series will feature true stories from women who, at a young age, accomplished daring feats of perseverance and bravery.