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 Erin Cotter and her mentor, Carlie Sorosiak. Erin signed with Hilary Harwell of KT Literary and we couldn’t be happier for them!
Erin, what was it about Carlie that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
I read Carlie’s debut, If Birds Fly Back, and it was so stunning! It has that delightful balance of sweet, sincere, and feel-good ache that I love in YA contemporary. I wanted to work with Carlie so she could teach me all her secrets! She was also so open and wise on twitter that I thought we might really get along well as people. Spoiler alert: we totally do :).
Carlie, what was it about Erin’s Words Like Bittersweet that hooked you?
That voice! Oh my goodness, that voice! Erin has such a wonderful Stephanie-Perkins-like style. I immediately fell in love with her characters. One of my favorite YA books is Eleanor and Park, and Erin’s novel—Words Like Bittersweet—was also giving me those vibes. It’s sweet and lovely and everything I want a YA contemporary romance to be.
Erin, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars.
It was great! I’ve never really let someone else in on my writing process before and having another writer look at the book with fresh eyes was an invaluable experience. Carlie really got the heart of my book, so a lot of my revisions were me being like “Oh my god, you’re right. What do we do?” I hope we get to work together again sometime because we make an amazing team.
Carlie, tell us about your experience mentoring Erin
Erin was such an amazing mentee. She took feedback extremely well, and was eager to whip her manuscript into shape—which she did! I also feel really lucky that Erin’s not only a great mentee but also a really wonderful person in general. I’d work with her again in a heartbeat.
Erin, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Hilary Harwell of KT Literary. 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.
KT Literary is one of my dream agencies. Hilary was the first person I queried when we were allowed to query again after the showcase and waiting to hear back from her was torture. I basically got nothing done the entire month of November! A few days before Christmas she requested a partial from me. I was cartwheeling inside, but also trying to talk myself down from being too excited in case it didn’t work out. I’d say my number one bit of querying advice would to never query without friends!
A few weeks later Hilary enthusiastically requested the full manuscript. Not only that, but she was totally talking about how much she loved my book on social media! At this point I was living in a constant state of euphoric panic. For the first time I really, really thought like, this could be it. This could be happening!
When Hilary emailed saying she wanted a call, I was so shocked and happy. My nervous affect is to be twitchy and quiet, so on the phone call I was worried that Hilary thought I wasn’t into her suggestions. But inwardly I was screaming with glee the whole time and trying hard to keep my stuff together! It was clear Hilary loved and got my manuscript and wanted to champion my career as a writer. I had a feeling she was “the one” as soon as we hung up. I dished with Carlie immediately and she was also like “You guys are a great match. I can see you there!” and at that point I was weeping. I still can’t believe it’s really happened: I’m represented by an amazing new agent at my dream agency!
Erin, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
An easier answer would be how didn’t Pitch Wars help with my success? The whole Pitch Wars process—from connecting with other hopefuls, to reading gems of wisdom from the mentors, to being selected from hundreds of outstanding entries and working with Carlie—has helped bring me here. I went from having no writing friends and thinking of writing as my hobby to having a whole community and launching a career. I lived a writer’s Cinderella story and Pitch Wars was what let that happened.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Erin: It changes from book to book with me. My current WIP I’m tackling through 500 words a day. But with Words Like Bittersweet I snatched time when I could—Friday afternoons, late nights, etc. Often I’ll get on a real roll at least once with a project and churn out 20k in two weeks or something wild like that.
Carlie: It varies a lot. Right now, I’m writing every day on my computer—mostly in the morning, and then some in the afternoon. I start off at my breakfast bar, then work my way to my desk, and by the end of the day I’m working in bed. The only problem with this method is: accidental naps. They are aplenty.
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)?
Erin: Pokémon Academy. If I want to be the very best, I’ve got to start somewhere!
Carlie: Beauxbatons, because I am sucker for those uniforms. And I feel like I could probably sneak in a dragon.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Erin: Lyra Silvertongue from His Dark Materials. We’d get up to some mischief at Oxford together and maybe I’d finally figure out what my daemon would be!
Carlie: I’d spend the day with Drogon, one of the dragons on Game of Thrones, and we’d have a really large picnic. I assume that something flame-roasted would be on the menu.
You only have two hours to finish edits, what do you grab–coffee, tea, wine, hard liquor, or some fictional drink–to fuel you through the time crunch?
Erin: Sparking water. An entire twelve pack of it. The amount of sparking water I consume has an inverse relationship to how much time I have left to finish something!
Carlie: Um, all of them? Tea-wine-coffee with a side of butterbeer, please. (But I’m also the type of person who turns in edits, like, two weeks early, so this is hypothetical!)
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Erin: My partner. He reminds me of Cricket from Stephanie Perkins Lola and the Boy Next Door which is maaaybe one of the reasons why it’s my favorite Perkins romance!
Carlie: My mom is absolutely the biggest supporter of my writing. And I have actually written her personality into my next book, Wild Blue Wonder! She’s the inspiration behind Nana, the main character’s grandmother.
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!
Erin is an author and scholar living in Austin, Texas. When she’s not writing YA fiction, she’s working on her PhD in American Literature and Silent Film. On the rare occasions she’s not doing either of those things, she can be found snuggling with her cats and dog, eating tacos, and searching for the elusive Golden-cheeked Warbler in the Texas Hill Country.
Carlie Sorosiak is the author of If Birds Fly Back and Wild Blue Wonder. She grew up in North Carolina and holds two master’s degrees: one in English from Oxford University and another in creative writing and publishing from City University London. Her life goals include traveling to all seven continents and fostering many polydactyl cats. She currently splits her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, hoping to gain an accent like Madonna’s.