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 Jaime Formato and her mentor, Miriam Spitzer Franklin. Jaime signed with Lauren Galit of The LKG Agency, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Jaime, what was it about Miriam that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
On her wishlist, she said that she was looking for character-driven middle grade with a lot of heart. That sounded exactly like what I was trying to do! I began reading her most recent book, CALL ME SUNFLOWER, and was very drawn to her writing. She has an authentic middle grade voice, and she’s excellent at capturing emotion while still being fun to read. Also, after looking over her website, I noticed we had some things in common, and I definitely liked her vibe.
Miriam, what was it about Jaime’s manuscript that hooked you?
It was definitely the voice. Destiny’s enthusiastic funny voice compelled me to root for her from the start. The opening was also different from many of the sample pages I received because it was so upbeat and positive. While I like reading books that deal with serious issues, it was refreshing to read a story about an ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams. As I jumped into the manuscript I also saw the potential for a lot of depth: a girl with divorced parents, working class roots, a diverse group of friends, and the determination and grit to reach for her goals without letting anything get in the way. I also liked the performing arts setting and the friendship themes.
Jaime, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
A few days after mentees were announced, Miriam sent me an edit letter and a copy of my manuscript with helpful notes in the text. The edit letter was very insightful and tackled the big-picture issues in the story. Through her in-text comments, she asked some very important questions that helped me to resolve some of these issues, as well as the more minor ones. I think that’s what was so special about Miriam’s mentoring—she never gave me the answer, but she knew the right questions to ask.
After about a month, I sent in the first round of revisions. Miriam read through and added more comments and questions throughout. This time, the main focus was on deepening emotions and sustaining tension. Then at the very end, we worked on some tweaks for the opening pages.
It wasn’t easy but Miriam’s constant positivity and belief in my work made the whole experience fun and exciting.
Miriam, tell us about your experience mentoring Jaime.
I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Jaime and can’t wait to see where the next steps in her writing journey lead her. While I gave her a lot of feedback and more than one round of revisions to work on, she accepted all the feedback with a positive attitude and an “I can do this!” spirit. When agents began making requests, some mentees were disappointed by their numbers and focused on comparing themselves to others. Jaime seemed thrilled just to have been chosen for PitchWars and realized it wasn’t a now-or-never situation. Her enthusiasm and willingness to see the big picture will be assets to her as she moves on to the next phase in her writing career. I am so excited for her!!!
Jaime, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Lauren Galit of The LKG 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.
I didn’t know my call was “The Call!” About a week before The Call, Lauren and I had A Call to discuss possible revisions. Throughout that conversation, she quickly ticked off all the boxes on my “Dream Agent” checklist. She had so much enthusiasm for and understanding of my characters, I felt like she really knew them. At the same time, she helped me pinpoint ways to strengthen the plot and write the best book I can. Plus, she was so fun, smart, and easy to talk to! I could tell she believed in me as a writer, and her insights into my manuscript were incredibly helpful.
After some thinking about what I wanted for DIRT ROAD DIVA, I wrote up a plan for revisions and sent it to Lauren. She wrote me back an hour later(!) with positive comments and invited me to give her a call. We chatted a little bit about how I planned to tackle the revisions and stuff like that, and then when I thought she was going to be all like, “Okay, well, good luck, see you later,” she offered rep!!!
And then I burst into tears. And yelled something like, “WHAAAAT?” I was not very cool.
But Lauren sent the contract, anyway.
Jaime, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars was a huge part of my success. Miriam taught me to revise, to look at my story in different ways, and to persevere through all the hard parts. Pitch Wars gave me more confidence in myself as a writer, and I’m not afraid to try new things.
For people that are considering entering, I do want to say that Pitch Wars success is not so much about getting a ton of requests in the Agent Round or getting signed right away (although there are a bunch of amazing books coming out next year that are the result of this!). The Agent Round is one aspect of it, and it’s really cool and exciting, but the experience is so much more than that. It’s about growing as a writer and building a community.
I had two requests in the Agent Round, both from agents that I respect. Even though that wasn’t anywhere near the amount some manuscripts got, I focused on the fact that professionals I admired requested from me and moved forward from there. My journey took a little longer than some, with a lot of writing and rewriting, querying and requerying, but the support system I gained and the skills I learned in Pitch Wars helped pull me through.
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?
Jaime: V.E. Schwab’s Red London! I’d sail on a pirate ship, hang out in taverns, and compete in the Essen Tasch. Bonus: My clothes would be fabulous, and I’d smell so good.
Miriam: Not to be unoriginal, but I would love to live in Harry Potter’s world, where I would sip butterbeer, never have to clean my house, and teach at Hogwarts, of course!
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?
Jaime: I usually write for about an hour or so in the evening, after my littlest one settles down for the night. I’m a teacher, though, which means I’m off all summer. So, for all of June and July, I get to imagine I’m a full-time author and write throughout the day. Normally, I type everything on my laptop but when I need to write something super-emotional, I like to write it out first in my journal. It feels more personal, like writing in a diary, so it’s easier to let all the feelings out. The pen scratching and stabbing against the paper is So Satisfying.
Miriam: When I’m in the middle of a draft or a revision, I try to write every day for a couple of hours at a time. If I have less than an hour then it often feels like by the time I figure out where I am and become the character, the minutes are gone and I’ve written only a couple of sentences. I’m a better reviser than I am a drafter and sometimes I just have to tell myself that 200 words is better than zero, and 1000 is always something to celebrate (even if I delete half of it the next day)!
What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Jaime: The green 1UP mushroom from Super Mario Bros. You know, the ones that give you an extra life? Yeah, I’ll take some of those.
Miriam: I’d love to try the flying pig cookies from Anna Meriano ‘s LOVE SUGAR MAGIC.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Jaime: As a child, I loved L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon series. I just thought she was so cool; the way she’d pace all night to work out a story, how she’d fill up tons and tons of Jimmy-books, her overwhelming passion and stubborn dedication to her art. As an adult, I reread the series and was fascinated by her journey to publication, or up “The Alpine Path.” Shortly after that, I began submitting short stories of my own.
When I first began writing seriously, Kelly Link was another huge influence. Even though my book is in a totally different genre, the fearlessness and imagination in her work inspired me to find my own voice as a writer and own it.
Miriam: My favorite book as a child was Charlotte’s Web, so I guess I was inspired by the best! I also loved all the Judy Blume books and thought that she made it seem so easy; nothing fancy about her writing but she captured the honesty and feelings so well (not as easy as it looks).
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Jaime: My husband is definitely the biggest supporter of my writing. He cheers on every teeny-tiny milestone, listens to me ramble, makes sure I have time to write, and believes in me so hard. He’s like a Samwise Gamgee but crossed with one of the tall, dark, handsome, satyr-eared, smart and bantery dudes from my old romance novels.
Miriam: Well, my family of course are my best supporters, especially my husband who encouraged me during many years of rejections and was the first to celebrate when he learned my debut novel would be published.
But another big supporter is my best friend, Liz, who doesn’t typically read lots of fiction but has bought every one of my books, not only for herself but for everyone she knows! Anyway, for a fictional character I guess she is most like Pansy from my own book, Extraordinary, who is doing whatever she can to be an extraordinary friend!
Thank you for sharing your success story with us, Jaime and Miriam! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Jaime Formato is a writer and elementary school teacher from North Florida. She lives in a little house by the woods with her husband, their four beautiful children, two cats that don’t love her enough, two dogs that love her a little too much, and a whole lotta nature.
Miriam Spitzer Franklin’s debut middle grade, Extraordinary was published in 2015 followed by Call Me Sunflower, in 2017. Her third middle grade will be published in February 2019. Miriam is an elementary/middle school teacher who lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.