We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Kristy Boyce and her mentors, Carrie Allen and Sabrina Lotfi! Kristy signed with Tara Gonzalez of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
Kristy, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor?
One big tip I learned was how to start a scene in the right place. I have a tendency to start scenes and chapters slowly, often with a lot of description or a summary of what has happened since the last chapter ended, and my mentors helped me identify that.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
We started the revision process with an edit letter. Mine was, um, quite long and included many big picture questions as well as more detailed chapter-by-chapter notes. Before revising, we all discussed some of the large changes to make sure we were on the same page and then I did a large revision that included starting the book in a different place and deleting a character, among many other changes. I turned in that revision before Christmas and then we did another round of edits after Christmas, followed by at least two rounds of line edits. In addition, we spent a lot of time on my first page and query. I am still amazed and humbled by how many times Sabrina and Carrie read my book and gave detailed feedback. Their excitement and passion kept me going!
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
Tara was one of the agents who requested my manuscript during Pitch Wars. I already knew who Tara was because I have multiple friends who are repped by EMLA so I was very excited and hopeful when her request came in.
A few months after the request, I received an email from her telling me that she loved the manuscript and wanted to set up a call to discuss representation. I was shaking with excitement and immediately called my husband as well as a good friend to tell them the news. The call went really well and I was so excited to hear that my manuscript about studying abroad in England resonated with Tara.
The celebrations started immediately and kept going! I have been working toward this point for over a decade and I was definitely not going to miss the chance to celebrate with all of my close family and friends! The only bummer is that my mentors both live too far away for us to celebrate in person, but we’ve sent soooo many dancing gifs and sappy emails since the call!
It was also a particular honor to announce to my local SCBWI group that I had signed with an agent. I have sat in our monthly meetings for years, listening to other people share their good news and hoping that I would have news to share one day as well. When my turn came, I surprised myself by choking up and could barely get the words out. It was truly a full circle moment that I won’t forget.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I have been working on this manuscript for years and I have many people to thank for helping me to get here. Having said that, I know this manuscript would not have led to representation had it not been for Pitch Wars. In particular, my mentors helped me to start the book in the right place so that it both caught the readers’ attention and also helped them connect with my main character, which had been my biggest problem before. I am so incredibly grateful to Sabrina and Carrie for the love, passion, and TIME they put into the manuscript. And I get to call them friends! The entire process, although stressful, has truly been a dream.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
My biggest piece of advice: Apply!!
Beyond that, I would highly recommend researching the different mentors so that you can find people who are a good match for your manuscript. I also understand the temptation to want the entire manuscript to be perfect before you apply. However, I was upfront in my application and told them that I knew there were problems with the manuscript. I think you need to be truthful and that will help the mentors decide if they can help you in those areas.
Carrie, Sabrina, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Carrie: Pitch Wars mentoring is critiquing cranked up to DEFCON 1. It’s revising and editing, which we all do a lot of, but with the massive pressure of holding someone else’s opportunity in your hands. It’s given me a new appreciation for what agents and editors experience. The best part, of course, is pulling off the win as a team.
Sabrina: This was my first year mentoring so I had zero clue what to expect, both from my mentee and my co-mentor, Carrie, who I’d worked with before but never on anything this big or involved. Pitch Wars is critiquing and editing at an extreme…with a deadline…and for the mentee, working with strangers on a book you’ve poured your heart and soul into. There’s a lot of potential there for things to go wrong. Or…they could go perfectly right. For Team Girl Power, Pitch Wars was a gorgeous blur of brainstorming, hard work (especially by Kristy!), love, support, and dance party DMs, all with a shared goal of bringing out Kristy’s vision for HOT BRITISH BOYFRIEND. Working with Kristy and Carrie on HBB was my dream team actualized. I wouldn’t trade these ladies for anyone, and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of our Rosemary Award winning mentee.
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Carrie: Kristy nailed a massive revision while wrangling her dayjob, family, holidays– and while hacking up buckets of phlegm. Can we pull out all the sports clichés for that one? She pushed through the pain, gave 110%, and hit a homer at the bottom of the ninth!
Sabrina: Do I have to only pick one thing? Can I not pick everything? Seriously. Kristy was a dream to work with, start to finish and beyond. But that week before the agent showcase went up was an absolute nightmare for Kristy. We must have reworked that pitch and first page about a zillion times, all while Kristy was finishing her last round of line edits, and she handled it like a champ…and NAILED IT.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Carrie: Clear your schedule. Seriously. Have a plan in place before you enter. Carve out that time– get ahead in your dayjob, schedule playdates or childcare for your kids, have a quiet, comfortable writing spot set up. Stock up on M&Ms. Whatever you need to do to be ready to work hard. (That sounds intimidating but it’ll be worth it, I swear!)
Sabrina: I adore everything about Pitch Wars, but my absolute favorite thing is the community it builds. Writers are our people, and no one will ever understand what we writers go through to chisel out these book babies like our fellow writers. So my advice: start building YOUR community, and start early. Twitter is magic for this. Do a #PitchWars or #writingcommunity or #critiquepartner search and start interacting! Post your own tweets and see who else plans on entering. Critique for each other. Hop into your DMs and gossip about which mentors you’re thinking of submitting to. But most importantly, be there for each other and have FUN! Because Pitch Wars is hard, and writing is hard, and adulting and life-ing can be hard too. But having the right people in your corner can help lessen that load, and the best part is, if you want them to, these relationships can last well past Pitch Wars.
Let’s find out what drew agent Tara Gonzalez to this manuscript. Tara?
So many things about Hot British Boyfriend grabbed my eye from the get go – starting with the title. It immediately had my attention and I could already tell it was everything I wanted. But what drew me into the story and propelled me through was Ellie’s voice, the humor, and her experiences traveling England for the first time. Kristy does such a great job of placing the reader and having them experience England right alongside Ellie. And the romance definitely didn’t hurt, especially because it wasn’t quite what you would expect it to be, but exactly what I found myself hoping for!
How about some fun questions for Kristy, Carrie, and Sabrina.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Kristy: Nowadays I would likely go to my office in my house. It’s a small room, but I’m surrounded with lots of things I love, including books, potted plants, and pictures and I find it very calming. (But I used to go to Panera pre-kid all the time!)
Carrie: I’m lucky to have an office in my house. And by “my office”, I mean the room that everyone likes to crowd into while Mommy writes. I usually lose a whiteboard of notes to doodles of unicorns, have a snoozing five-year-old on my lap, and can’t move my chair without intruding on my dog’s spot. But as long as I’ve got hot tea and colored pens, I’m good.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Kristy: Carrie and Sabrina, of course!! I’m up for about anything, but it should probably include a trip to a bookstore and dessert. 🙂
Carrie: I get to cheat a little since I have a co-mentor! I would spend the day with two authors– Sabrina and Kristy– touring all the British sights in Kristy’s manuscript. First up would be the traditional English tea that made me drool all over my computer keyboard.
Sabrina: George R.R. Martin…so I can slap him. For serious though, can I be a cheeseball? Because I’d really just like a day with my co-mentor, Carrie Allen (shameless plug: MICHIGAN VS. THE BOYS is out Oct. 1 and it’s sooooo good, y’all!). She’ll teach me how to ski and snowboard and hit a hockey puck (and skate, she should probably teach me to skate too) and Kristy’s coming with us!
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Kristy: This question was surprisingly hard for me to answer because every time I’d think about a character I loved, I’d realize that this person might be a little intense (or just plain scary) in real life. Like, I’d love to meet Ronan from THE RAVEN BOYS but there’s no way I could hold my own with him. Or Kaz from SIX OF CROWS? Yikes. So I’m going to choose Beckett, the love interest in my WIP, because if I could spend the day with him then maybe I could figure out his personality…and that would be super helpful right about now! 😉
Carrie: My unapologetic answer is my own badass sporty girls. Because if you’re not writing the characters of your heart, you’re doing it wrong.
Sabrina: Daine from Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series please. Because she’s a badass. And a GODDESS. And I’d get to play with all the animals.
What inspired you to start writing?
Kristy: I started writing in elementary school with my best friend. We would alternate chapters and write the craziest stories (like FBI agents under the ocean). Additionally, one of my all-time favorite series growing up was The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede. Those books really inspired me to begin writing. Once I started, I basically never stopped (except for a few years in grad school because getting a PhD is brutal)!
Carrie: I hadn’t written in years because adulting. But suddenly, I was semi-retired and home with babies and devouring YA books while breastfeeding (TMI, I know). I missed my athletes from my sports medicine career and I missed playing on my old hockey teams, so I naturally fell into writing about sports. Writing turned out to be the perfect outlet for my passion and a way for me to shine a light on the issues that challenge women in sports.
Sabrina: Heh. Hands up if this was you too! I was on a post Hunger Games high and wrote…drumroll please…a dystopian. Which was actually me just writing one chapter, reading it, realizing I didn’t know crap about writing, reading five billion craft books and blogs, and THEN writing it. And even though it’s terrible and is going absolutely nowhere, I’m still really proud of that little mess of a manuscript. We’ve all got to start somewhere, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without it.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Kristy: If at all possible, I like to have a candle and a cup of tea (with lots of sugar). I’m a night owl so I don’t start writing until at least 8 PM or later. I often listen to music while I write. Sometimes I listen to instrumental music and other times—for instance, when I’m drafting an emotional scene—I’ll try to find music that matches the mood of the scene.
Carrie: Hot tea. Whiteboards and calendars and notebooks with color-coded pens. YouTube sports videos for inspiration. Pants the hell out of a draft. Sprinkle liberally with badass girls playing sports. Count up the f-bombs, delete one or two. Send it to Sabrina and breathe into a paper bag while she reads it. Repeat as needed.
Sabrina: I’m…probably a weirdo. I like to know my main characters and places before I dive in, so I actually start any new project with research—character hobbies or jobs I need to be familiar with, setting, I’ll sketch out a basic plot, get a character wall and calendar going if I know I’ll be passing any significant chunks of time, etc. When I’m ready to actually write, I’m old school. I draft by hand in a notebook, then edit as I type up chapters or scenes.
Kristy Boyce lives in Columbus, OH and teaches psychology as a senior lecturer at The Ohio State University. When she’s not spending time with her husband and son, she’s usually writing, reading, putting together fairy gardens, or watching happy reality TV (The Great British Bake-Off and So You Think You Can Dance are perennial favorites). Kristy is the social media coordinator for Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI. Her PitchWars manuscript, HOT BRITISH BOYFRIEND, won the 2019 YARWA Rosemary Award for excellence in contemporary YA.
Carrie Allen is a Colorado girl who wears flip-flops year-round and never skips dessert. She is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing around two kids and two dogs. She writes contemporary YA about girls who kick butt in sports.
“Michigan vs. the Boys is a mature exploration—with no sugarcoating—of some of the struggles a female goes through playing male-dominated sports. A must-read for those who want to break down barriers in sport.” — Cassie Campbell-Pascal, the only Canadian Captain, male or female, to lead two Olympic hockey teams to Gold. You can preorder Carrie’s book here: Amazon
Sabrina Lotfi is a nationally published makeup artist with over a decade of experience in fashion and film. She writes contemporary books for young adults and has a deep love for history, horses, characters with a dark side, and kickass retellings. She lives in Texas with her vampire kitty and is a pro at pep talks. She is repped by Dr. Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency.