Today’s success story is a little bit different. We mentors always have a hard time deciding who we want to work with because of all the amazing entries. We have to choose an official mentee, but often we can’t let another manuscript go because we love it so much! So these mentees become “unofficial” mentees.
This year, one unofficial mentee was Laura Taylor Namey, mentored by Beth Ellyn Summer. Laura signed with Natascha Morris of BookEnds Literary, and we couldn’t be happier! We hope you’ll join us in congratulating them.
Laura what was it about Beth Ellyn Summer and Kristin Smith that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
Beth Ellyn and Kristin were looking for contemporary ya stories with slow burn romances and writing with a lyrical edge. Also, their favorite books are some of my favorites, too. When I read their profiles, I immediately loved their personalities. I thought it was a perfect fit.
Beth, what was it about Laura’s PAPERBACK MIDNIGHT that hooked you?
Laura’s writing is gorgeous. I began reading the first page of her submission and just fell in love with her lyrical style and Darcy’s quiet voice contrasted by Marisol’s fiery wit. The writing reminded me of Sarah Dessen, but was just so uniquely Laura that I knew she’d quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the YA contemporary world. This was a story I wanted to immerse myself in and never leave. And her characters! I fell in love with Darcy, Marisol, Asher and co.
Laura, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Beth and Kristin chose another fantastic mentee, but the day the mentees were announced, Beth said she loved my story so much she wanted to take me on unofficially. I was elated!
Beth did a fantastic job understanding my vision and the heart of my story. She seemed to really “get me” and appreciate this little tale I was trying to tell. Beth encouraged me to expand some areas, adding tension and angst. She helped play with pacing by adding some space between a few scenes, too.
When I got my edit letter, I said to myself, “This feels like my story, only better! I can do this!” The suggested revisions felt true and organic to my story.
Beth also appreciates my lyrical tendencies, but guided me in trimming and honing to let my “hero lines” and big moments shine better. She also guided me in reconstructing my query. The advice was so good, I’ve been able to use it to help other writers with their queries. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Beth, tell us about your experience mentoring Laura.
Amazing!! Honestly, PAPERBACK MIDNIGHT was so there already. I kept asking myself if she even needed much mentoring. I took first impression notes as I read the story the first time, went through it a second time and organized the notes, and then it was all Laura! She implemented the notes so brilliantly and took the story to the next level. After a super quick line edit and work on her query, she was ready! And the best thing with the Pitch Wars community is that it doesn’t end after PW; everyone stays friends for a long time.
Laura, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Natascha Morris of BookEnds. 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.
All I can say is the past three or so weeks have been a whirlwind! I feel a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and I’m so lucky and excited. Since I was an unofficial, I did not participate in the Pitch Wars agent showcase. Instead, I took my newly spruced-up query and manuscript and hit the #MSWL tag on Twitter. After about three months of some good bites and requested fulls and partials, I ended up with more than one agent offer. Natascha was my second call and, please don’t do this, but I mistyped one of the digits in my phone number on my reply e-mail to her! All ended well and we found each other over the line and had a wonderful discussion about my book, her agency, and her plan for my manuscript.
Natascha had been looking for a book featuring my subject matter for 2.5 years. Not only is she passionate, but she is ready to explore even more themes and character motivations inside my novel, tightening and strengthening them to get this book ready for submission.
Natascha’s clients love her drive, communication, and her top-notch editorial skills. I was looking for an editorial agent. Natascha also goes above and beyond to stay connected, drawing her clients together in a community of fun, support, professionalism, and positivity. Already, I have been welcomed, inspired, and have made some lovely friends.
Choosing my agent was difficult and a bit stressful, at times. I was mindful that this person is going to take my books––the things I create straight from my heart and mind––and present them to those who can bring them to bookshelves. This person is going to be my advocate and confidant and, at times my editor. I was not choosing an agent for one book, but choosing a career partner. I chose well.
Laura, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars has given me one of the most fantastic writing communities I could ever ask for. I belong to two Pitch Wars related Facebook groups and actively participate in the community all over social media. I met my beloved and brilliant new critique partner, who was also an unofficial mentee this year. Pitch Wars mentors and leaders have gone to bat for me, guiding and shaping and advising. They have given up their time for me and I appreciate them, so much.
Pitch Wars does more than change a manuscript. It changes and grows a writer to, then, grow other writers.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
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?
Laura: Picture this: Trusty desk with view of trees. Mug after mug filled with coffee, then Fortnum and Mason Earl Grey tea, then hot water steeped with lemon and ginger, then fresh mint tea, then lemon water. Dropping between laptop keys are avocado toast crumbs, Kind Bar shavings, and Trader Joes popcorn kernels.
Beth: I would need: jars full of oatmeal with melty peanut butter and sliced banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (because my blood type is definitely peanut butter), and a ton of ice cold water.
If I could hide out anywhere, I’d write tucked away in a Maui five star resort’s penthouse suite. Room service to bring me said peanut butter, a view of the beach, and complete silence? Yesplease.
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
Laura: Take Monica from Friends, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Becca from Pitch Perfect and you get one Laura.
Beth: The only characters that come to mind are Caymen Meyers from Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us, because she infuses sarcasm into every conversation and the whole Humor-As-A-Defense-Mechanism aspect, and Monica Gellar from Friends because she likes things Just So, and she’s extremely competitive (when I used to play chess with my brother as kids, I’d knock the board over when it was clear I was losing, which is similar to Monica’s famous “Pictionary Incident.”)
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Laura: When I read Rainbow Rowell’s work, I thought––this is my genre, style, and lane. This is where I fit. This is the kind of work I want to do, my own way. I am forever inspired by her.
Beth: When I was a kid, The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drews, and the Sweet Valley Kids/Twins/High series. But in college it was an English professor who introduced me to Sophie Kinsella. That’s when I was seriously inspired!
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Laura: Leather jacket, of course.
Beth: Wand. And my patronus is a cat, because duh.
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)?
Laura: The School of America in Paris from Anna and the French Kiss. I have always regretted not studying abroad in college. And I’m slightly obsessed with all things Paris. Sign me up!
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!
Laura Taylor Namey
Website and home to Cherry Blossom Chronicles
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Laura Taylor Namey writes young adult novels about quirky characters learning to navigate life and love. She can be found drooling over leather jackets, writing her teen lifestyle blog, Cherry Blossom Chronicles, and wishing she was in London or Paris.
Laura is a former teacher who loves words––how they sound, the shapes and colors of them, and most of all, combining them into stories that will hopefully make you laugh a lot, and maybe cry a little.
She treasures her husband, two superstar children, loyal dog, and her little slice of California.
Beth Ellyn Summer
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | First Blush Series | Goodreads
Beth Ellyn Summer writes contemporary young adult fiction that somehow always includes the following elements: fame, makeup, and television. She graduated from Long Island University with a degree in Print and Electronic Journalism. Interning for Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon was the highlight of her college years. When she’s not writing, Beth can be found swatching eyeshadows, solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, and playing with her adorable cat, Penny Belle. Beth lives on Long Island in a cookie cutter town that, in an ironic twist of fate, doesn’t have a single decent bakery.