We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Lorelei Savaryn and her mentors, Juliana Brandt and Lacee Little! Lorelei signed with Chloe Seager at Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency. We’re so excited for them!
Lorelei, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentors?
My favorite tip from my mentors was how to build a story and character arc around theme. I came into PitchWars with a decent understanding of how plot points worked, but my story wasn’t resonating like I hoped it would because it was missing that underlying foundation that would give meaning to what happened in the plot. Learning to build my story on theme first has changed my writing in the best of ways.
And tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
I received the first of my edit letters (there were several!) the day after picks were announced, and they trickled in over then next week or two as I worked through them. Before changing anything in my story, my mentors had me dig deep into theme and character arc, and then rebuild an outline of the plot based on that. My brain definitely hurt sometimes, but I was so proud and excited about what my story would become with those changes!
Once the new outline was ready, I re-wrote most of my manuscript over the next 3 weeks or so, finishing up right around Thanksgiving. Lacee read the first rewrite, and her notes for me helped in so many ways, especially the focus on layering more depth and emotional resonance. I reworked those pieces and then we were ready for Critique Partners.
Two wonderful writers read my words over the next couple of weeks (Thank you Bronwyn and Kurt!), and gave me additional feedback, which I used to revise even further. This took us to the end of December.
Now that my manuscript was as polished as I could make it, I sent it to Juliana for line edits. Those were very thorough, detail oriented notes on a line-by-line level throughout the whole manuscript. Once I got my notes from her mid-January, I went through my story a fourth and final (for now) time, polishing it as much as I could before the agent showcase.
My mentors also helped me with my query letter, synopsis, as well as my pitch for the showcase. I think we had a little time to spare, but not much. It was a very busy yet fruitful four months! I took a bit of a break from writing while I queried, and recharged my batteries just in time to work on edits from my agent before going on submission. My story has come so far since the night mentees were announced. I can’t wait to see where it ends up.
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)!
I was fortunate to receive multiple offers of representation about 6 weeks after the agent showcase ended. Chloe got back to me the day after I emailed all the agents I queried to let them know I had an offer. She was in the middle of reading, and loving it (!) and promised to be back in touch soon. A couple of hours later I had a new email in my inbox… which was Chloe offering rep on the spot asking to set up a call for later that same day!
I tucked myself into a quiet room to prepare for The Call. I was hopeful about Chloe- she was moving to a great agency, and I loved the excitement for my manuscript that she conveyed in her email.
As soon as we started talking, I knew immediately that she got the heart of my story, which was so important to me. Our conversation flowed naturally, and I was a fan of the agency’s wide-reaching and proactive submission process. I knew my story and career would be in great hands if I accepted her offer of representation.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I believe I would have learned the skills necessary to sign with an agent eventually, even if I hadn’t gotten selected for mentorship in Pitch Wars. However, I also know for certain it would have taken me so much longer to do it on my own.
Out of the many components of Pitch Wars that were invaluable to me, having a team of mentors who believed in me and my story, and who invested their time and energy into helping me improve my craft at an accelerated speed ranks among the very top. My mentors not only had amazing craft knowledge, but they knew how to share it with me in the most encouraging and uplifting ways. I will be thankful to them forever!
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
I think it would be very helpful for prospective mentees to go into Pitch Wars prepared to invest a lot of time and energy into the entire process. In my case, I ended up rewriting the vast majority of my book, and Pitch Wars had to become a priority during the revision window. Being prepared for the level of commitment required will help you have realistic expectations during what can be a very intense time.
Connecting with other mentees was also so helpful! We were all in the same boat, working really hard to make our dreams come true, and Pitch Wars is such a unique experience it was so nice to have others to talk to who understood. We could encourage and build each other up, providing support each and every step of the way. My class still keeps in touch via our Facebook group and chats, cheering each other on.
And finally, something that served me well (even though I wasn’t perfect at it) was trying really hard to not compare myself to others. As a mentee, some people will have more revisions than you, others will have less. Some will sign with agents within days, others will take a lot longer. Same with book deals. Everyone’s journey is their own. If you can resist the urge to compare, and can focus your energy on getting the most out of the Pitch Wars experience and learning all you can, then no matter what happens next you’ve just gained a whole lot.
Juliana and Lacee, tell us about working with your mentee.
Juliana: Working with Lorelei was a dream. She never balked at the work we asked her to do, even when it was tremendously difficult. She always knew exactly the story she wanted to tell, which meant that whenever we sent her ideas to consider, she put her own spin on them so that it was right for her book. It felt like she came into PW with a specific, clear goal in mind and never wavered from that.
Lacee: It was fantastic! Lorelei is the hardest worker, and always kept up a cheerful attitude. I loved getting wrapped up in her story and getting to know her characters. She kept surprising me with all the amazing layers and details she came up with in every draft. It wasn’t really reading the same manuscript three times, but reading three unique versions of a story!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Juliana: Essentially, Lorelei did one round of revisions per month during PW. She ended up reading and editing her manuscript four times. She never once asked for a break or said she needed some time off from the story. Her attitude about revising and honing her manuscript was just wonderful.
Lacee: We had her do an intensive plot and character arc analysis at the very beginning and she dug so deep into her story. It was amazing watching her turn a great idea into something utterly beautiful and heart-wrenching. She refused to compromise until she got to the very heart of her story. And that was before she even got started on her first round of edits!
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Juliana: I think that one of the biggest things is to learn how to take feedback and make it applicable to your own work. Not all feedback is worth implementing and not all feedback needs to be implemented exactly how it’s given. Most feedback in edits need to be taken in consideration to what the author wants to tell in their story, and knowing how to do that takes practice.
Lacee: Work hard, but hold on loosely to Pitch Wars. It’s not the only path to publication, and not the only path to a mentor relationship. Believe firmly that your journey is unique to you and don’t compare yourself to others!
Let’s find out what drew agent Chloe Seager to this manuscript. Chloe?
What drew me to this manuscript initially was the strong concept (so spooky and universally applicable – who wouldn’t want to go on a fairground ride built of their own dreams?) Once I started reading, I was drawn in by the combination of visual writing and a fast-paced plot with many twists and turns, with characters who come off the page and whose hopes and fears feel so genuine. It’s rare to find an exciting adventure that also has a real heart.
How about some fun questions for Lorelei, Juliana, and Lacee.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Lorelei: As a mother of four kids aged 7 and under, I sneak in editing time in all sorts of places. Coffee shops, my bedroom, the couch, even my minivan! At this stage of life, I do get the occasional stretch of bliss-filled peace and quiet, but many times it’s more about fitting in this work that I love in whatever space makes sense at that time.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Lorelei: Jane Austen. I would hope to stroll the English countryside with her and exchange witty remarks about society, then talk a bit about craft.
Juliana: Dianna Wynne Jones. She has been my favorite author for a long time now, and I would love to sit down and hear her talk about her process. I’m always amazed at how her stories weave together in unexpected, fun ways. Plus, she seems like she’d be absolutely hilarious.
Lacee: Diana Wynne Jones. I would do anything with her– laundry, grocery shopping, whatever. I’d even do her laundry FOR her, if she’d just sit there and talk to me about writing and life.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Lorelei: Along those lines, I would love to meet Elizabeth Bennett. I have always felt like we were kindred spirits, and I have to hope we could be both practical and bookish together as friends.
Juliana: Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. I’d secretly want to know how she manages to live with Howl, but that would be rude to ask.
Lorelei, what inspired you to start writing?
I was an avid reader as a child. I loved (and still do love!) losing myself in a beautiful tale. I also love the timelessness of stories… that something a person wrote hundreds of years ago could still connect with someone today. There’s just something magical about the written word, and I want to be a part of it.
Lorelei Savaryn has been writing since childhood, earning her B.A. in Creative Writing from UW Milwaukee in 2009. She later returned to school to earn her teaching license and M.A. in Education, specializing in teaching in Urban Schools. She taught elementary school in Milwaukee and Racine, WI. She has 3 children and is currently home full-time amidst all the beautiful noise and nonsense.
Juliana Brandt is an author and kindergarten teacher with a passion for storytelling that guides her in both of her jobs. She lives in her childhood home of Minnesota, and her writing is heavily influenced by travels around the country and decade living in the South. When not working, she is usually exploring the great outdoors. Her debut novel, THE WOLF OF CAPE FEN, will be published by SourcebooksKids in Summer 2020. Her writing is represented by Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary Agency.
Lacee Little is a stay at home mom and freelance academic editor. She writes middle grade fantasy, with as much weird and beautiful magic as she can stuff in. When forced to take a break from book-related things, she loves hiking, gardening, and anything outside. Lacee lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas, with her husband and two children, who all happen to love books as much as she does.