We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Page Powars and his mentors, Amelia Diane Coombs and Sophie Gonzales! Page signed with Natalie Lakosil at Irene Goodman Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
About the Team…
Page Powars – Mentee
Page is a writer based in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition and technology from the University of Michigan School of Music and is currently a publishing master’s student at New York University.
Amelia Diane Coombs – Mentor
Amelia writes books for young adults. Back in the day, she majored in English and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing. Now Amelia writes unlikable female protagonists, positive mental health representation, and swoony romances with soft boys. She’s a Northern California transplant living in Seattle, Washington, with her partner and their Siberian cat. When she isn’t writing or reading, Amelia happily fills her days beekeeping, playing card and tabletop games, hiking, and volunteering with cats.
She’s the author of KEEP MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO and BETWEEN YOU ME AND THE HONEYBEES.
Sophie Gonzales – Mentor
Sophie writes Young Adult queer contemporary with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart. She is the author of THE LAW OF INERTIA and ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED. Her forthcoming YA books, PERFECT ON PAPER and OFF THE RECORD, are due to be released in March 2021 with Wednesday Books. When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she works as a psychologist.
The Interview …
Category: Young Adult
Page, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentor/s?
It looks like Sophie and Amelia have already raved about this tip below, but using a Save the Cat beat sheet! I was familiar with Save the Cat as a writing resource before Pitch Wars, but as a past pantser, I was stubbornly uninterested. Now I refuse to ever start a project without completing the outline first. I’ve heard that authors will “almost always need to write their book to figure out what story they truly want to tell, then rewrite it,” but this outline definitely stops me from needing to go through that process.
I’m so like you. It took me a while to get on the Save the Cat bandwagon and now I love it. Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
The revision process actually was the least stressful part of Pitch Wars for me! Although I had a decent amount of work to do, I sent my book back to my mentors within a couple of weeks. The much harder part was waiting until the showcase for multiple months while having no project to work on. I definitely recommend to future Pitch Wars mentees to take their time on revisions, or else you may get antsy toward the end!
The waiting part is always hard, isn’t it? 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)!
Natalie Lakosil was the first agent to offer on my Pitch Wars book, and she did so about a month after having my full manuscript! She was one of the very few agents on my Want to Query list who wasn’t participating in the showcase, so I cold queried her once she opened a month or two after Pitch Wars season. After the email, we hopped on a Zoom call as soon as possible since I had a major surgery coming up. And yes, that meant I needed to contact every other agent with my manuscript and query during the same week I underwent a surgery that left me bedridden for weeks. Yes, I received a query rejection while being wheeled toward my operating room. No, I don’t know why those doctors still allowed me to have my phone at that point.
My emotions were definitely all over the place when I received Natalie’s email. Outside of Pitch Wars, it’s normal for querying to take months or even years. But after seeing so many mentees get offers only within a couple of days or weeks after the showcase, I was secretly spiraling hard by the time Natalie offered. Despite receiving an offer later than some—the showcase was February and my offer came at the end of May—I had multiple offers that made choosing my agent extremely difficult in the end! So that’s something I would also love to stress to future mentees: just because you aren’t hearing back doesn’t mean much. Silence in publishing can often be a good thing!
Fun fact: Natalie was the agent for my first contest SHOW ME THE VOICE before Pitch Wars was even a thought. How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
IMMENSELY. Not only because Amelia and Sophie helped me improve my manuscript with their genius, showstopping, incredible minds. They also offered so much mental and emotional support during the showcase and querying stages, which I’ll once again say was much more challenging for me than revisions!
They are geniuses for sure! Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Just aim to do your best! I wrote my Pitch Wars book about three weeks before the Pitch Wars prospective mentee submission deadline and hit send on my application with my eyes squeezed shut. I knew the book wasn’t fully ready to be read, and especially not by so many of the mentors I admired. But mentors don’t want a perfectly polished book. Otherwise, what would they help you with?
True, mentors need to connect to a book and know how they can help the writer to have that perfect match. Amelia and Sophie, tell us about working with your mentee.
Amelia: As first-time Pitch Wars mentors, Sophie and I got extremely lucky with Page! Not only did he turn around his edits in a timely manner, but he never once complained about all the work we threw his way. (Which was a lot!) We chose Page’s book, ERNEST BYRD: TYPICAL BOY, for several reasons, but a major one was the humor and heart. The book is like a shot of serotonin, and returning to the manuscript after each pass of edits was such a joy.
Sophie: Page was a dream to mentor! He’s one of those authors who can turn around a draft / edits in record time, but still paying attention to detail and diving in thoroughly. Amelia and I loved jumping on zoom with him to chat about his book, and brainstorm editing ideas. At every stage he was receptive, engaged and enthusiastic!
I’m so glad you both had a great experience for your first time! We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Amelia: Page’s sense of humor aligns so closely to my own, and he managed to make me laugh (and okay, cry, because ERNEST BYRD will hit you in your feels) every single time I returned to that book!
Sophie: Speed!! I’ve never seen someone do an edit so quickly while covering everything before. But he drafted the book itself in record time, so it’s not so surprising I suppose!
I think Page needs to give us the secret to his speedy writing skills. How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Amelia: You already did the hard part—you wrote a book! Pitch Wars can have a huge emotional toll and it’s best going into the process knowing that, while amazing, Pitch Wars is just one path. Not getting in isn’t a rejection! Sophie and I read SO MANY amazing entries last fall—the level of talent was staggering—but mentors can only choose one mentee. Conversely, though, getting in isn’t a fast track to an agent or a book deal. Publishing is full of uncertainties, but that’s the beauty of Pitch Wars: the community and support. And if you do get in, be open to your mentor’s feedback and be ready to do the work!
Sophie: See if you can find a couple of critique partners to swap work with. Not only will it help you catch things you might have missed before, but it’ll give you a good sense of how engaging your first pages are, as well as the rest of the book, and get you used to receiving editing feedback. Hearing the areas of improvement in a manuscript is one of the biggest parts of being an author, but for some people, it can be the most difficult aspect to adjust to.
Yes, agree! The hardest part is writing that book! How about some fun questions for Page, Amelia, and Sophie.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Amelia: Oh jeez, reading that sentence alone stresses me out! I’m the type of person who sends edits in a week early due to their anxiety. But my office, probably. It’s usually pretty quiet in there, and if not, my couch in the living room is second-best.
Sophie: I do about 95% of my writing and editing on my bed, so…. There! #ergonomics
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Page: Shaun David Hutchinson! He’s why I started writing in the first place. And similarly to Sophie with Stephen King, I also have questions, so many questions…
Sophie: Stephen King, because I have questions, so many questions…
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Page: This is a super hard choice since my TikTok fyp is a fandom nightmare, but right now I’d say the video game Genshin Impact. Goodbye wallet, hello hot fictional characters.
Amelia: Oooh interesting. I’m apart of way too many fandoms but probably The Last of Us, which is my favorite video game franchise, and I’d be lost without it!
Sophie: The Handmaid’s Tale, because there’s just so much to talk about / debate / predict. It’s agony to wait between seasons, and the fandom is the only thing that keeps me going.
What inspired you to start writing?
Amelia: I wish I knew! Ha, but really, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to see my books on shelves!
Sophie: I’ve been telling stories and writing since I was a small child, so it’s hard to say. A visiting author, who told me in front of my primary school class that he expected me to be published in a bookstore one day, was the trigger that inspired me to want to be an *author*, though!
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Page: I use the Forest app with my author friend, Emily, to write most days. It costs a dollar, but as someone who has a bulldozer tornado personality, it helps me focus so much. You grow a virtual tree on your phone during the amount of time you set. If you use your phone during that time, it kills the tree. The stakes are raised if you plant a tree with others because if anyone kills their own tree, it kills everyone else’s, too.
Amelia: My routine and process varies by project, but I always use Save the Cat beat sheets and work on a loose outline before drafting. I hate drafting—hate it!—so I usually try to get it over with as fast/efficiently as possible. I’ll always use Scrivener and can’t recommend it enough. For fun, I love making elaborate mood boards, aesthetics, and playlists for all my projects!
Sophie: Like Amelia, I’m married to Save the Cat for structure. I also have several books I use regularly when editing, including the whole writing thesaurus section on One Stop For Writers (https://onestopforwriters.com/), and the books Naughty Words for Nice Writers, She Sat, He Stood and 1,000 Character Reactions. As for the time and place, it’s Sophie Gonzales, in the bedroom, with the laptop, between roughly 8:00 pm and 4:00 am. Once dinner’s over, the work begins!
Check out Amelia’s latest release BETWEEN, YOU, ME AND THE HONEYBEES …
Buy BYMATH from your local bookstore, or wherever books are sold.
Perfect for fans of Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen, this swoon-worthy novel follows a teen girl during her California summer of beekeeping, secrets, and stolen kisses.
Josie Hazeldine just graduated from high school, and she’s ready for a summer full of sunshine, beekeeping, and . . . lying to her mom.
Josie’s mom couldn’t be prouder about her daughter heading off to college, something she never got to do. But Josie would rather stay in her California hometown and take over the family business, Hazeldine Honey. So that college acceptance her mom is thrilled about? Josie turned it down. And she’s going to tell her mom—just not yet. But between her secret and managing her anxiety disorder, Josie’s barely keeping it all together.
Complicating things further, the neighbor’s grandson is in town, and he’s artsy, adorable, and interested in Josie. That wouldn’t be a problem if he weren’t a Blumstein—the sworn enemy of the Hazeldines and their competition in the annual Honey Show at the end of July. Is the possibility of romance—and maybe even love—worth betraying her family over?
Juggling all of her secrets isn’t easy, but it might be worth following her heart . . . and keeping the boy she can’t stop thinking about.
Check out Sophie’s upcoming book releasing December 7, 2021, IF THIS GETS OUT …
Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich’s “If This Gets Out is an absolute showstopper! Equal parts edgy and adorable, this bright, joyful book has everything I look for in a queer YA romance.” —Phil Stamper, bestselling author of The Gravity of Us
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
Thank you Page, Amelia, and Sophie for the interview, and thanks everyone for stopping by and supporting our mentors and mentees!