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Pitch Wars Success Story with Rosie Danan and Her Mentors, Heather Van Fleet & Lana Sloan

Wednesday, 3 July 2019  |  Posted by Annette Christie

Illustration of PItch Wars owl mascot saying "mentee graduate"

We love a good success story here at Pitch Wars and today we get to bring you a new one! Please join us in congratulating Rosie Danan and her mentors, Heather Van Fleet and Lana Sloan! Rosie signed with Jessica Watterson at Sandra Djikstra Literary Agency. We’re thrilled for all of them!

Rosie, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentors? 

My mentors introduced me to my first beat sheet. The ability to lay out timelines, locations, POV shifts, and to see the narrative unfold as a whole has changed the drafting game for me. I ended up building my own Franken-template combining tools from Romancing the Beat, Jami Gold, and more. I am so grateful for writers who share their tools online.

Heather and Lana, tell us about your experience mentoring Rosie.

Heather: This was Lana and my first time mentoring together (she’s a former mentee of #TeamAwesome btw) so we knew going into this year that we worked well together, and had very similar likes, dislikes, and ideas when it came to revisions and what books we both enjoyed. What we didn’t expect was to find was Rosie: the sweetest of the sweetest author who took our ideas, combining them with her own, and then nailing her awesome book (which now has a book deal with Berkley!!) into what it is today. Throughout the process, Rosie ate up all of our advice, hungry for whatever we had to offer, willing to try things, and never afraid to work. She was focused and so easy to work with that we couldn’t have asked for a better mentee.

Lana: Rosie was focused, enthusiastic, and receptive to feedback throughout.

Rosie, tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.

Heather and Lana sent me my edit letter (which I believe was 13 pages double spaced) a day or so after mentee announcements went public. I took about 24 hours to process and then made a game plan to tackle their edits. As I mentioned, they had suggested I use a beat sheet to plan my revisions so I spent about a week getting that sorted out. Lana and Heather gave some notes and approved my plan for how to tackle their feedback and then I was off to the races drafting. I felt quite lucky that the majority of my edits were adding additional scenes vs cutting what I’d written previously. Heather and Lana had a lot of heart for the story and characters and were consistently cheering me and this manuscript on. I think I ended up writing around 15 brand new scenes and my word count went from 72K to 90K over the course of about two months. Before the holidays I sent my revisions off to Heather and Lana and then collapsed for a few weeks while they read the changes and provided line edits. They broke the line edits in half so I ended up doing those revisions in about a week each. Finally, I sent a second revised draft which they were generous enough to scour for any typos, etc. A few weeks before the showcase we worked on my pitch and query letter, submitted our showcase materials, and then buckled up for the unexpected ride ahead. I could not have asked for better mentors or friends. Heather and Lana are phenomenal and taught me so much more than I even imagined possible.

Heather and Lana, we’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.

Heather: Um, is everything an okay answer here? Because every idea and word Rosie added during this process was amazing.

Lana: She didn’t freak out when we sent her our edit letter. She took the time she needed to process, created a plan, then dove into her edits like a champ.

Rosie, please tell us about THE CALL.

I submitted my materials to the requests I’d received during the Pitch Wars showcase first thing in the morning the day after the showcase closed and then headed to the airport for a business trip to Miami —thinking my inbox would be radio silent for a while. To my complete shock, I got an email from Jess while at dinner with a bunch of my coworkers that same night. I couldn’t say anything or even really react. It was very surreal.

When I could slip away, I emailed and accepted her request for a call in all caps. In case it was unclear up until this point, I have never been chilla day in my life. We had our call the next evening and I took it from my hotel room. I was nervous but Jess immediately put me at ease. I felt an instant connection with her and she was so professional but I could also feel her enthusiasm for my work and her job as an agent in general. I knew as soon as we hung up the phone that her offer would be hard to beat. I ordered pasta and a mini bottle of champagne from room service to celebrate and then texted practically everyone I’d ever met.

The whole process happened much sooner than I expected and I honestly had no clue how to handle any of it. My mentors and other PW friends helped me navigate the next two weeks. Funnily enough, I was on another business trip to a different city when I accepted Jess’ offer (I think I used all caps again). Now that I think about it, business trips might be good luck for my publishing journey. I should probably try to take more of them.

Let’s find out what drew agent Jessica Watterson to this manuscript. Jessica?

To be completely frank, I loved that the pitch was a bit polarizing, in that it deals with subject matter that a lot of people are scared of and don’t necessarily equate to feminism. Plus, the opening is just fantastic as Rosie’s writing shines and I could tell immediately I needed to read more. I admittedly read the full as soon as it hit my inbox and was on the phone with her the next day offering, there was just a spark there that made me know I needed to represent this manuscript.

Rosie, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?

Pitch Wars completely transformed my writing life. My mentors guided me through the editing process for the first time with precision and understanding. I met incredible critique partners and amazing friends in my fellow mentees. While the spotlight of Pitch Wars was at times nerve-wrecking, the showcase absolutely exponentially expedited the querying process for me. Even though my formal time as a mentee has ended, the community at large continues to support me and remind me to celebrate my journey.

Heather and Lana, how can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?

Heather: My advice is to read in your genre. Make sure you know what works and what doesn’t. Get a critique partner who is not afraid to tell you what works and what doesn’t. This year we had several more months to work on revisions, but every second of it counted. If you’re not very good at time management, I suggest working on that, because once you start on this major revision, which is 99% of the time what happens during PitchWars, you need to dedicate a lot of your free time to doing so.

Lana: Get comfortable with sharing your work and truly contemplate the feedback you receive from others. No matter where you are in your journey, the community you have will be instrumental in helping you write the best damn book you can.

Rosie, do you have any advice for those thinking about entering Pitch Wars? 

My advice is jump in and join the community early—don’t wait to be selected. The application process, like all of Pitch Wars, is intense and will make you crazy if you let it, I was hesitant to reach out to other hopefuls during the prep and waiting period but hindsight shows me that if I’d faced that fear I would have found kindred-spirits sooner. The hashtag is a great way to find others in your shoes and to ask members of previous classes about their experience. I have to imagine that at times the contest can feel exclusive or insular but please believe that every single person I’ve met from this program is welcoming and eager to support all kinds of writers across their journeys.

You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?

Rosie: I live in a loft apartment and my illustrator partner and I share a creative space we affectionately call “the crow’s nest.” Every time I climb that staircase I know I’m entering a haven that sits literally above the hustle and bustle of my home and professional life. Even when we’re both working at the same time, I’m inspired by his creative energy (as long as we’re both wearing noise canceling headphones).

Heather: There is no quiet time at my house, honestly. But I’m good with working through noise. I can only write in one place and that’s at my kitchen table, so that’s where I’d be.

Lana: I’m going to assume I can teleport in this scenario. I’d go to a cabin in the middle of the woods that doesn’t have WiFi, where it is hopefully raining and there is a bottomless carafe of coffee

What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?

Rosie: I’d love to meet Rainbow Rowell. Her books are so well-written they stay with me for days after I finish them, like a pleasurable bee-sting. I know (from the Internet) that she lives in Lincoln, NE and I’ve heard that is a really cool city. In this dream scenario, perhaps we could check out her local indie bookstore, enjoy lunch at a cafe, and then BYO snacks to a movie. There’s something so deliciously devious about sneaking in with pockets of candy and chips and I feel like Rainbow would make a great accomplice.

Heather: LJ Shen. We would discuss her freaking ability to create the best book boyfriends ever. And then I would likely just cry because she’d be hanging out with me in the first place.

Lana: I’d love to spend a day with Brittainy C. Cherry. We would talk about books that make us cry and characterization in our own stories while drinking coffee and feasting on tons of baked goods.

What fictional character would you most like to meet and why?

Rosie: I’m gonna go with Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin. We’re both self-aware, highly strung, over-achievers who love and write romance, so I’d think we’d have a lot to talk about.

Heather: Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin. (Just like Rosie!) I adore her. Love the energy she has. The passion she has for writing too. I want her to be my best friend, bottom line.

Lana: Jen Barber from The IT Crowd. I honestly think we would get along on a special level.

If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?

Rosie: As truly wild as it can get, I’m gonna have to go with the Harry Potter fandom. For better or worse, those books and characters and my relationship to them have made an irreparable impact on my identity and the way I tell stories. For those wondering, Slytherin sun, Ravenclaw rising.

Heather: The Walking Dead Fandom. That show is my life.

Lana: Kids in the Hall. I’ve been an avid KITH fan for decades and can still remember watching the new episodes after I was supposed to be asleep on a 5” black and white TV, and writing really terrible KITH inspired comedy sketches.

What inspired you to start writing?

Rosie: Spite and an unrequited crush. Neither of which I’ve held onto but the combination was a powerful catalyst.

Heather: Twilight and Stephanie Meyer. I’m totally not afraid to admit it, because without this series, this author, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Lana: Reading Charlie (a Little Golden Book) by Diane Fox Downs. My first story was essentially Charlie fan fiction I wrote when I was six.

Tell us about your writing process.

Rosie: Oh man. Nothing about this is constructive or cool. The long and short of it is, I fall in love as much as I can and then I chase those sensations onto the page.

Heather: My writing hours are from 9 to 11 during the weekdays, after my kids leave for school. Weekends are a bit different. I’m thankful I get to stay and home and do what I love. I don’t usually have a routine, other than scouring social media then drinking coffee, then putting my fingers to the keyboard.

Lana: Since my kids dominate the daytime hours, I write at night and sleep less than would likely be deemed healthy. I think I’ve finally found my process, which relies heavily on giving myself a chance to step away from a manuscript before entering another phase of the creation process. For instance, after I complete a first draft, I may polish another book or plot a new one in order to give myself distance before I dive into editing the draft.

Thank you for sharing your story with us! We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing more from you as you continue in your publishing journey. CONGRATULATIONS! 

Rosie Danan lives in Austin, Texas and works in digital marketing, teaching Fortune 500 companies how to navigate the internet. When not writing Rom-Coms that examine social justice issues, she is most often found reading, competing against herself in rounds of Chopped featuring the miscellaneous items in her fridge, or petting other people’s dogs.

Her PitchWars manuscript, Never Have I Ever, is a 2019 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist for Best Contemporary Romance.

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Heather Van Fleet is a stay-at-home-mom turned book boyfriend connoisseur. She’s married to her high school sweetheart and a mom to three girls. In her spare time you can find her with her head buried in her Kindle, guzzling down copious amounts of coffee. Heather graduated from Black Hawk College in 2003 and currently writes YA, NA, and Adult contemporary romance. She is an editorial intern at P.S. Literary and is published through Sourcebooks Casablanca with her Reckless Hearts series. She is represented Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary.

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Lana Sloan fell in love with romance on the floor of a thrift shop book room. Since then, everything she enjoys writing centers around love—and sex. While obtaining her BA she didn’t often doodle, though the margins of her notebooks were filled with snippets of stories. Whenever she can find the time, she takes pleasure in reading, hiking, gardening, and perusing antique stores for mid-century modern finds—all while chugging down copious amounts of coffee. She resides in Southern California with her geeky husband, kids, and a menagerie which includes far too many cats.

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