We’re so excited whenever one of our mentees gets an agent offer or a publishing deal. Celebrating these successes is one of our favorite parts of the Pitch Wars process. We hope you can join us in congratulating Remy Lai and her mentors, Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin. Remy signed with Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, and we couldn’t be happier for them!
Remy, what was it about Amanda and Cindy that made you choose to send them a Pitch Wars application?
1) Their PW wishlist is an almost perfect match for my manuscript. And I wanted to learn how to write better character arcs, emotions and all that inner goodness, and Amanda and Cindy sound perfect for that.
2) Their previous mentees’ testimonials say that Amanda and Cindy are very involved, which was what I wanted.
3) I get two for one. Double the things I can learn.
4) They like the same books I do.
Amanda and Cindy, what was it about Remy’s RULES FOR MAKING CAKES that hooked you?
Amanda: We had so many amazing manuscripts in our inbox this year. When Remy’s came in we’d already requested like 12 or something. Cindy messaged me to go read it and I was really hoping to not like it so we wouldn’t have to request. But I did. I liked it! A lot! But we still had so many different options to read through. Cindy and I set up a spreadsheet to leave notes by our top choices and in that spreadsheet, I put next to Remy’s, “This is really cute but I don’t think we’re going to pick it.” *snort* It’s a good thing I don’t gamble.
Anyways, we loved the writing but were still deciding and had emailed questions out to the people we requested from. When Remy got back to us, she mentioned that the book had started out as a graphic novel and that she was hoping to do it as an illustrated novel. Well, we LOVE graphic novels. So we begged her to send us the pictures and when she did, we couldn’t stop imagining these awesome words with her awesome illustrations. We were really excited.
But…we still had to finish reading other manuscripts. (So. Much. Reading.)
Then, the horrible incidents happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. We were so incredibly heartbroken and sad. Then, at just about the same time, we messaged each other and were like, “No more reading. We have to choose Remy’s book. The world needs it.” It’s all about a boy who has recently immigrated and is learning English. And with that, our minds were made up and we have been THRILLED ever since!
Cindy: From the first moment I read Remy’s query, I was intrigued. It was such a unique and charming story idea; I loved the secret baking aspect and the brother relationship that lies at the heart of the story, and I am a sucker for anything that tugs on the heartstrings, so the fact that it was about recent immigrants who had moved to Australia in the wake of a family death… well, it was a story basically tailor-made for me! I messaged Amanda and told her I thought we should request it, but she had other books she was crushing on pretty hard at the time, so I was steeling myself for her just not loving it. A day or two later, before I’d even had time to start on the partial we requested from Remy, I went to the coast for a day and was out of cell reception all day. When I got back, I found I had like half a dozen messages from Amanda talking about how much she had loved the partial for CAKES, and how she already had revision ideas for it. Especially once we learned that CAKES had begun life as a graphic novel and that Remy still wanted to intersperse graphic panels and illustration with the prose, we were sold!
Oh… and the mouth-watering descriptions of the cakes that the brothers bake in the story didn’t hurt. I actually went and baked two different cakes based off of the descriptions in the book, and have a list of several more I want to try still!
Remy, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
I didn’t sleep at all during those two months. Good times 🙂 My myopia and astigmatism also got worse after PW, but that meant I got new glasses, so…hooray!
I got my eight-page edit letter the day after the mentors’ picks were announced. The notes looked pretty simple, but it made me ask a lot of deeper questions about my characters and my story. It took me six weeks to complete the first round of revision. The second round of revision was much lighter, mostly to do with pacing and line edits.
For me, the most important thing during the revision was Amanda and Cindy’s belief in me. I’m prone to wallowing in doubt, so having their kind words and encouragement, which I never really had before when it came to writing, was instrumental in me pushing on.
Amanda and Cindy, tell us about your experience mentoring Remy.
Amanda: Remy was a DREAM to work with! We gave her a pretty long edit letter that basically said, “Take everything you have and then go deeper.” And she did it! She was always willing to give anything a try. She was prompt and hard working. She didn’t hate us…too much. haha
Cindy: What Amanda said! Remy was amazing. She’s a rockstar writer and reviser, and she delivered SO INCREDIBLY on everything we’d asked for. I cried multiple times during the revision because she’d upped the emotional connection so deeply. It was amazing.
Remy, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Jim McCarthy of DG&B. 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.
Amanda and Cindy were with me every step of the way, even though they didn’t have to. They hoped big things for me when I needed to keep my expectations low, and believed in my manuscript when I just couldn’t.
Note that since I’m in Australia and 19 hours ahead of them, all our correspondence was via email, messenger or twitter. This sums it up:
The first response to my PW requests was a rejection and it came the day after the mentees could send in our requests. A couple of hours after I got that rejection, my phone dings–an email from an agent I love. I knew it wasn’t one of those “got your full, thanks” confirmation email because she’d sent me one earlier. I told my mentors I got the email and they were DYING for me to open it. I’ve handled lots of rejections before PW, but this time I just didn’t want to deal with it. I couldn’t open the email. Could not. Might die.
NINE hours later, I finally opened that email.
This was followed by a lot more screaming.
Cindy was missing here because she’d gone to bed. But when she got up:
I had the call with that first agent soon after, during which I resisted the urge to shriek and accept the offer there and then. After that, I notified the other agents with my full.
Over the next days I got step-asides, rejections, and more offers. I couldn’t believe it was happening. After years of rejections I had offers! Plural! I spoke with more agents and their clients. All the agents were kind, generous and just so, so incredible. Which made my decision impossible. I couldn’t go wrong with any of these agents, but if for some reason things went down the toilet, I’d have no one to blame but myself. If I were Peter Parker, I’d have crumbled under the weight of that responsibility and the Green Goblin would be ruling the world right now.
THRILLED x infinity + TERRIFIED x infinity = ZERO SLEEP
Terrible Math there, but PW really does give you insomnia.
Then, while I was at work, I got a certain agent’s email. I immediately updated my mentors.
Jim and I set up our call for the next day. Because my decision was already impossible, I was hoping he’d be a douche so that I didn’t even have to consider him.
But after speaking with Jim:
At the end of the two weeks, after more back and forth with the agents and their clients, I signed with Jim McCarthy 🙂 🙂 🙂
I think I celebrated by sleeping for a whole week.
Remy, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Before PW, I had never revised my manuscripts so thoroughly. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know where to begin. My mentors’ guidance was an eye-opener. Having survived a hellish revision during PW, I’m now much more confident about tackling revisions ( it will still be hell, though).
Most importantly, the PW community is priceless! The 2017 mentees are a supportive, kind, crazy, hilarious bunch. And getting to know so many writers who face similar crap as you, feel similar feels, is…like I’ve found a place to rest.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you all to answer.
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Remy: In the world of Spirited Away. I’ll live with Zeniba and hang out with No Face and Haku. I’ll eat all the food and draw all the spirits and write all about them.
Amanda: Okay, barring the obvious (Hogwarts) I’m going to say Anne Shirley’s Prince Edward Island. Because it is beautiful and slow and Anne is there and we would be bosom friends (move over Diana Barry). I would drink lots of raspberry cordial and be in the concerts and teach at the school and row every day across The Lake of Shining Waters.
Cindy: I mean, is there even a question? Even though Amanda has now pronounced it too obvious (sob), I’m going to have to go with the magical world of the Harry Potter series. Rowling combines whimsy, emotion, and wonder so beautifully in her settings–something I’m always seeking for in my own books. I’d learn magic at Hogwarts, be BFFs with Hermione, and adopt myself into the Weasley family. (But also I kinda want to steal Amanda’s answer, because it’s totally awesome.)
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Remy: I’m all over the place. I’ll go through periods where I write best early in the morning, then I’ll need a change of pace and work best late at night. I write on my laptop, but my brainstorming is usually in my notebooks. Whenever I find myself procrastinating, I switch to doing twenty-minute sprints, which I make a record of. That way, I don’t slack off. When I need a break I take my dogs on long walks and take long showers. And read a lot.
Amanda: I am a butt in chair whether or not the muse is there kind of writer. I used to write every day no matter what. Now I’m a little easier on myself. When I’m drafting or working on a revision, I work six days a week, taking Sundays off. I write on my laptop, in my bed or in the hallways outside my kids’ rooms, usually for about an hour while they fall asleep. After I finish a revision or a draft, I usually give myself a few weeks off before starting on something else.
Cindy: I write whenever I get the time. As a stay-at-home mom, it can be a little dicey! I typically write about three evenings a week, and many mornings a week as well. I don’t write every day; instead, I set weekly wordcount or chapter goals and try to meet those in whatever time I’m able to scrounge up during the week. I’m a die-hard typing writer, but currently struggling with nerve damage from a repetitive stress injury, which is forcing me to be a little more flexible in my writing schedule and methods and try out methods like voice dictation.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Remy: I write because I don’t know how else to be, so I guess that’s motivation? But other people believing in my work is a big thing that picks me up when I’m wallowing in doubt. For inspiration, it’s other authors (Kate DiCamillo, Rebecca Stead, Diana Wynne Jones and many more). My biggest support is my writer friends.
Amanda: What keeps me writing? My A-type personality, the crushing weight of guilt and responsibility, and my brain that enjoys being engaged and creative. haha For inspiration, I turn to Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Applegate, and Lin Manuel Miranda. My biggest supports are my husband (couldn’t write without him) and my dear writing friends (you guys know who you are). Especially, Cindy. She’s like my biggest fan and biggest inspiration all at once. She’s a phenomenal writer and a wonderful friend.
Cindy: I like who I am best when I’m writing. I’ve quit or tried to quit during emotionally difficult moments, and I always end up coming back to it! So, in part, I can’t NOT write. When I need some inspiration, though, I always turn to really fantastic books in my genre; nothing inspires me quite as much as reading other authors’ beautiful words and stories. As for support, my husband is phenomenal and always encouraging me to step up, take time for myself, and chase my dreams. I also couldn’t write a word without my writing community, which includes lots of people I’ve met through Pitch Wars, including Amanda!
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Remy: Gollum! Hah! Because I can be single-minded, and I’m sometimes kind but mostly evil.
Amanda: Oh, I’m totally Leslie Knope and Mrs. Weasley put together.
Cindy: Anne Shirley and Jo March, hands down.
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!
Remy draws and writes all sorts of things. She lives in Australia.
Cindy’s Bio: Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Her debut novel, Where The Watermelons Grow, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Children’s Books in July 2018.
Amanda Rawson Hill
Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. (Which explains a lot about how she turned out.) After getting her degree in chemistry from Brigham Young University, she lived all over the US before finally settling down in Central California. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published by Boyds Mills Press in September 2018.