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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Sarah Van Goethem and her mentor, Jenni L. Walsh

Tuesday, 13 September 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

PW Interviews

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have Team Bearcats (lively, spirited women, possibly with a fiery streak) . . .


Sarah Van Goethem – Mentee

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Jenni L. Walsh – Mentor

Twitter | Website


Sarah, why did you choose Jenni?

The minute I read Jenni’s wish list I knew my MS was a great fit as she listed that she was most drawn to historical and fantasy. As well, her own book, Becoming Bonnie (which I am dying to read) is set in the late 1920’s and mine is a time travel to the mid 1930’s. I thought she would have fabulous advice and have a great grasp on the era. And, so far, all of her ideas are the Bee’s Knees!

(I will also mention here, that after I had narrowed down my mentor choices to about ten, I let my fifteen-year-old daughter, who read my MS, go through the mentor blogs and help me choose. She also put Jenni in my top choices.)

Jenni, why did you choose Sarah Van Goethem?

The premise. Man, the premise of Sassafras Road hooked me right away. Maybe it’s because my Saturday nights feel lonely without Outlander, maybe it’s because I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife, or maybe it’s because Sarah’s historical, time-travel premise was just so dang good. Then, I started reading her pages and her MS was so clean. I knew she’d be able to handle any edits I threw her way.

Her novel was pitched as YA (and I started as a YA mentor), but we’ll be showcasing this baby as Adult. We’re coming for ya Adult agents 🙂

Sarah, summarize your book in three words.

Intriguing, Unexpected, Bittersweet

Jenni, summarize Sarah’s book in three words.

So. Freaking. Good.

Oh, but for real: Lush. Raw. Hopeful.

Sarah, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?

I definitely drew on my personal life to some degree when writing my MS. I lost my husband when I was 31, and I felt that while he was sick with cancer and dying, that somehow we fast forwarded through all of the middle years we should have had, straight to the end. The ‘what if’ questions always resonated after that. In Sassafras Road, I used the idea of time not being linear, and what if you were forced to do the ending before the middle of the story?

I also have a huge fascination with history and chose the 1930’s because I believe one of the greatest generations was born out of the hardships of the Depression years. My MS also has a mysterious time travel aspect, incorporating leap years, lunar cycles, true events, and a dash of fate vs. free will.

I now live the farming life with my fiancé (who also lost his wife) and our combined seven children! And (somehow?) I find time to write short stories and novels.

Jenni, tell us about yourself. Something we might now already know.

I hated history growing up. With my debut novel being historical, Sarah’s novel being historical, and with a WIP historical novel in the works, that may come as a surprise, but it’s true. Maybe it was the way it was taught in my adolescent years. I’m not sure. Then, I met my husband, who is a huge history buff. He talks about history with such animation and excitement, and it made me see the past in a completely different way. Now I love learning about the people and events who came before us, and my goal is to tell stories that engross people in a new era.


Check out Jenni L. Walsh’s upcoming release . . .

PictureBecoming Bonnie

The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty: finish school, become a teacher, provide for herself . . . and maybe someday marry her longtime boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

In the fast life of bootleg liquor, glitzy dresses and jazz music, Bonnelyn discovers unexpected freedom, and the pay is not bad either. Living the life of a moll at night, she remains a good, wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnelyn tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn’t know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet a convicted felon by the name of Clyde Barrow.

Few details are known about Bonnie’s life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In this richly imagined and empathetic novel, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American Dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.

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