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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Akila Rayapuraju and mentors, Meg Long and Rochelle Hassan

Monday, 24 January 2022  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Our mentors are mentoring, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase starting on February 9, 2021, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2021 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Akila Rayapuraju – Mentee



Meg Long

Meg Long – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Rochelle Hassan

Rochelle Hassan – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Meg and Rochelle, why did you choose Akila?

Rochelle & Meg: We were drawn to Akila’s gorgeous prose and immersive world-building, as well as the way she reimagined Hindu mythology within a dystopian setting. It’s a fantastical adventure story, a journey through a post-apocalyptic world filled with deadly magical creatures, but it’s also about a complicated mother-daughter relationship and our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment. Also, there are a few supporting characters we absolutely love. So the story grabbed us both, and after talking to Akila, we were confident in her ability to pull off the revisions we felt would bring out the manuscript’s best qualities!

Akila, why did you choose to submit to Meg and Rochelle?

I didn’t initially submit to Meg & Rochelle but I was super excited when I was informed that there was a swap and they requested to read my work because the second I read through their profiles, interests, and the books they were working on, I immediately felt a click. I just knew that they would have some amazing insight into my work and help me bring it to the next level. Their love for fast-paced adventures, mythology, and immersive prose matched up with what I was going for with my manuscript perfectly. I literally have no idea how I missed their wishlist the first time around because I could not have asked for a better match!

Meg and Rochelle, summarize Akila’s book in 3 words.

Meg: lush hindu-inspired jungle journey

Rochelle: post-apocalyptic epic fantasy

Akila, summarize your book in 3 words.

Adventure, friendship, self-discovery

Meg and Rochelle, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Meg: I hate pickles. But I loved pickled vegetables. It makes no sense, I know.

Rochelle: During the lockdown last year, I got back into video games and anime, and they’ve become much-needed sources of stress relief and creative inspiration!

Akila, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

One of the biggest things I noticed before Pitch Wars was that I was terrified of sitting down with my manuscript and rewriting what I knew could be better. It just felt intimidating and impossible for me, to the point that I started losing excitement and passion towards my story. I came into Pitch Wars hoping that I could regain my love for what I was writing and also learn new techniques on how I can break down the revision and rewrite process without breaking down myself. Meg and Rochelle have been a huge help with this and I know that even if I don’t walk out with successful querying experiences and an agent (which would be a dream come true, don’t get me wrong), I will be coming out with some incredibly useful skills that will help me draft future manuscripts as well as a wonderful resource in the form of my two lovely mentors.

Akila, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

By day, I work in Clinical Research. My center studies the effects of meditation and yoga on various populations, a topic that is close to my heart. I am a recent grad that moved out for the first time just a few months ago and who has since been swept away on a harrowing but rewarding journey of self-discovery, growth, and independence far out of my comfort zone. A lot of these themes appear in my manuscript, except they are unraveled in a world that I imagine to be the consequence of ours and are centered around a girl learning that existence is far more vast and inclusive than her little bubble. This story is my exploration of the consequences of climate change and human negligence/inaction on not just the planet but the people that occupy the very distant future. But being a fantasy lover, I also saturated it with Hindu myth and monsters of my own creation. Sprinkle that with pieces of my Telugu roots and you have the story that’s possessed my soul for what feels like forever. More than anything, this is a book written for my teenage self – the one who would have been over the moon to see herself within its pages.

Check out Meg’s latest release, COLD THE NIGHT, FAST THE WOLVES …

Meg Long’s Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a captivating debut about survival, found family, and the bond between a girl and a wolf that delivers a fresh twist on classic survival stories and frontier myths.

On a frozen wasteland of a planet, a girl is on the run with a wolf who is born to be a killer but bound to be her guide. As they fight to escape ice goblins, giant bears, and a ruthless leader intent on trapping them both, one question drives them relentlessly forward: where do you turn when there is nowhere to hide?


“The perfect winter read might just be this inventive and atmospheric debut.” ―Buzzfeed

“Fast and furious…The worldbuilding is intricate, and the icy setting is so detailed that readers will feel the need to bundle up as they speed through to the exciting and satisfying conclusion.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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Check out Rochelle’s upcoming debut releasing May 3, 2022, THE PRINCE OF NOWHERE …

This sweeping middle grade fantasy debut by Rochelle Hassan follows Roda and Ignis, who embark on an adventure filled with magic and mystery—perfect for fans of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

Roda isn’t afraid of the monsters that roam the wilds of the Aerlands. She’s safe in her small town, which is surrounded by a wall of freezing, enchanted mist that keeps the beasts away. So when Roda rescues an injured crow on the instruction of her secret pen pal, Anonymous—whose letters arrive without warning and correctly predict the future—she’s surprised to learn she’s brought one of the so-called monsters home. Because her crow is really a shape-shifting boy named Ignis.

Ignis doesn’t remember where he was going before he crashed. But Anonymous brought him and Roda together for a reason—and the only way to find out what Anonymous wants is to follow the trail of baffling clues in Roda’s letters. Their perilous journey leads them into the mist and beyond, to a mysterious place called Nowhere. But Ignis has secrets, and the farther they get, the more Roda doubts she can trust him.

As a nefarious force closes in, they’ll have to put aside their differences and work together. For they might be each other’s only defense against an enemy who threatens their past, present, and future.


“A dazzling story. The Prince of Nowhere will keep readers enthralled and guessing throughout its twists and turns.”
– Julie Abe, author of the Eva Evergreen series

“This enchanting, magic-filled debut is best read by flashlight, under the warm covers to keep the icy mists and monsters at bay.”
– Michelle Cuevas, bestselling author of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole

The Prince of Nowhere is out May 3, 2022! Pre-order here:







Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 9-14, 2022. Make sure to stop by then and check out all our mentees’ entries when it opens. 


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