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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Anne Gresham and mentor, Cynthia Pelayo

Saturday, 6 February 2021  |  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 10, 2021, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2020 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Anne Gresham – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Cynthia Pelayo – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Cynthia, why did you choose Anne?

I read the query letter, and then a partial and knew right away I had to know how their story ended, about two sisters bonded together by duty and supernatural forces. It is such a beautiful concept. I especially love the setting, Oklahoma. That such a fantastical story could play out in the Great Plains echoed a hint of another wondrous story that was set not too far, of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in Kansas.

That does sound awesome. I love sister stories!  And Anne, why did you choose to submit to Cynthia?

I was so excited to see Cynthia’s name on the mentor list this year. She’s not only a writer working in my favorite genres but also a generous, active voice in the online horror community AND an editor putting out some incredible and important work through her indie press Burial Day. When I read through her wishlist, I felt like my ballet-inspired fairy tale lined up nicely with her interests. Even better, her description of her mentoring style seemed so supportive and approachable, especially for a slightly socially panicky person like me. I knew my story would be in excellent hands with her, and I’m so honored she decided to work with me!

Ballet-inspired fairy tale? I’m intrigued! So glad you all matched up. So Cynthia, can summarize Anne’s book in 3 words?

Sisters, Ballet, Tornados

Anne, summarize your book in 3 words.

tornado ballet family

And tornados? I need to read this! And Cynthia, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

I’m an award nominated horror writer and poet. I am also a vice president by day for a research consultancy, and I’m a PhD student working on her dissertation, and I’m a mom. So, I’m really busy, but still, I write, because I have stories to tell. In my writing, I focus on history, folklore, legend, and myth, including fairy tales as devices to explore very real horrors we live with. I grew up and live in inner city Chicago, and I am a woman of color, and that greatly influences my writing. Something you don’t know, I was a flight attendant a long time ago.

You are so busy! I’m in awe of you. I don’t know how you get it all done. And a flight attendant? I’ve always wanted to be one, but I bet many people have.

Now back to Anne, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I hope to improve my craft and learn how to stick the landing on a novel. Of course I’d love to see this manuscript find its way out into the world, but I’m hoping to gain knowledge, tools, and confidence I can bring to future projects as well. I’ve also really appreciated the opportunity to practice integrating longform, professional feedback into a revision in such a supportive atmosphere. Finally, it’s been incredibly helpful for me to have a firm deadline – I have no choice but to just finish this thing!

Deadlines are great! Without one, I become a slacker. I hope you feel like you have accomplished your goals. And Anne, can you tell us about yourself? What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I’m a librarian by day, and I love to research. While working on this project, I wound up becoming a registered storm spotter and overwhelming everyone around me with my arsenal of cloud-related weather aphorisms. Other projects of mine have involved a tick-infested hike through abandoned rural cemeteries and timber ghost towns, a deep dive into the deeply bizarre world of surgical bone saw promo videos, and a more than passing familiarity with procedures for summoning Goetic demons.

I’m also a textbook middle child, and I wanted to write a story where that family role really got to shine. Fairy tales tend to be more concerned with the adventures of the eldest and the youngest siblings, and those of us in the middle get stuck providing second act filler material. So in my story, there’s a brave oldest sister and a magical youngest sister, but it’s the mediocre (in her own eyes) middle child who ultimately has to rise to the challenge.

A registered storm spotter? That sounds so scary and fun! Thank you Cynthia and Anne for the interview. It was fun getting to know you both.

Check out Cynthia’s upcoming book releasing February 9, 2021, CHILDREN OF CHICAGO …

This horrifying retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale set in present-day Chicago is an edge of your seat, chills up the spine, thrill ride. ‪ When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned. When another teenager is brutally murdered at the same lagoon where her sister’s body was found floating years before, she is certain that the Pied Piper is not just back, he’s looking for payment he’s owed from her. Lauren’s torn between protecting the city she has sworn to keep safe, and keeping a promise she made long ago with her sister’s murderer. She may have to ruin her life by exposing her secrets and lies to stop the Pied Piper before he collects.

“Pelayo masterfully ratchets up the tension and the scares.” – Publishers Weekly

“With superior worldbuilding, a relentless pace, a complex heroine, and a harrowing story that preys off of current events as much as its well-developed monster, this is a stellar horror novel that fires on all cylinders, from the first page through to its horrible conclusion. For fans of dark fantasy based on fairy tales such as Seanan McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series or novels by Helen Oyeyemi, with just the right touch of Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski.” – Library Journal

“Part police procedural, all horror, Cynthia Pelayo’s CHILDREN OF CHICAGO is an immensely entertaining and thoroughly chilling novel, which just so happens to combine two of my favorite things: Chicago and fairytales. I challenge you not to have a good time with Pelayo’s book. The confidence and style on display here say she’s destined to become one of the greats.”―Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of SOUR CANDY, KIN, and THE TURTLE BOY

Preorder on Amazon

Preorder on Barnes and Noble

Preorder on Indiegbound

Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 10-15, 2021. Make sure to stop by then and check out all our mentees’ entries when it opens.


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