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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Deena Short and mentor, Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla

Wednesday, 15 December 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 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 . . .

Deena Short – Mentee


Heather Van Fleet – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Jessica Calla – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Heather and Jessica, why did you choose Deena?

Heather: As soon as I read Deena’s submission for THE COMPOUND, I had Jess drop everything and give it a read! The excitement, intrigue, and dark edge to Deena’s story had me from the first chapter.

Jess: I loved Deena’s writing style and characters, but especially loved the gladiator vibes coming from THE COMPOUND. We couldn’t wait to read more.

Deena, why did you choose to submit to Heather and Jessica?

First, there’s the obvious: Heather and Jess are amazing authors and PitchWars pros.

From a practical perspective, the spreadsheet I created to keep track of key matching criteria said it all. With mentions like: Romance Suspense, Contemporary Speculative, THE HANDMAID’S TALE, let’s just say, Jess and Heather’s row was underlined, bolded, and decorated with multiple asterisks.

Just as important, their profile conveyed a warm, positive, supportive vibe that drew me in. I knew, if my manuscript fit their criteria, our working styles would match, too. Now, after some weeks in, I can say my feeling was right and then some. Heather and Jess are awesome to work with! Aside from all of this, anyone having the pleasure to talk with them for two minutes would easily see how personable and down-to-earth they are. They’re simply great people!

Heather and Jessica, summarize Deena’s book in 3 words.

Heather: Passionate, Intriguing, Adventure.

Jess: Action-packed, Sexy, Suspenseful

Deena, summarize your book in 3 words.

Contemporary, Spartacus, Romance

Heather and Jessica, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Heather: As much as I love a fun contemporary romance, I also love a darker, suspenseful story, like THE COMPOUND. I love being on the edge of my seat for a wonderful romantic suspense, contemplating the characters’ dangerous situations.

Jess: In the past, I’ve shied away from darker romances, but Heather’s love of them has encouraged me to try them out and now I can’t get enough!

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

It’s all about the mentorship! I saw this as an opportunity to work with and learn from people who are farther ahead. I wanted to get their feedback and drill down to the granular details of this manuscript in order to revise it into the best possible version of the story. That started right away with the editorial letter and exceeded my expectations. Of course, at the end of this, I’m also hoping my story resonates with agents and is picked up for representation.

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

I’ve always had a wild imagination. Through the years—finishing a few degrees, working an IT career, and enjoying adventures with my amazing family—the ideas never left me. And I love that!

I’m a Nova Scotian living in Atlanta with my husband and two boys. I’m a soccer mom, a karate mom, and a band mom. I work with enterprise software applications. I enjoy getting my fast walk on—almost a jog—with a fly beat going on in my iPOD. Of course, I read a ton.

Writing is my passion, my just-for-me thing, and I love it!

This story unfolded over time, sometimes at weird moments like watching my kids practice or at night during insomnia episodes.

With books and movies, I’ve always gravitated towards against-all-odds stories, captivated by how the underdogs triumph. This is what my story represents. It’s a mash up of my favorite things: forbidden love, high stakes, and a what if. What if a Gladiator network still existed today?

The modern-day Gladiator / secret society premise is what makes it unique.

Check out Heather’s upcoming book releasing January 27, 2022, THE LIARS BENEATH …

Preorder now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

A romantically dark YA thriller set in the backdrop of Iowa’s suspenseful farmlands.

After a tragic accident ends her best friend’s life, 17-year-old Becca Thompson succumbs to grief the only way she knows how: by wallowing in it. She’s a fragment of the person she once was—far too broken to enjoy the summer before her senior year. But when Ben McCain, her best friend’s older brother, returns home, Becca must face her new reality head on.

She isn’t interested in Ben’s games, especially since he abandoned his sister during the months leading up to her death. But when he begs for her help in uncovering the truth about what really happened the night of his sister’s death, Becca finds herself agreeing, hoping to clear up rumors swirling in the wake of her best friend’s accident.

An unhinged ex-boyfriend, secret bucket lists, and garage parties in the place Becca calls home soon lead her to the answers she’s so desperate to unveil. But nobody is being honest, not even Ben. And the closer Becca gets to the truth—and to Ben—the more danger seems to surround her.

Clearing her best friend’s name was all she wanted to do, but Becca is quickly realizing that the truth she craves might be uglier than the lies her best friend kept.

Check out Jessica’s upcoming book re-releasing December 28, 2021, THE LOVE SQUARE …

Pre-order now: Amazon

On the west coast, Nebraskan Clare Davis hates her new life managing a bookstore in LA until she meets up-and-coming movie star Dylan Barnes. Dylan can’t help enjoying her midwestern charm as he shows her the wonders of California.​

On the east coast, Alex Popovich loves his carefree life as a minor league ballplayer in his hometown Brooklyn. When his best friend, gorgeous ballroom dancer-slash-office worker Jenna Stecco asks him to take that leap with her from friend to more, he bunts and lets her go.

When Jenna hooks up with Dylan, the four friends must fight their way out of the wrong corners of their love square to pair with their perfect match and find true love.

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. 


One Comment
We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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