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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Jessica Kozlowski and mentor, Gladys Qin

Tuesday, 8 December 2020  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina


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 . . .

Jessica Kozlowski – Mentee



Gladys Qin – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Gladys, why did you choose Jessica?

So many reasons. We both left real-life science to write about it in fiction, so I thought we’d connect on an intellectual level and share a way of thinking that is a little unconventional in the creative world. Her manuscript also ticked many of my boxes: women in STEM, realistic and science-backed near future, representative global cast, juicy double-crossing, humour in the face of disaster, and characters with individual lives just as intriguing as the big plot.

HOME ONE was fourth in my queue of fifteen requests, but it kept coming back to me days after I’d finished reading it. I was really drawn to the unique perspective of a researcher writing fiction so close to her work. I knew Jessica had a lot to say about the current state of the planet and our future, plus I’ve never come across “academic suspense” before. She makes it cool!

A mentorship is very interactive with me, so in addition to enjoying the manuscript and having lots of thoughts about it, I need to be sure that my mentee and I will have similar thought processes, work ethics, and visions for the revised manuscript. Enter Jessica’s extensive answers to my 16-question-long potential mentee survey. Not saying that all hopefuls should write long enough answers to mentors’ questionnaires to put them into a separate document, but Jessica’s detailed responses helped me understand her as a person and gave me a clear picture of what mentoring her would be like. And it went both ways—she reached out to ask her own questions about my mentoring style before submitting. I could see her curious, detail-oriented, and collaborative nature from our small interactions, and this played a huge part in making her stand out among a large number of applicants.

Academic suspense sounds so intriguing! And, Jessica, why did you choose to submit to Gladys?

I have a challenging time being concise about all the reasons I was drawn to Gladys as a mentor. Firstly, when I saw that she was on the “other side” of the publishing world and her career focused on editing, I got excited. The unique perspective of someone who sees many different types of writing come across their desk made me think she’d have the right skills and mindset to take on my novel. I come from STEM, not the literature world, and my novel is an amalgamation of both the hard-science world and the psychological inner workings of the human mind. Her background in engineering let me know she’d appreciate how I’ve woven my STEM knowledge into the story, and her mentor blog post made it clear she’d understand the human aspects of the story and how the characters influenced each other’s lives. Another big ‘must’ for me was a mentor who wanted to see more female-led storylines. I think overall it’s important the mentor feel excited to immerse themself in the mentee’s novel, and it seemed like that was the sort of story I could offer for her.

To be honest, I was even a bit nervous to apply with her at first because she was very clear that she would be as honest as necessary to get the manuscript in its best order. I had to reflect on if I was ready for full honesty, but once I realized it’s the only way I can move forward with my writing career, I just got extremely excited to submit to her. I could also tell our work ethics would complement each other’s well. I’m self-motivated and love scheduling, keeping on task, and following through on goals. Gladys clearly has an incredible drive and passion for her work and it was immediately clear from her blog that her organizational skills are phenomenal. Beyond all that, she’s just so cool isn’t she? Have you been on her Twitter or Instagram? Her colorful style and snarky dark humour are the best!

Snark for the win! Always. So, Gladys, summarize Jessica’s book in 3 words.

Conscious. Intelligent. Worldly.

Jessica, summarize your book in 3 words.

Healing. Home. Hope.

This sounds like a must read. Now, Gladys, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

I base snap judgements of unfamiliar people off their eyebrows. My first impression of Jessica: inquisitive and determined. I was right—ha!

Well, the eyes are the windows to the soul, why not the eyebrows? Jessica, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

Thanks to a thorough pre-selection questionnaire from the ever-organized Gladys, I already have solid thoughts on this one. I’m a big believer in laying a strong foundation NOW so that I can maintain and enjoy inhabiting the writing and publishing world long-term. I applied to Pitch Wars because I want thorough mentorship and support in laying the groundwork for this career as a non-academic writer. I’d like to garner an understanding of the major challenges I’m going to face, particularly if there are shortcomings on my part coming from academia and a non-creative writing background. I try my best to educate myself on what to expect, but there’s no replacement for an excellent mentor plus experience. I know that the path ahead will require great patience, but I’ve never been more sure I’m going in the right direction.

Foundational work is so important! And, Jessica, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I was formerly a career academic, performing research in microbiology. My PhD focused on environmental microbiology, but after graduating and working in academia, I grew dissatisfied with the lack of unified efforts to not only convey scientific knowledge to the public, but also convince governments to solve our serious climate crisis. Throughout my career in science, I always sought out ways of disseminating scientific knowledge, but the structure of the work just didn’t allow for enough of those opportunities. Eventually, I decided I needed to take the terrifying leap out of academia and into something that I could fully immerse in with the skills I knew were my strengths: presenting data and telling stories about the human experience.

My novel centers around the deep connection between our own health and that of our planet. Often I see science fiction focusing on human health OR the planet itself; I see both as inherently tied together and the battle to preserve both as requiring one unified effort. The initial spark for writing this novel was my desire to see a near-future science fiction novel provide hope for THIS planet. I consume a lot of science fiction content, but I’ve become disappointed with the constant urge to “move our problems off-world”. My story takes the unique perspective that we can save Earth using science already at our fingertips.

Also, be it good or bad, I cannot think of a better time in the world for readers to see a novel that touches on both environmental and human health crises and how a scientific community might handle those challenges.

Timely indeed! That sounds so exciting. Thank you both for sharing and letting us get to know your team. Jessica, welcome to the Pitch Wars family!

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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