Have questions about submitting to Pitch Wars or just want to know what it is? Start here!


Pitch Wars Team Interview with Lily Lai and mentors, Hannah V. Sawyerr and Olivia Liu

Thursday, 27 January 2022  |  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 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 . . .

Lily Lai – Mentee



Hannah V. Sawyerr – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Olivia Liu – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Hannah & Olivia, why did you choose Lily?

Hannah: I was initially drawn to Lily’s gorgeous prose. It’s incredibly poetic and lyrical! Her pen is thoughtful and her words are deliberate. I love that her novel features a quiet protagonist with such loud emotions. Lily has a way of making even quiet moments feel large and important. She makes the reader feel so close to the story and characters.

Olivia: From the very start, I knew Lily’s book would break my heart—in the best way. A story of sweeping emotion, it captures the layers of grief with such incisiveness and humanity. I just love reading something that can make me cry. But even though Lily writes about such pain and loss, she still provides immense catharsis and healing by the end. As much as I love reading something that can make me cry, I especially love reading something that fills me with hope. And then there was the prose! I was absolutely floored by Lily’s talent. The way she strings together words is pure magic. You’ll want to underline every sentence when you read this book.

Lily, why did you choose to submit to Hannah and Olivia?

I remember reading Hannah and Olivia’s Pitch Wars blog post and immediately feeling drawn to their positivity and enthusiasm. When I went through their wishlist and realized how many of the things they listed were in my manuscript—immigrant family stories, complex parent dynamics, found family, slow burn, “characters who believe they don’t deserve love, but finally get the love they deserve”—I knew I had to submit to them.

Now, after almost two months of being their mentee, I can only reiterate what I said during my Pitch Wars Instagram takeover: they’re the dream mentors I could never in my wildest dreams have dreamed up, and I’m so grateful for all the love they’ve shown my manuscript, my writing, and me.

Hannah and Olivia, summarize Lily’s book in three words.

Hannah: Vulnerable, lyrical, stunning.

Olivia: Moving, healing, astonishing.

Lily, summarize your book in three words.

Heartfelt, haunting, hopeful.

Hannah and Olivia, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Hannah: I come from a spoken word background. I wrote and performed spoken word poetry and slammed competitively before I ever tried writing a verse novel/young adult fiction.

Olivia: I rarely read one book at a time; I’m usually in the middle of ten or so books at once—something about my brain likes the constant switch between them!

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

Not to sound cliché, but the community Pitch Wars has rewarded me with is truly everything. I’ve found such wonderful friends in my fellow mentees as well as my mentors, and I can’t wait to see our class shine—and to fill my shelves with PW class of ‘21 books! Hannah and Olivia have an amazing editorial eye, and my manuscript has become so much stronger under their guidance. My writing has grown so much as well, and I’m endlessly thankful to have had the chance to learn and improve my craft beyond my imagination.

Lily, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I’m a Taiwanese diaspora based in Europe, and a recent university graduate in the medical field! I’m also trilingual, and was a competitive pianist from the age of eleven all through high school.

After Emmy, my Pitch Wars manuscript, is my first novel, and it’s about grief, loss, growth, and healing. It’s also a love letter to the equally beautiful and aching experience of being a diaspora child: the feelings of displacement, and loneliness, as well as the immense joy of finding others who share your experience. Books have always had the unique power of making me feel seen, and comforted, and less alone in the world whenever I needed it—and I hope that mine can do the same for someone else one day, too.

Check out Hannah’s latest news…
Sixteen-year-old Amina Conteh has always believed in using her tongue as her weapon—even when it gets her into trouble. Her father believes silence is safety, but Amina is her mother’s daughter. Her voice is her weapon, words her shield. The very tongue she used to fight goes silent the night Amina is sexually assaulted by her pastor, a popular community figure. For the first time, she finally understands her father’s silence. Amina has to find her voice again, confronting her abuser in the courtroom and her heart—and call him by name.

Told through court transcripts, journal entries, and poetry, CALL HIM BY NAME centers the many different avenues to healing, strength of self, and leaning on those you love. The novel will appeal to fans of Joy McCullough’s BLOOD WATER PAINT and Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X and has tonal similarities to HBO’s I MAY DESTROY YOU.


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. 


Filed: Interviews

Comments are closed.
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.

Pitch Wars takes a stand. ANTI-BULLYING. Click here to review our policy

Pitch Wars 2021

Blog Archives

Blog Categories

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.