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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Maria Jose Fitzgerald and mentors, Jessica Vitalis and Julie Artz

Friday, 5 February 2021  |  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 . . .

Maria Jose Fitzgerald – Mentee



Jessica vitalis

Jessica Vitalis – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Julie Artz

Julie Artz – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Jessica and Julie, why did you choose Maria?

Jessica: I honeymooned on Roatan (a Honduran island near where this story is set) and the last time I went scuba diving, I witnessed a sea turtle rescue. When I saw that Maria had added a hint of magic to this sea-turtle themed eco-mystery, I was hooked! 

Julie: Maria’s opening poem really drew me into the story and like Jessica, I’m pretty obsessed with sea turtles, so this one was an easy choice.

Amazing locale and sea turtles, what’s not to like? OK, Maria, why did you choose to submit to Jessica and Julie?

To be honest, I submitted to Pitch Wars super last minute (literally down to seconds before the deadline), and I didn’t submit to Julie and Jessica because I’d only gotten through reading a handful of mentor descriptions! I got so lucky that they were interested in my MS and swapped with another mentor! Matching with them has been beyond perfect.

Oh what a great matchup story! Now, Jessica and Julie, summarize Maria’s book in 3 words.

Jessica: Turtles, friendship, identity 

Julie: Baula, identity, magic

Maria, summarize your book in 3 words.

Turtles, Magic, Friendship

This sounds like a must read book. So, Jessica and Julie, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Jessica: I recently started a program called Magic in the Middle; it’s a series of free monthly recorded book talks to help teachers, librarians, and caregivers introduce middle grade readers to new books and get the kids excited about reading! 

Julie: In addition to being a consummate story nerd, I’m also fairy geeky about all things garden related. I love growing flowers, herbs, fruits, and veggies, and have a mini farm in a magical forest outside of Seattle, Washington. I solve more story problems out there than I do in front of my computer!

Y’all just seem like you’d be cool to hang out with! Now, Maria, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I came into Pitch Wars wanting help with my manuscript and a way to connect with writers who were farther along on their journey. I discovered writing about a year and a half ago, and finishing my first MS was incredibly rewarding, but I knew I could make it better…I just didn’t know how! I have never taken a writing class, and I never even had a critique partner! I was, as we say in Honduras, un mango verde (a green mango!). Within the first day of meeting my mentors, I knew I had already won and that this experience would be life changing.

What a whirlwind adventure! And, Maria, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I was born and raised in Honduras and am the oldest of six. I grew up snorkeling and hiking and pretending that both the mountains and the ocean were filled with magic. I’d spend hours with my brothers outside having “adventures.” I carry those memories in my heart and try to weave my heritage into my writing. I studied Ecology here in the US, got a Masters in Teaching, and taught (mostly middle school science and Spanish) for about 16 years. I have two daughters (9 and 11), a patient spouse, and 3 furry pups. My manuscript is unique because it is set on the coast of La Moskitia, a place most people haven’t heard about, and weaves together my love of sea turtles, conservation, magic, friendship, and family. My book is a middle grades “eco-mystery” with magical totems and dangerous poachers! 

Welcome to the Pitch Wars family! Thank you all for sharing a bit and letting us get to know you.

Check out the latest from Jessica and Julie.

Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed an invisible Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death. Narrated in a voice reminiscent of The Book Thief, The Wolf’s Curse is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and The Book of Boy. 

Coming September 21, 2021 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

Goodreads | Amazon | Indiebound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

Julie’s story, “The Wending Way” was published last month as part of Beyond the Latch and Lever, a speculative anthology featuring emerging writers with ties to the Pacific Northwest. She has also launched a monthly newsletter, #Create2021, to help folks enjoy the creative process. It’s full of tips and tricks and notes from the trenches—click here to subscribe.

Doorways can be a bridge to another world, a portal to a bygone era, or a crossroads between two cultures–or two lives. Sometimes a doorway is a ledge between the racist past and a robotic future. A passageway leading to celestial spirits, or earthbound souls–or a crumbling castle adrift in time.
Doorways are the ferries that usher us through beginnings and endings, steering us into possibility and misfortune, alike. Some doors protect us and give us privacy, while others keep us isolated and confined. Some doors trap people inside their haunted minds.
In this book, you will find eleven doors. Eleven stories waiting to be opened. Each one a passageway into the unknown.
Beyond the Latch and Lever is an anthology of speculative literary fiction with stories from emerging authors with ties to the Pacific Northwest.

The Wending Way by J. S. Artz: A celestial being sent to Earth must decide whether to stay and help, or leave humankind to their own destruction.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Bookshop.org

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. 


Filed: Interviews

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