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Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Asari Beale and mentors Laura Shovan and Tricia Clasen & Carolyne Topdjian and mentor Derek Chivers

Friday, 22 September 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 1st-7th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2017 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .

Asari Beale – Mentee



Laura Shovan – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Tricia Clasen – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Asari, why did you choose to submit to Laura and Tricia?

At first, I was drawn to Laura Shovan and Tricia Clasen—Team TLC—because of the books listed in the “Favorite Books” section of their mentor profiles. I was excited to see that Laura’s list included Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, one of my all-time favorite authors.

I couldn’t be happier to be a part of Team TLC. Laura and Tricia are both writers of great courage. They understand the social dramas and complicated emotional lives of kids in their pre & early teens. The tremendous heart that they both show in their writing comes across in their mentoring, as well. They have been so supportive and encouraging–I can’t thank them enough. And I absolutely love that their books are about poetry and ghosts!

Laura and Tricia, why did you choose Asari?

My Brother the Olmec reminded us of fun middle grade fantasies like Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotsen and Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. Asari captures the humor of those classics, but puts her own spin on the genre by rooting her story in ancient Mexican mythology. We fell in love with Marty, the wry, Afro-Latina main character. When her annoyingly perfect older brother is eaten by a forgotten Olmec god, Marty is the only one who can save him. She is a *very* reluctant hero. This story’s combination of creativity, heart, culture, and shifting family dynamics won us over.

Asari, summarize your book in 3 words.

Ssupernatural, sibling, shenanigans.

Laura and Tricia, summarize your mentee’s book(s) in 3 words.

God, you’re annoying.

Asari, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

I don’t believe in anything completely, but I believe in everything a little bit. I believe in daydreams and night dreams. I believe in poetry and imagination. I want to write books that allow children to escape into fantasy and better understand their reality.

MY BROTHER, THE OLMEC tells the story of 12-year old Marty, whose life is turned upside down when a chaotic Olmec god swallows and takes the guise of her perfect older brother. All kinds of silliness happens, as well as some serious things. Ultimately, Marty’s story is about finding her own power as she figures out how to save her brother, and, in the end, her whole family.

Laura and Tricia, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Laura: My book boyfriend is Wizard Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. Swoon!

Tricia: My secret talent is travel bargain hunting.

And next, we have . . .

Carolyne Topdjian – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Derek Chivers – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Carolyne, why did you choose to submit to Derek?

Tiny endorphins released in my brain as soon as I read Derek’s wish list and mentally ticked off his items. There was plenty of overlap between my storytelling goals and his interests, especially since he also writes and reads across genres of fantasy, horror, and mystery. As an added bonus, he’s based in Alaska; while my novel’s setting is a small town in the subarctic of Manitoba, I imagined I could learn from his expertise on living in the north. Lastly, I liked the hints of humor in his blog. His knowledge, experience, and personality seemed like a great fit, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him as my mentor!

Derek, why did you choose Carolyne?

Carolyne’s aesthetic for her manuscript caught my eye early on. There were a lot of other amazing pitches that I seriously considered, but I kept coming back to the Maddening of Holly Robin. By the time I got into the pages, there was no turning back.

Carolyne, summarize your book in 3 words.


Derek, summarize Carolyne’s book(s) in 3 words.

Mysterious, ominous, and addicting.

Carolyne, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

I love reading across literary and commercial genres. I’m influenced by a slew of writers; Toni Morrison, Stephen King, and N.K. Jemisin are to name a few. Reflecting my omnivorous reading and writing habits, my Pitch Wars manuscript is an upmarket mystery/suspense novel with a supernatural spin. Inspired by Inuit lore and the monsters that tie us together, it features genre-mashing elements such as an unreliable narrator, a romantic subplot, and creepy, get-your-blood-pumping stuff. Originally, the story was born from my horror of news reports about young women disappearing from northern communities. I began thinking how “missing girls” is a worldwide crisis that spans across time and cultures. From there, my story grew into one of an outsider who’s experiencing a mysterious, twisted world and trying to figure out why it all seems so topsy-turvy. My protagonist is an Armenian/French Canadian sociologist from the big city fleeing to a small town full of secrets. She struggles with everything from fitting in to basic survival. As I’m a diasporic Armenian-Canadian, born in the Middle East, it’s an experience I empathize with!

Derek, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

I worked in Alaska’s largest lumberyard for thirteen years.


Our mentors’ latest releases…


Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

An award-winning, big-hearted time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. A great pick for fans of Margarita Engle and Eileen Spinelli.

Eighteen kids,
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
crouched outside,
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.

But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They’re going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.

Families change and new friendships form as these terrific kids grow up and move on in this whimsical novel-in-verse about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.


Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.

For anyone who loved Counting by 7sThe Haunted House Project is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother’s death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important.

Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is November 1st-7th, and our next #PitMad is December 7, 2017!


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