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Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Landon Spencer and mentor Mae Respicio and Laura Lashley and mentor Heidi Stallman

Friday, 13 October 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 . . .

Landon Spencer – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Mae Respicio – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Landon,why did you choose to submit to ?

Mae was so charming on the page. And I immediately trusted her.

I think in this age of information everywhere, it’s tempting to believe that we can research things online until we find, with absolute certainty, the very best fit. But the reality is that sometimes final decisions about who will best be able to help our book have to be based on gut instincts. Mae seemed, to my gut, like a humble rock star. Her writing and mentoring philosophies really resonated with me. Yes–characters have to drive the plot. And I live for reading books with “nuance and layers,” so that’s the kind of book I want to write. May seemed drawn, as I am, to books with distinct and authentic voice, books like Walk Two Moons and Counting by 7’s. She also said that she’d be frank, and I’d want nothing else.

Mostly, Mae sounded like someone who could help me find and develop the emotional center of my book. She had me at “Stories with Heart.”

Mae, why did you choose Landon?

I loved this story from page one. I was immediately drawn into the main character’s voice, and the rich, textured world that Landon created. (And even though I knew nothing about horses, I still wanted to read on!) When I found out more about Landon’s personal background—that at one point in her life she literally ran away to join the circus—I was so intrigued (how cool is that?). I knew she was the only writer who could tell this story and I just had to work with her.

Landon, summarize your book in 3 words.

Horse Freak Friend

Mae, summarize ’s book(s) in 3 words.

Circus, horses, heart.

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

In her podcast This Creative Life, Sara Zarr says that she writes about her grown-up issues by disguising them in young adult versions. That’s exactly what Circus Girl is for me.

Years ago, in something like a midlife (quarter-life?) crisis, I abruptly left my comfortable life to perform trick riding and lasso acts with the equestrian circus show Cavalia. I moved from city to city throughout the US, Canada, and Western Europe with an international crew of riders, acrobats, musicians, and backstage techs. I was asking all the big questions–what I believed, who I needed, and who I wanted to be–with an intensity bordering on embarrassing. And I was totally out of my element–the nerdy girl who read books curled up on the tumbling mats while Moroccan acrobats stacked themselves in ridiculous formations and French riders trained their Lusitano stallions in the adjoining tent. But, oddly, the circus provided the open and unconventional space that I needed to find the beginning of answers.

My heroine, Robin, is seeking similar answers but on a twelve-year-old scale. In the circus, she finds an alternative to the rigid and, frankly, rather dull social hierarchy of middle school. The circus pushes her and asks her to stretch herself, but also becomes a source of support and joy. Circus Girl is a whole new kind of horse book–one that I would’ve killed to read when I was a kid.

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

I do much of my first drafting in longhand on paper!

Mae’s upcoming release …

Penguin Random House THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT debuts June 2018 with Random House Kids & Wendy Lamb Books. It’s about a 12-year-old Lou, who is going to build her dream. Lou shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house in San Francisco, and longs for a place of her own where she can escape her lovable but large extended Filipino family. Lou plans to build a tiny house, 100 square feet, all her own. It’s not easy building a house, as Lou discovers. But she won’t give up on her dream—and her friends and family won’t either. This heartwarming coming-of-age story explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a house a true home.

Add it to Goodreads

And next, we have . . .

Laura Lashley – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Heidi Stallman – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Laura, why did you choose to submit to Heidi?

Submitting to Heidi was an easy decision! The top item on her wish-list was heartfelt, character-driven MG Sci-Fi, which is exactly how I’d describe my book. Plus, her editing style mirrors my own–she’s meticulous, thorough, and craft-driven, and that’s exactly the kind of editorial feedback I crave the most. I’m addicted to writing craft books, and so having someone with that same frame of reference showing me how to take my book from good to great was what I was hoping for most of all. The edit letter did not disappoint! It felt like one epiphany after another, and I’m so excited to take my book to the next level with her thoughtful guidance! (Plus, she’s a scientist herself, so I don’t need to pester strangers on Twitter asking bizarrely specific questions about geomagnetic pole reversals and how to make clothes from banana peels.)

Heidi, why did you choose Laura?

Laura gave me exactly what I was looking for — speculative fiction with heart and an awesome survival story. Her world-building is fabulous, and she had the most developed character arcs of any submission I read (although one of the first things we worked on is how we could strengthen those arcs even more). SURF MONKS OF NEW HAWAII is so much fun. I love this story! Laura also conducted herself with professionalism in our communications, and I knew she would work hard to make this good story great. I have not been disappointed!

Laura, summarize your book in 3 words.

Surfing, Espionage, Ohana!

Heidi, summarize ’s book(s) in 3 words.

Family, Longing, Surfing

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

I’m an attorney with work-life balance! Pretty unique, right? I specialize in a niche area of the law, which makes me delightfully useless to all my sketchy backwoods cousins trying to get out of DUIs and bad marriages. This leaves me time to do all the other things I enjoy, like making super obscure costumes for Dragon Con (this year I was Liz Lemon dressed as Princess Leia trying to avoid jury duty by claiming she’s a hologram), making (and eating, read: not sharing) cakes, traveling around the world, and of course, writing! It’s these last two items that led me here for my second time around the Pitch Wars block. Yep, that’s right–PW ’16 and ’17 mentee, back to back!

SURF MONKS OF NEW HAWAI’I is an upper MG speculative adventure that came to me while happily bumbling around the Big Island of Hawai’i as a tourist a few years ago. But, unlike my experience, being a Tourist in New Hawai’i isn’t all coconut shrimp and air-brushed t-shirts. For Pallie, it means living with the other Tourists in Ship City, a cluster of half-sunk cruise ships the Locals banished them to. There, she spends her days charming her way out of chores and into her teacher’s best plays. But when Ship City receives the first radio transmission from the Mainland since the world went dark, the Tourists’ permanent vacation may finally be coming to an end. Until Pallie fries the radio by accident. Now, she must go ashore in a dangerous undercover mission to find the radio’s replacement while playing her biggest role yet, a Surf Monk in training. Like Pallie, I’d never surfed before going to the Big Island, but unlike Pallie, the futures of a thousand Tourists didn’t depend on me succeeding. 🙂

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

I’m a single mom of twin 9-yo boys who spends my free time gardening, hiking, reading, and rescuing kitties, wildlife, and dogs.

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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