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Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Rajani LaRocca with mentor Joy McCullough-Carranza

Thursday, 26 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 . . .

Rajani LaRocca – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Joy McCullough-Carranza – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Rajani, why did you choose to submit to Joy?

Joy is clearly a superstar — a five-time mentor whose former mentees praise her to the skies, and note how she sees right to the heart of their novels. In her bio, Joy emphasized how much the writing community means to her, and how it helped her on her road to publication. This really resonated with me, because the writing community and the connections I’ve made (both in person and virtual) are SO invaluable and important to me. I knew that if Joy picked me, I’d have a writing friend for life. I was also impressed that she was interested in diverse/underrepresented voices, and that was a criterion for her this year. Also, her photos of herself with puppies sold me. Who can resist puppies?

Joy, why did you choose Rajani LaRocca   ?

Rajani had me at “Midsummer retelling.” My own eleven-year-old is obsessed with Shakespeare, and I feel like the comedies especially have such incredible potential for an MG audience. Of course, if the voice hadn’t held up, the concept wouldn’t have mattered. But fortunately the voice was fantastic. And I was SUPER excited that Rajani’s version takes the character of “the Indian boy”, who in the original play is a throwaway character with no lines, and makes him an instrumental part of this retelling.

Rajani, summarize your book in 3 words.

Cupcakes. Cardamom. Calamity!

Joy, summarize Rajani’s book(s) in 3 words.

 Midsummer. Baking. Family.

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

 I came to this country from India as a baby, and grew up in Kentucky, so I know all about cultural mash-ups – tandoori Thanksgiving turkey, anyone? Planning, preparing, and enjoying delicious meals has always been at the heart of my home, both as a child and now with my own family – so it’s not surprising that food plays a role in every single thing I write (middle grade novels and picture books alike). Although being a practicing physician fulfills my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, I’ve also never been able to do just one thing. Outside of doctoring, reading, and writing, I love music, traveling the world, and solving locked room challenges with my husband and kids.

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

My last acting role (shortly pre-kids) was Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing (and I have a tattoo that’s a quote from Much Ado About Nothing!)


Our mentors’ latest releases…

BLOOD WATER PAINT by Joy-McCullough (Dutton, 3/6/18)

Blood Water Paint is a YA historical novel-in-verse about Baroque Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

Amazon | Goodreads

A stunning debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.



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


One Comment
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.

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