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Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Shelly Steig with mentor Niki Lenz and Sher-May Loh with mentor Naomi Hughes

Tuesday, 24 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 . . .

Sher-May Loh – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Naomi Hughes – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Sher-May, why did you choose to submit to Naomi?

I’ve always admired Naomi as an editor, and I love the craft advice she dishes out on Twitter. I could barely contain my excitement when my novel matched so many things at the top of her wishlist: an enemies-to-friends bromance, an antihero with a redemptive arc, and a story set in the present-day world with a hooky speculative twist. There was never any doubt I would submit my novel to her. She is a dream mentor to have, and I’m so thrilled that she picked me as her mentee.

Naomi, why did you choose Sher-May?

Her story wouldn’t let me go! It had everything I wanted: an awesome bromance, tough decisions, tight pacing, and a cool speculative fiction angle. I gobbled it down in twenty-four hours and couldn’t stop thinking about it, which is when I knew I had to snap it up.

Sher-May, summarize your book in 3 words.

Cage-fighter. Spy. Bromance!

Naomi, summarize Sher-May’s book(s) in 3 words.

Bromance. Psychics. Cage-fighting.

Sher-May, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

I’m a writer of color from Singapore (but this novel is not #ownvoices). I enjoy stories with boy protagonists, and I love complex chemistry and delicious tension that doesn’t explicitly become canon. This has a lot to do with why I wrote this novel, which is unique because two boys as main characters aren’t common in YA.

BLACK SAGE is a YA contemporary fantasy about two seventeen-year-old boys with the X-MEN-esque power of mind-reading. One is a hardened cage-fighter who reads minds to win fights against bigger opponents, and the other is a spy sent on an undercover mission by a powerful secret society. The two of them start out as enemies—but as they’re forced to work together, a gritty, complicated, messy bromance develops, and the boys forge an unlikely bond that goes against the number one rule a cage-fighter and a spy should both know: Trust no one.

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

I’m a closet knitter. There’s something deeply satisfying about squishy Merino yarn, the clicking of bamboo needles, and a beautiful, cozy thing slowly talking shape under your fingers.

And next, we have  . . .

Shelly Steig – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Niki Lenz – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Shelly, why did you choose to submit to Niki?

I did a ton of research ahead of Pitch Wars, including reading PW Success Stories, interviews from years past, last year’s agent round and this year’s pre-PW critiques. I kept coming across Niki and thinking, “She’d get my story!” I also watched webcasts with the mentors and took notes. When Niki said, “Show me the funny,” I HAD to sub to her. As I followed her on twitter – she’s the tweet and gif queen by the way – I kept hoping and praying she was tweeting about my story. To be honest I got a bit obsessive. Like stalker obsessive. And she chose me anyway! (Course she didn’t know the stalker obsessive part at the time!)

Niki, why did you choose Shelly?

Faux Real grabbed me from the very first scene! I found myself laughing out loud at this outrageous Las Vegas family! And I am a huge Elvis fan, so I was pumped to spend some time in this world!

Shelly, summarize your book in 3 words.

Wacky Vegas Caper

Niki, summarize Shelly’s book in 3 words.

Wacky madcap adventure!

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

I’ve been a travel journalist for years, but felt compelled to write for children. Literally, I just couldn’t help myself. I’d been working on another MG manuscript for too long to admit, and was struggling to understand structure and pacing. Then one day the idea for this book side-swiped me. It started with two different real-life experiences (a parent showing up inappropriately dressed at a middle school; and knowing someone whose father was an Elvis impersonator – and wondering in what ways that seriously messed with her head!) and then I let my imagination run wild.

I practiced my elevator pitch – “When 12-year-old Tru Diaz loses Elvis’s mortuary toe tag, she crashes a casino and ElvisCon to save her family’s Las Vegas pawn shop” – and got some encouraging responses. I was writing about Memphis and Elvis’s upcoming anniversary for a magazine, so I got tickets to the Ultimate Elvis Showcase. Behind the scenes I interviewed contestants, then took a flight to Las Vegas to do more research. I hadn’t previously been an Elvis fan, but now I sing “Hound Dog” in my sleep. I had a blast writing FAUX REAL, and now I’m having a blast revising it with Niki—who’s also in revision trenches!

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

I am a vintage-loving gal! My parents were musicians and I was raised listening to Oldies! I also know the words to pretty much every song ever made.


Our mentors’ latest releases…

Bernice Buttmans Guide to Halfway by Niki Lenz

. . . is going to be published by Random House in the Spring 2019!


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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