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Pitch Wars Team Interviews with Melissa McDaniel and Her Mentor, Erin Entrada Kelly

Thursday, 16 January 2020  |  Posted by Annette Christie


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 starting on February 5, 2020, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .


Melissa McDaniel – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Erin Entrada Kelly – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Erin, why did you choose Melissa?

THE ISLAND OF PAPER HEARTS has atmosphere, mystery, and Gothic overtones—elements that I love as a reader—and the eleven-year-old narrator is imaginative, determined, and lonely, which are consistent traits of characters in my own books. I knew I’d spend a lot of time with whichever manuscript I selected, so I wanted something that I could read again and again and never get tired of it. Melissa is a gifted writer and spins an incredible tale. Her book reminded me of V.C. Andrews. But PG-rated, of course.

Melissa, why did you choose to submit to Erin?

If you had asked me while I was writing my manuscript—long before I had thought about entering Pitch Wars or even knew she was a mentor—who I would have wanted to work with on my manuscript, I would have said Erin. Her novel THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS was a huge inspiration to me while writing my manuscript. I love so many things about Erin’s writing—her unforgettable characters, the feeling of magic to her books even if there are no actual magical elements, and her celebration of story and imagination—to name a few. I pinch myself every day. Is this really happening? I feel so fortunate.

Erin, summarize Melissa’s book in 3 words.

Atmosphere. Mystery. Family.

Melissa, summarize your book in 3 words.

Papercuttings. Fog. Longing.

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

I am best known for writing contemporary MG, and although I have one fantasy novel, it’s certainly not Gothic. That said, Gothic is my favorite genre of literature to read. I have an ever-growing collection of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, including editions from the 1850s, and I’m wild about Daphne Du Maurier, Kate Morton, and V.C. Andrews. I’ve tried many times to write a Gothic novel, but it just doesn’t work.

Melissa, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I want to be a better writer.

Melissa, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I think this book has everything 12-year-old me would have wanted in a book: paper art, family secrets, the sea, stories, signs, fortunetelling, a dreary Gothic setting, islands, found families, mystery—and even a bunny! The main character is Beatrix, a lonely girl with one desire: to find her mother who disappeared seven years ago during the war. And when a mysterious boy arrives on her island with an intricate paper cutting that only her mother could have created, Beatrix sees signs around town. Signs she interprets to determine whether she should stay on the island with her found family, or sail away with this strange boy never to return again. The book was fun to write because there is the mystery of what happened to Beatrix’s mother so long ago, but also the mystery of where this boy is going to take Beatrix if she sails off with him to find her mother. And as the reader learns those things, other long-held secrets are revealed. It’s about appreciating and focusing on the joy in life and the good things around you, about not forgetting the past, but living in the present, and about being lost and the beauty of being found.

Check out Erin’s latest release.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls ill with an incurable disease, Lalani embarks on a dangerous journey across the sea in the hope of safeguarding her own future. Inspired by Filipino folklore, this engrossing fantasy is for readers who loved Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Disney’s Moana.

Life is difficult on the island of Sanlagita. To the west looms a vengeful mountain, one that threatens to collapse and bury the village at any moment. To the north, a dangerous fog swallows sailors who dare to venture out, looking for a more hospitable land. And what does the future hold for young girls? Chores and more chores.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls gravely ill, twelve-year-old Lalani faces an impossible task—she must leave Sanlagita and find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. But generations of men and boys have died on the same quest—how can an ordinary girl survive the epic tests of the archipelago? And how will she manage without Veyda, her best friend?

Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is inspired by Filipino folklore and is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about friendship, courage, and identity. Perfect for fans of Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon.


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 5 – 10, 2020, and our next Twitter Pitch Party on #PitMad is March 5, 2020! Want to know more about #PitMad? Go here




Filed: Interviews

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