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Pitch Wars Team Interviews with Samira Ford and her mentor, Leila Siddiqui

Monday, 3 February 2020  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina


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 . . .

Samira Ford – Mentee



Leila Siddiqui – Mentor


Leila, why did you choose Samira?

I chose Samira because I was blown away by the concept and jump-off-the-page dialogue in FUNERALS ARE FOR THE LIVING. I’m also a horror nerd and I really connected with Samira intertwining both history and horror in her manuscript, it’s like one can’t live without the other. Samira was eager and enthusiastic for revisions and turned them in on time and put a ton of work into them. It’s been a wonderful partnership.

Samira, why did you choose to submit to Leila?

My mentor search started out clear cut: eliminate any mentors that didn’t mention wanting Horror and eliminate non POC mentors. I had a list of about six after that.

What really stood out to me about Leila’s wish list were a couple of things. For one – in a sign from the heavens – she mentioned being able to get into the nitty gritty. I have ADHD, so I don’t know Nitty and I definitely don’t know her friend Gritty. I thought it would something invaluable to my PW experience if I could team up with someone like that. She also noted she wanted clean prose. I never classified my writing as such, but I knew it wasn’t flowery. That, and her specific sentences about what she was looking for in #ownvoices gave me an “I’ll give it a whirl” feeling. In the moment it seemed entirely whimsical, but in hindsight I thought a lot about submitting to her.

Leila, summarize Samira’s book in 3 words.

Darkly comedic horror.

Samira, summarize your book in 3 words.

Southern Black legacies.

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

I’m a YA author with a debut out next year called THE DARKENED LANDS OF THE EARTH, which takes place in India during WWII and the 1947 Partition. I’ve always found the intertwining of history and horror fascinating, which is why I was so drawn to Samira’s book.

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

I do everything alone because I’m pretty antisocial. My writer’s journey – much like my life journey – has been solitary, but writing is one of those things that get to you if you do it alone for long enough. Before entering, I expressed to a fellow writer my reservations about applying and she told me “mentorship comes in all different kinds of forms.” It kind of gave me an epiphany, and I realized I really wanted someone to talk to about my writing, someone who could give me some advice in addressing my shortcomings as a writer, and have the kind of collaboration PW offers.

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

About me? Despite being a horror STAN, I’m such a punk. I have on many occasions gotten scared of my own shadow (It just pops out! Out of nowhere!!) I don’t say the word “ghost” after 7 PM and have abandoned friends when situations seemed creepy (don’t worry, they knew the deal). My manuscript is unique because, despite being this way, I’ve always been invested in where Black culture and horror intersect. Black people have things we’re scared of that seem crazy when said aloud (giving strangers your hair), but are also so objectively creepy that it also sounds like sage advice. I love writing books about those, and my PW book FUNERALS ARE FOR THE LIVING is definitely inspired by a few Black fears.

Check out Leila’s upcoming release, THE DARKENED LANDS OF THE EARTH.

Yali Books has bought The Darkened Lands of the Earth, a debut #OwnVoices YA novel by Leila Siddiqui, pitched as Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Night Diary with a dash of Stranger Things. The book stars a modern teenage girl who is coming to terms with her missing brother, and must discover the secrets of her late grandfather’s life in colonial India during WWII and Pakistan after the partition if she is to unlock the greenhouse that suddenly appears in her backyard and face the creatures lurking inside. Publication is set for 2021.

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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