We’re so excited whenever one of our mentees gets an agent offer or a publishing deal. Celebrating these successes is one of our favorite parts of the Pitch Wars process. We hope you can join us in congratulating Erin Bledsoe and her mentor, Sajni Patel. Erin signed with Carrie Pestritto of Laura Dail Literary Agency, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Erin, tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
I began to query this manuscript over the summer with no luck, but plenty of R&R’s, so I knew I had something special (I just didn’t know how to get it just right). I submitted to Pitch Wars last minute. So last minute that when I was done, the window said closed and I wasn’t even sure everything went through. I ended up getting picked by my mentor, Sajni Patel, and threw her a major curveball. I wanted to rewrite the entire thing, all 85k words, with a different main character altogether. She warned me it was going to be a huge undertaking but was on board and thought Alice’s story was worth it!
The first draft was a brutal 40ish days. Positive feedback all considering, but still things that needed to be fixed. I then spent the next two weeks rewriting the entire second half of the book to better the character development.
Sajni, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
I chose Erin because she had an incredible voice that really swept me off my feet. It was not a genre that I had asked for in my wishlist, but the story was definitely interesting. After all, I was looking for badass ladies. I mean…female gangsters born from the fury of women who were tired of being told how to live by men? I was initially a YA mentor, and Erin’s book was originally YA.
Right as I had decided to pick her, she threw me a curveball and wanted to change the book to adult. I agreed it would be stronger as adult, and I had to go to bat with the PW committee. I didn’t know what to do in this situation except ask if we could change, take Erin on as YA, or go with another mentee. Thankfully, an adult mentor had the same issue vice versa and we were able to switch places. (This is not advisable for future prospective mentees, and this was a rare situation that happened to work out.)
Shortly after I announced Erin as a my pick and she had accepted, she threw me another curveball…she wanted to change the main character. Ooof! I warned Erin that this wouldn’t be easy. PW is a lot of work in a short amount of time, but then to change the age category would be a lot more dedication. We’re not just talking about changing up the character’s ages. And now the main character? The entire story, tone, ambition, etc. would be different. Everything after the opening paragraphs was scrapped. Erin re-wrote the ENTIRE BOOK in a month and a half. She is speedy…but that was also an issue we had to tackle several times. Through my constant yammering, she’s learned the value of taking things slow and walking away from the book many times. Especially during edits. She needed fresh eyes to catch new mistakes. Ironically, I am the exact same way. I don’t want to slow down, but know that I have to. But that’s why I hammered it in.
We did a second MAJOR revision where Erin rewrote the entire second half of the first revision plus edits along the way. This was no simple undertaking. Admittedly, we both felt the pressure at times and had some intense moments that we kind of just look back at now and shake our heads. We both learned from the other. We had a finely tuned cycle in place: while she worked on edits, I worked on her query, title, and pitch; while she worked on my suggestions for the latter things, I worked on her book. We did several rounds of this.
I also tried to prepare her for the insanity of the agent showcase, how hectic it would get, how emotional, etc. I wanted Erin to prepare for the “worst”, but I’d been hinting at that all along. PW isn’t a contest with a winner or loser in the end. She’d already “won” because she had a great book and great revisions. She was prepared to cold query. I did not expect things to happen so fast. I was always trying to teach her to be patient and take her time, but Erin had 26 requests from the agent showcase! And then she received an email to set up a call within 20 hours of the showcase ending (as she had sent off her materials the minute she had the green light).Time…was not on our side if we wanted to slow things down. So while I tried to calm her through the very sudden email to set up a call, I sort of freaked out alongside her! This was a very exciting 2 days because she received an official offer of rep the day after during The Call.
Honestly, all I had hoped for was to be was a good mentor and have a happy mentee who produced a great book at the end, one that she was confident in. Someone who was prepared to cold query even if PW didn’t end with an offer. But I’m thrilled that Erin received an offer from an agent who truly seems to get her, her book, and her career path.
Erin, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I needed someone to see the potential in my ideas, but also be blunt with me. My writing needed work, my ideas needed some time to brew and expand. I needed someone to love my project but also be realistic with me. Sajni was the answer! Though we had some ups and downs, (the mentee/mentor relationship is not all sunshine and rainbows) she was incredible through the entire process. She was my greatest ally, stood by through the showcase of requests/rejections. She sacrificed her own writing time to help me better my manuscript. I also found a community through Pitch Wars, a home I didn’t know existed. I’ve made lifelong friends and the support is just unmatched.
Sajni,we’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Erin was pregnant through all of this! She has a toddler and just found out that she was expecting her second child in the early weeks as a PW mentee. But she still put in SO MUCH work that produced such great content.
Erin, please tell us about The Call.
Looking back on my email now, I sent my manuscript to Carrie at midnight (along with the other agent requests), and she asked for the call the following day. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was excited but also overwhelmed. How could it be happening this fast after being in the query trenches ALL summer?
The following day, we had the call and she offered rep quickly. I asked her the standard questions, but our energy was SO GOOD. We seemed to agree on a few minor things that needed work and she loved my future ideas (and career goals). I celebrated by binging Ocean 11, 12, 13, & 8. Then settled in for a rewatch of Peaky Blnders while eating like twelve donuts! (No joke) Carrie gave me as much time as I needed to get back to her, but I’d already decided the second we hung up the phone. Nobody matched her enthusiasm and passion for the project!
Carrie, what drew you to this manuscript?
I was immediately drawn in by the awesome, high-concept premise of this book. Gender-bent Peaky Blinders? An all-female shoplifting gang in 1920s London? Everything about it sounded fantastic to me, and once I started reading, I fell in love with the main character’s voice and knew I was hooked!
Erin, do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
My advice would be prepare yourself for the work! It’s a tough journey and not all mentees make it to the finish line. You’re doing SO much work in so little time. But there is no failure in Pitch Wars. Getting in means you’ve written something special, working through the manuscript means you’re willing to put in the hard work. You will be SO prepared for the query trenches by the end! If you’re in doubt, take the risk! It’s worth it.
Sajni, how can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Polish your manuscript as much as you can, take advice from critique partners, be able to take those critiques and be wiling to change what needs to be changed but also know what to keep, go with your gut. PW is hard work in a short amount of time, so be willing to put in those hours and be willing to take the advice and suggestions from your mentors. As Erin said, it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. There will be great moments, and there will be difficult moments. Be willing, be patient, be professional, be kind, be considerate.
Erin, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor?
Slow down and take breaks. It made such a huge impact.
Now for some fun! You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Erin: Quiet time with a toddler is hard to find, and I actually write better with noise/chaos. So I’d probably disappear to a café for a long lunch and write there!
Sajni: I would go to Starbucks. There is one down the street and it’s quiet enough. I love my caramel macchiato and my playlist.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Erin: THE GRISHAVERSE. No questions asked.
Sajni: I’m a Marvel Universe girl.
What inspired you to start writing?
Erin: I started writing Star Wars fanfiction when I was fifteen and it just grew from there. I knew I wanted to be a writer one day but had no idea how hard of a task that actually is. Luckily, I persisted!
Sajni: I’ve always loved creating stories. While my family was into the importance of studying, my head was always in the clouds with epic sword fights and romantic dresses and…vampire bunnies… My creativity is all over the place!
Thank you for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Erin Blesdoe is a full time mother of two boys and freelance writer that started in the Star Wars fanfiction community. That’s right! In the beginning, she wrote (rather terribly) but shamelessly, about her love for Han Solo. She was raised by her grandparents, so she spent much of her childhood watching old films and reading the classics. She decided to start writing seriously in 2016, and hopes to continue to pursue her dreams. She’s a lover of all things donuts and Renaissance festivals.
Sana Patel has a southern accent, a penchant for daydreaming, and spends part of her waking hours working toward advancements in space research. She writes light-hearted YA and MG tossed with diversity, romance, and strong girls. Her weaknesses include expensive sweets, sparkles, and baby goats.
Sajni’s debut, THE TROUBLE WITH HATING YOU, will be released in 2020.