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PitchWars Success Story with Kacey Vanderkarr and her Mentor, Katherine Fleet

Sunday, 2 September 2018  |  Posted by Jaime Dill

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 Kacey Vanderkarr and her mentor, Katherine Fleet. Kacey signed with Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates, and we couldn’t be happier for her!

Kacey, what was it about Katherine that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?

I remember reading Katherine’s bio and having this electric, snap moment of connection. She basically described LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY in her “What I’m Looking For” section. She wanted an emotional book that would make her cry.

I’m morbidly pleased to admit the manuscript made her cry. More than once.

Aside from her wishlist fitting perfectly, I also felt connected to Katherine as an editor. She and I share the same “no-nonsense” attitude when it comes to giving and receiving critique. This introvert isn’t much for small talk, so Katherine’s promise to be direct worked for me. I’ve had years and years of critique and feedback. I didn’t need someone to hold my hand, I needed someone to lay down the facts so I could fix them. Plus, she was willing to put in the time needed, even if my manuscript required several rounds of edits.

Katherine, what was it about Kacey’s LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY that hooked you?

Hudson! This main character wrapped his way around my heart from the very first chapter.  Reading a bunch of submissions in a short period of time really makes you understand the concept of hooking someone. Everyone has read the advice about starting your story in the right place, not including too much backstory, avoiding passive writing, etc. But I learned through the PW mentor process that most of these things are easily fixed if needed (the opening scene is actually the one that Kacey ended up revising the most). The key for me was making me care about the characters. I know that’s tricky in the space of a few pages, but Kacey did it beautifully. I needed to read the full manuscript because I had to know what happened to Hudson. I stayed up until one in the morning and did some serious ugly crying before I finished!

Kacey, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?

Right away, Katherine got me on the phone to discuss LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY. I was SO nervous. I actually don’t know if she knows this, but I was terrified on that initial call. We talked over some of the changes she thought I needed and I wrote notes. Not long after our call, she sent an edit letter. I didn’t have huge revisions. Looking back, I realize some people rewrote their entire manuscripts in two months. I was lucky, I think.

We did make a huge change to the backstory, which left me document searching the word “roof” to change it to “quarry.” I’m sad to say one instance of “roof” made it all the way through until Ali and I were editing the manuscript to go on sub to editors. And Ali was like roof? It’s a quarry…right?

After rewriting a few scenes and deepening character motivations, LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY was ready to go. I still had about a month until the agent round, so I spent my time anxiously annoying Katherine with panicked emails. She’s probably too kind to admit I annoyed her, but I tend to be needy when I’m anxious.

Katherine, tell us about your experience mentoring Kacey.

Haha! I can’t believe that she was nervous. My only hesitation in mentoring Kacey was that I wasn’t sure how much I had to offer her. Her writing was already beautiful and clearly she understood her craft very well. Her story was already in great shape, and I wanted to make sure that my suggested revisions were going to make it better and not just different. She is a strong, thoughtful, and dedicated writer. So while we were technically mentor and mentee, it felt more like working with another critique partner.

Kacey, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates under the pen name K.C. Karr. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.

Ali liked my pitch during #PitMad in March. I’d already queried LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY a lot by this point, and I was frustrated, burned out, and sure I should give up. Many of my fellow 2017 Pitch Wars mentees had gone on to get agents, and I felt like I had missed the bus. In fact, the week before her offer, I reached my lowest point in writing. I won’t terrify you with the details, but it involved hours of crying, boxes of tissues, and at least one sleepless night.

Then, in April, while on vacation at Disney with my family, I received an email from Ali that said, “I’m enraptured. Please send the full.” I don’t know anyone who uses the word enraptured without meaning it, so I sent off the full and ignored the little burst of hope and annoying voice that squashed it. I was in Disney, after all, the happiest place on earth! Querying, schmuerying, right?

The next day we visited Animal Kingdom. Because I was with my family, I was trying my best not to be glued to my phone, which seems to be a querying-induced condition. But when we climbed off our trucks from being on a safari, I notice Ali had liked one of my tweets. A few seconds later, I realized I had an email from her. And the subject was: OFFER OF REPRESENTATION. In all caps.

My reaction, in the middle of Animal Kingdom, was all IN ALL CAPS. I half-read, half-screamed, half-sobbed my way through reading her email to my family. She stayed up half the night reading LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY (I still can’t believe it!).

We set up a call for the next day. And, much like my call with Katherine, I was SO nervous. But, Ali was very sweet and patient. I’m pretty sure I used the words “I’m needy” during our conversation, and she still offered to rep me!

I ended up getting two more offers, but in the end, I went with my gut, and the undeniable connection I felt with Ali.

Kacey, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?

Before subbing to Pitch Wars, I knew nothing about the online writing community. I’d never heard of #PitMad or the other online pitching contests. I barely knew what Pitch Wars was when I subbed to it. Writing and querying can be a lonely, emotionally exhausting endeavor. So, finding a community of writers who will support me indefinitely is the greatest thing I’m taking away from Pitch Wars. I learned a lot about writing and editing, but nothing will compare to the friends I made. I couldn’t have survived the agent round and querying without them, and I know they’ll be there on the sidelines, cheering me on when LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY finds a home with an editor.

Now for some fun! Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?

KACEY: I am the queen of distractions, so I’m really bad at writing consistently. Plus, I have to be in the right mindset for it to happen. There isn’t a set time, place, mode that works best for me. Usually, I write on my laptop, but if something is bothering me or not coming out right, I’ll use a notebook and pen. I do take a lot of notes and tend to fill up a notebook or two per project. Side note: Who writes in the bath?? Show yourself!

KATHERINE:  For those of you familiar with THE CHUNKY METHOD by Allie Pleiter, I am a big chunk writer. I like to write for a long block of time with little distractions. So on my writing days (about 3 to 4 days a week), I like to go to a local café, pop in my earbuds and stay for hours. I just moved back to Canada, and I’m a little lost right now. I need to find a new writing café!

You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?

KACEY: COFFEE. I could drink the elixir of life by the gallon. Food is give or take, but coffee is life. As for location, there’s this little private spot in Three Rivers, MI known as GilChrist. It’s a retreat facility and I do all my best writing there. If I have something to get done, that’s where I would go.

KATHERINE: You would find me holed up at a local café, sipping on Earl Gray tea and eating cake.

What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?

KACEY: My biggest supporters are my writer friends. They keep me on track, listen to me complain, and build me up when I can’t stand myself. I wouldn’t be the writer or person I am without them.

KATHERINE:  My family are always huge supporters, but when it comes to the day to day challenges of being an author, I agree 100% with Kacey. Writer friends are essential. They are the ones who provide advice and feedback, commiserate when things go wrong, celebrate when they go well, and give me a kick in the butt when I need it. I am so thankful that Pitch Wars brought me Kacey and Christine (my two mentees). I know we will be there for each other for many years to come.

What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?

KACEY: I love this question. Deadpool. And not just because he’s Ryan Reynolds. But also because he’s Ryan Reynolds. I imagine we’d get ice cream, maybe hang out in the park…

KATHERINE: I am totally stealing Kacey’s idea here, but I would have to pick Superman because he could fly me around which is the coolest thing ever! Maybe he’d even let me try on his cape…

What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?

KACEY: I would love to spend a day with Holly Black. I met her at BEA in 2017. I was trying to be all professional when we took our picture, but she told me to come closer, cloooseerrrr. So I did. She hugged me like we’re best friends. I’m in love with her writing. It seems like she’d make a great writer friend, plus she’s really laid back and my Type-A personality needs more of that!

KATHERINE: I would love to meet Karen McManus because I love her tweets. They are funny, sarcastic, and very supportive of other authors. I’m not exactly sure what I would do with her (that sounds a little kidnapish…lol). Maybe just hang out and talk about writing!

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!

K.C. Karr writes about brave teenagers and unfortunate situations. A Flint native residing in metro Detroit, K.C. hopes to one day live on a houseboat off the coast of a tiny island. She’s been an editor, a social media director, and longtime member of the critique group Flint Area Writers. K.C. is currently working toward becoming a certified book coach through Author Accelerator and is a proud YA mentor in this year’s #WriteMentor contest. She’s a sonographer by day, coffee junkie, and a 24/7 cat lover. When she’s not writing or devouring books, K.C. enjoys camping, travel, and spending time with her husband and son.

Author Website: www.kckarr.com
Author Twitter: www.twitter.com/kacimari


After a decade of living in the sunny Caribbean with her pilot husband and three amazing kids, Katherine Fleet has recently moved back to her hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the most easterly city in North America. In addition to adjusting to life back in Canada, she loves to write, read, travel, and embarrass her kids on social media. She is an active member of RWA and loves NaNoWriMo. The Secret to Letting Go (Entangled Teen, 2016) was her contemporary YA debut. Her latest contemporary YA , The Sound of Drowning, will release from Page Street Publishing in March 2019. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim of Prospect Agency. You can connect with her at www.KatherineFleet.com.

Author Website: www.KatherineFleet.com

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